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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 […]

Category: People & Teams

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 Content 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 Content 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.

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 Content 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 Content 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.

Why listening is the key to a satisfying customer experience

Why listening is the key to a satisfying customer experience

In the age of snake oil salesmen and traveling doctors, a “quick close” was the best (and only) way to do business — gotta close the deal before anyone finds out it’s all a sham. 

For organizations today, closing the deal is only the first step. After a prospect becomes a customer, successful organizations work on forming real partnerships with their customers — rather than treating them as another tick up on their quarterly revenue quota.

In other words, organizations are putting more value on customer experience. And one of the tried and true ways for improving the customer experience is listening to your customers.

“Because customers today are so discerning and powerful, most organizations need to invest far more in customer experience” –PwC 

Encourage customer feedback

Many organizations are leery about encouraging their customers to leave reviews because they fear a bad review might come out in public on a third party site, like G2 Crowd or Capterra.

But in this day and age, reviews are the lifeblood of any organization. The more reviews you have, the more credibility you have — even bad reviews up your credibility as an organization. And the truth of the matter is that, unless you’re selling ice cream, you’re not going to make everyone happy.

90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends over advertising.” – Hubspot 

So why are reviews so important? A big reason is that we have all been trained to distrust advertising and marketing material. A 2017 Deloitte Global Study found that 75% of North Americans engage in at least one form of regular ad-blocking. 

Meanwhile, 75% of people mistrust advertising and only 8% of people agree that internet advertising is the best source of information, according to 2019 Hubspot data.

However, people trust people. According to the same Hubspot data, 90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends, while 70% believe other consumer opinions. 

When it comes to establishing credibility and trust, it’s smart to have a plan in place to focus on gathering support from your customers on these review platforms.

Ditto, for product feedback. You want to have your door wide open, so customers feel comfortable leaving suggestions. Whether that’s a user community, a customer success team, or any combination that works, your product and your organization should be equipped to accept requests easily and often.

Read and react to your customers’ reviews

Having your door open is one thing. To truly make the customer feel welcome, you have to be a good listener. Each review your organization receives should be read (not scanned), and whenever possible, shared with your team.

At RFPIO, our CEO Ganesh reads each review aloud to the marketing and sales team. Our development team in Coimbatore receives an email of each review. This ensures that the whole team is in the loop with both feedback to improve the tool—and customer success stories we can all celebrate together.

“The customer of 2020 will be more informed and in charge of the experience they receive. They will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalize the experience.” – Walker

After you read the review, it’s time to react. Internally, define your customer review strategy to keep responses consistent. Are you going to respond to all reviews, good or bad? Are you only going to address the negative reviews to let your customers know you’re taking their suggestions seriously?

Whichever response strategy you decide, once a review is posted, respond to your customer within 24 hours. Remember, they took time out of their busy schedules to leave a review for you. They deserve a prompt reply that expresses your gratitude and/or concern for their happiness.

Learn from your customers to improve your product

The same rule with reviews applies to product feedback. Listen to what your customer has to say, then take action as a team. Actively engaging with your customers and promoting a sense of community involvement will only make your product stronger.

Your customers are in the solution more than you are—well, with the exception of the development team. The big difference is that they are working in the tool, so there are real situations and deadlines at play.

We can learn a lot from our customers to improve our product. And, we certainly do here at RFPIO—over 90% of customer feedback has been implemented or is in development.

While the 24 hours review response rule is likely too challenging for product changes, timeliness is what can truly wow the customer. Establish ground rules for customer feedback implementation, along with a goal each month for how much feedback you want to implement. This is the action piece of your customer engagement strategy, and how you execute will demonstrate your organization’s commitment.

What happens to your organization when you listen well?

Good things. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when you’re a SaaS company…reviews are priceless. Your customer’s first-hand experience helps prospects understand what it’s like to use your tool. Even the best demo by your top salesperson can’t compete with a glowing user testimonial.

Traction will inevitably start to happen over time. Your product will start to gain recognition in your industry, recognition that’s powered by the people—your community of users.

When you take your customer’s feedback seriously, you’re fully engaging your customer through the lifecycle, well past the closing of the sale. You’re not treating any relationship as a transaction, because you know it’s a partnership.

This approach will support customer retention by creating advocates for your organization. By maximizing the opportunities your customers can bring—product development, long-term value, referrals, other partnerships—your listening will certainly pay off.

Many may assume that once the deal is done, it’s time to move on to the next one — but that couldn’t be further from the case. On the contrary, a closed deal is when the real work begins.

The opportunity to engage and listen is right there for your organization. If you take the time to show this level of commitment, your product will be better for it. Most importantly, your customers will reciprocate that commitment and help champion your brand.

IT RFPs: How to avoid hidden costs with better collaboration

IT RFPs: How to avoid hidden costs with better collaboration

Even in the most mature proposal groups—where there is ongoing investment in people, skills, and process—collaboration remains one of the most challenging aspects of the RFP response workflow.

The rising focus on security-related questions in today’s RFPs requires the technical prowess of an organization’s best subject matter experts. Whenever you need to call on someone from IT to contribute their expertise to an RFP response, it’s like tapping that person on the shoulder while they are in the middle of their work.

“On average, the typical office worker is interrupted or switches tasks every three minutes and five seconds. It can take 23 minutes and 15 seconds just to get back to where they left off.” – University of California, Irvine

As a proposal manager, you have your priorities and deadlines—as do the SMEs (subject matter experts) involved in IT RFPs. Having a clear RFP response process to define roles and responsibilities is important. In addition, technology such as RFP software must promote collaboration to make that process easier.

You’re already investing time and resources into your RFP response process. Here are some ways to avoid hidden costs with IT RFPs, courtesy of better collaboration.

Any RFP process for IT requires strong collaboration

Collaboration is more about people rather than technology. Collaboration can certainly be supported by technology, but there are other human behaviors to consider. The reality is that every one of the SMEs you depend on have day jobs.

They have very specific responsibilities and accountabilities. In any situation where their knowledge and expertise is being called upon, you’re taking them away from their many other priorities and in essence are saying: “Stop what you’re doing. Please help me now!”

You, as the proposal manager, are heavily reliant on the expertise of a whole variety of SMEs to complete RFP responses. In some cases you need to lean on finance and legal, or sales and product specialists. Inevitably, you will lean on your IT colleagues.

Particularly in the high-tech space, more and more questions related to security are becoming commonplace in RFPs. Before committing to a vendor partnership, organizations must take measures to ensure products or services they purchase are secure—and also confirm that the scalability of the infrastructure suits their particular needs.

The real gatekeepers for security knowledge? Your IT department. And like any collaborative effort, this is one of the many challenges you face as a proposal manager. In our current survey about RFP response challenges, 38% revealed that collaborating with SMEs is their greatest obstacle. The question is…why?

Today there is no shortage of technology to support collaboration. Five or ten years ago, this was not the case for RFP responders. A manual process was the only way, and now there are more automated options available to them.

Now for some good news. RFP software like RFPIO can alleviate the pressure in the RFP response process for you and your IT team. Because it’s built to promote collaboration specifically for RFP responders.

A better starting point for IT RFPs depends on content

As you gather more responses to IT-related questions, that information is automatically captured, stored, and managed within the RFP content library. In its own right, that means you always have a better starting point for your next RFP response.

The likelihood is that questions on IT RFPs have already been asked countless times before. Having the ability to find and reuse quality, up-to-date technical content can relieve quite a burden on SMEs in the IT department. They won’t have to spend hours and hours answering repetitive questions. (Cheers to that!)

In situations where there is still a need to access IT’s knowledge to refine a response or answer an entirely new question, RFPIO ensures the workflow for that IT subject matter expert is streamlined. The solution really narrows it down to those questions, and maybe a few sections, they need to weigh in on.

Using communication features like Slack, Team Chat, or @-mentioning within the platform, IT team members can also collaborate easily with their peers to reach a consensus on any particular response. Should they need further clarification from you on the RFP project, they are able to quickly ask the proposal lead questions through the platform as well.

Content Library review

Good content management is something that can’t be stressed enough, as it can easily become another hidden cost inside your RFP response process. Often that responsibility can be decentralized, where a subject matter expert like an IT person is ultimately responsible for the upkeep of a subset of that Content Library.

You may experience pushback from IT team members who feel they don’t have time to manage RFP content. However, what is frequently overlooked is the hidden cost of not doing it. You will likely spend five times the effort responding to the same questions time and time again.

A solution like RFPIO can help make content audits easier on your SMEs. You schedule reminders for a cadence that makes the most sense (be it quarterly, monthly, etc.) and the IT team member gets alerted when they need to review and update their content.

The key here is to make the process very simple with IT RFPs…for you and your SMEs. And remember to keep in mind the importance of being respectful of their workload and other responsibilities along the way.

IT plays a pivotal role in the due diligence of solutions and services. They will always be the team members leading that charge with RFP responses.

If you exercise these collaboration strategies with your organization’s RFP responses, contributing will be more efficient for your SMEs. Rather than running from your next RFP project, your IT team will be more willing to participate in the process.

4 RFP response collaboration tactics for the savvy SME

4 RFP response collaboration tactics for the savvy SME

Enterprise collaboration continues to be a popular topic for businesses in constant pursuit of increased efficiencies. An RFP response process is only as good as the people behind it—of all the contributors, the subject matter expert (SME) plays one of the most important roles. Increasing efficiency is a dream every proposal management team would love to see come true.

It all comes down to focusing on the collaboration factor. In our recent Facebook survey, we were curious whether our audience of RFP responders thought collaboration or processes affected team productivity the most. Effective collaboration was the clear winner.

collaboration during rfp process
We know effective collaboration is ultimately the key to a successful RFP response process. But, how do we achieve that? As an SME, you’ve likely explored a fair amount of solutions to find the answer—and you’re on the right track.

RFPIO’s CEO, Ganesh Shankar, stopped by the Smartsheet blog to discuss enterprise collaboration software and shared these tips for selecting the right solution:“When choosing enterprise collaboration software, there are a few basic requirements that I look for—I think all of these use cases must be met in order for the app to be a useful EC tool…

  • Does the functionality allow for collaboration outside of standalone documents and email threads?
  • Does the licensing structure allow for a growing number of users?
  • How easy will it be to gain user adoption among disparate teams?”

RFP software arrived on the technology scene to offer a single solution for teams navigating the complexities of responding to RFPs. It’s the whole enchilada: enterprise collaboration software, project management software, AND content management software.

We are champions of better RFP response collaboration at RFPIO, because we believe this is the heart and soul of the best RFP response processes. Here are 4 RFPIO features that dramatically improve collaboration, so SMEs can happily contribute their expertise and move on with their day.

“EC software can only be successful if there are primary adopters who are evangelists of these technologies across the organization. Then, it should also scale to other users without any barriers. It is not an enterprise collaborative platform if the users do not adopt it.” – Ganesh Shankar, RFPIO on Smartsheet

RFP collaboration tactic #1: Reviewer workflow

A winning RFP response is one that has been crafted with care. This is why your expertise is called in at the front and back of the content creation process. The review workflow is a mess when teams are working with a manual process, since multiple people are involved in a single response.

“Distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided. In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees,” according to Harvard Business Review.

Besides you, the SME, other players might be: a proposal writer, proposal manager, marketing manager, and the executive who gives final approval. Needless to say, it’s confusing to understand your place and timing when so many people are involved in the RFP response review workflow.

Within RFPIO, it’s easy to assign multiple reviewers. Even better…assigning sequential reviewers. This brings order to the chaos, since every contributor knows where they fit into the timeline of the review process with email alerts. The beauty here is that you can concentrate on other priorities and swoop in to finish the job.

SMEs face common challenges with RFP Response. Read our guide to overcome them.

RFP collaboration tactic #2: Team communication

Being that every RFP project is a team effort, communication must be consistent and easy. Your days are already filled with time-sensitive priorities and back-to-back meetings. Contributing to an RFP adds to this—you have to make time in your schedule to help your team. The quicker the communication, the better.

Relaying RFP project details by email is a dangerous game for organizations. Your inbox is full enough as it is, and communication will be lost or set aside for other priorities that win your attention. Status meetings are also a difficult option, since you have few hours to spare for quality facetime.

RFPIO brings a wealth of communication options to promote easier collaboration. Both at the section level and at the project level, team members can leave comments and @-mention the necessary contributors as needed. Slack integration offers yet another way for teams to work together. You enjoy direct communication on projects with less email and fewer meetings…cheers to that!

“RFPIO allows us to collaborate in real time, reduces our turn around time on these requests, and allows certain team members to take on more than they typically would with the response. Because we are responding faster with more consistent answers we are also winning deals at a higher rate than ever when an RFP is necessary.” – Ben Grimm Zapproved

RFP collaboration tactic #3: Project clarification

A lot is riding on these RFP responses—winning the RFP equates to winning business, after all. Every RFP is unique. Be crystal clear on the requirements instead of guessing or repurposing historical responses that are just “good enough.”

If a misstep happens, one of your competitors will pass you up and take the win. Since your time is so valuable as an SME, you want your RFP response contributions to count. So, you need the ability to clarify details and language both internally and externally.

For swift clarifications, RFPIO allows you to invite the issuer to collaborate within the solution. Quickly solve any uncertainties and track all of their comments to reference. Global chat is our newest internal communication feature. Much like Google Hangout chat, you work one-on-one with team members to raise questions and talk through details. Now you won’t get hung up on foggy areas of an RFP project, so you can respond like the wind.

RFP collaboration tactic #4: Content review

Content management keeps your knowledge repository up-to-date and ready for action. Every business evolves over time—some quicker than others. Your world of ever-changing responses might involve technical specs, medical compliance, or government requirements.

One thing even the busiest SME must make time for…content audits. Your expertise is a critical step in the content management process to ensure the most accurate version is on-hand. Finding the time to clean up RFP responses probably sounds like a pipe dream, which is why you need the occasional friendly reminder to help you stay on top of things.

Stale content, outdated content, duplicate content don’t stand a chance with RFPIO’s content audit support. Set up reminders to audit content. Quarterly is a great cadence—unless your responses change constantly, in which case monthly is better. Content will be flagged when it’s time for review. You work your updating magic, without keeping tabs on every last response in your Content Library.

benefits of rfp software
Businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on teamwork to reach success. Successful proposal management teams are highly focused on collaboration—they are increasing connectivity and breaking down silos. And, they’re using RFP software’s collaboration features to do it all.

Your expertise is in high-demand as an SME already. To juggle RFP response contributions along with other high priorities, you need technology support. Otherwise, you will always feel buried under RFP deadlines instead of staying ahead of them.

RFP software is here to help you deliver the value-add efficiently. All you have to do is be the A-player that empowers your team’s success to win new opportunities.

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