How to choose the best RFP software

Written by
Aaron LaVigne
Aaron LaVigne
Updated on
  13 min read
rfp software


The best RFP software breaks down silos and encourages collaboration. It is agile — it addresses its customers’ needs in the moment and quickly adapts to future needs.

The best software is built by (and for) humans. Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and natural language processing technology adapts to its users’ needs empowering greater efficiency. The best RFP software companies go even further by using customer feedback to routinely improve their products.

Indeed, great RFP software and software companies do all that but with the specific goal of encouraging efficiency, compliance and confidence in the RFP response process. The most successful responders see the best results by collaborating within a single response management platform. RFP software.


What is RFP software?

Request for proposal (RFP) software helps organizations respond to more RFPs in less time. Of course, that barely scratches the surface of advanced RFP software capabilities. Advanced RFP software helps optimize every step of the RFP process, from before the document is received to after the bid is submitted.

Traditional RFP systems can’t keep up

Manual RFP response processes are limiting and labor intensive, even with level playing fields. Today, however, more and more organizations are choosing to invest in RFP software. Not only does that put more pressure on those companies with manual processes, but issuers are beginning to create their timelines and formatting with the assumption that vendors use response software.

In other words, today’s RFPs are longer, more complex and have tighter deadlines than in the past. Those companies who haven’t yet invested or have invested in inadequate software, are at a disadvantage from the get-go, and unlike in golf, there are no handicaps. 

The benefits of RFP software 

Companies with advanced RFP software platforms handle more responses, a lot more. They have impressive ROIs, save significant amounts of time and money, and have brag-worthy win rates.

So, what do those companies have that you don’t have? They have software that assists them in every step of the response process. It imports the RFP, whether it arrives as a spreadsheet, Word document or PDF, right into the platform. It helps identify the key information, simplifies content creation, collection and curation, integrates with their most commonly used applications and automates routine tasks. 

Then, the software exports the response back into the customer’s format, delivers it on time, and finally, provides the data for a post-mortem.

Essential RFP software features

An efficient response management platform includes features that streamline your team’s workflow. At the very minimum, RFP software should feature:

Import and export capabilities

Before the advent of RFP software, there were *gasp* manual processes. Of course, the challenge is that issuers send RFPs in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word and Excel, Google Docs and Sheets, and sometimes PDFs. And—this will surprise no one—issuers weren’t (and still aren’t) consistent in their formatting inside their docs, spreadsheets, or PDFs.

Have you ever searched a poorly organized spreadsheet? Where do you search docs or PDFs if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Manual importing is tedious and time-consuming. In fact, it can be the most time-consuming part of a manual RFP process.

RFP response software should be able to recognize critical questions and information, regardless of the format, and import them into your RFP software.

There are two kinds of people in this world: people who say there are two kinds of people and people who don’t. There are also spreadsheet people and doc people, although some live on the wild side and do both.

Spreadsheets are mathematical and formulaic, but that doesn’t mean the formulas are standard from RFP to RFP. RFP software imports spreadsheets in a couple of ways:

  • Standard template – Basic RFP software allows for standard template import, where you download the template spreadsheet, copy/paste the questions, and then upload it.
  • Advanced configuration – Forget copy/pasting. Advanced configuration lets you process raw source files, customized how you want them. Beyond that, Responsive automatically detects predefined dropdowns and automatically configures the sections.

Word and Google Docs, on the other hand, are more visual. The biggest challenge with Word and Google Docs is knowing what you need to reply to. Word and Google documents often have a lot of filler, such as company detail, at the beginning of an RFP.

While most RFP software can import the text from Word, they have difficulty distinguishing between what’s useful and what isn’t. Responsive reads the document’s style guide and can auto-identify sections and questions.

Often, RFPs arrive in mixed formats. Many Word documents have Excel tables or charts inserted into the doc. Not a problem, at least when you’re using Responsive. Many of the same rules apply to importing Word and mixed documents as to Excel sheets:

  • Identify the sections, questions, and answers in the original document.
  • Process the source document and customize it using the advanced configuration in Responsive.
  • Preview to make sure everything is in the right place.

The Responsive platform’s advanced import and export capabilities can shave as much as half the response time.

Real-time collaboration

Responsive lets you collaborate within the platform and also seamlessly integrates with your current collaborative and communication tools, including:

  • CRM — Bring your revenue-generating teams together with CRM integrations, including Salesforce, Hubspot, Dynamics 365, Pipedrive and PipelineDeals
  • Communication tools — Communicate with colleagues as you already do, whether with Slack, Jira, Microsoft Teams or Google Hangouts

Content management

In the early 2000s, workers whose jobs required access to company knowledge spent about 2.5 hours a day searching for information. If you’re old enough to remember, those were the days of dial-up, AOL, and Ask Jeeves. Software as a service (SaaS) was unheard of.

Twenty years later, nearly everyone has the internet. Need an answer to a question? Google it. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a business problem that can’t be addressed using a SaaS application. Surprisingly, the time spent searching for knowledge has increased from a bit over ¼ of the workday to nearly half.

Why would that be? There are probably a couple of reasons, including that businesses are a lot more siloed now than they were at the turn of the millennium—and of course, there’s a heck of a lot more knowledge to search.

Not surprisingly, disjointed content is one of the top challenges of an RFP process. The Responsive content library not only simplifies the search but also does much of the work for you.

The content library in Responsive Content:

  • Stores marketing approved content in one place – Your company’s single source of truth.
  • Lets you stitch together high-quality content – Browse previous responses to create customized answers.
  • Makes creating content easy– Once you answer a question, you can store the Q&A pair for future needs. As your company accumulates knowledge or documents, it’s simple to upload it into your content library.
  • Streamlines content formatting – Organize and format content however you like.
  • Automates responses – With just a few clicks, Responsive customers answer up to 80 percent of the questions on an RFP, regardless of the format.
  • Encourages regular content audits – Keep your content library fresh and up to date with regular audits. Responsive will remind you when it’s time to review specific content.

Integrations

When it comes to breaking down silos, Responsive walks the walk with industry-leading integrations. Users from across your company can access Responsive through more than two dozen applications you already use, including:

  • CRMs – Responsive is an ideal solution for all revenue-generating teams, not just response management. Access the content library and other Responsive features through your company’s chosen CRM, including Salesforce, Pipedrive, Dynamics 365, PipelineDeals, and HubSpot.
  • Communication apps – Responsive enables company-wide collaboration through your existing communication apps, including Slack, Google Hangouts, Jira, and Microsoft Teams.
  • Cloud storage apps – Worldwide, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. Cloud storage enables companies to manage data without accumulating vast technical debt. Responsive seamlessly integrates with Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
  • SSO authentication apps – Responsive works within your company’s security protocols through SSO authentication integrations with Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, OneLogin, and Okta.
  • Browser extensions – Access the content library through Responsive® LookUp and Chrome.
  • Vendor assessment apps – Securely import directly from third-party platforms using Whistic.
  • Productivity apps – Work faster using Responsive with Microsoft Suites and Google Sheets.
  • Sales enablement apps – Revenue-generating employees can access Responsive through Seismic or Highspot.

AI assistance

RFP automation slashes time spent answering RFPs. Responsive goes beyond simple automation. We use machine learning to intelligently assist you through every step of the RFP response process.

Leverage Responsive to:

  • Auto-identify response content – The advanced artificial intelligence in the Responsive platform automatically identifies response content.
  • Get automated answers – The AI-powered recommendation engine pulls from the content library to recommend answers based on previous similar questions.
  • Assign questions to pertinent subject matter experts – With Responsive, there’s no more trying to figure out the best people to help with your RFP. AI technology identifies relevant and available SMEs.
  • Analyze win-loss opportunities – Not all RFPs are worth a response. Have you won similar bids in the past? Is this one worth it? Responsive learns from previous wins and losses to help you decide whether to pursue the next one.

The benefits of RFP response automation

Roughly 80% of a typical RFP consists of questions you’ve answered many, many times. Response automation lets you focus on the questions that matter most, the questions that will help you win the bid, by answering the routine queries with a click of a button.

The benefits of leveraging RFP automation include:

  • Streamlined workflow – Responsive is not just a response management tool; it’s a project management platform. It uses automation to establish roles and ensure on-time deliverables.
  • Decreased response time – When a workplace tool does most of the work for you, it’s bound to increase productivity and reduce response time.
  • Improved response quality – Automated replies free you to craft winning responses to the essential questions.
  • Centralized content library – Automatically store and catalog responses in a single source of truth.
  • Improved collaboration – The suite of Responsive integrations enables company-wide collaboration.
  • Increased revenue growth – Responding to more of the right RFPs in less time means more opportunities to drive revenue.

Steps for choosing the right RFP management software

Choosing the right RFP management software shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are several factors to consider:

1. Assess your RFP response process

Before beginning your search for your next response platform, sit down with any relevant stakeholders to determine current needs. How many RFPs do you respond to in a month/year? What is your budget? What are your goals? What are the gaps and missing opportunities in your workflow?

If, for example, you have a single office with a tiny staff and respond to only a handful of RFPs in a year, a rather basic platform, such as one that offers little in the way of automation, might work just fine for you.

On the other hand, if you work for an enterprise company with stakeholders spread across the world, you might require robust integrations, collaboration tools, reporting capabilities, content management, translation tools and of course, automation.

All the while, any organization might benefit from the option of as-needed help.

2. Understand your pain points

While assessing your needs, establish an understanding of your pain points and what you need to improve. The pain points we most commonly hear are:

  • Overwhelming volume of siloed and scattered information — If your company is like many, vital information sits within departments, individual computers or even file cabinets. Adopt a single source of truth to democratize information. Your SMEs will thank you.
  • What’s true today may not be true tomorrow — It shouldn’t be difficult to update and review. Advanced content management systems, powered by AI, simplify content governance.
  • Low response capacity — Every organization will define low response capacity differently, but if you find that you don’t have the bandwidth to create quality responses to winnable RFPs or those that fit your business model, it might be time to reevaluate your systems. You could be trying to respond to too many RFPs or you might need better processes. Actionable data produced by advanced RFP software can help you figure out which.
  • Too much time spent on responses — If your team works overtime to meet deadlines, every single time, features like collaborative tools and integrations, as well as an auto-responsive content management system, will help you manage your time.
  • Disjointed workflow — Project management and collaborative tools will help keep your team on task.
  • Constantly reinventing the wheel — Establish repeatable processes and templates to free you up to take care of things you haven’t done 1,000 times before.
  • Revenue, legal and brand stakes are high — Advanced RFP software enables you to respond with ready-to-go pre-approved content and provide measurable results and visibility into every response.

Will the software be used exclusively for RFX responses or will your security, legal and finance teams use it for security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires, and so on? If the latter is true, aim for a robust content management system, sophisticated templates and advanced import/export and reporting capabilities. If you have a scattered or remote team, look for integrations to aid your existing processes.

3. Explore RFP software comparison platforms

Third-party validation is a vital part of decision-making for any purchase, including RFP software. Think of G2 Crowd and Capterra as Yelp for software products. Use these RFP software comparison tools to compare and contrast features and check out customer feedback. Seeing use cases in the real RFP response management world will inspire ideas and validate decisions.

4. Make a data-driven value assessment

Have no idea how many hours your team spends on RFP responses? Demystify these costs by tracking everyone’s time. Use our ROI calculator to determine how much you will save on hours and resources with RFP response automation. Armed with data, you’ll rely on stats instead of emotions to make a strong case for additional funds to cover RFP software.

5. Understand the product and the service

Once you have narrowed down RFP software providers, request a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering working with. Bring your priority features list, along with questions that need to be addressed. Pay special attention to the user experience as the solution should be quick and easy for all RFP contributors to learn.

rfp repsonse software

Important questions to ask RFP software vendors

Adding to your existing tech stack can be a challenging sell for executives and your IT department, so it’s essential to ask the right questions of potential RFP software vendors.

  • What is the average ROI customers report after using your product? – There’s no surer way to secure executive buy-in than demonstrating your return on investment. ROI will vary from company to company. The ROI from Responsive customers is as high as 600%. Calculate your ROI here.
  • How would you describe your training and onboarding process? – You have executive buy-in; what about user buy-in? The onboarding process is vital for training and creating buzz over new software. The Responsive onboarding process is incremental, easy to follow, and designed to set you up for success.
  • How do you manage customer requests and feedback? –Because needs vary from company to company and change from day to day, there’s no such thing as perfect software. Responsive recognizes the importance of a bespoke solution, which means listening to every customer and addressing their individual needs.
  • What integrations are available? – Toggling between multiple applications is a pain. Responsive integrates with over two dozen of the most popular business tools.
  • How would your software solve problems x, y, and z? – Is the RFP software going to address your company’s needs? It’s hard to imagine a response management problem Responsive can’t solve, but if we’re not the right solution for some reason, we will tell you.
  • What are your data import and export capabilities? – If all RFP issuers used the same format, RFP response platforms might not be such a critical tool for response teams. Responsive imports and exports from Microsoft Word, Excel, and even PDFs.
  • Do you offer lifetime updates and enhancements? – Technology changes, as do your needs. Responsive provides regular updates and enhancements.
  • What are your competitive differentiators? – What makes one RFP solution better than others? As mentioned, Responsive offers more integrations and import/export options than any other RFP response software. We lead the pack in AI-powered automation. Additionally, we have an unprecedented pricing model. Instead of charging per user license, Responsive charges based on the number of projects going at any given time.

How Responsive can help you close more deals

As you’re looking for new RFP software, you might find that each has an assortment of features, but none are as advanced as Responsive. Responsive helps companies respond to and win more of the right RFPs. When you generate your responses with Responsive, you’ll see better outcomes, such as:

  • Enhanced content — A cleaner more intuitive Content Library
  • Improved end-to-end visibility — A centralized process, even with remote teams
  • More consistent proposal quality — Carefully curated content, branded templates and AI Assistant combine to provide professional and consistent proposals 
  • Decreased response times — Repeatable processes and Q&A pairs maximize efficiency
  • Better SME collaboration — No one likes having to repeat themselves, except perhaps the Responsive Content Library 

 With features that include:

  • Patented import/export — Import to the collaborative platform from Word, Excel or a PDF. Once you’ve created a proposal, export it back to its source format.
  • End-to-end project management — Track overall progress and specific deliverables 
  • Advanced reporting — Generate response analytics and intelligence to help facilitate informed decision-making
  • Unlimited templates — Add polish and branding with customizable templates
  • Content Library — Your single source of truth for company knowledge. Store and catalog Q&A pairs, documents, and more and find the right answers with a few clicks
  • Integrations — Responsive seamlessly integrates with the tools you use every day
  • AI Assistant — Complete 80 percent or more of your RFP with a few keystrokes
  • Requirements Analysis — Leverage AI to summarize RFPs and other documents to understand requirements and track compliance
  • Professional Services — A Responsive expert and consultant whenever you need it. If you are behind, your Professional Services team member can even create responses for you

Automate your RFP process with a management solution that’s right for you

For many companies, RFPs are often lost opportunities. It’s not difficult to see why. They’re complex documents that require a lot of research, collaboration and plain old hard work (and late nights). It doesn’t have to be that way.

Think of Responsive as a team member who never takes vacations or sick leave. Respond to 80 percent of an RFP with a single click, potentially double your win rate and show your leadership team an ROI that might help earn you a promotion, or at the very least, free up enough of your time that you can call it a day at 5:00 and maybe even take a vacation.

If you see areas where your process could use a little improvement and are interested in finding the best RFP software, request a demo. We think you will be impressed. Feel free to read up on proposal automation or how customers are maximizing their ROIs by incorporating Responsive into their response process. 


Aaron LaVigne

Aaron LaVigne is a dedicated Senior Account Executive at Responsive. He builds relationships with customers and prospects, helping them take meaningful steps toward overcoming challenges and achieving their goals. Aaron’s approach leverages his growth mindset, persistence and passion for analytics to ensure success.