RFP, RFI, and RFQ: Which Should You Use?

Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Information (RFI), and Request for Quotation (RFQ). These requests are used at different points of the pre-construction phase of a project.

Although they are equally important in their own ways, they can be useful in different parts of your vendor process.

So when exactly should you implement each one? Let’s take a look.

When to Use an RFP

In the construction industry, an RFP is used as a bidding process, where owners ask for specific information from vendors that will help them complete a project.

Proposals typically include details regarding the work, experience, costs required to complete the job, etc. RFPs are more structured and detailed in comparison to an RFI.

When submitting an RFP, you should have clear questions that help define if the potential vendor can effectively perform the job at hand with the resources and employees they have.

Here are a few things to consider when creating an RFP for vendors:

  • Eliminate any confusion or ‘sticker shock’ upfront by establishing pricing expectations.
  • Ask a vendor for examples of their past work so you can have a clear example of project expectations and fulfillment.
  • Be as specific as you can about requirements, so the vendor can determine if they’re able to meet your expectations.
  • Ask what risks the vendors would typically expect to arise during a project and how they plan on handling it.

When to Use an RFI

RFIs are generally more casual than RFPs and are used to gain answers to general questions. This allows the vendor to explain their offerings fully.

RFIs have more open-ended questions and clarify any ambiguities when looking to move forward with a specific vendor.

They are also usually followed by an RFP for more detailed information. A typical RFI will include general information, like anticipated project challenges, the scope of products or services, and cost expectations.

These requests are not a permanent promise of future business and are used to determine general project criteria and guidelines.

When conducting an RFI, it’s important to include the following:

  • An objective or summary of the business or project being completed.
  • An example timeline, including milestones of various steps of the project.
  • Deliverables.
  • Criteria for evaluation.
  • Payment terms.

When to Use an RFQ

In addition to RFPs and RFIs, there are RFQs. These requests primarily focus on the specific costs that are required during a project.

This type of request breaks down the costs more than an RFI and RFP. RFQs also help the owner set predetermined specs they want the vendor to fulfill.

RFQs don’t require a lot of specific questions to be answered and typically include the following:

  • Pricing
  • Payment options
  • Timelines

As an example, let’s say an owner needs to build a shed; they already know the exact supplies, types of lumber, specialty parts, and dimensions it needs to be. They would send all these specifics over to the potential suppliers or vendors to get the quotes that they need.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the differences between an RFI, RFP, and RFQ is essential to moving your projects in the right direction quickly and efficiently. The one you use will depend on what you’re looking for from a vendor and the amount of information you’ll need to make a sound decision.

Each option invites vendors to elaborate more on their products and services, outlying the overall scope of their work and helping owners narrow down the right vendor for the job.

For example, if you’re in the starting stages, then an RFI would be best to help you get a general overview of vendors and options. On the other hand, an RFP would be best for those close to finalizing a purchase, but still open to ideas.

There’s not an all-size-fits-one type of request, making it easier and more flexible for owners to get the kind of information they need before moving forward with a vendor for the job.

At the end of the day, it ultimately comes down to who you feel has the right price, experience, supplies, and reputation to fulfill your construction needs.


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