An RFP is NOT a Questionnaire!

I’ve heard far too many salespeople refer to an RFP as a questionnaire. It’s not. An RFP is a request for a proposal. There’s a big difference.

What's a questionnaire?

I’ve been involved in filling out many questionnaires. These are almost always things like security questionnaires, compliance questionnaires, and policy questionnaires. These are information collection forms that buyers use to assist them in their due diligence investigations for vendors they’re thinking about working with.

What's an RFP?

An RFP is not a questionnaire, it’s a request for a solution to a business problem. It’s where a buyer says:

“Hey, I’ve got this project. If you are interested in bidding on it, here are the specs and requirements, here are the challenges we’re struggling with. Now, propose a solution. Tell us how you’re going to do it and, especially, how you can do it better than anyone else.”

They aren’t asking for a bunch of generic, copy-n-pasted answers. They’re asking, “How are you going to deliver what we need?” and “Why should we choose you?”

Bottom line

Buyers who issue RFPs are looking for carefully considered solutions to serious business problems, not copy-n-paste marketing verbiage.

Acknowledge the difference, embrace the difference, and your win rates will improve.

David Seibert is president of The Seibert Group, a consulting and training organization for businesses that respond to RFPs from other businesses and from SLED (state/local government and education) agencies.


The Seibert Group provides a range of services:

·         Online proposal training

·         Onsite proposal training

·         Proposal and business development consulting services   


David authored Proposal Best Practices and The Sales Manager’s Guide to RFPs, he publishes Dave’s Blog about proposal and business development topics, and he is a regular speaker at numerous webinars, seminars, and conventions.


You can contact Dave at [email protected]. You can also follow Dave on LinkedIn.


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