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10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

$3.92 million. That’s the global average cost of a data breach in 2019, according to Ponemon Institute. So it’s no […]


10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

$3.92 million. That’s the global average cost of a data breach in 2019, according to Ponemon Institute.

So it’s no wonder that companies invest heavily in cybersecurity. In the five years between 2017 and 2021, global spending on cybersecurity products is slated to exceed $1 trillion—and this trend is only expected to continue on its upward trajectory.

If you’re storing company information in RFPIO to streamline your RFP responses, I have good news: RFPIO has state-of-the-art security controls to protect your data. Even so, there are still extra things you can do to further protect your information.

Here are 10 things you can do to further strengthen security in RFPIO:

1. Use SSO: A Sweet Security Option

SSO stands for Single Sign-On, but it is also a super sweet security option. RFPIO uses the most widely accepted industry standard, SAML 2.0.

With SSO, RFPIO users use the credentials they already have to sign in. That means they don’t have to remember (yet another) separate user ID and password—and Admins don’t have to take on the responsibility of managing user credentials.

SSO isn’t just convenient. It’s also more secure. When you use SSO, passwords aren’t stored in the browser and there’s a lower risk of a lost or forgotten password. This prevents security gaps that hackers will exploit to gain unauthorized access to the application.

Additionally, SSO allows Admins to manage user activities in real-time, which gives you the extra visibility you need for a tightly run security program.

2. Automate user management with SCIM

SCIM stands for System for Cross-Domain Identity Management. Luckily, it is not as complicated as the 13-syllable name would have you believe.

In a nutshell, SCIM simplifies user management. If SCIM is enabled, users can be added or deleted automatically. It’s as easy as that.

On the one hand, SCIM makes life much easier for Admins. No more manually adding and deleting user accounts.

But it’s also important from a security perspective. With SCIM, user accounts are automatically deleted as soon as employees leave your organization, which means employees won’t have access to sensitive company information after they’ve left.

SCIM happens through SSO and is supported by OneLogin and Microsoft Azure. If your identity provider supports it, I highly recommend implementing SCIM—both for the added convenience and peace of mind.

3. In lieu of SSO, use 2-factor authentication

If your organization doesn’t use SSO, I would recommend you set up 2-factor authentication as an additional layer of security.

If you’ve ever had a code sent to your email or phone, that’s 2-factor authentication. After a user enters their username and password, 2-factor authentication prompts users to enter a valid key or code.

2-factor authentication prevents an unauthorized person from accessing data. Even if a cyber attacker learns the login credentials, they will not be able to access the code for 2-factor authentication.

RFPIO supports 2-factor authentication through Google Authenticator and Duo Mobile.

4. Control access with User Roles

With User Roles (default) and Custom Roles (customized), you can define what users can see and do, and ensure users only have access to the data that’s relevant to them. This is key for security. When you reduce the number of people with access to sensitive data, you minimize the risk of leaks.

RFPIO’s out-of-the-box user roles include Super Admin, Admin, Manager, Team Member, and Project Requester. With Custom Roles (available as an add-on, or included with enterprise package), you can create your own roles that make sense for your organization For example, Content Owner, Reseller Partner, or Project Contributor, but really it can be whatever you want. The world of custom roles is your oyster.

Read our Help Center article to learn more about specific permission levels for the out-of-the-box user roles (RFPIO customers only).

5. Control visibility with collections

Collections is another, more granular way to control access to sensitive data.

While User Roles controls access to projects and organization settings, Collections controls access to content.

When you assign a piece of content to a collection, you can restrict visibility to that collection, either by a user group level (e.g. the sales team) or on an individual level. You can get as granular as you’d like.

For example, you may choose to have a “security” collection and restrict visibility to just the InfoSec team. Or maybe you want a “financials” collection, and want to restrict access to just the finance team and upper management. Here’s a blog with more detail on using collections to organize your content (or scroll to the bottom to watch the webinar).

6. Get really granular with permissions

If you want to get really in the weeds with visibility, you can set privacy settings at the individual object level (e.g. a Q&A pair). Rather than assigning it to a collection, you can set privacy settings to control who can view or edit a specific piece of content.
If there’s a Q&A pair you really only want upper management to have access to, you can do that.

You can also adjust view and edit permissions. For example, maybe there’s a question about a product feature that you really only want the product team to be able to edit, but still want to give your marketing team access to view.

7. Keep up with your audits

With RFPIO, all activities are tracked and logged at different levels (e.g. project level, content level).

Every so often, I’d recommend pulling the Activity Report, which monitors all user activity within the application—including permission changes, user creation, and user deactivation.

For example, if you notice an individual user’s permissions have been changed to have broader access to data that may not be relevant to their role. In response, you can reach out to the person who made the change for more information—and, if necessary, reverse their permission levels to a level more appropriate to their role.

You can also pull the User Login Activity Report. This log includes information about:

  • Who accessed the account,
  • When it was accessed,
  • Where it was accessed (e.g. IP address), and
  • How they logged in (e.g. SSO, username + password, etc.)

Using the User Login Activity Report, Admins can see if the user logged in at odd hours, like on the weekend or very late at night. This could be an indication of unauthorized access that could lead to a data breach.

8. Set up “session timeout”

Avoid the risk of internal attacks by setting up session timeouts that automatically log you out of the application. This is most relevant for organizations working in an office setting.

Here’s the scenario: The VP of Sales leaves their desk for a meeting. Scooby-Doo walks over to the VP of Sales’ desk and downloads a bunch of sensitive financial information from RFPIO, and uses it to wreak havoc. Classic Scooby move.

To prevent this kind of situation from happening, you should set up “session timeout”. The default timeout is 20 minutes, but you can adjust according to your needs.

9. Bring Your Own Key (BYOK)

Set up an extra layer of security with BYOK. RFPIO already encrypts data with our own mechanism, but if you want that added boost… you should consider BYOK.

Basically, BYOK gives you the ability to provide your own encryption key to protect your data—on top of the encryption that RFPIO already uses. This is an added measure for fighting unauthorized access to data.

If you’re an RFPIO customer, learn more about BYOK in the Help Center.

10. Securely share information via Linked Companies

Share company information with partners (e.g. resellers) in such a way that they can only view and use it—but don’t have edit access. This essentially transforms your RFPIO Answer Library into an internal knowledge base that your reseller partners can use to respond to RFPs or answer any other questions that may come up during the sales cycle.

You can set this up using Linked Companies. Learn more about how to set up and use Linked Companies in the Help Center (RFPIO customers only).

What is RFx? Do the math for sales and procurement.

What is RFx? Do the math for sales and procurement.

What is RFx? In this case, it’s proof that Mrs. Vickers, my pre-algebra teacher, was right. She assured me that algebra would come in handy in my adult life. It only took 35-ish years, but it turns out Mrs. Vickers’s crystal ball wasn’t so foggy after all.

Back to the original question: What is RFx? It’s the shorthand for your “Request for” category of procurement and sales processes and documents. Solve for x.

  • RF(Proposal)
  • RF(Information)
  • RF(Quote)
  • RF(Application)
  • RF(Bid)

Explanations and definitions of these are insightfully encapsulated here (processes) and here (glossary). However, if you want an overview of how you can use any of these RFx varieties for your business — either in procurement or business development, then you’re in the right place.

Using RFx for procurement

If you use RFx for procurement, then you’re the issuer creating the RFx. Typically, you’ll submit requests in the following order:

  1. RFI
  2. RFP
  3. RFQ

Ultimately, you want to play your RFx cards to select an ideal vendor using strategic sourcing. The RFI will be high level, probing to see if a problem can be solved. It will help narrow down providers to whom you’ll want to submit the RFP, which will be much more detailed and a heavier lift for you to evaluate.

Your RFP will ask for in-depth problem analysis, what it will take to solve the problem, how a vendor proposes they’ll solve the problem, proof of solving similar problems in the past, and, possibly, an estimate on cost. It may also inform responders how responses will be evaluated (e.g. cost = 35%, experience & performance = 35%, response quality 30%), budget expectations, and timing details.

From your pool of RFP responses, you’ll submit an RFQ to one or two providers to finalize your costs. At this point you know the exact product or service that you want so you request a price quote for that specific solution.

“RFB” is also known as “invitation to bid.” While this terminology does appear in the U.S., it may be more common internationally, where issuers post “tenders,” and responders submit “bids” in response to those tenders.

RFAs are associated with government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Funding has already been set aside for a specific requirement and now agencies or organizations are seeking recipients of funding. Agencies want to solve a very specific problem, such as building the capacity for drinking water systems. Nonprofit organizations have grant money available and seek applications to distribute the grant, such as for placing veterinarians in underserved areas.

Using RFx for business development

For the 69% of salespeople who do not have enough leads in their pipeline, RFx opportunities are an opportunity to drive revenue. When you use RFx for business development, then you are the RFx responder. Response teams require expertise from multiple areas, including sales, product development, product marketing, finance, contracts, and more, depending on the product or service you sell. It’s up to you to respond appropriately in an attempt to put your product or service at the top of the list for RFx issuers.

If you’re lucky, then you have a unified content repository of some sort to reference for your responses. Many sales professionals still work from personal content libraries they’ve amassed on their own, which is problematic for brand management and onboarding new employees. If you’re even luckier, then you represent one of the 43% of organizations using RFP-specific software, which helps automate response processes.

Responding to an RFI will get your foot in the door. Hopefully, it’s something you do regularly and doesn’t take up a lot of bandwidth, for you or any other response team members. This will be early on in the sales process, possibly too early to even count toward your pipeline. When an RFx is not certain of gaining revenue, then you want to minimize resources spent on responding.

However, once you’re selected to respond to an RFP, you can add prospective revenue to your pipeline. This will also be the largest investment as far as resources that you’ll commit to responding to an RFx.

The RFP is your opportunity to lay all your cards on the table. Show the issuer what you can do, how you can do it, and why you can do it better than anyone else. Expect to be evaluated on your experience, your price tag, and the quality of your response. By evaluation, I mean you’ll be measured against all other responders in as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as the issuer can comprise based on the complexity of the response.

The RFQ will be the final deal number, if it wasn’t already requested in the RFP. It will highlight the solution you’re providing within the issuer’s budget. If your solution comes standard with additional functionality beyond the scope of what the issuer originally requested (e.g., integrations with other software, free training, or VIP support), the RFQ is a great opportunity to call that out.

What is RFx automation?

RFx automation reduces the manual processes required to issue and respond to any RFx. For issuing, RFx automation streamlines how requests are created and organizes the evaluation process for you. For responding, RFx automation uses artificial intelligence to Auto Respond to any RFx based on content in your Answer Library. Organizations that use RFP-specific software are not only able to respond to 43% more RFPs than those without a designated RFP tool, they’re able to turn around each response 40% faster.

RFx response automation can also extend to responding to security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), scopes of work, and whatever else you may be requested to respond to in your sales or client support lifecycles. The functionality can also serve you well for proactive proposals, where you need to deliver a proposal or presentation even though one wasn’t specifically requested. This is common in business proposals when a prospect wants something in writing to share with management or the C-suite to build a business case for adding your solution.

Whether you want to use RFx for procurement or business development, if you’re going to do it for the long term, then RFx automation will be a boon to your workflow, morale, and bottom line. The math works out. Mrs. Vickers says so. Learn more about AI-enabled RFx management by scheduling a demo.

4.5 reasons I (a sales pro) love Autograph e-signature

4.5 reasons I (a sales pro) love Autograph e-signature

As a sales professional, when I’m closing a deal I don’t want anything getting in the way. The closer I get to a win, the more I get nervous about two things: delays and relying on others. E-signature functionality has been a huge help to minimizing both.

On the delay side, if there’s always been one holdup that makes me question my closing skills more than any other, it’s waiting for a signature. Back in the paper days of yore, it was even worse. Fax machines were already gathering dust by the time I started my sales career in 2007. At that time, we had progressed to a print-fill out-scan-email process that was annoying enough for me, especially for complex contracts that required multiple signatures and initials. Inevitably, a client would miss an initial blank or two and I’d have to chase them down for it. Then I’d have to merge multiple documents to make a complete, legally binding signed contract.

I once had a client on a $150K deal sign one page of a contract but forget to sign another. While waiting for that second signature, other stakeholders entered the picture, held up the deal, and eventually it died…all because I didn’t have e-signature capability.

On the relying-on-others side, this isn’t a selfish play. On the contrary, I depend on my pre-sales, marketing, operations, product development, and customer support teams to help me do my job every day. This play is about streamlining the approval process: I seek to remove as many barriers as possible to simplify what prospects need to do to sign off on a contract. The less I have to rely on them to print, scan, and email, the faster I can get my signatures.

When e-signature hit the scene a few years ago, it was a game changer. Adoption was slow at first, but it’s picked up big time over the last year. The pandemic has helped, in a sense, because the accelerated digital transformation everywhere has increased usage and familiarity with e-signature functionality.

Now that RFPIO has integrated e-signature capabilities across the user experience for all customers, I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. Known as Autograph, there are 4.5 reasons why, as an account executive sales professional, it’s changing the way I work, for the better.

#1 I move faster

Yeah. I know. I was just complaining about delays. Well, I can be the cause of those delays, too. Even prior to Autograph, I wasted cycles toggling back and forth between my e-signature app and whatever I was using to build proposals and contracts (usually either PowerPoint, Word, or PDF).

With Autograph e-signature, I now have capabilities embedded in the same system I’m using to create proposals and contracts, which means no more toggling. From RFPIO I can create the document, add signature requests, send it out, and save the signed version all in the same application. From the moment I have verbal assent on a deal, I can spin up a proposal or contract in a matter of minutes.

The big bonus with it being in RFPIO is that everyone in the organization can have access at no extra costs. And I’m not just saying that because I happen to work for the app creator. RFPIO’s unlimited user licenses means everyone can have access, and it’s now included as a standard feature. In addition to not needing to toggle to and fro with your e-signature app, you don’t have to pay for it, either.

#2 I’m more efficient

It’s about more than just working fast. It’s also about having more control over the whole sales lifecycle. Like any other sales professional, I have a quota or goal that I aim to achieve every month, quarter, and year. Autograph enhances the control I was already gaining with RFPIOs other features. Now I can add e-signature to my ability to manage documents, create content, access answers in near real time, and collaborate with my teammates in sales enablement and proposal development.

One of the greatest efficiencies is with contracts that need signatures from multiple parties. With Autograph, I can set a signing order, include personalized private messages to each signer, set a deadline, and prompt reminder emails. Signers will be invited via email to review the document and add their signatures and initials.

#3 I have more visibility

No deal exists in a vacuum. Quota calls, and I need to keep an active pipeline. There’s a fine line between managing multiple deals and spreading yourself too thin. At any one time, I may have two or three contracts out for signatures. The most important deal is always the one I’m currently working, so it was frustrating and distracting to have to keep tabs on contracts that were awaiting signatures on other deals.

Autograph has a dashboard that helps me track all my contracts, including timestamps, what’s been signed, who still needs to respond to the signing order, and all other actions taken with the document. The dashboard is my window into an organized record of all my signed documents, all of which are also stored in RFPIO and only accessible by me. There is no limit to how many documents I save, and no one else can see the documents without my permission.

#4 I minimize my tech stack

Don’t get me wrong. I love my technology. The fact that I can do what I do from almost anywhere still sometimes astonishes me. But like the inevitable course of a TikTok challenge going too far, there can be too much of a good thing.

I’m of the school of productivity through simplicity and taking the straight line from point A to point B. In the face of Nancy Nardin’s overwhelming 2021 SalesTech Vendor Landscape, I’m seeking to consolidate for more efficiency, automation, and of course, ROI. RFPIO has my back: First, by introducing Autograph on top of another new product this year, RFPIO® LookUp; second, by integrating with other applications I already have in my sales stack. From Salesforce to Microsoft Teams to Google Chrome, I have my sales tech stack dialed in for optimal productivity.

#4.5 Get more colleagues involved

This is only 4.5 because, while the byproduct is still something I love, it also comes with the luxury of working for the company that built Autograph: We all use it already. For you, the benefit is that Autograph exposes RFPIO to other users in your organization who may not have experienced it yet. If you’ve been trying to get any engineers or finance team members—maybe even other sales teams—in your organization to start using RFPIO because it’ll make your life easier, then Autograph is the perfect lure.

I’m one of many who love it

Beyond the sales benefits, I’m hearing a lot of love for Autograph from customers on proposal, human resources, and operations teams. Proposal managers are turning around proposal components such as cover letters, legal documents, NDAs, and disclosures faster than ever. HR is incorporating Autograph into onboarding to make the process easier for administrators and new hires. Operational subject matter experts are realizing efficiencies in utilizing Autograph for vendor/supplier agreement contract management.

Autograph is a no-brainer. Free and ready to go if you’re a current RFPIO customer. Why not try it? Log in. Navigate to Autograph on the left. Upload a doc. Set a signing order. Send it externally or internally. NEXT!

Request a demo and ask to see how Autograph works, or check out a cool GIF demo of Autograph in action. If you’re already an RFPIO customer, view our Help Center article for detailed instructions on using Autograph.

Knowledge management best practices

Knowledge management best practices

Albert Einstein said, “The pursuit of knowledge is more valuable than its possession.” With all due respect to Einstein, phooey. At least in terms of knowledge management as we know it today. To capture data and information, impart it with knowledge, and derive wisdom is the “quantum theory” of doing business these days: It’s the fabric of systems and processes behind every data-driven decision, from sales to content strategy to product development.

Underlying the somewhat mystical element of how it all comes together to make every company unique is a knowledge management system, the development and implementation of which can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What’s the best fit for your company? How do you manage change? How will end users react? And, of course, the Big Bang whopper: Will it work?

I’ll answer the last one first: Yes. As far as the other concerns, these knowledge management best practices will help. It’s important to always remember that the reason you need effective knowledge management is to develop your organization’s single source of truth. It’s the only way to be sure that everyone in the organization is always presenting the right information and telling the same story.

Knowledge management best practices

1. Determine the right fit for your company

There are two popular solutions common to knowledge management: corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases.

Corporate wikis are a bit like the wild west. Anyone can add, delete, or edit content. They’re dynamite for increasing employee engagement but lacking in reliability and measurement. If you just want to build a searchable warehouse and have confidence in all your contributors, then corporate wikis may be all that you need.

Internal knowledge bases are dynamic content repositories built on software with knowledge management processes, collaboration tools, and a user experience baked in. They’re designed to capture, curate, and share knowledge efficiently and effectively. One of the biggest differences between them and wikis is that content creation and editing is reserved for specialists who can be trusted. They also function within the parameters of a content strategy, which can be as fluid as necessary for organizations to remain agile and nimble.

To learn more about both options and why we recommend internal knowledge bases, check out “Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?”

2. Basic is better

One of the reasons we recommend internal knowledge bases is because the user experience should be built to streamline the complexities that tend to result in failed knowledge management initiatives. Application developers should be automating processes of capturing, curating, and sharing knowledge while adding features that actually improve the daily workflow for end users. In other words, the application helps them be more productive or more effective or more efficient. Or, best of all, all three!

Keep the “basic is better” mantra in mind while rolling out a knowledge management system too. Prioritize departments in need and introduce the system to one department at a time. Gradually expand as you dial in training, word of mouth circulates about how great the system is, and you have success stories to share with new departments and executive sponsors.

3. Measure improvements

The functional value of knowledge management will rapidly become apparent to end users in how they’re able to execute their responsibilities. They’ll be able to build better proposals faster, respond to prospects and customers with greater accuracy in near real time, and gain contextual insight into all the content relevant to their role.

The strategic value of knowledge management is that you’re able to show the value of the system to your leadership team in such a way that they can trust your reporting accuracy. Numbers don’t lie, but you need measurement capabilities to get the numbers. Plus, it makes it easier to measure ROI. You have to communicate the value of your single source of truth.

Internal knowledge base software easily allows you to measure success post-implementation. I’ll call out three of my favorite RFPIO reports that help illustrate its strategic value:

  • Answer Library Insights Report: This dashboard connects you to insights on your Answer Library, including content moderation and usage, content owners, and content moderators.
  • Answer Library Timeline: More of a tool than a report, this allows you to proactively set SME schedules so content auditing responsibilities are parsed out manageably instead of piling on hundreds of questions at the end of the year. From a reporting standpoint, it shows leadership how SME time is being used more efficiently.
  • Answer Library Search Terms Report: Which terms are end users searching but receiving zero results for? This report delivers instant insight into which content you need to develop to meet user—and ultimately prospect and customer—needs.

Schedule monthly Answer Library health reports with team leaders. Roll those up into quarterly reports to show the value of your knowledge management solution to your c-suite.

4. Make the knowledge diverse

If knowledge is not accessible and usable at scale, then it’s probably not worth managing. Sales teams need content to answer tough prospect questions in near real time and build personalized presentations. Proposal teams need on-demand knowledge to answer questionnaires and build engaging proposals. Support teams need access to knowledge from wherever they’re working without toggling between applications to improve the customer experience.

All of this can only happen with open access to the knowledge management system. That’s why RFPIO provides unlimited user licenses, so everyone who can benefit from knowledge can also access knowledge. Technical, product development, sales, marketing, legal, security…all of this content has value and will strengthen your knowledge management. The right system will help you restrict access to sensitive content that may include private, confidential, or proprietary information.

Sorry, Albert, I meant no offense

Back to Einstein. In all fairness, knowledge management systems didn’t exist in his day. We can do a lot more with knowledge than what was possible 80 years ago (we can actually do a lot more with knowledge than we could one year ago), so I meant no disrespect by my opening “phooey.” Perhaps another Einstein quote suits knowledge management best practices more aptly: “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

To learn more about how to apply knowledge management best practices in your organization with the help of RFPIO, schedule a demo today! Check out my on-demand webinar for tips on Building a Solid Content Foundation.

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Wikipedia is the primary resource hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett cite in their podcast, Smartless, when interviewing a veritable who’s who in entertainment, sports, and journalism. It’s a must-listen podcast, IMHO, but not because the hosts actually rely on Wikipedia as their source. The use of Wikipedia is an inside joke because one or more of them usually knows their “surprise” guest quite well. As a result, the interviews are funny, insightful, and loaded with personal anecdotes and nostalgia.

What would happen to Smartless if Jason Bateman decided to forego podcasting for more directing opportunities? Could Sean and Will fall back on a wiki or internal knowledge base where Jason had the opportunity to upload his insight into interviews with Erin Gray, Ricky Schroeder, or Alfonso Ribeiro? (Try a reference that’s timelier than “Silver Spoons,” RD.) How about interviews with Laura Linney, Jason Sudeikis, or Rachel McAdams? Comparatively, they’d fall flat without Bateman’s personal knowledge and relationship with those guests.

In the real world, where we all do business with people who haven’t starred in a movie, sitcom, or Netflix series in the past 40 years, falling flat due to ineffective knowledge sharing means not meeting customer expectations, not having answers to prospect questions fast enough, or giving wrong or outdated answers in proposals. It’s costly and embarrassing. It’s also avoidable.

Businesses looking for knowledge sharing tools often end up deciding between two options: corporate wikis or internal knowledge base software. While they may seem similar, they’re actually quite different. In this blog, we’ll break down the differences between company wikis and internal knowledge base software to determine which is the best for your business.

Why is knowledge sharing so important?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list. And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Time equals money, and IDC estimates that an enterprise of 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $5.7 million annually searching for information that is never found.

One more bit of bad news (I’ll end on a high note. Promise.): Knowledge workers are quitting. They are not immune to “The Great Resignation” of the pandemic. According to the New Yorker, “Many well-compensated but burnt-out knowledge workers have long felt that their internal ledger books were out of balance: they worked long hours, they made good money, they had lots of stuff, they were exhausted, and, above all, they saw no easy options for changing their circumstances.” Well, the pandemic gave them the opportunity they were looking for to simplify their life. With knowledge workers departing, organizations need to up the ante on knowledge sharing to make sure they’re expertise doesn’t go out the door with them.

Speaking of doors, knowledge sharing is also a boon for onboarding new employees coming in the door. Giving them the freedom to access company knowledge at will and in context gets them up to speed faster while making custom face-to-face training more efficient and effective (i.e., trainees can find answers to common questions in the wiki or knowledge base on their own time). A majority of HR professionals cite improved onboarding as beneficial to overall employee engagement.

As promised, a high note: Knowledge sharing encourages and rewards greater employee involvement, especially when the sharing mechanism is easy, intuitive, and trustworthy. Organizations with highly engaged employees earn about 150% more than their less engaged counterparts. So they have that going for them, which is good.

What is a corporate wiki?

A corporate wiki is developed using an open source model. This means that anyone can submit edits or gain access. Although touted for being “collaborative,” they are not always reliable because anyone can make changes and include inaccurate information. Democracy works in politics and when making decisions with your fellow lifeboat occupants. Crowdsourcing worked for Tom Sawyer and tells you if police are ahead on Waze. Neither are good fits for business content.

As far as knowledge sharing is concerned, corporate wikis follow the rules of the jungle. While they certainly encourage greater employee involvement, power users tend to elbow out the specialists. They also get out of control fast. It’s an environment where content seeds are planted and then vines grow depending on what’s most popular or controversial. Without any strategy or rules in place, old vines don’t get pruned, some seedlings get overshadowed, and Barry from engineering starts every edit with, “Whoever wrote this is an idiot. The correct answer is…” Not the sort of collaborative vibe you were hoping for.

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base exists in a self-contained solution designed to streamline access, creation, and review of your business content. Unlike corporate wikis, internal knowledge bases have verified writers, so that all team members using the knowledge base can feel confident that the answers they are finding are accurate. Whereas wikis are open to any user creating or editing content, internal knowledge bases are read-only. If the corporate wiki is the jungle, then the internal knowledge base is a curated nursery.

Structure and strategy are the two biggest differentiators between corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases. Within an overarching content strategy developed for the internal knowledge base, writers create and edit content based on a schedule, which is informed by data-driven insight. Tags, collections, and custom fields define its information hierarchy, making it more user-friendly and efficient to search.

Depending on how you set up your internal knowledge base, you can also gather data to derive intelligence on how it’s being used, what it’s missing, and what it doesn’t need. For example, through RFPIO, users can output an Answer Library Insights Report to see which content gets used most often as well as which search terms receive very few or zero results. In the latter example, content managers can build content production plans around zero-result search terms so users will be able to find answers they need during their next search.

Creating an internal knowledge base is a 6-step process:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge: Import your most recent sales proposals, DDQs, security questionnaires, and RFPs.
  2. Grow as you go: Add new content as products come and go, markets change, audience triggers evolve, and new departments come on board based on your initial tag, collection, and custom field structure.
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date: Curate content to keep it fresh (corporate content every 90 days, product content every 6-12 months, and evergreen content that doesn’t change much every 12-24 months).
  4. Provide open access: Make sure everyone who needs to use the content has access to the content. Don’t get restrained by user licenses.
  5. Train your team: Even if the tool is intuitive and easy to use, set up time to train new users or else risk them never even trying it.
  6. Conduct regular audits: Don’t let the internal knowledge base turn into the wiki jungle. Keep it clean.

Learn more about these six steps here.

What’s better: a corporate wiki or an internal knowledge base?

Guessing I probably showed my hand too early with that wisecrack about Barry from engineering. You got it: The internal knowledge base takes the checkered flag when it comes to organizational knowledge sharing.

Its structure and the processes that support it make it a more trustworthy single source of truth, which reduces knowledge hoarding and shadow development of content that may exist in individual hard drives. And just because content is created and edited by designated writers doesn’t mean that all expertise hasn’t been tapped. Systems such as RFPIO enable content owners to automate collaboration with subject matter experts so that knowledge is captured accurately and efficiently, while maintaining consistency in message, voice, and tone throughout.

Besides, it also offers much more functionality compared to a corporate wiki. Instead of opening a new browser window or tab and navigating to the Intranet wiki, users can search content from almost anywhere. RFPIO® LookUp is a portal into the Answer Library, which can be searched from Chrome like you’re searching the Internet. According to Hope Henderson at Alera Group, “We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Answer Library will be the first place they’ll go.”

“We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Answer Library will be the first place they’ll go.”
-Hope Henderson, Marketing Coordinator at Alera Group

RFPIO also integrates with CRM, communication, cloud, and other applications so users don’t have to toggle back and forth to find content. Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft, said, “RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

With fewer writers and more controls, you might think content ends up sounding too institutional, with too few opportunities to personalize it. On the contrary. With a finely tuned internal knowledge base, prospect- and client-facing workers can find accurate content faster and easier so they’ll have more time to spend on personalizing the interaction.

Plan for unknown knowledge

In your pursuit of the ultimate knowledge repository, remember one thing: It’s going to have to change. In five years, you may need the knowledge you have now or you may not. You’ll definitely need some of the new knowledge you’re going to gain on the way.

Both corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases are updateable, but five years hence do you want to be hacking through a jungle to see what you can update? Or would you rather have the new knowledge curated and grafted onto the existing content for you so that all you have to do is harvest the fruit?

To learn more about using RFPIO to build your internal knowledge base, schedule a demo today.

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Give a person a fish, they’ll eat for a day. Teach a person to fish, and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Surprise all the end users of your new software purchase with a fishing trip and they’ll wonder, “Do I have to do this, and how do I get off this boat?”

As a proposal manager with a shiny new RFPIO lure guaranteed to attract every big fish you can reach with a cast, sometimes it feels like you’re stranded on dry land with a map to the fishing hole but no way to get there.

Introducing new software into your sales enablement tech stack and workflow is no joke. Change management is a sophisticated discipline that examines the processes behind organizational transformation. It’s way too deep a rabbit hole to fall into here, other than to say that 99 out of 100 proposal managers I work with during RFPIO onboarding don’t have any specific experience in change management or software deployment. Which can make the prospect of convincing end users that their jobs and lives will improve with RFPIO somewhat daunting.

As soon as I get my chance to work with the person or team in charge of deploying RFPIO — whether it’s a proposal manager, sales manager, or IT specialist — I recommend inhabiting the following mindset: “How do I set myself up for success?” Now we have a bite-sized challenge we can overcome, rather than an amorphous source of anxiety such as “change management.”

My response to the question, “How do I set myself up for success?” is “Follow 7 steps to improve user adoption.” Let’s roll through them.

#1: Get executive buy-in

Trying to implement any change without executive buy-in is akin to growing a garden without any seeds. The need and desire may be there, but you just don’t have anything to get started. So take that need and desire and use it to build a business case for adding RFPIO to your sales technology stack.

This all has to happen before deployment even appears on the horizon. Gaining and maintaining buy-in from managers and executive sponsors will be critical to making end users more receptive to your excitement and the possible benefits. According to Steve Silver at Forrester, a leading global research and advisory firm, “Every business case must have an executive to champion the investment.”

To build the business case, Silver advises to call out timing of adding RFPIO (i.e., answer, “Why now?”), identify risks and dependencies (key to which he includes this nugget, “Tie the consequences of not using the technology to failure to meet specific goals that a sales organization has committed to attaining”), and clarify budget allocation and source of funding.

After you secure executive buy-in for the purchase, you’ll need to keep them engaged with monthly or quarterly status updates on implementation and RFPIO benefits. It’s important to obtain and maintain their endorsement so that they continue to encourage their teams to use RFPIO.

Here’s an email template of what one of the initial updates might look like.

SUBJECT: RFPIO has already accelerated response time by 40%

Hi [EXECUTIVE NAME],

We’re off and running with RFPIO, and I wanted to give you a quick update on how it’s going:

    • [X#] of end users are now using RFPIO
    • We have used it to respond to [X#] of RFPs this month
    • Compared to the same month last year, we responded 40% faster to RFPs
    • Of the RFPs submitted this month, we know we won [X#] at a valuation of [$X]

End users are picking it up quickly: “It takes about 10-30 minutes to train the client-facing teams on how to search for information in RFPIO.”

As we continue to add content to the Answer Library, we expect to see an even greater leap in proposal quality, greater usage of Auto Respond functionality, and more efficient workflows.

I’ll send another update next month, but feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

Thanks,
[YOUR NAME]

#2: Make sure you have bandwidth

Before you kick off your RFPIO implementation, make sure you have an accurate expectation of the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to the project. It will require some extra bandwidth. On average, expect to spend about five hours per week for the first three to six months.

Some RFPIO admins prefer to assign their regular duties to another team member so they can “cram” on RFPIO. They’ll spend 15-25 hours per week to focus solely on the rollout and learn RFPIO as quickly as possible. Then they’re able to pare back to a few hours a week. You’ll need to determine which method works best for your team and goals.

As far as what you’ll be doing with that time, here’s an overview of what to expect:

  • Deployment processes: From generating excitement to coordinating with IT, and from amassing content to scheduling training, you need to balance your daily workflow and responsibilities with what’s expected of you during deployment. This will be a short-term issue. While we’ll be there to lend you support, you need to make sure your bandwidth can handle being the point person on this project.
  • Ongoing “office hours”: End users will have questions, especially at the outset. And every time there’s a new hire in sales or pre-sales or proposals or customer support you’ll need to make sure they’re trained and able to thrive in RFPIO. Plus, you’ll want to encourage feedback, negative and positive, to adapt your usage, increase functionality, or add integrations in the future.
  • Driving response management processes: Any tool is only as good as the processes behind using it. Even a hammer has to be swung accurately to hit the head of a nail. A huge benefit to AI-enabled tools like RFPIO is that it will be able to automate most of your existing manual processes. You will still need to work behind the scenes to execute schedules, push collaboration buttons, and drive deadline management. In other words, the robot can swing the hammer as long as you put the hammer in its robotic appendage.
  • Auditing content: Do a full content audit to make sure you are starting off with a cohesive, succinct Answer Library. Watch this webinar to learn more about completing a content audit in RFPIO, or follow these four steps to set your Answer Library up for success:

#3: Admin team, assemble!

Make sure to recruit admin team members from each department that needs to be involved, and has the bandwidth to help with implementation, rollout, and RFPIO day-to-day operations. Sometimes admin teams are made up of only one or two people, and that’s okay, too. Whatever the makeup, they will in turn be responsible for evangelizing RFPIO, reinforcing the value message from executive sponsorship, and liaising with you to provide team-specific training for end users in their department.

For larger, global organizations, the admin team will also be responsible for figuring out a rollout plan. They’ll determine which departments get onboarded first, taking into consideration metrics such as proposal volume, knowledge sprawl or content silos, and collaboration challenges. They’ll also develop a repeatable onboarding process that can be turnkey for new hires or other new end users.

This team will continue to exist beyond the initial deployment of RFPIO. Their meeting cadence will likely be weekly at first, but that cadence will slow down to monthly as you meet a critical mass of end users.

The admin team will also create and monitor milestones that mark success and check in regularly with leadership to report on the milestones. It will be responsible for communicating RFPIO’s value to leadership and end users, promoting transparency for feedback and user expectations, and overseeing the strategy for #4…

#4: Generate excitement through an “awareness campaign”

Start generating excitement, even if you’re still finalizing the purchase. Involving your power users during the early stages of launch will increase the likelihood that they’ll use new software by 55%.

You can do this by setting up an internal email campaign. In addition to informing end users what’s coming, this will also get the organization used to hearing from you about RFPIO training and product updates. Ultimately, you want to provide clear concise answers to the following questions that are common to end users:

  1. Why do we have RFPIO? (e.g., “To automate manual response processes, streamline content management and access, and create higher quality proposals.”)
  2. Why is RFPIO exciting for me? (e.g., for a sales end-user, “Locate answers to prospect questions in near real-time based on updated content that’s searchable from the application you’re already working in.”)
  3. How will it help me do my job better? (e.g., for pre-sales end-user, “Spend more time creating innovative solutions instead of answering the same questions over and over.”)
  4. When will I be trained on RFPIO? (e.g., “Go-live for RFPIO is XX/XX/20XX. Your department is scheduled to be trained the week prior to that go-live date.”

One of the first couple of emails should come from the executive sponsor (some proposal managers like to send a short teaser about an impending big announcement about changing the game for sales enablement). It will validate the addition of RFPIO to your sales tech stack while communicating a high-level value proposition of improvements in productivity, efficiency, and outcomes. It will also set the expectation of cooperation and collaboration among end users to plow the road for your deployment.

Make each email short and informative. Respect your readers’ time. Include links for more information for end users who choose to learn more. Set up the next step in the process. Here’s an example of an announcement email to get you started.

SUBJECT: Announcement: Help with sales response and content is on the way!

Hi everyone,
I’m excited to announce that we are adding RFPIO — one of the best AI-powered sales enablement solutions available today — to your toolbox in the next few weeks. RFPIO will save us a bunch of time, allow us to focus on improving response and proposal quality, unify all sales content, and improve how we collaborate.

You’ll receive more information about RFPIO from me or your manager as we finalize the rollout plan. I’ll also schedule you for a quick training so you can hit the ground running (no worries, RFPIO is super intuitive and will integrate with other apps you’re already using!).

Meanwhile, learn more about how RFPIO will make life easier and more productive:

Let me know if you have any questions. You’ll be hearing from me again soon!

Thanks,
[YOUR NAME]

#5: Train yourself

You’re the tip of the spear on this project. No matter how much help you have from your admin team, executive sponsor, IT, or evangelized end-user base, you’re going to be the person handling initial questions. Even when you tell everyone that they’re free to create a help ticket of their own with RFPIO, they’re going to ask you first.

Best to be prepared.

During onboarding, we’ll take you through extensive training until you feel comfortable with the tool. We’ll also be available when something arises that stumps you. But you can also refer to the following for help, too:

  • RFPIO Help Center (RFPIO customers only): Access an RFPIO self-guided tour and New User Training Checklist as well as expert insight into importing your first documents, organizing your Answer Library, and more.
  • New User Training ChecklistFollow this checklist to get the most out of your RFPIO experience. Each step includes links to Help Center articles to set you up for success.
  • RFPIO University (RFPIO customers only): Watch video training modules on project management, content management, and other powerful capabilities such as user management and Auto Respond.
  • Customer webinars: Sign up for the next live webinar or dig into the on-demand archive of recent webinars for further instruction, product updates, and response management best practices.

#6: Schedule training by role

RFPIO is an intuitive tool. Even so, we have your back when it comes to user adoption. Institutionally, we have prioritized it. You’ll recognize our efforts in user experience upgrades, the new learning management system (LMS) RFPIO University mentioned above, and certification events designed to help you train end users.

Learning how to use RFPIO is relatively simple. Eric Fink, Dynamics & Business Applications Specialist at Microsoft, said, “The first time I logged into RFPIO, it took me about 10 minutes to get comfortable with the platform. After that, I quickly found responses to all of my open questions — seeing 100% value from the very beginning.”

Sales users are savvy. They can pick it up in an hour-long training. You should follow up with shorter, recurring training sessions to make sure they’re really using it, understand its benefits, and feel comfortable asking for help, if necessary. Respect end users’ time by training them only on what they need to know.

Again, manager buy-in is crucial here. Work closely with sales managers to make sure they fully comprehend the opportunity offered by RFPIO. They will help you overcome any pushback from sales end users, who may hesitate at the request to disrupt their workflow for a training, no matter how short and helpful it may be. They will also help ensure their team is using the tool consistently.

#7: Monitor, collect feedback, adapt

The push for greater user adoption is never complete, but it can most certainly be less painful and onerous. The good news is that user-adoption pushback fades as win rates increase.

After the rush of your initial rollout, you’ll be re-investing some of the time you used to waste on all the manual tasks of building proposals and chasing down content and subject matter experts into RFPIO administration. Beyond driving your underlying processes of project, content, and user management, you’ll also be communicating regularly with your admin team and executive sponsor.

RFPIO makes it easy to report on usage because every action is captured within the tool and spun into insight for your desired output. However, you’ll want to gather anecdotal input as well. Speaking to end users and their managers about what’s working and what’s still a struggle with regard to RFPIO or your response management strategy will help you adapt to future needs.

Depending on the size of your organization, you can expect to see value from using RFPIO 90 days to six months after implementation. You may see value in as few as 35 days if you push it, but be wary of setting unrealistic expectations that can circle back around to sabotage the overall adoption.

Want to hear from someone other than RFPIO? See how Hyland Software managed user adoption: “By making sure RFPIO is something everyone can use… everyone is using it. User adoption has been outstanding.”

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

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

“Of course banana trees are trees, that’s why there’s ‘tree’ in the name.”

That’s how a heated debate with my family started a few weeks ago. Or, rather, that’s how a heated debate would have started if Google had not ended it immediately. (In case you’re curious, banana trees are actually herbaceous plants).

At risk of outing myself as a millennial, I feel like life before search engines was basically the wild, wild west. Before we carried around the answers to basically everything in our pockets, we’d either be content with not knowing, settle on an incorrect answer, or consult books or experts. (Madeleine’s father-in-law grows banana trees, he might be a good person to ask…)

In the future, I think this is what knowledge workers will think about the time before internal knowledge bases: How did everyone function before we consolidated all company knowledge into a single, easily accessible location?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list.

And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

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

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base is a library of knowledge created by an organization for strict employee usage to easily (and securely) access confidential knowledge. The goal of a company knowledge base is to make everyone’s job easier by making company knowledge available on-demand.

A company knowledge base can hold answers to basically anything. This includes information about products, services, compliance, company history, and more. It can also contain the most up-to-date documents from all departments, including things like sales contracts, product roadmap, HR policies, and brand guidelines.

How to use an internal knowledge base

Think about an internal knowledge base as the place to store the answers to everything. Any question that people would usually go to subject matter experts for answers to should be readily available—and easily searchable—in your internal knowledge base.

That way, instead of your employees pinging HR for health care policy information or asking marketing for links to case studies, they can find what they need in your internal knowledge base.

Here are some examples of how you can use an internal knowledge base:

  • Answer customer questions

According to Hubspot research, salespeople spend 21% of their day writing emails. Many of those emails include following up to prospects with resources, or answering questions about the product or solution. With an internal knowledge base available from their email, salespeople can find answers to customer questions more efficiently—and get back to selling.

  • Respond to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs, etc.

Consolidating company knowledge streamlines responses to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs—especially when you consolidate knowledge in an AI-enabled RFP automation solution. We’ve found that organizations cut time responding to RFPs by 40% (on average) after implementing RFP automation technology like RFPIO.

  • Improve onboarding

New employees often ask the same questions. Rather than relying on tenured employees to answer that question time and time again, you can store that answer in your internal knowledge base and make it available on-demand to new employees.

  • Stay on-brand

Store marketing-approved content in your internal knowledge base, including things like branded slide decks, letterhead, and templates, as well as brand guidelines and boilerplates.

  • Get technical help

Use your internal knowledge base as a go-to spot for up-to-date IT information. Use your internal knowledge base to streamline common problems and communications.

  • Answer support tickets

Store answers to support tickets in your internal knowledge base. That way your support team can learn from each other’s experiences. Whenever a tricky support question comes up, your team has a rich database to find the answer.

  • Empower everyone to create their best content

When your company’s best answers are only a few clicks away, you can create better content. This includes things like blogs, slide decks, sales proposals, and more.

How to create an internal knowledge base in 6 steps

If you need real-time knowledge sharing, a knowledge base is what your business needs. Knowledge bases can easily share information in real-time with verified employees.

There are plenty of best practices to take into consideration when building a company knowledge library. Here are the steps to consider when creating an internal knowledge base:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge
  2. Grow as you go
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date
  4. Open the floodgates
  5. Train your team
  6. Conduct regular audits

Consolidate existing knowledge

I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you: A quick way to consolidate company knowledge starts with your sales proposals, DDQs, and security questionnaires.

When you write a sales proposal — be it a proactive proposal, SOW, or response to a request for proposal, bid, or tender — or respond to other complex questionnaires (e.g. security questionnaires, DDQs) you’re compiling relevant, accurate, up-to-date information about your company, products, services, security standards, and compliance status.

If your organization responds to RFPs, writes sales proposals, and/or fills out security questionnaires and DDQs, you already have the foundation upon which you can build your internal knowledge base.

Many teams choose to consolidate knowledge using a shareable spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheets) or platforms like Sharepoint. While this is a perfectly respectable first step for smaller teams, it can be very labor-intensive, difficult to scale, and can easily get out of control.

For a more long-term and scalable solution, you might consider using an AI-enabled RFP automation solution (e.g. RFPIO). With RFPIO, you can import old responses (e.g. to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, DDQs, etc) into the platform, and RFPIO’s patented import functionality will break your lengthy questionnaires into question-answer pairs.

Step 2: Grow as you go

After you’ve consolidated content from your sales proposals and security questionnaires, start consolidating question-and-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) from other departments. If you’re using a spreadsheet, create a tab for each department. Within the tab, designate a column for “questions” and a column for “answers”. If a question needs multiple answers, you can create an additional column.

If you use an RFP automation platform, growing as you go is much more straightforward. Tags, collections, and custom fields keep your internal knowledge base organized. And the more questionnaires you respond to, the richer your Answer Library grows.

You can also easily build your internal knowledge base beyond proposals and questionnaires by adding question-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) not associated with any proposal.

As a Content Marketing Manager, I use RFPIO as a hub for sales enablement documents, including case studies, data sheets, one-pagers, blogs, and email templates. Because of RFPIO’s advanced search functionality, the sales team can easily find the information they need with a simple keyword search.

Step 3: Stay accurate and up-to-date

The key to an internal knowledge base is that it’s been approved and pre-vetted by the right people.

Before you add any new Q&A pair to your internal knowledge base, make sure it’s been reviewed and approved. If you’re using RFPIO, you can set up content moderation, so any new Q&A pair needs to go through an internal knowledge base “gatekeeper” before it can be added to the library.

The second part is staying accurate and up-to-date. If you’re using a non-automated solution like Google Sheets or Sharepoint, you can use your calendar or email scheduling tool to remind yourself to review and verify information.

With RFPIO, you can set custom review cycles on each Q&A pair. For example, if you set the review cycle for 6 months, the content owner will be sent an email reminder every 6 months, asking them to review the answer and verify it’s still up-to-date.

How often you should conduct reviews depends on the type of content. As a standard rule of thumb:

  • Corporate content should be reviewed once every 90 days
  • Product content should be reviewed every 6-12 months
  • Evergreen content should be reviewed every 12-24 monthshow often should you conduct a review cycle

Step 4: Open the floodgates

Once you’ve created your internal knowledge base, it’s time to give your team access.

If you’re using an AI-enabled internal knowledge base solution like RFPIO, you have a lot more control over user permissions, so you can feel confident your people only have access to the content with need.

And you can also make sure that knowledge is accessible from where people are already working. With RFPIO® LookUp, you can access your company knowledge from:

  • Slack,
  • Google Chrome,
  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Microsoft Outlook,
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), and
  • Chromium Edge

Step 5: Train your team

People hate change. This axiom never rings truer when you’re trying to get people to adopt a new system that will make their lives easier.

Even if you’re simply sharing a link to a cloud-based spreadsheet or storage system, you still need to train your team on how to use it.

Here are a few best practices to get your team up and running with your internal knowledge base:

  • Schedule training. More training than you think necessary. Once to show people how to use the system. And then again after 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months.
  • Share information. Create how-to guides for using the platform and share them with your team. And then share them again. And again.
  • Learn from your peers. Luckily, you’re not the first person to ever implement an internal knowledge base. Learn from how other high-performing teams about how they set up their internal knowledge base:
    • Read how the Microsoft team uses Microsoft Teams to make company knowledge widely available
    • Read or Watch how Illuminate Education made their internal knowledge base available from Slack
    • See how Genpact made company knowledge available from Microsoft PowerPoint

Step 6: Conduct Regular Audits

A healthy knowledge base needs regular updates.

For content audit best practices, head over to our blog: Clean up your RFP answer library in 3 steps.

Get started building your internal knowledge base

Internal knowledge bases are perfect for companies looking to easily locate resources efficiently and securely. Learn more about how RFPIO® LookUp can help you create an internal knowledge base.

Or, if you’re ready to see LookUp in action, schedule a customized demo.

Data-driven strategies for increasing RFP win rate

Data-driven strategies for increasing RFP win rate

There are two primary reasons why you should aggressively pursue requests for proposals (RFPs). One, they’re a great way to build pipeline. Which is key for the 69% of B2B salespeople who do not have enough leads in their pipeline to meet quota. Two, they can be a major revenue driver. You just have to make sure you’re pursuing the right RFPs and doing so as efficiently as possible. Take my word for it. Just kidding. I actually have data to back it up. I also did an entire webinar on this topic, if you’re ready for a deep dive.

RFPs: Opportunity and Risk

Globally, $11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes (RFPs) every year. You may be asking, “What is a good proposal win rate?” RFPIO’s research puts the average RFP win rate at 45%. But that’s across all industries. It will vary according to your level of specialization. RFPs exist in multiple markets, including government, construction, supply chain, manufacturing, systems integration, healthcare, and technology.

$11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes (RFPs) every year.

As a salesperson, I always wanted to include RFPs to help grow my pipeline. A healthy sales pipeline is 4-5x the close rate, and RFPs can represent deal sizes large enough to keep my pipeline super healthy. Since working in sales, I’ve led proposal teams and now have my own company, Patri, that helps qualify sales opportunities, including RFPs. I’ve also learned that too many salespeople and leaders are avoiding RFPs.

RFPs are not easy, and they can be labor-intensive. I’ve known many salespeople who find them too restrictive. In other words, there’s too much red tape to navigate to put together a response.

The fact is that only a little over half of all salespeople are hitting their quotas. There’s a lot of desperation out there. If you’re already in desperation mode, then the notion of allocating resources to an RFP proposal is tantamount to putting all your eggs in one basket. Proposal opportunities are more than 5x more expensive than traditional sales opportunities. As a result, companies are spending an estimated $200+ billion per year on lost bid opportunities alone.

Companies are spending an estimated $200+ billion per year on lost bid opportunities alone.

So if you boil it all down, objections to pursuing RFPs come down to time and finding the right opportunities. I’m going to unleash my inner salesperson and help you overcome those objections. Let’s look at the data.

5 smart moves to increase your RFP win rate

5 smart moves to increase your RFP win rate

  1. Pursue RFPs you have the highest probability of winning: Qualifying RFP opportunities before you respond helps reduce your loss rate and increase your win rate. Patri clients have saved $26 million and 27,000 hours by focusing efforts only on opportunities they can realistically win.
  2. Increase RFP response volume: Teams with dedicated proposal professionals submitted 3.5x more responses in 2020.
  3. Increase sales efficiency: Teams using RFP software submit an average of 46% more responses every year.
  4. Improve RFP response quality: Medical device manufacturer IBA re-invested time saved from RFP software into improving response quality and increased win rate by 15% in the first year.
  5. Streamline collaboration: 38% of responders cite collaborating with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create and review content as their biggest headache.

So that gives you an idea of what you can do. Now, how can you win more RFPs? Qualify opportunities and implement RFP response software.

How to win more RFPs in 3 steps

Step 1: Qualify based on data

I remember early in my proposal response days, I was the salesperson and proposal manager. Wearing both hats, anything I wanted to pursue I had to make sure was winnable. Some of those early parameters were relationship status, incumbency, solution fit, and requirement fit. I grew this exercise in qualification into my company, Patri.

Patri sits between RFP identification and response, at that pivotal qualification point. We analyze data to provide clients a fit score and call out their strengths and weaknesses that will play into their pursuit of an opportunity. So far, we have helped qualify more than $40 billion of opportunities and helped win $84.6 million worth of business.

Step 2: Save and re-invest time

When clients agree that an opportunity is fit enough to pursue, we recommend that they use RFP software to craft the best response possible. Solutions such as RFPIO automate manual processes and improve collaboration, freeing up your time for other things. The more time you have to fine-tune your proposal, the better your proposal will be, and the higher your win rate.

RFP software helps proposal and sales teams save time (and achieve higher win rates) by:

  • Cutting response time by an average of 40%: Automatically respond to commonly-seen questions with Auto Respond, automation functionality powered by machine learning.
  • Managing and moderating content and projects: Organize RFP content, import projects, assign tasks, respond to questions, set up review cycles, and export into the source file or custom template.
  • Streamlining cross-functional collaboration: Easily collaborate across teams using in-app @mentioning and integration with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Jira.
  • Making data-driven decisions: Gain insight into time spent, deals won, and resources used with built-in business intelligence and analytics.
  • Integrating into your existing tech stack: RFPIO integrates with more platforms than anyone, including popular CRM, SSO, cloud storage, and communication platforms.

The primary indicator for RFP software, like any other automation software, is that it saves time. It’s what you do with that time that will determine your level of success with increasing RFP win rate.

Re-invest time into responding to more RFPs with higher quality proposals. Also, like a pure shooter who moves well off the ball (a la Craig Hodges for 90s-era Bulls fans or Klay Thompson for current Warriors fans), you can work on your process outside of active projects. In other words, re-invest time into improving your content. So when that next RFP comes in you not only have content that’s locked and loaded, it’s high quality, too, which will improve your odds of getting shortlisted.

Step 3: Designate an owner of the response process

While RFP software delivers efficiency, you will get more value out of it if you have a dedicated proposal manager administering the software and the processes around it. This de-facto leader of the proposal team will also be responsible for:

  • Building relationships with other company stakeholders, including sales, product, legal, and marketing teams.
  • Driving user adoption, knowledge management, and other essential functions associated with RFP software.
  • Enabling sales to have a streamlined, unfettered user experience to minimize objections and elevate the value of RFPs in pipeline management.

Finally, it’s important to note that you don’t have to make double-digit gains in your RFP win rate to realize impressive results. For example, if a company’s average RFP is worth $570,000 and they submit 415 RFPs annually, with a win rate of 32%, the business value of their RFP process is $75,696,000. Improving the win rate just 2% would represent a nearly $5 million dollar increase.

ROI of increasing your RFP win rate

Pursuing RFPs doesn’t have to be a black box experience. Be transparent within the company. Know your costs and win rate probability. Go and embrace them. By properly qualifying opportunities and using RFP software, you can improve your own odds.

To learn more about how Patri can help you qualify opportunities, schedule a demo. To see if your RFP management process is ready for automation by RFPIO, schedule a demo.

E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

Just like Law & Order: SVU, cloud-based sales technologies kicked off in 1999 and somehow continue to come out with new material 20 years later.

Since the debut of Salesforce’s cloud-based CRM in 1999, thousands of new sales automation solutions have been introduced to the market. Each with the promise of enhancing efficiency and saving time.

But as any good sales leader knows, increasing efficiency through technology doesn’t mean adopting many different technologies. It means strategically identifying the tech that works for you and your sales team, and finding opportunities to bring things under one roof.

According to a recent study by RingCentral, two-thirds of workers spend at least 60 minutes a day toggling back and forth between apps. This adds up to more than a month lost every year and costs billions of dollars in lost productivity annually for businesses.

[queue dramatic *CHUNG CHUNG*]

Two-thirds of workers spend at least 60 minutes a day toggling back and forth between apps. This adds up to more than a month lost every year and costs billions of dollars in lost productivity annually for businesses.
RingCentral

At RFPIO, we automate our responses to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, and other complicated questionnaires using our own RFP automation solution. But if we needed to get anything signed—be it a cover letter, an NDA, or a contract—we would need to make a special trip into a separate e-signature tool.

So we decided to bring e-signature and proposal management under one roof, with our brand spanking new e-signature tool: Autograph.

Autograph is an e-signature tool designed specifically for sales and proposal teams. But the best news is that it’s absolutely free to RFPIO customers.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s clear up some basics.

What is electronic signature (e-signature)?

Electronic signature, e-signature, or digital signature is an efficient, legally binding way to get approval on electronic documents.

For any electronic signature solution to be legally binding, it must:

  • Enable signing parties to explicitly consent to use electronic signature and do business electronically,
  • Give users the choice to decline to sign electronically,
  • Track how the document was signed, and
  • Send a copy of the completed/signed document to all signing parties.

Sales and proposal teams use electronic signatures on documents like NDAs, cover letters, legal documents, disclosures, and more. Unlike traditionally signed documents—which take 5-6 days to process—electronically signed documents can be signed within minutes.

With Autograph, you can embed e-signature within your proposal management solution, further streamlining the e-signature process by keeping your signed documents all in one place.

How to sign sales contracts online (and other documents) with Autograph

Signing sales documents using Autograph is extremely intuitive. Just like many other e-signature tools, e-signing documents using Autograph can be done in just 4 steps.

Step 1: Open the document for signature

Navigate to the Autograph dashboard, click on “Awaiting my signature”, and click open the document. You can also open the document directly from your email.

Step 1: Open the document for signing

Step 2: Consent to online signature

When you open the document, you’ll see a prompt to ask you to read the Electronic Record & Signature Disclosure. After reading this document, click the box to indicate that you consent to using electronic signature and doing business electronically.

Step 3: Start signing

Sign and initial where indicated in a couple clicks. Autograph stores your preferred signature and initials, so it’s ready for you when you need it.

sign document

Step 4: Download documents

Download a copy of the signed document for your records. A copy will also be sent to your email, and you can access other documents you’ve signed from your Autograph dashboard.

download documents

How to integrate e-signature into your sales tech stack

If you’re already an RFPIO customer (or planning to be) integrating e-signature into your sales tech stack is as easy as opening your RFPIO dashboard. Autograph is included with all RFPIO subscriptions—and it’s totally free for all RFPIO users at your company. Which, if you’re taking advantage of our unlimited licensing model, means everyone.

The most challenging part of any new tool—even if it’s free for everyone, easy to use, and integrates into existing processes—is getting people to use it. People don’t like change, even if the change is good for them.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting the rest of your organization rocking and rolling in Autograph:

Step 1: Get buy-in from leadership

When you’re having the conversation with leadership about Autograph, make sure to bring up the fact that it’s free for all RFPIO users. If you’re already paying for an RFPIO subscription, using Autograph is a no-brainer.

Here’s a sample email template you can use when sharing information about this new feature with leadership:

SUBJECT: Free e-signature feature included with our existing subscription

Hi ,

RFPIO, our proposal automation solution, has just introduced a built-in e-signature functionality—at no additional cost to us.

Because we have an unlimited user license with RFPIO, anyone at can use e-signature for free.

I’d love to help get the team up and running with this tool. I’ll be scheduling training sessions with the team over the next couple of weeks.

Can you help communicate the importance of this free new feature with the rest of the team?

Here are some resources you can check out to learn more about their e-signature functionality:
Blog: E-signature for sales and proposal teams
Help Center Article: Autograph Overview

Thanks,

Step 2: Schedule training

The key to helping your team get up and running with e-signature is to show them how it works. Schedule a training session to show them how they can use Autograph to sign NDAs, contracts, and other documents.

If you have a large team, it’s better to roll out the new tool in waves. Rather than trying to train everyone all at once, start with a small group and expand from there.

Step 3: Share information

Before you conduct your training session, send an email to your team with information about Autograph, the training agenda, and other resources they can peruse.

Here’s a sample template you can use:

SUBJECT: Announcement: New e-signature tool training

Hi everyone,

I’m excited to announce that RFPIO, our proposal automation solution, has recently introduced a built-in e-signature functionality!

I’ve just sent out an invitation for a training session to show you how to use the tool, and answer any questions you might have.

Before the session, please read these resources to learn more about the new feature and how it works:
Blog: E-signature for sales and proposal teams
Help Center Article: Autograph Overview

Let me know if you have any questions.

See you during the training!

Step 4: Schedule follow-up training

Remember: Training is not a “one-and-done” thing. People hate change, even if it’s good for them.

Schedule regular follow-up training to see what questions people have, what users want to learn more about, or are struggling to understand.

Start e-signing contracts, sales documents, and more

Autograph is free for all RFPIO users, which makes sending and signing documents that much easier.

If you’re already an RFPIO customer, check out our Help Center article for detailed instructions on using Autograph.

If you’re thinking about becoming a customer, schedule a demo to see how Autograph works.

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

Let’s start with the good news: You have an RFP response process. You’d be surprised to know how many companies don’t even have that. If you don’t have a process yet, then I recommend reading How to create an RFP response process as well.

Now the bad news: It needs work. I can help. Let’s look at how to improve your RFP response process.

First, take inventory: How are RFPs viewed within your organization?

Before you improve, take a look at what you have and why. Does your organization view RFPs as a strategic revenue stream or a box to be checked? If the latter, are executive sponsors in place to help you lead the process change?

Change management is real. If past attempts to prioritize RFPs in the sales process were mishandled, then you may still be feeling the pain. If this will be your first sales process change as it pertains to RFPs, then how it’s managed will be just as important as what is implemented.

One advantage of improving your RFP response process now is that salespeople and customers are more open to change than they may have been prior to the pandemic. As people quickly adapted to a “new normal,” Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said, “We saw two years of digital transformation in two months.”

However, if you’re like most organizations, the change will need to take place while maintaining current staff levels. According to our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, 75% of organizations plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021, but only 37% of organizations plan to hire more RFP response staff.

5 steps to improving your RFP response process

  1. Only chase RFPs you can win
  2. Focus on content
  3. Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities
  4. Get to know your resources
  5. Rinse & repeat

Perfection is unattainable. There’s always room for improvement. I’ve seen organizations improve their RFP response process and see big gains within a year. One 2-person team successfully responded to 16 RFPs that were stacked on top of each other a year after having to push back on the same expectation. Hopefully these tips will help you attain the same kind of results.

Step 1: Only chase RFPs you can win

One of the best ways to make your RFP response process more effective is to stop wasting time on unqualified RFPs. Do this by setting up a qualification step or a go/no-go decision. Consider the following during this step:

  • What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued? RFPs are not the optimal time for cold calls. Odds are definitely better when you’ve been invited to respond to an RFP because sales or presales has developed a relationship with the prospect or you already responded to a request for information (RFI) or the prospect has done extensive research on you and your competitors.
  • Is your solution a fit? At minimum, it needs to meet the mandatory requirements. Everyone’s agile. Everyone’s flexible. Issuers already know that. You need to be able to prove that you have a battle-tested solution. If proof isn’t required in the RFP, then it will be at onboarding or implementation. RFPs fall into the category of “under promise, over deliver”; doing the opposite will sabotage future support, renewal, and upgrade efforts.
  • Does your price match the prospect’s budget? Of course there’s give and take when considering the opportunity and what it means to your business now and in the future. Nevertheless, the issuer will expect your solution to come with everything promised in your response. Whatever the cost to deliver on expectations, make sure you’re being fair to your prospect, your product, and your team responsible for supporting those expectations.
  • Is it a strategic fit? RFPs take a lot of time and effort, but not nearly as much time and effort as onboarding and supporting a customer that doesn’t fit your business or product development strategy. There are few things more frustrating than submitting and winning an RFP only to find out that you cannot follow through because it’s not a strategic fit for you or the issuer.
  • Do you have bandwidth? Too often, this consideration gets pushed to the side. It’s especially important if you’re responding to unqualified bids! It’s completely understandable to want to respond to more RFPs (we found that 72% of companies plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020). But don’t do it at the expense of response quality or your proposal team’s, sales team’s, and subject matter experts’ valuable time.

Step 2: Focus on content

Are you working from a content library, or are you still chasing down content ad-hoc? If you have a content library, make sure it’s up to date and that content is clean and reusable. Develop content so that it has the flexibility to either be easily customized or used in its generic form. It should all have a consistent voice to reduce editing and review time on the back end.

Your content library also needs to have an organizational structure that helps with searching. With RFP software such as RFPIO, you can use tags, collections, and custom fields. It might help to organize content to match the structure of the RFPs you receive. What sections do you always see? Sections common in many RFPs are:

  • Company overview
  • Training & implementation
  • Security
  • Software/Functional/Technical
  • Biographies
  • Case Studies

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

Step 3: Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities

Have a project plan that emphasizes expectations. Someone has to own it and drive it to hold team members accountable to deadlines. If you don’t have a full-time proposal manager in place, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better reason to hire one than to improve and own your RFP response process.

Initiate a kickoff meeting for every response to discuss strategy and expectations with the entire response team. Surface scheduling conflicts, content gap concerns, or issues with deadlines to avoid surprises. Find a way to get visibility over the whole process.

Step 4: Get to know your resources

The better you know your resources, the better you are at going to the right person at the right time. Establish their preferred communication channel and respect it. RFPIO has integrations with several channels to make it easier, including email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Jira. Maybe you have an SME who hates writing. Call him up and have him talk out the answer, then you write it out. Putting in the legwork to build relationships with your resources will pay off at crunch time.

Step 5: Rinse & repeat

Any improvements need to be repeatable. For example, if you bring in a contract proposal manager for a response, then be prepared to do so every time. This is a process you will cycle through for every RFP. If it works as well as it should, then you may want to carry the process over to other responses, such as security questionnaires or due diligence questionnaires (DDQs).

 benchmark-blog-report

The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

8-step RFP response process

  • Qualify RFP: Insert a go/no-go evaluation at the beginning of the RFP response process. Sales will be the loudest voice, but proposal teams, SMEs, and executive sponsors will need to weigh in to evaluate risk, timing, and strategic fit.
  • Kick-off project: Provide clarity and accountability to the full response management team, including strategic objectives that everyone can work toward.
  • 1st response: Make an initial response pass based on reusable content. This step is much faster with RFP software.
  • 2nd response: Tap into resources for new questions, and assign segments that require customization to respective SMEs.
  • Review & revise: Conduct internal reviews to ensure a high-quality proposal. Link review requests to specific purposes (i.e., Are strategic objectives met? Are responses accurate and high quality? Did we fully answer the question?)
  • Submit: Deliver polished RFP with reviewed supporting materials. Follow up to confirm receipt. Keep internal stakeholders abreast of progress.
  • Save & audit: Save finalized responses in a centralized location and commit to regular content audits.
  • Post-mortem: Winning doesn’t always mean content was perfect. Losing doesn’t mean it was a bad response. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
    Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFP process and steps

Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFPs are becoming more complex. As technology has evolved, expectations have risen. With the capacity to answer more questions, issuers want to ask more questions.

In the past, RFPs were issued with the issuer not knowing if a solution even existed, let alone the company that could provide it. Now there’s a lot of research done online. Typically, there are multiple touchpoints with a prospective solution provider before an RFP is even issued.

In 2021, companies that use RFP-specific software responded to 43% more RFPs than those who use other solutions or techniques. They were also 25% more likely to agree that their processes are streamlined enough to make time to tailor their proposals to the issuers’ specific use-cases.

RFP software can contain and drive your response process. In RFPIO’s case, AI-enabled automation and collaboration begin at intake and carry all the way through to your postmortem.

For those increasingly popular but sometimes maddening online response portals, RFPIO® LookUp can help. The theory behind online portals is that they make RFPs easier. For the issuers, maybe. But not for responders. Even though you can have as many proposal team members respond as you want, there’s no visibility. If multiple responders are updating and changing answers then version and quality control are at risk. RFPIO® LookUp lets you work directly from your Answer Library to fill out the online portal without having to leave your browser.

I hope this helps you formulate your next steps for improving your RFP response process. Eventually, you’ll be able to respond to more RFPs or improve the quality of your proposals, or both! You’ll also have a transparent, repeatable process that your proposal team and organization as a whole can rely on to push RFPs as a strategic revenue stream. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to see if it’s the process improvement driver you’ve been looking for.

How to create a great RFP response process

How to create a great RFP response process

If you’re reading this, then you’ve already contemplated why you need a request for proposal (RFP) response process. Something hasn’t been going right. Too much time being spent on responding? Poor quality proposals? Lack of wins? Or maybe you’re a new proposal manager, or you’re trying to provide proposal manager-level leadership as a sales or marketing manager. The point is that now you know why you need an RFP response process, so where do you get started?

I’m going to lay it all out for you, but first…

How do you respond to an RFP?

Depending on your industry, an RFP may contain several hundred questions and ask you to gather dozens of documents, certificates, and other content that validates your product as a solution to the issuer’s problem. You’ll have to compose a response that addresses all the questions and content requirements, which may require you to reach out to multiple people in your organization for help. Oh, and of course there’s a deadline. And it’s never far enough in the future for you to feel comfortable about hitting it.

Your response will be reviewed and compared to responses from your competitors. The quality of your response will determine whether or not your organization moves forward in the sales process. As many an RFP pro can attest, you can’t win a deal solely on the basis of an RFP, but you can certainly lose one.

RFPs can be painful without a process. Evaluating what’s required, searching for content, tracking down subject matter experts (SMEs) to help, and composing a high-quality proposal takes time, most of which will be wasted if you take an ad-hoc approach. Your process does not have to be extensive, but it does have to exist.

What is an RFP response process?

An RFP response process is an efficient workflow that clarifies roles, responsibilities, and timelines to help an organization meet the issuer’s deadline. A great RFP response process is practiced by an entire team. RFP contributors come together to build the process, and they follow it consistently.

When to create an RFP response process

I touched on some scenarios in the opening paragraph, but here are a few more red flags that might indicate you need to create an RFP response process:

  1. A new proposal manager is taking over the process. Whether they are taking over an existing process or implementing one for the first time, this is an excellent opportunity for a proposal manager to make an early impact.
  2. The current “process” just isn’t working. This can range from being tired of responding to RFPs in an ad-hoc fashion, to recognizing the current proposal process is broken or cannot scale, to realizing that AI-enabled software help is out there and it’s time to implement.
  3. Merging organizations with separate RFP response processes. Rare is the occasion when two companies come together and proceed in lockstep through their first RFP as a merged entity. If you’re going to try to cherry pick the best of both processes, then you might as well scrape the lot and build anew. The good news is that your combined experience will accelerate decision-making.
  4. New markets or new products. What may have worked in the past with familiar markets and established products may fall flat with audiences that don’t recognize your company or product. This is a prime opportunity to get back to basics and modernize a process that may have grown stale anyway.

Set goals for your RFP response process

Start by identifying what you want to achieve. Only then can you draw a blueprint that you can follow to get there. I recommend including these three objectives in your initial goal-setting:

  1. Decrease response time: The pain of too much time spent on responding is likely what got you here in the first place. Drop this metric in as one of your primary markers for success. If you do it right, you can decrease response time by up to 40% or more. The right process will make you more nimble.
  2. Improve response quality: Some, if not all, of that time you save with a new RFP response process can be re-invested in your responses. Instead of scrambling to find answers or begging for reviews, you’re spending the time customizing a proposal to better position your solution for the win.
  3. Increase shortlist rate: This will take a few responses before you see any results. More shortlists means that you’re receiving greater consideration. Eventually, an uptick in this metric will correlate to an uptick in win rates, too.

Further out, you can look at goals for win rate, content development, and increasing the number of RFPs you respond to every year.

12 RFP process steps for efficient RFP responses

Start with this RFP process checklist. Plan on at least a month of work to get the process going. The status and volume of your existing content will be the major determining factor in how quickly you’ll see results.

  1. Identify key stakeholders: Who are they? What is their contribution? What is their role (e.g. proposal development/management, subject matter expertise, strategy, review, etc.)?
  2. Figure out the average timeline. Government RFPs tend to have longer lead times but more requirements. Private sector RFPs are generally quicker but may not be as complex. Knowing this will help you construct your response calendar. For example, if you have an average of two weeks then reviews won’t be extensive, or you may have to respond with a generic proposal instead of a custom version.
  3. Identify other metrics that will determine whether or not you pursue the opportunity.
  4. ROI: Is it worth committing resources to the effort?
  5. Strategic positioning: Is your solution truly the right fit for the issuer’s problem?
  6. Pricing: Does the estimated budget align with your pricing?
  7. Existing relationships: If you’re an unknown entity, then you have a steeper hill to climb to get shortlisted.
  8. Locate content and evaluate how easy or difficult it will be to access it. Dollars to donuts that this will be your biggest headache.
  9. Select the optimal channels for collaboration. Email? Slack? Teams? You’ll need to include all of your identified stakeholders. Then you’ll need to create a strategy of how to collaborate. Include everyone in everything (and risk early onset of project fatigue)? Customize communications for every action item (and add a hefty amount of work to the project lead while risking losing touch with some stakeholders)? Quick tip: Break away from a linear process; people can work on multiple pieces simultaneously.
  10. Get buy-in from everyone. For a process to be effective, it needs to be followed. Bring in executive sponsors from the get-go, and start selling efficiency benefits to SMEs pronto. Relationship building within your organization will be just as important as the business development relationships your salespeople are cultivating.
  11. Consider whether software can help. Software helps you have a clearly defined process. Software itself enforces the process, with the help of the administrator. It also centralizes content, makes it searchable, and automates part of the response process, all of which will simplify creating the process in the first place.
  12. Should you hire a proposal manager? This is a professional role that brings value to the RFP process. It’s a combination of project management, proposal development, and relationship-building expertise earned from extensive response experience. Otherwise, someone is going to have to multi-task with their other responsibilities to lead the RFP response.
 benchmark-blog-report

The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

A template: The ideal RFP response process flowchart

As soon as you have your ducks in a row, you can go about building your proposal process in the flowchart below.

RFP Response Process and Steps

8 key RFP process steps:

  1. Qualify RFP: Insert a go/no-go evaluation at the beginning of the RFP response process. Sales will be the loudest voice, but proposal teams, SMEs, and executive sponsors will need to weigh in to evaluate risk, timing, and strategic fit.
  2. Kick-off project: Provide clarity and accountability to the full response management team, including strategic objectives that everyone can work toward.
  3. 1st response: Make an initial response pass based on reusable content. This step is much faster with RFP software.
  4. 2nd response: Tap into resources for new questions, and assign segments that require customization to respective SMEs.
  5. Review & revise: Conduct internal reviews to ensure a high-quality proposal. Link review requests to specific purposes (i.e., Are strategic objectives met? Are responses accurate and high quality? Did we fully answer the question?)
  6. Submit: Deliver polished RFP with reviewed supporting materials. Follow up to confirm receipt. Keep internal stakeholders abreast of progress.
  7. Save & audit: Save finalized responses in a centralized location and commit to regular content audits.
  8. Post-mortem: Winning doesn’t always mean content was perfect. Losing doesn’t mean it was a bad response. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

Strengthen your RFP response process with RFP software

I touched on some of the benefits in the above checklist. But there is a lot more than management of process and content. Integration with other applications in your sales tech stack, the ability to work from custom response templates, Auto Respond functionality, and streamlined collaboration are just some of the highlights.

The happiest teams we know find that RFPIO features make it easier to stick to a consistent RFP response process. Imagine being able to assign reviewers sequentially to ensure the proposal is polished with the highest quality responses for each section. You can do it from a single interface, communicate with responsible SMEs, and establish clear timing of every task for everyone to see.

You can certainly respond to RFPs without software, assuming you have a rock-solid approach that hums along without any inefficiencies. But if you want to go from moving the needle to burying it, then combine a strong process with RFP response software.

Still not sure where to start? Demos are always great launching pads. Schedule one for you and your RFP response stakeholders today!

IBA increased win rate by 15% by improving response and bid quality

IBA increased win rate by 15% by improving response and bid quality

There are niche markets. Then there are niches of niche markets. IBA, a medical device manufacturer based in Belgium, is in one of those niches. That’s why they face such tough competition for every one of their 30, on average, annual request for proposal (RFP) responses or tender bids.

IBA global director of sales support and tender management, Grégory Saive, and his team review every document released in relation to IBA’s proton therapy technology. Due to the sensitive nature of the technology—it’s at the forefront of cancer treatment innovation—and the level of investment required to build and furnish a proton therapy suite, RFPs and tenders are understandably complex. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages of technical, legal, and medical information are included in responses and bids. Multiple subject matter experts must weigh in to ensure accuracy and mitigate risk.

Three years ago, Grégory took over a team of regional product managers and tender specialists participating in the business development of Proteus® proton therapy technology. At the time, the team faced multiple challenges:

  • Even though team members carried the title of “specialist,” the monotony of repetitive bid and response tasks relegated them to feeling more like “assistants”
  • Manual processes took up too much time and had to be repeated for every bid or response
  • Bids and responses did not accurately represent the quality the company or the team wanted to portray when representing such a high-end brand in competitive evaluation processes
  • Content was scattered, siloed, and difficult to keep current

When Grégory took over, he committed to transforming the team’s response processes while promising not to increase headcount. In order to fulfill his commitment, Grégory and his team knew that they needed a tool that could be the foundation for the team’s transformation. Given the nature of his work, he began the process by running a tender. “We are tender specialists, so I found it strange that my team would select a tool based on a whim. So we created a full tender for RFPIO and some of its competitors,” Grégory said.

First impressions

IBA offered the tender to four pre-selected solution providers. During the demo process, RFPIO’s search functionality stood out as a definitive competitive differentiator. Grégory said, “I was impressed by how easy it was to tag answers with associated keywords, search for those keyword tags, and view search results with a score index to see the questions that are the most recent and most used at the top.”

In the past, when Grégory wanted to find the proper wording for an answer—wording that he knew existed but he could not precisely recall its location—he had to search through multiple documents line by line until he found it. With the search functionality he witnessed in the demo, he realized that he wouldn’t have to conduct those manual searches ever again.

For Grégory, response management software was a tool. Alone, it could not transform his team or response processes. Using response management software as the foundation, he sought to achieve three goals that he believed would result in a successful transformation.

Goal #1: Improve Quality

From the day Grégory took over his team, his goal was not primarily to increase efficiency. His goal was to improve bid and response quality. “We do not win a deal with a tender, but we can definitely lose a deal because of a tender,” he said.

With such a highly specialized solution, the market and opportunities are extremely limited. His team responds to an average 30 tenders or RFPs every year because there are only that many real opportunities that become available on a global scale.

Increasing efficiency so his team could produce more responses or bids would do nothing for IBA’s bottom line. They had to improve the quality of their bids and responses to increase the win percentage of existing opportunities. And IBA is not alone in its desire to re-invest time saved into improving bids. In fact, 84% of companies with designated RFP software agree that they have more time to personalize proposals for specific use cases.*

After a year of using RFPIO, IBA increased their win rate for Grégory’s business unit to 80%.

“With RFPIO, I would say we have increased our win rate by 15%.”

He’s quick to point out that RFPIO isn’t the only reason for this uptick. It’s also due to how he’s spent the time saved by using the tool. By reducing time spent on searching documents and copy and pasting answers, the team has more time to strategize about how to compose the best answers.

“RFPIO allows the team to spend more time on meaningful tasks…either training, reviewing answers, or improving quality. That’s where I’ve spent most of my time saved since the beginning.”

Goal #2: Improve Content Management

Prior to implementing RFPIO, Grégory and tender specialists had to browse hundreds of documents during the bid process. When they found something that was remotely close, then they copy and pasted it. They could not spend the time necessary to fully think it through and make sure it was a contextually sound answer because they had to move on.

That presented a problem for answers that had not been used in awhile. According to a Deloitte article called The new knowledge management, “If searching is difficult and the results are not highly valued, workers lose trust in knowledge systems.”

With RFPIO, the team now searches the Answer Library for the most relevant answer and trusts the results based on the content score. When they find an answer, they can also see when and how often that answer was used. If the answer is two years old, for example, then it is likely out of date because the product has evolved. The team knows that the answer needs to be reviewed by a product manager or other specialist, depending on the context, and can assign and track that review through RFPIO.

But even that process will continue to improve. Because Grégory’s team focuses only on proton therapy business, they can work in a single Answer Library. They are implementing processes to proactively review answers—especially long answers that are used regularly—with experts every six months. So in future searches, fewer Q & A pairs will be out of date and require detailed review during a bid in-flight.

In the case of content that needs updating more often, Grégory hopes to focus the review process even more. “Content relating to financing options—stuff that we don’t use often or that’s really specific to a country or prospect—usually needs 50% or more changes. Maybe in five years, we tag that content with special comments saying that it needs to be automatically reviewed by financial experts at IBA.”

While content management has already improved, IBA continues to identify new ways to streamline their review processes to identify more time that can be spent on improving bid quality.

Goal #3: Enable Better Training

Grégory promised management that in exchange for investing in a response management tool such as RFPIO, he would not add headcount. One of the primary reasons he’s been able to keep his promise is because of the training advantages offered by RFPIO.

IBA is not alone in its focus on training and maintaining headcount. 63% of proposal teams plan to increase team training on RFP response, while only 37% plan to hire more staff.*

Again, it’s not just the tool. As Grégory said, “It’s a great tool, but it’s not a magical tool.” While the RFPIO Answer Library helps streamline the answer process, it also gives time to Grégory and his team members to think and customize their answers.

For Grégory, he can take the time to train team members on how to answer, or what makes a good answer to a particular question. For his team, it’s the difference between plowing through the bid process feeling like an “assistant” or “generalist” and approaching each question as a “specialist” who can deliberate on differentiating IBA from competitors.

Although he is not adding headcount, transition on Grégory’s team does occur due to rotations some employees take from one department to another. In such cases, onboarding is much faster with RFPIO in place. “Again, the ease with which we are able to search the Answer Library has improved the onboarding process.” When new recruits don’t have to take the time to familiarize themselves with what the content is and where answers might be located, they can jump right into identifying the right answers through search.

IBA improved proposal quality and increased win rate by 15% with RFPIO

Next steps

So far, IBA has used RFPIO only for Proteus®. In the future, they hope to expand their Answer Library and Collections to include partner software and hardware that can make a solution even better. This will require a culture change around collaboration, but it’s all part of Grégory’s long-term plan to transform the team. IBA is also in the process of bringing its OneDrive integration online, which will expand their Answer Library with marketing videos, documents, and other content.

As for advice on how to get the most out of RFPIO, Grégory recommends having someone in charge of response management who can drive processes and establish goals. Setting ground rules and expectations for management as well as team members is essential to success.

The tool may not be magical, but it gives Grégory and his team time and opportunity to insert magic into their answers to improve the quality of their bids and responses.

“I cannot really measure the increase in quality in terms of answers, but I can certainly measure the increase of quality in my team.”

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