In 1961, Astronaut Alan Shepard was the first American to go into space and orbit the earth for 15 minutes in a Redstone 3 rocket called Freedom 7.

Here are some tips on preparing Requests For Proposals.

After the flight, he said, “It’s a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one’s safety factor was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract.” Shepard’s statement is no surprise, as some people have preconceived notions that selecting the lowest bidder will not yield a favorable result.

However, the American space program was an overall success in spite of typically using the lowest bidder, which demonstrates that qualifications and an understanding of the client’s needs far outweigh cost.

In reality, the success of a project has less to do with using the lowest bidder and more to do with the company’s qualifications and, importantly, how it arrived at its fee.

To best determine who can provide the highest quality service at a fair price, one must take a close look at the selection process and the most effective way to write a Request for Proposal (RFP). Writing an RFP provides a comparable review of competing firms.

Design consultants have seen everything from well-written, concise RFPs that produce great results to those that lack the organization and detail necessary to gain comparable proposals from responding consultants.

The process of writing and issuing RFPs has changed significantly over the years, becoming much more complex.

Add the continued pressure to be transparent in the selection process, while being responsible with the buying power, and it’s no wonder that writing, deciphering, and responding to RFPs has become an art in itself.

If you’re new to the game, it can seem quite daunting at first.

Following are several key steps to writing an effective RFP and gaining the results you want:

Step 1. Decide whether to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) or a Request for Qualifications (RFQ).

An RFP and an RFQ each has its own pros and cons, depending on whether they are issued to a pre-selected list of consultants, or are made available to all interested consultants.

The RFP typically asks the consultant to provide a scope of services and fees based on the content of the request. The RFP may yield a larger pool of consultants to select from but may not be the most efficient process in all cases.

The RFQ narrows the field to a short list of qualified consultants but typically does not request a design-fee estimate. Professional fees are negotiated after the selection has been made.

Step 2. Be prepared to meet with consultants who are interested in submitting a proposal or a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ).

An initial face-to-face meeting and an informative site walk are critical to a consultant’s accurate preparation of a proposal or SOQ.

Properly preparing an RFP can make the interview process go much more smoothly.

While this requires additional time and effort, it can be very beneficial for both parties. The consultant gains a clearer picture of what you are looking for, and you are able to gain a perspective and develop a rapport with the potential consultant.

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