THE RFPIO BLOG

Start Responding Like a Pro

The RFPIO blog is full of insights and best practices, giving you the tools you’ll need to streamline your process and respond with confidence.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

Accruent is an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company dedicated to helping customers and clients with their physical space and asset management. In […]


Category: Author: RD Symms

RD is a senior copywriter at RFPIO. He has more than 15 years of experience in writing, content development, and creative strategy. Connect with RD on LinkedIn.
How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

Accruent is an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company dedicated to helping customers and clients with their physical space and asset management. In recent years, the company has seen notable growth as they’ve acquired other companies to increase their share in the space. They now have nine different products—all of them technical in nature.

Between all those products, the proposals team has a lot of RFPs (request for proposals) to manage and is regularly juggling several at once. According to Jack Pearce, Manager of the Proposal Team, the technical nature of Accruent’s products means the proposals team doesn’t have the knowledge required to answer all the questions themselves. But the company’s subject matter experts (SMEs) are busy people, and the team has to be cautious how much of their time they ask for.

Before Jack became the proposal manager at Accruent, he was a proposal writer. As such, he knew the company had access to RFPIO. But he never used it himself. “None of us did,” he explained. “It wasn’t really rolled out properly. No one was trained on it, everyone just thought it was another system they had to learn.”

They had some content stored in it, but none of it was organized. As a proposal writer, Jack hadn’t fully understood the value of RFPIO. But as a proposal manager, his view changed. Suddenly, he saw how much potential the tool had to make all their lives easier.

Making RFPIO’s potential a reality

In 2020, Jack embarked on a project to re-roll out RFPIO at Accruent. He worked with his colleague James May, at that time a Proposal Writer new to the organization, to better organize the content already contained in RFPIO’s Content Library. They reworked the collections the content was organized within, and created a better tagging structure. They now have nine content collections—one for each product—and another collection for security questions.

Beyond that initial project of getting the Content Library in good shape, they make a point of performing ongoing content maintenance. Whenever James—now considered the company’s resident RFPIO guru—isn’t busy working on an RFP, he devotes time to cleaning up the tags, makes sure the moderation queue is at zero (or close to it), and works with SMEs to keep all content up to date.

RFPIO is now central to Accruent’s RFP process

The proposals team now knows to start the RFP process in RFPIO, and to complete as much of it as they can using the content available. That creates a better relationship with the company’s SMEs, who now know that anytime the proposals team asks for their help, it means they’ve already done as much as they can on their own. Even better, they know each answer they provide will go in the Content Library, saving them that much more time on future RFPs.

In addition to the Content Library, the team also gets a lot of value from RFPIO’s collaboration features. Between everyone involved in the proposal process, they often have 3-8 SMEs working on RFPs at a time. Enabling efficient communication between the various people involved is important.

Before RFPIO, “Every time someone didn’t like an answer, we’d have to have a call about it,” explains Jack. “Now we just use the comments function in RFPIO to facilitate that conversation.” That makes for a more efficient process, and keeps all the correspondence in one place.

The proposals team aren’t the only ones who feel the difference. Chris Low, a Senior Account Director at Accruent, has also shared his feelings on the change: “RFPIO and the processes the team created around it make collaborating with our amazing proposals team even easier. From a simple intake form, to answering questions at a canter with the library, it’s been a huge help and certainly attestable to winning new business.”

The result: submitting more RFPs, with more confidence

With the help of the Content Library in RFPIO, the proposals team is now able to complete around 50% of all RFP questions on their own. That increases efficiency to the degree that they’ve gone from working on 5-6 live RFPs at a time to tackling 15-25 live projects at once. “That is simply because we can do more because of the platform,” Jack says.

Completing more RFPs has also made them better at determining which ones are worth their time. In practice, that has meant fewer no-gos than before. “It’s given us the confidence to take on more opportunities,” Jack shared.

They’ve also seen a big difference in how they handle security questionnaires. The responsibility for those has generally fallen to one person—and it was really too much work to put on him alone. Now, the proposals team is generally able to get 75% of the questionnaires completed on the first pass. That’s cut the response time from ten days to five.

Before RFPIO After RFPIO
Answering RFP questions meant asking busy SMEs to give up their time The proposals team is able to answer around 50% of all questions on their own, giving SMEs that time back
They juggled 5-6 live RFPs at a time They handle 15-25 live RFPs at a time
Security questionnaires were primarily the responsibility of one SME, and took around 10 days to complete The proposals team can answer 75% of the security questionnaire before they send it on to the SME, and they’re completed in half the time
They were limited in how many RFPs they felt comfortable responding to Replying to more RFPs has increased their confidence in which ones they believe they can win, meaning an increase in the number they submit

Jack and his team don’t mince words when they talk about the difference RFPIO has made. “A life without RFPIO would not be worth living,” he says. “It would be bloody difficult. And you can quote me on that.”

According to T.C. Kaiser, SVP – Global Solution Consulting at Accruent, “Our proposals team has a high volume of projects live and RFPIO enables them to deliver with speed while maintaining a high level of quality. Our team relies on the platform to deliver value to our organization and make the best impression with our customers.”

When it came time for Jack to make the case to superiors for renewal last year, he reports, “I said, ‘this is non-negotiable. If we don’t have RFPIO, we cannot do as much work as we do currently.’”

Not that anyone needed much convincing. The proposal process is so centered on RFPIO that people have taken to referring to the proposals team as the “RFPIO team.” According to Jack, “that is probably the biggest compliment we can give the system.”

How GEODIS is reducing SME review effort by 80% using response management software

How GEODIS is reducing SME review effort by 80% using response management software

GEODIS is a leading global supply chain company, providing third-party logistics services to more than 150,000 clients in 168 countries around the world. Responding to Requests for Proposal (RFPs) is central to GEODIS business development, and is the main channel through which it attracts new clients, expands service offerings, and increases revenue.

GEODIS Americas maintains an in-depth RFPIO Content Library consisting of more than 2,000 Q&A pairs that proposal professionals use to respond to RFPs. In 2022, GEODIS Americas began an update project to refresh and consolidate information within the Content Library. The aim of this Content Library refresh project is to:

  • Reduce the effort required from GEODIS Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to review and update Q&A pairs.
  • Ensure that the information contained in Q&A pairs is consistent, accurate, and up-to-date.
  • Win GEODIS more business through responding to RFPs with high-quality, comprehensive answers.

GEODIS Americas maintains its Content Library within the RFPIO response management tool. RFPIO has been central to the Content Library refresh project, and provides essential features and capabilities for finding information, updating answers, interacting with SMEs, and strengthening Q&A quality.

GEODIS has managed the Content Library refresh through six key steps.

1. Understand the need for a Content Library refresh

The GEODIS Content Library has become unwieldy over time. This is a natural result of incorporating information from diverse sources into a central repository. As multiple GEODIS SMEs write and respond to RFPs, their answers are copied into the Content Library to preserve their work and provide information for future responses.

This creates duplication in Q&A pairs. As SMEs create multiple responses on similar topics over a period of time, the Content Library captures each response as a separate Q&A pair, even if the answers are similar or identical. SMEs must regularly review every answer as part of an ongoing update process, including duplicates. Reducing duplication within the Content Library significantly reduces the associated SME’s time and effort.

The duplicate question overhead also exists for GEODIS proposal preparers who must decide on which of a number of possible Q&A responses is the “best” answer.

Multiple authors cause issues with the consistency and clarity of information in GEODIS Q&A pairs. Variations in writing style, depth of content, and other areas create differences in the style and tone of answers, which could be distracting when combined together into an RFP response document. This generates more rework to finesse final response documents before sending them to prospective clients.

These factors drove the need for the GEODIS Content Library refresh. GEODIS and RFPIO believe this is an excellent opportunity to use RFPIO features to find duplicates, engage with SMEs, rewrite content, and ensure consistency.

2. Use a strategic approach for a Content Library refresh

GEODIS decided to tackle the Content Library refresh as a self-contained, separate initiative to its operational proposal response work. The marketing team hired a consultant copywriter and project manager who could dedicate time and effort to lead the refresh project and work alongside the operational team.

The consultant reviewed the Content Library, using several RFPIO tool features to understand the scope and structure of GEODIS Q&A pairs:

  • The Answer Library Report for information on total questions, Q&A pair owners, review timelines, keywords, and other details.
  • Other RFPIO reports, including duplicate content, content search terms, and content usage reports.
  • Q&A tags for details of how each Q&A pair was categorized and to understand how tags could be rationalized for better future Q&A management.
  • Advanced and saved searches for filtering and drilling down into specific Q&A pairs.

This analysis led to a phased approach for the Content Library refresh, updating and consolidating individual Q&A pairs depending on how they were tagged in RFPIO. The consultant developed a project plan, style guide, SME communications, and a standard operating process for updating the Content Library.

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

—Paul Maplesden, Consultant and Project Lead, GEODIS Content Library Refresh

3. Get SMEs and stakeholders on board

Refreshing the GEODIS Content library requires buy-in and support from SMEs and other stakeholders, as clear and effective communications are essential to a successful project. GEODIS decided on a multi-step approach to managing communications:

  • Sending out communications about the project scope and aims to manage expectations and prepare all SMEs and stakeholders within GEODIS Americas.
  • Targeting individual SMEs related to specific Q&A pair refreshes.
  • Using built-in RFPIO communication tools to provide updates, direction, and ownership for individual Q&A pairs.

GEODIS developed communications explaining the aims of the Content Library refresh, particularly reducing the time and effort required from SMEs through removing duplicate questions. In addition to emailing these communications, GEODIS took advantage of several RFPIO SME engagement features, including:

  • Investigating each Q&A pair impacted by that phase of the refresh, and emailing the owners and moderators of that pair as captured in RFPIO.
  • Using RFPIO comment and mention functions for each pair to keep everyone updated on its status.
  • Analyzing SME review cycles for each updated Q&A pair to ensure it meets company and SME needs.

This approach ensured that all SMEs knew when their Q&A pairs were being consolidated and rewritten, and let them know exactly what actions they needed to take. The consultant leading the project also provided regular weekly updates to the proposal team and marketing director to keep them informed on project progress.

4. Establish a repeatable process for updating Q&A pairs

GEODIS developed a step-by-step, repeatable process to ensure a consistent approach to consolidating and rewriting each Q&A pair. The key steps of this process are:

  1. Establish which areas of the Content Library refresh this phase should focus on. Prioritize key lines of business during a proof of concept to validate the process and secure stakeholder buy-in.
  2. Identify duplicate Q&A pairs for this phase, together with the relevant SMEs.
  3. Consolidate and rewrite information from multiple duplicate answers into a master answer.
  4. Archive old, duplicated questions out of the active Content Library.
  5. Promote and link together master answers.

GEODIS found the following RFPIO features particularly useful in developing a standard process:

  • Running duplicate content reports for an overview of identical questions and answers.
  • Reviewing content usage statistics to identify the most popular content and possible master answers.
  • Adding Q&A tags to mark and identify specific Q&A pairs for archival or promotion to master answers.
  • Carrying out phrase, advanced, and saved search queries to search and filter by multiple criteria.
  • Establishing URL links for each Q&A pair for definitive identification and tracking.

During the development of this repeatable process, GEODIS worked with RFPIO Customer Success to ensure that the process was following best practices. RFPIO offered multiple suggestions to enhance the process and to take full advantage of the platform’s tools.

“Responding to RFPs in a consistent, accurate, and comprehensive way is central to winning more business. The RFPIO tool, coupled with the Content Library refresh project, supports our growth ambitions.”

—Michelle Johnson, VP of Growth Marketing, GEODIS Americas

5. Carry out the Content Library refresh

The refresh project uses several techniques and approaches to review and then remove, update, or consolidate each Q&A pair within the library as part of a phased approach.

Identify all Q&A pairs related to the specific topics in each phase

Q&A pairs were reviewed and updated by area, as captured in RFPIO. These pairs were identified and analyzed through:

  • Tags assigned to each Q&A pair within RFPIO.
  • Advanced searches, filtering, and sorting within RFPIO.
  • Titles and content of each question and answer.
  • Owners and SMEs for each Q&A pair.

Update communications were sent to all relevant SMEs and stakeholders through this process.

Decide on removal, update, or consolidation of each Q&A pair

Once all Q&A pairs were identified for a specific topic, the project management lead consolidated answer information from each Q&A pair into a master document. This master document was updated based on several best practices:

  • Consolidates information from several duplicated or substantially similar Q&A pairs into one “master” Q&A pair.
  • Rewrites answers to ensure a consistent approach, style, and tone both within and across Q&A pairs.
  • Ensures that master answers comprehensively capture all of the relevant information from the original Q&A pairs.
  • Updates information back into RFPIO and marks that Q&A pair as a “master answer,” using tagging and titles.
  • Removes any related Q&A pairs so that only the master Q&A pair remains.

Use RFPIO tools to manage the consolidation, archival, and promotion of Q&A pairs

GEODIS used several RFPIO tools to manage Q&A updates:

  • Tagging Q&A pairs for promotion to master answers or for removal and to ensure correct and consistent tag usage for master Q&A pairs.
  • Archiving of duplicate or similar Q&A pairs into an archive collection to remove Q&A pairs from the active library while preserving them for historic reference purposes.
  • Updating the “Alert Text” associated with each Q&A pair to notify SMEs of its status as an archived or master answer.
  • Adding in alternate questions for better searchability for proposal preparers.
  • Including URL links within each answer for cross-references between related Q&A pairs within the RFPIO tool.
  • Linking related answers together through the RFPIO “Related Answers” function.
  • Reviewing content owners and moderators for the master Q&A pairs.

Complete the Q&A pair rewrite for that phase of the Content Library refresh

Following the update of Q&A pairs in each phase, GEODIS closed out that part of the Content Library refresh through some final steps:

  • Updating the SME review cycle for the new, master Q&A pairs.
  • Mentioning SMEs within the RFPIO comments for each master Q&A pair and requesting they carry out an initial review for the updated and rewritten content.
  • Understanding any lessons learned from that part of the project.
  • Finalizing any communications with SMEs and stakeholders.
  • Moving on to the next phase of the Content Library refresh.

6. Show the value of the Content Library refresh

GEODIS has primarily tracked the effectiveness of the Content Library refresh through the reduction in the number of Q&A pairs that SMEs need to review. Due to the number of duplicate Q&A pairs, SME review cycles, and the content in each answer, reducing the number of pairs directly correlates with reducing the time, effort, and cost of SMEs reviewing those pairs.

To date, GEODIS has reduced the number of Q&A pairs in RFPIO by almost 80%.

Subjects with the Highest Percentage of Q&A Pair Reduction
55% 80% 82% 85%
Safety and materials handling CSR and sustainability Employee training and inclusion Business continuity

GEODIS expects to maintain a Q&A pair reduction rate of between 70% and 80% over the life of the Content Library refresh project. At the lower end of this estimate, this means it’s likely that the current Q&A library would be reduced from 2,000+ pairs to around 600. On average, it’s common for RFPIO customers to reduce Q&A pairs by 50-70% after their initial review of all Q&A pairs in their libraries.

Anecdotal feedback from SMEs and proposal preparers has also been very positive, with comments on the quality and comprehensiveness of the master Q&A answers within the RFPIO tool.

“Our team of 200 subject matter experts has a full-time job on top of supporting content in our answer library of 2,000 question/answer pairs. Both of these jobs are important to maintain and grow our business. Minimizing the content assigned to them for review is a top priority. The library refresh project, supported by the RFPIO tool,  minimizes their content reviews, enabling them to spend that time creating quality updates. Its’ a ‘win’ for them and GEODIS.”

—Penny Lane, Senior Proposal Manager, GEODIS Americas

On track for a best-in-class Content Library

GEODIS originally selected RFPIO as its RFP response tool for several reasons:

  • Ease of use and administration, particularly for SMEs across multiple business areas.
  • Robust integration with existing tools, operations, collaboration, and review processes.
  • Quality and range of features, documentation, and support.
  • Content management, search, and reporting capabilities.

These same qualities and features have proven central to the Content Library refresh, as shown in the table below.

Before RFPIO and Content Library Refresh After RFPIO and Content Library Refresh
Difficult to administer and prepare RFP responses due to inconsistent information and variations in tone and content of RFP answers. RFP answers have a consistent approach and style, with each containing comprehensive information on specific areas.
Duplicate or similar answers to questions make it challenging to choose a “best” answer for an RFP response. Consolidation of duplicate answers creates a single master answer for each area that reduces the effort required to prepare RFP responses.
SMEs must spend considerable time and effort reviewing substantially similar content across multiple, duplicated RFP answers. Reduction in the number of answers on specific topics has radically reduced the time and effort required as part of the SME review cycle.
The quality of RFP responses was based on substantially varying input from multiple sources and authors RFP response quality has improved due to stronger tagging, searching, filtering, and other RFPIO features.

GEODIS continues to work alongside the RFPIO business to continue building its Content Library into a best-in-class resource.

To learn more about how RFPIO can power content governance for your sales processes through intuitive collaboration and intelligent deduplications features, schedule a demo at www.RFPIO.com.

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

From content to timing, confusion often surrounds the differences between due diligence questionnaires and security questionnaires. Read on to learn the nuances of each document to improve your responses and win that next deal.

What is a DDQ?

A DDQ stands for due diligence questionnaire. Organizations send them to mitigate risk before entering into an agreement with another company. It is a formal document designed to establish whether a vendor complies with industry and/or customer standards or needs, including how the vendor manages its own network and cybersecurity protocols.

Unlike an RFP, a DDQ is not as much about competitive evaluations. A DDQ is all about compliance and business practices.

What is a security questionnaire?

Much like it sounds, a security questionnaire is sent to potential vendors to determine whether their security protocol meets the issuer’s standards and legal requirements. Security questionnaires are technical and usually highly complex, however most questions are “yes” or “no” rather than narrative.

Note that neither DDQs nor security questionnaires are sales documents.

DDQs vs. Security Questionnaires

Now that you know the definition of a DDQ, let’s get into how security questionnaires are unique, along with a few similarities they share with DDQs.

Common industry

Any organization can issue a DDQ, but we see them most in the financial services industry. Security questionnaires are primarily used by organizations operating in technology—either hardware or software.

Market evaluation

Much like a DDQ, a security questionnaire will not be used as a method of evaluation between vendors. Although, if an organization throws an RFP (request for proposal) into the mix, then both questionnaires play a role in market comparison.

Because a security questionnaire is not a competitive evaluation, the issuer won’t spend time performing a security review with more than five potential vendors. It’s completely different from responding to an RFP, which may be sent out to tons of vendors to cast a wide net.

Issuing departments

Usually, a security questionnaire comes from a security department (infosec, IT security, cloud security, etc.). While a DDQ will not necessarily come from that department—marketing, client services, or compliance teams frequently send these documents to responders.

Sales timing

Security questionnaires and DDQs typically show up early in the sales cycle. They may come in when an organization is trying to set you up as the vendor of choice or before it’s time to renew. Before you can become their new vendor, they need to make sure you’re compliant. If you’re an existing vendor, they might need to ensure you’re still compliant.

Even when you become their vendor partner, you might see a due diligence questionnaire again and again. Especially in the financial services industry, DDQs are sent to vendors annually—even quarterly—so make sure you’re up to speed on industry regulations.

Document types

A security questionnaire is predominantly an Excel spreadsheet. A DDQ could be a spreadsheet, but about 70% of the time, this questionnaire lives in a Word document.

Question types

Security questionnaires tend to be a standard set of questions, where you answer some variation of a yes/no answer in a drop down. You might need to add some commentary to back up your answer. While there will be some black or white questions in a DDQ, there is also room for interpretation and creating a narrative.

Succeeding with Security Questionnaires and DDQs

To knock content out of the park with security questionnaires and DDQs, naturally, the best technique is accuracy. With that top of mind, here are other tips to help you succeed as a responder.

Security Questionnaires

You have a lot less room to knock this content out of the park. Your data is encrypted or it’s not. You either have the firewall or you don’t. It’s not about how you implement the firewall, it’s simply: Do you have the firewall set up?

Stick to the facts

Obviously, one thing you don’t want to do is lie. Let’s say you are asked if you check your disaster recovery plans every 60 days. If your process is checking disaster recovery plans once a year, don’t say “yes.” They will find out 60 days later when you don’t meet their requirements.

Time to completion

Time to completion is a really good thing to shoot for with security questionnaire responses. You’re usually still in an evaluation process where you might be the vendor of choice or you’re one of two choices.

DDQs

Similar to an RFP response, there is more room for creativity with your DDQ content. However, don’t respond to a DDQ exactly as you would to an RFP. Before you respond, consult with the correct SMEs (subject matter experts).

Early stage advice

If you receive a DDQ in the early stages of the sales cycle, this document might be their vendor filtering method. DDQs are not the time for a sales pitch. Instead, consider showing your strengths with compelling and (most importantly) accurate narratives showing compliance. Late stage advice

During the late stage of the cycle, your DDQ might be a recurring document you respond to with an existing client, or it could be in addition to a DDQ you’ve already answered. Get straight to the point and ensure accuracy to show you are still in compliance.

Next steps

If a DDQ is part of a sales process, and even if it’s not, response software such as RFPIO makes answering it a whole lot easier. Your RFPIO Content Library can answer many of a DDQ’s questions with a few clicks.


RFPIO can help you increase DDQ and security questionnaire accuracy and efficiency.  Demo RFPIO today to support your sales process.

Sales vs. Presales: What’s the difference?

Sales vs. Presales: What’s the difference?

Closing a sales deal is a big win. And that’s especially true for businesses selling complex products to other businesses. It takes a lot of work to reach the point where a team of buyers is ready to invest in your product. 

But beyond the point where a prospect says “yes,” a sale could still go wrong. If a new client has trouble making your product work with the technology and systems they already use, then the hard work your salespeople put into landing that deal could be wasted. To avoid that, many companies now have multiple teams involved in the sales process: the traditional sales team we’re all familiar with and presales professionals who play a crucial role. 

But for anyone new to the concept of presales, or still trying to figure out where a presales team would fit in, you may wonder what the difference between sales and presales actually is. 

Sales vs. presales: The short answer

The main difference between sales and presales is that sales is responsible for developing customer relationships. In contrast, presales is involved in helping with the technological side of the sales process. Sales is concerned with the customer fit—ensuring a lead falls within your target audience and is likely to buy. Presales is concerned with the solution fit—ensuring your product is a good solution for the customer’s pain points. 

While the two roles are distinct, they’re both important. 

What is presales?

The B2B sales process is long, complicated, and often too much for a salesperson to handle alone. A presales team takes on a number of steps to allow the sales team more time to focus on building the relationship with prospective customers. 

In particular, presales engineers handle parts of the sales process that involve advanced technical knowledge. It’s their job to understand the product well enough to grasp precisely where it will fit into a customer’s tech stack and answer any technical features and implementation questions. Your typical sales representative doesn’t necessarily have the specialized training for that. Presales enables them to do their jobs more effectively and ensures they don’t inadvertently mislead customers about technological features they may not understand. 

Common presales responsibilities

Each company can work out how to break down responsibilities between sales and presales. There’s no one right answer here. But to give you an idea of the kind of work presales professionals typically take on, some common responsibilities include:

  • Sending discovery emails
  • Setting up and/or joining discovery calls
  • Hosting demos
  • Providing proof of concept
  • Drafting sales proposals
  • Working on RFPs (requests for proposals)
  • Completing security questionnaires
  • Helping with instance configuration and setup
  • Building documents for sales and other teams that support a seamless transition

Presales may work alongside a sales representative on some of these tasks, and take on others independently. You’ll want to create a clearly defined presales process that outlines their responsibilities and priorities. 

What is sales?

Sales is responsible for gaining a lead’s trust and convincing them that they’re in good hands if they choose your product. They’re in charge of the process’s more persuasive and personality-driven parts. The work presales does leaves the sales team with more time to focus on their primary job: building relationships with prospects and convincing them to buy.

Common sales responsibilities

In some companies, sales representatives may be involved or in charge of some of the tasks listed above. But generally, their most important responsibilities are:

  • Performing prospecting work to identify clients who are a good fit for your product based on factors like budget, size, and need
  • Deploying negotiation tactics to prime prospects for a sale
  • Closing deals
  • Providing ongoing support to customers to keep them happy after purchase (and drive retention)

That list may look short at a glance, but each responsibility is a big one that takes a lot of time and work. By taking on a portion of the sales process, presales ensures sales representatives have the time they need to successfully tackle each step. 

Defining the rules of engagement for presales and sales

Collaboration between sales and presales is key to both teams accomplishing their goals. But you must ensure both teams understand when and how to work together. For that, define clear rules of engagement to avoid any confusion around who’s responsible for what. 

Think through every step in the sales process. Then create clear guidelines for who should be involved in each step, along with instructions on when and how to bring others into the process to fulfill their roles. You can break this down based on the stage in the sales process, the type of customer involved, and/or specific types of sales tasks. Make it clear to sales when they should be reaching out to presales to help with something and vice versa. 

Clarity here ensures people are in charge of the tasks they’re best suited for. And it helps you avoid conflict that can arise when there’s confusion around who’s responsible for what. Both teams depend on each other for success, so you want a system that makes cooperation seamless.

Technology enables sales and presales collaboration

A strong, well-defined process is the best way to ensure sales and presales work together effectively. But the right technology can make collaboration easier. RFPIO provides software that helps sales and presales teams work better together. The content library lets you track common questions you receive from prospects, then easily save and access the best answer to each one. The internal communication features enable natural handoffs between team members and helps you keep customers from falling through the cracks. And automation features cut down on hours of work spent on proposals and answering questions.  

Are you ready to build a better process for aligning sales and presales on content and engagement? Schedule a demo to see how RFPIO can help.

 

Using automation to drive presales productivity

Using automation to drive presales productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 ways to use presales automation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Automate proposal development.

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

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

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

3. Automatically gather data on the process.

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

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

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

Automation provides room for innovation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Company Wiki?

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

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

4 Benefits of a Corporate Wiki

1. It saves time.

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

2. It makes knowledge creation democratic.

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

3. It enables knowledge sharing.

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

4. It supports employee onboarding.

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

How Can Companies Use a Company Wiki?

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

Go Beyond a Company Wiki: Get an Internal Knowledge Base

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

A good internal knowledge base offers:

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

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

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

What is an RFP?

What is an RFP?

RFP stands for request for proposal, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a plea for help, a clue to problems that need solved, and an opportunity to build pipeline. This article will take you from asking, “What is an RFP?” to knowing how to use RFPs to drive revenue in less than 1,500 words. Buckle up.

First, an assumption: If you came here because you want to know what an RFP is, then I’m guessing that a high-value target has decided to issue an RFP to find a solution to a problem you feel strongly about solving. When that target finally understands that you’re the answer to their problem, then you’ll pick up a sizable chunk of business. Now you just have to play the RFP game.

(Just in case you’re here because you want to know how to issue an RFP, check out this article instead.)

What is an RFP opportunity?

There are essentially two types of RFP opportunities: solicited and unsolicited. Solicited means that you’re invited to play the game. Unsolicited means you have to crash the game. You have a better chance to win when you’re invited.

That reminds me. There’s a fair bit of jargon in the RFP world. Here’s a short glossary of some common terms you’ll encounter often, including in this article:

  • RFP issuer: The organization that sends out the RFP. They have a problem, and they’re willing to pay someone to solve it, within certain parameters.
  • RFP responder: You.
  • RFP response: How you answer the RFP.
  • RFP proposal: Your response to the RFP.
  • RFP Q&As: Most RFPs present a number of questions that responders must answer. This section makes up the lion’s share of your proposal.
  • RFP win: You were selected by the issuer to solve their problem.
  • RFP loss: Happens to the best of us.

Back to more on “What is an RFP opportunity?”…While you can still win an RFP if you submit an unsolicited response, the odds are against you and you need to take an honest look at whether or not it’s worth it to respond.

RFP responses are not easy, even when you’re invited to partake. If you’re lucky enough to be alerted to an RFP on the day it’s issued, then you’re likely looking at a 3-6 week window to compose your response. Rarely are you so lucky. Sometimes it’s brought in with notice of a week or less, putting you on a tight deadline. The number of hours you’ll have to commit to building a proposal during that time will be determined by, among other things, team participation, content relevance and access, and how much you have to rely on manual processes to complete the response.

Now that you understand what an RFP is and the opportunity it presents, you need to put yourself on a path to respond only to those RFPs that you can realistically win. If this is one of your first RFP responses, then it could be a rabbit hole of unknown depths. Insert a go/no-go milestone before you go ask Alice. It involves asking yourself the following five questions:

  1. What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued?
  2. Is your solution a fit (now, not at some squishy date in the future after you’ve had a chance to adapt it to what the problem calls for)?
  3. Does your price match the RFP issuer’s budget?
  4. Will winning the RFP be a strategic fit for your organization?
  5. Do you have bandwidth (to complete a competitive proposal, not to deliver your solution)?

As part of the RFP response process, you should have an opportunity to ask the questions necessary to fill in the gaps for your go/no-go milestone. Best-case scenario? Your sales team has already laid the groundwork for all of this with the issuer and it’s just a matter of taking their learnings and making them actionable.

It’s a “go.” Now what?

It’s a process deal. Doesn’t that take the pressure off?

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the RFP process here (you can do so here if you’re ready to start now), but I will touch on the value of efficiency. Even if this is your first RFP, you’ll want to go into it as prepared as possible to save you and your team some pain and give your organization its best shot at winning.

Break down your efficiency goals into three main categories: project management, content management, and proposal quality. Before you start checking boxes under these categories, you need a team. Part of that team has likely already formed. The salesperson at the tip of the spear will be your subject matter expert (SME) for issuer-related questions and perspectives. The rest of the team will come together based on your review of the RFP. What questions need answered? Who has the answers? Who has the design and technical chops to build the proposal?

After you identify potential team members, dig into their availability and try to build a schedule to complete the response by deadline, preferably before deadline to give yourself some buffer. Then schedule a kickoff meeting with all team members to get their buy-in to process details for the following:

  • Project management: You’ll be the lead for collaboration, assigning tasks, and driving the schedule.
  • Content management: You’ll need content creators, content reviewers, and a storage system for a content library (if you’re gathering all this valuable info for an RFP, you’ll want to save it for repurposing; even if this will be your only RFP response of the year, the info will be useful for business proposals, answering prospect and customer questions, and training new hires).
  • Proposal quality: Answering RFP Q&As won’t be enough. You need to personalize the proposal to make it stand out.

Remember, the issuer is using the RFP process to identify its optimal vendor. They’re inciting competition, so you need to play to win. Second prize doesn’t even get a set of steak knives.

Beef up your sales pipeline

Now that you’ve discovered RFPs and the opportunities they can offer, you may want to evaluate how they can help you achieve your sales goals. 69% of B2B salespeople do not have enough leads in their pipeline to meet quota. Pursuing RFPs can build up pipelines fast: Globally, $11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes (i.e., RFPs) every year.

Obviously, you’re not going to win every RFP. We found the average win rate to be 45%. However, RFP opportunities can cost as much as 5X more than traditional sales opportunities, which makes your process and your sales tech stack your best friends when it comes to response efficiency.

Automate to dominate

The optimized sales technology stack is a hot point of conversation these days. With so many software solutions, it’s easy for sales teams to overspend on solutions they barely use. A recent Harvard Business Review article cites a survey where 62% of B2B companies were not satisfied with their sales technology return on investment. It also found that:

“The winning companies in our analysis were 1.4 times more likely to fully deploy sales technology tools and 1.9 times more likely to fully integrate them…By taking the time to embed these technologies properly into its sales processes, the [SaaS] company was able to increase revenue growth by 200 basis points within a few weeks.”

RFP automation offers a massive competitive advantage for responders. It saves time, improves proposal quality, and helps companies create their best work by activating their company knowledge. Companies with RFP-specific technology responded to 43% more RFPs in 2020 than those without a designated RFP tool. “With RFPIO, I would say we have increased our win rate by 15%,” said Grégory Saive, IBA global director of sales support and tender management,

But it has to be the right RFP automation technology for your sales tech stack. It has to be able to manage your entire response process — from building proactive proposals to answering prospect and customer questions on the fly and responding to questionnaires — while integrating seamlessly with the other applications you rely on, such as your CRM, communication, and cloud storage solutions.

What’s next? Demo.

We started with “What is an RFP?” and made it all the way through to the value of RFP automation. Once you win one, you’re going to want to win more. Since I’m almost at my promised 1,500-word cap, I’ll wrap it up with a tip on your next step: Schedule a demo. It’s the fastest and easiest way to find out if RFP automation is right for you. Even if it’s not, you’ll get some valuable response tips from our process experts.

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.

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 Content 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.

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’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 Content 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 Content 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 Content 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.

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 Content 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 Content 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 Content 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 Content 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 Content 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 Content 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.”

Ready to start increasing your win rate?

See how automating your RFP responses can help your team improve proposal quality, increase win rate, and generate revenue. Schedule a demo to get started.

RFP 101: Request for proposal basics

RFP 101: Request for proposal basics

If you’re new to the proposal or bid process, then you’ll need the request for proposal (RFP) basics. Even though, like all business processes, the request for proposal process has changed over the years, many of the basics have held true.

This article will brief you on what you need to know about requests for proposals so you’ll be ready to take on the response process with aplomb.

What does RFP stand for?

RFP stands for request for proposal. As a remnant of government contracting processes, it’s no wonder “RFP” is more popular as an acronym. After all, in byzantine bureaucratic processes, responding to an RFP from the DoD is the only way to share your KSP with a VIP who prefers to keep their ID on the QT until they determine ROI. And this all started before texting and social media! LOL!

Why do RFPs exist?

Organizations and agencies issue RFPs as part of their vendor selection process. It’s an attempt to create parameters that enable apples-to-apples comparisons of solutions to a particular problem.

Outside of the United States, RFPs are also known as tenders. Instead of “issuing an RFP,” organizations “run a tender.” Instead of “responding” to an RFP, vendors “bid” on a tender.

Other RFP-related terms

To learn more about common RFP-related terms, you have 3 options. One, check out the quick definitions below (it’ll take less than a minute). Two, read my new screenplay for the short film, “Once Upon a Time in an RFP Process,” later in this article (it’ll take you 3-5 minutes). Three, do both! Note: If you are an artist who can help me storyboard the movie, let’s talk (think low-budget, though).

Proposal
The proposal is your response to an RFP. If an organization or agency asks, “How can I solve X?” in an RFP, then your proposal is the answer: “I propose this solution to X.” Like Dr. Barbay’s single question for Thornton Melon’s academic evaluation that ended up having 27 parts, your RFP proposal can be hundreds, if not thousands of pages long.

RFP Executive Summary
The RFP executive summary sets the tone of the proposal. It’s usually written first, by the salesperson in charge of the relationship. It will summarize the highlights of your proposal. There are occasions when it will be the only part of your proposal that some of the issuing stakeholders will review.

RFI: Request for Information
RFIs, or requests for information, are more casual than a request for quote and more generic than an RFP, RFIs are either a fishing expedition or a clarification exercise.

RFQ: Request for Quote
When someone issues an RFQ, or request for quote, they want you to tell them how much your product or service will cost. Lowest price definitely does not always win. This is an opportunity to illustrate everything included in your offering as well as prospective ROI.

DDQ: Due Diligence Questionnaire
DDQs, or due diligence questionnaires—not to be confused with a security questionnaire (see below)—are all about compliance. You might see one as part of the RFP process, but it’s also likely you’ll be filling these out throughout your partnership with the issuer. With increasing scrutiny on data security and privacy, you may be filling them out more often, too.

Security Questionnaire
This will be one or more standardized questionnaires designed to assess risk of taking you on as a vendor. Popular questionnaires include SIG, SIG-Lite, VSAQ, CAIQ, and more.

When to use an RFP

Say you’re an enterprise or government agency. Through research and experience, you’ve identified five possible vendors that may be able to help solve a particular problem. Now you can issue an RFP to gather everything you need to know about the solution, its cost, and its impact on your operations after selecting a vendor. The level of complexity, number of questions, and deadline will vary greatly depending on your industry and the sophistication of the solution.

When to respond to an RFP

There are several factors to consider when determining whether or not to respond to an RFP. We recommend that your standard RFP intake process include a go/no-go step. Only respond to RFPs that you can win:

  • Is the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses all of the challenges presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match the budget?
  • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

When to use RFP software

If you’re responding to a couple of RFPs, a few security questionnaires, and spend most of your time sending out direct responses to RFQs, then RFP software may not be the best fit.

RFP software falls into a new category of software known as response management. Response management software’s primary value is efficiency. How you repurpose time saved will determine much of your success. Some organizations seek to respond to more RFPs, others seek to improve response quality. Most want both.

If you think RFP software and its automation capabilities would help, then it’s important to consider your entire response universe when selecting a vendor. For example, do you only want help responding to RFPs? Or do you want to automate responses to security questionnaires and DDQs, too?

What about proactive proposals? Do your sales, presales, and support teams want a better way to respond to prospects and customers?

RFPs are sales vehicles, and how your organization responds is a sales support function. The response management solution you choose will be determined by how much sales support you want to offer.

Sometimes you wonder if life is a movie…

Me, too! So if you had to break down RFP basics into a scene in your life’s movie it might look like…

“Once Upon a Time in an RFP Process”

By Sue Donim

[LOCATION: HOME OFFICE OF “KEYES,” THE SALES MANAGER/PROPOSAL MANAGER/MARKETING MANAGER HERO. KEYES LOGS ONTO A VIDEO CONFERENCE WITH “BOSS.”]

KEYES: Hi, Boss. Nice virtual background. That’s the most artistic rendering of taxidermy I’ve seen in some time.

BOSS: Cut to the chase, Keyes. I’ve grown weary of these online meetings. Unless you have a solution to our revenue and inefficiency challenges, I’d rather you send me an email.

KEYES: You’re in luck, sir. It just so happens that’s why I requested this meeting.

BOSS: That’s what I like about you, Keyes. Always presenting answers instead of complaining about problems. Proceed.

KEYES: We can increase revenue by streamlining our RFP process.

BOSS: Brilliant! I like it…no, I love it! Let’s start immediately. Now…

What is an RFP again?

KEYES: An RFP is a Request for Proposal…when a company needs services and products like ours, they issue an RFP to identify the optimal vendor.

BOSS: Sounds like a no-brainer. Why haven’t we been doing this the whole time?

KEYES: We have responded to RFPs in the past, but it’s not exactly a turnkey process…yet. RFPs can be thousands of pages about pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, and more. Responding puts a strain on our subject matter experts, sales teams, and anyone else who needs to carve out extra time to help with the process.

BOSS: That doesn’t sound efficient at all.

KEYES: Well, then you have to take into consideration RFIs and RFQs, too.

BOSS: Enough with the acronyms, Keyes.

What’s an RFI? What’s an RFQ?

KEYES: Sorry, Boss. Request for Information and Request for Quote. RFIs tend to appear early in the vendor-selection process. Companies issue them to find out if any vendors can help them solve a particular problem. They’re more generic and open-ended and would likely be used to craft a more targeted RFP. RFQs usually show up later in the vendor selection process, usually after we’ve submitted an RFP. This is when the company wants to know specifics on how much our solution will cost.

BOSS: RFPs, RFIs, RFQs… anything else I should know about? Wait, what’s that?!

How to write executive summary
KEYES: Good eye, Boss. That’s a cheat sheet on writing an executive summary. The executive summary is high-level content that covers the issuer’s challenges and demonstrates how our products and services will help.

BOSS: Sounds like a cover letter.

KEYES: That’s a common misconception, Boss. The executive summary is different from the cover letter. In an executive summary, we provide an executive-level summary of how our solution fixes their problem. In a cover letter, we talk about how great we are.

BOSS: I’m better at that than most.

KEYES: Of course you are.

BOSS: And what do our RFP-winning executive summaries look like?

KEYES: I’ll let you know when we win one.

BOSS: I was afraid you were going to say that.

KEYES: Don’t get discouraged, Boss. I have a plan to turn it around. The right RFP automation software will help us write RFP-winning executive summaries. Just like it will help with DDQs and security questionnaires.

BOSS: What did I just say about acronyms?

What’s a DDQ?

KEYES: Sorry. Last one. The DDQ is the Due Diligence Questionnaire. It’s usually one of the last stages of the response process. In fact, it may come after we’ve already been selected, when the company is doing their final due diligence. It typically involves a few hyper-specific points as part of their standard vendor onboarding protocol.

BOSS: And how is that different from a security questionnaire? In fact….

What even is a security questionnaire?

KEYES: Great question, Boss. Privacy is a hot button, and any company we work with wants to make sure we meet their privacy standards. Security questionnaires generally deal with privacy issues such as compliance, infrastructure security, and data protection. Depending on the company, this questionnaire can be a few hundred or a few thousand questions.

BOSS: Yowza. How long does it take to complete that?

KEYES: Weeks, if we don’t have a response process in place.

BOSS: Excellent. Let’s get it implemented. I’m putting you in charge of it, Keyes.

KEYES: I think that’s a good call, Boss. We’ll start with the 8-step RFP response process.

[CUT TO GRAPHIC OF 8-STEP RFP RESPONSE PROCESS]

RFP process and steps

BOSS: Looks like I put the right person in charge. You have all the answers, Keyes.

KEYES: Speaking of answers, that reminds of something else that’s essential to a smooth-running RFP process machine.

BOSS: Yes, yes, that’s why I brought it up. What’s on your mind?

KEYES: The Content Library, Boss. It’s the secret to more efficient RFP content management. It’s what makes massive questionnaires answerable in a few clicks. It’s where content is marketing-approved and always ready to share. And if it’s intelligent—as it should be—it’s able to make recommendations along the way so that we can easily customize every RFP response. Plus, once a subject matter expert answers a question it stays in the library forever. From then on, they can take a reviewer role, saving them time and keeping them focused on their primary job duties.

BOSS: That’s it! You’re the winner, Keyes! Best video conference of the day.

KEYES: Thank you, Boss.

BOSS: No, thank YOU! Now, how do we get started. Will you—dare I ask—issue an RFP? Ha!

KEYES: Good one, sir, but no. I already have someone in mind.

[FADE OUT OF VIDEO CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO. ZOOM OUT TO SEE THE BACK OF KEYES. CUT TO BLACK. ROLL CREDITS]

[END]

How is your RFP process performing? Schedule a demo to see how RFPIO can help transform your RFP period piece into an action-packed RFP-process blockbuster.

Get the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our blog and never miss an important insight again.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.