Woman writing an rfp outline

The Best RFP Responses Start With a Good Outline

An RFP gives your company the chance to find the very best vendor for your project. But before diving into writing your RFP, it’s essential to first outline your document.

An outline will help ensure you’re covering everything you need to include before diving into the writing process. Further, an outline will make the RFP writing easier — giving you an easy-to-follow structure that will keep you on target and much more efficient. And the better your writing, the better your chances will be of soliciting the best RFP responses.

How do you outline RFP requirements?

While every RFP will vary to suit the specifics of the project at hand, most RFPs share seven key elements that form the basis of an RFP outline. These requirements include:

  • Organizational Overview and Background
  • Project Goals
  • Scope of Services
  • Project Requirements
  • Proposal Format and Contact Information
  • Proposal Delivery Instructions
  • Evaluation Criteria and Timeline

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The 7 key elements of an RFP outline

Whether you’re putting together an RFP for a new CCaaS provider or an SD-WAN services manager, every RFP must provide a clear overview of the project in order to attract the best RFP responses. As we mentioned above, every RFP should be structured around seven key elements — each of which we further detail below.

Element 1: Organizational overview & background

In order to fully understand your goals, vendors must learn a bit about your organization and project. This section should give vendors a brief description of your corporate mission and vision as well as what led you to create the project at hand.

Element 2: Project goals

Here is where you identify the specific goals of your project. Not only will this help vendors understand how this project fits into your broader organizational goals, it will also help them determine whether they are suited for bidding on your project.

Element 3: Scope of services

Does a vendor have the capacity and experience to fully deliver? Scope of services will identify the full services that you expect from them. From there, vendors can decide if they have the qualifications and people-power to execute your project, if they should explore partnership options, or if they should pass on bidding altogether.

The 7 Key Elements of An RFP Outline

Element 4: Project requirements

The project requirements section gives your potential vendors administrative requirements related to your project including your timeline, budget, and expectations.

Element 5: Proposal format & contact information

You’ll want to establish a specific format that you want your RFP submissions to follow. This will make it much easier when it comes time to evaluate and compare submissions and will also make it easier for vendors to provide you with the content you want. Your proposal format should include maximum page count, font size, and RFP content elements (such as team roles, proposed schedule, and responses to each of your project requirements to name a few). You will also need to provide a specific contact person on your RFP team that vendors can submit questions to during the RFP proposal process.

Element 6: Proposal delivery instructions

Next, you’ll want to provide details on where vendors should deliver their submissions, how they should submit (in person, by mail, email), and how many copies are required.

Element 7: Evaluation criteria and timeline

Lastly, provide your vendors with a clear outline of how their submissions will be evaluated and when. This information should be directly pulled from your internal scoring matrix. Your evaluation criteria will help vendors understand which RFP components carry the most weight in your organization and will help them prepare their submissions accordingly.

Need more help preparing your RFP? Have a look at our 22-step Guide to the RFP Process, where we outline everything you need to know about building and launching your RFP.