Understanding the Request for Proposal Process
A Request for Proposel (RFP) is both a process and a document that describes this process. It's something an individual or corporation will do in very specific cases, such as when looking for suppliers or as part of a bidding process for clients. It's usually done at an early stage in the business. Perhaps you're building an extension to your house and want to find the best contractor. Or maybe your corporation needs to buy a large quantity of a particular product and you want to find the cheapest supplier.
At the start of the process, a RFP document needs to be written. In it, you need to specify more than just an overview of what you're looking for, and the price you're willing to pay. Everything must be described in details, so that those who will submit a proposal will know exactly all that is entailed. You need to list the deliverables, the items or services that must be delivered to you, you must also include a date or range of dates if it's a contract that will involve multiple milestones. You should write how the selection process will be done if you expect multiple proposals, such as the lowest bid will win.
Once the RFP is written, you need to distribute it properly. Where you publish it will depend on what the process is. For example, a city or government always has a very strict procedure for RFPs. They typically have a board or newsletter where all of the requests go, that way any company who wants to submit a proposal will know where to do so. Your RFP must be clear as to where people are expected to submit those bids, and you must follow through with that, so the process remains fair. For example, if you asked to get proposals in writing to a specific address, it would not be fair to accept a bid through email. Those who went out of their way to submit their bids the right way could feel cheated. The same is true for limit dates. You must specify when you will stop taking in proposals, so that people know by what date they must act.
Once you receive all the proposals, you need to handle them in a fair and quick manner. Typically, companies that submit bids to a RFP will expect a response within a couple of weeks. If you take too long, you run the risk that the company who offered their services will have changed their prices, and won't want to honor the original bid. Also, if time goes by, you run the risk that a late comer may come in with a better offer, and then be stuck with a series of proposals you already have to deal with.
Overall, a Request for Proposal process is pretty simple, but it does require you to be prompt and fair. Those are perhaps the most important features of the whole process. The reputation you build will be important for the future in case you wish to make more RFPs, and you may find that building relationships will go a long way to ease the process next time.