Tips on Responding to an RFI and RFP & the Essence of Developing a Winning Service Contract

A winning service contract specifies the ability to resolve a specific challenge.
A winning service contract specifies the ability to resolve a specific challenge. (Image: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images)

Responses to a request for information (RFI) and request for proposal (RFP) typically include these primary objectives: to obtain new business, to demonstrate ability to resolve a specific challenge and to inform the client about resources needed. These resources could include financial costs, access to personnel, information and time allocation. Companies can also refer to alternate terminology to solicit submissions from service providers, such as request for application (RFA), or an invitation to bid (ITB). Developing a winning service contract will include these elements to stand out from the competition.

Using Appropriate Communication

The writing style should demonstrate an understanding about the business culture and use appropriate communication for the audience. Some RFI or RFP responses are a follow-up to a previous conversation with a business manager, which should be used as an advantage. If this is the case, then appropriate written communication should reflect specific key points mentioned by the manager. Even if communication has not been established, clues about an organization's writing style can be found on websites or in company materials. Does the company use a formal or informal writing style? If a company’s communication is formal, the RFP should reflect a similar tone. Managers are less comfortable reading reports written with an informal tone, even if there is an established relationship. Informal writing in developing a service contract can come across as sloppy or lazy, and is often viewed as unprofessional.

Report and Package Design

Responding to a RFI or RFP requires a systematic format. Generally, the response includes a copy of the original RFP. The report may be restricted to a predetermined format assigned by the requesting business, but should always have your company logo and contact information consistently formatted on every page. Note that if you are submitting electronically, some programs may not allow graphics to upload. An alternate, "text only" format should be prepared in the event the client reports trouble viewing the proposal.

Include a copy of the original RFP in the response and report.
Include a copy of the original RFP in the response and report. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Proposal Components

Every response to a proposal should begin with an introduction to the problem. The introduction can include a brief overview of the client’s situation, specific activities, responsibilities and limitations, and an outline of the remainder of the proposal. The body is the next component and addresses the methods or approaches to be used in solving the problem. Winning proposals are sure to detail budgets, dates and qualifications. These qualifications can include a portfolio, references from past clients and educational background. The third and final component of a winning RFP or RFI is the summary. Strong candidates briefly re-state their positions and qualifications and are assertive in asking for the business.


A winning RFI or RFP service contract must be complete, thorough and concise. Every proposal should be double- and triple-checked for grammar, spelling and consistent formatting. Addendums and appendixes can be included with appropriate titles. Some addendums to include are reference letters from previous clients, survey and research results, bibliographies, graphs and visual illustrations. Only information that supports the client’s needs and the proposal should be included.

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  • “Excellence in Business Communication”; John V. Thill, Courtland L. Bovee; 1991
  • “Basic Marketing Research”; Naresh K. Malhotra; 2009
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