What is an RFP? The Basics on a Big Opportunity for Your Business

Are you willing to break down walls to receive more work opportunities and cash flow for your business?

For many, these “walls” come in the form of proposal requests, and there are a few usual suspects: Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Quote (RFQ), or Request for Information (RFI), to name a few. Each of those documents is a little nuanced, and we’ll delineate all three in a future blog post. As for Theme Strategic Proposals—we wake up in the morning and eat RFPs for breakfast.

Well, not exactly. We’re big quiche fans around here. And devouring an RFP is more of an all day ordeal.

Consider the following components of an RFP, and why – or why not – your organization should make the effort to secure new business through these lengthy (but rewarding!) proposals.

The Brass Tacks

You know who really cares about the proverbial “brass tacks”? The government. You know who else cares? Corporate entities. If you want to do business with either group, you need to be familiar with the RFP process and how to respond accordingly. Although not limited to both parties, businesses and government agencies will issue RFPs when they need the expertise of someone outside of their own organization to carry out a task.

Before we get to a few key components of an RFP, keep in mind: 1) An RFP can be anywhere from one page to 1,000 pages long. Hopefully, you won’t run into any of the latter, but it is possible if your dream is to work with the federal government. Just make sure you brew a full pot before sitting down to analyze. And 2) RFPs are not industry specific. Theme Strategic Proposals has worked with every kind of RFP you can imagine—from janitorial services to medical device manufacturing, and catering services to engineering and construction.

No matter your area of expertise or business venture, a successful RFP process is another revenue stream worth considering.

Where to Begin?

Like many elements in business, you have to first learn the language. The following are four main sections you’re likely to find in an RFP. Familiarize yourself with these core components:

Scope of Work

What is the scope of work (SOW) needed to complete the issued request? Do you, in the moment, have the knowledge and resources to complete the work? Does the SOW align with the direction your business wants to go?

Experience Requirements

Along the lines of necessary resources, does your team possess the right experience to get the job done? Have you employed each role and met each technical requirements (like data security, for example) that the RFP calls for?

Schedule and Timeline

When do they want the RFP completed by? When is the project itself due, and does it align with your team’s schedule? Does the RFP request you attend a mandatory conference or gathering? Don’t forget, a late RFP response may be immediately disqualified.


If you meet the aforementioned criteria, can you offer competitive pricing and still make money in the end? Have you factored all the manpower and resources (with a little wiggle room, ideally) that it will take to finish the job in your pricing?

Other Items to Consider

On the latter note, if the time and budget it would take for your employees to complete the RFP would essentially cancel out the gains from winning the RFP, don’t bother! The RFP response process is often strenuous, requiring you to pour your time and energy into every detail. If you feel like you don’t have the time or lack the expertise to ensure full RFP compliance – not to mention ensuring you have a winning response strategy – consider the help of a professional.

Although the CEO, COO, and CFO should be involved, an objective third-party will help you take an unbiased view as it relates to your business and the feasibility of winning any given proposal.

Theme Strategic Proposals would LOVE the opportunity to help you respond to RFPs with 100% compliance in an effort to win new business and grow your organization. We come alongside your company’s subject matter experts and client relationship manager to ensure a fully compliant and strategic RFP response. That’s our guarantee, and we won’t relent until you see results.

In other words, sometimes knocking down walls requires an extra push from a friend.