A request for proposal (RFP) is a client's written statement expressing a business need and asking how you propose to address that need and how much your service or product will cost. Creating an outline before writing the response to the client's RFP helps ensure that all the project requirements have been addressed and your proposal conforms to the document format specified by the RFP.
Carefully read the client's RFP to be sure you fully understand the expectations. Clarify any questions sooner rather than later. Most RFPs specify a question-and-answer period for respondents.
Create the outline in the format and order defined in the RFP to demonstrate the ability to follow directions. Some RFPs leave the organization of the proposal up to you, while others have highly detailed structural requirements. Ignoring or misinterpreting them is one of the quickest ways to get your proposal dropped from consideration.
Use Roman numerals (such as I, II, III) for each major section. Subsections are indented using capital letters (such as A, B, C). Sections under these are denoted using numbers (such as 1, 2, 3). If another subsection is required, use lower-case letters (such as a, b, c).
The Roman numeral I may be used as the overview or summary of the RFP response. Express the scope of services and requirements of the client in this first section. Explain how the project will be approached and why this approach will best address the client's needs. Continue writing the headings and categories of the project as presented by the client using a combination of Roman numerals, letters and numbers.
Brainstorm responses to each section and subsection(s) by writing responses to each client requirement. For the initial draft, words and phrases can be used. Repeat this step for all sections.
Flesh out your ideas and add detailed content to each of them to fully address the client's needs. Your proposal probably will include some of your company's "boilerplate," or standard, reusable text. Indicate in your outline where boilerplate will be used and how much it will need to be modified for this particular RFP. Don't abuse boilerplate or use it to fatten your proposal. Potential clients appreciate succinct, detailed and actionable proposals.
Several drafts may need to be developed before the final RFP is developed. Note each draft with a different version number in the file name.
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