A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a document in which you solicit contractors to bid on work you want performed. It outlines the details of tasks, qualifications required, terms of the contract, submission deadline and instructions on how to respond. You typically send a letter of intent a few weeks before the actual response proposal to the RFP. This gives the RFP issuer an idea of how many responses to expect. Although you can find quality RFP and letter of intent templates online, it's wise to first explore examples of how you should respond and what to include or leave out.
Decipher the Details
Before responding to an RFP, read it thoroughly. Ultimately, your response proposal should include details about how you will produce results that fulfill the requirements. Be cautious if the RFP requirements do not clearly state desired functions or are ambiguous in any way. You do not want to find yourself deficient in meeting the requirements at the end of the project. Look for metrics that define how your compliance will be measured. Assess the penalties for noncompliance and weigh the risk. Understand how any resulting contract would be documented, monitored and managed to enforce the agreement. If the issuer is open to questions, contact them to resolve anything that is vague. Then, you can send your letter of intent with confidence.
Basic Example and Outline of an RFP Letter of Intent
Once you decide to respond, promptly send an RFP letter of intent to the company issuing the RFP stating that you plan to submit a proposal. This ensures that you will receive any updates or changes to the original RFP. Do not respond with a handwritten letter or use email unless explicitly instructed to do so. Begin your letter by indicating why you are interested. Acknowledge the deadline. Include your contact information. As an example of the body of your letter, it can be as simple as:
“We would like to indicate our interest in the referenced Request for Proposal (RFP) and to be notified about any updates before we submit on the required date.”
You can, of course, include more details. Avoid asking clarifying questions, which may make your intent ambiguous.
What About a Time to Negotiate?
Price negotiations typically begin later, such as in the initial bid stage, if you make the shortlist. However, you may choose to include a paragraph or two in the letter of intent, outlining the project's funding needs. But be aware that bringing up financial matters too early in the process may affect your chance of scoring a contract.
Send it Securely
You want to ensure your letter arrives; send it via certified mail so that you get a receipt with delivery record. (This United States Postal Service offers this service for a low fee; refer to their website for current pricing.) You can also track delivery information online. You should then be ready to write your actual proposal to define the contractual rights and obligations.
Tara Duggan is a Project Management Professional (PMP) specializing in knowledge management and instructional design. For over 25 years she has developed quality training materials for a variety of products and services supporting such companies as Digital Equipment Corporation, Compaq and HP. Her freelance work is published on various websites.