Whether you’re a small-business owner or a long-time veteran of public sales, the seemingly endless rolls of red tape in the government market can seem daunting… but it’s not as scary as it looks. Navigating the world of GovSales is often just a matter of knowing your P’s and Q’s. That’s especially true when the two most well-known methods are just one letter apart: RFP and RFQ. Understanding the RFP vs. RFQ differences is crucial for navigating the government procurement process efficiently.
That’s a Request for Proposal or a Request for Quote—but which one do you want to pursue with what product? What if your business sells a service? Let’s break it down:
Request for Proposal (RFP)
An RFP is a Request For Proposal. Agencies are required to create these in-depth documents for their major purchases and projects. These are the big-dollar buys—AKA potentially huge wins for your business. RFPs have a reputation for being lengthy and complicated, but they’re ideal for large-scale problems or services that don’t have an off-the-shelf solution.
Take, for instance, a building remodel or website redesign; these things take time, negotiation, and planning. An agency can’t just order a 100-count and call it a day.
As a business, you’ll be asked to provide a detailed plan for the project, along with your initial pricing offer. “Plans” could mean technical samples, like blueprints or schematics, or artistic mockups and color schemes. That’s why RFPs are best for purchases that don’t have one, clear path.
The key is in the name: an RFP is more than a request for pricing; it’s a request for a full proposal. You’ll have the opportunity to detail your ideas for the project while the requesting agencies will (ideally) receive a wide variety of creative options.
Request for Quote (RFQ)
Meanwhile, a Request for Quote (RFQ) is an informal way for agencies to request goods and services. Also known as “3 bids and a buy,” RFQs ask you to provide competitive quotes for straightforward items or services, so agencies can choose the best of the bunch.
Whether done digitally (through eQuotes) or the old-fashioned way, RFQs are used for simple, on-demand purchases, rather than long-term projects, like lightbulbs and toilet paper. They’re an important part of what we consider the bread and butter of GovSales—that 80% of all government exchanges, including piggybacking, co-ops, p-card payments, and other small-scale purchases.
The goal of an RFQ is to garner multiple, competitive quotes. These requests are usually submitted with a quickly approaching due date because they expect fulfillment ASAP. RFQs, as a general rule, are supposed to fit an immediate need.
When you think of an RFQ, picture an agency shopping around for new computers, safety equipment, one-time training, or basic lawn services.
One Letter, Big Difference
As you can see, the distinction between an RFP and an RFQ is more than just a letter; it’s the difference between a formal request and an informal request. Both methods have their own legal processes and rules, but a formal request leaves no room for interpretation or overnight changes. Informal requests have a more casual structure, allowing for flexibility and a quick turnaround.
Because RFPs are part of a formal process, for example, deadlines are set far in advance. Agencies do that to make sure they can collect a large pool of proposals and make room for the many steps of the job. That could include vendor discovery, shortlists, evaluations, and contracts. For this reason, edits can only be made with an official addendum, which needs to be communicated in writing—to every participant—along with the effective date.
On the flip side, because the quoting process is so informal, agencies may change the details or deadline of an RFQ on a whim. Agencies can also award a vendor before the assigned due date if they get a quote that suits their needs early on. Quotes are meant for quick action—so don’t delay!
As you can see, the distinction between an RFP and an RFQ is more than just a letter; it’s the difference between a formal request and an informal request. Both methods have their own legal processes and rules, but a formal request leaves no room for interpretation or overnight changes. Informal requests have a more casual structure, allowing for flexibility and a quick turnaround. Understanding the RFP vs. RFQ differences is crucial for navigating the government procurement process efficiently.