Ask the references about their satisfaction with both the working relationship, and with the final product.
* * * If a research study under consideration is quantitative, you may want proposals to detail specific assumptions made that lead to the time frame and budget estimates (time implications are as important for you as money to a client! Again, this will simplify your comparison of proposals.
but these criteria are suitable for any survey-based research proposal.
Once you've decided to go outside to a professional research organization, you may wish to review proposals from several firms.
Depending on the proposer's computer system, the output may be highly useful in its raw form, or it may be esoteric, requiring extensive analysis.
How many breakouts (cross-tabulations) of the data are associated with the budget?
Relevant references provide the most valuable input in evaluating any professional service, including market research firms.
Request references not only for the firm, but for the individuals to be working on your project.
Specify in the RFP what you already have available; if you do have lists, how many people or organizations are on the list, and do they have working phone numbers and current addresses?
Proposals you receive should detail what lists will be used and any associated costs.