Tips for writing an RFP


If you’ve ever sold products to large companies, you’re probably quite familiar with Request for Proposal documents, or RFP’s. I could write volumes about how much I dislike the RFP approach to procurement, but that’s not my focus today. Rather, I want to talk about a peculiar feature of a recent RFP that we received. For some unknown reason, no matter where you click in the 100-page document, it immediately brings you back to the first page.

Obviously, anyone reading through such a huge file probably intends to highlight important points or copy and paste some text into another file. But the “go back to the beginning if you click anywhere” rule makes that rather difficult. Frankly, I couldn’t even explain how the authors made this occur. Maybe they defined a bookmark or section heading wrong when they designed the file. Or perhaps they intended to “lock” the text so people can’t copy it. Who knows. As it stands, the result is incredibly annoying to the reader.

More generally, I’d like to point out that many of the teams creating these documents are quite overworked. Others are just lazy. In either case, they cobble together hundreds of questions from old RFP’s or stuff they copied from the web, and then expect the recipients to sort it out later. Maybe I’ve just been exposed to a lot of poorly-written RFP’s. But if I had to guess, I bet my experience with these documents is quite similar to what others have seen.

At any rate, if you ever need to create an RFP for your own company, I would strongly encourage you to give it a thorough review before you send it out. See if the questions make sense, and look out for annoying issues like the one I’ve described today. By doing that, you should get more accurate and concise answers from the responding companies, which makes your selection process a lot easier.

2 Responses to “Tips for writing an RFP”

  1. I certainly won’t — but who knows what the company that issued the RFP might do. Maybe you should require that every uploaded document be in PDF format, just to be safe. Your site looks quite interesting — I had no idea such a thing even existed 🙂

  2. 2 rfpdatabase

    Please do me a favor and don’t post that RFP to the RFP Database at