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Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

A few years ago, Netflix debuted a show called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It was an overnight hit. Why? […]


Category: Best practices

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

A few years ago, Netflix debuted a show called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It was an overnight hit. Why? It might not surprise you to hear that Americans, Europeans, and presumably much of the world, sit on a lot of clutter.

Clutter in the home can lead to stress and anxiety. Clutter in the workplace isn’t any better. But what happens when what you need is hidden away in a basement or crawlspace—or inside a subject matter expert’s head?

When your household clutter is hidden and you can’t find the vinyl record you’re looking for, it’s annoying. When employees can’t find necessary information, the ramifications extend far beyond their immediate departments.

While Marie Kondo is not (at least that I know of) a content management expert, a well-curated and maintained knowledge management system breaks through the clutter to ensure that the right information gets into the right hands at the right time.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management, as defined by Slack, has four objectives:

  • Capture knowledge
  • Improve access to knowledge
  • Enhance the knowledge environment
  • Treat knowledge as an asset

Are organizations achieving their objectives?

  • Employees spend an average of 19% of their time searching and gathering information
  • Data professionals spend about 20% of their time rebuilding existing information assets
  • 87% of employees want transparency in the workplace, yet only 18% feel their workplace is transparent
  • Only about ⅓ of organizations leverage AI as part of their knowledge management strategy

A centralized knowledge management system is vital to an organization’s operations. A single source of truth, as opposed to scattered knowledge, provides:

  • Organizational resilience and agility
  • Faster and better-informed strategizing and decision making
  • A greater ability to confront challenges and solve problems
  • Faster and improved innovation
  • Improved employee engagement, productivity, and morale
  • Better sharing of subject matter expertise
  • Enhanced collaboration
  • De-siloed business processes
  • Competitive benchmarks
  • Improved security
  • Increased revenue and profits
  • A better customer experience

Creating and maintaining a content library

A content library is not a dumping ground for documents and data. Each entry into the content library should align with business goals and processes and help maintain legal and security compliance. All content should be up-to-date and relevant—a.k.a., used or at least usable.

Doing the content management heavy lifting

In the first of our two-part series, we discussed respecting your subject matter experts (SMEs), which means doing as much heavy lifting as possible.

With the end of the quarter approaching, this is a great time to audit existing content. Here’s how:

Be organized and keep track of your own work

I keep track of my work using an Excel spreadsheet. I list all the categories of content I will review, who my subject matter experts are, and how much content I have.

I also indicate how often to review the content. For example, a publicly traded company’s content requires quarterly review. The content might be owned by a content manager, someone in investor relations, or corporate communications.

If a company is privately-held, it might have some high-level information it provides on a quarterly basis, although many privately-held companies provide that information annually. If you don’t know how often to review your content, rely on your SMEs. They know the content the best.

Once the SME has provided a review schedule, you can track it on a spreadsheet or on a content management platform to establish review cycles.

Once you’ve established your review cycles, there are a few metrics you want to consider to show SMEs and leadership that your content is in the best possible condition, including:

  • Usage
  • Recency
  • Completeness

You should do a few things to show SMEs that you are organized and ready for them. Build out a plan, including:

  • Showing that you’ve removed unused content
  • Showing that you’re focused on the most-used content
  • Showing that you are organized
  • Showing that you know how to distribute the content to be reviewed
  • Testing your proposal automation and content management platform in multiple environments (office, home office, client’s site, hotel and airline wifi, etc.) to ensure stability
  • If you are using a content management platform, leverage the review and reporting functionality
  • Strategic tagging, especially if an SME has a lot of content to review (consult with your customer success manager before going into that level of detail)
  • Engaging leadership at both the proposal and SME sides, so they know what you’re doing, what the SMEs are doing, how much work there is, and when it’s expected to be completed
  • Recognizing contributors once the reviews are completed

Review most-used content first

The first step to an efficient content management system is pretty simple. However, you will need a lot of help from your subject matter experts to ensure accuracy. The key to maintaining a collaborative relationship with SMEs is to honor their time. Rather than hand them a mile-high virtual stack of content, sort by that which is used the most.

As a proposal manager, you know that RFxs aren’t exactly creative documents. Most questions are near duplicates of those you’ve seen 100s of times before.

So, if your organization doesn’t have content management software and you use SharePoint or Excel to track your content, you can still review the most-used content by seeing the Q&A pairs used on your last 2 or 3 proposals, or perhaps the previous 3-6 months.

You could even take your very first 2023 proposal, review every piece of content that goes into it, and call that your 2023 gold standard.

Review zero-times-used content

The next step is to approach content management from the other end of the spectrum—look at never-used content. It might be tempting to automatically archive or delete (I’m not a fan of deleting) all your never-used content, but that could be a mistake.

As with your most-used content, look at the last 3-6 months. Ask yourself this:

  • Is some of the content relevant, but you haven’t had the time or an opportunity to use it?
  • Is some of the content deal- or client-specific?
  • Is some of the content product- or service-specific and something you might only need to use every 2-3 years?
  • Was the content updated in the last year?

If any of your never-used content meets the above criteria, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it during the upcoming year to see if it proves its value.

Keep your review/moderation queue current

Once you’ve completed your initial review, keep your review/moderation queue current by setting aside time each week and each month to work through your new and existing content.

Make sure you get content out the door and into the content library in its most accurate state as it is reviewed and updated through projects and SMEs.

Break down your content to achieve success

Now that you know which content is relevant or which might be relevant in the future, it’s time to think strategically about content and how to organize it. It might seem daunting, but it’s very manageable if you approach it in bite-sized pieces.

High-level groups of content

High-level groups of content might carry different names depending on your content management system. If you use RFPIO, those groups fall under “collections.” Others may refer to them as “folders.”

Regardless of names, collections or folders are great ways to begin to attack the content and look at its health as you enter a new quarter or year. You can organize the folders by solution, geography, language, product, etc.

If you added the information to your folders in the last 6 months, keep it. If the content was not used during that time, you can archive it. If you aren’t comfortable creating a periodical archive, you can create a holding tank (or parking lot) for content you want to make available to a limited number of people.

The holding tank will contain content that’s still relatively current but not locked down. Then you’ll be able to access that content and pull it back into the content library if used. If you haven’t used content in your holding tank or parking lot in 3, 6, or 9 months, depending on your review cycle, you can archive it.

Using the holding tank is a great way to strategically add content back without muddying your current content library.

If you have a way to export the content from a SharePoint site or existing non-RFPIO platform to an Excel spreadsheet, you can begin to run some pivot tables. Look for:

  • Number of Q&A pairs in each collection or folder
  • Number of times used
  • Date it was last used

You can also run a pivot table on the zero times used content to see what was added and not used over the last 6 months vs. what should be archived because it’s more than 6 months old.

Report, report, report

Most leaders aren’t particularly interested in the minutiae of a content management review cycle. Still, they want to see results and a demonstration of continuing value, beyond just time savings, in your proposal automation system. That’s where reporting comes in.

Most proposal management systems contain built-in reporting features. Look for them if you are about to deploy a new proposal management solution.

The goal is to show that you have demonstrable time savings and that you are getting into the strategic benefit of the platform by showing that you can keep your content current, accurate, and fresh.

Reporting metrics should include the following:

  • Time saved
  • Accuracy of answers
  • The number of people successfully using the system
  • The number of people who can successfully access content that they may not have had access to before

Let leadership determine reporting frequency

Reports are how you substantiate the strategic benefit you’re getting out of your content management platform, so let leadership determine the frequency.

Most likely, they’ll say quarterly, although it could be monthly at the beginning and then quarterly after your first review cycle. Think of these reports in much the same way you think of the reports your proposal team has to create.

Be consistent and strategic

Stick to your reporting schedule, metrics, and format. Show leadership usage, review schedules, and recently updated content reviewed by your SME and polished by your proposal team and content manager.

Show these for each group of content, line of business, collection, geography, language, or however you organize your content. Be consistent in your format by nailing down your template at the beginning of the year.

Get feedback from the proposal leadership, SME leadership, sales enablement leadership, or, if your company is small to mid-market, from your C-suite.

Ensure that you’re reporting in a way that is valuable to them. Use that format every time you report. Executives and leaders like consistency; they also like graphics. Instead of a lot of Excel spreadsheets, use graphics such as charts or screenshots.

If, for example, you’re an RFPIO user, show leaders used vs. unused content for the annum and then quarterly going forward. You can also show them content that has owners, no owners, has been reviewed, hasn’t been reviewed, etc.

Explain to them why these things matter, and make sure all your content managers, SMEs, and leadership teams are involved in the reporting conversations.

If you use RFPIO or another platform that includes reporting functionality, you can take screenshots of your system reports and include them in your slide decks. Having that consistent graphic will be helpful for leadership, and it will show you the incremental and cumulative progress you’re making.

Also, it will show you when you need to start archiving content and maybe gaps where you need to add new content. RFPIO users can take screenshots of your content library insights report at the beginning of the year, then monthly and quarterly.

At the end of the year, the screenshots will tell a powerful story. Halfway through the year, you might start seeing gaps and areas you may need to improve upon, so by the end of the year, you can show where you spotted that and where you can make adjustments.

Monetize the value of time spent

Leadership likes to see that you’re flexible, nimble, and always thinking about best practices. Additionally, as you save SMEs’ time by reducing the number of Q&A pairs they have to review, etc., leadership will be able to put a dollar value on time saved.

For example, it takes around 3-5 minutes to review a Q&A pair. 10 of those at 5-minutes-a-piece saves 50 minutes of an SME’s valuable time—time they can spend with clients, prospects, doing demos, or other vital aspects of their day job.

If your company has some newer SMEs, content review is a great way to engage the new SMEs and make the time they spend learning the new system and products valuable to the organization.

Think about the next thing coming

As you know, content evolves. As you acquire new knowledge and content, be strategic. Don’t just start loading content to your newly reviewed content management system. Spend time with the content before you load it. Make sure it’s the right content for your content library—it will be used again…it has been reviewed…and it’s current, accurate, and comprehensive.

When you import the new content, identify who owns it, whether you work from a content management platform, a spreadsheet, SharePoint, etc. You also want to set the content up for success.

Tag the content, organize it, and put it in collections, folders, or however your system works. Additionally, you want to work with your SMEs to identify when that content needs to be reviewed—quarterly, annually, every 18-24 months, or when there’s a new product release.

Then use the sweet spot of 10-12 Q&A pair reviews per week to spread the content out in a way that’s easily manageable for your SMEs. Be mindful of the review work they already have assigned to them.

Technology-enabled content review

Keep your content current, accurate, and fresh, and set your SMEs and content review process up for success with RFPIO’s review cycle reminders, advanced reporting, and project management features.

If you would like to learn more about how RFPIO, with the help of machine learning, helps ensure best practices throughout your content review processes, schedule a free demo.

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

At RFPIO, one of the first questions potential customers ask is whether our platform is scalable. The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” but we can ask the same about most other organizational content management systems.

Is your content management system scalable? Do you know how much content you have? How much of it is redundant? How much of it is outdated? How much of it is trivial? Do you have systems in place for new content?

According to Deloitte, 75% of organizations recognize the importance of creating and preserving knowledge, but only 9% of companies are ready to make that commitment. There are a few reasons for this, but 4 of the top 6 reasons cited are easily overcome by creating top-down buy-in through adhering to content management best practices.

  • 55% report organizational silos
  • 37% specify a lack of incentives
  • 35% say there’s a lack of organizational mandate
  • 35% point to shifting roles

Perhaps yours is one of the 75% of companies that appreciates the need for a compliant, organized, accurate, and up-to-date knowledge library. However, with most obstacles coming from within, leadership might see sprucing up your knowledge base as too high a hill to climb, at least right now.

You aren’t alone. In this blog, we’ll discuss achieving organizational, and most importantly, subject matter expert buy-in.

The importance of information governance

Information governance, as defined by Gartner, is the “specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving, and deletion of information.”

Your company’s information management system is everything—and I mean that literally. A well-developed and maintained content management system prioritizes and categorizes all the key documents and pieces of information your company has collected since its founding.

It also includes retiring information that is inaccurate, no longer relevant, redundant, and past a document’s “shred by” date.

Information may be called upon to facilitate major decisions, create proposals, close sales, reassure customers, prove regulatory compliance, help resolve legal matters, etc.

It’s not just decision makers who benefit from a content management system, so do employees. A disorganized system brings about higher labor costs, reduced productivity, and lower morale.

  • Employees value information that is easily accessible
  • Most employees perceive the information in their company’s knowledge base as average or below
  • Over 70% of companies believe that effective knowledge management will increase productivity by at least 20%
  • People spend more than half their days on “busy work,” which includes searching for information
  • 42% of company knowledge lies with individuals, and when they’re unavailable, coworkers lose 42% in productivity
  • Enterprise businesses lose $47 million per year in productivity due to poor knowledge sharing
  • 81% of employees feel frustrated when relevant information for their jobs is withheld
  • SMEs are extraordinarily busy and, like everyone, resent when they think you’re wasting their time

Benefits of good information governance include:

  • Informed decision making – Decision-makers need accurate and current information
  • Breaking down silos – Good governance helps break down information silos by democratizing knowledge
  • Regulatory risk management – Document lifecycle management helps ensure regulatory compliance
  • Legal risk management – Proper digitization and tagging simplify the legal discovery process.

Proving value to leadership beyond just cost

When you initially implement a content management system, the time savings will be impressive—often 40% or more in the first year. But once you begin to reach peak efficiency, demonstrable time savings drops.

That’s when you need to think strategically to show lasting value in your content management platform. Your goal is to prove that value to leadership and keep your content in gold-standard shape.

Unfortunately, many content management strategies don’t provide the types of reporting that include the metrics decision-makers expect, which may include the number of Q&A pairs, those that are regularly used, those that are never used, the amount of redundant information, and how much time is spent searching for information, etc.

Done right, regular content auditing and reporting will provide the data leadership demands as well as help improve morale and boost productivity.

Who are your key decision-makers?

Every organization is different. You may need to get buy-in from one or more members of your C-suite. You may also need to engage sales, sales enablement, and of course, your SMEs (subject matter experts).

Working with your content teams

Subject matter experts are not octopuses—or is that octopi? At most, they have two arms, and if you tug too hard at one, it will never grow back. All of this is my roundabout way of saying, “respect your SMEs!” and do as much of the heavy lifting as you can.

Monetize the value of time spent and time saved

SMEs are typically either consultants or high-ranking members of your organization. Either way, their time is worth a considerable amount of money.

If you can demonstrate to leadership that you’ve reduced the number of Q&A pairs SMEs need to review, you will have shown significant cost savings.

Typically, reviewing a piece of existing content will take about 3-5 minutes. Removing 10 unused Q&A pairs could save your SME as much as 50 minutes. That’s time that could be spent with prospects, doing demos, or performing other tasks.

How to make friends with your SMEs

SMEs may not be official content team members, but they are vital participants in the content creation process.

SMEs are almost, by definition, some of the busiest people in most companies. Odds are, they’ve already invested a considerable amount and expertise in your Content Library. They may have answered many questions multiple times, so you might understand their frustration with the process.

Keep your SMEs engaged by:

  • Forming a partnership – Assure your SMEs that once the Content Library is clean, duplicate efforts will be unnecessary.
  • Involving management to drive SME participation – You’ve proven value to decision-makers. Let them use their influence to encourage SME participation.
  • Soliciting feedback from the SMEs and incorporating it into your process – They will likely have insight into content management and development.
  • Respecting their efforts by spreading content reviews over time – As I like to joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Not that we’d advocate actually eating an elephant, but the point is, break the project up into smaller, easier-to-manage pieces.

Your SMEs have ownership over all of their content. Respect their time, but also respect the thought and effort they’ve given each answer. Show them that you value the integrity of their content while taking on as much of the work as possible.

You will be working long-term with your SMEs, so build a rapport by showing that you have a plan. Let them know that you’ll do as much of the project as possible before calling for their assistance.

If you can show that you have carried the baton as far as you can, they’ll realize that you respect them and that their time matters to you.

Communicate with leadership

You’ll want to keep leadership informed regarding both your proposal team and SMEs so they know what you’re doing and what the SMEs are doing, how much work there is, and when you expect it to be complete. When the work is complete, show leadership who was invaluable to the process.

The best way to do this is to identify the leaders and then ask your leadership to coordinate a meeting for all those leaders. Create a PowerPoint deck to show that you are invested, prepared, and ready to partner.

The deck should show that you are ready to own the process, communicate with all parties as often as needed, and you will be a partner with the SMEs. Show how it will not be incumbent on the SMEs to complete the review.

Earn and maintain leadership buy-in with regular reporting. Early on, you might issue weekly reports. Once you get going, you can move to monthly reports.

The goal is to show the impact you’re having, the amount of updated content, the SMEs who are involved and have done good work for you, and time saved.

Get user buy-in: Understand how different people use the Content Library

Content management is not a one-size-fits-all approach. User input is critical for managing a Content Library. Adjust your approach depending on the type of person who owns the content.

Content hoarders

Like those who don’t regularly clean out their email, content hoarders won’t generally archive their content.

If the hoarders are rolling along just fine because they’re familiar with all their content, that’s great, but perhaps not for others who need it.

You should build a strategy for hoarders and get creative using their own tags, star ratings, or keywords instead of archiving their specific content. Then, gently guide them toward warehousing content.

This incremental approach will encourage content hoarders to trust that you aren’t out to get rid of all their content while preventing negative feedback from other users.

People who know the answers

Some authors are so familiar with the content that they might know the answers cold, or at least to the point where they can simply check the boxes on an RFx, add any comments, and go on from there.

The problem for other users is that the authors aren’t using content in one of the identified ways to capture content usage. They aren’t applying or copy/pasting the answer as they would with RFPIO.

Authors are probably highlighting what they need, copying it, and plopping that right into the answer field if they’re using it at all.

The best approach to get them on board is to ask them to strategically go through the content and review and mark their best content.

With RFPIO, they can use a star rating system, where the author can mark only their frequently-used content with 5 stars. The rest of their content should have no rating, at least for now.

People reluctant to change

Generally, people who are reluctant to change have all their Q&A pairs conveniently stored on a spreadsheet. Show those who are change-averse that a content management system will save them time and keep them from having to repeat themselves.

It will take them a little time to get used to the system, and they’ll need to see trust from others. One way to do that is to team them up with someone already using the system successfully.

RFPIO helps you identify those who are reluctant through usage reporting. For example, those who spend very little time in the system might be reluctant. This could also be true of people who spend more time in the system than their productivity indicates. In both cases, additional training sessions could help.

Another way to identify reluctant users, or perhaps just those who need additional training, is to survey them. I suggest using a Likert scale, where for each statement, such as, “Using RFPIO is simple,” there are 6 possible responses, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

If a few people choose answers in the bottom 3, individual training might be in order. If more than a few are uncomfortable using the system, it’s time for general training sessions. I recommend about 6-8 questions per survey. You can issue further surveys on a quarterly basis or what works best for you.

The knowledge management platform that instills trust

RFPIO is the industry-leading response and content management platform. decision-makers undoubtedly know about the cost and time-saving benefits of RFPIO’s proposal response features. Even the most reluctant users will recognize the benefits and soon become expert content librarians.

And what about RFPIO’s role in information governance, turning your knowledge library into a sales enablement tool and a true repository of company knowledge instead of simply a response management tool?

Schedule a free demo to see how RFPIO can help turn your knowledge library into a business asset, remove some of the burden from SMEs’ shoulders, and provide leadership with the reporting and results they need.

Knowledge management best practices

Knowledge management best practices

When a business is in its founding phase, it’s undeniably chaotic, but it’s also when company communication is at its peak. Everyone is on a first-name basis and working toward the same goal.

If Mark in sales needs financial information about the company for a potential customer, it’s easy to run down the hall to ask Bethany, the CFO. If Bethany wants next quarter’s marketing forecasts, Harper, the CMO, is just steps away.

Soon, though, the business grows, which of course, is the goal. Then the company hires an HR team, and the staff begins to expand. And then, perhaps without noticing, something happens—silos develop. 

Harper and Bethany might still know each other, but their employees may not. Sales, for example, becomes wholly removed from the people responsible for building the company’s products. They may even be siloed off from others involved in the sales cycle. 

The most significant loss in a siloed organization isn’t about names or distance to colleagues’ workstations; the most significant loss is democratized access to company knowledge. 

This blog will discuss best practices for transforming scattered company knowledge into a single source of truth, a.k.a., an intelligent Content Library. 

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management refers to how companies collect, organize, analyze, share, and maintain valuable company documents and data. The objective is to democratize knowledge and empower employees to accomplish more in less time. 

Knowledge management is also about ensuring that everyone in the organization is on the same page—a single source of truth. Effective knowledge management prevents miscommunication, incorrect information, and knowledge gaps. It also spurs productivity and helps connect, if not tear down, silos. 

Knowledge management systems

A knowledge management system is about managing a centralized repository of all of an organization’s information. It may include shareholder or annual reports, marketing collateral, sales enablement material, legal documents, contracts, company data, software documentation, operating procedures, etc. 

Knowledge, of course, is fluid—so is an effective knowledge management system. The software should prompt gatekeepers to run regular audits for inaccurate, non-regulatory compliant, or out-of-date files. It should also remind them when a record might need to be virtually shredded. 

Aside from its employees, internal knowledge is a company’s most important asset. Accurate and up-to-date knowledge management systems help executives, response management teams, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, etc., do their jobs. Does that mean all employees should have access to the entire knowledge base all the time? Definitely not, but we’ll elaborate on that in a bit.

The importance of managing internal knowledge

We are in the midst of the Information Age. Nearly anything we’d want to know is a simple Google search away. But can we say the same about workplaces? As much as that might be the goal, for most organizations, the unfortunate truth is no. 

  • 75% of organizations qualify creating and preserving knowledge as important or very important.
  • Only 9% of those organizations say they are ready to address knowledge management.
  • About ⅓ of organizations haven’t leveraged any form of artificial intelligence (AI) for knowledge management.
  • Only 8% say they’re leveraging AI to a great extent.
  • More than half of companies’ data goes unused.
  • An employee survey showed that over 90% of respondents think it should be as easy to find company knowledge as it is to find information on Google.
  • Most think it’s easier for consumers to find information.

Advantages of developing a knowledge management system include:

  • Informed decision making – All the data and documentation is at decision makers’ fingertips.
  • Better strategies – Knowledge management systems provide click-of-a-button access to sales and market trends.
  • Increased revenue – Arm sales and response teams with the knowledge they need to win more business. 
  • Increased efficiency and productivity – No more searching for information.
  • Improved proposal quality – Content at your fingertips provides more time to write and edit a compelling, bid-winning story. 
  • Increased response accuracy – Reusing existing company-approved content is far less error-prone than rushing to compile information and provides more time to check work.
  • Trend analysis – Generate reports from anywhere.
  • Staying ahead of competition – Compile competitive and market research.
  • Expert knowledge retention – No one likes to answer the same questions twice (or more). 

What is content creation and reuse?

Content creation is about generating content that appeals to a company’s persona buyer. Content can come in written, visual, or audio form. 81% of organizations see content as a core business strategy.

A content management system allows users to create, collaborate, publish, edit, store, and catalog digital content right on the platform. Advanced content management systems help take work off of users’ hands, leveraging AI to read, catalog, and store uploaded documents. 

Then, instead of reinventing the wheel each time stakeholders need information, they can reuse and edit content as required. 

Best practices for knowledge management

Knowledge management aims to create an effective single source of truth, with accurate and up-to-date information. Whether a stakeholder works in sales, response management, legal, finance, or HR, the information should be easily searchable, consistent, and repeatable. 

But consistency and repeatability on their own aren’t enough. A knowledge management system needs to not only have the scalability to grow and change with the organization but also to help the organization grow and change. 

Determine the best type of management solution for your company

There are two main knowledge management solutions: company wikis and internal knowledge bases. Let’s delve a little deeper into which solution might work best for your organization.

Corporate Wikis

Did you know that the word “wiki” means “very quick” in Hawaiian? It sort of seems like an oxymoron for island life, right?

A corporate wiki is basically the same concept as Wikipedia. A wiki allows any employee to add, delete, or edit content. And surprisingly, most wikis are pretty quick.

Corporate wikis:

  • Are knowledge repositories – Employees add knowledge to the database as it becomes available.
  • Are searchable – As with Wikipedia, corporate wikis are easily searchable.
  • Save time – If the information is in the wiki, there’s no need to track down subject matter experts. 
  • Improve employee engagement – Since wikis are open to all employees, even relatively bottom-of-the-ladder employees can participate in information gathering, sharing, and utilization.
  • Support links – A single document or piece of content might have one or more parent or child records. Wikis let users link to related documents and content.
  • Some, but not all, wikis are open source.

Still, corporate wikis are not without their downsides, including: 

  • Unreliable contributors – Sometimes, knowledge can be too democratized, and contributors might not have the entire picture.
  • Inaccurate information – Wikis don’t generally have quality control measures in place.
  • Difficult to audit – Knowledge can have a short shelf life. Wikis aren’t famous for processes to weed out and update old content. Also, anyone can edit.
  • No way to define page roles – Wikis are open to all employees; there is no way to limit viewing or editing rights.

Internal knowledge bases

On the other hand, an internal knowledge base has more in common with a library, only without space limitations. Ideally, a knowledge base should house all company knowledge, and after an employee enters their login credentials, a library card of sorts, the virtual librarian directs the user to the content they need.

But there’s more to an internal knowledge base than gatekeeping and pointing users in the right direction. A true internal knowledge base should have several key features, including:

  • Built-in smart search feature – Leverage AI assistance for fast and accurate searching.
  • Custom fields – No two companies are alike; they should be able to create fields that match their company needs.
  • Multi-format capability – An AI-powered internal knowledge base should support both written content such as question and answer pairs, and uploaded documents.
  • An intuitive and easy-to-navigate user interface – What good is an internal knowledge base if it’s difficult to use?
  • Tagging – You would never just throw files in a file cabinet. Think of your knowledge library as a sophisticated file cabinet. All content should be tagged and, if applicable, attached to parent and/or child folders.
  • User restrictions – Content creation and editing are reserved for verified specialists.
  • Simplified auditing – Function within the parameters of a content strategy with regular audits.
  • Scalability – A knowledge management system needs to grow as your company grows. 

Implement change in gradual steps

Too much change all at once is a shock to the system. 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.

Showcase improvement metrics

Internal knowledge base software capabilities allow easy, quantifiable measurements of post-implementation success. The functional value of knowledge management will rapidly become apparent to end users in how they can execute their responsibilities. 

See how Genpact increased efficiency by up to 35% with their RFPIO-powered knowledge base.

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 system’s value to your leadership team so 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:

  • Content Library Insights Report – This dashboard connects you to insights on your Content Library, including content moderation and usage, content owners, and content moderators.
  • Content 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 SMEs use their time.
  • Content 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.

Ensure that your team can access the knowledge they need for shared success

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 create engaging proposals. Support teams need access to knowledge from wherever they’re working without toggling between applications to improve the customer experience.

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.

Managing organizational knowledge with RFPIO® LookUp

Remote work and distributed workforces are the new norms, so why should employees have to go to the office to access the knowledge database? 

RFPIO’s internal knowledge base software enables better organizational knowledge management. RFPIO® LookUp provides team-wide access to RFPIO’s Content Library from anywhere and from preferred productivity tools, such as:

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

Whether from a salesperson in the field or a response manager who works from home, enhanced accessibility helps facilitate content reuse, enable real-time access to corporate expertise, improve response time, and scale the ability to respond to RFPs from wherever they have access to a computer. 

See RFPIO® LookUp in action

I often say that RFPIO’s robust, scalable Content Library is like Clark Kent—bookish, a little nerdy, but incredibly smart and has the strength of a superhero. RFPIO® LookUp removes the metaphorical glasses and lets the Content Library fly to any destination at the speed of, well, the internet.

If you’re interested in learning how RFPIO’s Content Library, teamed with RFPIO® LookUp to let your company knowledge fly, read more about it. You can also schedule a free demo.

 

RFP management best practices

RFP management best practices

“You have to have a plan, or else you’re just creating a recipe for chaos.” ~ David Brooks

What is your first instinct when an RFP lands on your desk? Do you push it aside in favor of more urgent matters? Do you dive right in, or do you already have a strategy in place?

New York Times columnist David Brooks might not have been talking about RFP management, but as with many things, having an RFP management plan, a strategy, can mean the difference between winning your bid and chaos. 

What is RFP management?

At the highest level, RFP management is about managing the process of responding to proposal requests from start (even before receiving the RFP) to finish. Responsibilities vary from organization to organization, but the goals are the same, which is to win new business. 

At their core, RFP response is about answering how you will address a prospect’s requirements, but a good response goes far beyond giving rote answers. Using carefully curated and fresh content, the response should tell a story demonstrating that you understand the customer’s needs and how to best address them. 

RFP management includes leveraging company resources, such as subject matter experts (SMEs), existing data, and of course processes. If you consistently provide quality answers to RFPs, your win rate will increase. Below are the best practices we and our customers use to drive revenue and elevate win rates. 

Bid for RFPs strategically

There’s strength in numbers, right? The more RFPs you answer, the more you’ll win, right? Probably not. Some of the RFPs you receive aren’t a good fit for your company, so why waste time and resources on those? 

Tools such as RFPIO’s AI-powered content library, which answers up to 80% of an RFP’s questions, makes answering an RFP much faster and less resource-intensive. But if you know going in that you won’t win the bid, or you can’t service it, you’re still wasting valuable time and resources. Is the bid winnable? Follow these steps to narrow down which RFPs you should respond to. 

  • Do you have a preexisting relationship with the customer? Did they specifically choose to send it to you, or are they using a buckshot approach? A previous relationship—or when the issuer has done their own research—will dramatically improve your win rate over the RFPs that are automatically sent to everyone in your industry.
  • Is your company a fit? If you can’t service the customer’s needs, there’s no reason to answer their RFP.
  • Can you address all of the challenges presented in the RFP? Or at the very least, the most important ones?
  • Is your pricing within the customer’s budget? No, money isn’t everything, and often, features and ability to meet the RFP’s challenges will win out. However, if your solution is far outside of the customer’s budget, it’s a tough hill to climb and efforts will be best spent elsewhere.
  • Can you meet the prospect’s timeline? Can you meet the submission deadline? What about each deliverable? Can your organization fulfill all of the requirements on time?
  • Do you know why the RFP was issued? This could help determine the customer’s pain points.

First you should identify and consult with your SMEs. If you haven’t won similar bids before, or if you’d have a difficult time fulfilling the requirements, you might be better off passing on that particular opportunity. 

Have a clearly-defined RFP team

Regardless of whether your organization has a proposal management team or proposal management is the purview of the sales team or even a single person, there should always be a person who’s ultimately in charge. 

From there, the team might vary depending on the customer’s needs and your company’s organizational structure. Titles are often used interchangeably and can mean different things to different organizations. 

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) membership roster includes more than 1,300 different job titles. You might have a dedicated proposal management team, but they may need to involve additional SMEs and stakeholders such as the executive team, legal, HR, information security, training and implementation, sales, customer success, account managers, IT, operations, finance, etc. Each organization is different, but proposal management team roles might include the following: 

  • Bid (or project) manager — The bid manager leads the proposal management team and is involved in every stage of the bid process.
  • Proposal manager — The proposal manager works on a more granular level than the bid manager. Proposal managers oversee the entire process.
  • Proposal writer — The proposal writer is responsible for responding to the customer’s requirements in a persuasive style that includes relevant information such as case studies and other differentiators.
  • Proposal coordinator — The proposal coordinator is responsible for the administrative aspects of the response, including coordinating the internal flow, schedules, security and integrity, and directing submission of final documents.
  • Proposal editor — The proposal editor ensures that the writing is high quality, persuasive, and maintains a consistent voice. They also check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and format consistency.
  • Content manager — The content manager is responsible for adding to, maintaining, and periodically reviewing the content library. 

In many organizations however, all of these roles are being filled by only a few individuals or even one, which means those individuals often wear a lot of hats. Be sure to have actionable deliverables to ensure that each person contributing to the response has clear expectations. This applies even if there’s a single contributor. 

Fully understand the customer’s expectations

There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter RFP or customer. It’s critical to fully understand a customer’s specific wants and expectations before attempting to answer their RFP. For example, don’t mention features that don’t matter to the customer, such as niche certifications that don’t apply.  Start with what interests the issuer and then tailor your responses to those interests.

Read between the lines in trying to understand customer pain points. For example, if a customer asks a software developer if they offer user-based pricing, rather than answer “yes” or “no,” ask yourself why a customer might ask that. Perhaps they’ve reached limitations with other systems, or there’s a competitor that offers a more appealing pricing structure.

Determine how you stand out from your competitors, which of course can include cost, but it can also include product or service quality, expertise, customer service, and overall reputation. 

Manage and organize RFP content

As baseball icon Babe Ruth once said, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” Similarly, yesterday’s answers don’t win today’s RFPs, even if you’ve won that exact same RFP for the exact same customer in the past. Why? Because as your business changes, so should the content. 

When you search your content library, you might find hundreds or even thousands of relevant Q&A pairs. Weeding through them might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Managing and organizing your content library should be an ongoing process, but there are some things you can do right now to help whittle down your Q&A pairs. The key is to focus on quality rather than quantity. You should regularly audit your content library for:

Accuracy – If, for example, you inadvertently lowball the bid, you could be contractually obligated to honor that pricing. Additionally, if you erroneously claim regulatory compliance, your organization could be held responsible for data breaches, etc. In other words, accuracy is critical, as is regularly auditing your content library to archive outdated information and update as applicable. 

Content availability – RFPs are bulky and time consuming, and most organizations are stretched thin. Finding the correct answer quickly is critical. An updated content library lets you easily find the right information without having to sift through thousands of documents and megabits of data.

Naming and tagging – Establish a standardized naming convention for each project. Not only does that make the content more accessible to each team member, it helps you find customer-specific content for future requests. You can further narrow down the content by tagging. How you want to tag is up to your company. Many choose tagging by industry or general requirements. This can help dramatically narrow down your content.

Keep content up-to-date

The best way to get around content bloat is to avoid it in the first place. Perform regular audits to keep your content fresh. 

  • Is the content still current?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Are the answers relevant to your customers?
  • Is the content well-written?
  • Does the content match your company’s voice and tone?
  • Is the content easily accessible?

Regularly scheduled audits might not be enough, though, especially if your company goes through pricing, service, or regulatory changes. 

RFPIO response management software is a proven tool to increase RFP win rates and help you keep your content up to date. If you’d like to learn more about how you can win more by doing less, schedule a demo. 

The proposal management plan for a one-person team

The proposal management plan for a one-person team

An effective proposal management process is like a jigsaw puzzle; it takes multiple pieces, and they have to fit together just right. If you’re a one-person team, putting all the pieces together can be a challenge, but it’s manageable, at least if the right processes are in place. 

With small and medium-sized businesses, it’s common for one-person teams to manage the entire proposal management process. However, they can hopefully count on support from collaborators, such as the sales team and subject matter experts (SMEs).

If you’re a one-person team, you might have other job responsibilities on top of responding to RFPs. In addition, a proposal manager can oversee many different aspects of the RFP process. 

If that’s you, we’re here to help you bring order to the chaos, starting with incorporating these factors into your proposal management plan—powered by collaboration and automation.

How a proposal team of one can optimize the proposal process

A proposal manager is in charge of the proposal management process. Whether they are a one-person team or the head of an entire department, an effective proposal management process incorporates three essential factors: 

  1. Saying “no” as part of your proposal management plan
  2. Engage your sales team
  3. Leverage subject matter experts

There are many aspects to the proposal management process. Let’s dig into three of the most critical and why they matter.

Saying “no” as part of your proposal management plan

RFPs are a great opportunity—and maybe your CEO has the impulse to throw a hat in the ring for each one. That might sound like a great strategy, but it’s also a way to rack up a lot of losses. 

Sometimes your product or service isn’t what the customer is looking for. Responding to poorly-qualified opportunities can put well-qualified prospects at risk because they pull resources from winnable bids.

Establish a go/no-go process to focus your organization’s efforts on suitable proposals.

Work with sales and executives to perform a win-loss analysis on past bids. Understand the likelihood of winning business when new deals are on the table by researching the requirements before writing a single sentence of an RFP response.

A viable proposal management plan is based on data and research. Rather than reactively pressing “go” every time an RFP arrives, pause and analyze to ensure the opportunity is the right fit. Taking this extra time will ensure your time is optimally spent.

Engage your sales team

Salespeople are motivated to sell, and they have a lot to keep up with, so responding to an RFP may not be topmost on their list of selling activities. Yes, you need their support with response content, but what level of support are you offering them in exchange?

Proposal managers can provide a lot of value to their sales teams.They can help sales with time management, content management, and seamless collaboration. With proposal automation in place, you’ll enable your sales colleagues to respond to RFPs faster and more effectively.

Your response process will run smoothly when salespeople have instant access to high-quality content in the Content Library. Since RFPIO® LookUp is accessible via a web browser or CRM, the same content library will come in handy for them on discovery calls and prospecting.

Using proposal automation software, your sales team will collaborate using the same communication tools they’re comfortable with, including CRMs such as Salesforce and HubSpot, and communication solutions such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.

By showing sales teams the value you can provide, they’ll be more willing to help you out, so get sales on board early and use RFPIO proposal automation software as their support system. Show them how they’ll save time and improve client-facing communication.

Many subject matter experts are a one-person show, just like you. Proposal automation makes their lives easier by reducing time spent responding to RFPs and other internal queries. An important aspect of your role as a proposal manager is to continue improving your process to minimize unnecessary SME involvement and protect their time by bringing them in only when necessary.

SMEs are process-driven individuals; they expect clean processes and clearly defined responsibilities, tasks, and deadlines. Your response process will be most effective when your subject matter experts’ time is protected and valued. Proposal automation offers a more intelligent approach to response management, allowing SMEs to contribute and move on with their day.

The first step to transforming your proposal management process into a well-oiled machine is to consolidate all of your organization’s content in one place. Whether you are an enterprise or a small business, proposal software is key to a well-run process. 

The Content Library offers standardized and curated content, effectively breaking down information silos and saving time. You can automatically fill in most of the RFP responses with help from the Content Library and save SME contributions for any revisions or customizations.

Once an SME has provided expertise on one RFP, the proposal manager can seamlessly update the Content Library with the new answer. 

The next time you have an RFP that includes similar queries, RFPIO’s AI-driven content management system and answer recommendation engine will automatically present the responses for your approval, further reducing the time SMEs spend responding.

Successful response management revolves around processes and people. As a team of one, you lead the charge by creating a viable proposal management plan and providing value to colleagues that support you. How can you make collaboration easier? What steps can be automated? Stay focused on plan improvements to keep your team happy, supported, and productive.

The next step in your new and improved proposal management plan is bringing on RFPIO. See how proposal automation allows you to thrive as a team of one. RFPIO can help proposal managers thrive, no matter the resources. 

 

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

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

Like trying to navigate the Suez Canal in high winds and poor visibility, you can manage a proposal program without an RFP content manager, but is it really worth the risk? Without one, eventually your response management process–and revenue stream–will get clogged by subpar content.

An RFP content manager owns the comprehensive content management strategy for your organization’s proposal development. The person in this role will interface with subject matter experts (SMEs) and other key response stakeholders (e.g., proposal managers, sales managers, support managers, etc.), remove redundancy in your Content Library, ensure all content is clean and proposal-ready, and report monthly to the executive team to help demonstrate their value.

Even though it’s fairly obvious that there’s so much an RFP content manager can do for an organization, it can still be frustratingly difficult to justify the need for one with upper management. Hopefully, some of the information in this article will help you change mindsets from a “nice-to-have” approach to a “have-to-have” business imperative.

The Biggest Benefit

Your proposal team can stop splitting their time—already a scarce resource—between trying to respond to proposals AND managing content. When this shared-responsibility approach is attempted, everyone’s attention is fractured, and as soon a new proposal comes in the door, content management screeches to a halt. Proposal always takes precedence over content in a shared-responsibility scenario. Eventually, trust in content will be lost (as well as the bid), leading to resentment between teams. Imagine the finger-pointing if the Ever Given had two captains at the wheel when it went sideways.

Content is a pain point for everyone involved in a proposal. Managing the tag structure alone is a full-time job. With a full-time RFP content manager in place, you have a designated individual whose primary responsibility is to convert content from a pain point to a competitive differentiator. It also frees up the proposal team to respond to proposals as they come through the door. It will be the RFP content manager’s responsibility to interface with the proposal team in real-time to prioritize incoming Q&A pairs.

Business Case: The Numbers

The reason that RFP content managers are surrounded by a “nice-to-have” aura is because upper management doesn’t have a clear picture of the opportunity. There are many ways to surface the value that an RFP content manager will bring to your organization.

Numbers are hard to argue, even for the most budget-conscious CFO. A successful RFP content manager will enable all teams that develop client-facing proposals with “clean content,” which saved Microsoft an estimated $2.4 million. Then there’s the company that doubled its RFP win rate after hiring a full-time RFP content manager and discovered that, “When the entire team has access to the best content available, everyone is better off.”

Also, dig into your RFP win rate and percentage of revenue numbers to estimate how many more RFPs can be completed with an RFP content manager on board. Something to consider…we found that organizations with dedicated proposal professionals–which you’ll have when your new RFP content manager relieves the proposal manager of content management duties—submitted almost 3.5x more responses in 2020 than those without. Other numbers from our study that are relevant to your business case include:

  • Companies with a designated RFP solution are 32% more likely to have strong content moderation procedures in place (i.e., they have the tools and time for content management).
  • 90% of companies with designated RFP software prioritize content moderation to build trust among proposal stakeholders.
  • The average RFP win rate in 2020 was 45% at an average deal size between US $1-3M (i.e. increase how many RFPs you respond to, increase your revenue).

Another key number is that a dedicated RFP content manager can reduce Q&A pairs in your Content Library by as much as 40-50% by removing duplicates and combining similar responses. I once had a Q&A pair with 43 versions of the answer. Each had its own flavor and no one could decide which was correct. Eventually, I trimmed it down to six. This was part of a 9-month undertaking to pare down the whole Content Library from 5,600 to 2,200 Q&A pairs! No way that happens on a part-time basis.

Ensuring Content Library purity will help your proposal team complete RFx’s more quickly and more accurately. I have a client who refers to this as “productivity density”, meaning you can complete more proposals, more accurately, in the same amount of time. It will provide the same benefits to those teams building proactive proposals, such as sales and customer support.

Business Case: Being Respectful of Time

An essential value offered by RFP content managers is their ability to protect SMEs’ time. Your content manager won’t just work with your SMEs, they’ll build relationships with them and truly partner with them. They’re invested in content just as much as the SME is, and they will want to work together to accomplish content updates and cyclical reviews.

Say an SME takes 10 minutes to review a Q&A pair. If you send them the same question in 14 ways, then you’re asking for 140 minutes of their time. Trim that down to 2 or 3, and you’ll develop trust with SMEs in the content and in the proposal process.

There’s a numbers play here, too. It starts with identifying how much your SME’s time is worth down to the minute.

For example, say the average annual salary for an SME is $100K. That breaks down to about $0.38 per minute, or $3.80 per review of a Q&A pair (assuming it takes them 10 minutes to review). By reducing their review from 14 pairs to 3 pairs, you’re saving $41.80.

Now let’s extrapolate that savings out to annual production. After a content manager has trimmed redundant, outdated, and trivial content, you may well be left with 3,500 Q&A pairs instead of 6,200. That’s a 45% reduction. If you have six SMEs, they now only need to review about 600 Q&A pairs each, which means they can spend lots more time bringing value to your customers in their role.

This is also generating roughly $10,000 in savings for your company that can help you build a case for funding the content manager position.

Your numbers will vary, of course, depending on SME salary, average time reviewing Q&A pairs, and how many pairs an SME reviews annually. But this shows how you can hang tangible cost savings on a prospective full-time RFP content manager. Perform similar exercises to calculate cost savings for proposal managers, salespeople, customer support specialists, and any other personnel involved in generating proposals.

Business Case: Improve Content, Improve Proposals

Of course, we cannot forget the main reason you want an RFP content manager: content. They’ll be responsible for its proposal readiness 24/7/365. That includes:

  • Making sure tagging is accurate and redundancy eliminated.
  • Ensuring you don’t have client names or details in your content that could be submitted to a different client (a huge benefit to the entire organization when it comes to things like corporate and financial content).
  • Performing white-glove reviews for all content so that the proposal builders who use it (e.g., proposal, sales, and support teams) can do so in a self-service environment without hesitation.
  • Meet monthly with the proposal team to identify gaps and edits.
  • Identify content used most frequently to prioritize it for updates and reviews.

The positive byproducts of their content focus will spread across your organization. Onboarding will be easier because the right content will always be located where it’s supposed to be. Brand management will be easier to monitor and update. Upper management will have greater visibility into content and proposal management thanks to the monthly reports delivered by the RFP content manager. By the way, you don’t need one for every line of business, especially if you have a response management platform like RFPIO. The RFP content manager can do upfront legwork with multiple lines of business and then manage the processes of content development and auditing for all of them!

Remember, any proposal is only as good as its content. All the polish in the world cannot cover up inaccurate, poorly written, out-of-date, or irrelevant content. Respond to more RFPs, win more RFPs, earn more revenue. The fastest way to respond to more RFPs is by adding a full-time RFP content manager to keep the machine humming. Otherwise, your proposal development pipeline might end up being backed up into the Red Sea.

To learn more about how to build your case, check out my full webinar (below).

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

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

Too much, and those relationships can quickly flare up with resentment or burn out in an unwinnable blame game (“It’s pre-sales fault for losing the RFP!”). Too little, and silos develop, making collaboration difficult and agility nearly impossible (“It’s sales’ fault for not not giving us what we need to create a winning proposal!”).

Sound familiar? It’s OK. Sometimes when the kids are bickering in the back seat you have to follow through with your threat to pull the car over right this instant. Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Namaste. Let’s move on.

How do you maintain that ideal level of friction? Glad you asked. I have five steps to help.

Before you skip ahead, remember that everyone in your organization is always working toward the same goal: Win conversions based on responses, whether they be reactive requests for proposals (RFPs) or proactive proposals designed to solve specific prospect or customer problems.

When your organization commits to the unified goal to win through proposals, then it’s just a matter of creating the best game plan to do so.

5 steps to improve collaboration between sales and presales

Step 1: Add transparency to RFP roles and responsibilities

Attempting to collaborate without transparency is a bit like playing the card game “Go Fish”: One person knows what they want, but they’re not sure where to get it. You can avoid this first by documenting all RFP processes. If you have a proposal manager or, better yet, a dedicated proposal team, then you can ask them for this information.

As soon as assignments are delegated to sales and pre-sales teams, then make sure each team is aware of the roles for both teams. You’ll also want to include responsibilities that don’t fall under either sales or pre-sales.

For example, if your responses consistently rely on polished product marketing documentation, then your resource is likely someone in the marketing department. Calling this information out will help avoid unnecessary blaming from either team when they know it’s neither of their faults.

If you use RFP software, then your platform can help promote transparency. I cannot speak for other solutions, but with RFPIO you can:

  • Give every sales rep and pre-sales person access to the project dashboard.
  • Assign deliverables to respective teams to avoid confusion over who is responsible for what.
  • Provide a project timeline so both teams can keep up with RFP progress.
  • Monitor all deliverables to help identify bottlenecks.
  • Gather and contain all communication related to the RFP, including emails, Slack, Salesforce/CRM communications, as well as any alerts or messages initiated from RFPIO.
  • Store all questions, answers, and RFP content for unified knowledge management across every team working the RFP.

Step 2: Write the executive summary

Sales must lead the way. There’s no avoiding it. Sales is responsible for the customer relationship. Without their unique insight, pre-sales is flying blind on the RFP. If sales wants to cross the finish line with a win, then it has to guide pre-sales in the right direction. Back at the starting line, that means writing the RFP’s executive summary.

Write the executive summary first to help set the tone for the RFP. Again, RFP software can help here. After you write the executive summary, your RFP software can make an automated first pass at answering all of the questions based on the content in your Content Library. From there, pre-sales will be able to review the answers under the direction that sales established in the executive summary. Sweet, fancy efficiency…

As the owner of the customer relationship, the salesperson should actually demand to write the executive summary. It explains the entirety of the RFP and sets up the narrative for the customer journey. If you have a proposal team, then sales can at the very least outline the executive summary so the proposal team can flesh it out and add polish.

“Sales owning the executive summary is extremely important, because it provides context and color into how the company will position itself throughout the RFP. From there, PreSales can bring insight into where the product or platform may fall short, and discuss a strategy on how to approach the response.”
James Kaikis, Co-Founder at PreSales Collective

Step 3: Schedule a kick-off call

If you have a proposal team and documented proposal processes, then a kick-off meeting for RFPs may already exist. If so, make sure sales and pre-sales are invited. If not, then take the initiative to include a kick-off meeting in your RFP response process.

Three of the main reasons you need this touchpoint are to:

  • Give all parties involved a chance to set expectations and clarify roles.
  • Exchange unique insights about the prospect, your relationship history, and how to differentiate your response from competitors.
  • Insert a Go/No-Go evaluation in your RFP response process to solidify team commitment to responding to a winnable RFP.

Step 4: Play an active role in responding to the RFP

Sales teams sometimes make the mistake of washing their hands of an RFP as soon as they hand it off to pre-sales or proposal teams. From the standpoint of the customer relationship and the reasoning behind the RFP, the sales team is the SME! Just as SMEs for product, SLAs, support, legal, pricing, etc. are expected to contribute their expertise to a response, so too should sales be expected to contribute their expertise about the customer.

Sales-related answers and content can also be managed in the Content Library of your RFP software. That way sales can focus on the review process and personalizing content after the automated first pass takes place.

Step 5: Reflect on the results, win or lose

When you hear back from the issuer, come together as a team to reflect on how the RFP landed — win or lose. If you lose, talk about what you could have done better. If you won, talk about what you did well.

This win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. It also gives you an opportunity to heap some well-deserved praise where it’s due. Sales knows that it cannot survive without pre-sales. Sometimes pre-sales likes to be reminded. There’s no better time to do so than after a win, when you can call out the outstanding job that pre-sales did in composing the response.

You can also use this opportunity to make sure what you learned in the finished RFP is carried over to the next RFP. Win or lose, factoring in what worked and what didn’t will make it easier to determine the next Go/No-Go decision.

Good collaboration = good content

Winning proposals resonate with good content. And behind every piece of good content is the collaboration that made it happen. The better the collaboration between sales and pre-sales, the better your proposal will be.

In our new proposal management Benchmark Report, we found that 75% of organizations plan on responding to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020. The only way that can happen is if sales and pre-sales are collaborating at a healthy rate of friction.

If your sales and pre-sales teams need a collaboration tool to kickstart that healthy friction, then schedule a demo today!

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