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How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

Few people know this, but the working title for “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens was actually “A […]


How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

Few people know this, but the working title for “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens was actually “A Tale of Two Teams.” The opening line was supposed to be: “It was the best of times (with RFPIO), it was the worst of times (without RFPIO), it was the age of wisdom (for sales teams supported by RFPIO-powered proposal teams)…” and so on. Alas, Dickens’ publisher suggested changing from “Teams” to “Cities” at the last minute. True story.

What I believe to be Dickens’ original intent was to point out that there’s a huge disconnect between what the optimal proposal team structure should be and the reality of resources available. The idea of having a team of dedicated capture specialists, writers, and SMEs that exist to support proposals is more myth than reality.

If you’re a proposal team of one or two—or none if proposal responsibilities fall under a duty bullet point in your sales or marketing leadership job description—then how can you do more with less?

More specifically, how can you support sales as if you had a roster full of star proposal free agents responsible for RFP capture, contract management, proposal production and management, subject matter expertise, pricing, and writing?

In “A Tale of Two Teams,” your team without RFPIO spends time:

  • Chasing down subject matter experts (SMEs) for responses
  • Badgering with constant reminders
  • Manually segmenting large RFP documents
  • Searching for previous content
  • Gathering RFP requirements
  • Tracking down supporting documentation

Your small team with RFPIO spends time:

  • Aligning with sales and marketing on positioning
  • Improving formatting and design templates
  • Developing persuasive language
  • Defining strategy
  • Gathering more information and context on clients, products, and previous conversations
  • Building graphics and visual aids
  • Personalizing messaging
  • Managing content

With RFPIO, your team focuses on developing more effective proposals while sales spends more time on revenue-generating activities. Using the features described below, I’ve worked with small proposal teams that can answer at least 40% of a proposal with auto-response capabilities, gain back 20% more time overall, and deliver proposals 1.4 days ahead of deadline, on average.

Set up your project dashboard immediately

When an RFP takes flight, you don’t want it flying blind into a fog bank with no instrument rating. Visualize early-stage projects with Analytics for better resource planning and forecasting. Light up your dashboard with insight into:

  • How many sections are there?
  • How many questions need answers?
  • How many authors will you need?
  • Answers to questions like these help make a project feel “real.” You can get a toehold and see what progress is going to look like.

Make an initial pass at the questions using a combination of auto-response and intelligent search. Then go back and refine content. Leave questions marked as unanswered so sales or SMEs can review and confirm, but start tracking sections you’ve started. Even if the proposal team is not running the show—because we all know that sales is—you can gain a sense of control by using the Analytics that RFPIO provides.

Keep the answer library fresh

I’ve said it before and I will probably never stop not-saying it, there’s never any real great time to organize content because we are all always busy. But to ensure that auto-responding and intelligent search zero in on only the most relevant targets, library management is a must. We don’t have a dedicated manager, so we lean heavily on Tags.

As you work on projects, start importing content. Start standardizing it, adding tags, and defining owners as it’s imported. We have a standard set of tags—we block users from adding tags to try to limit tag sprawl—that we use to classify content as it’s imported for each project. This makes it easier for me when I’m wearing my library manager hat to update content when I have the time (I aim for once a week). We also use Collections and Custom Fields capabilities to help with library management.

Let the system be your cat-herding ranch hand

I use the phrase “herding cats” too often, but it’s a shared feeling among proposal managers. System-generated notifications help with cat herding because you don’t have to be the one cracking the whip all the time. Let the system chase them down. In RFPIO, system-generated notifications chase sales, SMEs, or whomever down automatically without me having to do anything.

Often, the reason content hasn’t been submitted or reviewed is because the owner simply forgot to click the blue “Submit” button. In other words, they might not even know that they’re still on the hook for the content because they believe they already submitted it! System reminders from a non-judgmental AI help preserve my relationships with colleagues. I don’t want them thinking that they sent content and I lost it, doubling up their work. This way, the system says that if it’s not in RFPIO, then it didn’t happen!

@-mentions improve #collaboration

RFPIO isn’t social media, but it does incorporate a standard social media feature to streamline collaboration: @-mentions. @-mentions allow SMEs, sales, and senior management to be notified via their communication platform of choice (e.g., email, Slack, Microsoft Teams) and then reply in-line without having to log into RFPIO, saving time and making it more likely that you’ll get an answer.

This is especially valuable when you need input from multiple contributors. With @-mentions, you keep the conversation going without constantly having to reset for each contributor. The challenge here is to get non-RFP team members to use @-mention. They can be slow to adopt.

I love flags!

Color-coded flagging may sound simple, but it’s one of my favorite features of RFPIO. I customize flags to help visualize strategic content. They help us quickly identify key things that need to happen for an RFP, and then make it easier to navigate those items across sections. Perhaps the best part is that there’s a lot of satisfaction in watching those flags disappear as items are completed. One step closer to project completion!

4 ways small proposal teams can support sales

  1. Make a habit of getting every RFP/Security Questionnaire/RFI into RFPIO immediately (light up that dashboard!).
  2. Assign a team member to be the “first-pass” SME before assigning outside authors and reviewers (utilize auto-response and intelligent search).
  3. Assign an owner to each piece of content and enable regular reviews. The more you can organize at the outset, the less time you have to spend squeezing an SME for details on major changes to a new product you just learned about before they go on vacation.
  4. Dedicate someone (maybe it’s you, lucky!) who engages with sales and SMEs on a regular basis. The consistency will help build relationships and trust with go-to collaborators. Proper care and feeding of SMEs will keep your projects running smoothly.

Add more value to sales and the organization as a whole

RFPIO has converted our organization from reactive to proactive when it comes to sales support and RFP responses. A short anecdote…

During a week in which we had three RFPs in-flight, one of which was a three-day turnaround, two sales management team members and our two-member proposal team were able to spend an hour on the phone to discuss some critical changes to the way we wanted to communicate our overall organizational capabilities based on trends we were seeing in the marketplace. There is no way that conversation would have happened if we hadn’t already been ahead of schedule thanks to RFPIO.

If empowering your proposal team to do more with less is a priority, then check out my webinar below for more details on how we use RFPIO. Ready to add some girth to your small team with RFPIO? Schedule a demo today!

Expand sales intelligence and personalize sales documents with RFP automation software

Expand sales intelligence and personalize sales documents with RFP automation software

When customers start using RFPIO’s RFP automation capabilities, most of them quickly expand response management to their overall sales intelligence program. They enable sales teams to generate personalized sales documents and proposals on a self-service basis. With easy access to a robust content library, sales representatives can (relatively) easily piece together pre-approved, pre-vetted content to create proactive selling documents.

In the spirit of transparency, we happened upon these added benefits somewhat by accident. We actually learned about them from our first enterprise customers, who had thousands of projects running in RFPIO. Upon evaluation of all the content they had accumulated in their Answer Libraries, they asked a seemingly simple question: With all this great content in RFPIO, how else can we use it?

Ever since, we’ve been fine-tuning features so that RFP automation software adds more value to the greater sales intelligence program for customers of all sizes.

How your sales representatives respond matters. For more conversions at higher price points, they need to respond quickly, with a personalized touch, and they need to do it efficiently so they spend more time on revenue-generating activities.

According to Forrester, there are three key elements to sales intelligence.

  1. Operational Intelligence: “What is happening and what has happened.” In other words, these are the KPIs that guide day-to-day activities (e.g., number of calls, proposals delivered, pipeline-to-quota coverage ratios, average deal size, etc.).
  2. Diagnostic Intelligence: Analyze the KPIs established in operational intelligence to gain a meaningful view of data and identify trends that may determine future performance.
  3. Interpretive Sales Intelligence: Use operational and diagnostic intelligence to guide and support revenue generation throughout the organization, from optimizing responses to prospects and customers to structuring compensation plans.

Based on this definition, RFP automation software can have a significant impact on sales intelligence. Here’s why.

Without data, nothing is driving your sales intelligence

Sales intelligence is all about identifying buyer signals and nailing the timing. Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Depending on your product or service and your market, the amount of analysis that goes into signal identification could range from hours to months, or even years.

Sales is like the rest of the intelligences that are all the rage right now. Artificial, business, military (I may be dating myself with this allusion, but I always think of Robin Williams in Good Morning Vietnam when I hear “military intelligence”), you name it, if it’s intelligent, then it depends on data. Similarly, sales intelligence relies heavily on data collection, management, and insight.

Your CRM is the central nervous system of your sales intelligence. Let me throw some borrowed knowledge at you (source).

  • CRM is among the top three tools and technologies for creating personalized interactions with customers to foster loyalty and better marketing ROI. (Salesforce, 2017)
  • 73% of marketers with a CRM system use it for a shared customer view between their service and sales teams. (Salesforce, 2017)
  • High performers are happier with the level of collaboration between their marketing team and other departments and they’re also three times more likely than underperformers to extensively use CRM tools. (Salesforce, 2017)

Much of the client, opportunity, and product data that can be leveraged to personalize proposals already exists in CRMs. By integrating RFPIO and CRMs like Salesforce, sales reps can now generate personalized selling materials without leaving their CRM. RFPIO can link CRM data from client, industry, job title, product information, and opportunity fields to dynamic proposal templates that allow sales reps to hyper-efficiently generate proactive proposals.

A real-world use case is:

  1. Sales rep Alpha finishes their first phone call with a prospect. They enter what they’ve learned about the prospect, such as product interests or points of contact. These fields will be used to swap out the dynamic templates when the proposal is generated.
  2. The prospect has asked Alpha to send a solutions brochure to learn more about Alpha’s company and solutions. The sales rep will click on “create proposal” to get started.
  3. Alpha navigates their CRM (e.g., Salesforce) interface to select “Create Proposal in RFPIO” from a list of available document templates (NOTE: You’ll need to set up the document templates ahead of time, but once you do so, it’s just a matter of plug-and-play content!).
  4. Alpha completes the proposal builder without leaving the CRM to add content relevant to this particular prospect and include personalization variables. These can include contact fields such as name and title, relevant quotes and testimonials from companies in their industry, the specific solutions and prices that the prospect needs, implementation team, timeline, etc.
  5. Alpha clicks the “Generate” button.
  6. Voila! Alpha has a personalized, on-demand proposal to share, which will be much more effective than a boilerplate email or generic brochure. The generated proposal is then automatically published to the Salesforce page from which it was created. Now, it’s ready for the sales rep to download or share as needed.

Sales intelligence with RFP software integrated into your CRM enables more informed selling, allowing you to take advantage of the personas you’ve been developing and the hard-fought information you’ve been gathering on your prospects and customers.

5 sales intelligence advantages of RFP automation software

Let’s say you’ve integrated RFP software into your CRM. What benefits can you expect?

  1. Keep sales reps focused on selling: Are your salespeople spending less than 36% of their time selling? Sales VPs and directors want reps living in the CRM, focused on revenue-generating activities. By providing access to RFP content and automating its generation from the CRM, reps spend less time chasing down content or composing proposals.
  2. Gain leverage from content analytics: Track the content that’s being consumed, by whom, and how it’s being shared. Identify the most common and popular content to help inform future content development. Analyze trending queries, both internally and externally.
  3. Strengthen your account-based selling strategy: Make it easier for your sales team to collaborate on developing multiple contacts and relationships within a single account. Content analytics helps you track the buying signals throughout different levels of your most complex accounts.
  4. Personalize every response: With the data stored in your CRM combined with the high-quality content stored in RFPIO, proposal managers, marketing teams, or sales teams can create pre-approved content blocks that sales teams can piece together to create proactive selling documents. What would it mean to your team to send professional, personalized proposals with every response?
  5. Take a big lift off of proposal and marketing teams: No more one-off requests for content or proposal support from sales reps because they’ll be able to do it themselves. For example, Microsoft estimates that its RFPIO Answer Library saves up to 5,000 hours per year.

A rising tide lifts all boats

Advanced sales intelligence will also contribute to greater success with RFP responses. For proposal managers, customer data points from the CRM will help automate the completion of a proposal and inform bid decisions.

Natural language processing and analytics will help decipher what kinds of questions will be asked in an RFP. RFPIO can estimate what type of proposal to expect, compare it to past RFP responses from similar client profiles, and analyze how you performed in the past to determine your likelihood of success and how long it will take to complete. The proposal manager can also estimate resources and identify contributors that will need to be allocated in order to win the RFP and determine if it’s worth it to the organization to proceed.

What’s it gonna take?

We’ll need to connect the systems, so there is some administrative setup. However, we’ve already synced up with multiple CRMs, so we know what to expect.

Schedule a demo today, and we can discuss whether it makes sense for you to integrate your CRM with RFPIO RFP automation software.

How Crownpeak realized a 6x return on investment with RFP software

How Crownpeak realized a 6x return on investment with RFP software

When brands need great web and digital experiences delivered through the cloud, they choose Crownpeak’s Digital Experience Management platform. The world’s only true-SaaS digital experience platform empowers organizations to quickly create, deploy and optimize powerful customer experiences with industry-beating time-to-market.

As regulatory, privacy and accessibility standards become increasingly complex, organizations lean on Crownpeak’s Digital Quality and Digital Governance tools to help get and stay compliant. Faced with complicated implementation and compliance issues, many organizations choose to start their purchasing motions through RFPs.

With up to two-thirds of enterprise deals starting with an RFP, Paul Taylor, VP Solutions Engineering at Crownpeak, knew he needed to move beyond manual RFP response creation—and quickly.

Paul set off to find an automation solution to the RFP process. He wanted something that stored all their response content in one place, automated the process, and simplified collaboration across a global team. It was quickly obvious that RFPIO was the only solution that could do what they needed.

They knew almost immediately they made the right choice. Within just a few months, Crownpeak saw incredible results—including a 1000% increase in efficiency and a 6x return on their investment.

When everyone has access to company knowledge, responding to RFPs is a breeze

Before RFPIO, response content was scattered across old RFPs, dispersed across hard drives, or trapped in the heads of senior team members. Sales reps looked for answers in old RFPs and email threads. When this didn’t work, they wrote answers from scratch. With knowledge so intensely siloed, each new RFP response was like taking a journey into the unknown.

Now, all response content is stored in the RFPIO Answer Library—and powered by AI. All sales reps have to do is click “Auto Respond” and RFPIO instantly fills out 80% of an RFP. And that percentage is only going up. Whenever they come across a question not stored in RFPIO, they’ll work with SMEs to write a high-quality answer, and store it in the content library. So next time they see that question, they’ll be ready.

“Today we’re filling out 80% of an RFP with Auto Respond. But next time we get an RFP, that percentage might be 81%. The more answers we put in the library, and the more RFPs we respond to, the more accurate Auto Respond becomes,” Paul explained.

“Auto Respond is absolutely brilliant. Whenever we get an RFP, we just click on Auto Respond and RFPIO answers 80% of an RFP in a few seconds.”
-Paul Taylor, Vice President of Solutions Engineering
Crownpeak

RFPIO is more than RFP software. It’s a knowledge base.

When sales development representatives at Crownpeak get a question from prospects, RFPIO is the first place they go for answers. Now, SDRs can answer their prospects questions as soon as they ask them—shortening the sales cycle and keeping prospects happy.

For the senior sales representatives, giving the SDRs a place to find answers means no longer answering the same question again and again. “When a sales development representative asks me a question, I’ll point them to the Answer Library. If they can’t find the answer there, I’ll write a really good answer and send it to them—and then add that answer to the Answer Library, so they won’t have to ask me next time,” Paul explained.

RFPIO is also where the compliance team keeps the most up-to-date security and compliance information. The compliance team moderates any content before it is stored in the library—and ensures content surrounding compliance and security is regularly audited. The result? The entire Crownpeak team trusts what is stored in the library. And responding to Security Questionnaires has never been easier.

Crownpeak increased efficiency by 1000% and saw a 6x return on investment within months of implementing RFPIO

Before RFPIO, it would take the Crownpeak team several days to respond to a single RFP. They would often work nights and weekends just to submit an RFP before the deadline.

Now, they can answer 80% of an RFP in just one click, and they’re measuring total response time in hours, rather than days.

With so much extra time, the sales team can focus on activities that add value to the business. They’re improving the quality of their demos. They’re building relationships. They’re talking to prospects one-on-one, and really understanding their needs.

They’re also tailoring RFPs to each customers’ needs, greatly improving the quality of their responses. The better the responses, the more RFPs they win, and the more revenue they can generate.

Paul has just a few words to anyone still manually responding to RFPs: “You have no idea what you’re missing. Once you start automating your process, the only way to go is up.”


Are you ready to respond to RFPs faster, and improve the quality of your responses? Get started by scheduling a demo today.

How to use RFP software to improve sales contract management

How to use RFP software to improve sales contract management

If sales is the rock and legal is the hard place, then you’ll often find sales contract management stuck right in the middle. The constant dilemma of the sales contract manager is, “How can we propose redlines that make legal happy and mitigate business risk, but still get sales contracts done efficiently?” There are two common approaches to dealing with this dilemma.

One, you can manually execute contract management through a hodgepodge of emails, spreadsheets, document versions, and pleas for responses ASAP. This exposes your process to a host of issues, including:

  • Lack of continuity or redundancy in the contract review process.
  • Significant differences in the redlines proposed by contract management staff.
  • Disparate systems and processes to manage sales contract terms between departments.
  • Too many contracts at different stages to effectively track.
  • Missed renewal opportunities.
  • Misfiled or lost versions.
  • Reused contract language that is no longer accurate or is out of date.
  • Easily lost tribal knowledge about preferred redline responses.
  • Lost time waiting on SME feedback for specific clauses or Exhibits.
  • Inflexibility in negotiations due to fear of swamping a deal in the contract morass.

Two, you can use RFP software that will bring together the parties involved in contract review and will create consistency in redlining through a knowledge repository of legal-approved contract language. This certainly shuts down the issues that arise from the standard email process, but it opens you up to the expense of a new platform. Small to midsize businesses will need to evaluate whether they create enough contracts to justify the ROI. Organizations that derive their revenue predominantly from requests for proposals (RFPs) may want to consider another option: Using RFP software to augment contract management.

How can RFP software improve sales contract management?

Throughout my contract management career, I’ve learned that there’s a wide variance in how companies structure their contract management departments. Some are embedded in legal, some in sales or business operations. Others oversee multiple functions such as procurement, sales and RFP responses. And then there are the lone wolf departments — sometimes operated by a team of one — that focus only on contracts but depend on all other departments to contribute.

In any one of those situations, the contract management process can benefit from knowledge management capabilities in RFP software. At RFPIO, my team uses our Answer Library to manage contract content and various redlining playbook language. It gives us access to pre-approved content that my team needs to complete sales contracts without having to unduly burden any other departments. We utilize a private collection in the system as a contract language repository. It increases efficiency for legal, sales, contracts, and other subject matter experts (SMEs) whom we rely on for contract management. It also helps me train new team members in a consistent review process and helps reduce the likelihood of brain drain if a member of the team leaves.

A simple process

Your RFPIO Answer Library can serve the same function for contract language management as it does for RFP responses. But instead of using it as a hub for Q&A pairs you need for an RFP, use it as a hub for contract clauses that have been approved by legal or any applicable content from an SME. Other than that, just like for RFPs, you can use it for interdepartmental communication, and it will all be enhanced by an intelligent recommendation engine.

Start by approaching legal with the clauses that get the most pushback from customers. These are the clauses that require more customization. The same ones you have to email over and over again to legal and wait too long for a response. After these clauses are in the Answer Library, contract management staff can reduce the content that legal needs to review (and in an iterative process, new language provided by legal can be added to the Answer Library to minimize the back and forth even further!).

Create a collection that’s only accessible to the contracts and legal teams. Cordon it off so only your team can see it and maintain version control. For example, you may want to set up a “change to governing law” section. Then you can have the legally approved clause applicable to Delaware or Idaho or California or Alpha Centauri. Do the same for clauses relating to payment terms, auto renewal, notice periods, limitation of liability, warranties, and indemnification; the same applies for certificates of insurance (COIs) exhibits, data privacy agreements (DPAs), SLA response times, or whatever else appears in your contracts.

Preserve lawyers’ more expensive time

Debate value of different positions all you like. The fact is that the average lawyer will be more expensive for your company than the average salesperson, contract administrator, or proposal manager.

Also, legal likely has many other priorities that require their time, which means that addressing sales contracts will not be as important as it is to sales. With your Answer Library in place, you can retain up-to-date, legal-approved content that is easily accessible by the entire contracting team, minimizing the sales contract review time for lawyers. Showing legal that you respect their time will also go a long way toward getting faster turnarounds for non-standard contract language.

Make sales look good

One of the most frustrating responses you have to provide to a salesperson is, “We’re still waiting on legal.” It impacts that person’s commission, endangers their deal, and causes unnecessary interdepartmental friction.

Avoid the big time suck of sending every contract to a lawyer by using the approved clauses in your Answer Library. Sales can work faster, and they can also work smarter. Eliminating the fear of avoidance frees them up to be more flexible in their negotiations. It’s easier for salespeople to cater to prospect and customer needs if they know their contract changes won’t bog down negotiations.

Increase value of your contracts team

With an Answer Library chock full of legally approved clauses and communication features that help track a project, the contracts team now has the ability to view an entire project and see what has already been answered. This can be a blind spot for many contract managers, especially if the contract team is separate from a proposal team. Now a contract administrator who can see what’s already been answered in a questionnaire or pre-RFP response doesn’t have to search around in the project’s history or shared file or email chain.

Contract teams deal with subject-matter-experts other than legal, too. Procurement may need to add customers as additional insureds to the COI. IT and/ or IS will need to weigh in on the DPA and SLA information, and Operations may be needed for product information, quantity commitments and timeline obligations. Have the pre-approved contract language set aside for access only by your contracts team and a system where SMEs can quickly review instead of create. “Is this the right clause?” requires a “yes” or “no,” whereas, “Please provide the most recent insurance verbiage,” requires more of a time commitment.

Finally, with a knowledge management system in place, you can focus contract team training on how to use discretion within the system and how to chase down only the non-standard answers.

Emerge from between the rock and hard place

Knowledge management with a solution such as the RFPIO Answer Library alleviates pressure between departments in the contract review process and allows each department to specialize: sales on generating revenue; legal on compliance; and contracts on contracts.

Schedule a demo today to learn more about RFPIO Answer Library.

Why collaboration is essential to outstanding customer experiences

Why collaboration is essential to outstanding customer experiences

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to a study by Walker. Despite this, many organizations still aren’t entirely sure what customer experience is, let alone developed programs to optimize it.

Customer experience is the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey. It touches everything: navigating the website, interacting with sales, working with customer service—and, of course, using your product.

Not only is customer experience complex and multifaceted, it’s also vital to your business. In their future of Customer Experience report, PwC surveyed 15,000 customers and found that one in three customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.

Optimizing customer experience across platforms is complex. A good place to start is by keeping the promises you make to customers. When you commit to fulfilling customer demands, make sure you follow through. This starts by ensuring your sales, proposal, and product teams are in lock-step.

Make promises you can keep

Most of us don’t make promises with the intention of breaking them. Despite this, brand-customer relations often end with unfulfilled promises of features and functionalities that never appear.

The disconnect between customer expectations and reality can often be traced back to a disconnect between sales and product teams. This gives rise to the question: how do you re-connect sales and product teams?

Promises to fulfill customer demands start with the sales proposal. Complex questionnaires (i.e. RFPs, RFIs) are bound to ask about a feature or functionality that your solution currently doesn’t have.

Rather than simply saying “no”, and risking losing the bid, the proposal team might explain the feature is not available now, but will be added to the product roadmap. For example, if an RFP issuer is looking for a solution with an open API, being willing to make that available within six months could be the tipping point that wins you the deal.

But to follow through on this promise, and provide an outstanding customer experience, the product team needs to be involved in these kinds of conversations from the get-go.

That’s where RFPIO for Jira steps in. Rather than sending product feature requests into the abyss of email, proposal and product teams can collaborate on the platforms they’re already using. Deadlines, customer commitments, and feature requests are tracked in a single centralized location—and nothing slips through the cracks.

RFPIO for Jira keeps your teams aligned

A survey of over 2,000 knowledge workers found that 69% of workers waste up to 60 minutes a day navigating between apps. That’s 32 days a year.

When you integrate RFPIO with Jira, your proposal and product teams can collaborate on customer commitments, without leaving the app they’re already working in.

When product inspiration, customer demands, or commitments arise in an RFx response, presales teams can create Jira Issues or Tickets directly from RFPIO, relating that issue back to a specific question or section within the RFPIO project. RFPIO users can track the status of Jira requests against defined timelines, and engage in bi-directional conversations with product and project owners in Jira.

Start the conversation

When approached with questions regarding a feature or functionality your solution doesn’t have, the proposal team needs to know:

  • Are we already working on this?
  • Can we develop this feature?
  • If yes, what is the expected release date?

The proposal team can ask these questions by creating a new ticket in Jira, assigning owners, labels, deadlines, and priority levels. For questions that address features already being worked on, the proposal team can link to an existing ticket.

Figure out a solution

When customer requests require further discussion, team members can start those cross-functional conversations by @-mentioning users. RFPIO and Jira users can discuss a certain request, without leaving their preferred platform.

Stay on top of commitments

With RFPIO for Jira, all feature requests can be tracked in the ticket dashboard in RFPIO, giving ticket creators full visibility into the status of any tickets they’ve submitted—and can give status updates to other teams, as needed.

Additionally, ticket creators are notified anytime an associated ticket is updated or commented on.

Strengthen customer experience to stay ahead

According to research from PwC, there’s a 16% price premium on products and services that come with great experiences. Companies that connect their responses to product development are providing that outstanding customer experience, right out of the gate—and giving themselves an automatic edge over their competitors.

If you’re ready to take the first step in providing an outstanding experience, aligning your teams is a great place to start. Tealium, a software company that connects companies to data, is already seeing incredible results with RFPIO for Jira.

Armando Rosario, the VP of Strategic Programs, explained, “the integration between RFPIO and Jira is bridging the gap between subject-matter-experts, engineers, and proposal managers during the RFP response process—allowing us to better collaborate and build workflows between systems they’re already using.”

To watch RFPIO for Jira in action, check out our webinar below. If you’d like to see how RFPIO for Jira could work for your specific use case, go ahead and schedule a demo.

How Salesforce integration with RFP software unified a team

How Salesforce integration with RFP software unified a team

Alison Moeller was tasked with improving her team’s RFP response process, and she knew finding RFP software that integrated with Salesforce CRM was critical. With over 600 question and response pairings, she also needed a solution that would centralize their content.

When the Accolade team isn’t interacting with prospects and customers, they turn to Salesforce for information. A strong CRM integration was key to successful user adoption as Alison set out to find the most beneficial RFP software option for her team.

Alison’s team sought to improve their RFP process in 3 ways:

  1. Spend less time combing through complex RFPs and spreadsheets to find relevant information.
  2. Better collaboration by automating RFP response data directly into Accolade’s CRM.
  3. Ability to analyze the performance of their RFP responses and optimize them for future success.

In the end, they decided to trust RFPIO to digitally transform their response process. A few months after implementing the solution, they’re already seeing incredible results.

Leveraging historical information with a centralized RFP answer library

Without a central location for their growing, Accolade lost hours combing through complex RFPs and spreadsheets to find relevant information and possible answers for every new response.

After implementing RFPIO, Accolade released knowledge that was locked in the heads and hard drives of individuals into the RFPIO Answer Library. Within days of launching RFPIO, they immediately added 600 question-answer pairs to their answer library.

The more projects they complete in RFPIO, the more robust their answer library becomes. Three years after implementing the software, they’ve grown their answer library to over 14,000 question-answer pairs.

According to the 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey, 89% of RFPIO users agree the Answer Library helps them save time. They love its ability to store, organize, and access responses in a centralized content hub.

Optimizing performance with built-in analytics

Being a data-driven organization, Accolade longed to analyze the performance of their RFP responses and optimize them for future success.

With RFPIO, they can perform a win-loss analysis on every RFI and RFP response. Discussions with their sales ops team uncovered actionable insight that resulted in improvement in teamwork and efficiency. Just three months after Accolade onbarded, they could respond to complex questionnaires like RFPs and RFIs in half the time.

The Accolade team is responding to complex questionnaires like RFPs and RFIs in 50% of the time thanks to RFPIO.

Streamlining opportunity management with a fully linked system

Automatically plugging RFP response data directly into Accolade’s CRM saved even more time and resulted in better collaboration across the board.

RFPIO’s Salesforce integration gives Alison’s team the visibility they need to track opportunities involving an RFP response with their other opportunity level as they continued to grow. The team uses RFPIO’s executive dashboard to track next steps for all active RFP responses. At a glance, the sales and management teams can now track all sales together.

New research of 2,900 sales professionals found that 75% of business buyers agree that connected processes are very important to winning their business.


“RFPIO’s Salesforce integration is helping our business be more efficient and organized with RFPs and RFIs. We can easily view insights and progress with every RFP right from Salesforce. Our team is very big on data, and the new project custom fields have been really helpful for reporting to management. Cutting our RFP completion time in half has allowed us to focus more on process and data as a whole.”

– Alison Moeller, Accolade

4 ways to set your sales development team up for success

4 ways to set your sales development team up for success

I knew RFPIO wanted results when I came aboard six months ago. I felt confident that I could deliver. But even I was surprised by a 281% increase in the number of demos my team scheduled over a 90-day period, a key metric to our lead-qualifying process. Especially during a global pandemic, when workforces around the world were thrown into chaos.

The good news is that my bosses don’t expect that level of growth to be repeated quarter over quarter. Even better news is that I still feel confident that we can improve on these lofty benchmarks. Our product is a no-brainer (spoken like a true sales evangelist, right?), but that’s not why I’m so confident. It’s the sales development representatives (SDRs) on my team that make me confident.

While watching my team crush our goals for the quarter, I was inspired to share a few of the things I learned along the way:

Piece together the best people

The best way to set your sales development team up for success is to think like an NBA GM. On a basketball team, not everyone is the go-to for offense. You need defenders, creators, passers, hustlers, shot blockers, ball handlers, coaches, and more to have a winning squad.

For a championship-level sales development team, curate a team of varying opinions and perspectives. This is especially true in sales development when you’re getting the bulk of prospect objections. Every SDR responds differently to objections. Some like the direct approach while others prefer storytelling to help a prospect understand why they have a problem that your solution will solve. I once had a former journalist on the team who excelled at telling stories to paint a bigger picture. Some SDRs rely on use cases to tell a story.

Accentuating these diverse approaches provides a rich tapestry for collaboration. Colleagues can say, “Hey, this worked for me…” One option may not be the right style fit, but when multiple options become available, SDRs can find what works best for them. When training new SDRs, they’ll feel more comfortable knowing that there’s more than one pathway to success.

This doesn’t just apply to phone conversations. Much of sales development takes place over email. While one SDR has a talent for writing subject lines, another SDR may be better at writing compelling call-to-action body copy.

A team composed of diverse backgrounds will make SDRs better together and provide unique solutions to otherwise challenging problems.

Equip your team with the knowledge they need

Now that you have your sales development team ready, it’s your responsibility as a sales manager to create the environment where they can be successful. That starts by implementing a knowledge management system that empowers SDRs to act quickly and decisively.

For example, CrownPeak, a Digital Experience Management software company, uses the RFPIO Answer Library to answer prospect questions. SDRs can answer their prospects questions as soon as they ask them—shortening the sales cycle and keeping prospects happy.

According to Paul Taylor, the Vice President of Solutions Engineering at CrownPeak, “When a sales development representative asks me a question, I’ll point them to the Answer Library. If they can’t find the answer there, I’ll write a really good answer and send it to them—and then add that answer to the Answer Library, so they won’t have to ask me next time.”

Another useful knowledge management tool is RFPIO Lookup, a Google Chrome extension that makes accessing your Answer Library even easier. With just a quick keyword search, SDRs have a robust library of pre-approved answers at their fingertips.

Many SDRs are still early in their careers and won’t have the same product knowledge as more senior sales members. Ensuring sure your team can quickly answer prospect questions is essential to any sales team that wants to work faster and smarter.

Define personal and team success

The third way to set up your sales development team for success is to define what that success looks like, and then communicate your plan so everyone on the team is heading in the same direction.

I hire people because I recognize talent that will be valuable to the organization. Whether they continue in sales or find a home in another department, I want to help grow that talent investment. Identifying a clear career path for SDRs will guide how you train them and show them that you want them to succeed.

Ensure everyone has the same view of what is expected of them and can see clearly the path to get to the next level. Avoid distraction of misalignment or missed expectation and focus the team’s energy in one unified way toward agreed upon objectives. I’ve found success in this area by creating plans for personal development for all SDRs.

I use these plans to document goals that each SDR needs to achieve so they can move up in the organization. Everyone learns and grows differently. One SDR may know the product extremely well but they don’t have presentation skills. Another may have great presentation skills but not know the product. It’s my job to find out how each SDR learns and that will determine how I train them.

Not everyone wants to be an account executive. Some want to be in operations or enablement or move out of sales altogether. With a written plan in place, when the SDR achieves their goals then—when a position is available—we’ll move them into their desired role, trained and ready to go.

A fully developed plan takes a while to build out because you have to work with the SDR a good 90 days to get to know them. It’s built with them; it’s never dictated to them. As trust grows, they’ll be more comfortable relaying their true goals. When that emerges, we can create a career pathway so they’ll be successful.

I share these plans for personal growth with my bosses as well as the SDR. This transparency keeps me and the company accountable to the promises we’ve written down. If you have a larger team, it’s more challenging, but the extra work developing each SDR’s growth plan at the outset will pay off in the long run.

Abandon conventional thinking about incentives

Finally, the fourth way to set your sales development team up for success is to nurture motivation, and create incentives that increase sales and promote personal fulfillment. What motivates one person may do little to excite another. Defining specific rewards for each individual allows you to tap into that SDR’s values and help them feel fulfilled in their role.

According to a report from Harvard Business Review, 9 out of 10 people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. They also found that employees who find meaning in work report higher job satisfaction and spend more time working, generating an estimated additional $9,078 per worker, per year.

Instead of assuming everyone in sales is motivated by money (they’re not), dig beneath the surface to discover what drives each individual on your team.

Who likes motivating their team members? Maybe they’d like to grow into a leadership role. Who enjoys the problem-solving aspect of matching the right customer with the right solution? Maybe you should assign them more complicated accounts.
Defining specific rewards for each individual allows you to tap into that SDR’s values, help them feel fulfilled in their role, and find meaning at work.

Where to start?

Sales development team success starts with your product and your people. After that, it’s up to you to curate an environment where that success can grow long-term. If you want to start using RFPIO as your knowledge management system, then schedule a demo today.

3 strategies for a consistent and on-brand content library

3 strategies for a consistent and on-brand content library

What do marketing and proposal teams have in common? They both want to demonstrate their company’s strengths in a way that is compelling and impactful. Despite this, proposal and marketing teams tend to manage their respective content in silos, with little collaboration between the two.

When you break content along team lines, messaging becomes inconsistent—or worse, inaccurate. That’s why the proposal team needs a champion who can bridge marketing and proposal teams to keep people aligned and content up-to-date. Who is that person at your organization? Maybe it’s you.

The good news is that aligning proposal and marketing teams isn’t as complicated as you might think. And I’ve already outlined a few simple strategies to get you started.

Replace walls with bridges

When teams become too focused on their tasks and deadlines, they inadvertently build walls around themselves. The higher these walls grow, the more difficult it is to stay aligned. As the self-appointed bridge between your organization’s marketing and proposal teams, it’s your responsibility to tear those walls down.

Kick off the collaboration by gathering the right brains in the same room, and setting up recurring cross-team meetings. Make sure everyone, on both sides, is clear about their responsibilities.

Next, make cross-team communication as easy as possible by setting up a designated channel in your communication platform of choice—be in Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts—where team members can go when they’re stuck or have a question.

Once you’ve established regular contact between marketing and proposal teams, they’ll be able to stay aligned on content guidelines and be ready for any changes coming down the line.

Your challenge is maintaining communication between the two sides. Keep collaboration simple. Ensure regular meetings keep happening. The more often the two sides are in contact, the easier it will be to communicate important deadlines, updates, or changes in content strategy.

Set regular review cycles

I like to think of brands as people. When you’re interacting with someone, it goes without saying that we expect them to sound and look the same throughout the conversation.

When customers are interacting with your brand, they expect a similarly uniform experience. Your company should look and sound the same, whenever your prospects are interacting with you, be it on your website, advertisements—or, yes, even proposals.

Proposals inconsistent with the rest of your organization’s content leaves customers with a tangled idea of what your company represents. And when you’re trying to demonstrate your value proposition, the last thing you want is to confuse your customers.

Luckily, we can fix this problem in just three words: Regular review cycles.

Beyond establishing an extended content plan, there is absolutely nothing more important to the long-term success of your content library than setting review cycles, content audits, and careful moderation practices.

Unsurprisingly, both of these elements also play a critical role in bridging the gap between marketing and the proposal management team.

Establishing a healthy review cadence allows your content experts to take a look at volatile or brand-centric content regularly, and creates the space to make any necessary edits before you submit your proposal.

Working Tip: If you’ve already set up review cycles in RFPIO, consider creating a separate cycle for marketing content, and add users from your team who will be plugged into the organization’s brand copy guidelines and priorities.

Stay aligned on content strategy

The cherry on top of excellent content is bringing everyone on the same page. Making sure both proposal and marketing teams are tuned-in to the overarching content strategy reduces miscommunication, misunderstandings, and inconsistencies.

Is there a rebrand on the horizon? Do taglines or other key pieces of brand copy change on a rolling basis? Are new products going to be released that will require additional content?

Understand your organization’s long-term content plan and be aware of any forthcoming copy and branding updates, so you can align proposal content with any changes coming down the pike.

Keeping a pulse on changes will ensure proposals are always aligned with your company’s mission and voice.

“Great things in business are never done by one person”. I’ll have to agree with Steve Jobs on this one. When proposal and marketing teams collaborate on content, messaging is consistent across channels. Proposals are more compelling. And everyone wins.


If you want to learn how RFPIO can help you keep your content organized, up-to-date, and on-brand, schedule a demo today.

How RFP Automation Software Helps Hyland Software Strengthen Their Responses

How RFP Automation Software Helps Hyland Software Strengthen Their Responses

Hyland is a leading content services provider that enables thousands of organizations to deliver better experiences to the people they serve. With a robust product suite that connects data and systems across complex enterprises, they serve industries across the board, including government, education, healthcare, and financial services.

For many of Hyland’s customers, RFPs are an integral (and sometimes legally required) part of the vendor procurement process. For Hyland, RFPs are their ticket in the door—and their chance to make an outstanding first impression.

And it’s the proposal team’s responsibility to ensure that first impression propels them to the next stage of the sales cycle.

As Hyland continues to grow, the number of RFPs coming in is also increasing. The proposal team quickly realized that if they wanted to respond to more and more RFPs—while continuing to ensure each RFP makes an impact—they needed a more efficient process.

That’s why they started the search for RFP automation software. They needed something that simplified project management, knowledge management, and collaboration.

After a rigorous vendor selection process, they decided on RFPIO.

Collaborating in the same document, in real-time

The Hyland team used to manage projects by color-coding an Excel or Word document, assigning questions to collaborators according to color. Each collaborator saved the document locally, completed their assignments, and returned it to the proposal specialist.

The proposal specialist would then manually combine more than 4 different versions into one master copy.

Lauren Joy, the Proposal Team Manager at Hyland, remembers that “the most frustrating part was that people often wouldn’t finish their questions. Not only were we rushing to combine all these separate versions into one master copy, but we’d also find out last-minute that someone only answered half of their assigned questions.”

Now, with RFPIO, collaboration is a breeze. Instead of color-coding, the proposal specialists can assign questions on the RFPIO platform. SMEs will then be notified that their help is needed, and can answer their assigned questions in one place.

As the SMEs are responding to questions, the proposal specialists can monitor progress in real-time. That means there is no need to worry someone forgot to answer their questions. And no more manually copying and pasting answers into a master file.

Creating a place to find answers

Hyland has always used a cloud-based system to house content from previous bids. But, in their previous system, something as simple as finding information had a steep learning curve. Beth Travis, the Knowledge Base Administrator at Hyland, explained that, “we all had our own method of finding answers, but it definitely wasn’t intuitive. We’d get a lot of questions from newer folks.”

Not only that, the system offered zero insight into how people were using the content. And anytime a piece of content needed to be updated, the editing process was very cumbersome.

“The answer library was a game-changer across the board.”
Beth Travis
Knowledge Base Administrator, Hyland Software

With RFPIO, the proposal team can ensure everything in their response library is 100% accurate and up-to-date. Now, their library is a place the entire organization can go for answers.

The first part of this is content moderation. Content managers have full control over what goes into the Answer Library. Before any question-answer pair is added, it is reviewed for consistency and accuracy. The result is a rich library full of pre-approved content, written in a unified Hyland voice.

The second piece of this is content review. The team maintains accuracy by assigning each piece of content an owner and setting up regular review cycles. The content owner is notified when it’s time to review their question-answer pair. They can then make any necessary edits, and give their stamp of approval.

As a result, the Hyland team trusts the information stored in RFPIO. And because RFPIO is equipped with AI-enabled search, anyone can find the answers they need, using keywords they’re familiar with.

Hyland has also given everyone access to RFPIO Lookup, the Google Chrome extension. Both Hyland employees and reseller partners can key in a quick keyword search right in their Chrome browsers—bringing a robust library of pre-approved content to the fingertips of anyone who needs it.

“Not only is the RFPIO Answer Library a place to find answers, it’s also helping us submit stronger responses. We use the stored question-answer pairs as a solid kick-off point, and then tailor each question to our issuer’s specific needs.”
Lauren Joy
Manager of Proposal Services, Hyland Software

Adjusting permission levels based on user roles

When you’re creating a place for answers, it needs to be something everyone can use. That means it needs to be intuitive and it needs to be simple. For this, the proposal team uses Custom Roles. Each team member sees a different user interface, depending on their role.

Most Hylanders will only see the Answer Library and any questions they’ve been assigned to. That way, they can immediately find what they’re looking for when logging into RFPIO.

By making sure RFPIO is something everyone can use… everyone is using it. User adoption has been outstanding.

Hyland also wanted to be able to give their reseller partners access to information about products or services. But, they wanted to keep certain pieces of content internal-facing. Enter the “Reseller” role. By adjusting content permission settings, the Hyland team controls what their reseller partners see.

As a result, the reseller partners can easily access the information they need. And any internal-facing content… stays internal-facing.

Embedding the RFP process into existing workflows

Hyland uses the Salesforce integration to pull data in from an existing account or opportunity. This both ensures the data is matching and also means there’s fewer fields to fill out—saving time and avoiding errors.

They’re also able to more easily track post-project and future engagement. Going forward, they will better understand how their proposals are performing, and gain more insight into their win/loss rate.

The Salesforce integration has helped align sales and proposal teams. Now, sales has full visibility into project status. They can see how a current project is progressing, or check which future projects are in the queue, all from the RFPIO dashboard in Salesforce.

Thinking about implementing RFPIO? Just do it.

RFPIO has helped Hyland strengthen their responses, take on more projects, organize their content library, break down knowledge silos, enhance collaboration, and align their teams. When asked what they would say to someone thinking about implementing RFPIO, Lisa McNeeley only had two words: “Do it”.

“We chose RFPIO because we realized it will help us grow in the long-term,” Lauren added. But don’t just hop right into it. “Make sure you have a plan in place. Figure out the different pieces you need,” she continued.

Once you have the right process in place, the only way to go is up.

“RFPIO has helped us strengthen our responses and enabled us to take on more projects. And the more projects we take on, the more business we’re likely to win.”
Lisa McNeeley
Proposal Services Team Manager, Hyland Software

Want to see RFPIO in action? Schedule a demo and we’ll give you a customized tour.

How to build an effective & scalable proposal program

How to build an effective & scalable proposal program

Everyone has a proposal program. How do you differentiate yours to stay competitive?

Many companies want to respond to more proposals faster. Many are using proposal automation software like RFPIO as the platform to accelerate their RFP process. The competitive differentiator is how your company builds and manages the program around the proposal automation software.

Overall, you want to build a program that gives you the flexibility to complete what you need now but can also grow with your business in the future. Build for nimbleness. Make it moldable. Fit it around the people and programs that are already in your organization. Build an open architecture so you’re able to accomplish future goals that you’re not even going to be aware of at your initial launch. You also want to make sure your program addresses these seven considerations to optimize your chances of success.

#1 Crafting a mission statement

The mission statement is your proposal team’s anchor. Without it, your program is unmoored. The mission statement gives you the lens you need to see how your program is progressing.

It describes your areas of focus to your team and your customers (the rest of the company). Think of the results you want to realize. How will you impact sales productivity, mitigate bid risk, and minimize subject matter expert (SME) disengagement, for example?

For reference as you compose yours, here’s a sample proposal team mission statement:

Increase sales productivity and empower SMEs by providing the people, processes, and technology to efficiently manage proposal content services while delivering high-quality professional support to the field and partner ecosystem via solicited and unsolicited bids.

  • Create a centrally managed and continually validated repository
  • Become a one-stop shop for proposal content.
  • Scale the delivery of our proposal services globally and efficiently.
  • Develop a reputation for first-class proposal services.

#2 Building the proposal team

Who you decide to put on a team is critical. If you’re trying to improve proposal quality, then you have to have quality people on your team. You need people that can do something with the time savings that the technology platform produces. These are people that can synthesize information, that can build a comprehensive win theme, that understand how to write and edit. They’re learners because they need to understand your business and put it together in a cohesive package. They also need to partner with the sales team. In a way, this is a sales support role, but it’s much more than copy and pasting sales presentations into proposals.

As far as experience, recruit experienced writers and editors who know how to put together a story. If they already work for the organization then all the better—you have “bench depth” that you can turn to for help. These are people that already know your products and services well. If you don’t have existing bench depth, then you need to recruit writers and editors with proposal experience. It’s important to establish credibility and show immediate value across the organization. If team members have done it before, then they’ll be fast learners who can synthesize information into a story.

Your goals for a team culture are collaboration and ownership. For example, if yours is a global company, set up team leads in each region. Provide the collaboration tools, time, and opportunities so leads can meet and work together as mutual resources for troubleshooting issues.

#3 Staying flexible with the right tools

Whether you’re considering RFPIO or another platform, there’s one major consideration you have to address, according to FireEye proposal manager Brian Trigg: “Technology can either lock you in or open you up…the value of proposal technology really is in its ability to aggregate all of this information together, quickly access that knowledge, provide it across all the people that need to know or have input on this information…If you can’t do it openly and easily, then your technology is locking you up.”

#4 Building procedures based on mission

Consider your mission statement when defining your procedural objectives. Policies and procedures need to be set up to help you accomplish your mission. For example, if your mission statement includes emphasis on SME engagement, then you may want to consider implementing procedures that allow SMEs to define their own review cycles. Not only does this check off a key procedural step, it also engenders ownership of the overall program among SMEs.

#5 Showing value through metrics & reporting

Measure your engagement, open pipeline, impact to organization, won deals in number and dollars, content items under management, completed reviews, etc. Set up reporting for these and any other metrics where you can show your value back to the organization.

#6 Flushing out your content library

How do you get new content and fill up your Answer Library? One, create it from scratch (always awesome, but it can be time and labor intensive). Two, use old content, but be careful that it’s not outdated. Three, reverse engineer questions and answers based on message source documents, value discovery guides, data sheets, service descriptions, white papers, and any other marketing materials your company provides.

If your company doesn’t have these, then developing your proposal program gives you the leverage you need to drive their creation. Pitch it as a way that other departments in the company can contribute to consistency of message.

#7 Getting your booster rockets ready: Launch!

Hopefully, you’ve already put in in motion whichever mechanisms you need to solicit executive buy-in on your proposal program. At launch, executive support is essential to establishing company-wide credibility (aka, the booster rockets you need to get your program off the ground). Identify key stakeholders and communicate the benefit of the proposal program. Sell your mission statement through the perspective of how it will help them as executives as well as the company as a whole.

Bend, don’t break

Remember to iterate your program. It’s not going to be a perfect launch. Set up a program that you can flex into, something that you can change easily as you grow.

FireEye’s Trigg sums it up nicely: “Creating a flexible model, providing opportunities for ownership, driving engagement, and designing your content capture strategy properly are going to enable you to scale and synthesize your proposal team from more than a knowledge bank to a strategic part of your approach to market.”

If you would like to consult on how to build your proposal program for long-term success, schedule a demo today.

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

What’s harder? Changing, or not changing? In the 25-plus years I’ve worked with subject matter experts (SMEs) on proposals, I can attribute almost all initial pushback to resistance to change. Who wants more work if they don’t have time to complete what’s already on their plate? But the fact of the matter is that a proposal program powered by RFP process automation and a continuously updated Answer Library makes changing easier than not changing.

Before I launch into how to get internal and external SMEs excited about the RFP process, I want to call out a recurring theme that echoes through all of the tips: Respect their time. SMEs already have daily calendars chock full of responsibilities, such as solving engineering issues, dealing with clients, and creating demos. Requesting their help with responses to any RFx (RFP, RFI, RFQ, DDQ, security questionnaire, etc.) is you asking them to repurpose some of that valuable time. But you need their help to complete the RFP process. Your company needs the revenue. SMEs need the company. In the circle of your company’s success lifecycle, the greater the SME involvement and enthusiasm, the easier your job will be.

#1: Control comms chaos

SMEs already get too many emails that are easily lost or deleted. Overloading SMEs with multiple emails frustrates them because they don’t know which are the most current, especially if they’re trying to respond from an airplane, client site, or conference. RFP automation software that streamlines the RFP process provides a personalized dashboard of the most current action items. Most importantly, it gives SMEs a single source of truth to eliminate confusion, and they’ll thank you for protecting their inbox.

#2: Do the heavy lifting for them

A proposal team should be able to complete 70-80% of a response using an RFP answer library (see tips 3 and 5). Then set up SMEs as reviewers to save time and avoid having them answer the same question multiple times.

With the right RFP automation software, you can reduce the burden on SMEs with functionality such as robust search options, marketing-approved templates, and targeted action items. One important reminder: SMEs—like many of us—are resistant to change. Any change you make—even if it’s being done to simplify their lives—has to be quick to learn and to show value. Don’t hesitate to kick off the RFP process with a quick 30-minute training session and a one-page how-to guide for easy reference.

#3: Update the RFP answer library on a regular cadence

If you’re already using RFP automation software, then take full advantage of the RFP answer library. When you get an answer from an SME, add it to the database immediately. SMEs will remember that they have already answered a question. They see asking them to repeat an answer as a lack of respect for their time. It’s better to have them review the answer for accuracy than to start with a blank page.

#4: Point out how they control their own destiny

If you are downselected or win an RFP, then SMEs will be first onsite, which means if there were any mistakes in the RFP response, they have to answer for them. If the new client reads that your product or service will do “X”, then SMEs are onsite having to explain why that’s not the case. Help SMEs understand that their involvement ensures a smoother transition and more positive client interaction.

#5: Sell the benefits of content audits

The more up to date the answer library, the more your proposal team can complete automatically, and the easier SME lives will be during live proposals. Use this carrot often, but even when you’re updating existing content in the answer library on cyclical basis, remember tip #2 (do the heavy lifting). SMEs are not grammar gurus, and it will be easier for them to deliver content in their language. It’s up to you or your content/proposal team to wordsmith it.

When you start a content audit, it can be daunting. Prioritize what’s used most. Don’t force SMEs to review rarely used or unused content. Have a kickoff meeting with SMEs and their managers to document the process and illustrate how you’re making it as easy as possible for them. They need to see that you have as much skin in the game, or more, as they do.

#6: Be transparent with external SMEs

With internal SMEs, I can go to their manager if they refuse to participate. I don’t have that luxury with external SMEs. Provide the same courtesies of communication and heavy lifting that you offer internal SMEs. RFP automation software should include “guest” functionality to give them access.

When you’re working with guests, make sure to give them as much notice as possible. And, when you do need their help, make it as easy as possible. Send them a short, single-page (front and back) PDF of instructions on how to use your RFP automation solution of choice. And definitely leverage the comments function so they know exactly what they need to do.

The big thing you need to pay attention to is content audits. Communicate ahead of time that you’re going to keep their content in the RFP answer library. However, you won’t bother them to review it until their portion of the solution is proposed. They need to know that when you contact them, you’re doing so because there’s real business value potential at stake.

#7: Recognize the effort

Recognize SMEs for spending their valuable time on your RFP response! If your company doesn’t have a recognition system, then expense a $10 Starbucks card. They deserve it, and they appreciate it.

Give respect, earn respect

Remember, if your primary responsibility is to respond to a proposal, then SMEs are your most precious resource. Without them, you’re a quarterback without an offensive line…a pilot without landing gear…a tree with no roots…a musher with no dogs…you get the idea.

To learn more about streamlining your RFP process to make life easier on SMEs, schedule a demo.

Reinvest time saved from a high-powered RFP process

Reinvest time saved from a high-powered RFP process

Whether it’s RFPIO or another RFP automation solution, the reason your company initially invests is to accelerate your RFP process. Sarah Ellerman, leader of proposal teams at Salesforce and an RFPIO customer, put it this way: “It’s kind of like in The Walking Dead, [RFPs] just keep coming. You can easily take care of each one. On The Walking Dead, they’re like, ‘OK, I’ll grab that one,’ and ‘OK, I got this one,’ but you start to get in trouble when there’s more and more and more. That’s the stage we were at when we knew that we needed an RFP automation tool.”

After you accelerate your RFP process, what will you do with all of your time dividends? Did Apple hit a trillion-dollar valuation by cashing out every year and implementing a 20-hour work week? Not if Apple Park is any indication.

If you want to disrupt like Apple, then you need to reinvest like Apple. As it pertains to your RFP process, reinvest time dividends to realize long-term growth in content quality, workflow efficiency, and proposal team job satisfaction, and do more than just fend off RFPs.

According to Ellerman, by reinvesting time saved using RFP automation software, you can expect the following outcomes:

  1. Better Deliverables: Finish more RFPs with better-quality content. Proposals can include images, up-to-date contact, all new products and services, and can be output as a beautiful package that will get you up-leveled to win the deal.
  2. Engaged Employees: By spending more time on training proposal team employees and subject matter experts (SMEs) on RFP best practices and products, you’ll have happier teams working in a collaborative environment.
  3. Data-Driven Decisions: When decisions can be made based on data instead of hunches, it leads to more credibility with leaders, especially when an uptick in RFP success coincides with the onboarding of your RFP automation software.

And how should you go about disrupting your RFP program? In this article, you’ll learn how to:

  • Invest in Content
  • Enrich with Context
  • Elevate your People

Invest in content: Use automation to advance your content management system

Curate Content: Continually add and edit content to make it as relevant as possible. Make it pretty. Add images, bullets, and attachments to make it look as professional and polished as possible.

Optimize for Automation: Address proposal team fears that software will be taking over their roles (it’s not; their expertise, credibility and consultative skills will always be necessary). Also clarify with leaders that robots are not in charge of RFPs. Success is still team driven. RFP automation software helps you complete more RFPs more accurately, but it’s not an AI infiltrator.

Also, the proposal team and management need to understand that automation takes time. The software will need help to learn. For example, different RFPs will ask the same question in many different ways. As part of the workflow, team members need to recognize that an answer already exists for a question if it’s being asked with different verbiage. Take the step to add the new verbiage to the Answer Library (essentially clicking two or three buttons) to help the system learn and enrich search functionality.

Speak Your Customer’s Languages: With legacy approaches to RFP responses, teams may have relied on siloed systems (aka, multiple Excel docs or tabs) to translate RFP responses from English into other languages. Lots of problems here. Content in other languages may not be as up to date. Increased globalization sees many more companies in need of multilingual capabilities. International proposal teams may feel overlooked if the content in their language is out of date and requires more time and effort than their English-language counterparts. RFPIO has multilingual capabilities so that updating content in one language actually updates it in every language.

Enrich with context: Integrate your RFP process with your existing tech stack

Examine Your Integrations: Whether you use Google Cloud, a CRM, Slack, or other tools that you want integrated with your RFPIO solution, set it up at implementation. RFPIO already has integrations set up with many of these tools. It’s just a matter of customizing it for you.

Explore the APIs: RFPIO offers custom integrations with your projects and answer library. With RFPIO’s Project API, you can connect your project data to a BI tool such as Tableau and execute even more complex reporting than you may have been able to do with your CRM integration. Our Answer Library API allows you to hook it up to a homegrown CSM system or other software. APIs are yet another option to embed RFPIO into your existing systems so convincingly that both your responses and your team’s engagement with the process will be enriched.

Reinvent/Reimagine Metrics: Time isn’t the only metric you can use to determine success, but it’s a primary driver for most companies investing in RFP software. Tracking how much time each contributor spends on an RFP is a key metric to resource allocation. Without RFP automation software, you have to rely on manual reporting. Not that people purposely misrepresent how much time they spend on a proposal, but with everyone multitasking, stepping away for meetings, or contributing to multiple responses, manual reporting results in under- or over-reporting hours spent. RFPIO automates time tracking so you can eliminate any manual bias and have a single source of truth when it comes to resource allocation.

Elevate your people: Make collaboration as easy as possible

Build a Culture of Collaboration: How do you find the happy medium between abandoning a team member to work alone and forcing every team member to be exposed to every issue? According to Ellerman, her teams at Salesforce had the most success in RFPIO when they “buddied up.” These smaller teams are able to help each other through challenges, create a standard of accountability, and work faster than solo practitioners or large teams.

Refresh Your Team’s Mission Statement: With RFPIO on board, your old mission statement of, “We save the company time by answering questionnaires,” will be out of date. Set up a team lunch to discuss all that your team does for the company post-RFPIO implementation, including everything from communication to efficiency to increasing revenue. A team with a bigger mission will feel compelled to make a greater contribution to the company.

Redefine Team Personas: Not everyone is an “answerer” anymore. Content will need to be updated. Training and enablement will need to be expanded. Give team members an opportunity to deepen and specialize. While everyone may be involved in answering an RFP, primary roles may change to focus on content or training or leadership. Examine what the organization needs and what employees want to do, then identify how to mesh the two together with new capabilities afforded by RFPIO. Everyone will be happier with a job persona that fits.

Scaling: How can you unleash RFPIO on your organization? Get more people involved than just RFP staff. Salespeople and engineers who start recognizing the benefits of RFPIO will want to get involved to accelerate business development or strengthen content being used for answers.

Certifications: Certifications command respect. Start with APMP Certification, offering the world’s first, best and only industry-recognized certification program for professionals working in a bid and proposal environment. With this level of recognition and expertise, your RFP team can be unstoppable!

Do more with less with RFP software

Whether you’re dealing with a headcount freeze, budgetary constraints, or leaders who want results faster than ever, RFPIO will help you do more with less. How will you reinvest the proceeds of a fine-tuned RFP process?

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