References for RFPs: A How-to Guide

References for RFPs: A How-to Guide for RFP References from The Bid Lab

Almost all RFPs, RFIs, and RFQs will request references as part of your proposal submission (pssst- read our proposal process guide for more about the basics!). So, selecting the right professional references for inclusion in an RFP. References will help you present a compelling case for your organization. After all, the RFP evaluation committee will want to know that previous clients can vouch for your work. So, you must read the RFP document with care to understand the requirements and criteria for references. This will help with specific information and format expected by the issuer, too!

Select Which RFP References to Include

When it comes to picking the right references for your proposal, it’s not just a random selection! It’s also a thoughtful process that can significantly impact how your organization is perceived. So, choosing which references to include means carefully evaluating your past collaborations. You’ll also want to strategically select those that best showcase your strengths and capabilities!

Consider the following points when selecting your references to include:

  1. Relevance to RFP Requirements: Prioritize references that closely align with the specific requirements and scope outlined in the RFP. Choose references that have experience in similar projects or services.
  2. Recent Collaborations: Give preference to references from recent collaborations. After all, recent references are more likely to reflect your current capabilities and the quality of your work.
  3. Similar Industries or Sectors: If possible, include references from the same industries as the project described in the RFP. Industry-specific experience adds credibility!
  4. Positive Relationships: Select references with whom you have had positive and successful relationships. These references are more likely to provide positive info about your organization.

Other Reference Considerations

  1. Diversity of Projects: Include references that showcase a diverse range of projects or services. This helps demonstrate the versatility and adaptability of your organization.
  2. Size and Complexity of Projects: Consider the size of your references’ projects your references. If the RFP involves a large-scale project, include references from people with experience managing or contributing to similar projects.
  3. Client Profile: Highlight references from well-known or reputable clients if applicable. Recognizable client names can enhance the credibility of your proposal.
  4. Achievements and Success Stories: Choose references that can share specific achievements. After all, you’ll want to talk about your success stories. This adds depth to your proposal and provides evidence of your impact.
  5. Ask for Permission: Before including any references, seek permission from the individuals or organizations. Ensure they are comfortable being listed as references and verify their availability for potential inquiries.
  6. Check for Diversity: Aim for diversity in your references, including references from different sectors, geographic locations, or client types. This showcases a well-rounded portfolio.
  7. Strategic Selection: Finally, be strategic in your selection. Think about how each reference fits to build a complete and convincing case for your org.

Remember, quality is more important than quantity. Especially regarding professional references! So, choose references that can provide a peek into your capabilities, reliability, and overall performance. Also, make sure to tailor your selection based on the specific requirements and expectations outlined in the RFP.

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Gather and Organize Your RFP Reference Document

Once you have identified references for the RFP, you’ll need to ensure they are presented well in your proposal.

  • Gather Information from References
    • Request specific details from references that highlight their experience with your organization. Knowing what your references will say if they are contacted is important.
    • Collect details about how your references felt about the quality, timeliness, communication, and overall satisfaction of your services or work.
  • Compile Relevant Information
    • Summarize key points that underscore your achievements and emphasize the successful outcomes of your collaborative endeavors.
    • Include quantitative data. Performance indicators, percentage improvements, or measurable impacts are hard evidence of your success. 
  • Organize Information Effectively
    • Organizing information helps create clarity and coherence. This involves not merely presenting data but arranging it to form a story. You’ll want to guide the evaluator through the strengths and capabilities of your organization.
    • Categorize your references based on specific criteria. Categorizing references according to project type, industry, or other pertinent criteria makes navigating the document much easier. What’s more, organized reference categories can spotlight your organization’s expertise across different domains.

Create a Bid Reference Document

Creating a reference document is not just about putting together a list. It’s about building a story with the names, organizations, and contact info of your chosen references. This also gives people a better idea of your connections. In addition, your reference document should also have a short intro for each reference. What was the project about? What goals were achieved? How did your organization play a unique role?

  • Formatting and Presentation:
    • Ensuring your reference document looks good and follows the RFP rules is important for leaving a good impression. It’s not just about checking off boxes. It’s about making a document that fits the RFP.
    • Pay close attention to details. After all, details that don’t match the specifications of the RFP aren’t technically compliant. Watch your formatting, and be careful with small details! 
    • A professional layout and clear fonts will help make your document easy to read. So, the goal is to present something that ticks all the boxes and impresses with its neat and polished appearance.
  • Include Supporting Materials:
    • When it comes to beefing up your RFP response, consider adding more materials like case studies, testimonials, or project summaries. In addition, these bits and pieces can help give some extra oomph to the details in your references section.
      • Case studies show off what your organization can do.
      • Testimonials highlight how clients feel about your performance.
      • Project summaries are snapshots of your achievements.

Proofread and Review Your Reference Document

  • Start by going through each reference with a keen eye, checking for things like typos, errors, or any inconsistencies in the information presented. Make sure that the document not only looks good but reads well, too.
  • Seeking feedback from peers is like having a second set of senses. They can also catch things you might have missed. They additionally provide insights on improving clarity and effectiveness.
  • When getting feedback, ask your peers about the flow of the document. Does it make sense? Does the information look logically ordered? Are there parts that could be clearer? Their input can be valuable to your reference document. Make it the best it can be!


Submitting your RFP reference document will be the peak of your hard work. Keeping to the specified deadline is not just a formality. It can boost your credibility! It also shows your organization’s commitment to doing things right.

Need help selecting content for RFP cover letters? Or RFP templates for bids? How about searching for RFPs with a user-friendly, subscription RFP search engine? The Bid Lab is ready to help you with bids, RFPs, and proposals galore. So, reach out to schedule a free consultation with our RFP experts today by calling 1-844-4BIDLAB or emailing