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8 RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts

8 RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts

Wait…where are all of the RFP response resources? Professionals in other industries are drowning in content—and surviving with arm floaties. […]

Category: Tag: RFP automation

8 RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts

8 RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts

Wait…where are all of the RFP response resources? Professionals in other industries are drowning in content—and surviving with arm floaties. But we RFP responders are still looking for the pool.

When you search for “sales tips,” the world is your oyster…

help with sales
When you search for “RFP response tips,” you get this…

help with rfps
Since our team knows just how challenging it can be to find useful tips in our industry, last quarter we created a resource round-up to help fellow RFP responders improve their RFP response game. It ended up being one of our most popular posts of the year, which confirms what we’ve known all along…RFP response resources are hard to come by.

We know how hungry you are for resources, so once again we hunted down the best of the best for RFP responders. Here are our Q2 picks for RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts.

8 RFP Response Resources to Inspire You

Quality Proposals = More Wins
By Visible Thread
RFP Takeaway: The quality of your proposal will be the deciding factor for winning.

“A professional proposal tells decision makers that they are important and you spent time improving your submission (and the solution). It speaks to the quality of support your organization will provide.”


eBook: Your Complete Guide to Winning RFPs
By Primary Intelligence
RFP Takeaway: Writing a successful response will give you a competitive edge.

“You need to have a well-written response to a Request for Proposal that convinces the decision makers to pick your product instead of the competition.”


Getting to Gold: The Importance of an Effective Review Process for a Winning Proposal
By AOC Key Solutions
RFP Takeaway: An effective RFP review process is key for improved workflow and quality.

“The proposal should be not only instructionally and technically compliant, but also compelling in its sales message and its response to the evaluation factors.”


Price Negotiations: How to Respond When a Competing Vendor Underbids You
By Closeio
RFP Takeaway: Be a savvy negotiator to set yourself apart and win more sales.

“When a prospect appears to be fixated on price, it’s up to you to steer the conversation towards what really matters, and that’s value.”


What Do You Mean When You Say “Review” a Proposal?
By PropLibrary
RFP Takeaway: Checking everything in the review process means focusing on win factors.

“There should be nothing in your proposal that is not important for winning. Quality half-measures is not a winning strategy. A partial review is not better than nothing if it misses something that results in a loss.”


The Third Revenue Ops Pillar: Technology & Project Management
By Radius
RFP Takeway: Technology planning and project management enables the overall business strategy.

“97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.”


How To Solve 5 RFP Challenges [Infographic]
By Mimeo
RFP Takeaway: These common RFP challenges an be alleviated with the right RFP software.

“43% of organizations lack a documented and repeatable strategy for RFPs. 37% of proposal professionals indicated that errors are common.”


5 Pros Reveal Their Time-Savings Tips for RFP Response
By RFPIO (yes…we had to throw one of our own in!)
RFP Takeaway: RFPIO’s clients share their RFP wisdom on how they’re saving time.

“It’s all about organization and making sure each team member knows what’s expected of them—and when. Clear expectations lead to success!”

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

A proposal has many faces—whether it looks like an RFP or a security questionnaire. When it’s time for a business to respond to a proposal, there isn’t a lot of time to get acquainted with a proposal. It’s go-time the second it greets you in your inbox.

One look at the stats Capterra rounded up in this article reveals how truly necessary project management is, with: “97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.”

The days of manual, repetitive tasks are behind us in many ways but still tend to be a common occurrence for companies of all sizes responding to RFPs. This is where RFP software comes in to alleviate project management stress for teams to make them more productive.

“Competently responding to RFPs is just the lowest bar to clear when looking to grow your business. Anyone can read the requirements and submit a bid. To really grow your business, you need to focus on how the solution you provide solves the problems laid out in the request. By automating and streamlining your responses with RFP software, you can spend more time crafting a solution and less time fiddling around with layouts and basic information.” – Andrew Marder, Capterra

Just like any other technology, there are a lot of options to choose from—especially with SaaS solutions. According to The Access Group, “Reliability, ease of use, and ease of integration are the top three requirements project managers look for when shopping for software.”

So, how do you know which is the right RFP software for your team? How do you know which features will provide lasting benefits?

Here are our picks for the top three RFP software features that will help make your work life easier.

Import and export

Ask any proposal manager and they will tell you…this is the part of the RFP process they spend the majority of their time on. Our client, Josh Itzoe from Greenspring, realized that a typical RFP required anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of manual work, so he made it his personal mission to make their process more scalable and effective.

By using RFP software, he was able to cut completion time down to 5 hours. The ability to import and export with ease made a big difference for Josh.


One question can have multiple responses. If you work with security questionnaires, you’re very familiar with the Excel document that has rows and columns that seem to go on forever.

Although there are technologies that allows you to import questions and requirements, very few can support multiple answers for the same question. For example, do you support XYZ feature? Column 1 – Yes/No. Column 2 – Additional Comments.

import rfp

It’s important to have a dependable import to save you time from the beginning of the RFP project. Equally important is to be able to import from any source—be it Word, Excel, or even PDF (which is a recent feature we implemented at RFPIO.)


When you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you want the export process to go smoothly. However this is another task that can delay teams that think they are finished with an RFP then realize the formatting is all wrong.

With RFP software, there are two ways to export an RFP:

  1. Export to the source: This exporting option is critical when you have a specific format to follow and you don’t want to modify the source document. Typically we see this in spreadsheet-based RFPs.
  2. Export in a template: You want to be able to customize templates at will, with the flexibility to have one template for an unsolicited proposal and another for an SOW. You should even have the ability to send the final proposal in your own corporate template. (Yes, RFPIO supports unlimited templates!)

The key with exporting is consistency.

SMEs spanning departments will come together to respond to an RFP—and often everyone has different fonts they prefer. If you have a great template, it doesn’t matter if you used Arial 10, Susan used Calibri 12, and Jim used Comic Sans 18 because he has a weird sense of humor.

Your deliverable will have a consistent look and feel because the system will align font, colors, bullet points, etc. Then, marketing doesn’t need to spend as much time manually polishing the deliverable—and your team is much happier and productive as a result.

Curious about how much RFP software can save you?

ROI calculator

Use our ROI calculator to find out!


RFP software on its own will increase your organizational effectiveness by eliminating the manual labor of spreadsheets and documents. A solution that integrates with other applications you’re already using will further boost your team’s productivity.


Salespeople typically accept one tool, the CRM—and they will rebel against learning new technology that might steal them away from selling time. Having a true Salesforce integration means your sales team can remain in the tool they already use daily, without being distracted by a technology learning curve.

Long term, a CRM integration will require much less effort with team collaboration while keeping sales focused on revenue generating priorities.

rfpio salesforce appexchange

View RFPIO on Salesforce AppExchange


Less email is a good thing, not only for our inboxes but also for better RFP collaboration. Integration with popular communication tools, like Slack, can greatly reduce friction between a proposal manager and an SME when an RFP deadline is looming and input is needed.

With email, it’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks. Slack is a nice complement to RFP software, because team members can communicate more effectively.

Cloud Storage

Support documents need to be centralized and accessible, and companies want a centralized drive that meets their storage needs. RFP software integrating with cloud storage solutions kills two birds with one stone, allowing teams to manage all responses in the cloud with quick access to the latest and greatest content.

Content Library

A strong Content Library helps speed up the RFP process tenfold, but the majority of companies are still storing their responses in a disorganized fashion: some are in emails, others are in spreadsheets, the rest are in forgotten folders. This is where RFP software truly helps organize existing content—and even autosuggest answers—to save teams time.

Content Library review
When you’re on the hunt for a good RFP management solution, make sure your Content Library can do these three things:

  1. Be able to assign owners periodically and have an established review workflow, so your content never goes stale.
  2. Be able to identify duplicate content and have the flexibility to override what stays and what goes during a content audit.
  3. Be able to change responses into different languages to seamlessly communicate internationally, when applicable.

rfp software multiple languages

With your Content Library, the right setup and consistent maintenance will set the tone for success at your organization. A disorganized or nonexistent Content Library will only slow your team down.

“With RFPIO, one other marginally technical person and I were able to respond to a 70-question RFP in less than 2 hours. Before, this would have been an all-night session for me.” – Jonathan Reed, Progress

Read the full Progress story

With the time and resource constraints companies are often working with, it is absolutely necessary to have a sound RFP process in place before the proposal shows its face. This not only helps teams collaborate easier to meet a quick deadline, it allows teams to focus on delivering a high-quality response with a greater win potential.

When you’re on the hunt for RFP software, these three features are a non-negotiable for the ultimate success of your organization. Take your time and find the right fit.

Why RFP collaboration is just better without email

Why RFP collaboration is just better without email

Email has been the most common form of communication for businesses since the emergence of the internet in the 1980s. We’ve sung email’s praises for decades, saying it facilitates easier communication and helps us get more work done. But email only goes so far when it comes to managing the RFP process. Especially since it’s not 1987 anymore.

The world has about 2.6 billion email users. That number is expected to grow to 2.9 billion by 2019. You might be thinking: “So email should be the ideal medium to exchange ideas on RFPs, right?”

Well, not really.

Growth has its share of pitfalls, and there is plenty of spam to deal with in the email world today. The sheer volume we face in our inbox is enough without adding the communication it takes to complete an RFP response within a tight deadline.

So, why do we think email is the only way to collaborate? Here are a few ways using RFP software can change your outlook and enhance team collaboration.

Tracking RFP progress and improving productivity

RFPs often come in as a last-minute surprise, with strict deadlines for submission. Anyone working on RFP responses knows that the request just gets more complex, and there is no looking back once the initial email arrives asking for input.

Only using email communication as a way to assign tasks, measure working hours, and track the daily status of the RFP process is far from efficient. Tracking and reporting productivity becomes increasingly difficult, as your inbox is already cluttered with other priorities.

Since RFPs are typically low on the priority list already. Having other distractions around can easily steal an SME’s attention, leaving the unanswered RFPs collecting dust in a file or tossed away in the trash “for later.”

Here is where an RFP response solution truly scores over email. It enables large teams to track RFP progress, aiming at reduced redundancy and improved productivity. This is crucial because team members might be working on the same RFP, so a tool can alleviate the weight on your organization’s resources.

Managing your internal RFP responses

Email threads involved in RFP responses are often so long that it’s tough to track the single response which triggered the email chain in the first place. This often leaves us searching for emails with the latest version of a file, managing revisions of outdated documents, or having multiple versions of a document in circulation.

Usually there are dozens of emails with similar subject lines. Filtering out the irrelevant and locating the relevant responses is a job all on its own. Even with a dedicated proposal manager or lead, it’s hard to read through complicated email threads and note individual responses from SMEs when you’re trying to get the RFP response out the door.

Our client Brian Zielinski from Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions had this to say:

“On average, a company responding to 2-4 RFPs per month can expect to save, at minimum, 80-100 man hours in time spent researching and answering technical questions. With employee hourly rates ranging anywhere from $25 to $50 per hour (or higher), the cost savings on man-hours far outweighs the cost of RFP software.”

Using an RFP platform that organizes individual responses and pinpoints accountability of team members can go a long way. Email simply can’t compete.

Clear communication and less email

Email doesn’t allow for the exchange of ideas, which is why there are so many popular communication platforms that exist today to eliminate the confusion of email collaboration. With the RFP process, there are often multiple team members working together and things can easily slip through the cracks.

Imagine this…you have a slew of email attachments from different team members that talk about different aspects of the RFP. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a single dashboard that clarified the purpose and impact of every response? RFP software does that.

Necessary integrations with apps like Salesforce and Slack make communication much easier for teams across various stages of the RFP process. While email still has its place, it’s a catch-all. The clearest communication will happen in a solution that is built for the goal your team is trying to accomplish.

Easy collaboration promotes high-quality responses

When working on an RFP through email, there is no way of telling who sent the initial document and who owns the most current document. The document might be revised multiple times by various team members, so efforts are being duplicated.

Scouring through multiple email threads to find relevant information that would add value to the RFP also makes collaboration more challenging. A strong Content Library of responses gathers expertise from your team in one place to eliminate repetitive tasks.

A high-quality RFP response is what we need to increase our chances of winning. Easy and consistent collaboration can truly set successful teams apart from the competition. Optimizing your Content Library and fine-tuning your review process for RFPs can make a big difference—yet another reason why RFP software wins email.

Email as a tool for simple communication serves its purpose with everyday business. For RFP collaboration, having a dedicated internal tool will ultimately help your team be more effective and efficient with RFP response.

Still using email to collaborate on your RFPs? We hope you’ll consider changing your ways to enhance your team’s productivity.

How RFP software helps Smarsh win opportunities

How RFP software helps Smarsh win opportunities

Recently we had the pleasure of sitting down to chat about RFP response with longtime supporter and partner, Stephen Marsh, CEO and Founder of Smarsh. One of RFPIO’s earliest clients, the Smarsh team has experienced many benefits with RFP software, including an enhanced ability to create and win opportunities.

In this podcast interview, Stephen shares his company’s experience with RFP response, from the manual days of spreadsheets to the leap into automation—and how Smarsh has benefited companywide with a more streamlined approach to RFP management.

Listen to the podcast…

Read the interview…

Stephen, of course the RFPIO team is very familiar with your company, since Smarsh is one of our clients and partners. But for our audience today, can you share a little bit about Smarsh?

Smarsh is an electronic communications archiving company. For many companies in highly regulated industries, like financial services or government, we help capture their emails, text messages, social media, phone call recordings—any communication tools they’re using—and we preserve them for years.

This way they can comply with regulatory requirements or legal obligations that they might have.

Earlier this year, your team learned about RFPIO after catching an article in Portland Business Journal—Smarsh was using another solution at the time. You’ve been using RFPIO for some time now. How is RFP software helping your business?

RFPIO has actually been a huge help. Prior to the other RFP solution we were using, we experimented with spreadsheets and didn’t have any tools to help us manage the RFP process.

We had no centralized place to keep track of the RFPs we were participating in. A sales rep would learn of a sales opportunity that had an RFP associated with it. He or she tried to get others in the organization involved—typically the Friday morning that it was due at 4pm Eastern Time—and the whole company scrambled to put the response together.

This made it really difficult to divide and conquer just to complete one RFP response. Then it became even more problematic as we had multiple RFPs that we were responding to.

We also didn’t have the benefit of being able to reuse prior RFP materials, other than copying and pasting. We’ve tried other tools for preparing the response and managing multiple RFPs, and those methods had their share of shortcomings.

We’re so happy to hear that RFPIO is making work life easier for our friends at Smarsh! So based on your experience, what kind of companies can benefit from a tool like RFPIO?

Any organization trying to sell into enterprise or government can certainly benefit from RFPIO, much like we do. Any team preparing complex RFP responses or answering lengthy questionnaires—really any situation that involves collaborative responses to support the sales cycle. That’s where the tool can shine and add value for most organizations.

A lot of companies don’t realize they have this RFP problem, or they do and they feel stuck. At that point you have the entire organization, from sales engineers to product managers, contributing to the selling process.

Often times management doesn’t know this is happening. Meanwhile you’re wasting a lot of energy, and not responding as efficiently as you could be.

Do you have recommendations for sales teams struggling to prioritize their responsibilities and meet sales goals?

We weren’t good at organizing, prioritizing, and scheduling the activities that would go into responding to RFP questionnaires. Typically the squeakiest wheel or the noisiest salesperson would get the response from those in the organization who needed them to help out.

That’s not always the most appropriate way to allocate your resources. You might have a deadline pending or higher relative contract values associated with certain deals.

Without a tool to keep RFP responses centralized, it’s really hard to manage the resources that go into the effort. But once you do have them centralized, you can manage your resources better and get the benefit of reuse, so you’re not reinventing an answer each and every time.

No effort is complete without results. Paint us a picture of what sales success looks like at Smarsh.

Success at Smarsh is like many other organizations. It’s simply winning the deals that we want to win. That’s by far the biggest measure, but there is also the simple law of sales numbers.

We observed early on that when we did participate in RFPs, we would often win. The problem was that we weren’t completing enough of them, because we couldn’t do enough. We only had a couple of solution architects and sales engineers available to help out, and it was a very ad hoc process.

So, any tools or process improvements that help us participate more is a good thing. Again, the ultimate measure is the number of wins, and how much revenue we can book.

What is one piece of advice you would give to anyone working in RFP response?

For those participating in the response itself, reuse as much as possible. What I’ve always strived for in our responses is to improve quality over time. Without the right tools, responses tend to deteriorate or they don’t address the question as accurately as they should.

I would often read RFP responses, and I could tell when somebody had just copied and pasted answers, because they didn’t directly answer the question. They’re weren’t well-crafted. Or, when the entire document didn’t flow well, I could tell that different people had written responses.

The end goal is to participate in as many RFPs as you can and to have the highest quality response. And it does require some tools to get there. With RFP response, don’t underestimate the importance of having the right processes and the right technology.

smarsh ceo

Stephen Marsh

Founder, Chairman and CEO of Smarsh
Follow @SmarshInc

Stephen Marsh founded the hosted email archiving and compliance provider Smarsh, Inc. in 2001, and now oversees a global operation with more than 20,000 clients worldwide and 225 employees. Under Marsh’s leadership, Smarsh has grown to become the financial services industry’s premier electronic communications archiving provider, helping enterprises around the world meet their recordkeeping, supervision and e-discovery obligations.

3 steps to help you complete your RFP on time (every time)

3 steps to help you complete your RFP on time (every time)

Admit it, you’ve missed out on RFP deadlines once or twice in your life. Sometimes the RFP preparation itself is so overwhelming that we have no clue where to begin. Other times trying to gather answers from our team to complete the RFP becomes the hang-up.

No matter the size of your team or company, the RFP process is never easy. It requires hours of work, reading through countless documents, and coming up with an effective response strategy that will win attention and business.


inefficient sales processSource: Salesforce

But, what is the point of that valiant effort if it isn’t done on time? When you’ve spent hours and resources creating an RFP response, you want to do everything in your power to submit before the deadline—to have a chance at winning.

Here are 3 steps to take well before the RFP lands in your inbox, so you can meet your deadlines every time.

Step 1: Bridge the communication gap between RFP leads and SMEs

Because the RFP process is such a huge undertaking, usually a dedicated proposal manager or lead is the point person. SMEs also play a key role in defining RFP responses by offering their expertise.

Problems arise when the lead is not clear on what the requirement is, making the SME more likely to ignore the request. Open and transparent communication among stakeholders is key for keeping the RFP process on track.

sales process
Source: Salesforce

The RFP lead needs to be clear on expertise needs from SMEs by asking clear questions and keeping SMEs informed about open items. Scheduling frequent review cycles and assigning specific areas of the RFP will ensure a smooth and faster completion of the RFP response to help bridge the communication gap.

Step 2: Work smarter within SME time constraints

SMEs offer valuable input for RFP responses, however spending time on RFPs is a low-priority task on their full plate. An often overlooked solution is scheduling time with SMEs to work on the proposal collaboratively —a 10-minute face-to-face discussion is a lot more efficient than an email request that is pushed aside for days or weeks on end.

An SME’s assigned section of a sales proposal is often technical, and the jargon comes with that territory, making it difficult to write and to consume. Requesting a high level outline of the response is helpful in creating an efficient response, rather than depending on the SMEs for the whole write-up.

Whether it’s a proposal writer, marketing team member, or the RFP lead, having a savvy writer polishing SME responses is the better way to go for the sake of a deadline. Your team will be happier if you leave the writing to the writers!

sales admin tasks
Source: Salesforce

Step 3: Use visual data to encourage the pursuit of new opportunities

Most organizations have multiple projects happening simultaneously, with resources being utilized across tasks. Responding to RFPs almost always takes a backseat, because the team doesn’t understand the purpose of spending long hours on a proposal that has slim chances of winning.

It is the responsibility of the RFP lead to drive communication about deadlines, but also to promote enthusiasm for the opportunity. Responding to relevant proposals that your company has a greater chance of winning is critical to your win rate success, but also in building trust with your internal team.

Show them why you are pursuing this business, and how that can be reflected in potential revenue. An RFP management solution will help you track and measure these efforts, but without a tool, you can share the data from your CRM’s pipeline dashboard or create a quick chart in a spreadsheet with historical data and predictions. Hard data in a visual dashboard is an easy way to align a busy team to aim for the right objectives.

Responding to RFPs differs greatly from one organization to another, but aligning efforts is a non-negotiable to complete an RFP response on time. Stop and look around—see how you can take steps that will not only improve your process but also create employee advocates who understand why RFPs are golden opportunities worth pursuing.

Do you have any tips or tricks that work with your team? We’d like to hear what’s working at your organization to submit your RFPs on time!

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