Writing a Business Proposal
Using a RFQ template, RFI template, or RFP examples can help you in writing a business proposal efficiently, and effectively. Templates or examples minimize your effort and provide you with a strong base; use an example for writing a proposal to win bids. Review the RFQ, RFI and/or RFPs that you've completed and pick the best elements of each to create a template. Or, if you haven't put together a request for proposal or quote before, see if you can access an example of a winning proposal from the client's last-time purchase.
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When writing a proposal to win a bid, use a RFQ template or RFP examples.
Design your own RFQ, RFP template or RFI template that captures at least 60 percent of the mandatory information (which is usually the same for all proposals or quotes; such as staff, qualifications, references and more) that is required.
Your template will form the base of all proposals you write and submit.
To create the RFQ template (or a template for any type of proposal or request), use content from your own samples or examples of writing a proposal.
What are the common elements? Review past bids (both successful and unsuccessful) and look for commonalities.
RFQs, RFPs, RFIs, RFEIs, and more.
What are they?
RFI: Request for information. Often used as a pre-qualification: do your capabilities match the needs of the organization? Are there enough suppliers in the market? Often a short form.
RFQ: Request for quote. Usually follows the RFI: asks for pricing and delivery information.
RFP: Request for proposal. Often a longer, more comprehensive document. Requires information on your business; your staff and management; your capabilities; references; administration detail (such as insurance, Human Resources and environmental policies, and more); pricing; quality; delivery and more.
RFEI: Request for expression of interest. Often issued by the potential buyer when they believe there are a large number of suppliers in the market; this is one way of assessing level of interest in the market place.
RFQL: Request for qualifications. Buyers want to know who is available in the market to meet their needs; and how qualified are they to deliver.
RFQ Template - Common Elements
A cover letter that connects what you have to offer, and the solution you provide, to the request.
Proposal specifications: this will change for every quote or proposal request but see if there is any commonality in your responses (for example, if your business is writing marketing plans then you know what you need to cover in most plans; your template could include an outline of what you normally write).
Staff and/or subcontractors: often these are the same; build a list for the template and then copy and paste the individuals you'll use on the specific job.
References: jobs you've done before, and satisfied clients. Get letters from your clients once you've finished the project. If necessary, supply them with a 'form' letter that they can edit.
Your solution: include a sample in your RFP examples or template to help you model when you have to write one that is specific to the proposal you are working on.
Your price: if appropriate, develop a price list. This only works if you're selling a lot of the same thing. For example, if you're selling the writing of a marketing plan you can put together a price list for a 50 page plan, 80 page plan; 150 page plan, or whatever fits the most common scenario. The assumption is that the more pages, the more research and writing. Price accordingly.
The purpose of building your RFP template is to be able to produce a bid quickly and painlessly. Responding to, and writing, a business proposal takes time and effort and resources; simplify the process and produce a better proposal.
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Read more about Writing a Proposal, Part 1 or Proposal Writing, Part 2.
Or find out about the importance (to selling) of developing an effective Pricing Strategy.
Find more details about developing your RFP Template.
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Request for Proposal (RFP) and for Quotation (RFQ)
Now that you have analyzed your business requirements and completed your vendor search, you are ready to start the meat-and-potatoes of the vendor selection process. A well-written Request for Proposal (RFP) or Request for Quotation (RFQ) is the key to selecting the best vendor at the best value for your company. Writing an RFP or RFQ is not difficult if you understand the objectives and function of the document.
Decide: Request for Proposal or Request for Quotation
Request for Proposal (RFP)
An RFP is used for services or complex products where quality, service or the engineered final product will be different from each vendor that is responding.
Request for Quotation (RFQ)
An RFQ is used for commodities, simple services or straightforward/uncomplicated parts with little or no room for product or service differentiation between responding vendors. Negotiation points could include delivery schedules, packaging options, etc.
Objectives of an RFP or RFQ
- Obtain detailed proposals in order to evaluate each vendors' response so that the best interests of your company are met on all fronts
- Leverage the competitive nature of the vendor selection process to negotiate the best possible deal
- Ensure that the interests of all stakeholders within your company will be met and a consensus reached
- Puts your company in control of the entire vendor selection process and sets the selection rules up front
- Starts building the partnership between you and the vendor right from the start
Sections of the Request for Proposal or Request for Quotation
The RFP or RFQ should contain the following sections. Keep in mind, that each document will be different depending on the type of company and product you are searching for.
Tailor each section for your individual needs.
- Submission Details
Deadlines, mailing address of your company, contact person for questions and clarifications
- Introduction and Executive Summary
Write this section last after the entire document is finished. This is used to provide prospective vendors with a brief overview of your company and the requirements for your product or service.
- Business Overview & Background
Give a brief overview of your business, products and market sector that you cater to. This will help your prospective vendors understand what business needs you are trying to fill with the vendor selection process. Also, provide important background information that will benefit the vendor when responding.
- Detailed Specifications
This should be the longest section of the document. For an RFP, it will contain the qualitative measures and requirements that will drive the vendor selection decision. For an RFQ this section should provide the quantitative measures that you will be looking for in the vendor's response. Example criterion includes:
- Product drawings
- Engineering tolerances
- Service levels
- Deliverables & Timelines
- Technical or Business Requirements
- Software functionality
- Hardware requirements
- Assumptions & Constraints
Any assumptions and/or constraints that the prospective vendors need to be made aware of must be listed here. Failure to be forthright and upfront with the vendor will open the door to renegotiation of the agreement at a later date and runs the possibility of straining the relationship you have with your vendor. Possible topics include travel expenses, upgrade/modification costs, licensing rights, etc.
- Terms and Conditions
Any terms and conditions of the contract must be listed in order for the vendor to make a fair and honest response. These may include financing options, contract length, renewal options, warranties, delivery penalties, service levels, etc.
- Selection Criteria
The final section should be an overview of the selection criteria that you will be using to make your decision. Some companies prefer to keep this information totally confidential; while other companies believe this will help prospective vendors focus on what is important to your company.
Distribute the RFP/RFQ to Selected Vendors
Finally, compose a cover letter and send two copies of your RFP or RFQ to each of the vendors that you selected from your search process. Make sure that appropriate contact information is included in order to provide assistance to any vendor that needs it.