How to Write a Request for Proposal (RFP)

Because many organizations may not have the specialized talents and capabilities to create interactive training, it may become necessary to request the assistance of an outside vendor or contractor. Over the years, we at Instructional Designs have seen and responded to a number of RFPs. Some were well written, and others frankly left much to be desired. Developing a well-written RFP takes time and planning. However, the benefits of being able to compare proposals which use a common format will make your job much easier when it comes to selecting a qualified vendor. The following format should help you should you ever need to request proposals from outside vendors or contractors.

Components of a Typical RFP

Organizational Overview
The Bald Bear Insurance Company was founded in 1889 to provide insurance and investment opportunities to rural families and businesses. Currently, Bald Bear has 1.4 billion dollars of policies in force, with offices located in fourteen states. At the present time, Bald Bear has 1,243 consulting sales agents serving approximately 180,000 clients.

Course Description
Basic Training - See attached classroom teaching materials and manual.

Target Audience
Entry-level consulting sales agents. (New hires with little or no previous experience in sales). Delivery systems will be Pentium III multimedia PCs equipped with 24x CD-ROMs and 48megs of RAM.

Required Deliverables
1). Storyboards will detail and document the course and the Electronic Reference Library. The storyboards will be developed and submitted by the vendor, and approved by Bald Bear.
2). A Tutorial (courseware) will transfer the product information to the learner. The tutorial must include practice exercises and/or questions with feedback, and feature branching and remediation strategies. No video, although voicing is required.
3). A Final Test or Mastery Test. A final test which will establish trainee mastery of the materials presented will be incorporated at the end of the training program. Questions included in the final test will not offer feedback, other than correct or incorrect. A mastery level will be assigned for the course. When the test is completed, the learner will be given the overall or final score. Video and voicing is required.
4). An Electronic Reference Library will be integrated into the training program, and must have the ability of serving as a reference after training has been completed. This component will include a word search capability, hypertext, and will serve as a master reference for product information. Information included in the reference library must be concise and easily accessible. No video or voicing is required.
5). User Documentation will be developed which explains how to install, use, and maintain the programs and applications produced for this project.

Assumptions and Agreements

Required Proposal Format
The proposal must contain a (1) Technical section and (2) a Time-Cost section.
Technical Proposal
In the Technical section, the vendor should include time-lines, projected required personnel, and schedules for completing the project.
In the Time-Cost section, the vendor must detail the time and costs that will be required to complete the project.
Additional Documentation (optional)
Vendors must include a short demo or direct us to an internet site which demonstrates their production capabilities.
Request for References (optional)

Submission Deadline
Month Day, Year

Submit Proposal To:
Decision Maker Vice President for Training and Development
Box 000 Anytown,
Any State 00000-0000

For Additional Information or Clarification, Contact:
Assistant Decision Maker
Director of Interactive Media Education
Box 000
Anytown, Any State 00000-0000
Telephone: (000) 000-0000

Basis for Award of Contract
Lowest Bid

Award Date
Month Day, Year

Do's and Don'ts When Selecting and Working With Outside Vendors and Contractors

Gather Information About Vendors

Qualify Potential Vendors
Using the above information, determine those vendors who have the capability to produce the materials you want developed. Include in your decision such variables as geographical location, industry experience, reputation, size of staff, and quality/level of work.

Develop the RFP
Be sure to include enough information in the form of storyboards, manuals, videos, overheads, training guides, et cetera, so the vendor has a good feel for what you are wanting. (See #1 below) Avoid intimidating language and behavior, i.e., penalty clauses and threats. You have a legal right to sue if a project does not come in on time or is dropped by the vendor. This is understood and is written into the agreements section of the proposal. It has been my experience that clients usually delay projects because they are understaffed, do not deliver support materials on time, or change their minds in midstream. (See #2 below) Keep in mind that this year you may be the "boss," but next year, you may be asking them for a job.

Distribute the RFP
Send out your RFP eight to ten weeks before your requested submission date. Writing a detailed proposal takes time; give potential vendors time to think about and respond to your request for proposals.

Answer Questions
Avail yourself to answer questions about what you want. You do not have to answer questions concerning money beyond what is included in the RFP.

Award the Project on the Date Indicated
Vendors often must schedule staff and resources to complete your project. Being indecisive about awarding or starting a project makes you and your organization look like amateurs.

Award the Project to the Lowest Bidder
Nothing "ticks" a vendor off worse than to lose a contract if they are the lowest bidder. Suspicions of kickbacks, favoritism, politics, etc., soon circulate among vendors and others in your industry. You will also probably be told to" go fish" if you ever approach the vendor to submit a proposal for a future project. If you are not going to award the project based upon cost, tell potential vendors what and how you will award the project. Be specific.

Debrief Bidders
Telling someone that they did not get a proposal is never pleasant. Take time to talk with each vendor who submitted a proposal and give each a critique of their proposal. This will help the vendor to do a better job next time, and to be more competitive in the future when you ask them to respond to a future proposal.


(1) If You Don't Know What You're Doing or What You Want
Ask several vendors to come in for a vendor meeting. Explain what you envision, but also explain that you're not sure what you want. Ask vendors for ideas, suggestions, and possible solutions for your problem. Most vendors are willing to take a couple of hours to help you. Make it informal, and promise nothing. Be up front, open, and honest. Take time to read trade magazines, attend conferences, and learn as much as you can about various topics related to your project.

(2) Working With the Vendor During the Project
If you promise to supply storyboards, task analysis, illustrations, technical drawings, photographs, videos, etc., deliver these materials on or ahead of time. It is very frustrating for a vendor to try and work for someone who can't or won't "team" with them on a project. If a project does fall behind, and it's your fault, don't try to blame the vendor. You may get away with it, but you and your organization's reputation will suffer in the long run. Finally, pay your invoices. Failing to do so will often break several financial agreements usually detailed in the proposal. Organizations who do not pay their bills often find their projects are set aside by vendors who must work on projects that produce a predictable cash flow in order to meet their financial obligations.