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Consulting RFPs

Our ten secret tips for writing best-in-class RFPs for Consulting.

When you launch a project you can always hope that the consultant will understand your needs. Or you can write down the reasons why you start a project and what results you expect.

Our ten secret tips for writing best-in-class RFPs for Consulting.

The former is a vague wish. The latter sets your project on the path to success and creates the value you expect besides the general scope. This is how important that document is.

“A goal, however, is something distinctly different from a wish. It is clear, written, and specific.”- Brian Tracy

However, all RFPs are not equal. An effective RFP should provide your prospective provider with a clear understanding of your needs and issues and the expected outcomes.

We have put together 10 of our best tips to write a great RFP.


We often describe the consulting market with the capabilities and the industries served. And most consulting firms will start there to introduce themselves. But this is just scratching the surface.

1. Don’t zip through your RFP

Many RFPs for Consulting are rushed in their development. Sometimes the details or the context are insufficient to understand the business problem you are facing.

Maybe some key requirements are missing, or the language is ambiguous. You might have omitted the common pricing framework to be followed, or given too little time for the candidate consultants to respond to RFI/RFP. However, the result is always the same: it is difficult for Consulting Firms to send a solid proposal, in particular, if they are newcomers.

2. Explain how the process will unfold

The RFP will be the reference document for the consulting providers you invite to the competition. Don’t forget to include details on the RFP process, such as timeline, criteria of choice, and requirements. It will help the candidates to be laser-focused on your needs.

3. Invite consultants with the right profile

With your RFP in hand, you can start identifying the potential candidates. You might be impressed by some Consultants’ expertise or interesting projects they have been part of, but the most relevant question remains to find out if they are right for you and best fit for your project?

4. Adapt your short-list to the time you have on your hands

Look closely at the project’s scope, the budget, and the internal procurement policies to define your criteria of selection for the short-list. Be mindful of your time and adapt your short-list’s length to the level of priority and the budget of your project.

Small and Large projects

When you have a very tight timeline or small projects with limited impact on your business, prefer a limited short-list to spend enough time on the proposal and the references checking. We recommend not going beyond three prospective providers.

Larger projects

You can broaden the first round (briefing/proposal phase) to up to ten consulting firms (depending on the project and the stakes) but keep at most four-five companies for the final round (pitching phase).

When your short-list is ready, contact your suppliers and check their interest by sending your RFP.

5. Secure Confidentiality

It is important always to protect your confidential information. Don’t hesitate to make your candidates sign a confidentiality agreement at the beginning (even at RFI or RFP stage) to protect proprietary information and make sure the consulting firms will not be sharing your project’s details with your competitors.

If the proposal includes collaboration and sub-contracting, make sure that an NDA legally binds all the project contributors.

If your project is particularly confidential, you should even consider working with a third-party sourcing company, like Consulting Quest, that will handle the process anonymously. They will keep your company and your project confidential until the short-list stage.

6. Remember, Simplicity Always Wins

And it’s best to make things simple. Unless you are handling a multi-million dollar project, don’t organize extravagant tenders. Looking through proposals and listening to consultants’ pitches can be extremely time-consuming. It will also considerably slow down your project. Make sure that your RFP process is adapted to the scope and the budget for your project.

If you only have a small number of consulting firms, or if the project is specifically complex, you might want to organize briefings to discuss the project’s details and make sure the consultants have well-understood what is at stake.

If you have a large number of candidates, a clear RFP, and little time on your hands, you can just send the RFP and assess the written proposals to identify the most promising one for the next step.

7. Don’t forget to assess written proposals

Once you have received the proposals, take the time to review them with the other stakeholders. Always keep your objective in mind: maximizing the chances of success of your project. You need the candidates to submit their best proposals, and for that, they need to understand the problem very well.

Level the ground, so all companies have a fair chance in the competition. It is in your best interest to do so too. Don’t hesitate to explain in length the background of your company and the context of the assignment, and to take some time to polish the Q&A documents.

8. Evaluate the fit with your RFP

Make sure the candidates have responded to the most important elements in your RFP. Their proposals should help you answer the following questions:

  • Has the consultant understood our objectives?
  • Do the deliverables answer our questions?
  • Do we trust the approach the consulting provider proposes?
  • Does the team have the required experience?
  • Is this consultant the right fit for you?
  • Does the budget fit the value we expect?

Note if there are any gray areas and potential for misunderstanding.

9. Identify the most promising proposals

When working on a large cohort of Consulting Providers, you should focus at first on the most promising proposals to save time and energy. You can always go down your list if you are not satisfied with your first batch.

Start ranking your proposals based on your assessment of the proposals. You can use these five dimensions: objectives, deliverables, approach, experience, fit, and budget.

10. Discover and resolve any uncertainties

You should also be able to put your finger on the proposals’ uncertainties and articulate them into questions. The list of questions will be the basis for the pitch session with the most promising Consultants: an excellent opportunity to clarify the RFP if necessary and assess your teams’ fit.


Besides the impact on the sourcing process, writing an RFP for each project has other virtues. It will help you onboard the different stakeholders and facilitate the convergence on the scope. And ultimately, the RFP will become the reference document in the discussions with the consulting firm.

Hélène Laffitte
Co-founder & CEO at Consulting Quest
Hélène is the author of Smart Consulting Sourcing, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your Consuting. You can follow @helenelaffitte on Twitter.

Hélène Laffitte is the CEO of Consulting Quest, a Global Performance-Driven Consulting Platform and author of “Smart Consulting Sourcing”, a step by step guide to getting the best ROI from your consulting. With a blend of experience in Procurement and Consulting, Hélène is passionate about helping Companies create more value through Consulting.

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Published in Clients, Defining the Needs and Finding a Consultant