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How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

“I don’t get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield At RFPIO, we often say that proposal managers are the unsung heroes […]


How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

“I don’t get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield

At RFPIO, we often say that proposal managers are the unsung heroes of their organizations. Proposal teams spend hours, weeks, and even months crafting perfect responses, yet who gets credit for the wins?

In siloed organizations, both proposal and sales teams have vital roles to play in the response process, but it’s often the sales team that gets credit for sealing the deal. Why is that? How can proposal managers prove their worth in a siloed organization? Can sales and proposal teams set their rivalries aside and recognize that their goals are not just aligned, but identical?

Don’t get me wrong; I would never throw shade at sales teams. They’re critical to any business, including ours. However, if an organization regularly receives RFPs, RFIs, RFQs, or RFTs, a dedicated proposal team with a professional proposal manager frees sales teams to make more contacts and close more deals. In other words, everybody wins.

Still, like the late, great, Rodney Dangerfield, proposal managers often don’t get a lot of respect. Oftentimes, their ideas are dismissed as uninformed or out of touch, if they even get a seat at the table – after all, it’s sales who has their collective ear to the ground. 

Maybe, but a good proposal manager is a fountain of knowledge. In many cases, they know more about their company than the founders. Additionally, the RFPs themselves offer essential insights into customers’ priorities and pain points that sales may not be aware of.

So, now that you know how valuable you are, how can you convince the rest of your company? What role does a proposal manager play in their organization?

In my upcoming May 19th webinar, I will talk about the steps you can take to prove your worth. In this blog post, I’ll outline some of the challenges the proposal managers we work with face, and I will give you an email template with the information your boss needs to see to validate your position.

Are proposal managers part of the sales team?

The short answer to whether proposal managers are part of the sales team is, maybe. The longer answer is that it typically depends on the size and structure of their company. In most small and medium-sized organizations, proposal managers answer directly to the director of sales, business development, or marketing. 

In larger organizations or enterprise companies, the proposal manager could be part of revenue management or finance. 

Do you feel like you’re pushing boulders by yourself?

We’ve all heard the story of Sisyphus, the ancient Greek king, who, as the legend goes, was punished by Zeus for cheating death. The punishment was to push an immense boulder up a hill, only each time, the boulder rolled back down the hill right before Sisyphus reached the top.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to Sisyphus. While your boulder is metaphorical, it’s every bit as frustrating when you’re trying to do the heavy lifting but you aren’t getting the support you need.

When sales hands the RFP off to proposal management, all too often, they wash their hands of it. Sales, however, should remain part of the process. Perhaps a salesperson or pre-salesperson was the catalyst for the RFP – in that case, they’re a subject matter expert on the customer. 

Sales should also help craft the proposal, and ensure that all the customers’ priorities are met before submitting the final bid. 

How to bring sales and proposal management together

In too many cases, sales teams forget about RFPs the second they are handed off to their proposal management team. But isn’t sales as vested in the outcome as anyone? A win for the proposal team is a win for the sales team, and vice versa. 

I will get into more detail in the webinar, but fostering communication and de-siloing the sales and proposal management teams will help create more wins for the teams and the company as a whole. 

How to convince leadership to keep you in the loop 

Communication is the cornerstone of response management processes. As a repository for a company’s past and current content, RFPIO’s Answer Library can automatically generate answers for up to 80% of an RFP’s queries. 

But what about the future? Perhaps there’s an exciting new acquisition that would make your company more appealing to the customer, or maybe the company is downsizing and can’t deliver on the requirements. 

Perhaps there is something that is a bit less newsworthy but still impacts the response to an RFP. For example, the company might have switched vendors, affecting the costs. Let’s go with an example that isn’t so hypothetical: The worldwide supply chain crisis could potentially affect every aspect of an RFP, yet if a response manager doesn’t know how the company is addressing supply chain issues, it’s nearly impossible to formulate an accurate response. 

And it’s tough to imagine that the sales team wouldn’t want to be part of the pricing discussion. Additionally, proposal managers need reports on their teams’ efforts as much as sales managers do. 

If you aren’t quite sure how to convince the sales manager to invite you to sales meetings, here is an email template that has worked for several of our customers:

Hi {boss name},

I’m writing to request an invitation to the sales team’s weekly sales huddles and pipeline meetings. 

As the proposal manager, I’m responsible for crafting a compelling proposal that solves our clients’ problems. The sooner I’m clued into the status of open opportunities, the sooner I can start researching our client—and the more compelling proposal I can write. 

To put a number on this:

      • Total dollar value of proposals won in [last year]:
      • Total dollar value of proposals lost in [last year]:

By joining sales conversations early on, I’m confident I can increase our proposal win rate—and help push deals deeper into the sales cycle.

Looking forward to seeing you in the first meeting!

Best, 

Your Name

If you are feeling left out of the conversation, join me on May 19, 2022, as we discuss challenges and methods for bringing the proposal team back into the fold. 

5 types of tools that optimize presales engagement

5 types of tools that optimize presales engagement

You’re ready to get where you’re going, every red light fueling a little more impatience. Then you feel a bump, and recognize the telltale signs of a flat tire. You’re already frustrated as you pull over and then things get worse. You don’t have a tire jack.

It’s the age-old problem: lacking the right tool for the job. 

So many problems in life become manageable if you have the right tool to solve them. That’s as much the case when you’re looking to make your job run smoother as when you’re stranded on a highway wishing you had a tire jack. For presales professionals, investing in the right tools is an important step in creating a process that:

  • Leads to higher engagement with prospects, so more of them make it through each stage of the funnel
  • Helps position you as more of a strategic leader than an administrative contributor
  • Enables you to work more effectively with colleagues across departments
  • Cuts down on the time you spend on repetitive tasks
  • Helps you close more valuable deals—the main goal of your job 

But you need to be careful. Application sprawl—having too many tools in your tech stack—can cause its own share of problems. You need the right tools for maximum RFP automation ROI. The ones that will actually make the presales experience smoother for both you and prospective buyers.

5 Tools to Increase Presales Engagement

Developing the right presales process, supported by the right products, will make your job easier and increase your success rates. For most presales professionals, there are five main categories of tools you want represented in your sales stack.

 1. Knowledge Management

So much of presales engineering is about knowledge. Prospects need to know that a product will do what they need, even if they don’t understand all the technical details required for that to happen. Presales engineers are the keepers of that knowledge, and RFPIO® LookUp is the key to access it from any browser or Microsoft Office. But with the right knowledge management tool, you don’t have to be the only one with access to that knowledge. 

A knowledge base product allows you to keep a record of the answers to common questions, and organize information so it’s easier to find when needed. By improving findability and enabling you to share content with the right people in the organization, it cuts down on time spent answering the same questions over and over again. And when your colleagues have easier access to knowledge, they’ll reply to prospects faster, improving presales engagement and creating a better overall experience. 

2. Communication and Collaboration

Creating a good experience for prospects and customers requires successful collaboration between all customer-facing teams. Presales must collaborate with the sales team to make sure all of a prospect’s questions get answered quickly and correctly, or risk losing the sale. And communication between presales and customer support is important for keeping customers happy after purchase.

Technology can facilitate more efficient communication, especially as more teams work remotely. Slack offers asynchronous messaging, so coworkers can reply when they’re able. And video conferencing products like Zoom are good for connecting over virtual meetings. 

3. Proposal Automation

Every time you have to push aside other tasks to do the tedious work of filling out a proposal, it takes time away from other responsibilities. Proposals are important for winning deals, but the time cost is likely impacting your ability to complete other tasks important to presales engagement.

A proposal automation tool, like RFPIO, can give you back most of that time while also improving the number of proposals you win. Every answer you provide is saved in a knowledge base. The product then identifies which questions on future proposals have already been answered, and fills the responses in automatically. That leaves you more time to personalize the parts of the proposal that merit a personal touch, which is key for improving win rates. 

4. Customer Relationship Management

Proposals aren’t the only area where personalization matters. In every interaction with prospects and customers, you want to have current information on their relationship with the company up to that point. And each time you gain valuable information about a prospect, you want the sales and customer support teams to have access to that data moving forward.

That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce is so valuable. You can ensure everyone that interacts with a prospect is up-to-date on where they are in the sales process and has all relevant information about the account. That’s key for making every interaction personalized to their needs as you move them toward a purchase. 

5. Data Collection and Analysis

You need to understand your presales process to improve it. Technology can collect data that provides insights into questions like:

  • What does your current process look like?
  • What kind of actions most often lead to sales? 
  • Which proposals are most worth your time, based on which ones you’ve won in the past?
  • What types of clients are most likely to purchase? 

A tool that collects this data and makes it easy to analyze gives you fuel to improve your process and win more sales. And you likely won’t need to seek out a specific product for this purpose. Most of the tools used in the other categories on this list will have reporting and analytics features built in. 

In most organizations, critical sales data is spread across multiple platforms, which when combined, paint a complete picture of a customer’s journey and the overall sales process. 

RFPIO integrates with most CRMs – including Salesforce and Hubspot, along with messaging tools such as Slack, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams – providing incremental insights that can be used to track how presales is impacting the entire organization.

Additionally, RFPIO® LookUp enables users to conveniently gather company data from a browser or Microsoft Office, even from home. 

Use the Presales Tools You Choose Effectively

Selecting the right tools for the job is an important first step. But for you to reap their benefits, you need to use them effectively. Think carefully about how to best incorporate the presales tools you choose into your process, and how to make sure they all effectively work together. 

Buying more sales products won’t help you improve presales engagement, but the right products used the right way will.

 

 

 

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

In part 1, we discussed the best practices to scale your response management process from your end. This week we will look at how RFPIO’s toolbox can help you standardize your operations, improve communication, and trim response time, so your team can spend more time driving revenue. 

The RFPIO features that can help manage your response time

The RFPIO platform includes several features to help with your bid/no-bid decision-making. 

Intake

We designed the intake feature to help teams submit their project requests as intakes to the proposal team. The intake submits project requests to the designated user(s), who will approve or reject them. In addition, you can create an intake form with custom fields that will help you decide whether or not to pursue a project.

CRM integration

Another way to increase transparency and automate processes around the bid/no-bid decision is through one of our CRM integrations. For example, if sales is tracking information used in a bid decision, you can pull those fields into RFPIO. Your sales team will only ever have to enter the information once. Some of RFPIO’s CRM integrations even allow teams to fill out the intake form without ever leaving the CRM.

Reporting/custom fields

Lastly, you can use custom reporting on any fields you create in the intake form to analyze your win/loss rates and how they may be affected by certain factors in the opportunities you choose to pursue. This enables your team to evaluate your strategy and determine if you use your resources wisely when responding to RFPs.

What is your proposal management process?

You’ve decided which RFPs are worthy of responses. The next step in auditing your RFP process is evaluating how you’re managing the proposals. 

Are you having kickoff meetings?

A kickoff meeting is one of the most critical parts of the response process. At the end of a successful kickoff meeting, each team member will leave armed with clear roles and responsibilities – all designed with one clear goal, winning the bid! 

  • Are roles and responsibilities crystal clear? – Following a kickoff meeting, each team member should have an action plan. Follow up in your project management software.
  • Do you have a specific schedule? – Create hard deadlines for each team member and each response phase. 

Are you following the proposal’s progress?

Proposal managers should perform daily progress evaluations to ensure that they can address issues and lags before causing delays or inaccuracies.

How are you managing your team?

Proposal response has a lot of moving pieces. A proposal manager’s role is to follow those pieces, even if the responsibilities are outside the team’s immediate control. For example:

  • How are you tracking and managing tasks outside of the RFPIO platform?
  • How are subcontractors managed? 
  • How do your teams juggle multiple proposals?
  • Is there a shared calendar?

Task templates

How many of you have several tasks for every project? And how many of those tasks have nothing to do with the work in RFPIO? I’m referring to things like responding to an intent to bid or prepping shipping labels. Task templates can help you track those tasks automatically. Suppose you’re the manager of a team of proposal managers. In that case, you can even automate the tracking of tasks or stages across a shared calendar for a team, giving you better insight into the team’s workload on a given date or week. 

These are great ways to automate task creation. You can create a template for standard tasks under your organization settings and have it appear in each project upon creation. If there are tasks that you track as a team in a shared calendar, you can create a user in RFPIO that is assigned to these tasks automatically when you set them up in your organization settings. You can then sync that user’s calendar to a shared calendar in Outlook or Google to see all tasks across your team.

Clarifications 

Clarifications, often overlooked, is a great tool to help you compile any questions that you and your team need to send back to the issuer of your project. Then, you can export the questions, send them to the issuer, and import the responses back into the system.

Calendars 

RFPIO’s calendar view provides at-a-glance project management for you and your team.

Integrations 

Adding on our integrations for Teams or Slack can help increase transparency. I’ve also known clients to take advantage of our API integrations in their project management tools.

Discussions tab/comments

The discussions tab in the project is a great way to not get behind on potential issues. From this tab, you can quickly sort through open comments within the task. When managing multiple projects at a time, I made it a habit to open the discussions tab of each project every day to help reassign questions and resolve issues as they appeared.

Answer Library

RFPIO’s Answer Library uses AI to intuitively auto-populate and answer all of the most common and not-so-common questions. In addition, the Answer Library offers several filtering tools, options, rules, and tags to help ensure that you’ll receive the most appropriate answer, even with simple one or two-keyword searches. Furthermore, your AI-driven library will update as you input data. 

Look inside your content management lifecycle

When did you last audit your content?

I’m going to let you all in on a bit of a secret. Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s Answer Library, I start with the Answer Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Answer Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

You can also use RFPIO to create an internal knowledge base, perfect for training new hires. Here at RFPIO, all of our sales enablement content and sessions are easily accessible from our company-wide instance of RFPIO. It’s easy for me to remember a session from a month ago, and I can simply use the search to find a Q&A pair that directs me to the video.

Other customers have found increased collaboration between their proposal team and their marketing and security teams but are saving the most recent versions of client-facing documents in the document library. Using RFPIO as an internal knowledge base and a single source of truth also provides a level of self-service to your organization that can boost morale.

Lastly, especially for small companies and startups, using RFPIO to track crucial information related to delivery can help create an excellent database for client references in the future.

Are your Q&A pairs going unused?

RFPIO’s Q&A pairs is one of the most exciting features on the platform. Users can upload any type of document and customize it to suit their needs. In addition, you can edit and store content in almost 20 languages. In other words, the majority of what you need to respond to an RFP is right there, at your fingertips, and best of all, RFPIO is consistently learning.

How often do you manually respond to RFPs?

Sometimes, old habits die hard. Perhaps response managers feel they need to manually respond to justify their worth. RFPIO doesn’t want anyone to lose their job; we want to help them be more productive and respond to the RFPs they might not have had time for before automation.

How often do you automatically respond to RFPs?

RFPIO makes the RFP response process easy through near-total automation. Sure, some questions require at least partially manual responses to push the RFP over the finish line, but RFPIO will take you as much as 80 percent of the way toward full automation

If you aren’t automatically responding to every RFP that is worth a bid, we would love to hear from you and see how RFPIO will make the response process faster, less expensive, and, dare I say, enjoyable. 

How do you utilize your Answer Library?

I’ll bet you that you’ve answered most questions on each RFP multiple times – perhaps for other customers. Utilize the Answer Library to let RFPIO take care of the redundant and tedious aspects of response management. 

Is your Answer Library content relevant and up to date?

Perhaps the most common feedback we get, especially from companies that aren’t fully utilizing RFPIO, is that they’re hesitant to use the Answer Library because they haven’t audited it. Hence, their content isn’t up to date. I get that. It seems daunting to audit and update answers, but it’s not, and you can’t beat the long-term benefits.

Here at RFPIO, we refer to auditing the Answer Library as getting rid of the ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial content). Here is a simple guideline to take you through the process. 

I get it if you’re worried about deleting information you’ll need one day. Who hasn’t thrown something away in a fit of cleaning, only to need it the next day? Instead of deleting that information, you can warehouse it in case you might need it again in the future.

Are you utilizing your subject matter experts?

Subject Matter Experts (SME), which we sometimes pronounce “smee,” are, as the name implies, experts in proposals, sales, marketing, etc. Your SMEs might be experts on your organization or in their fields in general. They’re the people you turn to when you don’t know how to answer a particular question.

Do you have a moderation process?

Do you have a moderation process? Is the moderation process documented? When was the last time you checked the moderation’s organization settings? Does the content have owners and review cycles? How do you ensure your library is free of redundant, outdated, and trivial content?

The RFPIO features that help keep your content organized and current

Answer Library Insights Report

Here’s a tip: Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s answer library, I start with the Answer Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Answer Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

This report is an excellent way to see what can be easily archived: Q&A pairs that you don’t use or pairs with a star rating of less than 3. This report can also help see if Owners are becoming inundated with reviews. Maybe you can reassign Q&A pairs to another SME.

I recommend customers look at the Answer Library Insights Report and the Executive Dashboard routinely. Use them both to guide your content strategy and look for improvements.

Additionally, you may want to evaluate where you can use merge tags more. While a lot of our customers are familiar with the use of merge tags to replace a client or a company name in a proposal, did you know you can use merge tags for content that gets updated frequently? For example, track the number of employees in your organization or clients who use a specific product version. Updating that number once in the organization settings will reflect wherever the merge tag is used in your library and carry over into the project.

Lastly, many of our customers add on custom reporting to help guide their strategy. It allows for more in-depth reporting of custom fields and usage. I have seen customers use this feature to determine areas where they may need more content developed in their library.

Executive Dashboard

You never want to leave your response management team guessing. The Executive Dashboard provides your team insights at-a-glance. The dashboard tracks the lifecycle of your RFP from the time it’s received until it’s archived.

The Executive Dashboard lets users create reports, such as RFP viability, based on similar bids from the past. In addition, managers can pull win/loss analysis, average completion time, and identify the top contributors. 

If this blog post inspired you and you want to dive deeper into your workflow or content management strategy, RFPIO’s Professional Services Team can help! As an RFPIO customer, you can purchase bundles of Professional Services hours for specific projects and initiatives. You’ll work alongside a Professional Services consultant like myself for the entirety of your engagement. Reach out to your customer success manager or account manager, and they’ll connect you with a member of my team who can scope your project.

 

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 1

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 1

You have probably heard the expression that you can’t win if you don’t play. The business equivalent of not playing is failing to respond to an RFP. You might ask what that has to do with you and your response management team. After all, your team responds to every RFP that comes their way, right?

Playing to win requires more than filling in the blanks, however. It requires updated and defined RFP response processes to maximize efficiency and accuracy while saving time and company resources – all with the ultimate goal of winning the bid!

This article will discuss the revenue-driving and resource-saving Association for Proposal Management Professional (APMP) best practices for updating and defining your organization’s response management process.

End-to-end processes help future-proof your RFP response flow.

Organizations that consistently follow a defined business development process win more business and use fewer investment resources. ~ Association of Proposal Management Professionals  

If your company is anything like ours, and I’m sure it is, you have dozens, if not hundreds, of distinct personalities and work styles. You also have attrition, onboarding, PTO, etc. Yet surprisingly, you rarely devolve into chaos.

Why is that? It’s because you’ve established defined processes. So if, for example, a client calls with questions for their customer service rep who’s out of the office, your CRM will arm everyone else in the department with the information they need to answer the questions. 

CRMs are great at helping define processes, and so is RFPIO.

Do you have a defined response management process?

If you won the lottery today, would someone be able to pick up your job tomorrow? How fast will it take your replacement to ramp up?

According to the APMP, every organization should design its own end-to-end process suited to its organization and customers.

Sure, we’d all like to feel indispensable, but if we are the exclusive key holders to critical processes, we’re doing a huge disservice to our companies. I would even argue that the best employees, at least those whose values align with their organizations, are transparent about their work processes. 

In turn, the best-run organizations have processes to ensure that when an RFP manager takes a day or week off, or even leaves, it won’t derail responses. 

If you have a defined process, have you recently reevaluated your processes?

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s change. Just a little over two years ago, remote work was relatively rare. Then, everything suddenly turned upside down, and we all needed to adapt. 

Guess what? We did, at least for the most part, and the world didn’t implode. I don’t think it’s a giant leap to say that defined processes kept the economy humming, despite unforeseen challenges. Defined processes certainly helped keep RFPIO thriving, but only because we regularly reevaluate them.

In the software industry, especially in SaaS, things change quickly. At RFPIO, we have to be agile. As our customers’ needs change, so must we. When the market or regulatory environment changes, we have to adapt. That’s why we have new releases almost monthly. 

**It only takes about 15 minutes each month to learn about the new features.**

Of course, defining your processes requires more than updating software. Do you regularly interact with your subject matter experts? Do you ask them for feedback on your Answer Library? If you don’t, your subject matter experts may be frustrated, but they may start to feel heard by opening the door to collaboration. Also, they’re a potential wealth of ideas. 

After speaking with the experts, bring your Customer Success Manager into the fold. Ask them about the challenges they have run across. They might have solutions that they’ve previously been reluctant to mention.

How to identify a response management black hole

In an ideal world, we’d have months to respond to each RFP. But, unfortunately, that’s rare. Often, we have two weeks or less. I’ve even seen two days! But, thankfully, that’s also rare. 

How often does this scenario happen: The RFP landed in your inbox just days before it was due, but you saw that it was issued weeks earlier! 

Obviously, two days is an extreme example. A more common scenario might look something like this: The RFP was issued two months ago. It sat somewhere, untouched, for weeks. Then, just as you were confident you were on track for all your deadlines, the RFP lands on your lap, and it’s due by the end of the week. 

The fact is, you can’t win them all. So when buried under an avalanche of response deadlines, many companies choose to triage, or employ the bid/no-bid strategy, where you bid the RFPs with the higher win rates and let the less viable opportunities go. 

But what if the RFP that sat in the pipeline for weeks has a high win rate? What happened to the RFP during those weeks? Where is that black hole, and how can you plug it? Let’s see if we can help you identify the problem(s) and help you create a bid/no-bid strategy with this attached downloadable worksheet.

In the second of our two-part series, we’ll explore the tools RFPIO provides to help scale your response management process and, of course, win those bids!

In the meantime, let us know if you’d like to learn more about RFPIO and how we can help you scale your response management process.

Using automation to drive presales productivity

Using automation to drive presales productivity

When a prospect has a question that requires technical knowledge, it almost always falls to a presales engineer to answer.

It’s your job to fill in any gaps in knowledge the sales team has and make sure every prospect has the answers they need. But at many organizations, the number of people that have the mix of technical knowledge and sales skills to answer those questions doesn’t match the level of need.

That leaves the presales team scrambling to balance an overwhelming list of responsibilities. And taking your time rarely feels like an option—a slow response could put an important deal at risk. As a result, many solutions engineers and other presales professionals feel relegated to checking off an unending list of in-the-weeds tasks instead of building toward strategic relevance—for customer expectations and revenue generation. Somehow, you need a way to do more with less.

There are many tools designed to help presales increase productivity. Some of my favorites include:

  • Vivun: AI platform helps track everything presales does to influence sales and product development.
  • Consensus: Next-level video-creation platform helps increase customization and interactivity.
  • Demoflow: Demo management tool helps make even the most complex demo appear seamless.

Then, of course, there’s the underlying presales automation that makes it possible to efficiently work with the knowledge that drives all of these other applications.

3 ways to use presales automation

The work the presales team does is integral to the sales process, and the specialized skill set required means no one else can do it. But that doesn’t mean there’s no way to take the load off.

Think about it: a lot of the work you do now is redundant. How many questions do you field that you’ve already crafted a perfect answer to in the past? How often do you return to a familiar script during a demo? And how much time do you spend on lengthy proposals that ask many of the same questions? You’re probably pretty tired of repeating yourself.

A smart approach to presales automation can save you from all that repetition in a few main ways.

1. Use AI-powered knowledge management software to make answers easy to find.

A lot of the answers you’ve given before exist somewhere—maybe as one of thousands of emails in your sent folder, or in an old demo recording no one’s bothered to revisit. If finding it takes more work than starting from scratch on a new answer, you’ll just end up doing the work over again.

So start capturing that content in a knowledge base. Knowledge management software employs AI to make the best answers accessible the moment they’re needed. For presales engineers, that makes it easier to find content you’ve created each time you need to re-use it for a new customer query or demo preparation.

But beyond that, all your answers become accessible to other internal teams as well. When a sales representative encounters a question too technical to answer on their own, instead of automatically coming to you, they can check the knowledge base. If the answer they need is there, they won’t need to involve presales at all. A self-service option makes their jobs easier, which helps improve the overall relationship between sales and presales.

The same thing goes for the customer support team. With the right knowledge management functionality, they can provide accurate answers to technical questions without having to wait on you. That means faster responses, a better customer experience, and less work for presales.

2. Automate proposal development.

Proposals are frequently an important part of winning new deals, but they take hours of work to complete. Some of the proposal process should be personalized. Customization is a big part of setting yourself apart from competitors and proving your product’s worth. But often, the time it takes to complete a proposal at all means you’re scrambling to cover the basics, leaving little time leftover for the personal touches that increase win rates.

When you have a solid knowledge management system that is accessible from all the software applications where presales engineers already work, you can offload a lot of proposal creation to automation technology. Software can recognize which questions it has seen before, pull from the stored bank of answers, and fill relevant information in automatically. Then all you need to do is review the answers for accuracy, and focus on the parts of the proposal that benefit most from customization.

According to the 2021 RFPIO Benchmark Report, 84% of companies that use RFP software spend more time personalizing proposals, and still submit 43% more proposals than companies that don’t. By bringing automation into the process, one RFPIO client cut a proposal process that typically lasted around a month to one that takes a week and a half and requires fewer people.

3. Automatically gather data on the process.

When you’re in the thick of doing work day after day, it’s hard to see the processes and tactics you’re using clearly. And creating extra processes to track and monitor your actions and results would add more to your already overwhelming workload.

The software you use to do your job each day can automatically track data on how you work, what types of resources you use, and how that all ties back to the results you get. Technology can monitor processes and output to identify common bottlenecks. If proposals or deals are typically held up because of something preventable, tech can help you catch it and change things. Technology can also spot trends in which proposals you typically win and lose, and give you a better idea of which are worth your time.

And all that tracking happens automatically in the background, so you don’t have to do anything extra in your job except review analytics for insights.

Automation provides room for innovation

The idea of trusting technology to do tasks you’re used to doing yourself could feel risky at first. You’re in this role because you have specific skills and knowledge that no software product can replicate. The value of automation isn’t that it replaces those specialized skills—it doesn’t—it’s that it helps you do your job more efficiently and effectively.

When you cut down on repetitive, tedious tasks, you win time back for doing more of the work that only you can do—the kind that involves creativity and leads to innovation. The result is a more successful sales process, better relationships with other internal teams, and more space to do the work that provides satisfaction.

If you’re ready to increase presales productivity while improving morale, schedule a demo today.

Why Business Units are best for visibility and control

Why Business Units are best for visibility and control

If you’ve attended an RFPIO webinar or conference recently—or read the Freedom to Thrive white paper—then you’ve heard us mention RFPIO’s ability to break down silos. If you’re an RFPIO customer, then hopefully you’re already living the silo-flattening dream.

Through knowledge management in the Answer Library and Document Library, in-app collaboration and project management tools, and real-time accessibility by way of RFPIO® LookUp to all of this content, silos can be reduced to rubble. Greater efficiency and productivity ensue, correlating quickly to improved response quality and increased win rates.

Nevertheless, sometimes separation is a good thing. Whether it’s for security or compliance purposes, or even perhaps geographic locations, there are RFPIO customers who want greater control and visibility. For this, we have Business Units.

“RFPIO’s enterprise-level capabilities enable multiple business units, including partners, to collaborate on a single platform. It also reduces communication channels during the proposal development process.”
-Page Snider, Director of Business Program Management, Microsoft Consulting Services What are Business Units?

Business Units (BUs) allow you to create distinct operating units within a single RFPIO instance. Think of them like individual villages within a kingdom. These BUs give you the control in keeping people, projects, and content confined to a specific BU, but also allow you to share any of those across your instance to another BU. User profiles remain unchanged as they’re shared with each Business Unit. Additionally, advanced features are available to provide cross-unit functionality across your entire enterprise.

While Collections pertain to simply restricting content, and complete separate RFPIO instances provide no collaboration between people on projects and content, Business Units can provide a level of control and collaboration to fit any growing enterprise business.

When should you use Business Units?

Software business units are quite common in enterprises, but they’re growing in popularity with small- and mid-sized businesses, too. Prior to the pandemic, it was standard operating procedure for sales teams to work remotely while marketing, InfoSec, and customer support worked onsite. With the trend toward hybrid and fully remote work for all teams, content accessibility and control—as well as visibility into how it’s used (or not used)—has rocketed up the priority list for many companies.

For businesses of any size, there are 3 typical use cases for Business Units.

Use case #1: Separate cost centers or business groups

Business Units are most often separated by business group (Marketing, Sales, etc.) or region (EMEA, NAM, LATAM, etc.).

Business unit - cost center

Many RFPIO customers start with two Business Units, separating InfoSec content from all other content that responders will be sharing with prospects, customers, analysts, or investors.

Regional separation would mean your organization wants a Business Unit for each GEO where business is conducted. Factors such as language and compliance weigh heavily into the determination to split an RFPIO instance into Business Units according to GEO boundaries.

business units - GEO

Use case #2: Mergers

The mergers and acquisitions trend in 2021 was off the charts, and it doesn’t appear to be letting up in 2022. According to Wolters Kluwer, the U.S. saw a record $2.9 trillion in transactions (up 55% from $1.9 trillion in 2020). As RFPIO grows in popularity (250K users and counting…) and response management gains traction as an integral part of the sales tech stack, it’s more and more likely that mergers will take place between businesses that are each running their own RFPIO instances.

When a merger occurs with two businesses that both use RFPIO, it’s certainly an option to maintain the two separate instances. However, if you want more control and visibility, then you can convert one instance into the primary instance and then add the team or teams from the other company as a Business Unit.

Use case #3: Projects portion control

Depending on how your business operates and is structured, separate teams may need different numbers of active projects enabled in RFPIO. Whereas you have a set number of active projects in a single RFPIO instance—50, for example—without Business Units it’s a free-for-all for teams to use those projects. If you find that one or two teams are constantly clamoring for additional active projects, then Business Units can help set aside a suitable amount of active projects for those teams.

Let’s take the example of a single RFPIO instance with 50 active projects. In the case of a software business, sales and InfoSec may need more active projects than marketing and customer support. Business Units can allocate projects to meet each department’s needs: 15 for sales, 15 for InfoSec, 10 for marketing, and 10 for customer support.

business units project allocation

What are the benefits of Business Units?

Primarily, project control and content visibility, which result in additional benefits, including:

  • Ability to scale RFPIO across multiple departments to increase win probability and close deals faster.
  • Rolled-up reporting allows for the most comprehensive visibility available for your RFPIO instance.
  • Identify areas that may need more project management support (we see this a lot in InfoSec).
  • Allow for greater content detail and answer accuracy, and, ultimately, a more robust content repository (which pays off when you need to share content across multiple Business Units).
  • Better, granular visibility into projects, people, and content in each Business Unit but still administered within a single RFPIO instance.

Cross-Business-Unit collaboration is something that we’ve seen more as use cases for BUs have evolved. For example, projects can be shared across Business Units. Say you’re running an InfoSec Business Unit project and you notice that some of the questions may be mapped to brand messaging, which would better be handled by someone in marketing. Share that project to the marketing Business Unit to 1) delegate to a suitable subject matter expert, and 2) ensure that you’re delivering the best possible response. There are some user permissions at play, but it’s certainly possible.

Here’s a real-world benefit example from an RFPIO customer I worked with. This client had a Business Unit for North American and another for EMEA. They wanted Business Units so that EMEA could more effectively track its project workflow and would not have to wait to be granted projects from a global team managing the original single instance.

Teams, content, and templates (by language) were separated. Leaders from both GEOs were connected, however, and collaborated on strategic initiatives. They set up the roll-up reporting so that executives could more effectively track time savings to determine how many more opportunities the EMEA team could pursue.

How do you know if you need Business Units with your RFPIO instance?

Review these 6 questions. If you answer “yes” to any of them, then schedule a consultation to see if Business Units may be a good option for you:

  • Do multiple teams/departments/cost centers use RFPIO?
  • Do you want to expand RFPIO in your organization?
  • Do you have RFPIO users located in multiple GEOs?
  • Do you respond to bids, RFx, security questionnaires, or other external requests in multiple languages?
  • Do you have a single executive stakeholder or team that reviews the effectiveness of RFPIO in the enterprise?
  • Have you merged, or are you planning to merge with a company that is also using RFPIO or RFP360?

If you’re still not sure but want to know more about Business Units, you can review my webinar in the Help Center if you’re an RFPIO customer.

The proposal manager’s success guide for stronger RFPs

The proposal manager’s success guide for stronger RFPs

You are the glue holding everything together for a critically important process. Winning an RFP means winning new business. It’s that simple. What isn’t simple is how you get to that win.

Responding to RFPs isn’t always a high priority for other teams at your organization. Your email gets ignored. The deadline is missed. Shinier work wins their attention over an RFP most of the time. But, for you, proposal manager? RFP response makes up a significant (too significant, sometimes?) part of your world.

Rest easy, hard-working proposal manager. A hyper-efficient response management process is now absolutely possible with the right technology. Best-in-class organizations know this already and they are choosing proposal management tools like RFP software to support their efforts.

By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll understand that:

  1. A manual approach to RFP response used to be the inefficient norm
  2. AI-enabled technology is making the proposal management role more important that ever across organizations
  3. Proposal managers find the support they need in RFP software
  4. Each RFP project’s import and export is a time-savings opportunity
  5. Better RFP project management is possible with the right tools
  6. Knowledge sharing makes your organization more successful
  7. You have the power to lead a stronger RFP response process

proposal manager role

Source: APMP U.S. Compensation Report

What does a proposal manager do?

If you’re like most of the proposal managers I know, you have days when the more appropriate question is, “What do proposal managers not do?” Sometimes it feels like you’re the symphony conductor as well as every musician in the orchestra, pinballing around from instrument to instrument, struggling to achieve a harmony that seems just out of reach.

There are survival guides out there that help you wrangle the RFP process. This is different…this is your success guide.

By taking time out of your hectic day to read this guide, you’ve already made the choice to become the kind of proposal manager that leads your organization to greater heights with RFP response. Let’s discuss how to make it all happen with the most advanced proposal management tools you can get your hands on.

Life for proposal managers during the pre-technology era

Once upon time, there were no proposal management tools. For the sake of this dramatization, we’ll call it the Dark Ages for RFP responders.

The plague was an inefficient manual process, one involving complex spreadsheets and documents that infected the health of entire organizations. Responding to RFPs took too long to complete and deadlines were inevitably missed.

SMEs (subject matter experts) and proposal managers found it difficult to collaborate. They rushed the deliverable and submitted outdated, boilerplate responses instead of customizing the strongest possible content for each prospect.

Eventually this plague of RFP inefficiency caused a famine for organizations. They responded to fewer RFPs, and they did not win the RFPs they did submit. No matter how hard the proposal managers tried, they couldn’t manage on their own.

“Boilerplate responses end up providing generic, basic, and bland information. They do not help the team win proposals. In fact, over-reliance on boilerplate responses can actually decrease pWin (Probability of Win).” – Kevin Switaj  

What does a proposal manager do when backed by AI?

Thankfully, we’re not in the Dark Ages anymore. There is a wealth of technology available to support the RFP response process. However, a surprising 84% of proposal managers are still using a manual approach with RFPs today. The question is: Why?

manage rfps

As with many other industries, technology is causing an important shift in the proposal management industry, empowering teams to be more successful. Technology allows proposal managers to:

  • Do more with less and become experts at efficiency. “Doing more” might mean the ability to submit more RFPs, which translates to additional opportunities for generating revenue. The “with less” part of this equation might mean fewer hours required from SMEs to pursue these opportunities.
  • Establish a collaborative ecosystem that works. Collaboration is a necessary step in every RFP project. Having an easier way to communicate makes the entire process run smoother, whether you need to ask sales to contribute to a section or ping marketing for the final buff and polish.
  • Achieve more quality control, and more wins as a result. Quality responses separate winning organizations from the rest of the herd during vendor selection. More time to focus on creating the best content will help you stand out as the partner that cares, versus another who cuts corners.

The initial investment into a proposal management system is ultimately worth it when the organization saves time and resources. With a good solution, typically these benefits are visible as early as the first RFP project. Response teams see an immediate increase in productivity, so they can do more of their best work.

Technology also can prevent the need to send countless emails back and forth, reduce the number of internal meetings, and facilitate final content review and approval by the response manager.” – Steve Silver, Forrester Research

How proposal managers lead the charge with RFP response

You’ve probably heard some negative things about RFPs from your peers and colleagues. It’s common for professionals to dislike RFP projects because of the inefficiencies they have faced firsthand over the years.

But, the importance of responding to RFPs cannot be stressed enough—they are a must for any growing organization. If you want more sales wins, you have to do the work. And, teams have to work together.

But those teams need a leader. Organizations with dedicated proposal managers submit up to 3.5x more responses than those without. Give those proposal managers RFP-specific technology and they can submit 43% more proposals per year than those not using RFP-specific technology.

All the more reason to get the support you need to handle everything, right? RFP software helps you with:

  1. Importing and Exporting – Importing from any file source (yes, even PDFs and spreadsheets) and exporting back into the original source or customized template allows you to focus on a quality deliverable.
  2. Knowledge Sharing – Bringing greater accessibility to company information not only promotes collaboration on RFP projects, it also breaks down document silos across departments and even the organization.
  3. Project Management – Being able to track real-time progress of RFx completion helps you see when sections are being taken care of. Communication with SMEs is quicker without email, since you can use @-mentioning and Slack.

It’s not easy to be in your shoes, dear proposal manager. You handle the complexities of RFP responses and it’s up to you to keep your team motivated. If you bring in a proposal management tool to support your RFP response process, then your job becomes a lot easier.

Start each RFP project right and finish brilliantly

The bane of pretty much any proposal manager’s existence is the import and export process with RFP responses. When an RFP lands in your inbox, it should be cause for rejoice. Responding to an RFP is a chance to win new business, after all.

Yet, when starting an RFP project, you’re working with a source document that could be anything from a long-winded Excel spreadsheet to a pesky PDF. Copying and pasting, organizing and filtering suddenly fill your days as you try to ready the documents for your SMEs.

It’s the end of the RFP project, now you’re ready to rejoice. Or, so you thought…now it’s time to export everyone’s responses back into the prospect’s source file.

Exporting is the stage where hours slip by as formatting blunders take over the Wednesday evening you were hoping to spend at home cooking dinner with the family. Instead, even though you thought you had this project under control, you’re at the office trying to submit an RFP right before the deadline.

proposal manager hours worked

Source: APMP U.S. Compensation Report

How RFP software makes importing and exporting easier…

Every import and export is actually a time-savings opportunity.

Finding content and information is a significant productivity obstacle for sales teams.” – Phil Harrell, Forrester Research

RFP software allows you to start your RFP project off on the right foot by importing effectively from any source—docs, spreadsheets, even PDFs (RFPIO is the only solution that imports PDFs). Instead of copying and pasting like crazy, you can simply pull the source document right into the platform and start organizing and assigning sections to SMEs.

Exporting back into the original source or a template of your choosing ensures consistency with your deliverable, without the manual labor.

We’ve heard plenty of disheartening stories from proposal managers who stay after-hours or work weekends to submit an RFP before the deadline. With the exporting capabilities you enjoy with RFP software, you will dramatically speed up this process so you can have more work-life balance, even if you’re a one-person team.

Break information silos with easier knowledge sharing

Information silos are truly a point of weakness for any organization. When teams don’t have equal accessibility to important company content, it causes inefficiencies well beyond the RFP response process. On the flipside, organizations with centralized information promote collaboration and growth.

With RFPs, the expertise SMEs provide is indispensable. They harbor technical specs and product information that you certainly don’t know, because those details are outside your domain—not to mention, this information is practically a foreign language.

As long as SMEs contribute to RFP responses regularly, you’re fine, right? As long as they don’t leave and take that knowledge with them. Workflow is fragile business with RFPs, so you want to do everything in your power to store company information in a place where anyone can find it quickly.

How RFP software makes knowledge sharing easier…

The way we share information impacts the way we work.

RFP software promotes a culture of knowledge sharing, and ultimately strengthens communication companywide. An RFP content library eliminates document silos entirely, because it offers one place for company content to live. Instead of being in Google docs or email folders, RFP responses are organized with tags and star ratings to help you and your team find the best content in seconds.

The great thing about having all company information handy like this is how easily you can improve the quality of your content. Performing regular content audits ensures that you keep your most valuable RFP responses up-to-date and ready to grab on the go.

“Workers spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. A searchable record of knowledge can reduce, by as much as 35%, the time employees spend searching for company information.” – Mckinsey Global Institute

Better RFP project management is all yours

Effective project management is truly the heart and soul of the RFP response process. Every RFP project requires multiple team members to share their expertise, as a proposal manager only knows so much about the organization.

size of proposal organization

Source: APMP U.S. Compensation Report

This is where the SMEs come in to offer their support. But trying to track them down often proves difficult for proposal managers. SMEs are busy and they have other high-priority projects on their plates. With a manual RFP process, collaboration with team members is more challenging because much of the communication happens through email and meetings, which get missed or forgotten.

Protecting the time of your team—and your time as well—comes down to the technology you’re leveraging to achieve maximum efficiency. Here’s some good news from a survey conducted by Project Management Institute: “75% of senior executives said investing in technology to better enable project success was a high priority in their organization.”

How RFP software makes project management easier…

You don’t want to just get the job done, you want to get it done well.

Having full visibility into the RFP project means you know which SME is handling specific sections, so you can keep tasks and owners straight. With the project overview dashboard, you’ll see where SMEs are in terms of progress so you can avoid beating down their office door when the deadline is looming.

Integrations with Slack and Salesforce make communication more seamless for busy teams, with less of a chance for an important email to be missed. Fewer emails and meetings keep SMEs focused on what they need to accomplish so they can share their input and move on to other priorities.

success for proposal managers

“Without access to effective tools that support and reinforce the business development lifecycle, companies cannot maintain a managed, repeatable business acquisition process—thereby reducing their overall chances of winning business.” – APMP’s Body of Knowledge

Lead your team to success with RFP response

The proposal management industry continues to evolve with advances in technology. No longer do proposal managers need to feel alone, and no longer do SMEs need to dislike contributing to RFP projects.

Knowledge sharing and collaboration are becoming more common among organizations who recognize the need to band together to be more successful with RFP response. This improvement in teamwork positively affects multiple aspects of the business, far beyond the next RFP project.

RFP response is your business—more so than anyone else’s at your organization. Be the leader that takes charge with your RFP response process and guide your team toward greater success.

It’s time to take this success guide a step further. Schedule a demo to learn how RFPIO will make your RFP response process a mighty one.

Company wiki: How to decide if it’s right for your business

Company wiki: How to decide if it’s right for your business

A prospect sends over a question and you know you’ve answered it before. You already took time getting the answer just right. Now you either have to dig through old emails and notes, or try to recreate that answer. Either way, you’re wasting time duplicating work.

That’s frustrating from an individual perspective, but consider how many other employees have gone through this exact same process—some for that same question. In a recent analysis, Asana found that employees spend over four hours a week on this kind of duplicate work.

One way to get some of that time back is a company wiki.

What is a Company Wiki?

A company wiki, sometimes called a corporate wiki or business wiki, is a type of software that serves as a central repository of company knowledge. It works much like Wikipedia, the most widely known wiki example, in that anyone in the company can contribute. Employees can add articles as new information arises and questions come up, and can edit the information already there to improve accuracy.

54% of professionals said they spend more time searching for documents and files they need than responding to emails and messages. Wakefield Research

4 Benefits of a Corporate Wiki

1. It saves time.

Every minute an employee spends on a work task is one the company’s paying them for, so efficiency matters. In a survey by Wakefield Research, 54% of professionals said they spend more time searching for documents and files they need than responding to emails and messages. A wiki gives employees a faster way to find the information they need, giving them back time for work that’s more valuable.

2. It makes knowledge creation democratic.

Anyone at the company can add information to the wiki, or update an article to improve accuracy. A wiki isn’t a top-down approach. Information about products, processes, and common customer questions can come directly from the people whose jobs are most connected to that knowledge.

3. It enables knowledge sharing.

Someone in your company has written the best possible response to a common question. That response shouldn’t get lost once they press “send” on an email. A wiki allows you to capture every valuable piece of knowledge someone in the company produces so that others can take advantage of it.

4. It supports employee onboarding.

Finding the right candidates is always a challenge, but harder in 2022 than usual. When you find the right hire, you don’t want to lose them. Yet many companies fail to start the relationship right, with 58% of respondents in a Nintex survey saying they’ve encountered broken onboarding processes. 55% specifically mentioned issues accessing the tools and documents required to do their jobs. A well organized wiki collects the main training materials they need in one place so they can start doing their jobs faster.

How Can Companies Use a Company Wiki?

A company wiki can benefit employees across departments. For the customer support team, it provides a central repository of the best responses to common customer questions and issues. For the sales team, it can be a good place to store up-to-date sales enablement materials that make it easier to close deals. And as already mentioned, it’s a great place to keep the information that new hires need to get up to speed during the training process.

Go Beyond a Company Wiki: Get an Internal Knowledge Base

While a company wiki can offer a lot of benefits, it’s not necessarily the best tool for the job. You can get everything a company wiki offers and then some by investing in an internal knowledge base.

A good internal knowledge base offers:

  • Knowledge management features – Recording knowledge is just one part of the equation, you also need it to be easy for the right people to find when they need it. An internal knowledge base has features to aid in organization and findability, such as tags, collections, custom fields, and advanced search functionality.
  • Official department-specific content – There’s a downside to the democratic nature of wikis. When anyone can edit a page, you could end up with information that’s inaccurate or outdated. With an internal knowledge base you can make sure that all information is pre-approved by the right experts, and also organize it by department so employees can find the right information for their needs.
  • Top-level security features – A knowledge base software that promises high-level security features is one you can use for sensitive content like proprietary knowledge and legal information. And if it offers user permissions, you can make sure employees only have access to the information they need, keeping internal data more secure.
  • Collaboration features – A knowledge base with collaboration features allows you to communicate in the same tool where the information lives. Employees can tag each other and add comments.
  • Broad compatibility – An internal knowledge base that works seamlessly with all your other main tools will be much more useful (and more used). You can easily pull in content you’ve already created, and ensure employees can access knowledge from the tools they already spend their time in, like Slack, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Office.

RFPIO promises all these features to aid in knowledge management, and goes a couple steps further. It uses AI technology to make finding information the moment it’s needed even faster, and makes your proposal team’s lives easier by automating much of the proposal process. Additionally, you can give all frontline responders access to your company’s best knowledge in RFPIO’s Answer Library with RFPIO LookUp. Using RFPIO LookUp, they can securely search your Answer Library without having to toggle out of their browser or CRM.

All of that adds up to more knowledgeable employees, countless hours saved, and a higher win rate on sales and proposals. To learn more about how to gain those benefits, set up a demo today.

4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

Lack of clarity creates challenges — especially when filling out security questionnaires. When it’s unclear who needs to fill them out, how much detail needs to be included, and how much time it will take, each time you sit down to fill one out can feel challenging.

Luckily, there are experts who can help provide key insights into making the overall security questionnaire process faster, smarter, and stronger. Companies like RFPIO bring teams together by providing software that automates and streamlines the process of responding to a request, so you can respond with confidence to security questionnaires.

Tapping into their knowledge around complex questionnaires like RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, and more, we discovered tips you can implement in your own companies. Here are their four key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date:

1. Content Moderation

Keep your library up to date by assigning content owners and setting up regular review cycles.

Security questionnaires are often repetitive and require a manual responder to ask the same questions of their internal subject matter experts over and over again. By properly maintaining security questionnaire content, you can build confidence in your response process— advantageous when you’re under a tight deadline—and save time to get back to what you do best.

The ultimate result of good, consistent content management is winning new business. RFPIO makes it simple to set up Answer Library moderation by assigning the appropriate content owners, setting a cadence for regular review cycles, and customizing alerts for a cadence that works best for your team and organization.

2. Maintain Accuracy

Flag questions that may be out of date for review.

Accuracy is crucial in security questionnaires. If an incorrect or out-of-date response is submitted, it could cost you the sales opportunity or impact your organization’s reputation. To ensure your response is of the utmost quality and compliance, maintain accurate content and responses that articulate your current offering’s latest and greatest capabilities, and omit what is no longer accurate.

In addition to the above process of assigning content owners and setting up review cycles, we also highly recommend completing a ROT analysis as part of your content audit processes.

ROT stands for “Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial.”

  • Redundant Content is duplicate and/or similar content. If you’re using RFPIO, run a duplicate report on questions and answers, and click on “View Similar Content” to find comparable responses.
  • Outdated Content is expired or sunset content. Isolate any content not used in the last year—“expired content”—using the Advanced Search function in RFPIO. Then, identify content from products, services, and solutions that are no longer relevant—“sunset content”—using tags and/or product names.
  • Trivial Content is deal- or client-specific content. Identify trivial content by searching for specific client names.

Next, move the content you’ve identified out of your active Answer Library. We recommend storing this content in an archived collection in RFPIO, so it isn’t permanently deleted.

Including your most recent pentest data is important.
Some security controls are easier to verify than others. For example, it’s relatively easy to ask to see the results of a third-party risk assessment or penetration test that covers the OWASP Top 10 and business logic. It’s harder to prove that a particular security process or best practice is being followed.

When your client does ask to see the results of a recent pentest, your first response might be, “We don’t typically provide that information.” If they press further, you can share a high-level summary of findings, generally referred to as an attestation. Some companies will require that you share detailed findings from a pentest report, and a few may request evidence that findings have been fixed. This is where Cobalt’s customizable reports can save you some valuable time.

3. Automate Your Process

Automatically respond to long and complex questionnaires in a single click with RFPIO’s AI-enabled Answer Library.

A response management platform like RFPIO automates almost everything, helping teams cut their response time by 40-50% on average. Automation frees up your time to produce the highest quality deliverable possible—and, of course—move on to other priorities on your to-do list.

With an Answer Library full of reviewed, pruned content you can trust, use Auto Respond to quickly fill in relevant content from past responses and minimize how many questions you need to complete manually.

4. Stay Consistent

Respond to each security questionnaire using the same pre-approved and vetted content, ensuring consistency across responses.

When questionnaires are answered manually, there is a likelihood that answers won’t be consistent across different questionnaires or different SMEs writing the answers. This can cause complications during an audit process.

Consistency ensures accurate responses to compliance requirements. Ensure your gold-star, key content is present in your library by employing regular review cycles. This, in turn, ensures consistency in your responses.

This article was co-authored by and co-published with Cobalt. Cobalt provides a Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) platform that is modernizing the traditional, static penetration testing model by providing streamlined processes, developer integrations, and on-demand pentesters. Our blog is where we provide industry best practices, showcase some of our top-tier talent, and share information that’s of interest to the cybersecurity community.

Schedule a demo with RFPIO for more details on automating response to security questionnaires.

Best new product features for 2022

Best new product features for 2022

We all knew that 2021 was going to be a major upgrade to 2020. There was nowhere to go but up. But, wow, it ended up being a huge leap forward for RFPIO and our customers. Here are the 2021 RFPIO new product feature highlights that will make 2022 a banner year for all RFPIO users.

RFPIO® LookUp activated knowledge management

Answer Libraries everywhere came alive when RFPIO® LookUp released in early 2021. The ability to search your Answer Library without leaving any of these applications…

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Chromium Edge
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Google Hangouts

…put curated, response-ready knowledge at the fingertips of every RFPIO user with the integration.

“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the field. RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”
-Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft   

Autograph accelerated response and increased control

Autograph is a new standalone e-signature module, easily accessed from your RFPIO interface. With Autograph, any RFPIO user can upload and sign documents themselves or prepare and send documents for signature to colleagues or external non-RFPIO user contacts.

The RFPIO dashboard allows you to keep track of document status at a glance and maintain a record of signed documents.

Our unlimited user model means that folks elsewhere at your organization can take advantage of this. For example, contract teams and legal teams could acquire signatures on NDAs and other agreements with Autograph.

I highly recommend you give Autograph a spin in 2022 if you didn’t get a chance to try it in 2021!

Step 1: Open the document for signing

New Projects experience improved usability

We snuck this one in just under the wire in December 2021. The New Projects experience provides major upgrades to usability, including:

  • A Recent Projects bar that shows what you’ve been working on most recently.
  • New functionality to sort and filter the projects list.
  • Freedom to customize the columns displayed on the projects list.
  • The ability to customize the number of items on the page and click the left and right arrows to move through the list.
  • The new My Work option allows subject matter experts to only see questions assigned to them and move through questionnaires more quickly.
  • Customization options allow for a Projects table view that makes the most sense for you.

New Projects makes experienced users more productive and helps new users get up to speed faster.

RFPIO University launched, providing expansive online user training

With every product upgrade comes new best practices on how to get the most out of it without compromising your current experience. RFPIO University is our new platform for communicating those best practices so experienced users can easily stay up to date and new users can target what they need to learn first.

RFPIO University offers Content Management and Project Management learning paths where users can build knowledge incrementally through short online video sessions. It also includes microlearning videos for quick tips on features such as answering questions or assigning authors. The training platform is free to all RFPIO users.

RFP360 acquisition brought RFP management full circle

RFPIO closed the loop on the response management lifecycle with its acquisition of RFP360. The move strengthened RFPIO’s position as the leading provider of response management software, while expanding RFPIO’s offering to include a strategic sourcing solution, bringing to market the most efficient and proactive request for proposal (RFP) solution.

For companies that both issue and respond to RFPs, unifying purchasing and response functionality through a single provider offers many efficiencies.

Most popular customer request? Spelling & grammar check!

The most popular product update request from customers was for the ability to check spelling and grammar within RFPIO. I’m happy to say that through the basic and full rich text editor you can now scan for spelling and grammatical errors. Proofreading just got a whole lot easier!

More product update highlights from 2021

Many other updates resulted from your feedback, via the “SUBMIT IDEAS” button in the bottom left of your RFPIO UI. In fact, more than 900 updates came from you! Thank you! This process really emphasizes the value we place on community, and RFPIO wouldn’t be the G2 leader three-years running without our customer support.

Submit Ideas

To learn more about the following 2021 updates, check out my webinar. Some are now application defaults, some can be turned on or off, and some are available for an additional fee. Reach out to your account manager if you have any questions.

  • Guest Response Portal: Simplified user experience for external SMEs who need to respond to a question but don’t have an RFPIO account.
  • Microsoft Word Import/Export Formatting: Table style and list formatting now imports. Checkboxes import and export, too.
  • Answer Library Custom Field: Mark as mandatory or optional to quickly categorize and organize content.
  • Answer Library Merge Tags: Enhanced to display the value name instead of the name of the tag. For example: [ClientName] would now display the client’s actual name.
  • Rich Text Styles Toolbar: Find and apply styles easier and quicker.
  • Teams as Content Owners and Moderators: Teams can be assigned to content in the Answer Library and Document Library with content owner and moderator privileges. There’s an option to indicate if content needs to be reviewed by any team member or all team members.
  • Highspot Integration Update: As an expansion to the Highspot integration, users can now export response packages from RFPIO into Highspot.
  • Export Response Package to Cloud Storage: Responses from a project can now be saved to cloud storage services, allowing you to store the content in folders on Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.
  • Whistic Integration: If you respond to a lot of security questionnaires…from their Whistic interface an RFPIO user can select the RFPIO Create Project button to create a mirror questionnaire in RFPIO. Then, users can complete the questionnaire in RFPIO (where they can access all the curated content in their Answer Library) and when done, sync the completed questionnaire back to Whistic with the click of a button.

To learn more about all of these updates, please visit the Help Center or contact your account manager. Be sure to stop by RFPIO University for on-demand video sessions on implementing best practices around these features, including for importing, exporting, Merge Tags, and much more!

Prepare for 2022 with our top blogs from 2021

Prepare for 2022 with our top blogs from 2021

It’s that time of year again… Time to snuggle into our houses, light the fire, find a warm nook, and wait for spring.

If anyone is in the Pacific Northwest like me, you’ve probably been enjoying two solid weeks of rain. If you aren’t in the Pacific Northwest, please don’t rub it in.

As we near the end of the year, we like to reflect on the year we’re leaving behind. For our small but mighty content team, that means better understanding our readers—and seeing how we can improve for next year.

In 2021, our blog posts were viewed more than 200,000 times… a 50% increase from the same time period in 2020, when we recorded just under 150,000 views on our posts.

From those 200,000 views, we learned a lot about you, our readers.

First, you love learning, growing, and improving. Almost all of our top blogs offer strategies, templates, and best practices for up-leveling skills, streamlining processes, and improving collaboration.

Second, you’re looking for new ways to collaborate with your team (and your boss). Nearly 50% of our top blogs touch on improved processes, strategies for better collaboration, and tactics for having tough conversations with your boss.

Finally, you are careful readers. The average read time for some of our blogs is upwards of six minutes (industry average for blogs is 2-3 minutes).

With that, let’s get to the good stuff! Here are our 11 most popular blogs from 2021.

Follow along as I craft an RFP executive summary

Your executive summary needs to persuade your reader (usually an executive) that your product or service is exactly what they need to solve their problem. And you need to do it in just a few pages.

In this blog, our Senior Sales Director, Keith Norrie, shares an example of a beautifully crafted executive summary—based on the executive summary writing guidelines he outlined in the prequel to this blog, “How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing.”

Ready to home your executive summary writing skills? Read our blog(s) to learn how to write an awesome RFP executive summary that blows your reader away.

Read it now

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

​​RFPs are issued as questionnaires of up to thousands of questions and requests for specific content. If your company has a solution to the problem put forth by the issuer, then you respond with a proposal that includes all the answers and requested content.

The issuer compares your RFP response with all of the other RFP responses received from your competitors.

In order to have a chance to be on the shortlist, you have to compose an RFP response. Read this blog to learn how to put your best foot forward, every time.

Read it now

Guide to a great RFP response process

Bottom line: Responding to RFPs is easier if you have some kind of process in place. The better the process, the easier the response.

If you don’t have a process, but want one, how do you get started? If you have a process, but it’s not that great, how do you make it better?

This blog—written by Tara Konlinsky, an APMP-certified Customer Success Manager at RFPIO—answers all those questions and more.

Read it now

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

If you have an RFP process, that’s great news. You’re already a step ahead of the game.

Now you need to think about how to turn your RFP response process into the best one that ever was.

Read this blog for our 5 simple steps to create an RFP response process that others will drool over.

Read it now

E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

This year we released our snazzy new e-signature feature—and our readers wanted to learn all about it.

This blog explains what e-signature is, and how you can use Autograph to sign contracts, proposals, and all kinds of other documents.

Read it now

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How is technology aiding the request for proposal (RFP) response process? To find out, we surveyed members of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) to gain insight into current and future trends in proposal management processes across 10 industries.

If you liked this blog, keep your eyes peeled for new research debuting in 2022. 👀

Read it now

How to write a proposal cover letter [with example]

A proposal cover letter has to be short, sweet, and dense. To write a proposal cover letter with nary a wasted word, you first need to understand its strategic significance in the overall proposal.

In your proposal cover letter, you need to demonstrate you’ve reviewed the RFP requirements and that your solution meets all those requirements—that is key.

Read this blog learn how to write a proposal letter that blows your issuers away.

Read it now

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

Friction can be a good thing. With the right amount, sales and pre-sales teams share productive exchanges, respectful pushback during disagreements, and shared admiration for jobs well done on all sides.

Too much, and those relationships can quickly flare up with resentment or burn out in an unwinnable blame game. Too little, and silos develop, making collaboration difficult and agility nearly impossible.

How do you maintain that ideal level of friction? Glad you asked. Read this blog to find out.

Read it now

How to build a business case for a full-time RFP content manager

For those of us in the weeds of proposal development, it’s fairly obvious that there’s so much an RFP content manager can do for an organization.

That’s why it can be especially difficult to justify the need for one with upper management.

Read this blog to learn how you can help change mindsets that dedicated RFP content managers aren’t just a “nice-to-have”—they’re a “need-to-have”.

Read it now

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Introducing new software into your sales enablement tech stack and workflow is no joke.

As soon as I get my chance to work with the person or team in charge of deploying RFPIO, I recommend inhabiting the following mindset: “How do I set myself up for success?”

My answer? Follow 7 steps to improve user adoption. Read this blog to roll through them.

Read it now

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset, and being able to access it quickly and easily is essential to enhancing productivity and achieving goals. To make that a reality, you need to create and maintain an internal knowledge base, also known as a company knowledge base.

This is a guide to making that happen.

Read it now

How RFPIO celebrated the 2021 holiday season

How RFPIO celebrated the 2021 holiday season

It’s that time of year again. Cold weather. Warm beverages. Hot fires. And, of course, holiday parties. Since last year’s holiday party our US-based team has grown from 70 to almost 150—and our team has also spread out all across the United States.

For us, a growing team means more even more good times! Keep reading to see how we blew last year’s holiday party out of the water with even more fun activities like trivia, terrarium-making, cocktail-making, and a murder mystery.

(P.S. We’re still hiring).

Kicking off the party

We started the party with a few silly ice breakers. We asked everyone one word to describe your vibe for 2021–and a word to describe what you hope your vibe will be for 2022. The results were all over the board, although “bacon” played a big role.

After our ice breakers, we split into 3 breakout rooms: A crafty one, a booze-y one, and an interactive one.

Activity 1: Terrariums

The craftier among us broke off from the main group to pour themselves a glass of wine and put on their creative hats. A guide from Artemisa, Inc gave everyone live remote instructions on how to create their perfect terrariums. In just under an hour, the terrarium-makers had finished and wow-ed us with their masterpieces.

Activity 2: Cocktail Making

Our booze-y group made two delicious cocktails: Colleti Royale and Spanish Coffee (this involved lighting things on fire).

Here are the recipes in case you’d like to make them yourself!

Colletti Royal
1 1/2 oz Resosado Tequila
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz Blood Orange Juice (Fresh if possible)
1/2 oz Lime Juice (Fresh if possible)
2 Dashes of Orange Bitters
3 oz Sparking Rose
Blood Orange Wheel (for garnish)

Spanish Coffee
3/4 oz 151 Rum
1/4 oz Triple Sec
1 1/2 oz Kahlua Coffee Liquor
3 oz Freshly Brewed Coffee
1 Lemon for Zesting (optional)
Super Fine Sugar
Favorite Whipped Topping
Grated Cinnamon/Nutmeg (for garnish)

Activity 3: Murder Mystery

The more adventurous among us split away to solve the Manor House Mystery, one of the many murder mysteries offered by Wildly Different. After arriving on the scene, they were split into four different groups, each racing against another (and the clock) to solve the mystery in time.

They were met with many challenges along the way, including:

Making a chef’s hat from random household objects

Showing off your best “power pose”

Making a quick and foolproof disguise

But our adventurers were up to the challenge and wow-ed everyone with their cunning and resourcefulness.

Activity 4: Holiday Trivia

After everyone finished their activities and reconvened in the main room (those who had attended the cocktail class were a bit giddier than usual), and we proceeded to the next activity. We used sli.do to facilitate our 30-question holiday trivia activity.

We asked questions like, “In what country are Christmas trees decorated with spiders?” (Ukraine) and “According to Insider.com, what toy was the 1998 holiday season must-have?” (Firby—not Beanie Babies, as 30% of respondents guessed).

Activity 5: Giving Back

While this wasn’t technically part of our holiday party, a big part of the holidays at RFPIO is giving back to our community. This year, our teams adopted two families, one in Portland, OR and one in Leawood, KS. Together, we were able to provide gifts and more for both families. It’s safe to say there will be some very happy children this holiday season.

And on to 2022!

Who said virtual parties had to be lame? Certainly not us.

While the activities were fun, they wouldn’t have been nearly as fun without such a great team. I think I speak for everyone when I say I’m grateful to work alongside so many supportive, helpful, kind, and hilarious people.

With that, the team at RFPIO wishes all of you a wonderful holiday season and smooth slide into the new year.

P.S. If cocktail making and murder mysteries sound like your cup of tea, we’re hiring!

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