How to Create an RFQ or RFP
An effective RFQ or RFP includes several components. Your goal is to share your needs with your vendors and to provide them with instructions to submit a proposal. You want to be able to evaluate proposals accurately and reduce ambiguity for both you and the vendors with the minimum amount of work. RFQs and RFPs have the same structure, and the differences are in the content itself.
COMPONENTS OF YOUR RFQ OR RFP
1 | Background Information
Include a description of why you are procuring the equipment and services. The more context vendors have, the better. This will help them determine what products to offer in their proposals. Include details like grade levels of student users, anticipated quantities, and anticipated delivery dates and location(s).
2 | Deliverables or Scope of Work
This will be the most in-depth section of your document as it should describe your specifications and requirements of equipment and services and ask your bidders to provide you information about their solution. Define your needs, and make sure that your required specifications are clearly communicated. If you have specifications that are optional or simply “nice to have” but otherwise not required, list them as such. If failure to satisfy a singular requirement is enough to reject a proposal, make that explicit.
3 | Bidder Qualifications and Experience
RFQs and RFPs commonly require bidders to describe their capacity to provide equipment and services: How long they have been in operation, their size, annual revenues, leadership staff, client lists, and client references. If your Request includes professional development services, this section may require bidders to describe the qualifications of their professional development staff.
4 | Price Proposal
Your pricing proposal form should require bidders to provide pricing in a structure that allows you to compare proposals apples to apples. This may work best in a spreadsheet format, where you can clearly define each column with the pricing categories requested, allowing you to easily analyze and calculate each vendor’s proposals in one place.
5 | Proposal Guidelines and Requirements
Your instructions should cover at least three topics: 1) proposal preparation, 2) proposal submission and 3) questions from bidders. Proposal preparation and submission is simply how, when, and where proposals must be submitted. It helps to provide an email address and subject header for bidders to use to submit written questions. If you’re issuing a large-scale and complicated RFP for a 1:1 program, you may want to hold a bidders conference to allow any interested bidders to ask questions. All answers to questions, either submitted via email or asked at a bidder’s conference, must be made easily accessible to all potential bidders.
6 | Terms and Conditions
Include any additional terms and conditions that your school district may require, such as standard contract terms, payment details, and delivery date expectations. Remind bidders that an RFQ/RFP award does not guarantee a purchase, but is the ticket to entering into contract negotiations. For this reason, many school districts will issue a “Conditional Award” to underscore that winning the RFQ/RFP does not guarantee a sale.
7 | Evaluation Process
Determine your evaluation and scoring processes and be as transparent as you can with bidders about how you will evaluate their proposals. At a minimum, it’s common to share what categories will be evaluated, and what percent of the total score each represents. Device RFQs will typically assess factors such as deliverables, price, and bidder experience. By organizing your RFQ/RFP into clearly labeled sections, you can give bidders a clear understanding of how you will score their proposals.
BEST PRACTICES AND CONSIDERATION FOR RFQ/RFPs
1 | Deliverables or Scope of Work
Consider the difference between descriptive and prescriptive language. Descriptive language is helpful when you are seeking a solution in an RFP, and you want the bidder to understand the challenges you wish to solve. Prescriptive language is helpful when you need to define a hard limit or requirement.
- Avoid the word “should” and instead consider words like “must” or “will” when you state requirements like technical specifications.
- If your RFP includes services, ask bidders to describe their solutions rather than list their services. If you want a descriptive response so that you can better compare professional development offerings, prompt the bidder with terms like who, what, where, when, and how. For example:
“Bidder will provide professional development in the use of its solution throughout the school year. Bidder must describe how it will ensure all teachers are trained, including what methods and delivery models will be employed by the bidder, and when and where the professional development opportunities take place to maximize availability and reach.”
- Consider giving bidders flexibility to propose innovative solutions that may not fit the expected description. For example, the State of Maine’s RFP for its statewide 1:1 program included:
“If a Bidder cannot provide something as described in the Scope of Services section of this RFP, then that Bidder may propose something that is functionally equivalent and provide an explanation of that equivalency. Functional equivalency will ultimately be determined by the Evaluation Team.”
2 | Proposal Guidelines and Requirements
An RFQ response may be relatively brief and just a few pages long. An RFP response, depending on the size of your program and the complexity of the RFP, is usually longer. The longest response from an awarded bidder for the State of Maine’s statewide 1:1 program in 2013 was 483 pages long. Consider whether or not you wish to set a page limit for responses. Other things to consider as you are creating your RFQs and RFPs:
- You can require bidders to submit proposals as both paper and digital versions. While digital submissions offer a more searchable format, requiring bidders to provide a printed proposal for each member of your evaluation team can save you having to reproduce each document and speed up the evaluation process. Requiring printed copies is common and does not preclude a requirement to submit a digital version.
- Proposals need to be easy to read. The more structure you provide to bidders, the more consistent the structure of the proposals. You can require bidders to restate the question in their responses, so your evaluators can more easily understand each response. You can also ask bidders to fill out a form with the specifications that are important to you.
- Include the date and a specific time of day, including time zone, when establishing your deadline for submission. It is good practice to note that late submissions will not be accepted.
- List a single delivery address that will be able to accept the delivery of proposals in case your deadline falls during a school break or potential school closure. It is good practice to label and log receipt of each bid proposal, including date and time. Make sure your guidelines include labeling instructions for submissions so that you can recognize bid proposals when they arrive. Bidders should include the number of parcels in their proposal (i.e., 1 of 4, 2 of 4, etc.).
- Establish guidelines for bidders to submit written questions, including a deadline for when questions will no longer be accepted. This deadline should allow for enough time for you to respond to the final questions, and for bidders to react to your answers before proposals are due. This may be as short as a week, but for more complicated RFPs, it could be as long as two weeks.
- Determine what constitutes an acceptable proposal. Will you accept proposals for certain deliverables, but not others? If your RFQ is for devices and protective cases, can a bidder propose a device only and no cases? Or cases and no devices? Make sure that this is clearly stated in your guidelines.
- For the actual device delivery process, include necessary details so that vendors can factor them into their cost proposals. For example, if you are purchasing a large number of devices, vendors may wish to deliver products packed on pallets loaded into 53-foot container trucks or “18 wheelers.” If your school cannot receive shipments in this way because you do not have a loading dock, make sure that vendors know this. Be specific about delivery windows: Times and days when deliveries must be made in the summer when schools are not always open. You don’t want boxes of devices left in an insecure location potentially exposed to the elements. Or, if you know that delivery will likely occur when school is in session in the school building, and deliveries cannot occur during bus times, make that clear.
3 | Price Proposals
- If you know how you will pay (i.e., lease vs. buy), then include that information. If you are leasing, do you need the bidder to provide financing, or do you already have a financial partner?
- The most common scoring method for price proposals is the “Proportional Method”:
Lowest Proposal Price/Bidder Proposal Price x Points Possible = Price Proposal Score
Price proposal is worth up to 25 points. Road Runner submitted the lowest proposal price of $279.
|Bidder||Price Proposal||Score Calculation|
|Acme Computer Co.||$329||279/329 x 25 = 0.8480 x 25 = 21.2|
|Wiley Company||$299||279/299 x 25 = 0.9331 x 25 = 23.3|
|Road Runner Co.||$279||279/279 x 25 = 1.0 x 25 = 25|
4 | Evaluation and Scoring
- Establish a scoring guide before you issue the proposal. Doing so will help you determine if you have adequately framed your needs. What do you anticipate a proposal to look like? How will scored proposals result in enough differentiation to determine the winning proposal?
- For a commodity-style RFQ, price is likely a major factor. For a comprehensive RFP for a 1:1 solution, price is important, but other factors like functionality, support, and professional development are also critical. Consider your category weights carefully to ensure that you can differentiate scores on what is important to you.
Find a template for your RFQ/RFP. Many school districts and states have templates already that include local and state requirements for procurement.
You can also check out our guidance on How to Get Started with Device Procurement and Managing the Device Procurement Process.