Is your business or organization in need of a VoIP phone system? Depending on your type of organization and protocols for implementing new business communication tools, you may need to submit a VoIP Request for Proposal (RFP). An RFP will help you organize your needs in one place, and make the smartest decision on choosing the best VoIP provider for your organization.
What is a VoIP Request for Proposal (RFP)?
Requests for Proposals (RFP) are often created by businesses, schools, government agencies, and other public organizations in order to choose a service provider to work with. When it comes to VoIP, RFP’s are often used when a business must make a decision about which phone system provider to choose. This can either be when a business wants to switch their phone system provider, or they need to implement a new phone system.
Requests for Proposals include information such as the business’s background and general info, the scope and timeline for implementing VoIP, budget, requested features and hardware, and maintenance and training needs. Once an organization creates their RFP, they will send it off to providers and providers will bid for the organization’s business.
RFP vs. RFI
Requests for Proposals (RFP) should not be confused with Requests for Information (RFI). As opposed to a RFP, an RFI is sent by an organization to providers earlier in the buying process.
The RFI’s purpose is to target more providers and gather information. It lays out the organization’s need for a VoIP phone system, issues they hope to solve, and a request for more information from each provider. Providers then follow up with the organization explaining how their VoIP system can solve the organization’s needs.
RFP, on the other hand, is sent out after the RFI. The RFP is sent out once the organization has gathered info from providers, narrowed it down, and are ready to make a proposal. Ideally, your organization will include a smaller handful of potential providers when it comes time for the RFP, so that the decision is easier to make once providers respond with their bid.
Note that not every organization will send both a RFI and RFP. RFI’s are tools for gathering more information. However, some might prefer to gather information on their own and just create a RFP once they’re ready to make a decision. There are different protocols for different organizations.
Who Uses Request for Proposals?
Requests for Proposals are most often used by organizations that require large VoIP accounts with several lines, organizations on a tight budget, or government/public agencies. For instance, a city department or public school may need to use a RFP to secure a VoIP system that fits their phone system needs and budget. Note that some organizations require the use of VoIP Requests for Proposals, while others may choose to utilize them to make a smarter purchase. Some common organizations who may use a VoIP RFP include:
- Cities and government agencies
- Churches and religious organizations
- Healthcare organizations
- Small businesses
7 Steps to Start Creating a VoIP RFP
Before diving into creating your VoIP RFP, there are certain steps to take to make sure you are prepared for the proposal stage. It’s a good idea to get a sense for how the RFP process works so you know how to best prepare and what to expect. Mainly, you will want to start with research and planning before diving into drafting your RFP and selecting a provider. We recommend these 7 steps for your VoIP Request for Proposal process:
1. Speak with your Team Leaders.
The first step to take is to set up a meeting with your team. You will want to discuss the communication needs of each department and collect information. For instance, you can ask your team questions like:
- What kind of hardware do we prefer to use?
- How many lines do we need?
- Do we have a tech resource that can help set up the VoIP system?
- How soon do we need the phone system set up?
Discussing these logistics will help you understand what exactly you need from your VoIP system and prepare to write your RFP. during this initial meeting, you may also ask whether or not your organization already has a RFP template that you can use to write it, when the time comes.
2. Do your research.
Next you need to research types of VoIP systems and how they work. This is especially important if you are not using a Request for Information (RFI). During this step, research VoIP essentials such as:
- Do you want a hosted or cloud-based system?
- Which VoIP system will be best for your industry?
- Do you need to be HIPAA-compliant?
- How much bandwidth will you need, and do you need to upgrade your internet?
- Do you need mobile flexibility?
- Will you need to transfer your landline number to VoIP?
- Do you prefer unified communication?
- How much does VoIP cost, and what is your budget?
Make sure to take detailed notes here that you can use when drafting your RFP.
3. Determine “Must-Have’s” vs. “Nice-to-Have’s”
During this step, you will want to establish your organization’s specific phone system needs. This will be different, depending on your business’s size, industry, communication preferences, and more. For instance, a healthcare center will have different VoIP needs than a call center.
If you already use a VoIP system or other phone system, this is a good place to start. You can ask yourself which communication features you use daily and which you rarely use. Additionally, determine which features you could utilize moving forward. For instance, do you need a virtual receptionist? Do you prefer unified communication features, such as video calling, live chat, and screen sharing? Then, categorize these features based on “must-have’s” vs. “nice-to-have’s.” This will be very informative to providers when they review your RFP and decide whether your project is a good fit for them.
4. Decide on a budget.
This is a very important step before drafting your Request for Proposal. It will indicate to providers whether they can accommodate your needs or not. Start by taking a look at typical pricing for VoIP. Then, decide with your team on a budget cap.
5. Establish a timeline.
How soon do you need VoIP set up and ready to use? Keep in mind that once you send out the Requests for Proposal to providers, they will need to respond. Then, you will want to ask specific questions to providers and weigh your options. This can take a couple of weeks.
Also remember that depending on your type of VoIP system, you may need to factor in time for installation and training. For instance, hosted systems usually take longer to set up compared to cloud and mobile options. Each organization’s VoIP project scope will be different.
6. Create a list of potential providers.
Based on your research, you will want to come up with a preliminary list of VoIP providers you may want to work with. Some may be a good fit because they cater to your industry, provide the features you want, or fit within your budget. You can start by comparing the following VoIP providers:
- Grasshopper vs. Ooma
- Jive vs. RingCentral
- Ooma vs. Vonage
- Nextiva vs. RingCentral
- Vonage vs. RingCentral
7. Write your RFP.
Once you’ve done your research, you can start drafting your Request for Proposal. We have provided a sample outline below that you can use. You can also take a look at Nextiva’s guide to creating a VoIP RFP, including their sample templates.
8. Submit your RFP and compare providers.
After finishing your VoIP Request for Proposal and reviewing it with your team, you are ready to send it off to providers. Make sure to include a method of contact in your RFP, so providers know who and how to contact you. Following your submission, providers will follow up with you and ask you questions. Make sure to be ready to address their questions and have a few questions of your own. This will help you compare providers and make the best decision for your organization’s needs.
VoIP Request for Proposal Outline
Creating a VoIP Request for Proposal doesn't need to be scary! We’re here to help by providing you with this sample outline of items to include in your VoIP RFP. After following the above steps, researching, and preparing to write your RFP, this final step should be a piece of cake! Here’s what to include in your VoIP RFP:
- General Business Info: Your organization, contact info, history, values, and current phone system (if applicable). You can also include here what you are basically looking for in a VoIP system.
- Timeline: How soon do you expect providers to respond with a proposal? How soon do you need the VoIP system up and running? Include a clear timeline such as:
- RFP submission
- Last day for provider follow-up questions
- Last day for follow-up answers to providers
- Official Proposal submission deadline
- Proposal review by your organization
- Choice of provider release
- Contract start date
- Installation and training period
- “Ready to use” date
- Requested Features: List out all the VoIP features you prefer. Go back to your “must-have” and “nice-to-have” list and reference it here.
- Lines and Hardware Needs: How many individual lines/extensions will you need? Additionally, include here what type of technology and hardware you want to use. Are you planning to use a hosted or cloud system? Do you prefer desk phones, softphones, or simply utilize smartphones? Do you require the provider to supply these hardware items?
- Support, Maintenance, and Training Needs: Mention here whether or not you have an in-house tech team. Also include your expectations for training and maintenance. Do you need the provider to follow through with maintenance and support regularly?
- Budget and pricing: Finally, state your budget based on pricing research. This will be key in helping providers determine whether they’re a fit for your organization.
- RFP Submission Instructions: Lastly, state how providers can contact you and how you want them to submit their proposals. Be clear here and outline the process for “next steps.”
If you simply want to compare VoIP quotes for your business, we can help. Rather than submitting a RFP, you can use 360connect.com to find providers matched to your specific needs. Simply tell us about your organization and what you’re looking for. Then, we match you with our top-rated providers that can deliver on your needs. It’s that simple! Visit our free form here to get started.