7 Ways to Make Sure Every RFI is Golden

Want to make sure your request for information process is on point? Read on.

Closing the deal
Discussing an RFI. Cultura RM/Seb Oliver/Getty Images

Every formal request for information or RFI you receive has a chance to bring you business, sooner or later. While this may seem optimistic, it’s based on the following simple truth. It takes a customer time and effort to put together a construction RFI, to select a panel of prospective construction companies to whom to send that RFI, and to collate and compare the responses. For each RFI, the customer wants to find a good contractor – so make sure sooner or later that contractor is your company!

Before You Start, Find Out More

It may make sense for you to invest time and effort from your side to start answering an RFI. On the other hand, it may not. However, in both cases, the response you make and how you make it can determine what other future opportunities come your way as well. First of all, get some more information about the RFI.

Contact the customer by phone if a contact phone number is given, or by email otherwise for a speedy reply. Remember that an RFI is rarely the only step in the customer’s process. It is usually a first step before issuing an RFP (request for proposal). If there are 20 contractors who could all receive an RFP after the RFI, each one only has a 5% chance of winning – all things being equal. Use the following tips to help you stack the odds considerably more in your favor.

Now Boost Your Chances of Advancing – and Finally Winning

If you decide not to proceed, reply to the customer to thank them for their interest, give an acceptable reason for declining, and express your interest in being considered for future RFIs. A short, polite and above all timely response can still put you in a good light for projects to come.

If you decide to proceed, make the RFI golden for you and get the RFP that follows by taking the following steps.

  1. Make sure you understand what construction work is needed. Contact the customer for clarification if necessary. As much as 30% of contractors’ responses to RFIs miss the point and are eliminated immediately.
  2. Respond to the RFI as though it were an RFP. You wouldn’t send a marketing brochure to reply to an RFP, so avoid the same trap when it comes to the initial RFI.  Yet up to 50% of contractors do exactly that and subsequently get no further.
  3. Keep your response to the RFI short, targeted and relevant, with construction pricing where appropriate. Your customer needs to find your information rapidly and easily amongst all the other responses received. Use the format specified by the customer for the same reason.
  4. Include any specifications, technology or certifications that your company possesses and that add relevant value to your answer to the RFI. Not only does this show you’ve thought about your response, but it may also further reduce the number of companies then getting the following RFP (as in only the ones that mention similar specifications, etc.) Include any other information specific to your approach and your enterprise that will positively differentiate you from other contenders.
  1. Mention any features of your company that merit special consideration. Some government agencies may make a special effort to include small businesses among their contractors, for example.
  2. Give track record information as required, or mention relevant experience and projects successfully executed if you don’t have exactly the same ones asked for in the RFI. Do your best, instead of doing nothing.
  3. Practice makes perfect. If your initial responses do not garner RFPs afterwards, find out what needs to be improved. By applying the first six steps in this list, you can already narrow the field considerably. It may only take a small tweak to your process to unlock the RFP after the RFI.