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Everything You Should Know About RFP in Government Contracting

Everything You Should Know About RFP in Government Contracting

Contractors must consider the importance of requests for proposals, or RFPs in government contracting and understand how they work. But what exactly is an RFP, and why is it crucial for those aiming to do business with the government? 

Continue reading to learn the ropes of RFPs, including their purpose and key components. Plus, discover best practices for writing compelling responses.


What is an RFP in Government Contracting?

An RFP is an integral part of the government contracting and bidding process. Government agencies, from local to federal levels, issue RFPs to invite contractors to propose solutions for various projects. Once the government contract proposals are submitted, the agency evaluates them based on predetermined criteria and selects the best one.

In a nutshell, a request for proposals guarantees that all qualified vendors can submit competitive bids on an equal footing, thereby eliminating cronyism from the procurement process.


What are the Sections in an RFP?

An RFP contains the following sections:

  • Standard Offer Form – Includes basic information about the contract, such as the project title, procurement number, point of contact, etc. 
  • Supplies or Services and Prices – Defines the contract type and lists the Contract Line Items (CLINs) and Subcontract Line Items (SLINs). It also includes associated costs and pricing guidelines.
  • Statement of Work (SOW) – Provides a detailed project description.
  • Packages and Marking – Specifies the requirements for packing and marking the deliverables that the contractor is expected to provide.
  • Inspection and Acceptance – Indicates the process for inspecting and accepting the deliverables and the repercussions if the agency’s conditions are unmet.
  • Deliveries or Performance – Details the contracting officer’s regulation process and the delivery of contract items.
  • Contract Administrative Date – Specifies the communication protocols between the contracting officer and the contractor.
  • Special Contracts Requirements – Includes special contract terms like managing contract term changes, government-furnished property (GFP) requirements and government-furnished equipment (GFE) requirements.
  • Contract Clauses – Lists mandatory clauses for the government contract. 
  • Attachments – Includes additional materials, appendices and attachments for the RFP.
  • Representations and Certifications – Outlines the requirements that prospective bidders must certify to qualify for bidding on the contract:
    • Taxpayer Identification
    • Personnel Status
    • Business Ownership
    • Business Type
    • Authorized Negotiators
    • Small Business Certification
  • Proposal Preparation Instructions – Details the layout, organization and submission guidelines of RFP responses.
  • Evaluation Criteria – Explains the factors to be considered in the proposal evaluation.

In addition to the primary sections, the RFP also includes:

  • DD Form 254
  • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) 
  • Proposal Compliance Matrix
  • Model Contract
  • Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) List Attachment
  • Bidders Library
  • Security Requirements
  • Software Content
  • Information Assurance


Government Request for Proposals Process

RFP government contracting process
Photo by Sergey Nivens/ Shutterstock


Here’s the breakdown of each phase of the RFP government contracting process:


Problems & Needs Identification

The process begins with the agency identifying its specific problems and needs. This foundational step sets the focus for the entire RFP process. 

This phase involves analyzing the current situation to identify gaps, conducting market research to determine the availability of commercial products and services, and evaluating market practices. By doing these steps, the agency can pinpoint the products and services that it requires, outline the project scope and establish its desired results.


RFP Drafting

Drafting the request follows several stages:

  1. Assembling the team responsible for writing the document
  2. Establishing proposal details, requirements, timelines, etc.
  3. Developing the RFP outline
  4. Writing the RFP draft

Once the initial draft is complete, it undergoes multiple rounds of revisions. The document is reviewed by both the section and the project managers. After they incorporate feedback and make necessary revisions to it, the managers would then submit the RFP to stakeholders for final review. Upon approval, the RFP is released for solicitation.


RFP Distribution

The government distributes the RFP to potential vendors through multiple procurement platforms, such as the System for Award Management (SAM) website. Additionally, the agency may distribute it directly to pre-qualified vendors to encourage a wide range of competitive proposals.


Proposal Evaluation

The evaluation criteria can differ depending on the agency’s specific needs. Generally, the following factors are considered during proposal evaluation:

  • Vendor’s ability to meet technical requirements
  • Vendor’s track record on similar projects
  • Relevance and success of past projects
  • Competitive cost alignment
  • Adherence to regulations and contract terms


Vendor Selection

After narrowing down the pool of bidders, the procuring agency may request a Best and Final Offer (BAFO) from the remaining offerors. This way, the bidders have the chance to refine their proposals. 

The agency may also initiate negotiations with leading bidders to agree on the final pricing and confirm technical details. Once an agreement has been reached, the agency notifies the unsuccessful bidders that they did not make the cut.


Contract Awarding

The program contracting officer (PCO) and contracts officer’s representative (COR) oversee the contract awarding process. The contract award is announced on SAM.gov or other government procuring sites, followed by an award notice sent to the winning bidder. 

Subsequently, a debriefing session is conducted to inform bidders about the selection procedure. The 10-day period for filing protests, disputes and appeals begins afterward.


RFP vs. RFQ vs. RFI: What Are Their Differences?

A request for proposals, a request for quotes (RFQ) and a request for information (RFI) each serve distinct purposes in the contracting process.

  • An RFP is issued when the government solicits proposals from contractors to select the most qualified for a project. The goal is to find the best fit based on quality and price.
  • An RFQ is a formal invitation for suppliers and contractors to submit price quotations. It is more straightforward than an RFP and focuses mainly on competitive pricing. 
  • An RFI is a request for information from contractors during the procurement process. The government uses it to gauge what solutions and services are available in the market.


How to Find Federal RFPs

Find RFPs that best suit your business’ capabilities through the following options:

  • Browse government procurement websites and databases, such as SAM.gov, Dynamic Small Business Search (DSBS), GSA Schedules, etc. Set up alerts and notifications for new RFP postings.
  • Network with procurement officers and industry leaders.
  • Attend government contracting events.
  • Explore agency-specific portals – many federal agencies maintain their own procurement portals and websites where they publish RFPs and other contract opportunities.
  • Stay current on federal news and subscribe to industry-related publications and newsletters like GovCon Wire, ExecutiveBiz and ExecutiveGov.


Tips for Writing a Winning Response to RFPs

A business professional holding a contract
Photo by SaiArLawKa2/ Shutterstock


With the U.S. government annually investing billions of dollars on contracts, winning an RFP can greatly benefit businesses. Consider these valuable tips for writing a compelling response to win a contract:

  • Review the RFP several times to understand the requirements, evaluation criteria and submission guidelines.
  • Align your proposal with the procuring agency’s needs and priorities.
  • Lay down clear deliverables and timelines.
  • Highlight the team’s qualifications and expertise.
  • Comply with all regulatory requirements.
  • Present a competitive and transparent pricing structure.
  • Review and revise the proposal before submission to ensure it is well-written and compelling.
  • Submit the contract proposal within the specified deadline.

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