What Is RFP and How to Navigate It

What Is RFP and How to Navigate It

In the business world, securing new projects and clients often hinges on effectively responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs). According to the APMP (Association of Proposal Management Professionals), companies that follow a structured RFP process are 50% more likely to win new business. 

Understanding the RFP process, its phases, and best practices can significantly enhance your chances of winning new opportunities. This blog will delve into the RFP process, outlining what it is, the steps involved, and key tips to streamline your RFP responses.

What is the RFP Process?

An RFP, or Request for Proposal, is a document organizations use to solicit bids from potential vendors or service providers. The RFP process is a structured method that guides how businesses respond to these proposals, ensuring that every response is thorough, competitive, and aligned with the client’s requirements.

The 5 Phases of the RFP Process

The RFP process can be divided into five phases: evaluate, research, plan, draft, and respond. Each phase involves specific tasks that collectively contribute to crafting a compelling proposal.

1. Evaluate

Questions to Ask:

  • Is it a real opportunity?
  • Do you want it?
  • Can you do it?
  • Can you win it?


  • Review the Opportunity: Assess if the RFP aligns with your business goals and capabilities.
  • Assess the RFP: Thoroughly examine the requirements and expectations outlined in the RFP document.
  • Add to Priority List: Determine if responding to this RFP should be a priority based on potential value and strategic alignment.

2. Research


  • Understand the Prospect: Conduct in-depth research on clients to understand their business, industry, and specific needs.
  • Analyze Competitors: Identify who your competitors might be and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Gather Internal Insights: Collect relevant information from your team, including past experiences with similar projects and internal expertise.


3. Plan


  • Develop Response Strategy: Create a comprehensive strategy that outlines how you will address the RFP requirements and differentiate your proposal.
  • Content Plan: Map out the key messages and content that will be included in your response, highlighting your unique selling points.
  • Kickoff Meeting: Hold a kickoff meeting with your team to assign roles and responsibilities, set deadlines, and ensure everyone is aligned.

4. Draft


  • Personalize Answers: Use the insights gathered during the research phase to tailor your responses to address the client’s specific needs and preferences.
  • Enlist SMEs: Collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) to provide detailed and accurate information for technical or specialized sections.
  • Design Proposal: Ensure the proposal is visually appealing and professionally formatted to make a strong impression.

5. Respond


  • Review Submission Requirements: Double-check the RFP instructions to ensure your submission meets all the specified requirements.
  • Submit Proposal: Send your proposal using the client’s preferred delivery method, whether email, an online portal, or physical delivery.
  • Save and Repurpose Content: Save your responses in a content library for future use, allowing you to streamline the process for subsequent RFPs.

Also Read – How to prepare a RFP

Creating an RFP Process Checklist

To streamline your RFP responses, creating an RFP process checklist is crucial. Here are three steps to build an effective checklist from scratch:

Group the Standard Steps of the RFP Process

  • Evaluate Phase: List tasks such as reviewing the opportunity, assessing the RFP, and adding it to a priority list.
  • Research Phase: Include tasks like understanding the prospect, analyzing competitors, and gathering internal insights.
  • Plan Phase: Outline tasks for developing the response strategy, creating a content plan, and holding a kickoff meeting.
  • Draft Phase: Detail tasks such as personalizing answers, enlisting SMEs, and designing the proposal.
  • Respond Phase: Specify tasks like reviewing submission requirements, submitting the proposal, and saving and repurposing content.

Break Down the Steps into Bite-Sized Tasks

For each phase, create specific and actionable tasks. For example:

Evaluate Phase:

  • Review the RFP document for scope and requirements.
  • Identify the key stakeholders involved.
  • Determine the strategic importance of the opportunity.

Research Phase:

  • Conduct a SWOT analysis of the prospect.
  • Identify previous engagements with the prospect.
  • Research industry trends and client’s business challenges.

Plan Phase:

  • Develop a win theme that aligns with the client’s goals.
  • Assign sections of the RFP to appropriate team members.
  • Create a timeline with milestones and deadlines.

Draft Phase:

  • Write a compelling executive summary.
  • Develop case studies and examples that showcase your expertise.
  • Format the document to ensure readability and professionalism.

Respond Phase:

  • Conduct a final review and proofread the document.
  • Ensure all attachments and supplementary materials are included.
  • Confirm the submission method and deadline compliance.

Assemble Your RFP Response Checklist

Compile all the tasks into a single document or project management tool. Use checkboxes or status indicators to track progress. This comprehensive checklist will help you ensure no missed steps and that each phase is completed on time.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Even with a well-structured RFP process, certain pitfalls can hinder your success. Here are some common mistakes and how to avoid them:

Bidding on Unwinnable Opportunities

Pitfall: Pursuing RFPs that are not a good fit for your capabilities or resources can save time and effort.

Solution: Use the evaluation phase to assess the opportunity critically. Ensure that the RFP aligns with your business strengths and strategic goals. If the likelihood of winning is low, it may be best to pass on the opportunity.

Missing Important RFP Details

Pitfall: Overlooking key requirements or instructions in the RFP can lead to disqualification.

Solution: During the research phase, meticulously review the RFP document. Highlight critical sections and create a checklist of mandatory requirements. Double-check all details before submission to ensure compliance.

Lack of RFP Team Preparation

Pitfall: Inadequate preparation and poor coordination can result in a rushed and subpar proposal.

Solution: In the planning phase, hold a kickoff meeting to align the team on objectives and roles. Regularly check in on progress and provide support as needed. Ensure that all team members understand their responsibilities and deadlines.

Utilizing an RFP Platform

Leveraging an RFP platform can further enhance your efficiency. These platforms streamline the process by providing tools for collaboration, content management, and automated responses. Here’s how an RFP platform can help:

  • Centralized Content Management: An RFP platform allows you to store and organize all your RFP responses, templates, and supplementary materials in one place. This makes finding and reusing content easy, reducing the time spent on each proposal.
  • Collaboration Tools: These platforms often include features for real-time collaboration, such as shared workspaces, comment sections, and task assignments. This helps your team work together more effectively, even in different locations.
  • Automated Responses: Some RFP platforms offer automated response suggestions based on your previous submissions. This can speed up the drafting process and ensure consistency in your proposals.
  • Progress Tracking: With built-in project management features, RFP platforms can help you track the status of each task and phase. You can set deadlines, assign responsibilities, and monitor progress to ensure you stay on schedule.
  • Compliance Checks: Many platforms include compliance-checking tools that automatically verify if your proposal meets the RFP requirements. This reduces the risk of missing critical details and increases your chances of success.


The RFP process is a critical component of business development. By understanding and meticulously following each phase—evaluate, research, plan, draft, and respond—you can create compelling proposals that stand out. Additionally, utilizing an RFP process checklist and avoiding common pitfalls will improve your chances of success. Finally, consider leveraging an RFP platform to streamline workflow and enhance response quality.

By mastering the RFP process, your business can confidently navigate new opportunities and secure valuable contracts, driving growth and success.

To learn more, sign up with GetGenerative.ai today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What is the RFP process?

The RFP process is structured to respond to Requests for Proposals, ensuring thorough, competitive, and client-aligned proposals.

2. What are the 5 phases of the RFP process?

The five phases are Evaluate, Research, Plan, Draft, and Respond.

3. Why is an RFP process checklist important?

An RFP process checklist helps streamline tasks, track progress, and ensure no missed steps, leading to a timely and effective response.

4. What common pitfalls should I avoid in the RFP process?

Avoid bidding on unwinnable opportunities, missing important details, and lack of team preparation.

5. How can an RFP platform help?

An RFP platform centralizes content management, enhances collaboration, automates responses, tracks progress, and ensures compliance with RFP requirements.