If your company is focused on growing its business through public and private solicitations, you will eventually have to draft a practical and informative RFI response. An RFI is a piece of correspondence that an organization sends to a prospective vendor to obtain information about the goods and services that the vendor provides. It’s crucial to analyze the RFI to decide whether it behooves your organization to respond to the request. If you choose to respond to an RFI, it is vital to have an effective RFI response process in place to boost your company’s market reach and sales capacity.

What does RFI stand for?

First things first, let’s discuss the purpose of an RFI. What exactly is it? A request for information, or RFI, is a standard business correspondence. RFIs are used within organizations to collect written statements regarding the capabilities of multiple vendors, contractors, or service suppliers. The key to understanding an RFI is paying close attention to its name, Request for Information. As the name suggests, a procurement team sends an RFI to gather information relevant to a proposed project or purchase. It is an exploratory step and the initial formal inquiry into a business and the goods and services it can provide.

A Request for Information usually consists of a three to five-page document that provides a summary of the services to be outsourced. In addition to laying out the organization’s needs, an RFI also requests detailed information on the vendor’s specific capabilities. An RFI can be beneficial if a prospective client is unfamiliar with a vendor or if there are multiple prospective vendors in consideration. RFIs make it possible for a client to seek information in a formal, structured format.

What is the difference between an RFI and RFP?

Many process management teams encounter a Request for Information, or RFI, and a Request for Proposal. A straightforward way to distinguish RFIs and RFPs is to remember that they serve different purposes. Despite this small but important distinction, some teams mistakenly use these document terms interchangeably. An RFI is a document that an organization sends to vendors or service providers to request specific information about a potential service or product. 

RFIs are a vital investigational step in the procurement process of many businesses and organizations. The goal of an RFI is to collect an initial data set, which allows potential clients to decide if a potential vendor suits their needs. Its purpose is to ensure that the issuing organization obtains pertinent and accurate service and resource information from supply-side companies. An RFI is an initial step in a formal process and can be presented for various reasons. One common reason to submit an RFI is to gather information from multiple vendors. This allows a potential client to evaluate vendors and expediently compare their capabilities. It should not be considered a commitment to services offered but rather a soft inquiry. 

A Request for Proposal, on the other hand, is a document that a business or organization sends to potential vendors to prompt bids. An RFP offers additional details about the client and their expectations from a vendor. It invites vendors to respond with their companies’ solutions to the client requisites specified in the RFP. An RFP typically includes queries that cover specific information about your company. The issuer may ask questions about the services your company provides and the location of your company’s headquarters. 

What is an RFI response?

Simply put, an RFI response is a response from the vendor to the initial inquiry. It provides feedback and lets them know if you are interested in their product or service. A well-constructed RFI response allows a procurement team to streamline the process of comparing multiple vendors and saves time for both prospective clients and service providers. An effective RFI response will answer all the questions presented within an RFI. 

RFIs are typically set in a standard format, prompting vendors to execute a similar structure with their RFI responses. The RFI response will typically include the following information:

  • A summary of your company’s capabilities and experience in performing work similar to that described in the RFI 
  • A description of the work that your company can perform and any previous experience your team may have in regards to the work described in the RFI
  • It’s a good idea to have a list of references for any data, sources, or studies that were used to create your RFI response.
  • Any other information you believe may be helpful, including marketing material, etc.

 How to provide the best response to an RFI

Responding to an RFI may seem daunting, but it is a straightforward process. Depending on your company and business sector, you may find that many of the RFIs your company receives are similar. You can use that to your advantage by having a well-thought-out set of pre-planned responses to frequently asked questions. 

Expedience Software offers the perfect RFI response software solutions to make responding to RFIs quick and easy. RFI Responses present a unique opportunity to your team in that you can easily streamline the process of responding to them with the use of response management solutions.   

Assess the opportunity:

The first step your RFI response team should make is to evaluate the RFI in question to ensure the opportunity is the right fit for your company. Look over the RFI carefully to gain a clear understanding of the kinds of goods or services the issuing organization is looking for. It is important that you accurately assess whether the opportunity presented is a worthwhile endeavor for your team. It is important to note that you are not obligated to respond to every RFI that is delivered to your company.

Meet with your team:

It’s good practice to meet with your team members when responding to an RFI. It’s important to analyze the document thoroughly with your team to ensure you answer all of the querent’s questions with accurate and pertinent information.

Respond:

Begin your RFI response once you are certain your product or service suits the client’s needs. Always be sure to tailor content to the inquiries made in the RFI. You can choose to have an answer library but check your RFI response to ensure all the information is accurate and up-to-date. 

Ensure expertise:

An integral part of maintaining an effective RFI response process is the ability to assemble the right team. To ensure accuracy, be sure to assign technical questions to the appropriate member of your team. Collaborate with your team members and leverage their insight and expertise to your company’s advantage. 

Review, Submit, and Save: 

It is common to run into minor inconsistencies when multiple people answer questions, so always review your RFI for consistency in tone and style. Proofread your RFP response to ensure there are no spelling or grammatical errors. Save your responses in a centralized location that is easily accessible to every member of your team. The final step in the RFI response process is sending your RFI response off to the issuer and any relevant supporting or marketing materials. 

Expedience Software offers RFI/RFP response solutions that make the RFI Response process a breeze. Our world-class software helps you create an RFI response by streamlining and answering all of the questions presented in the RFI. Expedience Software is fully integrated with Office 365 collaboration software, meaning our software is fully integrated within Microsoft Word. Contact one of our experts today to learn more.