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The SME role explained: Subject matter expert definition and skills

The SME role explained: Subject matter expert definition and skills

A subject matter expert, often referred to as an SME, has deep knowledge of a particular topic. Within your business, […]


The SME role explained: Subject matter expert definition and skills

The SME role explained: Subject matter expert definition and skills

A subject matter expert, often referred to as an SME, has deep knowledge of a particular topic. Within your business, they’re the authority on the subject. They’re the go-to person if someone has questions. And as such, the SME role is incredibly valuable. But it can also be complicated.

If you’re a subject matter expert, it’s probably safe to say that your time is in high demand. Your niche knowledge is needed by many departments. From sales to marketing to proposal development, SMEs collaborate on a wide variety of projects. 

Taking on an SME role comes with both opportunities and challenges. On the bright side, being a subject matter expert means you’ll connect with people from all areas of your business. This is a huge advantage for career growth. Afterall, the more relied upon you are as a subject matter expert, the more visible your value is to the company. On the other hand, due to the number of people and projects they’re involved with, workloads can be challenging.

In this post, I’ll define the term subject matter expert and explore the SME role. From there, I’ll outline the responsibilities, traits and key skills of a subject matter expert. Then, I’ll share how to become a subject matter expert.

What is a subject matter expert?

To start, let’s define a subject matter expert. Simply put, a subject matter expert is the go-to authority about a particular topic. The term is often abbreviated to SME (pronounced S-M-E or “smee”). It broadly refers to any person within your business who has specialized knowledge on a topic and provides that insight to others. SMEs develop their deep understanding of a topic over years of experience, research or study.

Often, the SME role contributes to cross-functional projects as needed, but it’s not their full-time job. For example, a product development manager may be your organization’s subject matter expert on artificial intelligence. However, that’s not their primary job responsibility. Of course, this isn’t always the case. In large organizations, providing insight and specialized knowledge to internal teams may be an SME’s sole focus.

Examples of SME roles and areas of expertise

SME role examples | Table of SME titles and areas of expertiseAs you can see in these sample SME roles, the areas of expertise typically align with the person’s title. Because the type of information and depth of knowledge required is different in each business, the number of SMEs will vary widely. Regardless, each adds value with their unique knowledge of a particular subject.

Why be an SME?

Admittedly, being a subject matter expert is a lot of work. So, why do it? There are some major benefits to being a domain expert. In fact, it’s a great way to accelerate your professional development. In the last few years, SMEs have become more valuable than ever. 

In am SME role, you can:

  • Raise your profile with peers in your field of expertise
  • Leverage your reputation to become a selling point for the company
  • Increase your worth to the business
  • Elevate your role and be a part of strategic decisions
  • Become a trusted advisor

Subject matter expert job description

Being a subject matter expert is all about balancing priorities. Not only are you responsible for your primary job functions, but you also contribute to other areas of the business. 

As you might imagine, subject matter expert responsibilities change from business to business and role to role. In most cases, domain experts work with  product development, marketing and sales most often. Indeed, an SME may have a hand in the business from beginning to end. You’ll see in the example below how an SME might collaborate to create, market and sell a new product enhancement.

Consult with and advise product development

The specialized knowledge an SME has is valuable. As a subject matter expert, your body of knowledge can have a huge impact on the growth and vision of the company. Working with the product development team, SMEs offer insight on strategic initiatives and projects.

For example, a software company may have an SME in IT who is a data security analyst. Before building a new release, the company’s development team would strategize with the data security analyst. Together they would ensure that the planned enhancements align with privacy and security best practices. Alternatively, the SME may recommend strategies to avoid risk.

Educate and strategize with marketing

How can you use your domain expertise to drive revenue? Can it be a differentiator between your company and the competition? When you have the right people in SME roles, their knowledge can help you win business. Indeed, the marketing team can use SME insights to create content that attracts new prospects. This expertise is essential to ensure messaging is accurate and appealing.

Using our example from above, the data analyst can help create a blog that explains the importance of data security for target customers. And, how the company goes above and beyond to protect it. The IT SME can provide information and strategize ways to attract and sell to specific industries. In this example, the SME in IT could explore ways to educate prospective customers in the financial, government and legal sectors.

Respond to RFPs and win business with sales

As the authority on a certain subject, the SME plays a big role in the proposal team. Working with sales or the proposal manager, you create RFP responses. This RFP content answers client questions, shares win themes and communicates value. As mentioned above, the subject matter expert themselves may become a trusted customer contact or differentiator that helps to win business. 

In our final example, the same data analyst — an SME in IT ⁠— helps to answer customer questions about the company’s data security protocols. They  communicate how their policies are different from the competition, and how they reduce risk.

4 subject matter expert skills

To be successful, a subject matter expert must cultivate key skills outside of their area of expertise.

Subject matter expert competencies should include:

1. Time management

With so many responsibilities, time management is top on the list of required skills for a subject matter expert. Balancing your workload, prioritizing and task management will be an ongoing challenge.

2. Teamwork

By definition, subject matter experts work with a lot of people throughout the business. Teamwork is crucial to success. In fact, a recent survey reported that 86 percent of employees believe poor collaboration is to blame for workplace failures.

Learning and practicing key teamwork skills will make your interactions more successful. For instance, focus on rapport-building, listening, empathizing, respectfully disagreeing, collaboration and expressing appreciation.

3. Communication

Along with honing your teamwork skills, you must be an excellent communicator. You’re the domain expert, so from time to time it will be a challenge to explain more nuanced concepts to the team. Be sure to take your time, communicate clearly and give context when possible.

4. Knowledge management

Even if you have an excellent memory, you’ll occasionally need to locate your previous work, sources or documentation. Locating the right information can be time consuming. Accordingly, a McKinsey study estimated that workers spend 20 percent of their time searching for information.

If your knowledge is scattered among emails, notes and proposals you may be doing yourself a disservice. Centralizing and applying knowledge management principals to collect, catalog and reuse information saves a lot of time.

Traits of a truly great SME

The subject matter expert definition will fit a lot of people within your business. However, the most successful SMEs share these common traits.

Educated and experienced
You don’t become a domain expert by accident. In addition to experience, SMEs have a deep knowledge of the subject through formal education or self-guided learning. Consequently, the best SMEs are lifelong learners.

Observant and inquisitive
A great SME continually explores new ideas and trends. They are incurably curious about the matter they specialize in. Their knowledge is always deepening as they seek out blogs, updates and conversations about their topic.

Social and engaged
Beyond studying and tracking trends, the best SMEs actively participate in events, forums and social media groups that discuss their topic. They network and engage in conversations with other domain experts who specialize in their area.

Freethinking and innovative
Leading subject matter experts explore new ideas. They think outside of the box and look for innovative ways to leverage their knowledge. People in the SME role carefully consider common challenges and find creative ways to solve them.

Perceptive and cooperative
A great SME must not only understand their area of expertise, but they must also understand how their knowledge impacts the business. They see the big picture and often work closely with other SMEs.

Helpful and articulate
Freely-shared (and easily understood) knowledge is a marker of a great subject matter expert. The best SMEs know how to articulate even the most complicated concepts simply and clearly. Helping others understand is essential.

Precise and principled
From time to time, a business consults with the subject matter expert hoping to validate a specific strategy or approach. While remaining positive and helpful, great SMEs also maintain an unbiased, factual approach. Occasionally, this means they must advise caution about a planned action.

How to become a subject matter expert

If working with colleagues, being a trusted advisor and learning more about different areas of your business sounds good, you may be wondering how to become a subject matter expert. In your role, you already deliver a great deal of value to the projects and proposals you are involved in. So, you can shift to become a subject matter expert by extending that value. Here’s how.

Identify and grow your expertise

The first step to become a subject matter expert is to identify what topic you’re uniquely knowledgeable about. Hopefully this is immediately clear to you. If not, start by thinking about your role. What do people come to you to ask about? Are there any work-related topics you enjoy learning about? How would expertise in a specific area deliver value to your company? 

Once you’ve identified your area of expertise, it’s time to dive in. No matter how niche, there’s assuredly a wealth of information about your topic available to explore. With a simple online search, you’ll find free resources, peer networks, forums and more about your topic. As you deepen your knowledge, consider how it applies to your work. Now, share your relevant insights when appropriate with your colleagues. Becoming an SME doesn’t happen overnight. Just be patient and persistent.

Make yourself available for sales conversations

It’s no secret that getting in the door can be a challenge for your sales team. But for you, a domain expert, it might be a lot easier. Ian Altman, a strategic advisor and keynote speaker, discussed the value of including an SME in the sales process saying: 

“SMEs provide a valuable resource to discuss industry trends, share best-practices, and delve into detailed discussions about how one solution might perform better than another. Whereas traditional sales professionals have noticed increased challenges in getting in front of customers, SMEs are welcomed into the room with open arms.”

Your knowledge could open the door for your business’s next big deal. Make yourself available to the sales team when strategic opportunities arise. With this in mind, be ready to talk directly with customers and share your passion for your field of expertise. There’s no substitute for human connection.

Communicate clearly and share your preferences

When you’re brought into a project, be realistic and transparent about your prioritization and workload. For example, when responding to RFPs with tight deadlines it’s important to communicate how the proposal team can support you and when they can expect your input.

In addition, proactively share your work process and preferences. If you handle your primary responsibilities in the morning and prefer to manage your SME role via email in the afternoons, let your team know. This insight will allow your colleagues to better understand how you can successfully work together.

Understand your role

Like many SMEs, you probably struggle with overextending yourself in an attempt to be helpful. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned habit can quickly lead to burnout. It is always tempting to lend your assistance when you see an opportunity to help. I recommend using a RACI matrix as a guide for project participation.

If you know from the beginning what role you play, you will be less tempted to volunteer for additional tasks. So, as projects come your way, remember and respect your role in the process. Be an expert in your area and trust others to be experts in theirs.

Offer feedback and be a part of go-no-go conversations

While you understand the excitement of sales, you won’t have time to waste on unwinnable opportunities. When a project or request for proposal is received that heavily intersects with your domain expertise, review it with the sales team during the bid or no bid discussion.

Use your knowledge to ask questions and proactively uncover problems or concerns. Granted, you might not make the final decision, but your input helps determine if the opportunity is a fit for your business. Your respectful and thorough feedback will go a long way to help educate others for future decisions.

Be the voice of reason

As the SME you must often set realistic expectations. If you pursue a new strategy or win a bid by overpromising, it rarely works out well. By delivering accurate information on a project or in a proposal, you set the stage for success. This approach protects the company from risk, establishes a reputation for honesty and builds a foundation for future growth.

Become a mentor

Help others develop their skills in your area. Keep your eye out for colleagues who show a keen interest in your domain. Sharing your knowledge and guidance to create more domain experts can be incredibly rewarding. As they deepen their knowledge, they can put what they’ve learned to work and help lighten your burden.

Do more with a centralized knowledge library

Eventually, you’ll probably field the same questions over and over again. From product development projects to RFPs, it’s wise to have easy access to answers and input you’ve shared before.

While some SMEs use spreadsheets or cloud-collaboration tools, our favorite tool for knowledge management is RFP software

With an RFP software solution, you can store, categorize, tag and reuse your most common answers. Then, empower your proposal and project managers to use this as a self-service tool. Using the software, they can select and customize your response, but give you final approval to ensure any updates are accurate. Storing knowledge this way ensures you add value to your business even when you’re not immediately available to answer questions.

Additional SME resources

The importance of subject matter experts cannot be understated. When internal and external teams recognize your expertise, knowledge and professionalism, they will want to work with you. As a subject matter expert, you can play a significant role in the sales process, product development and the business at large. 
 
If you’re interested in more resources about and for subject matter experts, start here:
 
How to reclaim your work-life balance

How to reclaim your work-life balance

A skilled proposal manager is invaluable to their organization. They are as persuasive as the best salespeople. They are as precise as anyone in legal or finance. They nearly match their CEOs in company knowledge. They can wrangle stakeholders with techniques that rival horse herders — sans lassos. And they can turn a phrase as elegantly as Shakespeare.

That last one might be a slight exaggeration, but the ability to craft a compelling story is vital to a proposal professional’s skill set. It’s not an exaggeration to say that proposal managers are exceptionally hardworking. In fact, APMP reports that the more experienced they are, the more hours they find themselves at their office, remote or not. 

Where does that leave a proposal professional who also has (or wants) a life? How does an insanely busy proposal professional reclaim work-life balance? 

How the work world is out of balance

  • According to a recent McKinsey study, most people spend 20 percent of their time searching for content. Proposal teams and SMEs likely spend even more.
  • Many proposal teams still use manual processes and cannot reuse content.
  • Organizations cut costs in a down economy by freezing or reducing headcount.
  • All the while, proposal requests are more frequent and complex.

What the work world looks like when it’s in balance

  • Employees work normal hours
  • There’s more time to ensure quality, including doing QA, thoroughly checking responsiveness, discriminators, and so on, before submitting proposals.
  • There’s time to collaborate and work across organizations to ensure we’re putting our best foot forward.
  • We have time to use escalation matrices and responsibility matrices to keep everyone accountable and on track.
  • We’re able to gain recognition, both from the deals we win and internally from our business partners.
  • More significantly, we’re building our careers because we have time to be great at our jobs.

How to reclaim your work-life balance

External forces, such as the economy and a faster flow of more complex proposal requests, are generally out of your control. However, efficient and repeatable processes can help you free the time to manage an increased workload without working weekends.

Content management

I am passionate about content management because I believe gold-standard content makes every part of the proposal process successful. Without that, you are just running in circles. 

Incorporate these four steps into your content management process to prevent having to spend more than 20 percent of your time searching for information, and instead repurposing that time to write compelling responses — and perhaps log off at 5 p.m.

  • Designate a championA champion is a decision-maker, typically an executive or proposal manager.
  • Clean out ROTROT refers to content that’s redundant (duplicate or similar content), outdated (expired or sunsetted) or trivial (deal- or client-specific). Content library software helps ensure your library of answers is ROT-free. 
  • Respect SMEs’ time – Subject matter experts are in demand, and there’s nothing that will make them more reluctant to work with you than having to repeat themselves time and time again. An up-to-date content library lets them simply review their previous answers.
  • Automate processes – When you automate lower-value processes, it frees humans to be more productive and create more winning responses. 

Pro tip: Style your content from the very beginning using Microsoft Word. When you’re ready to use that content, it will seamlessly export to the brandable, customizable response template of your choice, as long as the style has the same naming convention. The result is an elegant document that demonstrates polish and professionalism. 

If you keep your naming conventions consistent throughout your organization, any department can import content to their preferred templates.

Content analytics

Sophisticated, customizable reporting capabilities with digestible charts and graphs provide the insights needed to improve work processes, demonstrate value, even when you regularly sign off at 5 p.m., and help craft a path for an impressive ROI. 

  • Identify/prioritize gold-standard content – Use data to holistically audit your library of content to ensure accuracy, timeliness and relevance. 
  • Measure time – Are team members using the library? Are they spending too much time searching for content?
  • Demonstrate value – Gain executive and SME buy-in by producing data that shows less time spent on crafting and recrafting faster, risk-averse responses.
  • Craft ROI path – Analyze trends to see how your current project compares to others and compares manual responses to those using stored answers that can be automated.

Building a business case for content reviews

Reclaiming work-life balance is all about prioritizing high-value activities, delegating to the right people, creating processes that work and proving that you don’t have to work 50+ hours a week to accomplish your KPIs. 

However, in austere times, organizations expect more productivity using fewer, or at least value-proven, resources. That means that their own time considerations might make SMEs deprioritize regular content audits and RFX responses, especially since response management is not their full-time job. 

Gain executive and SME buy-in, and create champions to advocate for you, through your content review processes. 

  • Choose a review cycle cadence – Work with SMEs to determine whether to review your content monthly, quarterly or annually. It usually depends on the type of content. Corporate content changes quickly, so you might schedule quarterly reviews. Review product content every 6-12 months or when there’s a new product release. Review evergreen content every 12-24 months, because even it can change.
  • Implicate risk – Communicate and implicate the risk of outdated content through content reviews. For example, using content that was customized with another customer’s name shows a lack of professionalism. Outdated or incorrect content may even present a litigation risk. 
  • Run POC with a single team/group – Rather than lobby for an organization-wide content review, start with a single team or group.
  • Demonstrate potential value – Demonstrate to SMEs that their work matters by showing how often and successfully you rely on their content.
  • AI Assistant – SMEs wear a lot of hats but they are generally not writers. Capabilities like the RFPIO AI Assistant help polish and perfect responses by:
    • Offering suggestions to help break through writer’s block
    • Elaborating on existing content as needed
    • Creating more concise responses
    • Optimizing content readability
    • Changing verbs from passive to active
    • Writing in plain language
    • Organizing content under headings 

Note that AI Assistant trains on your content library and your information will remain private within your organization. 

Collaboration and process

A rising tide lifts all ships. By bringing your team in, including SMEs, some of your salespeople, and so on, you’re building a community to successfully work within the RFPIO platform. 

  • Unify and automate – Your content library is a single source of truth, and as it continues to evolve, you build more trust from SMEs and other stakeholders. It’s a foundation for responses of all sorts throughout the organization.
  • Breakdown silos – Having a repository like the RFPIO Content Library is a company asset and valuable in every department. 
  • Achieve partnership goals – Lean into relationships and the opportunities created by those relationships.
  • Share the proposal content (by definition, your best content) love – Keep content creators happy by letting them know that their content was a key component of a response — preferably one you’ve won.

Conclusion

When usable content is not available to those who might need it, you erode trust and risk that content that hasn’t passed an audit process may be sent to prospects or others within your organization. 

With a platform like RFPIO, clean, accurate proposals presented on time and in a professional, branded format build trust and demonstrate competency. A well-curated RFPIO Content Library lets you forge and maintain relationships inside and outside of your organization. It proves your value to SMEs, executives and anyone who might need to access company information. 

And more on point, AI Assistant and a well-curated content library will help you fulfill executives’ goal of accomplishing more with less, without sacrificing your work-life balance. 

Your RFPIO Content Library is about so much more than just a resource of Q&As. It helps maintain compliance, optimize productivity, generate revenue, and gives time back to you. We invite you to request a customized demo to see how.

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

If you’ve ever responded to a request for proposal (RFP), you know the feeling of relief that comes when you finally submit the finished proposal. After all, your response is likely the product of hours of hard work spent writing, revising, designing and reviewing. And, depending on your RFP project management approach (or lack thereof), the path to creating the final proposal may have been anything but clear. Unfortunately, this is the case for many proposal teams.

Without a clear RFP project management approach, responding to RFPs is chaotic, unclear and frustrating. Even worse, the lack of organization often results in unsuccessful bids, rendering the time you invested a total waste.

RFP project management brings order to the information, tasks and people involved in the RFP response process. Furthermore, it lays the groundwork for executing a faster, easier and more effective process.

If you’re looking for an organized approach to RFP responses, look no further. This post will explore the ins and outs of RFP project management. To start, you’ll learn key definitions, why project management works well for the proposal process and common approaches to try. Then, I’ll share key steps to implementing an RFP project management strategy. Finally, I’ll provide tips and resources to ensure success.

RFP project management basics

Project management is one of the three key skills required for successful proposal management. Indeed, it is the strategy for executing the proposal process.

Project management definition

Project management, sometimes abbreviated as PM, is the practice of planning and executing defined processes that organize the actions, tools, roles and knowledge required to accomplish a specific goal.

Typically, each project has a unique goal and a set ending point. Ultimately, the purpose of project management is to improve efficiency, consistency and outcomes.

What is an RFP in project management?

In project management, RFP stands for request for proposal. An RFP is a formal request sent from a buyer to potential vendors seeking a product, service or solution. 

The RFP document asks all vendors the same questions. Then, interested vendors submit their answers in a proposal document for consideration. This approach promotes transparency and fairness while enabling buyers to make data-driven purchasing decisions using consistent criteria.

How project management principles apply to RFPs?

There’s no way around it, RFPs are notoriously difficult to manage. There are dozens of elements to organize. And, they are a key element of business growth. Despite their importance, the same challenges arise over and over again. Typically, the core of the problem is a lack of communication and accountability, making project management and RFPs a natural match. 

Requests for proposals are projects with a set beginning and end. In addition, the many tools, people and actions required to accomplish the end goal must come together in the right order at the right time. Consequently, project management creates a helpful framework for organizing the RFP response process.

What does an RFP project manager do?

Many most successful proposal coordinators share similar duties and skill sets that make them particularly effective at proposal management.

Effective RFP project managers are:

  • Team leaders
  • Highly organized
  • Critical thinkers
  • Detail oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Creative problem solvers
  • Patient
  • Communicative
  • Strategy focused

Proposal project manager responsibilities

Within the RFP response project, the proposal manager acts as the project manager. Consequently, they are ultimately responsible for the completion and on-time delivery of the proposal. However, there are a number of other responsibilities that they perform. 

Proposal project manager duties

  • Act as an advocate for the organization – If, at any point, the desired outcome is no longer achievable, it’s the PM’s responsibility to cut losses and move on or escalate the problem to executive management.
  • Gather and aggregate intelligence – From summarizing the capture management plan to collecting and inserting answers from subject matter experts (SMEs), the proposal manager brings it all together.
  • Facilitate team meetings – The project manager schedules meetings and creates the agenda. For example, they run the kick off, update, review and debrief meetings.
  • Establish and communicate expectations – The RFP response timeline is created and enforced by the proposal project manager. For instance, they set touch points and milestones to ensure on-time final proposal delivery.
  • Solve problems that arise – As the project manager, they are responsible for clearing roadblocks, managing bottlenecks, bridging communication gaps and correcting blindspots. Essentially, they do whatever it takes to keep the project moving forward.
  • Facilitate communication between steps – The proposal project manager ensures that tasks with chronological dependencies move forward to the next person promptly. If your process is manual, that may be an email notification. Alternatively if you use RFP response software, those task notifications are managed by proposal automation.
  • Act as the buyer’s point of contact – To centralize communications between your organization and the buyer, the proposal manager acts as the primary point of contact. As such, they ask which elements of the RFP are most important to the evaluators, request scoring and evaluation information, seek feedback about lost opportunities and request evaluation scoring information.
  • Verify the proposal is compliant – The project manager is responsible for ensuring that the proposal meets the RFP evaluation criteria and requirements before approving the final draft.

Benefits of RFP project management and common approaches

Project management defines the goal, and provides a step-by-step guide plan to reach that goal. Because it breaks down the project into individual tasks, deliverables and workflows, it’s much easier to manage. But, these aren’t the only benefits of RFP project management.

How project management improves the proposal process

  • Ensures team alignment and defines objectives
  • Improves process predictability
  • Enhances clarity between teams by defining RFP terminology
  • Provides quick updates for inquiring executive leaders
  • Promotes consistency that enables data capture and optimization
  • Creates an organized approach, making responding to unknown factors easier
  • Enables fast adaptation to challenges by identifying impacted parties
  • Reduces the risk of including inaccurate, unapproved or unreviewed responses
  • Improves understanding of the meaning and intent of RFP questions

Common RFP project management strategies

Project management practices evolved over the years as business strategies and technology advanced. If finding the right approach for your team feels overwhelming, consider asking your proposal colleagues and fellow project managers for insight on the strategies they prefer. Alternatively, you can start by exploring three of the most popular approaches for RFPs below.

RACI Matrix

A good choice for teams that struggle to know who is doing what.

An RFP RACI matrix focuses on identifying the roles required to complete each task within the project. Indeed, the RACI acronym represents each of the roles and stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. For example, when answering new questions in an RFP, the proposal manager is often the person responsible, a subject matter expert would be accountable, a stakeholder or sales person may be consulted and an executive would be informed.

Proposal timeline/Gantt chart

A good choice for teams that struggle with deadlines.

The proposal timeline and Gantt chart approach illustrates the order and timing of tasks at a glance. Generally, the proposal timeline gives an overview of the process and remains the same through the completion of the project. On the other hand, a Gantt chart details the timing and progress of individual tasks. Consequently, many teams use both tools in tandem.

Project implementation plan

A good choice for proposal teams that frequently include members new to RFPs.

The detail included in a proposal project implementation plan helps new stakeholders and subject matter experts navigate the process. This RFP project management approach focuses on providing context, detail and instructions for success. Furthermore, it guides contributors through the process and offers more background information than other approaches.

Additional project management approaches

Here are three more project management approaches that you may have heard of and could adapt to RFP responses. The Digital Project Manager has a helpful overview article with information on each.

  • Agile – For an experienced team of doers, focuses on final outcomes, collaboration and flexibility
  • Scrum – For teams with several strong leaders and well-defined areas of expertise within the proposal process
  • Kanban – For teams that work best with visuals, focuses on individual task progress

How to improve your proposal process with project management

There are a few things that remain the same regardless of which project management approach you select. Here’s the steps that will make your new process successful.

1. Identify the goal of the project

Generally, this part is fairly straightforward. Clearly, you want to win an RFP opportunity. However, it’s important to think beyond that and define why this RFP is a good fit as well as the projected impact on the business if you win. In this situation, it is often helpful to refer back to your discussions to bid or not bid.

2. Define the project tasks

After you’ve identified your goal, you must clearly state the tasks that your team must accomplish for success. For example, your list might look like this:

  • Create your project brief 
  • Identify tasks that can be accomplished concurrently
  • Schedule and facilitate a kickoff meeting
  • Collect and submit follow up questions for the buyer
  • Review your knowledge library for reusable answers
  • Customize reusable answers for this opportunity
  • Assign new questions to subject matter experts
  • Write and review new answers
  • Set proposal pricing
  • Compose proposal document
  • Review for answer consistency and accuracy
  • Format proposal
  • Design and add visual elements
  • Ensure that each of the RFP business requirements are met
  • Final review by marketing and sales
  • Executive review and approval of proposal
  • Final proposal submission
  • Request feedback on final result
  • Hold debrief meeting for feedback
  • Optimize processes and update knowledge library

3. Build your proposal team

Now, review your task list. Who is best suited to accomplish each item? Will they need help, input or review from others? Match people with the tasks they will be assigned and the role they will play in the process. Your list will likely include stakeholders, support staff, SMEs, department heads and executive leaders.

4. Explore information and tools needed

Next, you need to ensure that your team has the information and tools they need to successfully accomplish the tasks you’ve provided. For instance, do your subject matter experts all have access to your knowledge library, centralized proposal or better yet, RFP software? Do you have the performance data and customer references the buyer asked for? Has your capture management team provided their research, win themes and customer insights? Avoid delays and roadblocks in your process by verifying the necessary resources are available before the project begins.

5. Create a project brief

Bring it all together in a project brief. Start with your project goal. Then, share the key milestones in the project. For example, you might include when follow up questions are due, when SME answers are due and the proposal submission deadline. Next, provide the project tasks matched with the assigned staff. Finally, provide the information that contributors will need to complete their tasks.

6. Get started

Now, you’re ready to execute your project. At the kickoff meeting, ensure everyone is aware of the RFP project management approach and how to use it. Then, it’s up to you as the project manager to keep the process on track.

7. Track and save key data

One of the biggest benefits of proposal project management is the opportunity to gather RFP data. Indeed, thanks to the consistency of your process, you can track response cost, time spent, answer quality and final outcome. Once you’ve collected enough data, review for patterns, roadblocks and opportunities for improvement.

RFP project management tips

Take charge

When your proposal team gathers for meetings, remember your intent and purpose. You’re not asking for opinions. You are dealing in facts. Are the contributors’ workloads manageable? Is the project progressing as expected? Are the required resources and information available? Is the plan feasible? 

Essentially, you’re asking the team for insight on any potential gaps or blind spots. However, you are NOT asking for input about the project management style, responsibilities or reviews. We all have that team member that always has something negative to say. Don’t let anyone derail your project with uncertainty.

Adjust as needed

While consistency is an essential element to reap the full benefits of project management, not every RFP needs the full treatment. For instance, if a proposal is brief and requires input from two people, you can abbreviate your process and accelerate your timeline. In addition, if you’re the incumbent vendor and the RFP is a formality, the approach should change. 

Remember, generally these methodologies are best used to manage big projects. So, if an informal process is significantly more efficient to achieve the end goal, then do it and spend the time you saved tackling something else.

Seek executive support

Inevitably, you’ll encounter roadblocks and challenges. If they’re caused by someone outside of your chain of command, you may fe

el uncomfortable addressing the issue. This is why it’s so important to have executive support. When your team sees visible support from executives, you’ll benefit from an improved position in workload prioritization, mediation if needed, enhanced responsiveness and a higher awareness of the value of your work.

Centralize the process

Many proposal teams struggle with miscommunications and a lack of clarity around the proposal process. By centralizing everything, each team member has access to all the information they need to make informed decisions and carry out their next steps. 

While shared drives help, the most effective way to centralize the proposal process while improving efficiency at every step is RFP software. Your RFP response solution should feature workflows and collaboration, knowledge management, automation and integrations. 

Don’t change your process to solve temporary problems

As a project manager, it’s important to identify the cause of challenges that arise. For instance, you may encounter unusual circumstances, unique barriers or uncooperative people. Certainly, it is tempting to alter the process immediately to try and solve the problem. However, resist this urge.

Unique circumstances are bound to come up from time to time. And, resistance to change is natural.  But, rather than immediately solving perceived problems with process changes, focus on identifying the likelihood of the issue coming up again as well as improving buy-in and accountability with individuals. In short, don’t permanently alter your RFP project management approach to overcome temporary challenges. 

Give it time

Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have a seamless process the very first time you use your new RFP project management strategy. In fact, it’s possible that the first time you use a new process may be less efficient. However, persevere! As you and your team become more familiar with the proactive RFP management process and expectations, you’ll see remarkable (and measurable) improvements. Remember, reverting back to a reactive process will keep you from reaching your full potential. 

Ultimately, the purpose of RFP project management is to reduce the number of hours it takes to create a proposal while also improving the likelihood of success. 

As we all know, the hours you put into a proposal aren’t free. Not only does a more efficient RFP process save your company money, but it also gives you more time to answer additional RFPs with the potential to further grow your business. The result? A compounded impact that any proposal team can achieve with the right knowledge, process and tools.

RFP project management tips

Take charge

When your proposal team gathers for meetings, remember your intent and purpose. You’re not asking for opinions. You are dealing in facts. Are the contributors’ workloads manageable? Is the project progressing as expected? Are the required resources and information available? Is the plan feasible? 

Essentially, you’re asking the team for insight on any potential gaps or blind spots. However, you are NOT asking for input about the project management style, responsibilities or reviews. We all have that team member that always has something negative to say. Don’t let anyone derail your project with uncertainty.

Adjust as needed

While consistency is an essential element to reap the full benefits of project management, not every RFP needs the full treatment. For instance, if a proposal is brief and requires input from two people, you can abbreviate your process and accelerate your timeline. In addition, if you’re the incumbent vendor and the RFP is a formality, the approach should change. 

Remember, generally these methodologies are best used to manage big projects. So, if an informal process is significantly more efficient to achieve the end goal, then do it and spend the time you saved tackling something else.

Seek executive support

Inevitably, you’ll encounter roadblocks and challenges. If they’re caused by someone outside of your chain of command, you may feel uncomfortable addressing the issue. This is why it’s so important to have executive support. When your team sees visible support from executives, you’ll benefit from an improved position in workload prioritization, mediation if needed, enhanced responsiveness and a higher awareness of the value of your work.

Centralize the process

Many proposal teams struggle with miscommunications and a lack of clarity around the proposal process. By centralizing everything, each team member has access to all the information they need to make informed decisions and carry out their next steps. 

While shared drives help, the most effective way to centralize the proposal process while improving efficiency at every step is RFP software. Your RFP response solution should feature workflows and collaboration, knowledge management, automation and integrations. 

Don’t change your process to solve temporary problems

As a project manager, it’s important to identify the cause of challenges that arise. For instance, you may encounter unusual circumstances, unique barriers or uncooperative people. Certainly, it is tempting to alter the process immediately to try and solve the problem. However, resist this urge.

Unique circumstances are bound to come up from time to time. And, resistance to change is natural.  But, rather than immediately solving perceived problems with process changes, focus on identifying the likelihood of the issue coming up again as well as improving buy-in and accountability with individuals. In short, don’t permanently alter your RFP project management approach to overcome temporary challenges. 

Give it time

Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have a seamless process the very first time you use your new RFP project management strategy. In fact, it’s possible that the first time you use a new process may be less efficient. However, persevere! As you and your team become more familiar with the proactive RFP management process and expectations, you’ll see remarkable (and measurable) improvements. Remember, reverting back to a reactive process will keep you from reaching your full potential. 

Ultimately, the purpose of RFP project management is to reduce the number of hours it takes to create a proposal while also improving the likelihood of success. 

As we all know, the hours you put into a proposal aren’t free. Not only does a more efficient RFP process save your company money, but it also gives you more time to answer additional RFPs with the potential to further grow your business. The result? A compounded impact that any proposal team can achieve with the right knowledge, process and tools.

RFP best practices — Content and process tips

RFP best practices — Content and process tips

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours writing, editing and collaborating with SMEs only to find out you didn’t win. Collectively, your business invests hours into each proposal. So, if your hard work isn’t paying off, it may be time to brush up on RFP response best practices.

RFP best practices can be broken down into two focus areas: content and process. Content is what your proposal says to the prospect and how you say it. The RFP process is the steps needed to create the proposal. Both are essential to create a winning proposal.

First, I’ll explore RFP content. Starting section by section, I’ll share how to achieve the goal of each element of an RFP response. Then, I’ll offer guidelines that ensure your content follows RFP response best practices as well as winning response examples.

Next, I’ll cover RFP process best practices. I’ll review the RFP response process steps and tips for how to improve. Finally, I’ll conclude by exploring common challenges that come up during the RFP response process and how to overcome them.

Table of contents

RFP best practices for content

RFP section-by-section guide

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of each section, let’s start with the golden rule of request for proposal best practices: It’s all about the customer. In each section and in every response, keep the customer in mind. 

Remember, these incredibly busy people have a problem to solve. Therefore, if they feel like you’re wasting their time, you’ve already lost them. So, as we work through each RFP response section, remember these guidelines:

  • Stay focused on the customer’s problem and the solution you deliver.
  • Keep it short and fluff free ⁠— for the customer, the RFP isn’t an invitation for you to give a sales pitch, it’s a fact-finding mission.
  • Stick to the project scope and remove any information that isn’t immediately relevant, save the upsell for later

RFP cover letter

The goal
Make a good first impression, create a human connection and let the customer know you truly understand their problem.

How to do it
Share your enthusiasm about the prospect of being a part of their future success. Then, restate their known objectives. Finally, paint a picture of how your solution solves their problem and makes their job easier. Make it all about them.

If you’re ready to write a killer cover letter, explore more in this RFP cover letter guide.

Executive summary

The goal
Give a high-level overview, summarize the most important parts of your proposal and prove you’re qualified to meet their needs.

How to do it
Research. Do your homework to ensure your executive summary addresses the customer’s biggest concerns. Find out why they’re issuing the RFP. Did their last provider fail to deliver? Is their business growing? The more you can speak directly to their needs, the greater your chance of winning the project. 

Remember, your summary needs to provide enough information to stand alone if it’s the only piece of the proposal an executive sees. However, it also must be short enough to read in a couple minutes.

Want to see what a stand-out executive summary looks like? Check out this RFP executive summary guide for examples.

Project implementation plan and schedule

The goal
Help the buyer picture themselves as your customer and prepare them for the next steps in the buying process.

How to do it
Be specific. Your project implementation plan and schedule sets expectations. For example, establish milestones and address any concerns the customer expressed. In addition, provide a full project plan outline from purchase to go-live date. Use the RFP timeline the buyer provided and set milestones assuming a start date almost immediately after the RFP’s final selection announcement.

It is also helpful to share key contacts and staff the customer will work with from subject matter experts to project managers. Finally, include what you’ll need from their business to ensure a successful engagement. For example, current process documentation, training timelines, user roles, administrator input and so on.

Contract terms

The goal
Ensure a speedy contracting process that benefits both you and the customer.

How to do it
In this section of your request for proposal response, get your ducks in a row so the contracting process goes smoothly. For example, share what you’ll need to execute the contract and include who will be involved. Then, outline the approval process and required documentation. Consider preemptively providing your standard SIG assessment or security questionnaire as well as terms and conditions.

In addition, offer an overview of how you’ll continue to support the customer after the contract is executed. Include information about their customer success manager, any available self-service tools and who will supervise the delivery of contract terms.

If possible, provide very specific details — how often will someone check in, what will be covered and how feedback is addressed? Remember, it’s all about them. Make them feel confident that you’re in it for the long haul and prepared to be a true partner to them.

Customer references and case studies

The goal
Provide concrete, third-party evidence of the results they can expect.

How to do it
Share the positive return on investment you’ve achieved for customers similar to your prospect. Of course, don’t make them just take your word for it. Also include metrics and powerful quotes provided by happy customers. If possible, offer to connect them with a current customer for a reference call. Certainly, there’s nothing more persuasive than hearing candid feedback from a peer.

Winning RFP content tips and examples

Beyond hitting the goals for each RFP section outlined above, winning RFPs have great content. I’ve reviewed content from countless winning RFP response examples and they all have a few things in common. I’ve collected these themes and created a list of RFP best practices and examples below.

Insert the customer into your answers

Remember, it’s never about you. Your audience doesn’t care how great you are. They only care about how you can make their lives easier and improve their profitability. All of your answers should support the argument that you will make them more efficient, effective and empowered.

In addition, don’t just explain what you do, but also why it’s important. This focus will help you write an “About Us” and “Background” statement that will make prospects pay attention.

Original RFP response:
Our company improves efficiency and cost savings.

Winning RFP response example:
XYZ solution empowers ABC company to optimize efficiency and maximize savings.

Keep it simple and skimmable

Your evaluators are pressed for time. Write clearly and succinctly. Use proposal formatting to make it scannable. For example, headings, subheadings, call-outs, and bullets make your proposal more approachable. And, remember to keep it non-technical and simple so your responses can be read and understood by anyone.

Original RFP response:
With XYZ solution, which optimizes internal and external collaboration and communication processes, automates RFP management, improves workflows and empowers reporting, our current customers like ABC Company are able to not only respond to complicated RFPs,  security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires for a comprehensive proposal management experience.

Winning RFP response example:
ABC Company will leverage XYZ solution to:

    • Improve internal and external collaboration
    • Automate complex RFPs
    • Manage workflows and view reports
    • Respond RFPs and questionnaires
    • Centralize procurement and proposal functions

Include visualizations

Charts and graphs quickly convey a more powerful message than a spreadsheet full of data. Use visualizations to help customers better understand your projected impact on their business.

Original RFP response:
XYZ solution’s customer submitted 83 proposals in 2018. More than twice the number completed by their competitors.

RFP response best practices | Spreadsheet Illustration

Winning RFP response example:
XYZ solution’s customer submitted 83 proposals in 2018. More than twice the number completed by their competitors.

RFP best practices | Chart Illustration

Review, revise then review again

Typos, style inconsistencies and abrupt changes in grammatical tense or tone can be incredibly distracting for your reader. Consequently, it’s important to review your responses and make sure they all work together and sound consistent.

In fact, try reading your responses out loud. It will help you catch a ton of errors or awkwardness that spell check won’t. A blog from Proposal Reflections offers five things to watch for (and remove) from your proposals including: long sentences, passive voice, empty words, nominalizations and incorrect words. Follow these guidelines to make your content stronger, more concise and more persuasive. The post also offers this example:

Original RFP response:
Our COTS solution saves the Government time and money.

Winning RFP response example:
Our COTS solution provides the Government with life-cycle savings of $250,000 in software development costs.

Note: RFPIO’s leading response management software includes a GPT assistant that leverages the latest AI tools to optimize your RFP responses for readability, comprehension, simplicity, passive voice and more. Learn more here: RFPIO integrates GPT.

RFP response process best practices

Every RFP response process follows the same basic steps:

  1. Review RFP: Understand the customer’s requirements, objectives, goals, key deadlines and evaluation criteria.
  2. Assess suitability: Evaluate your organization’s capacity, align your expertise with customer needs and determine project alignment with business goals.
  3. Assemble the response team: Identify key contributors and stakeholders, assign roles and determine responsibilities.
  4. Develop a win strategy: Analyze competitively the landscape, define your differentiators and establish a project plan.
  5. Build your proposal: Gather past answers, collaborate with SMEs to create new responses and customize your proposal content.
  6. Write executive summary: Introduce your company, highlight your value proposition and offer an overview of your strengths.
  7. Review, proofread and submit: Ensure compliance with RFP requirements, review for accuracy and clarity and submit prior to the deadline.

How to improve your RFP response process

Perfection is unattainable. There’s always room for improvement, even within teams who have tightly refined their RFP process. For example, a highly-skilled and efficient two-person team can respond to one or two RFPs per quarter when working manually. However, after implementing RFP response best practices and RFP software, the same team can successfully respond to 16 simultaneous RFPs in the same time frame. Hopefully these tips will help you achieve the same kind of results.

Only answer RFPs you can win

One of the most important (and most neglected) RFP response best practices is the qualification or a bid or no-bid decision step. Far too many teams answer every RFP that comes their way. Unfortunately, that means spending time answering long shots and RFPs you’re not qualified for, while potentially missing or neglecting better opportunities.

RFP qualification considerations

What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued?
If you’re just hearing about the opportunity thanks to the RFP, your chances may be slim. Indeed, odds are definitely better when sales or presales has developed a relationship with the prospect. Alternatively, you may have already responded to a request for information (RFI), which is also a good sign.

Is your solution a fit?
At minimum, it needs to meet the mandatory requirements. Everyone’s agile. Everyone’s flexible. Issuers already know that. Accordingly, you need to be able to prove that you have a tried and true solution.

Does your price match the prospect’s budget?
Of course there’s always give and take when it comes to pricing. However, don’t let that distract you from carefully evaluating the opportunity in terms of dollars and cents. The issuer expects your bid to include everything they need within their budget. So, can you do it and still make the project profitable? 

Is it a strategic fit?
RFPs take a lot of time and effort. But, onboarding and supporting a customer that doesn’t align with your business or product development strategy takes more. There are few things more frustrating than submitting and winning an RFP only to find out that the partnership isn’t a strategic fit for you or the issuer.

Do you have bandwidth?
Too often, this consideration gets pushed to the side. It’s completely understandable to want to respond to more RFPs.

In fact, we found that 72% of companies plan to respond to more RFPs year-over-year. But, simply responding doesn’t mean your team has the time and attention required to write a winning RFP response. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. 

Create a content library

If you have to dig through emails, past RFP responses and documents to find answers to questions you’ve seen over and over again, it’s time for a new approach. After all, once you’ve curated and perfected your content using the tips above, you’ll want to use it as often as possible. Indeed, it saves so much time, building an RFP content library is a cornerstone RFP response best practice.

Your content database should be the single source of truth for building RFP responses that are efficient, consistent and accurate. To start, gather content from past proposals. Then, update it to ensure it is flexible enough to be easily customized or used in its generic form. It should all have a consistent voice to reduce editing and review time.

An RFP content library needs a structure that helps with searching. You can organize RFP content using tags, collections and custom fields. Additionally, it’s helpful to organize content to match the structure of the RFPs you receive. What sections do you always see? 

Common RFP sections 
  • Company overview
  • Experience and staff biographies
  • Features, functionality and differentiators
  • Training, implementation, delivery and support
  • Security and data policies
  • Case studies and customer results or references
  • Reports, terms and policies

If you’re not using RFP software, organizing your files and documents this way will help reduce the need to chase down or recreate content for every new RFP.

Know your team (and their strengths)

Stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) within your organization are essential to creating compelling content. But, getting in touch with the right people at the right time may be a challenge — especially if they don’t know who you are or what you do. Building relationships is an important part of curating an efficient and effective RFP process.

The better you know your resources, the better your response will be. Get to know the people behind the proposal. Keep track of each person’s area of expertise, preferences and availability — and then respect it. 

RFP software integrates with many apps and channels. So you can approach busy SMEs in the way that works best for them. For example, maybe you have an SME who hates writing. Call them up. As they talk you through the answer, you record it and save it to the content library. Putting in the legwork to build relationships with your resources will pay off at crunch time.

Create a project plan

While RFPs are a team sport, they need a captain. Someone has to own the process to hold contributors accountable to ensure you meet your deadline. If you have a full-time proposal manager they’ll take charge. If not, the process will likely be managed by a sales or marketing team member. Regardless, you need a plan to get everyone on the same page.

Initiate a kickoff meeting for each RFP that includes all key team members. During this session, you’ll discuss your timeline, roles and responsibilities, win strategy, expectations and next steps. Surface any scheduling conflicts, content gap concerns or issues with deadlines to avoid surprises. 

Then, as you progress through your plan, regularly share progress updates, changes and dependencies to improve team visibility. 

Repeat, review, optimize and expand

The great part about adopting RFP best practices is that they’re designed to be repeatable. As you implement improvements it’s also important to review results. As you become more efficient, you’ll find more ways to identify gaps, tighten communications, anticipate outcomes and ensure success. 

Additionally, once you’ve mastered RFP best practices, you can get even more value by applying them to other routine information requests. For example, these principles can be applied to RFIs, requests for quotations (RFQs), security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires (DDQs).

Common RFP response roadblocks and how to overcome them

Even when you meticulously follow RFP best practices, the process may not be smooth. Here are some issues proposal teams frequently encounter and how to overcome them.

The customer isn’t asking the right questions.

The challenge
The customer missed something key in their RFP. Unfortunately, the gap in information makes it difficult for you to win or might result in the customer selecting an incomplete solution that’s not in their best interest. Either way, it’s worth mentioning. But how do you tactfully make sure the customer has all the information they need without being a bother?

Work through the roadblock
Procurement professionals are skilled at finding the best vendor for a project. However, they’re likely not an expert in the nuance of your particular industry, good or service. Instead, they use stakeholder requirements to customize an existing RFP template. 

This process often leaves gaps in knowledge and results in an incomplete RFP. It also puts you in a tough position of trying to explain additional value you deliver that the customer doesn’t understand and didn’t ask about.

Typically, at the beginning of the RFP timeline, there’s a period to allow for vendor questions. This is a good time to raise the concern. Simply include it in your questions. For example, you can ask: “Have you considered unaddressed factor? Is that an area of need for ABC Company?” Alternatively, you could say, “Many of our customers ask about unaddressed factor, would you like us to include information about how XYZ solution solves this challenge?

Time consuming back-and-forth with subject matter experts

The challenge
One of the hardest parts of creating a request for proposal response is coordinating with your subject matter experts (SMEs). They’re usually very busy people. And, while they’re experts in their field, they likely all have a different writing style. So, how do you make RFP responses from a dozen different sources look consistent and sound cohesive?

Work through the roadblock
Most SMEs are just as excited about winning new business as you are, but they can’t read your mind. Unfortunately, they won’t know intuitively what to cover just by reading the RFP question. 

So, it’s an RFP best practice to be clear about what you need. SMEs are usually happy to provide answers that cover customer hot buttons, written in the company’s preferred proposal format ⁠— they just need to know what that is. It’s usually as simple as providing your SMEs with a company style guide for faster editing.

In addition, make sure you search your RFP content library before asking an SME to weigh in on a question. There’s nothing more frustrating and alienating to a busy SME than answering the same question over and over again. If you find an applicable knowledge record, send the response for review. After all, updating or customizing a response is a lot faster than writing from scratch. Certainly, this is a situation where RFP software that centralizes internal collaboration is an advantage.

SMEs are a key part of your proposal team. So, bring them into the fold and make the importance of their role clear. Include SMEs in proposal kickoff meetings, regular content updates and annual process reviews. Even if they can’t make every meeting, putting in the effort to keep them involved will help them feel invested.

The RFP clearly favors a specific vendor

The challenge
You recognize your competitor’s language in the RFP. It seems like they are the incumbent vendor or are heavily favored. You suspect their capture management team helped craft the RFP. To have a fighting chance, you’ll need to overcome an unfair preference with education and awareness.

Work through the roadblock
Some RFPs aren’t fair. That’s the unfortunate truth. You know your competitors and for the most part, everyone uses the same tactics to try to win new business. For example, we all know how much easier it is to write a winning RFP response when your team helped craft the RFP itself.

If you notice the RFP favors a specific approach or if phrasing is overly specific, that’s a good indication of an outside influence. Use your competitive intelligence to counteract their preconceived notions. Without naming the competitor, explain why your product or approach better addresses their needs.

Alternatively, just ask. Reach out to the RFP contact and look for more background information. Is there an incumbent vendor? If so, why has the project gone back out to RFP? What would sway the decision maker, or what is the competitor lacking that would make the decision easy? Ultimately, addressing the lack of transparency head-on will help you make a well-informed bid or no-bid decision.

The RFP response has a quick turnaround

The challenge
In the world of RFPs, time is typically your biggest adversary. Your proposal timeline can only be compressed so much while still maintaining RFP response best practices and manually completing the RFP makes submitting responses on time difficult.

Work through the roadblock
One of the best ways to fast-track your proposal process is to invest in RFP response software. Not only will it automate your responses by suggesting answers to previously asked questions, but it will also empower you to:

  • Search and find past proposal content
  • See who wrote the content and when it was written
  • Review the revision history
  • Verify when the content was last reviewed and updated
  • Check how often it’s been used

Too many teams spend all their time writing answers but never save or organize them. If your team can’t find and reuse past RFP responses, collaborate on content and easily see team responsibilities and next steps, you’ll end up constantly reinventing the wheel.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, RFP best practices help everyone involved in the sales and proposal process work toward a singular goal ⁠— to win new business. And, for proposal professionals, there is no greater feeling than hearing that your team submitted a winning RFP response.

By following these winning RFP response best practices you’ll start to see all of your writing, editing, collaborating and waiting pay off.

Proposal Manager Career Guide

Proposal Manager Career Guide

Being a proposal manager is unlike any other role. Indeed, if you think about it, the position is an exercise in opposites. For instance, proposal managers work with almost every department, giving them a big-picture perspective. However, when they respond to RFPs, they must pay attention to every little detail. In addition, the role is often exciting and fast-paced when creating a win strategy and composing a proposal. On the other hand, proposal managers frequently answer the same routine questions over and over again.

Consequently, the proposal manager role requires a unique set of skills. However, for those who can balance the responsibilities of the role, becoming a proposal manager is a rewarding job. It is a great career starting point for some, while others make it a satisfying life-long career. Regardless, proposal managers play a key role in their organization’s success.

In this blog, we’ll define what a proposal manager is, including their job description, responsibilities and key skills. Then, we’ll discuss proposal professional titles and their earning potential. Finally, we’ll offer advice for anyone looking to become a proposal manager as well as useful tools and resources for ongoing career development.

What is a proposal manager?

Proposal manager definition

A proposal manager is responsible for responding to requests for proposals (RFPs). They manage the proposal process including task delegation, response editing and submission.

In some businesses, the proposal manager may go by other titles including proposal coordinator, RFP analyst, bid manager and RFP manager. Depending on the size of the business, there may be only one proposal manager or many.

What does a proposal manager do?

The proposal manager is the main point of contact for incoming RFPs. They work with a proposal team composed of contributors from multiple departments. Most proposals will include team members in sales, marketing, business development, finance, legal, IT, and subject matter experts (SMEs) from various areas of the business.

Admittedly, there are a lot of duties and responsibilities that go into their work. But, put simply, the proposal manager is responsible for creating proposals that win new business.

Who does the proposal manager report to?

Generally, a proposal manager in a small- or medium-sized business reports to the director of sales, marketing or business development. However, in large or enterprise organizations, the proposal team likely reports to an executive in finance or revenue management.

Proposal manager job description

The proposal manager job description varies from one business to another. The duties change based on the size of the business, number of proposal team members and industry. However, they always contain a variety of responsibilities that contribute to the overall goal of winning new RFP opportunities.

As a proposal manager works to create compelling RFP responses, they may face some common challenges. Luckily, their unique skill set enables them to solve these challenges, improve efficiency and ensure success. Let’s explore each of these topics in more detail.

Primary proposal manager responsibilities

  • Facilitate discussions to bid or not to bid
  • Collaborate with the capture management team
  • Identify client priorities and win themes
  • Create and execute a proposal project plan
  • Conduct market and competitive research
  • Hold kick-off and debrief meetings
  • Act as point of contact for prospects
  • Gather and send follow-up and clarifying questions to the buyer
  • Manage the proposal team (anyone contributing to RFPs)
  • Ensure proposals and presentations are brand compliant
  • Report proposal progress to executive management
  • Submit final proposal for consideration
  • Maintain the RFP response knowledge base
  • Prioritize RFPs based on the likelihood of winning and value
  • Track RFP data and win rate
  • Be the administrator for the company’s RFP software

Common RFP response challenges

  • Tight deadlines and a lack of urgency from others involved in the process
  • Translating sales feedback and the capture management plan into actionable insights
  • Confusion during the proposal process
  • Disorganized or difficult-to-find proposal content
  • Slow responses from subject matter experts who juggle other responsibilities
  • Long hours as deadlines for important RFPs approach

Proposal manager skills

Anyone thinking about becoming a proposal manager should consider the necessary skill set. In addition to general business knowledge, proposal managers must master three key practices: knowledge management, proposal project management and data analytics. Furthermore, the ability to facilitate collaboration, encourage creative problem solving and navigate conflict are also valuable skills.

Additional proposal manager hard skills

  • Data tracking and analysis
  • Writing, editing and reviewing
  • Managing proposal software
  • Optimizing and managing processes
  • Researching and presenting

Helpful soft skills for proposal managers

  • Team leadership
  • Strong communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Organization
  • Prioritization of projects
  • Flexibility and adaptability

Proposal manager job description examples

Proposal and RFP manager job descriptions vary, depending on company size, organizational setup and industry. For example, if a job is in a small company in an industry that sells industrial bolts, RFPs might not be overly-complex and the proposal manager might be part of a sales team.

Software companies likely have a more complex response process, in which they have to prove security and regulatory compliance as well as document product differentiation, onboarding processes and so on. Many software companies, especially enterprise organizations, have dedicated response teams if not departments.

We’ve put together a couple of examples:

An IT firm in the Washington, D.C. area is looking for a proposal manager. Job responsibilities include:

  • Collaborating with business development and capture managers to determine whether to respond and the best approach
  • Developing compliance matrices and proposal section outlines
  • Analyzing RFPs
  • Finding relevant content
  • Managing the proposal process
  • Compiling data and report to management
  • Enforcing editorial guidelines
  • Reviewing proposals to ensure corporate and legal compliance
  • Manage the proposal database

An educational technology firm is looking for a government proposal manager. Job responsibilities include:

  • Analyzing RFPs
  • Gathering information
  • Developing proposals by assembling information, which may include, the project narrative, objectives, outcomes, deliverables and more
  • Building proposals on company proposal software
  • Analyzing losses
  • Managing company repository

Proposal roles and salaries

Hiring a proposal professional is certainly an investment for any business. However, the value that a dedicated proposal manager delivers is clear. Indeed, they bring order to the RFP response process, ensure better proposals and enable the business to answer even more RFPs.

When it comes to proposal management, salaries vary widely based on the industry, company size, location and level of experience and education. It’s also worth noting that many recruiters say that a culture fit, trainability and talent is just as important as experience. In addition, for those just starting out, there’s a clear path from entry-level positions to advanced titles and potentially executive roles.

Please note that salary ranges vary, depending on where the job is located, the industry and so on.

Entry-level proposal positions

Many proposal managers didn’t start out in the field. Often, proposal managers are internal hires plucked from savvy candidates in sales, marketing, or administration roles. These professionals may jump straight into their role as proposal managers, or they may begin in an entry-level role.

Proposal coordinator

As the title implies, the proposal coordinator is responsible for facilitating the proposal process. For instance, they work together with sales, product development, marketing and other departments to create a proposal that addresses the prospect’s concerns. Often, they are in charge of following up with internal contributors, finding previous answers and editing the proposal.

Proposal coordinator salary: $48,000 – $71,000

Proposal specialist

A proposal specialist is responsible for conducting research, articulating key differentiators and writing responses that address the customer’s needs. In addition, they request help from SMEs, customize answers to focus on the customer’s needs and ensure consistency and compliance throughout the proposal.

Proposal specialist salary: $50,000 – $76,000

Proposal writer

As you might suspect, the proposal writer is primarily responsible for a proposal’s content. They are experts at turning general ideas and concepts into well-constructed, polished answers. Indeed, they verify that each answer is complete and relates back to the stated needs and goals. The proposal writer is  particularly good at helping the buyer picture themselves as a customer and highlighting differentiators throughout the proposal. Finally, they ensure that the proposal tells an engaging story from beginning to end.

Proposal writer salary: $60,000 – $97,000

Advanced proposal titles

With a few years of experience and growth, entry-level positions may advance to a role with more responsibility.

Proposal manager

In addition to managing the RFP response process, the proposal manager also executes the organization’s RFP strategy. They also collaborate with various contributing departments, explore process optimization and proactively manage the organization’s knowledge library. Often, the proposal manager captures feedback on both won and lost opportunities and provides recommendations to the business.

Proposal manager salary: $83,000 – $135,000

Senior proposal manager

In organizations with multiple proposal managers, a senior proposal manager is responsible for leading special projects, taking on high-stakes RFPs and administering RFP technology. Additionally, they focus on high-level management of proposal projects. In this role, they typically direct a team including a proposal coordinator, proposal writer and graphic designer.

Senior proposal manager salary: $108,000 – $182,000

Executive leadership positions

Proposal director and vice president of proposal operations

While they are somewhat rare, there are executive proposal positions in large organizations. For example, you’ll find titles like proposal director and vice president of proposal operations. These roles lead multiple proposal teams divided by products or regions and provide insight that may influence business strategy. Typically, executive proposal professionals report directly to a chief revenue officer or chief financial officer.

Proposal executive salary: $159,000 – $280,000

Where to find proposal manager jobs

Whether you’ve just started your proposal career, or you’ve been in the industry for years, there are always new things to learn. Fortunately, the proposal industry is full of helpful peers willing to share their advice and experience. In addition, there are countless resources for ongoing career development. So, remember to make time to hone your skills and connect with others.

1. LinkedIn

Odds are, you already have a LinkedIn profile. The odds are almost as good that you don’t pay much attention to it. For most, LinkedIn isn’t a typical social media site, but it is a great place to showcase your resume, highlight your special skills (like an RFPIO certification), search job listings, and connect with people in your industry.

2. APMP local chapters

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) is a worldwide organization for people who issue or respond to RFPs, RFQs, DDQs, security questionnaires and everything else that’s proposal-related. To be fair, though, most APMP members are on the response side.

APMP has 29 worldwide chapters with most on the eastern side of the United States. Both the international organization and its local and regional chapters host events designed for networking and learning about new technologies and best practices. APMP also has an active job board for proposal professionals.

3. Indeed

Indeed’s website says it’s the #1 job site in the world. We can neither confirm nor deny that claim, but the site has a massive list of job postings, company reviews and salary estimates.

A search for “proposal manager,” not filtered by location, shows more than 50,000 jobs. And, a search for “RFP” produces about 16,000 listings.

Advice, tools and resources for career development

4 tips for new proposal managers

1. Build a rapport with subject matter experts

SMEs play a major role in answering RFPs. Consequently, they are one of your most valuable resources. Accordingly, it’s important to build a connection with them and maintain a good working relationship.

To work effectively with SMEs, you must determine the best approach. Because SMEs juggle their own full-time role as well as helping with RFP responses, communicating solely through email is often inefficient.

Ways to collaborate with subject matter experts:

  • Conduct SME interviews and transcribe their answers into the proposal
  • Have the SMEs write answers and submit them to you for editing
  • Write answers yourself and send them all to the SME for review
  • Collaborate in real-time using proposal management software

2. Create customized templates

An efficient proposal manager must think strategically, which often includes taking intelligent shortcuts. Tools such as customized templates help eliminate many of the low-value tasks that hobble proposal managers who find themselves reinventing the wheel for every response.

To get started developing time-saving templates of your own, download our RFP toolkit.

3. Focus on the customer

As the proposal manager, part of your job is to be the customer’s advocate throughout the RFP response. As you review answers and build the proposal, ask yourself, ‘Does this information help the client? Is it relevant, necessary and timely?’

How to write customer-focused proposals:

  • Share your understanding of their needs in the executive summary and RFP cover letter
  • Ensure responses center around and address customer benefits and goals
  • Provide references, case studies and data that illustrate the results the prospective customer can expect

4. Invest time in your proposal content library

Finally, perhaps the most important thing a proposal manager can do to ensure success is to build and maintain a proposal content library. Far too many businesses waste time reinventing the wheel when they respond to an RFP. As a result, the process is slow and frustrating for everyone involved.

Proposal content library best practices:

    • Use the library to answer as many questions as possible before sending the proposal to SMEs
    • Store your knowledge library in a searchable system and organize your content using tags and hierarchies
    • Conduct regular reviews to update answers, remove duplicates and ensure content accuracy

Tools and resources for career development

There’s no doubt that proposal managers have a lot of responsibilities to juggle as they manage complex projects. Luckily, there are a lot of excellent RFP response tools and resources that can make the job far easier. Here are three resource suggestions for proposal professionals at any stage in their career.

Proposal software

As technology advances throughout many businesses, proposal management software experience is in high demand. Indeed, it is now common to see job descriptions that express a preference for candidates with the skills to manage these RFP software platforms.

Our pick: RFPIO

It should come as no surprise that our pick for the best proposal software is RFPIO. But we aren’t the only one who feel that way. RFPIO is the industry-leading strategic response management platform. RFPIO applies a holistic approach to solving common RFX challenges through best-in-class innovation, collaboration and automation. It leads the pack in integrations and its user-based model ensures scalability on a dime.

The biggest RFPIO benefits:

Professional association

Staying up to date on industry events and advancements is an important part of any successful proposal career. Consequently, membership in a professional association delivers benefits that are worth exploring.

Our pick: Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP)

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals is the leading professional association in the bid and proposal industry. The organization has a global reach as well as individual, regional chapters. Accordingly, they host frequent in-person and remote webinars, events and meetings. In addition, APMP offers countless resources for expanding your knowledge and exploring best practices.

Resources for APMP members:

Peer networking and new opportunities

When you have a question, are facing a process roadblock or looking for a new opportunity, peers in the industry can offer help. Generally speaking, the bid and proposal industry is friendly and welcoming to all ⁠— there’s always someone who is willing to help out.

Our pick: APMP Official Discussion Group

You don’t have to be an active APMP member to benefit from their wealth of expertise. With more than 21,000 members, the APMP Official Discussion Group on LinkedIn is a great place to crowdsource information, connect with other passionate professionals and keep an eye on trends and opportunities.

  • Problem-solve challenges by brainstorming with peers
  • Explore new proposal technology, processes and data analysis
  • Learn about new job opportunities

Networking for RFPIO users

Efficient RFX response is all about finding the process that works best for your organization. When organizations choose to automate their processes, more choose RFPIO than any other software. Perhaps you have questions that are RFPIO-specific, you want to network with other RFPIO users, or you’re hoping to find other opportunities where your RFPIO expertise will shine.

Our pick: RFPIO online user community

The RFPIO online community is a great place to share ideas and ask proposal- and RFPIO-related questions. The community is more intimate than the APMP LinkedIn group, so it’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop camaraderie and make friends.

  • Share information about proposal management trends
  • Learn about RFPIO updates and new technologies
  • Network with fellow RFPIO proposal professionals

Once you’ve landed your dream proposal manager job, RFPIO is here to help you prove your efficiency and productivity, and drive revenue for your organization. Schedule a demo to see how we can add value to your role.

Bringing your company knowledge to life: An interview with the SaaS cloud banking platform, Mambu

Bringing your company knowledge to life: An interview with the SaaS cloud banking platform, Mambu

Company knowledge is your competitive differentiator. How it’s curated, leveraged, and accessed reverberates throughout every facet of your organization, from solution development to end-user training, and from proposal management to sales success.

Difficulty finding or accessing company knowledge is one of the most common roadblocks to productivity. In a study conducted by Forrester® Research, sales professionals cited the ability to find content or information as the number one area in need of improvement to be more productive, especially in remote work environments.

Knowledge management and content management are ubiquitous challenges for organizations of all sizes. Many software and cloud-based XaaS solutions exist to support optimization initiatives, but there’s an upstart sector that’s focusing on bringing your company knowledge to life.

Known as response management, it’s the next evolutionary step beyond RFP response automation. While it’s well-established with proposal teams around the world, response management’s knowledge and content governance capabilities are growing in popularity with sales, pre-sales, InfoSec, customer support, legal, and other teams that rely on accurate, accessible company knowledge to be productive.

Recently, Louise Fahey, Senior Proposal Manager at Mambu, a SaaS cloud-banking platform based in Amsterdam, sat down with an RFPIO representative to discuss how the software helped to bring Mambu’s knowledge to life. This interview took place during the BPC Europe conference hosted by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) in Amsterdam.

In the interview transcript that follows (edited for length and clarity), Louise at Mambu and RFPIO’s Vice President of International Sales discuss:

  • How proposal automation capabilities of response management software saves time, both professionally and personally
  • Why content governance is such an important process within knowledge management
  • How quickly other teams recognize the value of knowledge management using response management software
  • Why it’s so easy for new teams, new users, and new hires to start using the software to access and leverage company knowledge


RFPIO (VP of International Sales): I would like to invite one of our customers, Louise from Mambu. She’s here to share her knowledge on how she’s bringing knowledge to life at her company. I understand that at your previous company, once a lifetime ago, you were actually a technical writer. So what encouraged you, what motivated you to actually move into proposal management?

Mambu (Louise Fahey, Senior Proposal Manager): The main reason I moved was the impact that I felt I could have as a proposal manager. I like to use a lifeguard analogy; people only notice the lifeguard when they’re not there. And it’s the same with the proposal manager. You notice when they’re not there and start wondering, “How are we going to manage this deadline with the amount of work that needs to be done?”

There are also a lot of transferable skills between technical writing and proposal management – both roles cover content management, dealing with stakeholders, getting reviews, and managing deadlines. So it was a comfortable transition.

RFPIO: Once upon a time, several years ago, there really wasn’t any software out there that was available to eliminate repetitive tasks. Like actually the company’s headquarters, the number of employees, PCI certification, and so on were a little monotonous. How did you actually feel once you had to do these repetitive tests and under pressure?

Mambu: It was quite frustrating and you questioned the amount of time that was spent copying and pasting into a Word document. Each proposal began to feel a bit like Groundhog Day!

It felt a bit unfulfilling and I started to think, “I can do more than this… I understand the customer’s hot buttons and strategy.” I can add more value to the proposal than just copying and pasting.

RFPIO: So you’ve now seen the light, and you’ve moved away from this random process, and you’re using a response management software. So you were truly bringing the company knowledge to life. So did you ever feel like you were drowning?

Mambu:  I can think of a few occasions.

When you work with a team in a different time zone or you have a tight submission deadline; you’re up until midnight and you know everything has to be submitted by 2:00 PM the next day. You feel like you’re drowning.

Another example is when you have so much content to manage. There’s a library of past responses and when a new proposal comes in, you need to query this library to get the information you need. However, when you start using the search functionality in SharePoint, or whatever repository your documents are hosted in, it doesn’t give you the results you need. That’s another example of drowning; not having the opportunities to adequately search for the answers you need.

RFPIO: How would you say morale has improved since adopting a response management software? Not just the proposal managers, but also the company stakeholders?

Mambu: It has definitely improved a lot, especially amongst our solution engineers (technical sales team). They’re seeing the value because they used to manually fill in proposals.

We also use RFPIO in other parts of the organization, including information security, and assurance teams. They use it to keep their content up to date. Now when we get something like a due diligence questionnaire, it’s easier for those teams to manage as well. It’s game-changing for not just the sales team, but the company as well.

RFPIO: So have they reduced the amount of time that people come to you for answers and improve the quality of those answers? Do SMEs really like them?

Mambu: Yes, definitely. We’ve had a lot less of the same repetitive questions. And it’s not just the Proposal Management team who are dealing with fewer questions, it’s other teams in the organization.

In my previous answer, I mentioned that the information security team uses RFPIO – they’re saving time by using their Slack channel to direct people with questions to RFPIO, where they can find answers.

RFPIO: What was the biggest learning curve switching from Excel to response management software?

Mambu: I think it’s the same as with any other new solution — finding where everything is in the UI takes some getting used to. But the more proposals you do in RFPIO, the better you get.

It’s important to find a solution with really good support, in case you find the learning curve steep. With RFPIO, we have a customer success manager who is there to help. Plus the support team and online help are also excellent.

RFPIO: So now that you don’t have to work holidays, what are you able to spend more time on?

Mambu:  Now that we have RFPIO in place; there’s more time to focus on process improvements, managing our content library better, and also my own career development. It also means we have extra time to create more personalized responses to our RFx.

Personally, it’s also been quite game-changing. Thanks to the efficiencies that come from having a proposal management solution in place, I’m less likely to work evenings — I get to spend more time with family and friends.

RFPIO: How have you made better decisions using RFPIO?

Mambu: We’ve made better decisions as a result of how good our content library is. In the past, I’d have to remember which proposal from 6 months ago had a really good response to a certain question. Now we have a library of good responses and that enables us to make better decisions.

In addition, the project management part of RFPIO takes some of the pressure and stress off and streamlines the process, allowing you to make better decisions.

RFPIO: What would be your number one piece of advice about bringing your company knowledge to life?

Mambu: Putting content into your RFPIO library is only the start. Your content is a living thing. Make sure you get ownership from content reviewers and subject matter experts. Always set your review cycles and then follow up. It’s too much for one person and even one team to keep an entire library of content up to date; getting ownership from outside the proposal management team is important too.

We have added RFPIO to the onboarding process for new employees. They receive training on how to use it, and we’re also working on some e-learning videos to further this process.

RFPIO: I like that last one, probably the most; you talked about bringing company knowledge to life.
A lot of us work at companies where there’s truth, people leave their jobs; like with the great resignation. So you’re bringing in new hires, what’s the fastest way to train on this? So if you have a tool now, use that to share the company knowledge, and that way you save time, because you’re not getting the same question 10 different times.

What advice do you have in regard to best practices or approaches to content management?

Mambu: Let’s talk about content governance. First step is to document the process itself, how we want to manage our content. Once you have your list of subject matter experts, enable them to use RFPIO. I think that’s really important.

It’s not enough for you or your immediate team to believe you’ve got this great proposal management software and that your subject matter experts will love using it to keep content up to date. In reality, don’t be surprised to hear them respond with, “I’ve got 100 other things to do, and I’m not doing this.”

You need to show them the value of using the tool — what’s in it for them? It could be the time saved because they’re not answering the same question multiple times for different people. Or the relief in knowing that the sales team is using an approved response from the content library to answer queries from prospects.

Our content library is tagged by different topics, such as InfoSec, support, implementation, and so on. We have reviewers assigned to our content, and tags help make this process easier. We can even schedule the review process, so reviewers automatically receive a notification about when they need to do the review. And there’s also functionality for adding comments so it can be screened at each step.

We also made it really easy for people outside our team to contact us about RFPIO. We have a dedicated Slack channel where people can ask us questions. And we present RFPIO to the solution engineering and sales teams, making it clear that the proposal management team is here to support them with it.

This helps a lot with content governance; getting that initial buy-in by showing the value of RFPIO, and then providing support to users afterwards.

[END OF INTERVIEW]

Learn more about how RFPIO can help with knowledge management and content governance by  requesting a demo today.

 

Bid or no-bid decision guide: Save time & improve RFP win rates

Bid or no-bid decision guide: Save time & improve RFP win rates

For organizations focused on growth, answering every RFP is tempting. After all, each one represents an opportunity to win new business and generate revenue. However, not every RFP is created equal. And in some cases, responding to an RFP may not be the right move for your organization. So, how do you know the best way to spend your time? How do you separate promising RFP opportunities from those that are unwinnable or unwise? The answer is to add a bid/no-bid analysis step to your RFP response process.

The RFP response process requires an enormous investment of time and resources. Naturally, it would be best if those efforts were only focused on responding to RFPs that your business is sure to win. While there’s no way to ensure you win every RFP you respond to, you can quickly improve your win rate and save time by making a thoughtful bid or no-bid decision. In this post we’ll discuss why carefully deciding to bid or not to bid is so important. Then, we’ll share three approaches to help you make a confident decision. In addition, we’ll offer key questions to ask and bid or no bid checklist examples. Finally, we’ll explore how to share your decision to bid or not to bid with the buyer along with letter templates to help you get started.

Table of contents

Download the bid or no-bid checklist now.

Basics and benefits using RFP go or no-go analysis

Bid or no bid defined

The process of evaluating whether to bid or not to bid goes by many names but is primarily referred to as the bid/no-bid or RFP go/no-go decision. Simply put, in bid and proposal management, the RFP go or no-go process is a way to evaluate internal and external factors to determine if an organization should bid on an opportunity.

Benefits of holding go/no-go discussions

Responding to RFPs can win new business and help your organization grow, so why not just respond to all of them? Here are a few reasons why carefully considering which RFPs to bid on is important.

Lighten proposal team workloads and avoid burnout

Creating a winning proposal takes a lot of thought and time. So, creating a proposal for every RFP will inevitably result in wasted resources, a low win rate and an overworked, undervalued proposal team. In fact, a recent survey by Mairi Morrison with Strategic Proposals revealed that 62 percent of proposal professionals feel that their workload and volume of work are their greatest stressors.

A more selective and precise go/no-go process could significantly relieve the burden on proposal teams and prevent burnout. Bob Lohfeld, the CEO of Lohfeld Consulting Group has more than 30 years of experience in proposal management. In a Washington Technology article Lohfeld discusses the importance of RFP go or no-go decisions and believes they are the best way to improve your win rate saying:

“It is far quicker than hiring better people, improving poor proposal processes or investing in capture and proposal technology. In fact, making better bid decisions brings about an immediate improvement in win rate and, as an added bonus, lowers your annual cost of proposal development.”

Invest time wisely and improve win rates

Certainly, working strategically, improving your win percentage and reducing the cost of creating proposals is always important. However, making smart bid decisions becomes absolutely crucial when faced with big revenue goals. Despite this, many businesses seem to suffer from the fear of missing out when it comes to RFPs. Consequently, they spend resources and chase opportunities that aren’t a good fit. Lohfeld reframes the decision like this: 

“Contrary to popular belief, the key to making good bid decisions is not picking the deals in your pipeline that you are going to win, but instead, it is discarding the deals that you are going to lose.”

If you knew you were going to lose, you wouldn’t waste your time preparing a proposal. Accordingly, the bid/no-bid process is about weeding out unlikely deals so you can better focus on the most winnable opportunities. Furthermore, a strong go or no-go evaluation process enables you to better forecast revenue and use available resources to your best advantage.

3 strategies for conducting bid/no-bid analysis

From business to business the RFP evaluation process will be different. However, this guide will help you create a go/no-go analysis that’s as simple or complex as your business requires. Certainly, the more objective you can be, the more accurate your decisions will become.

Basic: The core five go/no-go questions

The simplest and most straightforward way to determine if you should bid or not is to answer these five questions. Each question focuses on a factor that should be considered before proceeding.

  1. Big picture: Does this opportunity align with your business’s long-term goals?
  2. Capability: Is your business equipped to fulfill the RFP requirements? Can you meet the RFP deadline?
  3. Profitability: Will the project be profitable?
  4. History: Do you have content from a previous RFP in your proposal content library that will make answering this one quick and easy?
  5. Competition: Do you know who you’re competing against and can you win?

If you answer each question with a confident ‘yes’ then, go for it and happy bidding. On the other hand, if there are too many ‘no’ responses or caveats that start with ‘yes, but…’ or ‘yes, if…’ the opportunity may not be a fit. 

This basic approach serves as a quick gut check before you devote time and resources to an RFP response. It is a great place to start for those new to bid/no-bid decisions. In addition, it works well for small- or medium-sized businesses where sales executives are responsible for proposal management. Another benefit of this short-form evaluation is that it can easily be conducted during a meeting with stakeholders if necessary.

Intermediate: True or false checklist

For those looking for a slightly more formal bid or no-bid analysis, the true/false checklist may be a good option. This form is still quick and easy to use, but considers the core five factors listed above in more detail. In addition, it can be customized to include the bid or no-bid criteria that’s most important to your business.

To gather your custom criteria:

  • Examine past RFPs and identify common themes in those you’ve won as well as those you’ve lost.
  • Ask for feedback from subject matter experts, business development and stakeholders ⁠— they may be aware of other factors you should consider.
  • Define strengths and weaknesses that would heavily influence your likelihood of winning.

Now, to add your criteria to the checklist, simply phrase it as a true or false statement where true is the ideal answer. To keep the evaluation speedy, I recommend using no more than 20 true or false statements in your checklist. Once you’ve filled it out, tally up your affirmative answers and evaluate the recommendation to bid or not to bid. Generally, if there are more than 80 percent true statements, you’re in a strong position to bid.

This go or no-go analysis works well for businesses that have one or two dedicated proposal coordinators. It provides clear guidance and justification that will help to get everyone on the same page.

Bid or no-bid checklist template

Preview of To Bid or Not to Bid Checklist and letter templates

This downloadable bid or no-bid checklist template includes some sample true or false statements to help you get started. Naturally, you’ll want to customize these to meet your organization’s needs. The standard considerations are broken into several sections. In addition, you’ll find templates for your next steps including an intent to bid letter and a no-bid letter.

Advanced: Bid/no-bid decision matrix

Math and data lovers, look no further than the bid/no-bid decision matrix for all of your analysis needs. The decision matrix approach uses a number of factors, rated on a scale to make a bid or no-bid determination. In some cases, each question or factor can also be weighted based on its importance to the business.

While this approach can get a little complicated, it’s helpful to teams who must consider many varying perspectives when making a go/no-go decision. In this scenario, each stakeholder completes the go/no-go matrix and shares the resulting score. Then, you gather the results and make your final decision by averaging the scores.

Bid/no-bid decision matrix examples:

My PM bid/no-bid Excel worksheet

This worksheet from MyPM includes more than 60 questions to consider. In this case, each question has three possible answers, each with a value:

1 – Unfavorable
2 – Neutral
3 – Favorable

The spreadsheet calculates the overall average and offers a recommendation of either bid, consider bidding or do not bid.

SMPS go/no-go decision making matrix

The go/no-go matrix created by the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) is highly-detailed. For instance, each question is scored on a scale from zero to 10. In addition, within the sections there’s a detailed description of what each score means. Not only that, but the worksheet also allows you to complete the scoring from your competitor’s perspective and see how you stack up. Certainly, this will give you a good idea of your chances of winning.

A note about these tools

Remember, these checklists and worksheets are tools to help you make informed decisions. As such, they should evolve as your business needs and goals change. Regularly update the go or no-go criteria as you identify trends and better understand what works. If you use RFP software to respond to RFPs, explore how you can use the platform to accurately track workload considerations, win themes and more.

Next steps: Letter of intent or decline to bid 

Now, you have your decision. What’s next? If the opportunity is a great fit, you’re good to go! Use an intent to bid letter to share the news with your buyer. Then move forward to the next step in your proposal timeline. Conversely, if you don’t plan to bid, you should notify the customer of your decision. Either way, we’ve got you covered.

It’s a go: Send a letter of intent to bid

Now it’s time to get down to business. But, before you start drafting your winning proposal, take a few minutes to send your prospect an intent to bid letter

While typically not required, this handy little note lets the buyer know you’re excited to partner with them and you’re hard at work writing a perfect proposal. It also helps you stand out from the crowd, shows your thoughtfulness and high regard for them as a potential customer.

It’s a no go: How to respectfully decline to bid

We get it. This is awkward. No one likes rejection and it feels like a role reversal to tell a buyer that their RFP wasn’t a fit. At the same time, you want to be sure you maintain a good relationship for any future opportunities. So, here’s how you do it.

Write a no-bid letter

Communication is one of the most important things in a customer relationship. Accordingly, the decline to bid letter lets the procurement team know what to expect from your organization. 

It is especially helpful for the issuer to know if you’re participating when the RFP has a small vendor pool. At the same time, the notice gives the customer the opportunity to follow up with you (and potentially offer helpful insight) before the RFP closes. In addition, sending the update will also save your inbox from unnecessary clutter as the RFP process moves forward and the customer sends new information to vendors still in the running.

When writing your letter, remember:

  • Be as brief as possible.
  • Offer insight about your decision, but stay positive.
  • Provide your contact information for future opportunities.
  • If you have an existing relationship with the customer, follow up with a phone call as well.

Final thoughts on the RFP go or no-go process

As you develop and implement your RFP bid or no-bid process, remember that no two RFPs are the same. Often, the difference between deciding to bid or not could come down to timing, staff availability, customer expectations, competition and so on. By adding a formalized go or no-go decision step to your RFP process, you can boost consistency, track success and better optimize in the future.

6 easy tips to write a killer RFP cover letter

6 easy tips to write a killer RFP cover letter

After weeks of work, you’ve finally put the finishing touches on your request for proposal (RFP) response. The proposal is a product of the hours you invested customizing past content, collaborating with subject matter experts, and refining your messaging.

Because of your efforts, the proposal is a masterpiece ⁠— creative, comprehensive and compelling. Consequently, you’re feeling confident. After all, your company should win this business — you’ve earned it. Now, there’s only one thing left to do … slap a proposal cover letter on top, submit it and move on to the next RFP.

But wait. Not so fast! When was the last time you read your boilerplate RFP cover letter? Like, actually read it. If you’re like many others, it’s been a while. Unfortunately, that means you might not be putting your best foot forward.

So, before you send off that RFP response, let’s take a closer look at your proposal cover letter and be sure it accurately represents your proposal. With a couple easy tips and a quick review, your cover letter will send just the right message.

In this post, we’ll explore what a proposal cover sheet is and why it matters. Then, I’ll explain what a cover letter includes, how to write a proposal cover letter, and a few sample RFP cover letters. Finally, I’ll share a proposal cover letter template you can download and customize to get a head start.

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What is a proposal cover letter?

A proposal cover letter is a single-page letter addressed to a prospective customer containing high-level information from a prospective vendor. The letter precedes an accompanying RFP response or business proposal.

Alternative names for the proposal cover letter include RFP response cover letter, bid proposal cover letter, RFP cover page, cover page for business proposal, and other similar variations. No matter what it’s called, the cover letter is your chance to introduce your business and offer to a potential new customer. As such, you need to make it count.

Why a well-written cover letter matters

You spend hours working through the proposal process, so why should you spend even more time crafting an RFP response cover letter? The proposal cover letter is an oft-overlooked sales tool. Indeed, it’s a zero-cost way to get your message directly to the people who decide whether or not your proposal wins. Furthermore, the RFP cover letter takes very little time to compose and offers you one more way to stand out from your competitors.

If you’re like most businesses, your cover letter can probably be summarized like this: “Dear Mr. or Ms. Company ⁠— Thank you so much for this opportunity. Included in this proposal you will find our answers that meet the requested specifications. Thank you for your consideration.” 

While common, this isn’t a terribly compelling way to introduce yourself to a new customer that could help you grow your business. Your RFP cover letter provides a first impression to the proposal evaluators and decision makers reviewing your proposal.

Think of it this way: If you were going to present your proposal in person, how would you greet the buyer? You’d probably wear your best suit, walk confidently, put on a warm smile and share a confident handshake to make a memorable introduction. It should be the same with your proposal cover letter. Unfortunately, if your letter is anything like the example above, it’s like showing up in sweatpants and offering an unenthusiastic, mumbled greeting.

The RFP cover letter can also be used to:

  • Create or deepen the connection between you and your buyer
  • Reinforce your brand, values and expertise
  • Promote your key differentiators
  • Establish primary points of contact

No matter how you use the RFP cover letter and what you put in it, remember that the person receiving it is just that ⁠— a person. The quality of your bid proposal cover letter determines whether they read it carefully, skim it quickly, or ignore it completely. Generally, proposal cover letters are memorable either because they are embarrassingly bad or extraordinarily good. Make your cover letter memorable for the right reasons.

Proposal cover letter basics

The RFP cover letter should be included as a normal part of every proposal, but it’s just one component. Indeed, most proposals also include a number of other elements that will generally appear in a specific order.

Parts of a proposal

  1. Cover letter
  2. Executive summary
  3. Proposal
  4. Addendums
  5. Terms and conditions
  6. Supporting documentation (case studies, references and additional data)

If your left temple is throbbing just looking at that list, take comfort in the fact that your well-curated and maintained content library can do up to 80 percent of the work for you. 

Components of a cover letter

As the first element of your proposal, the cover letter is bound to be seen by a lot of people. So, it’s important to make sure it is the best possible representation of your company. But, how do you decide what to say? One of the biggest challenges when writing an RFP response letter is how to keep it short while also making an impact ⁠— remember, your cover letter should fit on a single page. To help you craft your message, focus on these five elements.

  1. Addressees
  2. Greeting and introduction
  3. Summary of RFP needs
  4. Your broad qualifications and differentiators
  5. Thank you and closing

Your RFP cover letter should:

  • Be the first page of your RFP response followed by your executive summary and proposal
  • Introduce your company to the buyer’s key decision-makers and any others reviewing or scoring your bid
  • Be conversational, genuine and confident ⁠— but it shouldn’t be an overt sales pitch
  • Offer an overview of your understanding of the company’s needs
  • Clearly state why your business is uniquely qualified to win the RFP opportunity
  • If possible, express your vision for the future partnership and how you can help the business reach its goals
  • Follow the customer’s instructions if they ask you to include specific information in the cover letter

What’s the difference between a cover letter and an executive summary?

When building formal RFP responses, this question comes up a lot. What is the difference between a cover letter and an executive summary? The confusion is understandable as the two documents share a lot of similarities. They are both short, introductory documents that precede your proposal. 

The primary distinction is that a proposal cover letter is an introduction to your company while the executive summary is an overview of your offer for a specific project. In addition, the cover letter should almost always fit on a single page while the executive summary may be two or three pages if necessary. Admittedly, the difference is subtle. While the contents may seem to naturally overlap, try to avoid repetition and ensure that each document provides unique information.

Beyond the basics: Six tips to writing a better RFP cover letter

1. Address it to the right people

Who is going to review your proposal? If you don’t already know, find out. Get in touch with the RFP contact and ask for the names of the key contacts who will weigh in on the decision. This may be a committee of people or a combination of procurement professionals, stakeholders and executives. 

If you start your RFP response letter with the standard “To whom it may concern” salutation, you’re blending in and sending a message. Unfortunately, this approach communicates that you couldn’t be bothered to update your cover letter template, didn’t do your homework, and don’t really care that much about winning the business. It certainly doesn’t reflect the hours of time you’ve likely invested creating the proposal that follows.

By specifically addressing the proposal cover letter to the key contacts, you make a quick connection and instantly improve the chances that they’ll actually read the bid proposal cover letter and your subsequent proposal. This attention to detail reinforces the idea that not only are you a good fit based on your qualifications, but you’re also invested in developing deeper relationships. You’re in it to be a strategic partner, not just another vendor. 

2. Keep it fresh and be human

Put yourself in your recipient’s shoes ⁠— You’ve just received dozens of proposals from vendors who more or less provide the same type of services. You are starting to sift through RFP responses that are admittedly, probably pretty dry. The initial review checking for proposal compliance is time-consuming, highly repetitive and gets old quick. 

So, if a cover letter starts with something like, “Thank you for the opportunity to earn your business,” it’s just adding to the tedium. It’s a classic and well-worn opening line. While it’s good to be humble and grateful, it’s far better to be unique and memorable. A post featured in APMP’s Winning the Business said, 

“… never start a cover letter with ‘thank you.’ It’s boring, and almost everyone does it. This seemingly respectful thank you does not help your organization to stand out or inspire your reader to keep reading.” 

The article goes on to recommend starting with something specific and complimentary about the business. This opener accomplishes two things; it quickly shows that this is no ordinary copy-and-paste proposal cover letter while reinforcing that you did your homework and recognize the business’s goals.

In an increasingly automated and efficient world, it’s easy to forget about the people behind the process. Even if you use RFP software to quickly complete the RFP itself, the RFP cover letter offers a rare opportunity to be human and genuine. 

3. Use formatting to catch their eye

Your cover letter only helps you win the business if it actually gets read by the right people. Just like using the perfect proposal format, the right cover letter format invites the reader to engage. So, make sure your cover letter is clean, visually appealing, approachable and not too dense. Remember that you’re trying to make an impression, not dive into every detail of your proposal.

Because your cover letter only uses one page, you have to be smart about how you use the space. There are three main places where you have the best chance to hook the reader: the first sentence, the center of the page and the closing. 

Opening
Nothing catches your eye like your own name. So, as suggested above, address the letter directly to the evaluator(s). Then, include the buyer’s company name in a unique and impactful opening sentence. 

Center
Make the most of the center of your RFP response letter using bullet points. Draw the eye directly to your biggest differentiators without specifically calling out your competitors. Include what you excel at like customer support, on-time delivery, cutting-edge features, value adds, scalability, customer growth and so on.

Closing
Use the final line to move the deal forward. Offer the prospect a clear and direct call to action (see tip six for more information and an example). For example, provide details about how they can move forward with you, request the information you need to speed up contracting, or share what comes next in the process. 

If you can engage a reader in any one of these areas, they are far more likely to take the time to read your entire cover letter. Ideally, it’s intriguing enough that they continue on to check out your executive summary and proposal as well.

4. Tell a tale and express your understanding

Have a success story with a similar client that could boost your credibility? Tell it, but be brief. Share how a partnership has been mutually rewarding, how you’ve delivered a great customer experience or how you’ve been able to proactively solve problems. This reinforces your understanding of their business and goals.

In addition to telling a story, you can use your proposal cover letter to express your understanding of their pain. Every RFP starts with a need, and you received the RFP because the company believes you can meet that need. So, consider building on that foundation.

The relationship between buyers and sellers is evolving. More and more, businesses are looking for a long-term partner, someone who will actively find opportunities to create wins for both parties. RFP issuers want value but they also want a vendor that is invested in their success.

5. Stay true to your brand

Your company was included in the bid process for a reason, so stay true to the persona, culture, values and tone of your brand. Just because the RFP process is formal, doesn’t mean your RFP cover letter has to be. If your company prides itself on being down-to-earth, use that style in all of your communications. 

A cover letter shouldn’t be a lengthy essay, but it should demonstrate that you understand the prospect and their needs. Include “we” statements that hint at common goals. For example, “We believe our XYZ application will play an instrumental role in partnering with you to implement phase two of automating routine customer service processes, freeing your team to focus on reducing churn rates.”

Make sure that the tone of your cover letter accurately represents your brand and builds on the relationship you’ve cultivated. Don’t confuse your prospect by approaching them as if they were a stranger or in an unrecognizable style.

6. Close with a call to action, contact information and an actual signature

While the cover letter should be friendly, relatable and genuine; it’s also still a part of the sale. As with any good sales communication, state what you want them to do next and who they can contact to follow up. 

Wrap up your RFP cover letter with a call to action like:

  • Please reach out with any questions you may have
  • We’re eager to show you more ⁠— when we can schedule a demo with your team?
  • Let me know if I can put you in touch with another customer for a reference
  • To accelerate the contracting process, please send your standard terms and conditions

And the final element in a winning RFP cover letter is an actual signature (either handwritten or digital). It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s a nice touch and one last way to show your investment in winning the RFP opportunity.

Who signs the proposal cover letter?

Notice I didn’t title this section, “Who writes the proposal cover letter?” The person who writes it and the person who signs it may not be one and the same.

If your proposal team is fortunate enough to have a dedicated writer, then have them write the letter based on input from the frontline sales rep. Whoever writes the letter must be fully informed of response strategy and have intimate knowledge of the proposal and executive summary. Strategy, voice and style need to be consistent across all documents (cover letter, executive summary and proposal).

Who signs it depends on a variety of factors. In most cases, the frontline sales rep will sign the proposal cover letter. They have the relationship, own the strategy, and likely conducted the discovery that informed the proposal. However, it’s not uncommon for an executive sponsor such as a VP of sales to sign. The thinking being that executive reviewers may appreciate seeing a proposal that’s been vetted by a fellow executive.

There are also those cases when the executive of executives, the CEO, signs the letter. There are two common scenarios for this play. One, the RFP may be large enough to represent a significant percentage of a respondent’s annual revenue. Two, the responding organization is concerned with appearing relatively small, and in an effort to improve its stature, seals the proposal with a CEO’s signature.

There’s definitely some gamesmanship at play here. Even so, the name on the letter will never overshadow the content of the proposal.

3 common mistakes to avoid

Beyond the mistakes of not including a proposal cover letter at all or writing one that’s too long, proofread your next letter for the following mistakes before sending it.

  1. Avoid repeating anything from the executive summary or proposal. Those documents need to live on their own, just like the proposal cover letter.
  2. Don’t waste space with your resume. Something like this … RFPIO’s growing list of 1,800+ clients, including 65+ Fortune 500 organizations, continue to take advantage of our one-of-a-kind unlimited user licensing model, expanding their usage on the platform to scale organizational success. With RFPIO as their team’s support system, every day they break down silos by facilitating collaboration and efficiency in their RFX response process … is boilerplate that can appear elsewhere in the proposal or not at all, given that it’s likely available to the issuer on your corporate website.
  3. If a broker is involved, thank them too. The proposal cover letter is also an opportunity to directly address the issuer. This can be particularly valuable when a broker is involved. Some issuers rely on RFP brokers to sift through responses to make sure only the best possible solutions get serious consideration. Ignore these brokers at your peril. While the response and executive summary will address the issuer and the problem at hand, the cover letter is where you can give a nod to the broker.

Acknowledging their involvement in the process and thanking them for the opportunity as well will at the very least alert all reviewers that you paid close attention to the RFP requirements.

RFP cover letter template

Even for seasoned proposal professionals, it’s a challenge to start a brand new bid proposal cover letter from scratch, so below you’ll find an example. Hopefully, it will give you a head start on your next great RFP response. 

RFP cover letter template example | Blog image

Ready to start crafting your own RFP cover letter in this style? Check out this RFP cover letter template that follows all the best practices covered above. You’ll also find helpful instructions in the template so you can quickly customize it to meet your needs.

Proposal cover letter examples

Sample proposal letter – FedEx to State of Utah

If you only look at one other RFP cover letter sample, make it this one. This sample cover letter and accompanying proposal from FedEx is one of our favorites. Indeed, this request for proposal cover letter follows all the best practices. It includes:

  • A specific addressee
  • An engaging opening line
  • Excellent formatting and bullet points
  • A statement of experience
  • Simple, but recognizable branding
  • A real signature

Sample proposal cover letter – Insight Public Sector to Education Service Center (ESCO)

This proposal cover letter example introduces Insight Public Sector’s response to ESCO’s RFP for technology software, equipment, services and solutions. The letter fits on a single page, reaffirms the company’s qualifications, and uses colorful bullet points to draw the eye to the company’s primary differentiators.

Proposal transmittal letter example – SunPower/GSRP for Town of Nantucket

The RFP response letter focuses on the experience and financial stability of the two vendors partnering to win the business. In addition, the letter confirms the company’s ability to meet the specific qualifications set forth in the RFP for solar PV development for onsite energy generation.

RFP response cover letter sample – ISITE Design for Health Level Seven

While this cover letter uses the standard opening line, it’s scannable, brief and makes use of bullet points to highlight the company’s qualifications. In addition, the letter is addressed directly to the proposal evaluator. It’s a warm introduction for the web services strategy proposal that follows.

Helpful RFP response resources

Looking for more tools and information to help you write the perfect RFP response? Check the helpful resources below.

Guide to writing an executive summary

Do you know the difference between the executive summary and your RFP cover letter? Learn more in this blog that explores how to write an executive summary that stands out. 

Your personal guide to writing a winning executive summary

How to write a letter of intent to bid: Tips, examples & template

How to write a letter of intent to bid: Tips, examples & template

If you regularly respond to RFPs, you have probably encountered buyers who ask you to submit a letter of intent to bid as part of the response process. While this step in the RFP process is far from universal, it’s important to understand the purpose of the intent to bid letter. Additionally, you can use it as another positive touchpoint for prospective buyers.

Whether you’re responding to a buyer that requested a letter of intent and need guidance, or you’re simply looking for new ways to engage with buyers earlier in the RFP process, you’ll find what you need to know here.

First, in this post, you’ll learn the basics about the letter of intent to bid including what it is, who uses them and a few of their benefits. Then, I’ll offer some quick tips about how to write a letter of intent. Finally, I’ll share sample letters of intent to bid and an intent to bid template.

What is a letter of intent to bid?

Letter of intent to bid definition

A letter of intent to bid is a formal way for prospective vendors to communicate their plan to submit a response or bid to a request for proposal (RFP). Often, a buyer requests or requires a letter of intent from interested vendors as part of the RFP process.

A small distinction: Letter of intent to bid vs letter of intent

The letter of intent or letter of interest, abbreviated as LOI, has other applications outside of the RFP and sales process. For example, job seekers, grant applicants and legal agreements may also use letters of intent. So, be sure to understand the context of the LOI request before responding.

Who uses the letter?

When The letter of intent to bid can be requested by an RFP issuer (buyer) or offered proactively by a RFP responder (seller or vendor). The document isn’t exclusive to any particular industry. However, you’ll find it most often in government, legal, education and construction RFPs.

When required by a buyer, the procurement manager in charge of the RFP is the person who requests, receives and reads the letters. On the other hand, when offered proactively, the letter of intent to bid is written and submitted by the proposal manager.

What is in the letter of intent to respond?

The intent to bid letter is usually very brief. Indeed, it follows the standard business letter format and fits on a single page.

Your letter of intent to bid should include:

  • The name of your company
  • Name of the proposal contact
  • The name or reference number of the RFP you’re responding to
  • A clear statement of your intention to submit a proposal
  • Your sign off and signature

In addition to the above, you may choose to include more information. For example, you may wish to offer a brief statement about why you believe you’re a fit for the business. You may also highlight your relevant experience or confirm that you meet or exceed the minimum RFP requirements.

In many cases, if this step is part of the process, the buyer will provide a letter of intent to bid template that outlines the information they require. You can see examples of this later in this blog.

When is the letter of intent due?

If an RFP requires vendors to formalize their intention to bid (or decline to bid), the deadline will appear in the RFP timeline. Typically, this step happens after vendors receive answers to any follow-up questions or points of clarification during the Q&A period.

On the other hand, if you’re sending an intent to bid letter as a courtesy (when it’s not required by the buyer) you have more flexibility. In this case, you should send the letter as soon as possible after you’ve done your bid/no-bid discussion and made a decision. Ideally, this is at least two weeks prior to the RFP deadline.

Benefits of the intent to bid letter

You may find yourself wondering why anyone would require a letter of intent to bid. Why add one more step to an already long process? Well, there are a few reasons why an intent to bid letter is a good idea.

1. Ensures sufficient interest and competition

Many organizations have procurement policies that require three valid bids before making a purchase. The letter of intent to bid enables buyers to ensure that a project will have sufficient vendor participation to proceed.

If a buyer doesn’t receive enough affirmative letters of intent to bid from vendors, they may reevaluate the project, even if they have a qualified, under-budget bid. They can extend the RFP invitation to additional vendors, find out why vendors chose not to respond or they can put the project on hold.

Essentially, the letter of intent saves a procurement manager weeks of waiting and hoping they’ll have the necessary number of bids when the RFP deadline arrives.

2. Defines and streamlines communication paths

The purpose of an RFP is to exchange information between buyers and sellers in an organized way. In an ideal world, the process would be straightforward. However, in the real world, it’s rarely that simple.

It’s not uncommon for a buyer to have a few updates after issuing an RFP. For example, there may be amendments to the requirements, changes in scope or clarifications of the RFP questions. In this case, the buyer needs to know who to contact.

Thanks to the letter of intent, they know exactly who to reach out to. Not only that, but the procurement manager avoids sending unnecessary emails to suppliers that have indicated they will not be submitting an RFP.

3. Enables a faster RFP evaluation process

After the intent to bid deadline, the response period begins. While you and your team write a winning RFP response, the buyer begins preparing for the RFP evaluation process.

Because they already know the number of participating vendors, the procurement manager can prepare more thoroughly. For example, they can set up proposal scoring and prepare guidance for stakeholders.

Faster evaluation means faster results. So the buyer can award the contract and you can win business faster.

Tips for how to write a letter of intent to bid

As we’ve discussed above, you can use the letter of intent to bid in two situations: either to meet the stated RFP process requirements or as a proactive courtesy to the buyer.

Sometimes, if a buyer requires an they provide a template to ensure they receive the same information from every vendor. In this case, simply fill out the provided document and resist the urge to add more detail.

The letter of intent to bid template is usually included at the beginning of the RFP or as an attachment at the end. However, if the buyer doesn’t offer a template or you wish to create a letter of intent to connect with the buyer, there are a few things to keep in mind.

LOI best practices

• After your decision to bid or not to bid, write and send the letter as soon as possible.

• It’s best to address the letter to the procurement manager or company contact specified in the RFP. Try to avoid a generic greeting like, “To whom it may concern.”

• Begin the letter by clearly stating your intention to bid and basic company information.

• Include contact information for the person who will manage the proposal process. This is the person the buyer should contact if they have questions, need more information or want to begin negotiations.

• After addressing the necessary information, consider including brief statement on why your company is the right fit for this opportunity. In addition, you could briefly mention past successes, differentiators, references and expertise.

• Remember, keep it short. Save the details for your RFP response.

• Avoid asking follow up questions, because they’ll likely get overlooked if you include them in the body of your LOI.

• Apply RFP response best practices to your letter: be concise, use active voice and review for grammar and spelling.

• Conclude your letter by expressing gratitude for the opportunity and offering any necessary assistance.

Letter of intent to bid samples

Now, if you’re considering adding an LOI step to your proposal process, you may want to see some real-world examples. Below you’ll find a few samples of letters of intent requested by a buyer. Then, you can compile your favorite parts to create your own template.

Construction letter of intent to bid sample

This letter of intent template, provided by Hard Hat Hunter, is specific to the construction industry. It is very short and to the point with just the basics: the vendor’s information, the project name and when the buyer can expect to receive the RFP response.

Employment agency letter of intent to bid template

Contact information, the name of the RFP and an acknowledgement of the RFP criteria are included in this sample letter of intent to bid. Offered by Golden Sierra, it is tailored to an employment and job training agency.

Municipality letter of intent to respond form

In this letter of intent to bid example, from the city of Seabrook, New Hampshire, the city asks that all vendors respond. Consequently, the form allows vendors to select their intent to submit nor not submit a bid.

Ultimately, sending a letter of intent is just one more way to connect with and serve your potential customer. When competition is tough, every gesture matters and clear communication is crucial.

For organizations that use RFPIO, creating consistent, memorable letters of intent to bid can be done quickly using templates. Automating this process is a great way to save time while also increasing your engagement with buyers.

5 tips to make proposal content management easy

5 tips to make proposal content management easy

No matter what industry or role you work in, tracking down the right information at the right time is key to success. This is especially true for proposal managers and RFP teams working to meet deadlines. However, thanks to technology, centralizing information in a proposal content library is easier than ever.

With a proposal content library, the manual process of searching through emails, old proposals, and spreadsheets is over. Finding answers is now easily completed with a simple search. But, as most proposal managers know, to be truly useful, the business must practice careful RFP content management.

This post will explore the value of a knowledge library, the importance of maintaining and managing your RFP content and best practices to help keep your proposal process running smoothly.

Proposal content library basics

So, exactly what is a proposal content library? A proposal content library is a centralized location where RFP response content is stored digitally. In some businesses or industries, it is called a proposal content repository or RFP content repository. Alternatively, teams that also store responses to security questionnaires or due diligence questionnaires may use the more general terms, knowledge library or content knowledge library.

Most proposal content libraries are created in Word, Excel, Google Docs or an RFP software solution, like RFPIO, with knowledge management functionality. Information can be copied and pasted into the centralized proposal content repository or, in the case of RFP software, simply imported from previous proposals.

Knowledge libraries with collaboration capabilities deliver even more value. The ability to work together more closely benefits both proposal managers and subject matter experts. As a result, they bypass the time-consuming back and forth of email and achieve true collaboration.

A well-curated content library contains a wealth of company information and its value extends far beyond RFP response. Increasingly, organizations turn to their content libraries for all sorts of response needs, including HR departments, public relations, communications, legal, etc.

The value of an RFP content library

Before the rise of digital transformation, proposal managers had to manually search through old RFPs, emails and documents to find the answers they needed. As intranets and cloud-based solutions grew in popularity, centralizing and storing information in a proposal content library quickly followed.

RFP content repositories bring improved efficiency, transparency and accuracy to the proposal process. A business empowered with a well-managed, organized content knowledge library sees a lot of benefits.

7 benefits of a knowledge library

  1. Easy, quick access to the information required complete proposals
  2. Consistent terminology, tone and style in proposal content
  3. Immediate and continual access to subject matter expert knowledge
  4. Faster onboarding for new subject matter experts
  5. Clear definitions of team responsibilities for revising and updating content
  6. Sales team that is empowered to complete proposals with approved content
  7. Extended value to entire company offered by answering common questions

The importance of managing your content knowledge library

Finding information quickly is one of the most common challenges facing businesses. In fact, the International Data Corporation (IDC) — a global provider of market intelligence — released a study that shows a typical knowledge worker spends “about 2.5 hours per day, or roughly 30 percent of the workday, searching for information.”

To solve this problem, businesses have invested in digital solutions to help collect valuable information. However, as information has become easier to retain, the flood of data presents a new challenge. The IDC article goes on to say:

“Intranet technology, content and knowledge management systems, corporate portals, and workflow solutions have all generally improved the lot of the knowledge worker. These technologies have improved access to information, but they have also created an information deluge that makes any one piece of information more difficult to find.”

Much of the value of RFP software is delivered through knowledge management functionality designed to make life easier. The practice of knowledge management focuses on saving, centralizing and organizing valuable information. Not only does RFP software store key proposal content for future use, but it also empowers users to organize and search for content. Proactive knowledge management is a crucial skill for effective proposal management.

Proposal content management best practices

The efficiency of using an RFP content repository depends on how well it is managed. Certainly, without proper maintenance, it can become a cluttered, unorganized mess of information. In order to avoid this challenge, follow these knowledge library best practices.

1. Add content to your proposal content repository strategically

How do you decide what goes into your knowledge library? Not every answer in every proposal or questionnaire needs to be collected and retained. You have to be strategic when building your proposal content library. Auditing content is an ongoing process, but beginning with best practices in mind will go a long way to keeping your RFP content repository clean and usable.

Avoid bulk uploading from old proposals

When creating your content knowledge library, it’s important to review the information you intend to include. Think of it like this: when you move to a new house, you don’t move the box of old cassette tapes and CDs gathering dust in your basement. Don’t bring things you don’t want to keep into your knowledge library.

Many RFP software solutions offer automated uploading of old proposals. On the surface, this option appears to offer a huge time savings. However, in practice, bulk uploading old proposal content creates a lot of unnecessary, out-of-date and duplicative clutter.

Analyze question intent to avoid adding duplicate content

From one proposal to another, there will certainly be similarities. In fact, in my experience, most proposals received by a business share nearly 60 percent of their content. These questions are a great place to start. Examine several proposals and identify core questions that exist in almost every proposal.

Take care to review several old proposals together, the language will differ but focus on the purpose behind the question and consolidate responses based on intent.

For example these questions have the same purpose. Each asks “who are you” however, each proposal might have a slightly different answer.

  • What is your company’s background?
  • Explain your company history
  • What does your company do and how long have you been in business?
  • Describe your company experience

Evaluate questions for future usefulness

Despite a large portion of similar information, some RFPs will ask questions so specific that the answer simply won’t apply to any future RFP you might receive.

Likewise, some RFPs are so customized to the company’s use case that reusing the content would take just as much rework as creating the answer from scratch. Evaluating questions critically is a key part of proposal content management.

Genericize your previous proposal content and add place holders

The last step before adding new responses to your RFP content repository is to remove any previous language, terminology or identifiers. For example, add placeholders like <>, <>, <> to stand in for specific information that was unique to the previous proposal. There’s nothing more embarrassing than sending a proposal with another company’s information still in it.

Because the amount of information created is constantly growing, managing what goes into the knowledge library is crucial. Evaluating the merit of content and deciding if it should be retained will avoid information overload.

2. Organize your proposal content library with tags

When it comes to knowledge management and keeping your proposal content organized and easy to search, nothing is more helpful than tags. Using tags adds key metadata to your RFP content, allowing it to be categorized. Tags are keywords and phrases you can associate to your proposal content. Then, when you later search for those keywords and phrases, you can isolate your search to just the tagged content.

Content tag categories

There are lots of ways to tag content. For instance, you may serve many different industries and find it helpful to tag responses accordingly — finance, healthcare, technology and so on. When you receive an RFP from a prospect in that industry, a simple search allows you to quickly access relevant proposal content.

Organizing RFP content by markets, however, might not make sense for your organization. It’s important to determine the organization method that would work best for your company’s employees. The important thing is to determine the categories that work for your users.

For example, you might choose to tag content based on:

  • Product lines
  • Internal groups that own the content
  • Security question categories
  • Geographic location

Tagging best practices for RFP content management

Use broad tags and limit the number of options

As you create tags in your RFP content repository, keep them fairly general. If too many tag variations are available, finding the exact one you need can become confusing. Limiting the total number of tags to less than 50 will keep your knowledge categorized and useful without being too segmented.

You also don’t need to combine tags to create highly specific categories that you’ll rarely use. For example, if you serve the healthcare and finance industries you may have proposal content in your library applicable to both. Instead of creating a new tag called “healthcare finance” it is better to tag it with both “healthcare” and “finance.”

Share your list of tags

Once you’ve established your core tags, publish the list. Then, when anyone in your organization needs to find information in the content knowledge library, they know where to start. Socializing your tags also has the benefit of validating your thinking and further defining tags. After all, what makes sense to you may not make sense to somebody else. Understanding the logic and justification behind tags will make your RFP content repository useful to everyone who needs it.

Review your tags regularly

It’s important to review your tag list regularly to make sure all of your tags are still useful. If your tags are well thought out and you have stored enough relevant proposal content, you should see between 10 to 20 records or more associated with each tag.

If you find an individual content record has more than four tags, you should reevaluate whether each tag is needed. On the other hand, if you identify untagged content, review it to determine whether the content is still useful. And if so, take a moment to add any relevant tags to ensure it can be found.

3. Give the right people the right access

You might want to share proposal content with certain users, but not with others. In some cases, providing access to the entire proposal content library may be an unnecessary distraction. How you grant access to your knowledge library depends entirely on where you manage it.

Version control and access in Word or Excel

If you’re managing your content repository in Word or Excel, your ability to collaborate with subject matter experts is somewhat limited. In order to collaborate with colleagues you may need to extract a set of questions from the knowledge library, create a new document with only the relevant info and send it over to your subject matter expert for review. Sending document versions through email can be difficult to track, so if you have an intranet platform it may be useful to share documents there instead.

Permission management in Google docs

Live editing available in Google docs makes collaboration easier, but permission management is still a challenge. Permissions are set at a document level so limiting access to your knowledge would mean creating individual documents for each subject matter expert. For Google sheets experts, there may be an available script to limit access by user by tab, but it’s far from a perfect solution. Google Drive’s search makes it possible to find content using keywords in multiple documents, but the process is cumbersome. It’s a time-consuming workaround.

User permissions in RFP software

RFP software makes setting user permissions easy. Using account hierarchies, you can easily ensure a user is only able to view and edit information that is relevant to their role. This empowers organizations to break down silos without putting sensitive client data into the wrong hands.

For example, if your company has multiple divisions, such as geographically separate groups, hierarchies and subaccounts can help you localize projects and users. Within each sub account, you can create additional subaccounts, continuing until you have a hierarchy structure that accurately reflects your organization. This empowers users to easily access all the data and information related to the sub account in which they’re searching.

In another example, if you’re a consultant who helps clients craft proposals, you can create a hierarchy structure to keep client work separate. When you set up clients as users in subaccounts, they cannot see activity in other client accounts.

4. Schedule regular content reviews

As your proposal content repository grows, implementing regular reviews will help things run smoothly. Old, unreviewed information opens you up to risk. Sending out-of-date information can compromise your chance of winning an RFP and damage your reputation.

As the proposal manager or sales person, you simply cannot keep track of every change throughout the business. Consequently, you won’t know when a change needs to be reflected in your response content. This is why proposal content management requires regularly scheduled updates to the proposal content library.

I recommend assigning subject matter experts the relevant tags to review on a regular basis. For most of your proposal content, reviewing once every six months is probably enough. However, for areas that change quickly, like security information for software a more frequent review cycle might be necessary.

Be sure to communicate expectations. It can also be helpful to encourage proactive updates when subject matter experts know changes have been made. And, finally, don’t be shy about following up and being persistent when proposal content reviews are past-due.

5. Teach key search skills

Once you have your proposal content library set up and organized, it’s time to make sure your team is getting the most out of it. Finding the right content often comes down to knowing what to look for and how to search for it. It seems obvious, but understanding how search works is an underappreciated skill. The ability to search is key to success, according to IDC.

“Increasingly, search has become one of the most frequent, vital tasks a knowledge worker performs.”

There’s a big difference between computer logic and how humans think. Using Boolean search logic will help you quickly find information in your RFP content library.

Boolean search basics

Most search engines leverage Boolean logic to find and narrow search results. Boolean search allows you to specify, group or exclude specific words using AND, OR and NOT functions.

AND search

AND logic only returns results that include all of the terms requested. This is useful when you’re looking for very specific information. For example, if you need answers for questions to respond to a potential client that provides financial technology, you could search for “finance AND technology.”

Proposal content management search skills for AND

OR search

OR will search for proposal content that has any of the search words entered. This is a great option when your key search term may have several synonyms. For instance, if you’re looking for responses that would fit for a banking client, you may want to search for “finance or banking.” Your search results will include any proposal content that contains either finance or banking.

NOT search

NOT searches for results that have one term but excludes another. This is helpful when you know exactly what you want to find between two closely related terms. For example, if you need to provide information about your company’s diversity, but don’t want to see results about HR recruitment policies. Searching for “diversity NOT recruitment” will yield the most relevant results.

Additional search options

In addition to AND, OR and NOT searching, you can combine the terms to further narrow results. You can also use quotation marks (“ ”) to request exact match for long search terms. And finally, you can use parentheses to tell the search engine which operation you’d like completed first.

For example, searching for “(banking OR finance) AND recruitment” will yield results that contain both banking recruitment and finance recruitment. Whereas “banking OR (finance AND recruitment)” will yield results that contain banking as well as results that contain both finance and recruitment.

How RFP software transforms proposal content management

Maintaining best practices for RFP content management is a challenge. However, RFP software makes the process much easier. The features of RFP software designed specifically to meet the unique needs of proposal managers and teams. Including everything mentioned above and more like, content importing, integrations, knowledge management extensions, tags, permissions, account hierarchy management and more ⁠— RFP software delivers huge value.

Discussing the value of their knowledge library, RFPIO customer Paul Maplesden from GEODIS said:

“The GEODIS Content Library refresh would have been much more difficult and time-consuming without the RFPIO tool. RFPIO features have made it much faster and easier for us to identify duplicate content and develop a strong approach to enhance the Content Library.”

To learn more about how RFPIO improves RFP management, learn more about our knowledge management solution or request a demo to see it for yourself.

RFPIO CPO/CIO talks about human-AI collaboration in new UX

RFPIO CPO/CIO talks about human-AI collaboration in new UX

Less than a decade ago, B2B customers would likely approach potential vendors through one of five channels. I’ll give you a hint: their procurement departments weren’t one of them. The number of channels has doubled today, and procurement departments are increasingly tasked with initiating and negotiating purchases, usually through RFPs.

Around that same time, RFP response time was cut in half, from an average of 12 months to six. Additionally, increased regulations and security requirements make the purchasing and bidding processes far more complex.

Today’s business climate is all about doing a lot more with less, but leaving many of their largest potential deals on the table because a company doesn’t have the time or resources to create winning proposals isn’t a viable option.

The best solution is empowering existing teams with the necessary resources to drive more revenue.

I recently sat down with RFPIO Chief Product Officer, Chief Information Officer, and cofounder, AJ Sunder, to discuss how RFPIO’s new UX — introduced in the company’s latest launch — advances collaborative AI capabilities that will help add human-driven value to response departments without overburdening proposal professionals or SMEs.

Wendy: Good morning, Sunder. Please tell us a little about yourself and the vision behind RFPIO.

Sunder: Before founding RFPIO with Ganesh Shankar (RFPIO CEO) and Sankar Lagudu (RFPIO COO), I worked in various roles in software development, including as developer, product manager, software test engineer, database admin, architect and information security analyst. I have spent the better part of my career in telecom, healthcare, aerospace and defense before SaaS.

While working together for a startup, Ganesh, Sankar and I had different experiences with RFPs due to our various roles. We found that the RFP management processes we encountered were often inefficient and time-consuming, leading us to create a better solution.

So when we decided to start our own company, we knew that response management was an area where we could make an immediate impact. We aimed to simplify the RFP process and make it more user-friendly, which led to the development of our patented import process, setting us apart from our competitors.

Initially, I focused on engineering and customer success when we started RFPIO. I currently manage product and engineering.

Wendy: Can you describe some of the reasons you decided to reimagine the UX?

Sunder:  We decided to launch a fresh and brand-new interface for our application because we recognized that UI and user experience standards are evolving faster than ever before. Our users are exposed to new and innovative applications every day through their mobile devices and the internet, which leads to rapidly changing expectations. We aimed to keep up with these evolving standards by embracing more recent technologies that provide better performance and greater flexibility.

However, our goal wasn’t to simply rewrite our application. We wanted to reimagine it from every angle, with a particular emphasis on integrating AI. Since the launch of RFPIO, AI has rapidly advanced, and we saw an opportunity to seamlessly incorporate it into the user experience. By doing so, we are able to improve the overall user experience while also making AI a natural part of it.

And finally, the new user interface has allowed us to bring a lot more capabilities, and time-saving features to the platform that would have been more challenging to fit into our classic interface.

Wendy: Can you tell us a bit about your philosophy on improving the user experience?

Sunder: Absolutely. At the heart of our philosophy on improving the user experience is a commitment to investing in both our internal research, expertise and customer feedback.

Internally, we dedicate significant resources to researching and developing new ways to make our application more intuitive, efficient and enjoyable for our users. We also placed great emphasis on soliciting feedback from our customers. This includes conducting user research, gathering feedback through surveys and customer support channels, and regularly engaging with our users. By listening closely to our customers, we were able to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.

Wendy: How much customer or user input went into the new UX?

Sunder: At RFPIO, we strongly believe in building solutions in close partnership with our users. We recognize that our customers are experts in their own domains and have unique perspectives and insights that can help us build better solutions. That’s why we regularly gather feedback from our customers through various channels such as surveys, customer support interactions and user research.

For the new UX, we conducted extensive user research to understand our customers’ needs and pain points. We interviewed users, observed them in their natural environments, and analyzed their workflows to identify areas where we could improve the user experience.

While customer input is essential, it’s equally important that our product teams have the expertise and creativity to translate problem statements and pain points into elegant solutions. Our teams work hard to synthesize the feedback we receive, identify patterns and themes, and then design and build solutions that address those needs in intuitive and efficient ways.

Overall, the new UX is the result of a collaborative effort between our customers and our product teams. We’re confident that our customers will appreciate the enhancements we’ve made and that the new UX will help them work more efficiently and effectively

Wendy: Can you tell us more about helping users rapidly evaluate requirements in government RFPs, and other dense, narrative documents?

Sunder: When someone receives a request for proposal (RFP), one of the initial challenges is figuring out whether it’s the right fit for the business, is it worth pursuing, and what it will take to pursue the opportunity. This requires carefully examining the RFP to understand its requirements and key entities. It can be a time-consuming process, so we’ve invested in user experience (UX) and machine learning to help streamline it.

Our machine learning algorithms can quickly analyze dense, narrative documents commonly found in public RFPs and suggest which sections to focus on — what are some of the key requirements, timeline and so on. This way, our users can get a snapshot of what the document is about and make informed decisions about whether to pursue the opportunity.

It’s important to note that this technology is not a substitute for reading the entire document, but it can help users quickly identify the key information and involve the right stakeholders in the decision-making process. By investing in UX and machine learning, we aim to simplify the evaluation process and save our users valuable time and effort.

Wendy: How is the work that your [development] team is doing an important step forward in how proposal and response teams interact with AI technology?

Sunder: We use AI as an assistive technology that supports and enhances the work of proposal and response teams. We recognize AI’s potential to improve efficiency, accuracy and speed, but we are also acutely aware of the responsibility that comes with implementing such technology.

That’s why we have designed our AI systems to work in conjunction with human experts, who are always in the loop to oversee and guide the AI’s decision-making processes. Our approach ensures that our AI technology is transparent and accountable, and that it reflects our core values of ethics and responsibility.

In terms of how our work is an important step forward, I would say that it lies in the balance we strike between the benefits of AI and the importance of human oversight. By using AI to assist proposal and response teams, we are able to automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable resources for higher-level, strategic work. At the same time, our human experts ensure that the AI’s recommendations align with our clients’ needs and expectations, and that we remain mindful of the ethical and legal considerations surrounding the use of AI in proposal and response processes.

Wendy:  Can you elaborate on how you see RFPIO users collaborating with AI?

Sunder: Certainly. At RFPIO, our goal is to make AI an invisible assistant for our users, seamlessly integrated into their workflow and providing valuable insights and suggestions without being intrusive or disruptive.

In practice, this means using AI to automate time-consuming tasks like document analysis and response drafting, freeing up more time for users to focus on higher-level tasks like strategy and collaboration.

For example, when a user receives an RFP, they can quickly upload it to our system where AI algorithms analyze the document and extract key information such as requirements, deadlines and contacts. This information is then organized and presented to the user in a clear and structured format, allowing them to easily review and assign tasks to team members.

When it comes to response drafting, our AI-powered suggestion engine provides real-time recommendations for content based on the user’s inputs and past performance. This can include everything from specific answers to common questions to more general suggestions for tone and formatting.

Throughout this process, we place a strong emphasis on maintaining the human in the loop, enabling users to review and approve all AI-generated content before it is finalized. This ensures that users retain control over the final output and can make any necessary adjustments to ensure it accurately reflects their organization’s voice and messaging.

Overall, we see AI as a powerful tool for improving collaboration and efficiency in the proposal and response process, and we’re committed to making sure it remains a helpful assistant rather than an intrusive technology to contend with.

Wendy: There’s already been a ton of buzz about GPT assistant. Why is there so much interest in RFPIO’s approach to content-generation technology?

Sunder:  At the heart of responding to RFPs, security questionnaires, and proposals is the task of writing quality content that effectively communicates our customers’ unique value propositions. This is an area where GPT excels, and we’re thrilled to be incorporating this cutting-edge technology into our platform to help streamline the content-generation process.

With GPT, we’re able to offer our users an AI-powered writing assistant that can help them draft compelling and persuasive responses to even the most complex questions. This technology allows our users to tap into the power of natural language processing and machine learning to generate high-quality content more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

Overall, the interest in RFPIO’s approach to content-generation technology is driven by our focus on making the content-generation process more efficient, while also maintaining a high level of quality and accuracy. We’re excited to continue exploring the possibilities of AI-powered content generation and to help our customers achieve greater success in their response management efforts.

Our customers recognize the potential of this relatively new technology.  And this is reflected in the volume of inquiries and the interest we have seen so far. But I should note that this interest ranges from curiosity to outright enthusiasm to embrace it.

Wendy: How does GPT assistant differ from ChatGPT?

Sunder: GPT assistant is a proprietary AI application developed by RFPIO specifically for the purpose of assisting with RFPs, security questionnaires, and proposal content generation. ChatGPT is a general-purpose chatbot built by OpenAI that can be used for a wide range of applications. While both use the same underlying large language models, our GPT assistant is specifically designed to understand the nuances of the content we work with and provide more relevant and accurate suggestions.

Additionally, our GPT assistant is integrated into our RFPIO platform, allowing for a seamless and secure collaboration between the user and the AI assistant. The information and data used by our GPT assistant is kept private and confidential, ensuring that sensitive information is not shared or compromised.

Wendy: Will GPT assistant and other generative AI help encourage SME and executive buy-in, and if so, how?

Sunder: Yes, I believe that GPT assistant and other generative AI technologies will help encourage SME and executive buy-in. By leveraging GPT technology to assist with content generation, we can significantly reduce the time and effort required to create high-quality responses to RFPs, security questionnaires and other content-driven requests.

The potential impact on productivity and efficiency is significant, and we are optimistic that our customers will embrace this technology when they see the real value it can provide.

Furthermore, the ability to generate content quickly and accurately with the help of GPT technology can also help our customers win more business. By creating high-quality responses faster and more efficiently, our users can improve their chances of winning bids and securing new contracts.

Of course, we understand that there may be some concerns around the use of AI in content generation. That’s why we are committed to ensuring that the technology is used responsibly and that it always works in conjunction with human expertise and oversight. Ultimately, we believe that the benefits of this technology will far outweigh any potential drawbacks, and we are excited to continue exploring new ways to help our users streamline their workflows and achieve their business goals.

Wendy: There’s so much positive momentum surrounding the company and its response management platform — why do you think that is?

Sunder: At the heart of it, RFPIO’s response management platform fills a critical need in the B2B space. In today’s fast-paced business world, request response has become the backbone of most business interactions. From RFPs to security questionnaires, businesses are constantly receiving requests for information, and the ability to respond efficiently and effectively can make or break deals.

Our platform allows businesses to streamline and optimize their response process, freeing up valuable time and resources for more strategic pursuits. We’ve seen firsthand how our technology can have a huge positive impact on businesses, both in terms of winning more deals and improving overall productivity.

But it’s not just about technology. We’ve worked closely with our customers to understand their pain points and challenges when it comes to request response. By truly listening to their needs and translating those problem statements into elegant solutions, we’ve been able to create a platform that truly meets the needs of our users.

Overall, the positive momentum surrounding RFPIO is a testament to the power of strategic response management and the value that our platform brings to businesses across industries.

Wendy: Thank you, Sunder. That was fascinating!

Sunder: My pleasure.

If you’d like to learn more about RFPIO’s new user experience and GPT assistant, let us know.

 

7 career-boosting networking opportunities for busy proposal managers

7 career-boosting networking opportunities for busy proposal managers

Whether you’re happy with your job, want to explore options, or actively looking, networking is one of the best, if not the best, way of helping you achieve those goals. But is that easier said than done?

The proposal managers we work with are extraordinary. They are some of the hardest working and most knowledgeable people in their organizations, and like the rest of us, they have lives outside their careers. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for traditional networking opportunities, such as networking groups, cocktail parties, etc.

Time isn’t the only roadblock for proposal managers looking to expand their professional connections. Proposal management is rather niche, which is one of the things that makes it a great career path. Most companies need you, or at least someone like you, but how many people actually know what a proposal or response manager does?

Wouldn’t you rather network with people who know the difference between an RFP proposal manager and a proposal 💍 manager?

1. Join a social media group

With an average of about 17 minutes per month per person spent on LinkedIn, it’s fair to say that it’s far from the most popular social media platform. Still, more than 58 million companies are on LinkedIn, partly because of the wealth of talent looking to hear about new possibilities.

There are several groups for proposal industry experts, the largest of which is the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). The best part is the group is even open to people who aren’t members of the association.

If you feel you might get lost in the crowd of 21,000-plus members, consider joining Bid Specialists – Bid and Proposal Professionals for Winning Private and Public Sector Contracts. Its roster of just over 700 members includes professionals from all aspects of the proposal industry, including salespeople, lead managers, capture and support people, and so on.

If you are an RFPIO user, please join our LinkedIn user group. We also have a response management Slack channel. 

2. Reconnect with some of your favorite college professors

If your degree is in any way related to the proposal industry, your former college professors likely still have their thumbs on the pulse of the industry. They might even be aware of opportunities other alumni may have discussed with them.

Email them through their university email addresses, social media profiles, or blogs if they have them.

3. Join an online community for proposal professionals

Between those 11:59 p.m. work-from-home deadlines and frustration over SMEs who appear to be ghosting you, you might feel alone. You’re not. RFPIO’s customers and proposal managers have been asking us to organize an online community for a long time, and we finally did it!

For now, the online community is open to all RFPIO customers, although non-customers can browse and explore. It’s a place to find colleagues, establish mentorships, ask and answer questions, and even win badges! Best of all, you can make valuable connections who can provide tips for advancing in your current company or help you find a new job.

4. Show your thought leadership skills

Proposal manager and SME is a symbiotic relationship. You need them to help you craft the right answers, and they need you to help drive revenue. But have you ever thought that you are also an SME or thought leader?

You have skills and knowledge that are valuable to anyone who has, or wants to have, a career in proposal management. Demonstrate your expertise by writing an article or blog post in a trade journal, as a guest writer on a company blog (RFPIO occasionally features guest bloggers), LinkedIn, or Medium.

For the less introverted among us, offer your subject mastery on a panel, as a guest speaker, or if you have an especially compelling tale to tell, you could even offer to hold a Ted Talk.

Did I mention that potential employers could see your post or speaking engagement?

5. Ask your existing contacts

A now ancient shampoo commercial asked its users to each tell three friends about the restorative powers (or something) of the product. In turn, the commercial said, your three friends would tell three friends, and soon everyone will know about the shampoo.

You probably have one, two, or three people you used to work with. Ask them to introduce you to people, and then once you establish those relationships, ask your new contacts for introductions. Don’t just limit yourself to asking fellow proposal professionals. SMEs, salespeople, and so on also have connections to the proposal industry.

You may not get to know everyone in the proposal world, but you’d be amazed at how quickly the introductions can cascade.

6. Reach out to strangers

This one can be tough for many of us. Still, there’s no harm in connecting on LinkedIn, sending an email, or even calling proposal managers from other companies to introduce yourself.

If they’re receptive and live near you, you could suggest coffee or lunch.

7. Become a mentor

Rather than approach people with the idea that they can help you, offer yourself as a mentor.

It’s easy to forget the essential basics. Giving advice reminds you to stick to what works, builds your leadership and communication skills, and helps you get noticed. It’s also worth noting that mentor–mentee relationships aren’t always as clear-cut as they sound.

A younger mentee can help more seasoned mentors keep up with industry trends.

Of course, networking is about far more than job hunting. If you are looking for a place to make immediate connections who can help you in your current position, we invite you to check out the proposal manager online community.

See how it feels to respond with confidence

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