Interview with Ganesh Shankar, CEO at Response Software Company: RFPIO

Interview with Ganesh Shankar, CEO at Response Software Company: RFPIO

RFPIO is a five-year-old response management software laser-focused on helping sales teams respond to any sort of questions they receive during the pre and post-sales processes. Such questions can come in any shape or form — could be RFP or RFI specific, security-related, or simply an email question the client is asking — and sales teams must be able to respond to such questions no matter the subject, which is where RFPIO comes into play.

Sellers are often much more comfortable in front of the customer compared to crafting answers to a question they’re unfamiliar with, especially when it comes to technical, financial, or legal topics, and they need to lean on subject matter experts to provide materials to inform their responses. RFPIO facilitates easy collaboration between the front-line teams and the subject matter experts so that the sales teams have the information they need on-hand, eliminating the need to start from scratch for every response, empowering sellers to respond efficiently and compliantly to any question.

This facilitation can also happen in a broader way by integrating RFPIO’s application with platforms commonly used by sales and revenue teams — from marketing platforms to CRM platforms, to communication platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, HubSpot and others. RFPIO’s seamless integration is so smooth that sellers and revenue teams often don’t even realize they’re working off of a different application. They get what they need on the platform they’re already familiar with.

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

Ganesh Shankar: RFPIO doesn’t have a cliche garage or dorm room story, but rather, it was born out of necessity as a solution to the pain points that its founders — me (the CEO), CTO AJ Sunder and COO Sankar Lagudu — all had while working together at a previous day job.

The root idea was that sellers need responses from subject matter experts, as the three of us were at the time. I was a product manager and RFPIO’s other co-founders were an engineering manager and an implementation manager, respectively, and we all had our fair share of contributing to RFPs in those positions.

The funny part is that of the nine years I worked in that product manager role, RFPs were not mentioned in my job description even once. However, I estimate somewhere between 25-30% of my time was going toward helping the sales team win deals. We possessed the knowledge that sales teams needed, so they pushed their questions to our desks to gather the accurate information they did not possess themselves.

Responding to the influx of questions became a pain point, so we turned to Excel documents to house our expertise, allowing sales teams to reference and pull from the information there. This was a short-term solution and was not efficient, realistic or scalable enough. Other platforms on the market also failed to impress, so the three of us took the reins into their own hands. Now five years into the business, every product we used as a workaround solution prior to RFPIO’s creation are RFPIO customers today.

What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Ganesh Shankar: Network, network, network! Expand your network. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you must be proactive and open to connecting with people. You never know which direction help can come from — Who could be a potential investor? Who could be a potential employee? Who could be a potential co-founder? Networking is the most essential piece to starting a business.

Secondly, you don’t have to have the garage or dorm startup story. RFPIO was built purely out of necessity and a gap in the market. However, it is important to keep in mind that not everyone else is in your universe. The problem you’re facing might not be the same problem everyone else is, and your solution might not be the perfect answer to every issue. It’s so important to stay open to listening to prospects during your developmental stages and customers later on. Be willing to hear from the industry, hear from the market, hear from the competition, and apply that to improvising your thought process and product development.

Last but not least, the most important piece of advice is having the right team and the right people on board from the beginning. It takes time, but investing time and effort in ensuring you have the right people on your side will take a lot of pressure off the entrepreneur’s shoulders in the long run. Investing in people from early on and creating a culture where employees feel connected and valued is very critical.

The largest tip to know when to invest in someone is asking yourself, “Could I work for them? Can they work for me? Would I work with them again?” If you answer “yes” to those questions, they are worth your time and effort. That’s essentially how RFPIO was founded — three men answered “yes” to those questions and we invested in each other and an idea.

What can we hope to see from RFPIO in the future?

Ganesh Shankar: Our focus and what drives us to make our platform more clever day-by-day is helping customers to respond accurately, timely, intelligently and confidently, and enable them to do more with less. We truly want to be part of the success story and revenue-generating process for our customers, that’s our ultimate goal. RFPIO’s evolution and advancements are consumer-centric — whatever solution enhancements or capabilities we can add to empower our customers to navigate this competitive landscape is what steers our direction.

At the end of the day, we want to be an intelligent partner that helps our customers win proposals, win projects and succeed.

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