Depending on the industry you work in, you may be familiar with one or both of the procurement processes that go by the acronym RFQ. For many, a request for quotation may be more familiar. However, its counterpart, the request for qualifications is just as useful.
In this blog, I’ll focus primarily on the request for qualifications. But, to get started I’ll define a request for qualifications vs. a request for quote. Then, I’ll outline the common uses for an RFQ as well as the components of the document. Then, I will provide tips and best practices for writing and responding to RFQs. Finally, I will include some helpful RFQ examples.
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A story of two RFQs: Request for qualifications vs. request for quote
Admittedly, there are a lot of acronyms in sales and procurement. However, RFQ stands for both a request for qualifications and a request for quote. Consequently, there is some understandable confusion. So, to start, let’s establish the difference between the two RFQs.
What is a request for qualifications?
A request for qualifications is a document that asks potential suppliers or vendors to detail their background and experience providing a specific good or service. The RFQ may also be called a statement of qualifications, or SOQ. Both documents focus specifically on a vendor’s skills and experience rather than pricing. Therefore, the response is not typically considered a bid.
What is a request for quote or quotation?
A request for quote or quotation is a document that details a buyer’s requirements and asks vendors to respond with pricing and payment terms. The focus of this document is primarily price, and often, the lowest priced bidder will win the business.
To learn more about requests for quotations or see RFQ examples and templates, check out this blog: What is a request for quote?
Now that we have the basics out of the way, we’ll explore the request for qualifications. So, below when you see RFQ referenced, it will stand for request for qualifications.
The RFQ’s role in the sales cycle
Who uses RFQs?
The request for qualifications process is common to the government sector. Most RFQs issued are for projects involving construction management, architecture, engineering and other professional services.
3 ways an RFQ is used
In most cases, this process precedes an RFP, but not always. Procurement professionals may issue the RFQ in three different ways.
1. Vendor selection for an upcoming, identified request for proposal
In this case, the procurement team has a project in mind. However, they want to send the upcoming RFP only to the most qualified vendors. The RFQ is sent to a large group and helps narrow the field of vendors for the subsequent RFP.
Certainly, this two-stage approach allows for a shorter, more focused RFP. In addition, evaluating a handful of pre-qualified vendors is much easier for buyers than scoring proposals from dozens that may not be able to meet their needs.
2. Non-competitive RFQ to catalog vendor information for future procurement projects
Much like using vendor profiles, requests for qualifications are a helpful tool to organize important supplier information. In fact, some companies use RFQs as a standard part of their vendor onboarding process. Then, as future procurement needs arise, the most qualified vendors are selected to participate in the RFP. Having this information on hand makes the procurement process more efficient. Accordingly, it’s in a vendor’s best interest to respond to these requests for information.
3. Rapid vendor selection
Occasionally, an RFQ replaces an RFP. For straightforward projects that require a specialized skill set, a company may issue a request for qualifications, evaluate the statements of qualification and move directly to contract negotiations with the most qualified vendor.
In this scenario, the RFQ provides details about the project budget. This transparency assists in the go/no-go process for bidders, empowers faster contracting and ensures buyers that only vendors prepared to work within that budget respond.
How to write a request for qualifications
1. Outline your objective
Because a request for qualifications can be used in several ways, it is important to clearly state your intended outcome. Consider what outcome would make this RFQ a success. To do that, you may need to enlist feedback from stakeholders or executives within your business. What are the specific requirements for the project? Are there essential technical skills? How many years of experience or similar projects should a vendor have successfully completed?
The more context and detailed questions you can add, the better your responses will be. Not only that, but providing a thorough understanding of your needs will discourage unqualified vendors from responding, which will make your evaluation process easier.
2. Create your RFQ
With your list of requirements in hand, it’s time to create your RFQ. It can be helpful to create a template to work from to ensure you don’t miss any crucial components. If you have an RFP management system, leverage dynamic templates to group common questions together into sections.
3. Issue the RFQ
Now, it’s time to send it. Contact the vendors you’d like to hear from through an RFP consultant or directly through email. If you use RFP software, you can issue the RFQ digitally, communicate with vendors directly in the centralized platform and track their progress. In addition, you can answer questions and share the information with every vendor instantly. This helps to keep your RFQ fair and transparent.
4. Evaluate the responses
Finally, the due date has arrived, now you’re ready to evaluate the statements of qualification you’ve received. Start by reviewing each document to see if the organizations followed directions and filled the RFQ out completely. If there are any gaps, you may go back to the vendor for more information or remove them from consideration.
Next, it’s time to score the responses and statements of qualifications. Refer back to your source document for the scoring criteria and weights you established. Some questions will have straight forward yes or no answers, making them easy to score based on the desired answer. For subjective questions, it is helpful to engage your stakeholders to provide their input. Again, RFP software can help automate this process and empower easier collaboration with your evaluation committee.
Once all the SOQs are scored, hopefully you have a clear set of front runners, or perhaps even a winner. Remember, even if you don’t select a particular vendor, RFQs can be useful to keep on hand for future procurement projects.
Essential components of an RFQ
- Company information including business details and primary contact person
- Project description with background information, desired outcome, scope and next steps
- RFQ timeline noting submission due date, shortlist selection date and final decision date
- Evaluation criteria and weighted scoring details
- Submission instructions
- Qualification questions and experience requirements
- Contracting terms and conditions if applicable
Creating a winning response to a request for qualifications
Despite the fact that RFQs are generally shorter and more direct than RFPs and other RFXs, the response to request for qualifications process is nearly identical.
Responding to RFQs for which you are not a fit wastes your time and can negatively affect future transactions for which you might be a fit. Accordingly, it’s important to have a thoughtful go or no-go discussion.
Before determining whether your company is a fit, thoroughly read the specific requirements for the project. Are there essential technical skills? How many years of experience or and success do you need to have on similar projects? Does the project align with your company’s goals?
2. Have a kickoff meeting
Once you’ve determined that the project is a fit, host a kickoff meeting. In this session, you’ll review the RFQ, provide an overview of the response process, and assign roles, responsibilities and objectives.
3. Create the first draft
While an RFQ is different from an RFP, you’ll likely find some overlap in the questions asked. So, if you’ve responded to RFPs in the past that have many of the same requirements, you can use that content in your SOQ response. Customers who use RFP software, like Responsive, leverage their response content library to answer to 80 percent of the RFQ in minutes.
4. Refine the second draft
Once you’ve inserted the answers for questions you’ve seen already, it’s time to tackle new or complex qualifications questions. Gather your SMEs and other stakeholders to customize answers and create new content for any remaining questions.
5. Review and revise
Did you and your team answer each question? Are the answers accurate and complete? Did you meet all the objectives and requirements? Is the response well-written and free from errors? Have you attached all the relevant documents?
Submit the completed response before the deadline to give yourself a cushion against technical issues. Confirm receipt and share with your team.
7. Save and audit the responses
If you’ve answered one RFQ, you’ll likely answer more. Get a head start on your next request for qualifications response by saving your responses. Add new content to central location to access for future RFXs.
The last step is to gather your team to capture process insights. Collaborate with your team to analyze what went right and what could have been better.
5 best request for qualifications samples
In 2015, the Colorado Department of Transportation issued this RFQ to identify qualified vendors for an upcoming highway construction project. Five teams provided their qualifications and a subsequent RFP was sent to four vendors who qualified. This RFQ is impressively thorough and provides lots of information.
This non-competitive RFQ allowed the City of Seattle to create a roster of pre-qualified firms for upcoming legal work. The request for qualifications provides ample background information as well as clear expectations. In addition, the document outlines the available budget for legal services.
When the City of Great Falls, Montana wanted to create a new logo for their Downtown Parking Program, they issued this request for qualifications. This RFQ example is brief and to the point. It includes a brief description of the project, requirements and submission instructions. Just the essentials and nothing more.
Seeking expertise in educational design, the Bedford County Public Schools issued this request for qualifications. The document provides evaluation criteria, guidelines for the SOQ and a form to fill out that guides the vendor through the requirements.
Call center RFQ example — City of Chamblee, Georgia
The City of Chamblee created this RFQ to find call center vendors equipped to provide a wide range of services. This request for qualifications example is helpful because it is cleanly designed and easy to read. Indeed, the expectations and project details are clear at a glance.
Just like other RFX documents, the request for qualifications can be a helpful tool for procurement teams looking to accelerate and optimize their RFP process. A quality RFQ response can be the foot in the door to future sales and business deals.