A request for information can be used as a basic business process for evaluating potential suppliers.
Requesting Information, or RFI, is a common business strategy designed to allow potential customers to collect data about the services and support offered by different potential providers. The exact format of the document will vary depending on the type and depth of information the customer wants to obtain. Often, a request for information is a straightforward question-and-answer document that requires very simple responses, allowing the customer to submit the request to multiple vendors and easily compare responses.
Although the request for information shares some characteristics with the request for proposal or RFP, customers tend to use the RFI as a means of gathering basic data in preparation for deciding which suppliers will be selected to receive an invitation to submit a formal proposal. Typical RFI does not provide much data on customer history and tends to focus more on general business practices, the vendor’s range of available products and services, and sometimes the published standard price. In contrast, the RFP often goes beyond this basic information, providing additional customer data, asking for pricing based on volume of usage, and inviting vendors to respond with solutions to specific customer needs.
From this perspective, requesting information can be seen as a means of gathering information that is evaluated and used to determine the next step in the process. If the idea is, eventually, to seek suppliers for the establishment of a long-term contractual agreement, the client can send the RFI to several companies that offer the desired basic products. Once all responses are received, the client compares the merits of each response, narrowing the list of candidates for the RFP to just a few. At this point, vendors who have successfully passed this preliminary stage are invited to submit a proposal, typically using a request and a specified format provided by the prospect.
A request for information can also be used as a basic business process to evaluate potential suppliers where no long-term contractual arrangements are practical. In this scenario, RFI serves the purpose of identifying suppliers that offer the most competitive standard price for goods and services that the customer may need from time to time. For example, a local business might send an RFI to all local office supply stores as a means of finding out which one has the lowest price on general office supplies, which offer volume discounts if an order exceeds a certain amount. , and who delivers orders with or without a delivery fee. The data is kept on file, allowing the small business to make decisions about where to buy office supplies when needed.