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RFI vs RFP vs RFQ: What’s the difference?

RFI vs RFP vs RFQ: What’s the difference?

RF-what? When businesses need to exchange information, you’ll often hear acronyms like RFI, RFP and RFQ. These similar-sounding terms are […]

Category: Tag: RFI automation

RFI vs RFP vs RFQ: What’s the difference?

RFI vs RFP vs RFQ: What’s the difference?

RF-what? When businesses need to exchange information, you’ll often hear acronyms like RFI, RFP and RFQ. These similar-sounding terms are often used interchangeably and can cause confusion. However, each document serves a distinct purpose. Consequently, it’s important to understand the difference between an RFI vs RFP vs RFQ so you know how to use them and how to respond.

In short, the difference between these terms comes down to what you’re trying to accomplish. While all three documents help businesses exchange information, they each serve a distinct purpose. Used independently or together, RFIs, RFPs and RFQs are all important tools for communicating, reducing risk and forming mutually-beneficial partnerships.

So, what IS the difference between an RFI vs RFP vs RFQ? Here’s the short answer:


A request for information educates. 

RFIs gather info to research potential solutions.


A request for proposal compares.

RFPs evaluate the overall value a vendor can offer.


A request for quotation quantifies.

RFQs detail the cost of meeting a specific need.

But, that’s just the beginning.

In this article we’ll explain everything you need to know (and more) about what RFIs, RFQs and RFPs are. We’ll start with key definitions and uses. Then, we’ll share how to select the right one for your project. And, finally, we’ll provide our favorite examples and resources for learning even more

Table of contents

Admittedly, there’s a lot to cover here. So, use the link below to jump to each section.

Definitions to know: RFX, RFI, RFP, RFQ

There’s a lot of jargon and acronyms involved when businesses begin exchanging information to form a new partnership. So, before we dig into the differences between each of these documents, let’s cover a few key definitions.

What is an RFX?

The acronym RFX stands for request for ____ (fill in the blank). It’s a term used to collectively refer to any questionnaire request issued by a buyer to a prospective vendor. So, RFX could stand for RFP, RFQ, RFI, RFO and so on.

What is an RFI?

The acronym RFI stands for request for information. A request for information is a questionnaire used to ask vendors about their products and services. Often, RFIs gather general information, market details and solution ideas for planning purposes.

An RFI is the most casual of all the RFX options. It asks general questions about vendors and the market landscape. Rather than sending an unstructured email to potential vendors, a request for information provides a standardized format, which is easier to review. Additionally, RFIs are a quick way to fill in gaps in your research. According to TechTarget

“An RFI is typically the first and most broadly cast of a series of requests intended to narrow down a list of candidates.”

RFI characteristics

  • Serves as a casual introduction to vendors
  • Offers a general overview of the vendor landscape
  • Asks open-ended, high-level questions
  • Used in the early stages of the buying process to refine vague project requirements

What is an RFP?

RFP is the acronym for request for proposal. A request for proposal is a detailed questionnaire used by buyers to collect decision-critical information and pricing from potential vendors. The RFP is one of the most commonly used tools for evaluating vendors and documenting selection justification.

An RFP is a formalized and structured way of getting specific vendor information (including pricing). It allows you to detail the problem you wish to solve and invites vendors to suggest solutions. Indeed, RFPs are very thorough and offer a side-by-side, fact-based comparison of vendors’ capabilities.

According to Hubspot

“RFPs give you a sneak peek into different strategies you may not have considered since each vendor will include their own unique action plan along with their bid.”

RFP characteristics

  • Shares background information about your problem, process and needs
  • Includes detailed questions about the vendor and solution
  • Offers specific parameters for the services and products you’re seeking
  • Indicates you moved beyond exploration and are ready to buy
  • Compares vendors based on your unique priorities

What is an RFQ?

RFQ is an acronym that stands for request for quote or quotation. A request for quotation is a document that details a buyer’s needs and asks vendors to respond with a detailed pricing proposal. Generally, a buyer issues an RFQ when looking for the lowest possible price.

An RFQ is a request sent to vendors for pricing and payment information. Generally, it includes detailed requirements and deliverables. Unlike the RFI and RFP, the RFQ rarely includes questions, because the buyer must already know exactly what they need. Indeed, only use this document if you are well aware of marketplace conditions and offerings. An RFQ means that a purchase is imminent and the list of needs detailed in the request rarely changes.

According to Investopedia,

“When the soliciting company knows the exact number or type of product or services it desires, it customarily uses an RFQ. Typically, companies use an RFQ when products and services are standardized, or off-the-shelf.”

RFQ characteristics

  • Includes a list of detailed requirements
  • Centers around deliverables, costs and payment terms
  • Used when you already know exactly what you’re looking for
  • Indicates vendors’ ability to provide the requested services and goods as requested
  • Offers with the lowest price generally win

RFI vs RFP vs RFQ comparison guide

As you can see from the definitions above, each RFX document has a unique goal. But there are other key differences between an RFI vs RFP vs RFQ. Outlined here, you’ll see that there’s a significant difference in the purpose, the questions the document asks, the purchase readiness indicated by the request, the style of the document, and its potential advantages.

Request for information

To gather data for planning purposes

General questions designed to educate and inform

Purchase readiness:
Not yet ready, this is the exploratory phase

Request style:
Casual, asking for help

Response style:
Informal and consultative — your content will be more along the lines of solution briefs, case studies and custom answers to open-ended questions.

Offers buyers helpful insight and an up-to-date look at potential solutions.

Request for proposal

To compare vendor solutions and value

Detailed questions about the product, people and process

Purchase readiness:
A purchase is planned, this is the due diligence phase

Request style:
Formal, detailed and direct

Response style:
The tone of an RFP response
mirrors the structured and formal nature of the request. Content will be in the form of answers to many, many questions. 

Provides a clear comparison of the capabilities and value vendors offer

Request for quotation

To find unit pricing for specific items 

Pricing questions about specific goods or services

Purchase readiness:
A purchase is imminent, this is the final step

Request style:
Structured and itemized  

Response style:
Content in an RFQ response is usually very concise and unembellished. May also contain some technical, financial, and legal information.

Removes distractions and allows buyers to focus exclusively on pricing

How are RFIs, RFPs and RFQs related?

Each RFX achieves a unique goal. However, the core purpose of every RFI, RFP and RFQ document is to help select the perfect vendor. According to Kevin Iwamoto, senior consultant at Goldspring Consulting, 

“All three have been used globally for decades to obtain relevant information from potential suppliers and are meant to create and establish a fair and equal weighted process where all vendors, incumbent and potential, have a chance to become a ‘preferred’ supplier for a corporation. They have been instrumental in enterprise risk mitigation, process standardization, cost savings and cost avoidance.”

Who sends RFIs, RFPs and RFQs and why?

The practice of creating and issuing RFIs, RFQs and RFPs is called request management. While sourcing professionals and procurement consultants work with RFX tools daily, they are also useful to others. For example, a small- or medium-sized business that doesn’t have a dedicated procurement department may require department heads to use an RFP before making large purchases. Generally, this is to ensure a thoughtful, objective and financially-sound decision.

For high-value, strategic purchases, a multi-step process is wise. For example, when selecting a new accounting software to replace an old solution you may have a list of needs including a few custom requirements. Technology moves so quickly that starting with an RFI can help you explore new functionality that you may not be aware of. Then, once you know what features you need, you can narrow your vendor selection and send a more detailed RFP.

Who responds to RFIs, RFPs and RFQs and why?

Responding to these RFX documents (and other information requests) is called response management. When it comes to creating compelling responses that may lead to new business, it’s a team effort typically led by a proposal manager. The response process also involves sales, marketing and subject matter experts.

RFPs, RFIs and RFQs are a standard part of many procurement and sales cycles. They provide insight on customer needs and direct access to decision makers. Accordingly, businesses view these requests as opportunities to connect with buyers and win business. For many, answering RFPs is a significant part of their growth strategy.

How to issue and respond to requests

There are two sides to every RFI, RFP and RFQ: the buyer who issues the request and the vendor who responds. Here’s tips so you can do it all.

RFI, RFP, RFQ tips for buyers (issuers)

When you need to request information from a vendor, the first step is to decide which RFX to use.

Start by answering these questions:

  • Do you know what questions to ask a vendor?
  • Are your questions very specific or more general?
  • Do you already have a preferred vendor list (a shortlist)?
  • Do you need to bid out the work through a formal RFP process?
  • Are you working with repeat or first-time vendors?
  • Do you know exactly what you’re looking for, or would you like vendors to make suggestions?

With this information, you should have everything you need to decide if you should use an RFI vs RFP vs RFQ.

  • If you’re shopping for very specific services and know exactly what you want, then an RFQ is your best best
  • However, if you’re close to a purchase but open to ideas, an RFP is probably the way to go
  • Finally, if you’re just trying to get an overview of your vendors or see if there’s a solution to your pain, then the simpler RFI might be the better choice

Now, you can start writing your request.

Tips for writing an RFI

  • Give responders context — tell them about your challenge and goals
  • Let vendors confirm or challenge the research you’ve conducted independently
  • You don’t need to make any promises or commitments, you’re simply gathering information
  • Keep it short to encourage and maximize vendor engagement
  • Seek their perspectives, not detailed capabilities (you’ll judge these later)
  • Ask if they have any questions, while it may seem counterintuitive, it can give valuable insight
  • Cast a wide net, you’ll narrow your selection later in the process

Tips for writing an RFP

  • If you’re looking for specialized or customized service, ask to see an example of that kind of work done for other clients
  • Avoid sticker shock by requiring a comprehensive pricing plan
  • Be as in-depth as you need to be. At this point, you’re both invested, so make sure your priority questions are as thorough as they need to be
  • If you’re unsure of a seller’s expertise or competency for your needs, address it. Ask them for the examples, certifications or references that will put you at ease
  • Avoid vague questions — you have specific expectations, whether you realize it or not. So, if you’re having problems writing exact requirement questions, collaborate with someone outside the situation who can help challenge assumptions

Tips for writing an RFQ

  • Provide minimal background and a list of requirements
  • Detail your needs in a list of products, features and functionality required
  • Include the quantity of goods or duration of service required
  • Provide a timeline for expected delivery
  • State your preferred payment terms
  • Include a pricing table or form for consistency

RFI, RFP, RFQ tips for vendors (responders)

Regardless of which kind of request you’re responding to, there are two key practices that are essential to success. First, using your competitive differentiators. And second, leveraging a content library.

1. Know your competitive differentiators

The purpose of an RFI, RFP or RFQ is to compare several vendors. Knowing how to highlight your advantages is key to winning. It’s common for buyers to ask about these things directly. So, be prepared to answer questions like these:

  • What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
  • Describe your competitive position relative to your competitors.
  • When comparing yourself to the market, what are the unique selling points?
  • Briefly state how you are differentiated from any competitors.
  • Why should we work with you instead of one of your competitors?

Avoid offering a generic answer to these questions. Instead of using jargon-y adjectives that everyone else uses, focus on demonstrating the value your solution provides.

Knowing company differentiators is half the battle for many organizations — take the time to explore what these are for each prospective customer and how to communicate them.

“A value proposition offers clients something they want and gives them a good reason to choose you over your competitors. In the executive summary and in your full proposal, communicate a strong value proposition that matches your client’s needs and demonstrates your unique offer.”

APMP Body of Knowledge

2. Leverage a content library

How do you make sure the best versions of your competitive differentiators are easy for your team to use in RFIs, RFPs and RFQs? Make sure they’re in your response content library, of course.

This is where all of your response content is stored and organized for future use. Much of the content in these libraries exists as Q&A pairs, making them easy to find and understand. Using response management software to create a content library has many advantages:

  • Repeatability – Build your response process around the foundation of your response management software. It will help establish steps for how you develop a response, access content, and collaborate with writers, editors, and experts time and again.
  • Efficiency – Make everything easier and faster—from finding content and assembling documents, to working with collaborators. Teams that do so are often able to increase efficiency by 40%.
  • Quality – With much of the time-intensive activities of responding offloaded to AI-enabled software and rock-solid processes, you can spend more time on personalizing responses and generating revenue.

Tips for responding to an RFI

As you respond to an RFI, remember that the prospective customer is still in the information-gathering stage of their process. Your response is an opportunity to connect with a future buyer, share your industry expertise and shape the content of any subsequent RFP the buyer may issue.

  • Write a thoughtful and thorough response focused on both solving the presented challenge and sharing your knowledge
  • Collaborate on the RFI response with subject matter experts who have the most up-to-date knowledge in their field 
  • If you don’t meet the exact requested criteria, but have an solution that solves the challenge, answer anyway
  • Focus on the creative and unique ways your organization would approach the customer’s needs
  • Use a cover letter or executive summary to offer a follow up call to connect and offer specific insight or to answer any questions that may come up

For more detail on how to respond to an RFI, check out this blog: Succeed with your next request for information response.

Tips for responding to an RFP

An RFP seeks to compare qualitative information as objectively as possible. Ideally, the buyer is looking for the solution that offers the best overall value. To help accomplish that, the RFP includes substantial detail about the buyer’s challenges, needs and goals. Be sure to use this information to your best advantage.

  • Review the RFP before beginning to ensure you fully (or at least mostly) meet the RFP criteria
  • Be sure to follow instructions closely and answer the RFP questions thoroughly
  • Incorporate win themes that convey your unique differentiators, expertise and understanding of the customer’s needs
  • Include customer stories with quantifiable results when possible, use your RFP content library to prepare these proactively
  • Customize your responses to include the buyer’s company name and echo the language they used

To explore how RFP software makes responding faster and winning easier check out this blog: Why you need RFP software.

Tips for responding to an RFQ

  • RFQs may not include detailed context or background, ask for clarification if needed
  • Take note of deadlines and delivery requirements to ensure your organization can meet the requirements
  • Clearly state any additional costs and fees associated with the requested items
  • This could be your only shot to win the business so, provide your best offer that is competitive but sufficiently profitable

Learn more about how to win RFQs and grow revenue here: What is a request for quote.

Sample RFI, RFP and RFQ scenarios and questions

RFI example scenario

ABC Company wants to strengthen their relationship with customers through social media channels. They currently maintain a Facebook page, Twitter account, and LinkedIn presence.

The challenge is to engage current customers and use their networks to refer your products and services to peers. Based on this scenario, here are some RFI questions you might ask:

  • What social media channels do you consider to be important for ABC Company and why?
  • What are your initial impressions of our social media presence?
  • How do you measure ROI for social media activities?
  • For efficient integration between our internal marketing and external service providers, what people, process and technology factors do you think are important to consider? Are there any limitations you need to know about?
  • What social media channels do you consider to be important for ABC Company and why?
  • What are your initial impressions of our social media presence?
  • How do you measure ROI for social media activities?
  • For efficient integration between our internal marketing and external service providers, what people, process and technology factors do you think are important to consider? Are there any limitations you need to know about?

RFP example scenario

Your company needs to acquire new accounting software. Beyond getting pricing and approach details, the RFP is a great place to get info on how you will work together. Ask how you can reduce risk, save time and save money. Here are some sample RFP questions to consider:

  • How will you approach the implementation of the software? What are your plans to ensure optimal adoption?
  • What steps can we pursue to control costs and limit cost overruns? How will you work with us to ensure we maximize value without increasing costs?
  • What risks to the timeline or budget do you see, based on your understanding of our organization? A high-level question like this gives you a sense of how much thought or effort they’re putting into their response
  • How are you monitoring and staying ahead of trends in our industry? What do you do to encourage innovation?

RFQ example scenario

If your organization needs to purchase new janitorial supplies, your RFQ may include the following items:

  • Multi-surface cleaner – Cost per ounce: $______
  • 13-gallon, 1 mil trash can liner – Cost per 100: $______
  • 1.2-gallon, .55 mil small trash can liner – Cost per 100: $______
  • Hand soap – Cost per ounce: $______
  • 8″ paper towel roll – Cost per 800 ft. roll: $______
  • Weekly delivery cost: $______
  • Net 60 payment terms: Yes or no

Regardless of which RFX you issue or respond to, RFP software can help. To see how you can transform all of your request and response processes to make your organization more efficient, effective and profitable, request a Responsive  demo.

Originally published April 25, 2021 — Updated June 15, 2023

Reducing RFx response time for a health insurance company from days to hours

Reducing RFx response time for a health insurance company from days to hours

Improving RFx response outcomes through automation, advanced content management, and winning trust from all users.

Health insurance is one of the most established industries in the U.S. With an ever-changing regulatory environment and evolving healthcare challenges, agile and prompt response processes are critical to insurance companies’ business models.

Despite being well-versed in building complex business relationships, one large regional nonprofit health insurance provider struggled with slow, siloed response management processes.

For years, they had been using requests for proposals (RFPs) as an essential business development strategy. For commercial and government bids, they used old RFP software that was universally despised and not at all user-friendly. Additionally, content could not be shared, and there was no transparency.

The proposal manager for the company recalled one instance where a subject matter expert (SME) was reviewing an answer and asked, “Who said this?” After too much time spent digging through past email chains to track down the source, the manager discovered that the source of the original answer was the very same SME.

Overall, the old RFP response system simply wasn’t working. Even though they were implementing best practices, it wasn’t getting at the root cause of what was happening and wasn’t addressing the pain points that RFP coordinators were seeing. The manager said, “When we took a holistic look at our entire process, we knew we needed to do something different. We had to change how we looked at RFPs from the culture side. And we had to change the technical side—the process.”

Sales departments complained about the system’s inefficiency. Everyone involved in the RFP process worked in a silo and had no idea what was happening elsewhere in the organization. The only way for sales to stay up to date on an RFP was to ask the proposal team to send over the most recent version.

SMEs—also working in silos—would send information to the proposal team, where it would vanish into a black hole. Because they couldn’t access in real-time any progress made on RFPs, they couldn’t know how the RFP response ended, whether it was successful, or whether the right content and messaging were being used.

There was no feedback in any direction. Email chains were too big and unmanageable—and usually got lost among the hundreds of emails everyone received every day. Requests to provide the same information over and over again were commonplace.

Solution: Automate to improve the user experience organization-wide

At the end of 2018, the manager realized it was time to take the company’s RFP response process to the next level and their current RFP software wasn’t going to solve their problems.

Initially, her primary goals were to automate the RFP response process and enable a more user-friendly experience for the proposal team, sales, and SMEs. After learning more about RFPIO’s functionality, she discovered many other ways the platform could improve systems within her organization.

Of RFPIO’s many applications at this health insurance company, perhaps the most shocking is that first drafts of requests for information (RFIs) that once took as many as five days to complete now take just a few hours. That was just one of the many unexpected benefits.

By bringing in RFPIO, the health insurance company improved their RFP response process with:

  • Content Management: They removed the proposal team as the “middleman” for content creation, review, and management. RFPIO enables SMEs to own their respective content; they now use the correct content version every time.
  • Intuitive Workflow: RFPIO is designed to be a response platform. Features such as the Content Library are flexible and adaptable. In this case, the Content Library adapted to how the health insurance industry thinks. For example, sometimes, a question requires a different response depending on who’s asking and in what context. RFPIO leverages AI to make response management intuitive and seamless.
  • Import/Export: Now, they can easily upload questionnaires into RFPIO and then download responses in their own branded templates.
  • Collaboration Tools: All communication for each RFP is captured and acted upon within RFPIO. Even if an SME or salesperson responds via email, RFPIO logs the response. There are no more long email chains, no more lost version control, and no more inefficient reviews. An added benefit is that SMEs can learn from each other. As they review other comments from all departments involved with the RFP, they can gain new perspectives on their own responses.
  • Sophisticated Tracking & Reporting: RFPIO tracks and monitors all content and communication related to each project and allows any user to check the project status. The platform automatically creates a log of all discussions, comments, and content.
  • Salesforce Integration: RFPIO Salesforce integration enables the organization to launch RFPIO projects, track progress in real-time and at every level, and submit bids directly from Salesforce.

RFPs were just the beginning: RFP software also helps with RFI response and content management

“When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”

The company rolled out RFPIO in September 2019, intending the entire focus of the platform to be on RFPs. However, January 2020 marked the beginning of their RFI season. After the first few started trickling in, they decided to try putting the RFIs into RFPIO.

“We realized that RFPIO is brilliant for automating RFI response,” said the company’s proposal manager.

RFIs involve hundreds of questions and must be completed at least annually, sometimes multiple times a year. Rarely are there any changes from one RFI to the next. Most new RFI data are updates, built on the idea of review and update.

When an 817-question RFI arrived one day at 11:30 a.m. and was in the SME’s hands for review by the end of that same day, the manager was ecstatic. “When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”

Another RFPIO use case included managing content related to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. From the beginning of the pandemic, there was confusion, constantly changing content, and breakthroughs about testing, treatment, and vaccinations. Brokers and employer groups needed regular updates on how to handle all of this new information.

To help ensure the health insurance company maintained consistency in messaging both internally and externally, they developed a COVID-specific content collection in RFPIO. The collection enabled the company to track whether something had been reviewed, was ready to publish, or had already been published.

It also helped them keep up with constant updates to content that SMEs owned and could share company-wide, avoiding any missteps such as publishing May 2020 messaging, despite a June 2020 update. The collection allows the company to update in real-time as talking points change.

“I tell people when I’m training them that you can’t break RFPIO, and it tracks everything,” the proposal manager said. “That gave people the comfort and freedom to get creative with the platform.”

The health insurance company continues to expand its RFPIO collections. Recently, they built one for their provider team to track their responses for health systems. Another separate line of business has its own unique collection because it’s not quoted very often. The RFPIO collection provides access to content and assigns owners for updates and tracking.

Content transparency starts with unlimited user access

With their old system, the company had to purchase hundreds of licenses to give salespeople and SMEs access to the platform.“To pay that just to give people access, it wasn’t a good way of going about it,” they said.

With RFPIO, everyone can have access without needing to purchase individual licenses. And everyone does have access—beyond the proposal team. Underwriters, sales, SMEs, and security all use RFPIO. The more it’s used, the more other departments want to take advantage of its capabilities.

“For us, it’s really gone beyond just responding to RFPs. It’s using it to collaborate and track and respond to the market,” the manager said. “The more we use it, the more I hear, ‘Hey, it would be great if we could use RFPIO for this.’”

Are you ready to respond to RFPs faster and gain control of your content? Get started by scheduling a demo today.

Due to privacy and confidentiality restrictions, RFPIO is not disclosing the company name or the names of interviewed case study participants.




RFP vs RFQ vs RFI: How response management reflects sales success

RFP vs RFQ vs RFI: How response management reflects sales success

In an enterprise sale or government bid, you’re likely to run into one or more of the following: request for proposal (RFP), request for quote (RFQ), and request for information (RFI). They all sound similar, but each serves a different purpose. So, what IS the difference between an RFP vs RFQ vs RFI?

It’s an important question, because how your organization responds to these requests has direct implications on your sales process: Improve how you respond, improve how you sell.

What is an RFP?

RFP stands for request for proposal.

For the proposal team, this is the be-all, end-all of responses that stirs up everything you can possibly imagine about your organization. Pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, case studies, references, implementation, SLAs…phew! As the owner of the RFP response process, the proposal manager must ensure that ALL of these questions are tackled.

For the deal that’s already several touchpoints in the making, this response can either help seal it or kill it for the sales team. The importance of the RFP in the overall sales process varies according to industry. But across the board, it’s one of the touchpoints—along with product demo, pricing, and references—that every stakeholder will take into consideration when deciding on vendor selection.

Bottom line? No matter how awesome a response turns out, it alone cannot win the deal. Alas, a subpar response can indeed kill a deal all by itself.

What is an RFQ?

RFQ stands for request for quote.

If you receive an RFQ, then one of two things have likely happened. One, your RFP passed muster and you’re a finalist. Or two, there never was an RFP and you’re being approached because yours is a known solution for one reason or another. Either way, details are important in an RFQ. The issuer wants to know exactly what they’re getting at what price.

Lean heavily on subject matter experts (SMEs) to ensure accuracy. In some cases, you may need to complete a table of specific line items and include a cost for each. Your industry dictates your details. The point is that you need to be ready to deliver those details in an RFQ. There’s usually no room for creativity like you might have in an RFP. And remember, anything you commit to in the RFQ will have to be backed up down the line during implementation and support. You’re setting up expectations for the customer experience moving forward, after the hand-off from sales.

What is an RFI?

RFI stands for request for information.

There are two schools of thought regarding RFIs. The first school says an RFI is a fishing expedition for organizations who have questions but don’t know who to ask. In this case, RFI responses usually end up forming the basis of an RFP.

The second school says that RFIs are closer to RFQs and are used only with RFP finalists. In this case, the open-ended questions may try to clarify something in your RFP or may give you an opportunity to explain use-cases of how your solution solves specific challenges.

The RFI is usually more casual than the RFQ and will give you room to be creative. In some cases, it can even be your last opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. End on a high note!

What is the difference between an RFP vs RFI vs RFQ?

Obviously, there are many differences, based on the definitions above. But the biggest difference between these three requests is in the content of your response.

  • RFQs will be structured; content will likely be technical, financial, and legal.
  • RFIs are more casual; content will be more along the lines of solution briefs, case studies, and custom answers to open-ended questions.
  • RFPs will be structured and formal, but they’ll also provide opportunities to show off your creativity and competitive differentiation. Content will be in the form of answers to many, many questions. Hopefully you have an RFP software solution in place to automate and manage content. It makes your life much easier.

Ways RFPs, RFQs, and RFIs help your sales process

Back in the days of paper forms and manual processes, if an RFP was involved, then you could count on a long wait before knowing if you won the deal. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. Digital transformation has introduced three new trends with regards to the RFP as it relates directly to the sales process.

  1. Deadlines are sooner: Issuers expect vendors to have technology and expertise in place to turnaround RFPs faster than ever. Besides, in some instances, the ability to respond fast may be part of an issuer’s filtering process.
  2. RFPs are more complex: Lots of reasons for this. More complex problems, competitive industries that have more vendor options, and the ability for issuers to do a lot of research on solution providers prior to launching an RFP (thanks a lot, Internet) are the biggest, in my mind.
  3. Globally, more organizations and agencies are using them: Actually, there’s a flip side to that idea, too. More solution providers are able to respond to global RFPs. Few of us are limited by borders anymore when it comes to conducting business. If you offer a product or service that the world needs and you can deliver it, then go after the business!

Regardless of your RFP vs RFQ vs RFI predicament, if you work on the following two things, your sales and presales process will be the better for it.

#1 Know your competitive differentiators

There’s a high probability that you will be asked to state your competitive differentiators when responding to an RFP. Here are some examples of how that might look:

  • What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
  • Describe your competitive position relative to your competitors.
  • When comparing yourself to the market, what are the unique selling points?
  • Briefly state how you are differentiated from any competitors.
  • Why should we work with you instead of one of your competitors?

A generic RFP response to any of these will only benefit your competitors who are able to dazzle the issuer with a great response. Instead of using jargon-y adjectives that everyone else uses, focus on demonstrating the value your solution provides.

Knowing company differentiators is half the battle for many organizations—take the time internally to explore what these are and how to communicate them. Once you have these locked down, make sure the best versions are readily available for your team to grab and tailor appropriately.

“A value proposition offers clients something they want and gives them a good reason to choose you over your competitors. In the executive summary and in your full proposal, communicate a strong value proposition that matches your client’s needs and demonstrates your unique offer.”

APMP Body of Knowledge

#2 Build and use an Content Library

How do you make sure the best versions of your competitive differentiators are easy for your team to grab and tailor? Make sure they’re in your Content Library, of course. It won’t be long before response management software will no longer be a choice; it’ll be an imperative.

Most RFP-specific technologies include an Content Library component. This is where all the content is stored and organized for use in RFPs or other responses, depending on the flexibility of the solution. Much of the content in these libraries exists as Q&A pairs. For the sales process, using AI functionality from an Content Library improves:

  • Repeatability: Build your response process around the foundation of your response management software. It will help establish steps for how you develop a response, access content, and collaborate with writers, editors, and experts time and again.
  • Efficiency: Make everything easier and faster—from finding content and assembling documents, to working with collaborators. Teams that do so are often able to increase efficiency by 40%.
  • Quality: With much of the time-intensive activities of responding offloaded to AI-enabled software and rock-solid processes, you can spend more time on personalizing responses and generating revenue.

Improve how you respond, improve how you sell

We found that organizations using RFP software submitted 43% more responses in 2020 than those without. We also found that organizations averaged a 45% win rate in 2020. From a sales perspective, that’s a huge opportunity for improvement: submit more responses, win more deals.

To learn more about how response management can benefit your sales processes, schedule a demo today!

20 stats proposal managers need before making that next big decision (new data)

20 stats proposal managers need before making that next big decision (new data)

The legendary Ted Lasso once said, “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.” Proposal managers can relate, especially staring down the end of a pandemic-induced paradigm shift in collaboration, automation, and workflow.

Digital transformation in response management has replaced proposal managers’ old challenges with new ones. Gone are the days of stalking cubicles of salespeople and subject matter experts (SMEs) to keep a proposal on track, manually completing questionnaires, and storing content in file cabinets or on shared drives. Enter the challenges of working remotely, videoconferencing fatigue, and high expectations for personalized proposal content.

What can you as a proposal manager do to stay on top of a dynamic response management industry? Before you consider your next automation solution, team addition or subtraction, or learning opportunity, make a decision based on some facts. We took the liberty of gathering 20 of them for you here.

RFP project management

  • “Only 43% of respondents report using RFP-specific technology today.” Organizations not using RFP-specific technology rely more on email, spreadsheets, content storage, and e-signature tools” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “57% of proposal managers said their primary goal is to improve the proposal management process over time.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “44% of project managers use no software, even though PWC found that the use of commercially available PM software increases performance and satisfaction.” – PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • “75% of senior executives said investing in technology to better enable project success was a high priority in their organization.” – Project Management Institute

As we see it, the trend for proposal teams is to break even on headcount while relying on automation and collaboration to increase productivity. Doing more with less is nothing new to proposal managers, and RFP software can help accelerate response time, centralize content management, and unify collaboration. In one case, it helped to triple RFP volume and reduce turnaround time by 40%.

RFP project collaboration

  • “Distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided. In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” – Harvard Business Review
  • “78% of survey respondents expect the amount of remote work to increase post-pandemic from its pre-pandemic levels.” – Verizon
  • “Organizations with dedicated proposal professionals submitted 3.5X more responses in 2020.” – Salesforce
  • “Today’s average proposal management team consists of: 1 person (6%), 2-5 people (33%), 6-10 people (24%), 11-20 people (16.5%), 21-50 people (12%), more than 50 people (8.5%).” – APMP

The way we work is changed forever. Whether you’re back in an office or embedded as a remote worker, you’ll be designating responsibilities that team members can accomplish onsite, on the road, or at home. We’ve all grown more familiar with remote work tools and have our respective cheers (e.g., accessibility) and jeers (e.g., too accessible). The upside is that your team will be able to adapt quickly to RFPIO’s @-mentioning functionality and its integrations with Slack, Salesforce, and more.

RFP response knowledge sharing

  • “The latest edition of Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends study ranks ‘knowledge management’ as one of the top three issues influencing company success, yet only 9 percent of surveyed organizations feel ready to address it.” – Deloitte
  • “40% of survey responders use RFPIO to manage company knowledge.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “44% of employees are ‘poor or very poor’ at transferring knowledge.” – Ernst & Young
  • “Workers spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.” – Mckinsey Global Institute

Whether the proposal is being proactively generated by sales to get their foot in the door or reactively created for an RFP, you want the brand, expectation-setting, and peace-of-mind benefits of knowledge sharing from the RFPIO Content Library. Make this dynamic warehouse of Q&A pairs and content available to everyone in the organization through our unlimited license model. Even as a small team, you can respond to multiple RFPs simultaneously, scaling with the personalization necessary to merit serious consideration.

RFP content management

  • “Companies with a designated RFP solution are 32% more likely to have strong content moderation procedures in place, with 90% reporting this being a priority for them.” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “The most frequently cited typical approach taken by content creators in their business (43%) was project-focused – content is created in response to internal requests.” – Content Marketing Institute
  • “If searching is difficult and the results are not highly valued, workers lose trust in the knowledge systems. This, in turn, makes them less willing to share personal knowledge in those systems, which reduces the quality of the content.” – Deloitte
  • “50% of proposal managers said keeping response content up-to-date and accurate is their biggest challenge.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey

Second only to win rate, content carries the most weight when judging whether a proposal manager is a hero or a villain. How it’s created, maintained, stored, and accessed has a direct or indirect impact on almost everyone in the organization. Sales wants accurate, innovative content yesterday. Support wants content that accurately reflects service level agreements. Marketing wants content to be on-brand.

If you’re using RFP software, then you’ve gone to great lengths to curate the content library used to automatically populate proposals. Why not make that content available to the whole organization? With RFPIO Lookup, you can add a portal into your RFPIO Content Library from everywhere your users work.

82% of our customers said managing response content all in one place is the primary way RFPIO helps them achieve success. Global organizations can take further advantage of separate content collections relevant to their region, which is especially beneficial for multilingual content.

RFP response efficiency

  • “On average, organizations with a designated RFP technology submit 306 proposals a year, while those without submit only 210 — a difference of nearly 43%.” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “86% of salespeople are looking for opportunities to shorten the sales cycle to close more deals. 79% of marketers are focused on using automated technology to execute more with less resource strain. 65% of subject matter experts aspire to increase efficiency through better processes.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “85% of proposal managers work over 40 hours a week, with 11% working over 50.” – APMP
  • “Solutions based on natural language processing/generation and robotic process automation can help reduce the time it takes to draft requests for proposals (RFPs) by up to two-thirds and eliminate human error.”- McKinsey & Company

Efficiency is the numero uno KPI for RFP software. The benefit you realize depends on how you re-invest time saved through efficiencies achieved by state-of-the-art automation, knowledge management, and collaboration capabilities. For example, Lauren Daitz, Senior Manager of the Proposal Department at HALO Recognition, said about RFPIO, “We’re up 25% over our average volume for the last six years and our staffing is down 50% at the same time. And we were still able to deliver every RFP on time or early and with 100% accuracy.”

Proposal managers can never be satisfied with the status quo. Always look for new opportunities for learning and growth. As competition increases and digital transformation continues, it’s either move forward or fall behind.

Like Ted Lasso says, the happiest animal in the world is a goldfish because it only has a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish. His wit and wisdom know no bounds.

If you’re ready to learn how RFPIO can help make you a more effective proposal manager, schedule a demo today.

Deliver more than expected with RFI software

Deliver more than expected with RFI software

“Always deliver more than expected.” Larry Page once said that. You might know Larry—he’s the co-founder of a little company called Google.

A response to an RFI is both time-consuming and time-sensitive. Often, the goal becomes to simply get the response done on time. While the deadline must be met, such a perspective creates less than optimal results.

You want your RFI response to be best-in-class—not a missed opportunity. To differentiate yourself from competitors, you must craft an RFI response with polished, succinct content and enough detail to make a lasting impression.

This paradigm shift toward content quality only happens with efficient time management. RFI software is here to help you save time and always deliver more than expected.

Treat your RFI response like a project

An RFI response is not simply a big document answering a lot of questions. In many ways, proposal management is really just project management in disguise. An RFI is a priority project that will get you closer to your organization’s goal of winning the business.

To achieve that goal, how do you get your resources involved? How do you have a kickoff meeting? Such project creation workflow is a foundational step to starting your project off right—and your project is your RFI response.

RFPIO is a straightforward response management platform that handles the full RFx response project lifecycle. It’s not just RFP software—it’s RFI software, RFQ software, security questionnaire software, and a collaboration and content management platform.

RFPIO’s patented import functionality eliminates time-consuming administrative tasks. Intake requests align your RFI response project with the capabilities, scope, timing, and resources available in a standardized way.

Best of all there is no more copying, pasting, transposing, and reformatting. It’s all done in the same place, freeing up your time to create concise, quality content.

Use RFI software to distinguish your organization

Responding to an RFI is the time to distinguish your organization from the competition. Because RFIs typically occur at the earliest stage of the requesting company’s buying process, these documents serve as a way to filter and narrow down the playing field of competitors.

You don’t close business with a response to an RFI, but you might earn a place in the next stage of the sales cycle. Here are a few ways RFI software helps your team shine.

RFI response import

All of your RFI response answers are the raw data, but you need to create an outline or framework for your response. RFI software helps you set your RFI response apart from the pack by generating a cleanly drafted, polished, and professional proposal format.

RFPIO’s patented import process configures the RFI itself inside the platform and identifies the sections, questions, instructions, descriptions, subsections, and all the things you need to ensure a concise and thorough response.

RFI response export

88% of RFPIO clients use our response management platform to process RFI responses. In this same survey, half of our users voted the import/export functionality as their favorite feature. Formatting and finalizing RFIs manually is one of the most time-consuming tasks. Fonts, bullet points, headers, and images are disjointed—not the way to “deliver more than expected,” right?

When you use RFI software to export your document, you’ll stand head and shoulders above the rest. You have the ability to tailor your RFI response content and format to your specific prospect, all in a professional and corporate-branded template that RFPIO creates for you.

RFI response Content Library

Research shows that the number one key success factor to winning proposals is having a comprehensive content library. RFPIO’s Content Library is searchable and the recommendation engine gives you key informational responses.

You can even use the content management strategies and feature functionality to differentiate your content based on response type, culling only RFI responses for your answers. With this technological advantage, you have extra time to zero in on quality and distinguish yourself from the crowd. You will achieve your goal—moving on through the ranks and closer to winning business.

Have your end goal in mind

When your company receives a Request for Information (RFI), what is your end goal? Know where you’re going, so you know how to proceed.

Your RFI response should embody the essence, mission, and culture of your company. Obviously, one person cannot answer all the questions to create this important final product. Knowing who to bring in from your organization to provide accurate and impactful RFI response content is key. Collaboration and input is everything.

With RFPIO’s unlimited user licensing model, we have a platform built around the idea that this is going to take a group effort. We make collaboration friendly and easy, so you can craft the best possible answers to demonstrate your unique value.

Responding to an RFI is an excellent opportunity to gain exposure to new revenue opportunities. RFPIO helps efficiently manage your RFI response project from start to finish, accomplishing your end goal…getting one step closer to winning the business.

RFI software saves you time so you can focus on what matters most. Distinguish your organization with RFPIO.

Succeed with your next Request for Information (RFI) response

Succeed with your next Request for Information (RFI) response

A request for information (RFI) and a request for proposal (RFP) are two unique business queries proposal management teams encounter. For many teams, they use these document terms interchangeably, feeling that RFIs and RFPs are one and the same. While these proposal documents are similar, they serve different purposes.

In a recent RFPIO client survey, we learned that 87% of proposal management teams are using our response management platform to respond to RFIs. If the teams we partner with are focusing so much on RFI response, there is a high probability that your team is too.

Let’s examine RFIs and RFPs in greater detail to help you understand the best approach with your next request for information.

What is an RFI?

A request for information (RFI) is a document an organization sends to a potential vendor. An RFI is an exploratory step that happens in the early stages of the procurement process. Once the issuing organization has identified a need for a service or product, they begin the vendor selection process by sending RFIs to “request further information” about the service or product capabilities.

This gives the issuer an opportunity to compare different vendors in the market and help them write a more specific RFP. If the vendor addresses their needs in the RFI response, the organization moves forward by issuing a request for proposal (RFP).

The second most common RFI response situation occurs when an issuing organization has a pretty good idea of what they want, and they simply need to firm up a few details before they write the RFP.

The goal with this second group is to trim down the final group of vendors they will include on the RFP. They will send an RFI to 10 vendors, narrow down the list, and send an RFP to 5 vendors as the final group for consideration.

What is an RFI process?

The RFI process clarifies roles, responsibilities, and timelines to help an organization meet the issuer’s deadline. The good news is that establishing your RFI process isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

Like any project plan, a successful RFI process starts by establishing scope, milestones, roles, and responsibilities. However, the key to responding to RFIs quickly and accurately is being able to quickly find accurate information. Since RFIs tend to ask similar (or even identical) questions, being able to quickly answer repeat questions is key.

Steps for a great RFI Process:

  • Kick-Off: Review requirements, assemble your team, and schedule a kick-off meeting
  • Respond: Repurpose past responses and tailor content
  • Collect Expertise: Assign technical questions to your company’s subject matter experts to ensure accuracy
  • Review and Revise: Review RFI for consistency, tone of voice. Proofread for grammatical and spelling errors
  • Submit: Send your RFI to the issuer, along with any supporting materials
  • Consolidate: Save your RFI responses in a centralized location that can be used in future RFIs

RFI vs. RFP…How are they different?

An RFP is issued after an RFI. However, sometimes an organization will issue an RFI that reads more like an RFP. This is where responders experience confusion between RFPs and RFIs. Because the issuer mixes up the documents on their end.

An RFP usually includes questions that cover specific company information:

  • What does your company provide?
  • Where is your company headquarters located?
  • How long has your company been in business?

RFIs tend to be set in a more standard format, which then prompts vendors to execute a more standard format with their RFI responses. Whereas with RFP responses, the issuing organization allows the vendor to have a more open response style—or even the ability to submit an RFP in their own format or branded template.

Certain companies have a structured procurement department and specific processes in which they operate. These organizations are more likely to follow the traditional RFI and RFP order.

A lot of times, though, issuing organizations do not operate in such a structured way. The issuer will send out a document that is labeled as an RFI when it’s really an RFP. Then you, as the responder, need to figure out the best approach with your content strategy so you can move onto the next stage of consideration.


The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

How to respond to an RFI in 3 steps

With response to RFI, follow the same approach as other questionnaires you respond to on behalf of your organization.

  1. Make sure the opportunity is the right fit before you spend time on the RFI response. Comb through the RFI to understand what this organization is looking for. If you feel like your product or service will meet their needs, begin your RFI response.
  2. Check that your past responses are up-to-date so you don’t end up wasting time during RFI response content creation. Having an Content Library saves a lot of hours because you’re not pulling content from multiple places.
  3. Know who to bring in from your organization for accurate and impactful RFI response content. Leverage subject matter experts—have an open communication plan already in place for seamless team collaboration.

RFI responses are straightforward with RFPIO

Whether you receive an RFI (or an RFP pretending to be an RFI), RFPIO is a straightforward RFI software that helps your team respond effectively in a number of ways.

Analyze your opportunity

How do you know if you should commit to this RFI response? RFPIO offers trend analysis to help you analyze and decide whether or not it makes sense for you to participate in an RFI or RFP.

You will see how long it took for your team to respond to similar RFIs, whether you won or lost the opportunity, and what the cost estimation is. From the beginning, you’ll determine if the RFI is worth going after or if your team should pass on it.

Upload your document

RFPIO’s import functionality supports the most common formats—document, spreadsheet, or PDF. Quickly upload the request for information and jump right into content creation and collaboration.

Store your content

Content management capabilities in RFPIO is a huge time-saver for responders. All of your content is stored in one place…the Content Library. You organize your best content with tags and star ratings, then use search or auto-respond to fill in relevant responses.

Connect your applications

Our RFP software integrations work with a number of other applications—CRMs, cloud storage and communication applications, and SSO authentication platforms. Let’s say your technology stack includes: Salesforce, Microsoft Teams, and Sharepoint. You can pull in information and data from all of these solutions within RFPIO.

18% of proposal managers audit their responses once per year and 25% never audit their proposal content.

Improve your content

To make sure your content is best-in-class, RFPIO offers content audit alerts. You decide on your auditing cadence (we recommend quarterly) and an automated email hits your inbox when it’s time to review, discard, and improve your response content.

Strengthen your team

Better RFI response is made possible through collaboration. Designed to foster a collaborative environment, RFPIO does not limit user licenses. Our pricing model is based on the number of RFx documents you respond to, not the number of users working in the platform. It’s easy to assign content to internal and external resources, like consultants and writers.

Set your organization up for success with RFI response…see how RFPIO works.

See how it feels to respond with confidence

Why do 250,000+ users streamline their response process with RFPIO? Schedule a demo to find out.