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

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

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


Category: People & Teams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your small team with RFPIO spends time:

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

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

Set up your project dashboard immediately

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

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

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

Keep the answer library fresh

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

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

Let the system be your cat-herding ranch hand

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

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

@-mentions improve #collaboration

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

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

I love flags!

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

4 ways small proposal teams can support sales

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

Add more value to sales and the organization as a whole

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

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

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

Why collaboration is essential to outstanding customer experiences

Why collaboration is essential to outstanding customer experiences

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

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

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

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

Make promises you can keep

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

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

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

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

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

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

RFPIO for Jira keeps your teams aligned

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

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

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

Start the conversation

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

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

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

Figure out a solution

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

Stay on top of commitments

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

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

Strengthen customer experience to stay ahead

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

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

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

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

4 ways to set your sales development team up for success

4 ways to set your sales development team up for success

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

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

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

Piece together the best people

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

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

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

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

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

Equip your team with the knowledge they need

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

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

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

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

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

Define personal and team success

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abandon conventional thinking about incentives

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

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

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

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

Where to start?

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

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

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

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

#1: Control comms chaos

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

#2: Do the heavy lifting for them

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

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

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

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

#4: Point out how they control their own destiny

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

#5: Sell the benefits of content audits

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

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

#6: Be transparent with external SMEs

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

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

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

#7: Recognize the effort

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

Give respect, earn respect

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

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

Refine your RFP process to keep your multilingual team connected

Refine your RFP process to keep your multilingual team connected

This is the third post in our series #StayConnected, introducing tips, tricks, tools, and features that help teams complete proposals quickly and efficiently, even when they’re not sharing a physical space. Read part 1 here: Keep Your Proposal Team Focused With These 5 Project Management Features. And part 2 here: How an Effective Content Management System Keeps Your Remote Team Productive.

You just got promoted to lead your company’s international proposal team—congratulations!

Now that you’re managing an international team, you’re responsible for bridging gaps between time zones, languages, and cultures—while finding ways to bring your team closer together, despite the physical distance.

To help you take the first steps, we compiled everything we know about how leaders of successful international proposal teams use technology to submit compelling proposals across languages. Read on for insider tips and best practices for keeping international teams connected.

Maintain brand consistency across languages with proposal automation software

Your brand should build awareness and develop trust and loyalty with customers. This means every interaction customers have with your brand—including bids, tenders, and RFPs—should embody the brand promises and values dependably and understandably.

Many successful proposal managers rely on proposal automation software to ensure their bids, tenders, and RFPs are consistent. This is especially true for proposal managers that serve a multilingual customer base.

David Rynne, the Presales Global Content Specialist at Basware, uses RFPIO to manage and moderate his organization’s multilingual content. Each time a new question-and-answer pair comes in, David uses the built-in Google Translate tool to translate the content into English and check it for accuracy, before approving it to be added to the library. Anytime an answer doesn’t seem quite right, he can easily @-mention the pre-sales rep for clarification.

In doing so, David has full visibility into how Basware is being represented to the world and can make sure the messaging remains consistent—and accurate—across languages.

Break down language barriers with a multilingual content management system

When you’re working with multilingual sales teams who are interacting with non-English speaking prospects, you need to make sure your content management system has the capacity to store content in other languages.

Let’s say your sales rep in Germany receives an RFP from their prospect, with all the questions in German. If you only have content available in English, you’re creating an extra step for your sales reps, who will need to find the answers they need (in English) and translate those answers into German.

It stands to reason that the less time your team has to spend translating answers, the more time they’ll have to focus on revenue-generating activities.

That’s why successful international proposal teams have a content management system that can store content in multiple languages. With this in place, all your German sales rep would need to do is find the question (in German) and immediately use the provided German answer—giving them more time to spend refining their proposal or working on other projects.

“One of our pre-sales reps from Paris told us just recently that he received an RFP on a Monday night that needed to be submitted by that Wednesday morning. We helped him get up and running in RFPIO and he made the deadline.”

David Rynne, Presales Global Content Specialist
Basware

Simplify collaboration by bringing everyone on the same platform

According to a recent report from Slack, people around the world agreed that “ability to easily communicate with colleagues” was one of the most vital components of effective collaboration.

One of the best ways to enable your team to “easily communicate” is bringing them all together on the same platform.

Many proposal managers set their entire proposal team up in proposal automation software that’s equipped with both project management features and in-app collaboration tools.

In doing so, they can assign tasks to team members, gain visibility into project status and team bandwidth, and use @-mentioning to ask SMEs and other team members for help.

Bringing everyone into the same tool streamlines communication and brings clarity into roles and responsibilities—which work together to increase efficiency and even reduce stress.

“Shortly after implementing RFPIO, a sales engineer in Australia—who had recently started at the company—was able to collaborate with sales engineers in Bulgaria and product managers in the United States to complete an RFP in just a few days.”


Gary Clink, Head of Global Technical Enablement
Progress
Read full case study here.

Build camaraderie by giving your international team space to be themselves

“When interactions between co-workers are high, there is a greater ability to develop trust and shared vision among international co-workers,” wrote Tsedal Neely—author of the book The Language of Global Success—in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

When you’re managing an international team, you need to give members a chance to get to know each other as people.

Here at RFPIO, we take this advice to heart.

Our team is split between our headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and Coimbatore, India—and we’ve devised a number of ways to build relationships between team members that have never met another face-to-face.

For example, the international marketing team gets together for standups twice a week, where the team is free to talk about whatever comes to mind—be it movies and shows we’re watching, new recipes we’re trying, or weekend plans.

India- and US-based team members are also responsible for arranging 15-minute one-on-one video chats with another, giving team members a chance to get to know each other in a non-work capacity.

We’ve found that when we’re able to see each other as people, rather than faceless email addresses or Slack handles, working together isn’t just easier—it’s also more fun.


When you’re managing an international team, you are able to benefit from the diverse insights of individuals with different cultures, opinions, and backgrounds—the only trick is figuring out how to bring your team closer together.

At RFPIO, we’re helping international teams break down language barriers, simplify collaboration, and build camaraderie.

Click here to find out more about how RFPIO can help you optimize the opportunity of working with an international team—and find ways to keep your team connected.

Keep your proposal team focused with these 5 project management features

Keep your proposal team focused with these 5 project management features

This is the first post in our series #StayConnected, introducing tips, tricks, tools, and features that help teams complete proposals quickly and efficiently, even when they’re not sharing a physical space.

As any proposal manager is well aware, a single RFP may require input from dozens of stakeholders—and it’s up to the proposal manager to work their magic to pull all this disparate information into a compelling proposal.

While maintaining a high level of collaboration when your entire time is working at home may seem daunting at first, doing so successfully is just a matter of establishing effective systems.

To help you find the system that’s right for you, our team compiled everything we know about how our customers are using RFPIO to successfully manage proposal projects—beginning to end—with a remote team.

Read on to see how RFPIO’s project management capabilities create visibility into project status, clarify responsibilities, and facilitate communication—and learn how to apply these lessons to your process to keep your team focused and connected.

1. Make well-informed decisions with built-in trend analytics

A new RFP has landed in your inbox—it’s go-time.

But this isn’t your first rodeo. You know that before you can pick up your pen (uh… mouse), you need to decide whether the RFP is even worth the effort. In other words, you need to be sure this RFP is one you can win.

Responders using RFP software equipped with built-in analytics can answer that question right out of the gate.

When creating a new project (RFP, RFI, etc.) in RFPIO, for example, they can click open a “trend analysis” to understand how many resources and how much time was required to complete similar projects in the past.

They can also see how many questions were answered using auto-response/stored answers versus manual responses, providing valuable insights into ROI—since the more questions your team can respond to using content stored in your answer library, the less time they need to spend writing fresh answers.

2. Capture the opportunity in your CRM of choice

After deciding to respond, you need to make sure your sales team—and everyone at your organization, for that matter—has visibility into project status.

With RFPIO, you can associate your project with an existing opportunity in your preferred CRM, be it Salesforce, Dynamics, Pipedrive, Pipelinedeals, or Hubspot. With all relevant data in one place, your entire team can find information about deadlines, progress status, and author review summaries right in the platform they’re already using.

That means your sales team has access to all the information they need in just a few clicks—and your proposal team can stay focused on their assigned tasks.

3. Easily manage projects by clarifying responsibilities and assigning tasks

According to the 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey, 1 in 4 proposal managers said their biggest challenge is not being able to focus on priorities because they’re wearing too many hats.

An easy way to fix this is to clarify roles and responsibilities, starting with breaking projects into bite-sized pieces and assigning tasks to team members. Once you’ve set everything up in your CRM of choice, you’re ready to delegate tasks to the rest of your team.

Before inadvertently assigning tasks to a team member who is already neck-deep in another project, you can check the user report to see who on your response management team has the bandwidth to take on new responsibilities—helping reduce burnout on your team.

Once you’ve finished delegating tasks for your RFP project, collaborators automatically receive an email clearly outlining their responsibilities.

While your project is humming along, managers get real-time visibility into the status of all the individual components within a project, individual team members’ workloads, and overall proposal operations for better resource planning and uncovering roadblocks before they happen—ensuring your team stays ahead of deadlines.

4. Efficiently communicate with built-in collaboration tools

As your team is answering their assigned questions, they will likely need some help from your technical experts.

To do this, all they have to do is @-mention your resident SME in the comment section of the question they need help on. Your SME will then receive a notification in their inbox—and RFPIO will automatically send follow-up emails until they’ve answered the question.

After your SME is notified that their assistance is needed, they can directly respond to the question by simply replying to the message. Their response will then be automatically populated into the comment section of your project.

This helps your proposal team keep all relevant information together in one place—and allows your SMEs to offer their sage wisdom on the fly without leaving the platforms they’re already using.

Lauren Daitz, the Senior Manager of the Proposal Department at HALO Recognition, told us that the SMEs at her company have an RFPIO filter in their email, so they can easily respond to a few questions whenever they have a free moment (or when they find themselves sitting in a meeting they don’t necessarily need to be part of).

5. Submit proposals that your entire team can be proud of

The final—and possibly most satisfying—step of the proposal process is submitting your proposal to the issuer.

But before you can do that, you need to make sure your proposal tells a compelling story—and, of course, that each of the answers you’ve provided is accurate and on-brand.

This means you need to get leaders across departments involved. With RFPIO, you can set up review cycles on a question- or section-level. A single question can have as many reviewers as you’d like, enabling your management, technical, and legal teams to seamlessly provide their stamp of approval—all while empowering you to submit compelling proposals that will help your organization win more deals.

“RFPIO helped us win business by empowering us to make better use of our time. Instead of hunting down answers to pull together a proposal, we’re now able to spend our extra time creating compelling win messages.”

-Brian Trigg, Director of Sales Operations, FireEye

While the general perception of remote teams is that they are divided, disconnected, and fragmented, the reality is much more optimistic. All teams, remote or otherwise, are as strong as the systems and collaboration tools that hold them together. Click here to learn more about how RFPIO’s project management features can help your team stay connected and focused.

How to manage a sales team with a mindful approach

How to manage a sales team with a mindful approach

A lot of salespeople we talk to are moonlighting as RFP responders. These classically urgent tasks are thrown on top of everything else your sales team is already doing. Pretty soon you’re staring at a serious case of burnout.

After surveying 7,500 employees, Gallup uncovered the top five reasons for burnout in the workplace:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

Since your sales team is moonlighting as an RFP responder, you may have heard statements and questions that align with these burnout triggers.

  1. You didn’t tell me how to do this unmanageable workload.
  2. Hey, this is more than I can handle.
  3. I had no idea I would be responding to RFPs when I took this job.
  4. I’ve made suggestions to change our process, but nobody is listening to me.
  5. This RFP needs to be done in two weeks and I can’t get to it.

RFPs still need to get done on top of all of your sales team members’ responsibilities. So, how do you manage expectations and help your team succeed? By being more mindful as you change your sales leadership approach.

1. Manage expectations upfront

It starts before your salesperson even gets hired. This team candidate already has an impression of your organization, based on Glassdoor reviews or word-of-mouth. Their first impression of your organization is out of your control. But, the interview process is where you take control.

Interviews are an opportunity to manage expectations upfront, so the candidate knows exactly what you are hiring them to do. You will encounter people who are overqualified and underqualified for the position you are hiring for.

Be honest about that person’s qualifications during the interview. If they are overqualified, tell them that, and discuss how they will be better suited for another role when the right opportunity comes up. You will eliminate some of the churns and “burnouts” by making the conversation about the working relationship clear before they sign a contract and join your team.

2. Communicate and coach regularly

Burnout is influenced by your sales leadership style. There needs to be a certain amount of authentic interactions with each individual every day. Even if you have an open floor plan where everyone is in plain sight, give everyone a “touch” (i.e. a one-on-one check-in) on a daily basis. Otherwise, communication will slip through the cracks.

When you walk by one of your team member’s desks—assuming they are not on a call—stop and chat with them for a bit. We’re all busy, and it’s surprisingly easy to let simple communication opportunities pass us by. If you’re starting to lose someone, regular personal interactions might be the tipping point that wins them back.

Also establish a regular coaching rhythm, whether that’s once a week, every other week, or once a month. Having these coaching sessions will yield higher performance from your sales team, as long as you stay committed and consistent.

Your attention is undoubtedly being pulled in different directions…sometimes even polar opposites. If your team doesn’t receive the attention they expect from you, they will replace your influence with something or someone else.

Schedule regular one-on-ones and stick to that schedule. Avoid rescheduling these one-on-one meetings as your team will feel like you do not prioritize them. Plan on running through a list of five bullet points during each meeting. Prep beforehand, so your team member receives the undivided attention they deserve.

3. Equip your team with the best tools

When you step into your new leadership role at an organization, you inherit a set of sales enablement tools. You may like them, you may not. Your team will feel the exact same way.

The symbiotic relationship between you and your team starts with asking a question aloud: Which sales enablement tools do we really need? Follow that up with: And, why do we really need these tools?

Don’t fall into the “set it and forget it” mentality. Check in with your team to make sure the current tool/tech stack is getting the job done well.

Another thing to look at is technology consolidation. The software market continues to expand and evolve. Can you simplify your stack with a more robust solution?

Look at the sales initiatives you have planned for the year so you understand what your team needs. During this process, you will identify inefficiencies among your current tool stack and hear relevant feedback from your team.

Perhaps RFP responders are using 5-7 different tools (with most of them being workarounds). In this case, eliminate and consolidate into a data-driven RFP management solution that truly supports your team and your organization’s initiatives.

4. Work out your mission

We are all fortunate to live in a time of great abundance, but that abundance comes with drawbacks…like distractions.

As a sales leader, you face infinite distractions. There are many inputs fighting for your time, pulling you in different directions. If you’re struggling to stay focused on your goals, it’s worth listening to what Charles Wagner said in The Simple Life.

“By dint of action, and extracting from himself strict account of his deeds, man arrives at a better knowledge of life. Its law appears to him, and the law is this: Work out your mission.”

Keep in mind that Wagner published The Simple Life back in 1895, so when he talks about “man” he means “everyone.”

Working out your mission is about your personal mission…not your organization’s mission. What gets you out of bed each morning? What are you working toward? To become an effective sales leader who leads others to success, you have to know your why.

It all comes back to the expectations you set with your sales team upfront, before they ever join your team and step foot in the office. From there, it’s about supporting and equipping team members with consistent, personalized communication. Through it all, you need to work out your mission and stay true to it. Then, you will find success and so will your team.

Equip your sales team with the best RFP management solution. See how RFPIO aligns with your sales initiatives.

Why every proposal manager deserves a round of applause

Why every proposal manager deserves a round of applause

Proposal managers are the front line of the organization. Your influence is never more apparent than during the RFP response process.

You’re accountable for implementing the RFP response process and flow. This includes all aspects of that process, from assigning tasks and maintaining content quality to leading your team and crafting the overall proposal narrative.

You’re an honorary member of the sales team, a skilled content manager, and an unmatched project manager. In celebration of proposal managers everywhere, here are just some of the reasons you deserve a round of applause for all that you do.

Proposal managers are an extension of the sales team

RFP responses are critical components for winning new business. As a proposal manager, you play “an assist” in closing the deal, passing the ball to sales so they can shoot and score. Ultimately, you’re an extension of the sales team—and they need all the assists they can get.

68% of salespeople do not have enough time to devote proper attention to sales activities. It behooves the organization to provide an automated RFP process so you properly assist your sales department to do what they do best: Land big deals.

Effective proposal managers recognize that RFP responses are an opportunity to tell a narrative in such a way that distinguishes the organization from the competition. As RFP responses are often the first impression for a new prospect, it’s crucial that you and your team nail the messaging.

It’s up to you to craft the most compelling narrative and weave it through each RFP response to capture the attention of prospects and clients. Pull all of this off and you help your sales team land big deals, making you a major value-add to your sales organization.

Proposal managers are masterful content managers

Content management used to be reserved for the marketing department. Now, with the surge in content creation needs throughout the organization, proposal managers are taking their rightful place as skilled content managers.

Often RFP responses involve multiple writers from various departments. As you already know, getting everyone’s contributions well before the deadline is mission-critical. And, it’s certainly no easy task.

Effective proposal managers draw from an updated content library and coordinate responses across many SMEs to deliver the highest caliber RFP. So, how are busy proposal managers pulling this off exactly? They’re using technology to do the heavy lifting.

RFP software offers a myriad of content management benefits so proposal managers like yourself easily curate a centralized content library, ensuring the best and most accurate responses are always within reach.

Centralized and updated

A centralized RFP content library is your go-to source for organizing, storing, and accessing company content. Within the content library, you initiate and schedule content audit cycles, effectively auditing content at your chosen schedule and not during a pressing RFP deadline.

User-friendly and searchable

RFP software is user-friendly and searchable. The technology learns from you—the more you use it, the smarter it gets. RFP software delivers a content library that suggests highly relevant responses to save you time. Automated responses can be revised and customized to suit messaging themes and requirements.

Accurate and compliant

Response content must be factual, accurate, and compliant. RFP software functions as a risk management tool as well as a content management tool. Thanks to the answer library functionality and unlimited user licenses, simply set up quarterly compliance reviews as part of your content audits and assign new responses to a compliance officer for final approval.

Proposal managers are dexterous project managers

Although you may have the best intentions with execution, internal processes may not support your admirable efforts. When it comes to your day-to-day responsibilities, the stakes are high. This pressure can easily lead to proposal manager burnout.

84% of proposal managers are mired in antiquated RFP processes where Google Docs, text files, spreadsheets, paper documents—and even emails—are the norm. Of course, this fragmented “process” is hardly a process at all. If you still rely on this type of manual RFP response process, you’re technically more of a magician than a project manager.

You deserve an intuitive RFP process, which is made possible when you take advantage of RFP software. RFP software accelerates efficiency, saves time, and elevates the RFP process into an expertly-coordinated strategy.

Whether you orchestrate all of your RFP projects manually, or with the support of RFP software, you’re doing what it takes to help your organization succeed. This is far beyond being a great project manager; this makes you a champion for your organization.

RFPs may not be a priority for everyone within your organization, but you know what they don’t: that responding to RFPs is a direct path to growth. Your organization would not be where it is today without your hard work. You are your organization’s superhero, and that deserves a round of applause.

Alright, superhero…ready to do even more in your proposal management role? RFPIO is here to help you drive efficiency and results.

4 steps to achieving work-life balance in your SME role

4 steps to achieving work-life balance in your SME role

Do you feel like security questionnaires and RFPs have taken over your life? This is common feedback we hear from subject matter experts (SMEs) involved in the proposal process.

You receive a request from your proposal manager at the last-minute and you drop everything to jump in and lend support. From there, it’s a mad dash to the finish line. To “catch up,” you end up working late into the workweek evenings—or even Saturday mornings—to contribute your response content.

So, how do you adjust your SME role in the proposal process to work in your favor? Let’s help you achieve work-life balance and get your weekends back.

1. Find the root cause of your work stress

Something is taking up all of your time…what is driving that? Maybe you feel generally overwhelmed, because you wear multiple hats in your SME role. You’re pulled in a million different directions and you don’t know which way to go first. Everything is a priority.

This feeling is very common for SMEs who respond to RFPs. There is no simple cure for overwhelm, but you can find the root cause of your work stress. Start by looking at how you and your response management team might improve your proposal process to save time.

Maybe you’re a really slow writer or you can’t stand writing. Creating content isn’t quick and easy for anyone, but it’s definitely easier for professional writers. If you don’t have internal proposal writers on-hand, maybe it’s time to outsource writers who gather informational bullet points from you then bring the response content together.

Once you understand what is taking up your time, the next step is getting support. Many subject matter experts are afraid to ask for help and they are worried they will not seem proficient. If you ask for help now, you will be less likely to say “no” later when you are overwhelmed by tasks.

You and your team are better off with an honest conversation about workloads, especially when everyone is dealing with the pressure of tight deadlines and burnout in the proposal process.

2. Play to your strengths to succeed

We all have strengths and weaknesses…that’s human nature. Figure you how to play to your strengths so you’re in a position to be as successful as possible. Who else should you get involved in the response process?

One person can’t possibly know everything there is to know about the organization. When providing the most relevant and accurate responses, it’s best for you to stay in your lane—and for other SMEs to provide responses to the other areas of the business you are not an expert in.

It’s better to be proactive with solutions, so you’re not saying to your proposal manager: “I’m too busy, so I can’t do that.” Instead say: “You know what? That’s not my area of expertise, but I know that X, Y, and Z can fill those roles and fill them well based on my interactions with them on previous proposals we completed together.”

Your organization will be better served and more efficient if the appropriate team members respond to the appropriate questions and sections. Stick with what you know and help your proposal manager find right-fit resource alternatives so you don’t leave anyone hanging.

3. Have the right people and processes in place

You and your proposal management team will work better and faster when you have the right people and processes in place. Get more people involved and be sure that each contributor knows which part of the process they step into.

Technology like proposal software supports you and your proposal process. Proposal software unifies your entire proposal management team. Because there are unlimited user licenses, everyone works more efficiently within a dedicated response management platform.

Integrations with Slack and Microsoft Teams eliminate back-and-forth emails and unnecessary meetings. The searchable answer library stores and organizes all of your existing responses, so you select relevant content, customize at will, then move onto the next task on your list of priorities.

Again, responding to security questionnaires and RFPs should never fall on one person…you or any other team member. Response management is absolutely a team effort. To win a deal, you must submit high-quality content. The only way winning content will happen is with a team of specialists banding together, owning specific sections that relate directly to their subject matter expertise.

4. Unplug, recharge, and do your best work

Achieving work-life balance is something we all want—but, it’s also something we all need. We live in a hyper-connected world, where it’s all too easy to “stay on” even when we’re supposed to be off. To do your best work, you need downtime to unplug and recharge.

If you’re responding to RFPs on the weekends, that takes you away from family time and personal time. I know that in my personal life, I need to have an outlet to reenergize. For me, that means playing golf. For you, that could be a completely different hobby, sport, getaway, or even blissfully binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix.

Unplugging can also mean taking 10-15 minutes on a weekday afternoon to take a walk. Even if you’re in the middle of working on a complex security questionnaire with your team, it’s okay to give yourself a timeout or shift something to the next morning so you can get back into the project when you’re fresh.

Communicate with your proposal manager to keep them in the loop. Reassure them that you will do your best work if you have a little more time to develop high-quality responses. Let them know exactly when you will deliver the responses, so they know you’re handling the assigned task.

Security questionnaires and RFPs aren’t going anywhere. Today’s organizations are seeing an increasing number of these documents during the sales cycle.

The goal with any response submission is to put your organization’s best foot forward. Take a breather and spend some time thinking about what support mechanisms you need in your SME role.

Working through this actionable plan will help you add more value to your organization. And you’ll finally achieve what you thought was unreachable before…work-life balance.

_____________

You deserve to get your weekends back. Reach out to our team and we’ll show you how RFPIO saves you time and helps you prioritize.

The proposal management plan for a one-person team

The proposal management plan for a one-person team

Responding to an RFP is a tall order. If you’re a one-person team, you’re only one human. One human that is entirely responsible for a critical selling document that impacts your organization’s revenue potential. (Gulp.)

From small businesses to massive enterprise corporations, it’s common for one-person teams to manage the entire proposal management process. This proposal manager might even have other job responsibilities on top of responding to RFPs. They count on support from collaborators, usually the sales team and subject matter experts (SMEs).

If that’s you, we’re here to help you bring order to the chaos. Starting with this proposal management plan…powered by collaboration and automation.

Step 1: Create a viable proposal management plan

RFPs are a great opportunity—and maybe your CEO has the impulse to throw a hat in the ring every time. The thing is, your hat might be a sombrero when your prospect is looking for a sensible knitted winter hat.

Moral of the story? Sometimes your product or service just isn’t the right fit. Establish a go/no-go process to focus your organization’s efforts on the right proposals from the start.

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 make sure the opportunity is the right fit. Taking this extra time will ensure your time (and your team’s time) is spent optimally.

Step 2: Make your sales team happy

Salespeople are motivated to sell and they have a lot to keep up with. 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 to them in exchange?

You’re here to help sales with time management, content management, and seamless collaboration so you can submit a quality RFP. With proposal automation in place, you’ll enable your sales colleagues to respond to RFPs quicker and more effectively.

Your proposal management plan will run smoothly when salespeople have instant access to high-quality content in the answer library. That same content library will come in handy for them for discovery calls and prospect questions when they access it from a Google Chrome extension right in their web browser.

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

If you treat sales right, they’ll be more willing to help you out. Get sales on board early. Market proposal automation software as their support system. Show them how they’ll save time and improve client-facing communication.

Step 3: Support your subject matter experts

Subject matter experts fill their days with very specific and important organizational responsibilities. They face the same time management and multi-tasking challenges as salespeople. Once again—yes, you need their valuable contributions. And they need you to help them in return.

Spreadsheets in shared folders, lost information, duplicated information, tracking versions…sound familiar? SMEs are process-driven individuals and they expect clean processes.

Your proposal management plan will only work well when your subject matter experts’ time is protected and valued. Proposal automation offers a smarter approach to response management, allowing SMEs to contribute and move on with their day.

The first step to transforming your process into a well-oiled machine is to consolidate all your organization’s content in one place. The answer library offers standardized content, effectively breaking down information silos and saving time. You can fill in most of the RFP responses with this content and call in SMEs for any revisions or customizations.

Subject matter experts no longer need to return phone calls or emails when other team members need answers that depend upon their expertise. Why? Because their expertise already lives in the answer library. Anyone can quickly find the content on their own through an intuitive, AI-driven content management system and answer recommendation engine.

Many subject matter experts are like you–a one-person show. Proposal automation makes their lives easier by reducing the amount of time they have to spend responding to RFPs and other internal queries. Your job as a proposal manager is to continue improving your process to minimize SME involvement and protect their time.

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 supporting the 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.

Collaborate now to prepare for that looming software RFP

Collaborate now to prepare for that looming software RFP

Life as a subject matter expert (SME) at a SaaS company is undoubtedly fast-paced and demanding. Contributing to software RFPs requires even more of your time and attention. Your time is valuable, but so is your participation in the software RFP process.

TJ Hoffman, COO of Sibme, offers some words of wisdom to help you understand why…

“My advice for any SME who thinks they don’t have time to prioritize the work it takes to help with an RFP is this: You don’t have time not to! Everyone in SaaS is busy, but market growth has to be at the front of everyone’s mind. Helping to capture new business through an RFP has to be at the top of your priority list.”

For your team to win business and achieve success, providing accurate, complete, and timely answers all fall under your domain. Let’s help you foster a collaborative environment now so you’re fully prepared when the next software RFP lands on your desk.

Why is collaboration vital with software RFP responses?

With software RFP responses, good collaboration is key. And, good collaboration requires good communication. Why?

  1. No one person can be an expert in all of the elements that are required to completely answer an RFP. An RFP responder acts as the wheelhouse, and all of the applicable SMEs are the spokes of the wheel. Every spoke must be solid and in place to keep the wheel rolling.
  2. SaaS companies often have remote teams scattered across the country or the world. Managing the entire RFP response process involves complex interdepartmental collaboration and can entail multiple and lengthy meetings to get RFP questions answered.
  3. Everyone already has a full-time role outside of helping with an RFP response. Working after hours to complete an RFP frequently becomes routine for you and your team. In such a scenario, collaboration must be efficient to keep everyone productive and to drive home that winning software RFP.

Good collaboration through better processes

65% of subject matter experts said their primary goal with RFP response was to increase efficiency through better processes. Creating efficient processes is also one of the key opportunities to save valuable time and help SMEs contribute more effectively to RFP responses.

Working smarter when responding to RFPs can mean the difference between winning the business or losing out to a competitor. Yet, a major impediment to efficiency is tracking down SMEs for answers.

You’re buried under a pile of projects while you’re on a well-deserved tropical vacation…these things happen. With such high stakes, how can you improve efficiency and answer software RFP questions proactively? Use intuitive RFP software to manage your content.

RFP software like RFPIO streamlines collaboration for every player in the RFP response game. The answer library organizes and stores content for anyone on your team to access and use.

This gives you the opportunity to be proactive and maintain content so it is available to your team when you’re out of the office for your sister’s wedding. In turn, your proposal manager has direct access to the necessary content without having to text you in a panic. Everyone wins.

Own and maintain your content with RFP software

In a study conducted by Strategic Proposals of over 500 organizations, proposal teams who had the best and well-managed content library won the most business. To build that best-in-class library of pre-written content requires two things:

  • Subject matter experts who fully own and maintain their content.
  • A collaborative tool like RFP software to help SMEs own and maintain content efficiently.

You stand at the frontline of the RFP response process. SMEs possess the details necessary to form a complete, cohesive RFP response. Integrating RFP software like RFPIO reduces time spent tracking down answers so you can focus on winning the business.

RFPIO is a collaborative tool that allows you to take ownership of company knowledge and oversee a significant piece of the puzzle within the software RFP process. When the time comes to pull together an RFP response, all the disparate parts from each contributor combine into a cohesive final product.

RFP software is a holistic solution that helps you navigate logistical chaos in an efficient, collaborative environment. Using RFPIO to store and manage content gives you a medium to provide your expertise proactively, empowering you, your team, and your organization.

Ready to feel empowered? Foster a collaborative environment with RFPIO.

How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

Burnout is just one of those icky feelings to experience as a professional. You feel stressed, tired, and irritable—you’re missing that energizing spark to seize the workday. RFP response teams work hard to win business together, and burnout has a natural way of creeping in. It’s a fairly common organizational challenge that hasn’t been discussed much in the proposal management industry…until now.

Eight out of 10 of those surveyed in the APMP Ethics Survey reported some sort of overwork, burnout, or emotional distress. Of the 1,250 APMP members surveyed across 40 countries, 57% were proposal managers. That means organizations are at great risk of diminishing productivity when it comes to RFP responses.

Now that APMP has pulled back the curtain on our industry, we can all see where we have room to improve. This is why burnout happens with RFP response teams, and how your organization can prevent it.

The cause of burnout with RFP response teams

A typical work week for someone responding to RFPs looks quite different than many other professions, as it involves high stakes. The work you do as an RFP responder has a direct impact on your organization’s growth.

Winning and losing business through RFP responses means there is a constant feeling of high highs and low lows. Balancing this emotional rollercoaster is obviously challenging for anyone, whether they are a seasoned RFP responder or new to the role. It’s no surprise that 72% of APMP members revealed that emotional exhaustion was an issue for them.

The proposal management industry is known for its long work hours and demanding schedule, which is precisely why 82% of APMP members said they felt overworked and burnt out. In our own survey at RFPIO, we discovered that 19% of RFP responders worked evenings and weekends to submit RFPs before deadlines. Why is this happening?

Well, another unique thing about professionals who respond to RFPs is this…it’s not their primary job responsibility. Subject matter experts (SMEs) are called away from other priorities to provide their expertise. On a single RFP, it’s common to have people band together from marketing, sales, product, IT, and even human resources.

That doesn’t mean a proposal manager has it any easier with RFP response being their primary job responsibility. Because they have to manage both the people and the process. Many don’t have a defined RFP response process to align their team. And despite advances in technology within the proposal management industry, 84% of organizations work with a manual process instead of RFP software.

Prevent your RFP response team from burning out

Burnout is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. You can imagine the impact on your organization when burnout strikes an RFP responder. Productivity diminishes and negativity spreads—until one day you lose this team member altogether when they decide to pursue other career opportunities.

“Burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy.” – Annual Review of Psychology

Preventing your RFP response team from burnout means being more aware of work behaviors, but also taking initiatives to improve the workplace. Here are a several ideas to consider to promote a positive work environment and keep your RFP response process humming along.

Notice behavioral cues

It’s very easy to get lost in the everyday chaos and miss important behavioral cues. Are they constantly missing deadlines? Are their RFP responses missing the mark? Are they resistant to contributing to RFPs? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to sit down with this team member and figure out a solution.

Their actions are signs of burnout. By having an open discussion with this person, you might be able to turn things around. Find out why they are struggling. You might discover it’s a personal issue affecting their work, but likely you will find an internal situation that needs to be addressed.

Pay attention to workloads

The opposite of the person saying “no” is the one who always says “yes” and takes on too much. This happens often with RFP responses. That dependable and knowledgeable SME is called upon for support more than the person who looks the other way when the RFP project assignment lands in their inbox.

You certainly don’t want to exhaust your experts. RFPIO has several dashboards that help you see RFP contributors at a glance so you can reallocate work. These dashboards also shed light on your process so you understand when and where you need to hire additional resources.

Reward team players

For team members who contribute consistently to RFP responses, giving a quick shout-out or small thank you gift at an all-hands meeting will go a long way. All too often this doesn’t happen. A lack of recognition creates less of an incentive for SMEs, who already have plenty to do beyond responding to RFPs.

You can use the previously mentioned dashboards in RFPIO to spot your top contributors and reward them. Positive reinforcement is not only good for the person receiving it. Other team members will feel more inspired to contribute to RFPs if they know their efforts might result in recognition or potential career advancement.

Provide educational resources

Education doesn’t have to stop at training someone to do a job upfront—it should continue so they can do their job well for the long haul. Resources for RFP responders tend to be difficult to hunt down as many times content is focused more on issuers of RFPs.

APMP is one of the best resources, with webinars, guides—and one of our personal favorites—the APMP Body of Knowledge. You can always count on us at RFPIO to deliver educational content as well. Our blog is here to fill that resource gap and elevate you in your role as an RFP responder.

benefits of rfp software

Define your RFP response process

Role conflict is tough for RFP response teams. When roles and responsibilities are not clearly spelled out, RFP responses get deprioritized and ignored. Although organizations have a one-sheet strategy for just about everything, RFP response somehow gets overlooked. This is a little nuts considering how complex this process is for teams.

Defining your workflow keeps the order of operations running smoothly. When an RFP is issued in step one, you know who is handling each task. The same clarity can be applied to the review and submission steps. Here’s an RFP response process example you can easily follow, customize, and implement.

Make collaboration easier

Collaboration is necessary for the success of RFP responses. However, the people on your RFP response team might be on different sides of a building or even different sides of the planet if you have multiple or remote offices. Having an RFP project meeting isn’t realistic, and it’s not a good use of everyone’s time. Uh-oh…here come the emails.

Crowding inboxes with RFP project requests will only cause additional burnout. RFP software like RFPIO integrates with popular communication tools like Slack, and also has chat options within the platform. Less email = happy people.

Save time with technology

You saw this coming a mile away, didn’t you? A manual RFP response process is crazy inefficient, causing team members to work after hours to get the job done. They will rush, and the job won’t be done well. Their heart won’t be in it. This will lead to burnout, and it can harm the business opportunity.

If you’re using spreadsheets and docs to respond to RFPs, this method isn’t properly supporting your team. Searching for historic RFP responses in random folders can be eliminated with a centralized answer library. That’s just one benefit, and there are many that make life easier for RFP responders so they can be more effective and feel happier about what they do.

It’s clear from APMP’s survey that there is work to be done. There are positive things happening in the proposal management industry, with 88% feeling a strong sense of accomplishment on the job and 87% saying they “believe their companies are ethical”.

The overwhelming evidence of overwork and burnout are certainly an ethics concern we need to address in the bid and proposal industry. Let’s all do our part to notice signs of burnout among our team and take action. We’re in this together.

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