IFB vs. RFP: What Is the Difference?

Invitations for bids (IFBs) and requests for proposals (RFPs) are both procurement documents designed to solicit responses from vendors, but they serve different purposes. Their use depends on the complexity and scope of the goods or services being procured.  



An IFB is typically used for well-defined projects with clear specifications and outcomes. It involves a sealed bidding process where typically the lowest quote is awarded, as long as the bidder meets all the project specifications.


An RFP is more suited for complex projects where the solution is not predefined. It leaves more room for vendors to showcase their creativity and expertise. RFP processes consider multiple factors beyond costs, such as experience, methodology, and value proposition.

Core components


  • Project description: A detailed explanation of the project, describing the services or goods required.

  • Specifications: Precise technical and functional specifications that bidders must implement in their solutions.

  • Terms and conditions: Specific delivery duties, quality standards, confidentiality requirements, payment terms, and the conditions under which a bid is considered valid.

  • Submission instructions: Guidelines for how and when bids must be submitted, including a standard format and deadline.

  • Evaluation criteria: Specific criteria to assess bids, usually focusing on price and compliance with regulations and project specifications.

  • Contact information: Details for contacting the client in the event of any queries or confusion.


  • Overview: Background information on the client’s company and an overview of the project, including its purpose and key objectives.

  • Scope: What is included in the project and what isn’t, detailing vendor duties, milestones, and deliverables.

  • Requirements: Technical, compliance, and performance details, specifying what the client is looking for in a vendor.

  • Evaluation criteria: Factors and their weighting to assess proposals, such as experience, quality, technical expertise, cost, and reputation.

  • Financial information: Pricing structure, including associated costs, payment terms, and budget constraints.

  • Submission guidelines: Instructions on how vendors should prepare and submit their responses, including the format, delivery method, and deadline.

Key differences

Scope and complexity

An IFB is only suitable for projects with clear specifications and simple requirements. It emphasizes accuracy in meeting technical requirements.

An RFP is used for complex projects with multiple possible approaches. These projects rely on creative and unique solutions, offering flexibility to vendors to diversify their responses.

Evaluation criteria

IFB responses are evaluated primarily on price and adherence to the set specifications. The lowest bid that meets the technical requirements is often chosen.

RFP responses are judged on a variety of factors including methodology, past performance, technical expertise, and cost. Proposals are awarded based on a scoring matrix.

Documentation and submission

In an IFB process, bidders submit straightforward responses detailing the costs and how they meet the specifications. Submission requirements laid out in the IFB must be observed.

In an RFP process, vendors submit more detailed proposals, including their project plan, background information, qualifications, case studies, and a comprehensive cost breakdown. Submission instructions and format specified in the RFP must be followed. However, there is room for flexibility to accommodate unique approaches.

Advantages and disadvantages of IFBs and RFPs



  • Straightforward bid submission and evaluation process

  • Ensures cost-effective procurement

  • Clear specifications reduce ambiguity and the chances of future complications arising


  • Limited scope, only suitable for projects with non-negotiable requirements

  • No room for innovation, limiting the potential to add value to the company

  • No flexibility for vendors to propose alternative solutions



  • Encourages innovative and unique approaches to a project

  • Leaves room for negotiation

  • Enables comprehensive evaluation of vendor capabilities and methodologies

  • Can deliver better value to the company by considering factors beyond price


  • More complex and time-consuming to prepare and evaluate

  • Increased administrative burden on the issuing organization and vendors

  • Potential for less transparency and more subjective evaluation

How to choose between them

  • Project definition: If the project is complex and the requirements are not set in stone, then an RFP should be used. If the project specifications and approach are clear and not likely to change, an IFB is the right choice.

  • Evaluation focus: If pricing and compliance are the focus of the vendor assessment, an IFB is preferable. If the criteria involve multiple factors and the objective is to find the best value, then an RFP is more suitable.

  • Resources: If the issuer can handle the administrative burden that goes into document preparation and evaluation, an RFP can be used. Otherwise, an IFB will be more beneficial.

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Building the Global Operating System for International Trade.

© 2024 Beebolt