RFP vs RFQ: Understanding the Key Differences for Your Next Training Project

Understanding the similar—but different—terms like RFP, RFQ and RFI can make planning your training project an exercise that makes your head spin.

However, if you’re involved in procurement for any training materials, there are two acronyms you should know: RFP and RFQ. While they may sound similar, they actually have distinct differences.

This guide will explain what RFP and RFQ stand for, their purposes, and how they differ from each other, so you can make informed decisions the next time you go out to bid for a new training project.

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Let’s jump in with some definitions so you can get moving on your training project.

What Is an RFQ?

RFQ stands for “request for quotation.” It’s a document that is used to request price quotes from potential suppliers or vendors for a specific product or service. An RFQ typically includes the specifications and quantity of the desired product or service, and asks potential suppliers to provide a quotation for the cost.

The purpose of an RFQ is to gather pricing information and compare quotes from different suppliers in order to select the most cost-effective option. Unlike an RFP, an RFQ does not require detailed proposals or solutions, but focuses solely on pricing.

Think about it this way. Imagine you want to buy a car. Just an ordinary car, like a Toyota Camry. You’ll probably visit a Toyota dealership, check the available models, and choose one based on your preferences and budget.

That’s what it’s like to send an RFQ: you have a specific product or service in mind (like a course on a certain topic), and you’re seeking quotes from different vendors for that specific item, like picking a car from the dealership’s lot.

What Is an RFP?

RFP stands for “request for proposal.” It’s a document that is used to solicit proposals from potential suppliers or vendors for a learning project or service. An RFP outlines the requirements, specifications, and objectives of the training project. It asks potential suppliers to submit a proposal detailing how they would meet those requirements.

The purpose of an RFP is to gather information and evaluate different proposals in order to select the best supplier for the educational project.

Let’s stick with the car analogy. Instead of buying a car, imagine you want to design a custom vehicle. That’s a bigger deal. You have a vision for a vehicle with specific features, like a 4×4 with gullwing doors. For this project, you’d send out an RFP to different manufacturers, outlining your vision and requirements in detail, similar to specifying the design, features, and capabilities you want in your custom vehicle. The manufacturers would then submit proposals, showing how they can bring your gullwing 4×4 to life, and you would choose the one that aligns best with your vision.

In training terms, you would want to request an RFP if you have a complex project that goes beyond off-the-shelf options. Maybe you want a full annual program for a niche set of learners. Or you need something to fits very specific technical requirements. The RFP process helps you identify the training partner who can best align with your training vision and deliver the desired results. It’s a way to make sure that your training program is as unique and effective as your custom-designed vehicle.

When Should You Use an RFP and When Should You Use an RFQ?

Whether to to use an RFP or an RFQ depends on your specific needs and goals. In simple terms:

RFP – use if you are looking for something complex and want to evaluate beyond price

RFQ – use if you already know what you’re looking for and you mainly want to compare price


Want to write an RFP? Check out our guide here.

Want to create an RFQs? Review the process below. GSA also has an informative webinar that can help take you through each step.

The RFQ Process

The RFQ process is structured and usually follows these steps.

1. Preparation and Requirements

Define your organization’s needs and requirements before issuing an RFQ. The more detail you provide, the more accurate and useful vendor responses will be. Collaborate with internal stakeholders to explore all necessary requirements. Focus groups are handy for this step.

2. Issuing and Management

Next, send the RFQ to vendors you’re curious about. Be selective about this process and limit the number of respondents to about eight to speed up the process.

3. Scoring and Selection

Part of what’s great about an RFQ is that it makes scoring and selection easier. The preparation you put in at the beginning will pay off here.

4. Closing and Contracting

Once you’ve selected a vendor, you can move forward with closing the deal and finalizing the contract. Negotiate with the vendor to settle contract details.

5. Review and Evaluation

After signing the contract, monitor the vendor’s performance. This helps make sure your training project stays on track and meets your organization’s needs. Read some tips on how to do a program evalulation here.

Now you should have a better understanding of the terms RFP and RFQ. You should even be ready to start writing your first one for your next training project.

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