Government and some commercial organizations must offer an equal opportunity to all open market vendors to supply products. The requirement for open solicitation, known as a Request for Bid (RFB), works well for procurement of commodity items such as maintenance supplies and even some technology items. However, the process presents challenges for procurement of highly technical products, such as CCTV and access control systems. Many public sector projects are procured using an RFQ/RFP process for complex systems. Here’s how you can respond to RFQs/RFPs, and more importantly, win these projects.
An RFQ can actually mean different things. When addressing commodity vendors, it is a Request for Quote. In this meaning, the responder replies with their best price, all offers are opened at a designated time and the lowest bid wins. An RFQ in the technology world more often means Request for Qualifications, a document that is submitted for the purpose of creating a short list of qualified service providers generally without any pricing information. An RFQ reply generally includes an overview of a firm’s members and relevant experience. The term RFP is used to describe a Request for Proposal, a document that provides specific system requirements, technical approach, schedule and requests pricing information.
It may seem to be an unnecessary complexity to issue an RFQ along with an RFP, with many of their essential components overlapping. However, complex system requirements can result in RFP responses that are hundreds of pages long and require significant time to evaluate. The RFQ is designed to reduce the number of proposals that will need to be evaluated by allowing only fully qualified organizations to respond.
The purpose of an RFQ is to identify the best possible sources for completion of the project. The RFQ will likely ask for experience with similar projects. Evaluate your experience and make certain all requirements are met or exceeded. Before you begin your response, take a highlighter and mark every requirement and check them off as you address them. Respond accurately and specifically to each requirement. The response will form the basis of how you are scored; yes it is a test! Assuming that all of the requirements were adequately addressed in the RFQ response, your company will likely be included on the short list of firms issued the RFP. If you don’t make the list, consider calling the procurement office to inquire about what was lacking so you can improve for the next solicitation. Be humble and you may get an enlightening response.
This is a test!
The RFP will be a highly complex document that includes many sections. Each section will have specific directions or ask for specific responses. Again, use a highlighter to mark each specific question or requirement and make sure each is addressed in the response.
If you look at the RFP document you will find a scoring sheet. It would be wise to have an informed member of your staff that has not been involved with the preparation of the response use the scoring sheet to evaluate the response before it is submitted. Employees directly involved in the response can lose sight of the basic specifications requested.
Your greatest opportunity for success with RFP’s is to make sure you respond correctly to all of the requirements. A complete response is more important than a flashy one. Many of your competitors will fail in meeting this expectation. A complete response can result in your share of final interviews.
Paul Koebbe is a senior systems consultant with Faith Group LLC, based in St. Louis.