Tips for developing effective requests for information (RFI) / requests for quote (RFQ)

Use our pre-made tip sheets covering different product and service types to make preparing an RFQ easier.

Requesting a quote from a supplier is an important step in the buying process that is critical for managing the supply chain of a business. However, the process does not always run as smoothly as one would like. Buyers can sometimes find themselves frustrated by a lack of response to their inquiries, and suppliers complain that they receive requests from buyers that are difficult to respond to. But it does not have to be this way.

Thomas has developed a set of tip sheets covering different product and service types which are designed to make the process of preparing an RFQ easier. These tip sheets will help you to structure the basic requirements and include information that suppliers are expecting to see. As a result, your RFQs will be more effective at getting attention from potential suppliers.

This guide will help define the types of data that should be considered when developing a Request for Quote (RFQ) and provides ideas for what to include when formulating an RFQ for each of these types of cases:

  • Standard Products
  • Custom Products
  • Materials & Chemicals
  • Direct Services
  • Indirect Services

    By understanding and identifying the information that is most critical by product or service type, this guide will help buyers to develop the optimal amount of communication with suppliers, and help those suppliers increase response rates and reduce response times.

    Note: If your request is urgent, we suggest also calling the supplier to follow up with your inquiry. You can locate the company's company's website and phone number on their company profile under the company name and address at the top of the page. 

    General Best Practices

    Regardless of the specific type of request being made, keep these points in mind when creating a request:

    • Make your process as simple as possible for the supplier to follow
    • Minimize the amount of information that you seek to collect from the supplier so that they can reply quickly at minimal cost to them
    • Structure the information in your request so that the supplier can easily digest it and understand your needs

      All RFQs should include:

      • Contact information such as your name, company, e-mail address, and phone number in the request form
      • A technical contact on your team that to whom the supplier can direct any detailed questions if you are not comfortable fielding those inquiries

        The details of the structured data to include are outlined in the sections below for the different types of products and services.

        Case A – Standard Products

        A request for quote for a standard product is likely to be the easiest to formulate. A standard or “off-the-shelf” product is one that is produced by a manufacturer to a pre-existing set of specifications. In most cases, these items have established pricing and usually have part numbers or ordering numbers associated with them, making it simple to precisely define the item(s) for which a quote is being sought.

        Information to include in RFQs for Standard Products

        • The item(s) on which you need a quote
        • Manufacturers part number for each item (if available)
        • The supplier part numbers when requesting a quote from a distributor or a reseller (these may differ from the manufacturer’s part number)
        • The quantity needed for each item
        • The response date needed for the quote

          Case B – Custom Products

          Custom products can be variations on a standard item that a manufacturer may be able to provide or may represent a fully custom product built to order from a set of specifications that you provide. For example, a manufacturer of power supplies may be able to make a small modification to one of their existing off-the-shelf products to meet your requirements, thereby minimizing the one-time costs for retooling or redesign. Or, if there is not a suitable fit available from existing products, they may quote for you the cost to custom fabricate a new design against your specifications and drawings.

          Information to include in RFQs for Custom Products

          • Performance and environmental specifications for the product needed
          • Copies of any engineering drawings or schematics relevant to the design you want, including CAD/CAM models
          • Details on the intended application for the item
          • The motivation for why a custom product is needed over a standard product
          • The type of production run (prototype, short-run, etc.)
          • The quantity for which a quote is needed
          • The response date needed for the quote
          • How you want the quote supplied (non-recurring charges separate, unit production cost with NRE included)

            Case C – Materials & Chemicals

            Materials and chemicals are often utilized in a production process as direct supplies or to support the manufacturing of a product. When requesting a quote for these items, it is important to understand the packaging and form factors for the material since they are typically ordered in standard available dimensions and package sizes and cut, machined, or mixed as needed to achieve the final dimensions or proportions as part of the production process.

            Information to include in RFQs for Materials

            • Form factor of the material (rod, sheet, block, plate, roll, etc.)
            • Dimensions (length, width, depth, thickness, gauge)
            • The quantity for which a quote is needed
            • The response date needed for the quote
            • Handling instructions or shipping restrictions

              Information to include in RFQs for Chemicals

              • CAS numbers of the items in the quote
              • Package size or volume of the chemical
              • Concentrations or strength needed as applicable to the application
              • The quantity for which a quote is needed
              • The response date needed for the quote
              • Request for handling or shipping restrictions
              • Request for HAZMAT requirements or regulations

                Case D – Direct Services

                Direct services, or manufacturing services, represent the type of fabrication services that are needed directly for the end product that a business produces, meaning the services are required for each and every item that is being produced. Some examples of these types of services include finishing services (grinding, painting, anodizing), assembly services (mechanical assembly, soldering, PCB kitting and assembly), or joining services (welding, brazing).

                Information to include in RFQs for Direct Services

                • The specific service being sought
                • A description of the work needed for each item to which the service is being supplied
                • The quantity of items to which the service will apply
                • The response date needed for the quote
                • How the service is to be delivered (e.g. on site, parts delivered to the service provider and return shipped)
                • How the quote should be structured (total cost, unit cost, per diem cost)
                • Lead time before available
                • Estimated time to complete

                  Case E – Indirect Services

                  Indirect services are those that are required to operate a business that are ones that are not connected directly with the end product being manufactured by that business. These types of services can include general business services such as payroll, accounting, legal, Human Resources (e,g, recruiting), and may also include MRO-related services. MRO, which stands for Maintenance, Repair, and Operations, includes a host of services relating to supporting the capital equipment or means of production within a facility. One area of MRO services is related to the maintenance and upkeep of a building, examples being landscaping, roofing, plumbing, electrical, HVAC, or pest control. A second type of MRO services includes equipment or factory maintenance, such as machine repair, calibration, or management of tooling and supplies.

                  Information to include in RFQs for Indirect Services

                  • The specific service being sought
                  • A description of the work needed under the quote
                  • A description of the scope for the quote
                  • The deliverables expected
                  • The response date needed for the quote
                  • The needed start and end dates for the service
                  • Lead time before available


                    This guide was developed to help buyers structure the critical information needed in their requests for quote (RFQs) to their suppliers. You can download a tip sheet summary of this guide here.

                    To locate potential suppliers, visit the Thomas Supplier Discovery Platform where you will find information on over 500,000 suppliers in some 70,000 different categories of products, services, and materials. Once there, you can select potential sources of supply and send requests for information and requests for quotes directly from the platform.