An easy RFP checklist: Create complete and consistent RFPs

Written by
Graham McConnell
Graham McConnell
Updated on
  6 min read

Issuing a thorough, comprehensive RFP requires a carefully choreographed series of steps. From research and approvals to documents and addendums, there’s a lot to remember. No matter how many RFPs you’ve managed in the past, an RFP checklist helps you keep track of the process and what comes next.

In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about RFP checklists. To begin, we’ll offer a helpful definition and overview of two distinct types of RFP checklists. Next, we’ll share the benefits of using a request for proposal checklist. Finally, we’ll provide a quick guide to creating your own checklist and share a few examples for you to explore.

What is a request for proposal checklist?

A request for proposal (RFP) checklist catalogs the steps, information and documents required to create and complete an RFP. Using an RFP checklist enables strategic sourcing and procurement managers to improve consistency, reduce risk and organize the RFP process.

Two kinds of RFP checklists: One for you, one for vendors

As a procurement manager, you know how helpful a comprehensive, chronological to-do list is when creating and managing an RFP. Similarly, prospective vendors benefit from a proposal checklist included in the RFP document itself. This external-facing checklist is a helpful step-by-step guide to your RFP requirements for vendors as they conduct their final RFP compliance review.

RFP checklists are particularly helpful when added to strategic sourcing RFPs with complex formatting, answer and documentation requirements. Indeed, including an RFP checklist for vendors is an easy way to improve proposal quality and overall compliance.

This post focuses primarily on internal RFP checklists that help procurement practitioners manage their process. However, below we provide examples of both.

4 RFP checklist benefits

1. Improve consistency

As digital transformation continues to change the way procurement teams make decisions, data becomes more and more important to the process. From your RFP timeline to the pricing tables in your proposal, each vendor response is full of hundreds of data points and consistency matters. Whether you’re a team of one, or one of many, following the same process from one RFP to the next is crucial for gathering accurate and reliable data. Consequently, standardizing your process and verifying consistency is a huge priority.

2. Centralize information

If you’re not using RFP software to centralize your RFP process, you may find yourself spending too much time searching for documents. Similar to an RFP toolkit, an RFP checklist can link to important templates, guides, attachments and addendums. For example, consider linking your checklist to your requirements discovery questionnaire, RFP scoring guide, and award letter template, just to name a few.

3. Reduce risk

Many of the steps in the RFP process exist to protect your business. From questions about vendor diversity to your vendor risk assessment, accidentally omitting the right information and questions can be costly. Consequently, using a RFP checklist ensures that each request includes all the essential policies and terms.

4. Reduce addendums

Far too often, changes come up after an RFP has already been issued. Unfortunately, that means an addendum must be created and issued to vendors to ensure the process remains fair and effective. Using an RFP checklist reduces the number of addendums you have to issue by ensuring everything is included in the initial RFP.

How to build a request for proposal checklist

Every organization’s RFP checklist should reflect their unique procurement process. Generally, it’s best to create a single checklist that includes every possible task in the RFP process. For example, you may want to list all of the possible attachments in your checklist, even if they’re not necessary for every RFP project. After all, it’s safer and easier to check off steps that aren’t applicable than to manage multiple checklists for different sourcing scenarios and risk missing something vital.

Checklists are most helpful for complex projects. So, it is helpful to begin by referencing your most recent high-value, strategic sourcing RFP. With that RFP in mind, map your RFP process from beginning to end. Your request for proposal checklist should cover both processes and documentation required.

To explore the RFP process in more detail, download the ebook: The RFP process guide.

RFP checklist outline

  • Pre-RFP considerations and approvals
    • Problem statement
    • Verification of need (can an existing resource solve the problem)
    • Establish budget and funding sources
    • Review any previous relevant RFPs or contracts
    • Approval from relevant departments and executives
  • Internal stakeholder and/or client discovery
    • Interview stakeholders to understand challenge
    • Explore interdepartmental dependencies
    • Identify primary and secondary stakeholders
    • Define problem, goals and needs
    • Establish a project timeline
    • Consider if an RFP consultant is needed
  • Vendor research and selection
    • Create a list of potential vendors
    • Research capabilities and reputation online
    • Issue a request for information to explore solutions
  • RFP creation
    • RFP cover letter
    • Executive summary
    • RFP details
      • Project background information
      • Scope and deliverables
      • RFP timeline and implementation target date
      • Minimum requirements
      • Submission requirements
      • Evaluation criteria
      • Scoring process overview and guidelines
    • RFP questions
      • General company questions
      • Product or service questions
        • Required functionality and capabilities
        • Approach and project management questions
        • Competitive differentiation
        • Future plans or improvement
      • Past performance questions
        • Experience questions
        • Staff expertise
        • Customer references
        • Service standards
        • Customers success questions
      • Culture and compatibility
        • Supplier diversity questions
        • Vendor risk questions and assessment
        • Sustainability questions
        • Vendor evaluation process information
      • Cost proposal
        • Pricing model questions
        • Payment terms
        • RFP pricing table
    • Attachments and addendums
      • Glossary of terms
      • Standard terms and conditions
      • Service level agreement
      • Sample contract
      • Vendor code of conduct
      • Sustainability policy
      • Insurance requirements
      • Contract award conditions
      • Non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • Proposal scoring and evaluation
    • List stakeholder participants
    • Assign scoring sections
    • Create and provide scoring matrix
    • Weighted scoring guide
    • Proposal comparison document
  • Selection and negotiation
    • Final vendor recommendation
    • Executive approval
  • Contracting
  • Post-award
    • Award notification letter
    • Vendor rejection letters

Obviously, this list isn’t comprehensive for every RFP process. However, it should give you a good place to start as you build your own.

Sample request for proposal checklists

Sample RFP checklist for procurement and sourcing managers

Lemler Group RFP checklist example

While this RFP checklist from Lemler Group is for a specific type of project, it’s an example of how you can add some simple design elements to make the list easier to use.

California Office of Historic Preservation – RFP checklist example

Short and sweet at just a page long, this request for proposal checklist example covers just the basics. For an RFP Lite or simple RFP, it should do the trick.

Universal Service Administrative Company – Example of an RFP checklist

This helpful checklist focuses on providing the user with plenty of information. Each required line item in this list has an accompanying explanation. So, rather than just checking boxes, the user understands why the requirement is important — likely increasing compliance and consistency.

State of Rhode Island – Sample RFP checklist

Neatly organized and thorough, this sourcing checklist example from the State of Rhode Island offers a clear walkthrough of the steps required to initiate and manage a procurement project.

Sample RFP checklist for vendors

State of Alaska offerer RFP checklist example

Provided as a courtesy for prospective vendors, this checklist helps to ensure that proposal submissions meet all the general RFP requirements.

Stockton University required proposal documents checklist

On page four of this RFP example, you’ll find a proposal checklist for vendors. The list includes all the additional documentation required by the organization.

Avondale – Vendor proposal checklist

This checklist provides a combination of tasks and required documents to help vendors provide a complete and compliant proposal.

At the end of the day, everyone wins when you use an RFP checklist — your process is more organized and your vendors have everything they need. It’s a great way to ensure efficiency and protect your business at the same time.

Graham McConnell

Graham lives in the B2B marketing space. He dabbles in writing, usually about digital marketing, but has other interests like the Portland Trail Blazers, the Portland Timbers, sci-fi films, video games and of course, response management.