What Is an RFI?
08 Nov 2022
6 min

What Is an RFI?

Different business-related documentation can be pretty confusing and challenging. And RFIs are not an exception. Still, there is no way to avoid facing such documents in your business activities, so it’s important to know what they are and how to use them correctly.

So, what is an RFI? LeadsForce has the answer! Read our detailed guide to learn more about RFIs and the ways they are used in the business landscape.

What Is a Request for Information (RFI)?

Before we move to any specific details, it’s vital to answer the key question. So, what is an RFI?

In a nutshell, a request for information RFI is a formal document used by companies to request more data about a certain product or service from a vendor. An RFI is needed to help companies study the offers of different suppliers more thoroughly and gather information on a market in a more reliable and structured way.

RFIs are meant for two-way communication. That is, both a buyer and a supplier use such documents to get the information they need.

Where to Use RFI?

Basically, such documents come in handy to businesses that seek certain products or services and have to compare many potential vendors. In this case, an RFI helps them acquire a big chunk of structured information from every potential partner and make more data-driven choices. But, what primary areas of use does it have?

In brief, RFIs are widely used across many sectors, including construction, advertising, and IT. Also, such documents help companies select the best tools for electronic health records (EHRs) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). Now, let’s look at different uses in detail:

  • IT - In this industry, RFIs are widely used to acquire software from suppliers. With the help of such documents, companies can structure different business requirements, such as management options, use cases, or integrations with third-party software or hardware.
  • Construction - In this sector, RFIs can be sent from a subcontractor or contractor to a customer, from a subcontractor to the main contractor, and from a contractor to a designer. Such RFIs include contract information, as well as project details such as standards, materials, design, etc.
  • Advertising - In this industry, an advertising company can use RFIs to evaluate other ad agencies on the market. In this case, companies use such documents to request a list of industry-relevant clients, existing issues and areas of conflict, and potential areas of improvement.
  • ERP and EHR Tools - Companies looking for the right ERP and EHR tools may use RFIs to pick the right option among many available ones. In such documents, these companies can specify what they are looking for or request information about functionality, and operational and technical requirements.

How to Write an RFI?

Since RFIs can be used for multiple purposes, there is no single way to structure and write such documents. Every organization can use a different structure to meet its goals and needs.

However, there is a formal RFI template that you can use to get on the right track:

General Info

The first mandatory element of every RFI is a block with general information. In this block, you provide some basic details concerning your business, including contact information, business activity, etc. This element is needed for providers to understand your business and provide the needed assistance.

Requirements

Another detail you should always include in an RFI is a section with your requirements. It can involve credential or pre-qualification requirements, technical restrictions, and other relevant information that will help a supplier prepare the best offer for you.

Requested Information

The last and key section is where you specify what kind of information you want to request from the vendor. It should give vendors a clear understanding of your needs and explain what exactly you are looking for. Here, you can also specify the deadline by which you want to get a response.

What Information to Include in an RFI

When it comes to shaping an RFI, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Every business is unique and has unique goals and needs, which is why the content of such documents can vary significantly.

Still, there is a general list of elements you want to include in your RFI:

  • A brief overview of your company (including contact details, industry, etc.);
  • Reason for writing an RFI;
  • A confidentiality agreement to prevent data loss and leaks to third parties;
  • A request to a supplier to provide basic information about their organization;
  • A matrix of selection criteria that a customer will use when choosing a supplier.

Apart from this, you may also want to request the following information from the provider:

  • Company presentation;
  • Experience with a similar project type;
  • Vendor’s financial situation, technical skills, and action plan;
  • Customer references, etc.

Benefits of RFI

Now that you understand the RFI meaning clearly, it’s natural to wonder why you need to care about it at all. To answer this question, we have to say that writing RFIs can have a wealth of benefits for your business.

First and foremost, RFIs let you obtain a lot of information matched to your requirements and needs, and contact data of potential vendors with no obligation.

Also, it lets you study the offered products or services in detail before committing in the long run. This can save you lots of time, money, and effort when you choose between different suppliers.

Finally, RFIs help you create a better rapport with your potential partners and build a solid ground for long-term relationships.

Common Mistakes with RFI

While there are many benefits of RFIs, you won’t get them if you use these documents the wrong way. Here are some of the most common mistakes you should avoid:

  • Often, buyers fail to specify their requirements clearly and thoroughly, which makes it hard for sellers to respond to their RFIs.
  • Some buyers tend to mix up communication when they reach out to numerous vendors simultaneously, which harms relationships.
  • Sellers might make incorrect assumptions if the explanations and requirements are unclear.
  • Some sellers fail to review the information thoroughly in a rush to get business done faster and, thus, provide poor responses to RFIs.

RFI vs. RFP vs. RFQ

Apart from RFIs that we’ve already told you about, there are two similar documents that you should be aware of:

  • Request for Proposal (RFP) - RFPs are used to collect more detail from potential vendors. It is similar to RFI but more structured and specific, which is why it is often sent after an RFI. Typically, RFPs specify the customer’s needs and requirements and explain how a vendor’s proposal will be evaluated. 
  • Request for Quotation (RFQ) - RFQs are typically submitted to one or multiple potential providers to request their quotes for a product or service. It is even more specific than RFPs and often seeks a thorough explanation of the price for the items requested by a buyer.

In contrast to these two, an RFI is a less structured and detailed document that requests general information and helps you define whether you should proceed with each particular provider or not. Basically, it’s used to understand whether a particular supplier can meet your needs and requirements.

For example, if you want to buy lead list, in the RFI, you will specify what exactly you are looking for and request general info to assess and qualify different providers. In the RFP, you will request proposals from selected companies and specify how you will evaluate their proposals. And finally, in the RFQ, you will request the price.

RFI Examples

Although you should already know what an RFI looks like, it never hurts to study a few examples to write one correctly.

Below is a standard request for information sample that should help:

 

   

RFI Details

   

RFI #

Name

 

Request Date

Response Deadline

#001

Lead generation services

 

August 1, 2022

August 16, 2022

Requesting service offering

       

Name

Title

 

Company

Contact

Kate Black

Product Manager

 

Company X

123456

Request Description

       

What services do you provide?

       

Attachments:

       

Responding Party:

       

Name

Title

 

Company

Contact

Jack White

CEO

 

Company Y

123456

Response:

       
         

Conclusion

So, now you know what requests for information are, where they are used, and how to write one yourself. Hopefully, this guide will help you take more control of your business and related documentation.

Daniel Gorbenko
Daniel Gorbenko
Product Marketing Manager
Daniel is a Product Marketing Manager with more than 4 years of experience with B2B and B2C products. Daniel is a Product Marketing Manager with more than 4 years of experience with B2B and B2C products. Daniel is a Product Marketing Manager with more than 4 years of experience with B2B and B2C products.
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