Whether you’re a small-business owner new to the public market, or you’re a long-time veteran of government service, choosing the correct procurement strategy can be tricky. That’s especially true when the most-discussed methods are just one letter apart: RFP, and RFQ.

That’s a Request for Proposal, or a Request for Quote—but which one do you choose for which purchase? And how should a vendor respond to each? Let’s break it down:

Request for Proposal (RFP)

An RFP is a formal Request For Proposal. Agencies are required to create these in-depth documents for major purchases above their Simplified Acquisition Threshold (SAT). Despite a bad reputation for being lengthy and complicated, this structure can be helpful for large-scale problems 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.

Responding businesses are required to provide a detailed plan for the project, along with their initial pricing offer. Those “plans” could include 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.

It’s also why these lengthy proposals can be helpful to agencies looking to learn more about trends and methods within a certain industry. By receiving multiple proposals from vendors with different styles, agencies can choose the method that best suits their needs.

The key is in the name: an RFP is more than a request for pricing; it’s a request for a full proposal. Interested suppliers and servicers will detail their ideas for the project, while requesting agencies will (ideally) receive a wide variety of creative solutions.

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 vendors to provide competitive quotes for straightforward items or events, then allow agencies to choose the best of the bunch.

Whether done digitally (through eQuotes) or the old-fashioned way, RFQs are used for purchases below an agency’s SAT; most notably, they are used for simple, on-demand purchases, rather than long-term projects. RFQs are what we’d consider the bread and butter of procurement, especially because they make up 80% of all government exchanges, along with piggybacking, co-ops, p-card payments and other small-scale purchases.

The goal of an RFQ is to garner multiple, competitive quotes. These requests typically have quickly approaching due dates and expect fulfillment ASAP. When you think of a Request for Quote, picture an agency shopping around for new computers, safety equipment, one-time training, or a basic lawn-mowing service.

One Letter, Big Difference

The most important distinction between an RFP and an RFQ is more than a simple letter; it’s the difference between a formal request and an informal request. While both purchasing methods have their own legal processes, a formal request leaves no room for interpretation or overnight changes. Informal requests—like the eRFQs on GovQuote—have a more casual structure, allowing for flexibility and a quick turnaround.

Because RFPs are part of a formal procurement process, for example, deadlines are set in advance; this is to make way for a larger pool of proposals and make room for the many steps of fulfilling the request. This formal process includes vendor discovery, short lists, evaluations and contracts. For this reason, edits can only be made with an official addendum, which must be clearly notated on the request document, along with the effective date. That new document is immediately sent to all current participants, as well.

On the flipside, due to the informal nature of the quoting process, agencies may change the details or deadline of an RFQ on a whim. Agencies may 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!

At GovQuote, our mission is to create the largest eQuoting platform on the web. We connect agencies and companies using a simple platform, and we’ll always make it easy and free to both create requests and offer quotes. Why? Because we believe that eQuotes are the safest, simplest way to ensure open communication and encourage transparent competition. Find out how easy it is to do business on GovQuote by visiting us at http://www.govquote.us.


GovQuote is the first fully web-based platform to connect government agencies and private companies on the largest, fastest, and most user-friendly request for quote (RFQ) marketplace. GovQuote is revolutionizing public procurement by providing an online marketplace where State, Local, and Education (SLED) agencies obtain quotes by reaching thousands of qualified companies competing for government business. Using powerful smart technology to cut out costly and outdated procurement methods, GovQuote saves organizations countless hours and millions of dollars, all with full compliance, facilitating crystal-clear transparency in the public sector while leveling the playing field for small and disadvantaged businesses.