Request for Proposal/Quote (RFP & RFQ)

Why you should care about RFPs & RFPQs

This is where the rubber meets the road:
1) They typically take a long time to create, so you need to be ready to invest time
2) A successful bid leads to work and revenue
3) If you win you need to be ready to deliver fast

RFPs and RFQ

  • In theory, the difference between an RFP and an RFQ is whether the government has a single defined solution in mind or if they are open to different solutions.
  • The RFP: In an RFP the government shares a need and asks for proposals that share how each vendor would solve that problem
  • The RFQ: In an RFQ the government has tightly defined the product or service they want and vendors are fundamentally bidding a price to deliver that well defined product or service
  • In reality: The reality is that many RFPs include such tightly defined requirements that they seem more like RFQs and RFQs can contain ambiguous requirements that force vendors to get creative in how they will meet the need

What is in an RFP/RFQ

  • The Uniform Contract Format (UCF): In theory RFPs should follow the UCF and contain the following sections:
    • A Solicitation/contract form
    • B Supplies or services and prices/costs
    • C Description/specifications/statement of work
    • D Packaging and marking
    • E Inspection and acceptance
    • F Deliveries or performance
    • G Contract administration data
    • H Special contract requirements
    • I Contract clauses
    • J List of attachments
    • K Representations, certifications, and other statements of offerors or respondents
    • L Instructions, conditions, and notices to offerors or respondents
    • M Evaluation factors for award
  • In practice: RFPs rarely follow this format and critical information is scattered across sections causing interested vendors to read the entire document multiple times

How RFPs/RFQs are created

  • This is not a class on internal government processes but we want to share a bit about how RFPs are created as it helps explain some of the complexity/ fragmentation/ disconnects within RFPs
  • The Program office (who is responsible for the need): The PM generates the statement of work (SOW) (Section C) since they know their need best/ know the thing they actually want to buy best.
  • The contracting officer (who is responsible for administering the purchase): The CO creates the rest of the RFP and integrates the SOW into the RFP
  • Why things go wrong: Reading RFPs is incredibly frustrating because of the duplication and contradiction. And these issues typically occur because:
    • The PM includes evaluation factors or other content when they shouldn’t and this content contradicts the CO’s evaluation criteria
    • The CO starts with an old doc. COs rarely write RFPs from scratch. Instead they look for an old RFP that is similar to the one the need to write and start modifying it. But sometimes:
      • Old information is left it
      • Terms in the old RFP don’t make sense for the new one
      • The old RFP didn’t follow the UCF and there is content (e.g. evaluation criteria) in places it shouldn’t be, creating contradictions

Finding RFPs/RFQs

  • Most RFPs/RFPs are posted on, but sometimes they are released through strange agency or organization specific portals

What to do when you find RFP/RFQ

  • This is a huge topic. Please see our classes on Go/No-Go and proposal development

Talking to the government when there is an RFP/RFQ

  • Once the RFP/RFP is out you should not reach out/talk to the government about this RFP/RFQ and they should not respond if you do
  • Once the RFP is live (aka “on the street”) you should only engage the government through the proscribed Q&A process or at public industry days

How Fedscout can help you: Find RFPs

  • FedScout aggregates RFPs from as many sites as we can so that you have a single places to search.
  • We also do our best to pre-analyze RFP text so that you can quickly find the content you need

Rants and Reflections

My unscripted thoughts after coaching hundreds of small government contractors over the last 10 years

Other resources (Individual contract checks)

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List of further reading

Video Transcript(s):

Odds are that your first contract will be as a sub to another small business, so you need to find small businesses you could work with, and start building relationships with them.

And, FedScout makes this easy. Click on the partner button below and FedScout will show you all the small businesses in your industry that have won work at one of your selected sub-agencies.

And if you’ve uploaded your linkedin connections we'll do our best to identify people you know at each small business.

And like with customers, select the companies and the people that you want to target and we’ll add them to your relationship manager.