The RFP for insurance: How to manage a broker RFP

Written by
RD Symms
RD Symms
Updated on
  14 min read

There’s a lot on the line when it comes to insurance, and finding the right carrier is complicated. Luckily, insurance brokers are experts that help select the perfect fit. Whether you’re looking for help finding coverage on behalf of your business or a broker hoping to win a new client, using an RFP for insurance is an important part of the process.

Indeed, there’s no better way to compare the intricate offerings of various brokerage firms than using the request for proposal (RFP) process. In addition to benefiting buyers, the brokers that answer RFPs have the opportunity to showcase their services and ability to add value.

In the blog below, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the insurance brokerage RFP. First, we’ll cover the definition of an RFP for insurance, who uses them and why. Then, we’ll explore each side of the RFP process: how to issue and respond to them. Finally, you’ll see examples and templates of various RFPs for insurance as well as insurance proposal samples. With these resources, you’ll fully understand the RFP for insurance broker services and get inspiration to issue or respond to your own RFPs.

RFP for insurance basics

What is an RFP in insurance?

In insurance, a request for proposal (RFP) is a formal process initiated by an organization that needs insurance coverage in order to vet prospective insurance brokers. RFPs for insurance brokerage services are organized questionnaires that ask detailed questions while also providing the buyer’s background information, scope and goals. The information included in the insurance RFP enables brokers to tailor their offering to the needs of the organization.

An insurance broker or consultancy is an expert in the industry that has established relationships with insurance carriers of all kinds. Consequently, the RFP process is designed to help businesses identify the insurance broker with exactly the right services, experience and carrier relationships to meet the company’s goals.

Who works with insurance broker RFPs?

When it comes to RFPs for insurance, there are three groups of people involved in the process

  • Organizations seeking to buy coverage
  • Brokers and consultants finding the right services for their clients
  • Insurance carriers vying to win the business

Furthermore, insurance purchases involve a number of professionals from various departments within the purchasing organization. For example, the process should potentially include risk management, human resources, executive leadership, procurement, legal and finance. Within the buying organization, a number of professionals from various departments are involved.

An overview of the entire process

Unlike other procurement projects, finding the right insurance carrier almost always involves two RFPs: one between the company and potential brokers as well as one between the selected broker and potential carriers. The process breaks down into five steps.

  1. The company looking for insurance will issue an RFP to find the right broker
  2. Brokers respond to the RFP for brokerage services and the business selects a winner
  3. Then, the brokers write and issue an RFP to various carriers to find the best offers for the client
  4. The broker evaluates the resulting carrier proposals, compares offers and makes a recommendation
  5. Finally, the company makes their carrier selection and proceeds to contract

Benefits of the RFP process

So, why do organizations use the RFP process to select their insurance providers? When exploring new insurance options, there are dozens of factors to consider. Luckily, evaluating the background, experience, services, security and coverage provided is easier with an RFP. In addition, the process delivers other benefits.

Secure the best services and benefits
Organizations that issue RFPs for insurance brokerage services benefit from the competitive nature of the process. Brokers know that their proposal will be compared side-by-side with others so they are motivated to make their best offer the first time. Ideally, this also leads to faster contracts because much of the negotiation happens during the RFP process.

Explore additional expertise
Often, insurance brokerages provide a wealth of services in addition to consulting on insurance purchases. Consequently, an RFP explores and compares each vendor’s additional services. For example, firms may offer wellness resources, risk management information, technology consulting and other human resources services.

Ensure regulatory compliance
Using an RFP, businesses can easily verify that each prospective broker has experience navigating relevant regulations and policies. Often, the broker assists with these matters. In addition, they may be able to raise concerns proactively as a part of their risk management services.

Types of insurance RFPs

As you may suspect there are dozens of kinds of insurance RFPs. Primarily, insurance RFPs fall into one of three categories including employee benefits, property and casualty, and specialty insurance. Brokerages may have relationships with carriers in one more of these areas.

Step-by-step guide to issuing an RFP for insurance brokerage services

If you’ve been tasked with issuing your first RFP for insurance, you may be intimidated. Certainly, it’s understandable. After all, the business and employees depend on you to find the right coverage at the right price. And, that means you must partner with a broker that has the right skills and experience.

In this case, a quick Google search won’t quite cut it. Luckily, issuing an RFP doesn’t have to be stressful.

The RFP process to select an insurance broker

When broken down to its three core steps, the RFP process is simple. To begin, you must create the RFP. Then, the next step is to issue the RFP and manage any questions. Finally, you review the proposals, score them and select a winner to proceed. Let’s explore each of these steps in more detail.

1. Creation

Establish your priorities

First, determine your RFP requirements. Define what you need and which elements or services are most important to your business. To do this, talk with your stakeholders and establish a list of must-have items. Then, rank those factors from most to least important. This documentation will help you later. Specifically, use it in the RFP creation step to write your RFP and establish evaluation criteria.

Conduct research

The insurance industry is always changing and evolving. Unfortunately, the constant change means the RFP template you used a few years ago to find a broker may need significant updates. So, before you write your RFP and proceed with vendor selection, you’ll need to do some research. Explore insurance trends, look for innovative, new brokerages and ask your peers for recommendations.

Build your timeline

Create your RFP timeline by identifying important tasks and deadlines. Remember to include both internal milestones and due dates for the responding brokers.

RFP timeline project milestones:

  • Kick off meeting
  • Stakeholder suggestions due
  • Writing, reviewing and approving the RFP
  • RFP issue date
  • Deadline for follow-up questions from vendors
  • Proposal submission deadline
  • Review, evaluation and scoring
  • Announcement of final selection

As you set dates, be sure to set realistic expectations. Give yourself plenty of time. For instance, it’s wise to allow a week for stakeholder suggestions, several days to write and finalize the RFP and a week to compare the proposals. Likewise, your vendors will require three to four weeks to create a complete and detailed proposal. If you don’t allow enough time, you may feel rushed and select a broker without the necessary consideration. In addition, a timeline that is too short may discourage vendors from participating, limiting your ability to find the right vendor and negotiate.

Draft your RFP

Now, it’s time to write the RFP for brokerage services. You’ll use the feedback provided by your internal stakeholders, the scope and priorities you established as well as the RFP timeline you created. Using a template helps save time, but remember to customize the questions, remove irrelevant items and exclude requests for information that can readily be found online.

Sample insurance broker questions

Asking the right RFP questions is crucial to finding the right insurance broker using an RFP. Indeed, you should ask questions that address general information, company policies, client services, process, industry expertise, terms and more.

  1. Describe your firm and its culture.
  2. What is your approach to securing the best rates?
  3. Do you work with other clients in our industry? Can you provide a reference?
  4. How often will you provide status updates during and after the RFP process?
  5. Do you provide assistance with compliance and HR concerns?
  6. How will you ensure rates are competitive in the future?
  7. How is your brokerage compensated? What is the fee structure?
  8. Describe your risk management services.
  9. What tools or technology will you use to collaborate with us and serve our account?
  10. Describe or show the user experience for the technology we’ll use.
  11. Who on your team will work directly with us?
  12. What RFP software or tools do you use to manage your processes?
  13. How is our data managed and is it exportable?
  14. Describe your data security practices and any certifications you’ve earned.
  15. How is your customer success team structured, and how will you support our users?
Additional RFP sections to include in your insurance RFP
  • Project background ⁠— Why are you issuing the RFP? Is it a board request, company standard or regulatory requirement?
  • Current coverage ⁠— Are you replacing a current broker? Insuring a new asset or adding coverage? What does your broker offer now?
  • Vendor expectations ⁠— What are you looking for? What are the goals of the engagement? What are your minimum qualifications?
  • Scope ⁠— What are your must-haves? What items would be nice to have?
  • Budget expectations ⁠— Do you know what you expect to spend?
  • Timeline ⁠— When should the broker respond?
  • Evaluation criteria ⁠— How will you score the proposals?
  • Submission criteria ⁠— What format, page limit and delivery method do you prefer?
  • Terms and conditions ⁠— What standard information does the vendor need?
  • Any required attachments ⁠— Documentation of insurable assets, current policies, etc.

2. Administration

Broker selection

Now that you’ve prepared your RFP, you must decide who to send it to. While government and other regulated organizations must solicit proposals publicly, many private organizations only include a select group of brokers. If possible, it’s recommended that you limit your vendor pool to six or fewer participants. Remember, you must review and score every response ⁠— so each vendor you add is more work for your team later.

It’s also worth noting by narrowing your supplier selection at the beginning of the process, you are then able to provide them advance notice of your RFP. Brokers report that this is incredibly helpful, because it enables them to prepare by allocating resources to your proposal in advance. Indeed, some say this is the best way to ensure you receive high-quality, thorough responses.

Issue the RFP

This step is pretty straight forward. If you manage your RFPs manually, you’ll need to email each of your selected vendors individually. Admittedly, this approach can quickly become a disorganized mess as you email the primary contact and CC backup contacts. Then you can expect to receive emails for receipt confirmations, intent to bid letters and follow up questions.

On the other hand, many organizations use strategic sourcing software to manage their procurement projects including insurance broker RFPs. The RFP management platform empowers you to leverage RFP automation tools including digital RFP issuing, centralized vendor management, progress tracking, automatic weighted scoring, team proposal evaluation and more. Check with your procurement department to see if an RFP issuing software solution is available.

Respond to follow up questions

While the goal is to present a comprehensive RFP, unfortunately, it’s just not possible to anticipate every question a vendor may have. Clarifying questions, additional information and scope questions often come up. Gather these questions during the question and response period. Then, compile the questions, remove duplicates and provide answers to all of your vendors to ensure fairness.

3. Evaluation

Evaluate the proposals

Once your RFP response deadline passes, it’s time to score your proposals. First, conduct an initial review of the proposals to ensure they are complete and comply with the stated minimum and submission requirements.

Next, apply your RFP evaluation criteria coupled with your supplier scorecard to score the proposals. Consider engaging project stakeholders from finance, HR and legal to help score the sections that align their expertise.

Make your selection

Finally, make your comparisons. Which vendor scores the highest? Do they deliver high scores in the areas that are your highest priority? If possible, call the provided references. Hopefully, your best choice is clear. If not, narrow down to a shortlist and issue a supplementary RFP or schedule live RFP presentations to help you make a final selection.

To learn more about RFP process best practices, download The RFP process guide ebook.

How to respond to and win an insurance broker services RFP

When it comes to winning insurance RFPs, you must be thorough, concise and creative. In the current competitive landscape, you must use the proposal to highlight your differentiators and value-added services.

Following proposal best practices and ensuring each section of the RFP meets the client’s needs is particularly important for insurance brokers.

Proposal process best practices

Decide to bid or not to bid

Generally, you’ll find minimum requirements and scope details in every RFP for insurance brokerage services. These elements (among others) deserve careful consideration. Indeed, conducting thoughtful discussions to bid or not to bid quickly improves your win rate.

Consider how much time is invested into responding to an RFP. Certainly, it’s time consuming and those hours aren’t free. Simply by being more selective, you’ll enable your proposal team to focus their energy and attention on the RFPs your firm is most likely to win.

For a full list of considerations to help determine your likelihood to win, download this bid or no-bid checklist.

Optimize your proposal project planning

If you’re familiar with the proposal process, you’re likely also aware of the frantic rush that happens when deadlines are tight. However, establishing and continually optimizing your RFP response process can help. An organized and repeatable process ensures you can respond effectively to as many insurance broker RFPs as possible.

To explore proposal project management strategies in detail, download The proposal process ebook.

Maximize the value of your proposal content knowledge library

What’s the most frustrating part of answering an RFP? If you said rewriting the same responses over and over again, there’s a solution. Build a proposal content knowledge library. This approach saves every RFP question and its answer in a searchable RFP response database for future use. As you answer more RFPs, your library grows and your proposal timeline gets shorter.

Some proposal teams copy and paste each answer into a spreadsheet or Word document. While this approach will certainly save you time, it quickly becomes disorganized and bogged down with dated responses and variations of the same questions. Consequently, many of the largest insurance brokerages use proposal management software for proposal knowledge management. In addition to improving the organization and searchability of answers, a proposal knowledge library in an RFP tool enables proposal automation that uses AI to identify questions and suggest the best answers.

Streamline the process for your subject matter experts

It takes a team to answer each RFP response. Unfortunately, when you’re working with a dozen contributors, ensuring prompt feedback is a challenge. It’s understandable, as subject matter experts (SMEs) juggle proposal responsibilities in addition to their normal workload. Unfortunately, this often results in repeated requests and follow-up messages.

To make the process easier on you and your colleagues, avoid simply assigning entire unanswered sections to SMEs. Instead, proactively use your knowledge library to complete as much of the proposal as possible.

For brokers with an established library, it’s common to be able to answer up to 60 percent of any incoming RFP for brokerage services. Once you’ve selected the best answers, send your work to the SME for review and approval. This proactive approach will do wonders to improve your relationship with RFP contributors.

Review and revise

This may seem obvious, but the number of proposals that contain typos, errors, previous company names and other errors is astounding. Unfortunately, these little mistakes can make a big impact. So, don’t skip your final proposal review.

Make sure your responses are consistent, clear and concise. Does your proposal focus on the client’s needs? Will it meet or exceed all of the stated criteria? Does it clearly state why your firm is the best fit for the business?

Submit it

Once you’ve reviewed the proposal and secured approval from your executive approver, submit the proposal. Remember to verify the deadline, check the page limit and submit according to the stated guidelines.

Section-by-section insurance RFP response guide

Chances are, you know who your competitors are in the industry. So, it’s important that every part of your proposal is impactful and memorable. From the executive summary to the final presentation, make the most of every element.

Executive summary

A memorable executive summary includes an overview of the proposal, how your firm is different and why your offer is the best fit for the client. The executive summary should be professional but approachable ⁠— like a warm introduction. Remember, some decision makers won’t have time to read or skim your full proposal. However, they will review your executive summary. So, be informative and sincere.

For a head start on your next executive summary, download this template.

RFP cover letter

After the executive summary, you’ll insert your RFP cover letter. This is the place to set the tone for your proposal. It should be consultative, service-oriented and optimistic. Don’t be afraid to show a little personality and showcase your firm’s unique culture. In addition, express your understanding of the client’s needs, share a relevant success story and convey your excitement for the possibilities of a future partnership.

Explore this RFP cover letter template to see these principals in action.

Proposal messaging

Writing winning RFP responses is part art and part science. The organization doesn’t want to hear a hard sales pitch in every answer. After all, RFPs are about collecting clear data. However, they do want you to convey your experience and knowledge. Certainly, the care you take to write customized, client-focused answers will show.

Explore the art and science of winning proposal messaging in this infographic: How to write proposals that land you on the shortlist — in 7 simple steps

Perfect your RFP presentation

If you make it to the short list, be prepared to present. The RFP presentation is a common part of the insurance RFP process. Indeed, these sessions serve to display your expertise as well as your ability to work well with the client. Make every part of the presentation about how the client will benefit from partnering with you.

Sample insurance RFPs and proposals: Examples and templates

RFP for insurance brokerage services templates

Insurance broker RFP examples

Insurance broker services proposal example

While issuing and responding to an RFP for insurance brokerage services may not happen every day, it’s rarely a one-time event. Ultimately, preparation and attention to detail throughout the RFP process will pay off as you become more and more efficient and effective.

For more information, explore these additional RFP and proposal resources:

Additional resources for insurance brokerage service RFP issuers:

  • The future of RFPs: Insights from industry experts
  • The easy way to do weighted scoring

Resources for insurance RFP responders:

  • Measuring the value of RFP software ebook
  • Proposal automation: Benefits, capabilities and how to prepare

RD Symms

RD is a senior copywriter at Responsive. He has more than 15 years of experience in writing, content development, and creative strategy. Connect with RD on LinkedIn.