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5 types of tools that optimize presales engagement

5 types of tools that optimize presales engagement

You’re ready to get where you’re going, every red light fueling a little more impatience. Then you feel a bump, […]


Category: Product & Best Practices

5 types of tools that optimize presales engagement

5 types of tools that optimize presales engagement

You’re ready to get where you’re going, every red light fueling a little more impatience. Then you feel a bump, and recognize the telltale signs of a flat tire. You’re already frustrated as you pull over and then things get worse. You don’t have a tire jack.

It’s the age-old problem: lacking the right tool for the job. 

So many problems in life become manageable if you have the right tool to solve them. That’s as much the case when you’re looking to make your job run smoother as when you’re stranded on a highway wishing you had a tire jack. For presales professionals, investing in the right tools is an important step in creating a process that:

  • Leads to higher engagement with prospects, so more of them make it through each stage of the funnel
  • Helps position you as more of a strategic leader than an administrative contributor
  • Enables you to work more effectively with colleagues across departments
  • Cuts down on the time you spend on repetitive tasks
  • Helps you close more valuable deals—the main goal of your job 

But you need to be careful. Application sprawl—having too many tools in your tech stack—can cause its own share of problems. You need the right tools for maximum RFP automation ROI. The ones that will actually make the presales experience smoother for both you and prospective buyers.

5 Tools to Increase Presales Engagement

Developing the right presales process, supported by the right products, will make your job easier and increase your success rates. For most presales professionals, there are five main categories of tools you want represented in your sales stack.

 1. Knowledge Management

So much of presales engineering is about knowledge. Prospects need to know that a product will do what they need, even if they don’t understand all the technical details required for that to happen. Presales engineers are the keepers of that knowledge, and RFPIO® LookUp is the key to access it from any browser or Microsoft Office. But with the right knowledge management tool, you don’t have to be the only one with access to that knowledge. 

A knowledge base product allows you to keep a record of the answers to common questions, and organize information so it’s easier to find when needed. By improving findability and enabling you to share content with the right people in the organization, it cuts down on time spent answering the same questions over and over again. And when your colleagues have easier access to knowledge, they’ll reply to prospects faster, improving presales engagement and creating a better overall experience. 

2. Communication and Collaboration

Creating a good experience for prospects and customers requires successful collaboration between all customer-facing teams. Presales must collaborate with the sales team to make sure all of a prospect’s questions get answered quickly and correctly, or risk losing the sale. And communication between presales and customer support is important for keeping customers happy after purchase.

Technology can facilitate more efficient communication, especially as more teams work remotely. Slack offers asynchronous messaging, so coworkers can reply when they’re able. And video conferencing products like Zoom are good for connecting over virtual meetings. 

3. Proposal Automation

Every time you have to push aside other tasks to do the tedious work of filling out a proposal, it takes time away from other responsibilities. Proposals are important for winning deals, but the time cost is likely impacting your ability to complete other tasks important to presales engagement.

A proposal automation tool, like RFPIO, can give you back most of that time while also improving the number of proposals you win. Every answer you provide is saved in a knowledge base. The product then identifies which questions on future proposals have already been answered, and fills the responses in automatically. That leaves you more time to personalize the parts of the proposal that merit a personal touch, which is key for improving win rates. 

4. Customer Relationship Management

Proposals aren’t the only area where personalization matters. In every interaction with prospects and customers, you want to have current information on their relationship with the company up to that point. And each time you gain valuable information about a prospect, you want the sales and customer support teams to have access to that data moving forward.

That’s where customer relationship management (CRM) software like Salesforce is so valuable. You can ensure everyone that interacts with a prospect is up-to-date on where they are in the sales process and has all relevant information about the account. That’s key for making every interaction personalized to their needs as you move them toward a purchase. 

5. Data Collection and Analysis

You need to understand your presales process to improve it. Technology can collect data that provides insights into questions like:

  • What does your current process look like?
  • What kind of actions most often lead to sales? 
  • Which proposals are most worth your time, based on which ones you’ve won in the past?
  • What types of clients are most likely to purchase? 

A tool that collects this data and makes it easy to analyze gives you fuel to improve your process and win more sales. And you likely won’t need to seek out a specific product for this purpose. Most of the tools used in the other categories on this list will have reporting and analytics features built in. 

In most organizations, critical sales data is spread across multiple platforms, which when combined, paint a complete picture of a customer’s journey and the overall sales process. 

RFPIO integrates with most CRMs – including Salesforce and Hubspot, along with messaging tools such as Slack, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams – providing incremental insights that can be used to track how presales is impacting the entire organization.

Additionally, RFPIO® LookUp enables users to conveniently gather company data from a browser or Microsoft Office, even from home. 

Use the Presales Tools You Choose Effectively

Selecting the right tools for the job is an important first step. But for you to reap their benefits, you need to use them effectively. Think carefully about how to best incorporate the presales tools you choose into your process, and how to make sure they all effectively work together. 

Buying more sales products won’t help you improve presales engagement, but the right products used the right way will.

 

 

 

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

In part 1, we discussed the best practices to scale your response management process from your end. This week we will look at how RFPIO’s toolbox can help you standardize your operations, improve communication, and trim response time, so your team can spend more time driving revenue. 

The RFPIO features that can help manage your response time

The RFPIO platform includes several features to help with your bid/no-bid decision-making. 

Intake

We designed the intake feature to help teams submit their project requests as intakes to the proposal team. The intake submits project requests to the designated user(s), who will approve or reject them. In addition, you can create an intake form with custom fields that will help you decide whether or not to pursue a project.

CRM integration

Another way to increase transparency and automate processes around the bid/no-bid decision is through one of our CRM integrations. For example, if sales is tracking information used in a bid decision, you can pull those fields into RFPIO. Your sales team will only ever have to enter the information once. Some of RFPIO’s CRM integrations even allow teams to fill out the intake form without ever leaving the CRM.

Reporting/custom fields

Lastly, you can use custom reporting on any fields you create in the intake form to analyze your win/loss rates and how they may be affected by certain factors in the opportunities you choose to pursue. This enables your team to evaluate your strategy and determine if you use your resources wisely when responding to RFPs.

What is your proposal management process?

You’ve decided which RFPs are worthy of responses. The next step in auditing your RFP process is evaluating how you’re managing the proposals. 

Are you having kickoff meetings?

A kickoff meeting is one of the most critical parts of the response process. At the end of a successful kickoff meeting, each team member will leave armed with clear roles and responsibilities – all designed with one clear goal, winning the bid! 

  • Are roles and responsibilities crystal clear? – Following a kickoff meeting, each team member should have an action plan. Follow up in your project management software.
  • Do you have a specific schedule? – Create hard deadlines for each team member and each response phase. 

Are you following the proposal’s progress?

Proposal managers should perform daily progress evaluations to ensure that they can address issues and lags before causing delays or inaccuracies.

How are you managing your team?

Proposal response has a lot of moving pieces. A proposal manager’s role is to follow those pieces, even if the responsibilities are outside the team’s immediate control. For example:

  • How are you tracking and managing tasks outside of the RFPIO platform?
  • How are subcontractors managed? 
  • How do your teams juggle multiple proposals?
  • Is there a shared calendar?

Task templates

How many of you have several tasks for every project? And how many of those tasks have nothing to do with the work in RFPIO? I’m referring to things like responding to an intent to bid or prepping shipping labels. Task templates can help you track those tasks automatically. Suppose you’re the manager of a team of proposal managers. In that case, you can even automate the tracking of tasks or stages across a shared calendar for a team, giving you better insight into the team’s workload on a given date or week. 

These are great ways to automate task creation. You can create a template for standard tasks under your organization settings and have it appear in each project upon creation. If there are tasks that you track as a team in a shared calendar, you can create a user in RFPIO that is assigned to these tasks automatically when you set them up in your organization settings. You can then sync that user’s calendar to a shared calendar in Outlook or Google to see all tasks across your team.

Clarifications 

Clarifications, often overlooked, is a great tool to help you compile any questions that you and your team need to send back to the issuer of your project. Then, you can export the questions, send them to the issuer, and import the responses back into the system.

Calendars 

RFPIO’s calendar view provides at-a-glance project management for you and your team.

Integrations 

Adding on our integrations for Teams or Slack can help increase transparency. I’ve also known clients to take advantage of our API integrations in their project management tools.

Discussions tab/comments

The discussions tab in the project is a great way to not get behind on potential issues. From this tab, you can quickly sort through open comments within the task. When managing multiple projects at a time, I made it a habit to open the discussions tab of each project every day to help reassign questions and resolve issues as they appeared.

Answer Library

RFPIO’s Answer Library uses AI to intuitively auto-populate and answer all of the most common and not-so-common questions. In addition, the Answer Library offers several filtering tools, options, rules, and tags to help ensure that you’ll receive the most appropriate answer, even with simple one or two-keyword searches. Furthermore, your AI-driven library will update as you input data. 

Look inside your content management lifecycle

When did you last audit your content?

I’m going to let you all in on a bit of a secret. Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s Answer Library, I start with the Answer Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Answer Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

You can also use RFPIO to create an internal knowledge base, perfect for training new hires. Here at RFPIO, all of our sales enablement content and sessions are easily accessible from our company-wide instance of RFPIO. It’s easy for me to remember a session from a month ago, and I can simply use the search to find a Q&A pair that directs me to the video.

Other customers have found increased collaboration between their proposal team and their marketing and security teams but are saving the most recent versions of client-facing documents in the document library. Using RFPIO as an internal knowledge base and a single source of truth also provides a level of self-service to your organization that can boost morale.

Lastly, especially for small companies and startups, using RFPIO to track crucial information related to delivery can help create an excellent database for client references in the future.

Are your Q&A pairs going unused?

RFPIO’s Q&A pairs is one of the most exciting features on the platform. Users can upload any type of document and customize it to suit their needs. In addition, you can edit and store content in almost 20 languages. In other words, the majority of what you need to respond to an RFP is right there, at your fingertips, and best of all, RFPIO is consistently learning.

How often do you manually respond to RFPs?

Sometimes, old habits die hard. Perhaps response managers feel they need to manually respond to justify their worth. RFPIO doesn’t want anyone to lose their job; we want to help them be more productive and respond to the RFPs they might not have had time for before automation.

How often do you automatically respond to RFPs?

RFPIO makes the RFP response process easy through near-total automation. Sure, some questions require at least partially manual responses to push the RFP over the finish line, but RFPIO will take you as much as 80 percent of the way toward full automation

If you aren’t automatically responding to every RFP that is worth a bid, we would love to hear from you and see how RFPIO will make the response process faster, less expensive, and, dare I say, enjoyable. 

How do you utilize your Answer Library?

I’ll bet you that you’ve answered most questions on each RFP multiple times – perhaps for other customers. Utilize the Answer Library to let RFPIO take care of the redundant and tedious aspects of response management. 

Is your Answer Library content relevant and up to date?

Perhaps the most common feedback we get, especially from companies that aren’t fully utilizing RFPIO, is that they’re hesitant to use the Answer Library because they haven’t audited it. Hence, their content isn’t up to date. I get that. It seems daunting to audit and update answers, but it’s not, and you can’t beat the long-term benefits.

Here at RFPIO, we refer to auditing the Answer Library as getting rid of the ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial content). Here is a simple guideline to take you through the process. 

I get it if you’re worried about deleting information you’ll need one day. Who hasn’t thrown something away in a fit of cleaning, only to need it the next day? Instead of deleting that information, you can warehouse it in case you might need it again in the future.

Are you utilizing your subject matter experts?

Subject Matter Experts (SME), which we sometimes pronounce “smee,” are, as the name implies, experts in proposals, sales, marketing, etc. Your SMEs might be experts on your organization or in their fields in general. They’re the people you turn to when you don’t know how to answer a particular question.

Do you have a moderation process?

Do you have a moderation process? Is the moderation process documented? When was the last time you checked the moderation’s organization settings? Does the content have owners and review cycles? How do you ensure your library is free of redundant, outdated, and trivial content?

The RFPIO features that help keep your content organized and current

Answer Library Insights Report

Here’s a tip: Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s answer library, I start with the Answer Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Answer Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

This report is an excellent way to see what can be easily archived: Q&A pairs that you don’t use or pairs with a star rating of less than 3. This report can also help see if Owners are becoming inundated with reviews. Maybe you can reassign Q&A pairs to another SME.

I recommend customers look at the Answer Library Insights Report and the Executive Dashboard routinely. Use them both to guide your content strategy and look for improvements.

Additionally, you may want to evaluate where you can use merge tags more. While a lot of our customers are familiar with the use of merge tags to replace a client or a company name in a proposal, did you know you can use merge tags for content that gets updated frequently? For example, track the number of employees in your organization or clients who use a specific product version. Updating that number once in the organization settings will reflect wherever the merge tag is used in your library and carry over into the project.

Lastly, many of our customers add on custom reporting to help guide their strategy. It allows for more in-depth reporting of custom fields and usage. I have seen customers use this feature to determine areas where they may need more content developed in their library.

Executive Dashboard

You never want to leave your response management team guessing. The Executive Dashboard provides your team insights at-a-glance. The dashboard tracks the lifecycle of your RFP from the time it’s received until it’s archived.

The Executive Dashboard lets users create reports, such as RFP viability, based on similar bids from the past. In addition, managers can pull win/loss analysis, average completion time, and identify the top contributors. 

If this blog post inspired you and you want to dive deeper into your workflow or content management strategy, RFPIO’s Professional Services Team can help! As an RFPIO customer, you can purchase bundles of Professional Services hours for specific projects and initiatives. You’ll work alongside a Professional Services consultant like myself for the entirety of your engagement. Reach out to your customer success manager or account manager, and they’ll connect you with a member of my team who can scope your project.

 

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 1

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 1

You have probably heard the expression that you can’t win if you don’t play. The business equivalent of not playing is failing to respond to an RFP. You might ask what that has to do with you and your response management team. After all, your team responds to every RFP that comes their way, right?

Playing to win requires more than filling in the blanks, however. It requires updated and defined RFP response processes to maximize efficiency and accuracy while saving time and company resources – all with the ultimate goal of winning the bid!

This article will discuss the revenue-driving and resource-saving Association for Proposal Management Professional (APMP) best practices for updating and defining your organization’s response management process.

End-to-end processes help future-proof your RFP response flow.

Organizations that consistently follow a defined business development process win more business and use fewer investment resources. ~ Association of Proposal Management Professionals  

If your company is anything like ours, and I’m sure it is, you have dozens, if not hundreds, of distinct personalities and work styles. You also have attrition, onboarding, PTO, etc. Yet surprisingly, you rarely devolve into chaos.

Why is that? It’s because you’ve established defined processes. So if, for example, a client calls with questions for their customer service rep who’s out of the office, your CRM will arm everyone else in the department with the information they need to answer the questions. 

CRMs are great at helping define processes, and so is RFPIO.

Do you have a defined response management process?

If you won the lottery today, would someone be able to pick up your job tomorrow? How fast will it take your replacement to ramp up?

According to the APMP, every organization should design its own end-to-end process suited to its organization and customers.

Sure, we’d all like to feel indispensable, but if we are the exclusive key holders to critical processes, we’re doing a huge disservice to our companies. I would even argue that the best employees, at least those whose values align with their organizations, are transparent about their work processes. 

In turn, the best-run organizations have processes to ensure that when an RFP manager takes a day or week off, or even leaves, it won’t derail responses. 

If you have a defined process, have you recently reevaluated your processes?

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s change. Just a little over two years ago, remote work was relatively rare. Then, everything suddenly turned upside down, and we all needed to adapt. 

Guess what? We did, at least for the most part, and the world didn’t implode. I don’t think it’s a giant leap to say that defined processes kept the economy humming, despite unforeseen challenges. Defined processes certainly helped keep RFPIO thriving, but only because we regularly reevaluate them.

In the software industry, especially in SaaS, things change quickly. At RFPIO, we have to be agile. As our customers’ needs change, so must we. When the market or regulatory environment changes, we have to adapt. That’s why we have new releases almost monthly. 

**It only takes about 15 minutes each month to learn about the new features.**

Of course, defining your processes requires more than updating software. Do you regularly interact with your subject matter experts? Do you ask them for feedback on your Answer Library? If you don’t, your subject matter experts may be frustrated, but they may start to feel heard by opening the door to collaboration. Also, they’re a potential wealth of ideas. 

After speaking with the experts, bring your Customer Success Manager into the fold. Ask them about the challenges they have run across. They might have solutions that they’ve previously been reluctant to mention.

How to identify a response management black hole

In an ideal world, we’d have months to respond to each RFP. But, unfortunately, that’s rare. Often, we have two weeks or less. I’ve even seen two days! But, thankfully, that’s also rare. 

How often does this scenario happen: The RFP landed in your inbox just days before it was due, but you saw that it was issued weeks earlier! 

Obviously, two days is an extreme example. A more common scenario might look something like this: The RFP was issued two months ago. It sat somewhere, untouched, for weeks. Then, just as you were confident you were on track for all your deadlines, the RFP lands on your lap, and it’s due by the end of the week. 

The fact is, you can’t win them all. So when buried under an avalanche of response deadlines, many companies choose to triage, or employ the bid/no-bid strategy, where you bid the RFPs with the higher win rates and let the less viable opportunities go. 

But what if the RFP that sat in the pipeline for weeks has a high win rate? What happened to the RFP during those weeks? Where is that black hole, and how can you plug it? Let’s see if we can help you identify the problem(s) and help you create a bid/no-bid strategy with this attached downloadable worksheet.

In the second of our two-part series, we’ll explore the tools RFPIO provides to help scale your response management process and, of course, win those bids!

In the meantime, let us know if you’d like to learn more about RFPIO and how we can help you scale your response management process.

Using automation to drive presales productivity

Using automation to drive presales productivity

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 ways to use presales automation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Automate proposal development.

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

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

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

3. Automatically gather data on the process.

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

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

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

Automation provides room for innovation

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

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

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

Why Business Units are best for visibility and control

Why Business Units are best for visibility and control

If you’ve attended an RFPIO webinar or conference recently—or read the Freedom to Thrive white paper—then you’ve heard us mention RFPIO’s ability to break down silos. If you’re an RFPIO customer, then hopefully you’re already living the silo-flattening dream.

Through knowledge management in the Answer Library and Document Library, in-app collaboration and project management tools, and real-time accessibility by way of RFPIO® LookUp to all of this content, silos can be reduced to rubble. Greater efficiency and productivity ensue, correlating quickly to improved response quality and increased win rates.

Nevertheless, sometimes separation is a good thing. Whether it’s for security or compliance purposes, or even perhaps geographic locations, there are RFPIO customers who want greater control and visibility. For this, we have Business Units.

“RFPIO’s enterprise-level capabilities enable multiple business units, including partners, to collaborate on a single platform. It also reduces communication channels during the proposal development process.”
-Page Snider, Director of Business Program Management, Microsoft Consulting Services What are Business Units?

Business Units (BUs) allow you to create distinct operating units within a single RFPIO instance. Think of them like individual villages within a kingdom. These BUs give you the control in keeping people, projects, and content confined to a specific BU, but also allow you to share any of those across your instance to another BU. User profiles remain unchanged as they’re shared with each Business Unit. Additionally, advanced features are available to provide cross-unit functionality across your entire enterprise.

While Collections pertain to simply restricting content, and complete separate RFPIO instances provide no collaboration between people on projects and content, Business Units can provide a level of control and collaboration to fit any growing enterprise business.

When should you use Business Units?

Software business units are quite common in enterprises, but they’re growing in popularity with small- and mid-sized businesses, too. Prior to the pandemic, it was standard operating procedure for sales teams to work remotely while marketing, InfoSec, and customer support worked onsite. With the trend toward hybrid and fully remote work for all teams, content accessibility and control—as well as visibility into how it’s used (or not used)—has rocketed up the priority list for many companies.

For businesses of any size, there are 3 typical use cases for Business Units.

Use case #1: Separate cost centers or business groups

Business Units are most often separated by business group (Marketing, Sales, etc.) or region (EMEA, NAM, LATAM, etc.).

Business unit - cost center

Many RFPIO customers start with two Business Units, separating InfoSec content from all other content that responders will be sharing with prospects, customers, analysts, or investors.

Regional separation would mean your organization wants a Business Unit for each GEO where business is conducted. Factors such as language and compliance weigh heavily into the determination to split an RFPIO instance into Business Units according to GEO boundaries.

business units - GEO

Use case #2: Mergers

The mergers and acquisitions trend in 2021 was off the charts, and it doesn’t appear to be letting up in 2022. According to Wolters Kluwer, the U.S. saw a record $2.9 trillion in transactions (up 55% from $1.9 trillion in 2020). As RFPIO grows in popularity (250K users and counting…) and response management gains traction as an integral part of the sales tech stack, it’s more and more likely that mergers will take place between businesses that are each running their own RFPIO instances.

When a merger occurs with two businesses that both use RFPIO, it’s certainly an option to maintain the two separate instances. However, if you want more control and visibility, then you can convert one instance into the primary instance and then add the team or teams from the other company as a Business Unit.

Use case #3: Projects portion control

Depending on how your business operates and is structured, separate teams may need different numbers of active projects enabled in RFPIO. Whereas you have a set number of active projects in a single RFPIO instance—50, for example—without Business Units it’s a free-for-all for teams to use those projects. If you find that one or two teams are constantly clamoring for additional active projects, then Business Units can help set aside a suitable amount of active projects for those teams.

Let’s take the example of a single RFPIO instance with 50 active projects. In the case of a software business, sales and InfoSec may need more active projects than marketing and customer support. Business Units can allocate projects to meet each department’s needs: 15 for sales, 15 for InfoSec, 10 for marketing, and 10 for customer support.

business units project allocation

What are the benefits of Business Units?

Primarily, project control and content visibility, which result in additional benefits, including:

  • Ability to scale RFPIO across multiple departments to increase win probability and close deals faster.
  • Rolled-up reporting allows for the most comprehensive visibility available for your RFPIO instance.
  • Identify areas that may need more project management support (we see this a lot in InfoSec).
  • Allow for greater content detail and answer accuracy, and, ultimately, a more robust content repository (which pays off when you need to share content across multiple Business Units).
  • Better, granular visibility into projects, people, and content in each Business Unit but still administered within a single RFPIO instance.

Cross-Business-Unit collaboration is something that we’ve seen more as use cases for BUs have evolved. For example, projects can be shared across Business Units. Say you’re running an InfoSec Business Unit project and you notice that some of the questions may be mapped to brand messaging, which would better be handled by someone in marketing. Share that project to the marketing Business Unit to 1) delegate to a suitable subject matter expert, and 2) ensure that you’re delivering the best possible response. There are some user permissions at play, but it’s certainly possible.

Here’s a real-world benefit example from an RFPIO customer I worked with. This client had a Business Unit for North American and another for EMEA. They wanted Business Units so that EMEA could more effectively track its project workflow and would not have to wait to be granted projects from a global team managing the original single instance.

Teams, content, and templates (by language) were separated. Leaders from both GEOs were connected, however, and collaborated on strategic initiatives. They set up the roll-up reporting so that executives could more effectively track time savings to determine how many more opportunities the EMEA team could pursue.

How do you know if you need Business Units with your RFPIO instance?

Review these 6 questions. If you answer “yes” to any of them, then schedule a consultation to see if Business Units may be a good option for you:

  • Do multiple teams/departments/cost centers use RFPIO?
  • Do you want to expand RFPIO in your organization?
  • Do you have RFPIO users located in multiple GEOs?
  • Do you respond to bids, RFx, security questionnaires, or other external requests in multiple languages?
  • Do you have a single executive stakeholder or team that reviews the effectiveness of RFPIO in the enterprise?
  • Have you merged, or are you planning to merge with a company that is also using RFPIO or RFP360?

If you’re still not sure but want to know more about Business Units, you can review my webinar in the Help Center if you’re an RFPIO customer.

4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

4 key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date

Lack of clarity creates challenges — especially when filling out security questionnaires. When it’s unclear who needs to fill them out, how much detail needs to be included, and how much time it will take, each time you sit down to fill one out can feel challenging.

Luckily, there are experts who can help provide key insights into making the overall security questionnaire process faster, smarter, and stronger. Companies like RFPIO bring teams together by providing software that automates and streamlines the process of responding to a request, so you can respond with confidence to security questionnaires.

Tapping into their knowledge around complex questionnaires like RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, and more, we discovered tips you can implement in your own companies. Here are their four key elements to keeping security questionnaires accurate and up to date:

1. Content Moderation

Keep your library up to date by assigning content owners and setting up regular review cycles.

Security questionnaires are often repetitive and require a manual responder to ask the same questions of their internal subject matter experts over and over again. By properly maintaining security questionnaire content, you can build confidence in your response process— advantageous when you’re under a tight deadline—and save time to get back to what you do best.

The ultimate result of good, consistent content management is winning new business. RFPIO makes it simple to set up Answer Library moderation by assigning the appropriate content owners, setting a cadence for regular review cycles, and customizing alerts for a cadence that works best for your team and organization.

2. Maintain Accuracy

Flag questions that may be out of date for review.

Accuracy is crucial in security questionnaires. If an incorrect or out-of-date response is submitted, it could cost you the sales opportunity or impact your organization’s reputation. To ensure your response is of the utmost quality and compliance, maintain accurate content and responses that articulate your current offering’s latest and greatest capabilities, and omit what is no longer accurate.

In addition to the above process of assigning content owners and setting up review cycles, we also highly recommend completing a ROT analysis as part of your content audit processes.

ROT stands for “Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial.”

  • Redundant Content is duplicate and/or similar content. If you’re using RFPIO, run a duplicate report on questions and answers, and click on “View Similar Content” to find comparable responses.
  • Outdated Content is expired or sunset content. Isolate any content not used in the last year—“expired content”—using the Advanced Search function in RFPIO. Then, identify content from products, services, and solutions that are no longer relevant—“sunset content”—using tags and/or product names.
  • Trivial Content is deal- or client-specific content. Identify trivial content by searching for specific client names.

Next, move the content you’ve identified out of your active Answer Library. We recommend storing this content in an archived collection in RFPIO, so it isn’t permanently deleted.

Including your most recent pentest data is important.
Some security controls are easier to verify than others. For example, it’s relatively easy to ask to see the results of a third-party risk assessment or penetration test that covers the OWASP Top 10 and business logic. It’s harder to prove that a particular security process or best practice is being followed.

When your client does ask to see the results of a recent pentest, your first response might be, “We don’t typically provide that information.” If they press further, you can share a high-level summary of findings, generally referred to as an attestation. Some companies will require that you share detailed findings from a pentest report, and a few may request evidence that findings have been fixed. This is where Cobalt’s customizable reports can save you some valuable time.

3. Automate Your Process

Automatically respond to long and complex questionnaires in a single click with RFPIO’s AI-enabled Answer Library.

A response management platform like RFPIO automates almost everything, helping teams cut their response time by 40-50% on average. Automation frees up your time to produce the highest quality deliverable possible—and, of course—move on to other priorities on your to-do list.

With an Answer Library full of reviewed, pruned content you can trust, use Auto Respond to quickly fill in relevant content from past responses and minimize how many questions you need to complete manually.

4. Stay Consistent

Respond to each security questionnaire using the same pre-approved and vetted content, ensuring consistency across responses.

When questionnaires are answered manually, there is a likelihood that answers won’t be consistent across different questionnaires or different SMEs writing the answers. This can cause complications during an audit process.

Consistency ensures accurate responses to compliance requirements. Ensure your gold-star, key content is present in your library by employing regular review cycles. This, in turn, ensures consistency in your responses.

This article was co-authored by and co-published with Cobalt. Cobalt provides a Pentest as a Service (PtaaS) platform that is modernizing the traditional, static penetration testing model by providing streamlined processes, developer integrations, and on-demand pentesters. Our blog is where we provide industry best practices, showcase some of our top-tier talent, and share information that’s of interest to the cybersecurity community.

Schedule a demo with RFPIO for more details on automating response to security questionnaires.

Best new product features for 2022

Best new product features for 2022

We all knew that 2021 was going to be a major upgrade to 2020. There was nowhere to go but up. But, wow, it ended up being a huge leap forward for RFPIO and our customers. Here are the 2021 RFPIO new product feature highlights that will make 2022 a banner year for all RFPIO users.

RFPIO® LookUp activated knowledge management

Answer Libraries everywhere came alive when RFPIO® LookUp released in early 2021. The ability to search your Answer Library without leaving any of these applications…

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

…put curated, response-ready knowledge at the fingertips of every RFPIO user with the integration.

“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the field. RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”
-Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft   

Autograph accelerated response and increased control

Autograph is a new standalone e-signature module, easily accessed from your RFPIO interface. With Autograph, any RFPIO user can upload and sign documents themselves or prepare and send documents for signature to colleagues or external non-RFPIO user contacts.

The RFPIO dashboard allows you to keep track of document status at a glance and maintain a record of signed documents.

Our unlimited user model means that folks elsewhere at your organization can take advantage of this. For example, contract teams and legal teams could acquire signatures on NDAs and other agreements with Autograph.

I highly recommend you give Autograph a spin in 2022 if you didn’t get a chance to try it in 2021!

Step 1: Open the document for signing

New Projects experience improved usability

We snuck this one in just under the wire in December 2021. The New Projects experience provides major upgrades to usability, including:

  • A Recent Projects bar that shows what you’ve been working on most recently.
  • New functionality to sort and filter the projects list.
  • Freedom to customize the columns displayed on the projects list.
  • The ability to customize the number of items on the page and click the left and right arrows to move through the list.
  • The new My Work option allows subject matter experts to only see questions assigned to them and move through questionnaires more quickly.
  • Customization options allow for a Projects table view that makes the most sense for you.

New Projects makes experienced users more productive and helps new users get up to speed faster.

RFPIO University launched, providing expansive online user training

With every product upgrade comes new best practices on how to get the most out of it without compromising your current experience. RFPIO University is our new platform for communicating those best practices so experienced users can easily stay up to date and new users can target what they need to learn first.

RFPIO University offers Content Management and Project Management learning paths where users can build knowledge incrementally through short online video sessions. It also includes microlearning videos for quick tips on features such as answering questions or assigning authors. The training platform is free to all RFPIO users.

RFP360 acquisition brought RFP management full circle

RFPIO closed the loop on the response management lifecycle with its acquisition of RFP360. The move strengthened RFPIO’s position as the leading provider of response management software, while expanding RFPIO’s offering to include a strategic sourcing solution, bringing to market the most efficient and proactive request for proposal (RFP) solution.

For companies that both issue and respond to RFPs, unifying purchasing and response functionality through a single provider offers many efficiencies.

Most popular customer request? Spelling & grammar check!

The most popular product update request from customers was for the ability to check spelling and grammar within RFPIO. I’m happy to say that through the basic and full rich text editor you can now scan for spelling and grammatical errors. Proofreading just got a whole lot easier!

More product update highlights from 2021

Many other updates resulted from your feedback, via the “SUBMIT IDEAS” button in the bottom left of your RFPIO UI. In fact, more than 900 updates came from you! Thank you! This process really emphasizes the value we place on community, and RFPIO wouldn’t be the G2 leader three-years running without our customer support.

Submit Ideas

To learn more about the following 2021 updates, check out my webinar. Some are now application defaults, some can be turned on or off, and some are available for an additional fee. Reach out to your account manager if you have any questions.

  • Guest Response Portal: Simplified user experience for external SMEs who need to respond to a question but don’t have an RFPIO account.
  • Microsoft Word Import/Export Formatting: Table style and list formatting now imports. Checkboxes import and export, too.
  • Answer Library Custom Field: Mark as mandatory or optional to quickly categorize and organize content.
  • Answer Library Merge Tags: Enhanced to display the value name instead of the name of the tag. For example: [ClientName] would now display the client’s actual name.
  • Rich Text Styles Toolbar: Find and apply styles easier and quicker.
  • Teams as Content Owners and Moderators: Teams can be assigned to content in the Answer Library and Document Library with content owner and moderator privileges. There’s an option to indicate if content needs to be reviewed by any team member or all team members.
  • Highspot Integration Update: As an expansion to the Highspot integration, users can now export response packages from RFPIO into Highspot.
  • Export Response Package to Cloud Storage: Responses from a project can now be saved to cloud storage services, allowing you to store the content in folders on Dropbox, Google Drive, or OneDrive.
  • Whistic Integration: If you respond to a lot of security questionnaires…from their Whistic interface an RFPIO user can select the RFPIO Create Project button to create a mirror questionnaire in RFPIO. Then, users can complete the questionnaire in RFPIO (where they can access all the curated content in their Answer Library) and when done, sync the completed questionnaire back to Whistic with the click of a button.

To learn more about all of these updates, please visit the Help Center or contact your account manager. Be sure to stop by RFPIO University for on-demand video sessions on implementing best practices around these features, including for importing, exporting, Merge Tags, and much more!

Your guide for selecting the best business proposal software

Your guide for selecting the best business proposal software

If you’re a business that creates proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and requests for bids/tenders, it’s time to take a serious look at business proposal software.

Why should you invest in AI-enabled proposal software? Because proposals are mission-critical revenue generators for companies who prioritize them and optimize their response process.

Add technology to the mix, and you’ll be unstoppable. Business proposal software provides quick access to proposal content, simple ways to collaborate, and built-in project management features that make it easy to keep proposals on track.

If you’re ready to automate your RFP response process to save valuable time and increase revenue, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out how business proposal software gives small businesses like yours a competitive edge.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

What is business proposal software?

Business proposal software is a cloud-based program designed to help businesses develop proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and bids/tenders. It can also be used to respond to security questionnaires (e.g. VSAs, CAIQ, SIG), create proactive proposals, write SOWs, and manage company knowledge.

The key to business proposal software is that it simplifies the proposal creation process with a few core functionalities:

  1. Storing and organizing internal knowledge

Just like the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, a content library is essential to any good business proposal software.

The content library consolidates subject matter expertise in one place. Then, the next time a new RFP opportunity pops up in your inbox, you’ll be able to tackle commonly seen questions in one fell swoop.

The more efficiently you can respond to RFPs, the more time you and your team have to work on other projects—be it building relationships with customers, creating sales collateral, or responding to more RFPs.

Consolidate RFP content using rich text editing

2. Keeping projects on track

RFPs and other business proposals are often the most collaborative activity an organization undertakes. When you’re working at a small company, it’s possible that everyone at your organization will be involved, in part, in a response to an RFP.

When your team adopts business proposal software, it means you’ll no longer be managing proposals via email, Teams, Slack, or spreadsheets.

Most business proposal software comes with built-in project management features, including:

  • Importing RFPs onto the platform in Word, Excel, or pdf format
  • Assigning questions and/or sections to key collaborators
  • Automated reminders
  • Sequential review cycles
  • Exporting to source file
  • E-Signature

3. Seamless collaboration

In addition to project management features, business proposal software also streamlines collaboration with in-app commenting and @mentioning.

When all proposal-related conversations are in one place, you can make sure your organization stays aligned on proposals (and declutter your inbox in the process).

seamlessly collaborate by assigning tasks to collaborators in-app

When you’re ready to evaluate vendors, be sure to demo the various platforms. You’ll want to find something that’s powerful enough to suit your needs, but intuitive enough to make sure your small team can get ramped up in no time.

4. Make data-driven decisions

Top-notch business proposal software comes with built-in dashboards and analytics, giving you the insights you need to minimize risk and enhance efficiency.

If you do it right, data-driven management helps sales teams sell smarter. It can also provide insights into how proposal teams can identify—then either avoid or plan around—process challenges, such as resource management challenges, reduced ROI, missing deadlines, and inefficient content development.

Make data-driven decisions

5. Integrate into your existing tech stack

The final component of business proposal software is the ability to integrate into your sales tech ecosystem.

Since responding to RFPs is a key part of the sales process, it’s critical that the business proposal software you choose is able to smoothly integrate into your tech stack.

This is especially important when working on a small team that doesn’t have the bandwidth to manually update your business proposal software to work in-sync with your CRM, like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, or Hubspot.

Benefits of business proposal software

Business proposal software can be an absolute game-changer. Instead of spending your time on menial tasks—like tracking down RFP answers in emails and old drafts—business proposal software makes it easy for proposal managers to achieve success.

“Auto Respond is absolutely brilliant. We click on it and RFPIO answers about 80% of an RFP in a few seconds.”
-Paul Taylor, Vice President of Solutions Engineering at Crownpeak

Read the full story —>

Here are real results we’ve seen from customers after automating their response process with business proposal software:

Calculate your ROI here to see how much time and money your team could save with business proposal software.

calculate your roi to see how much you could save with RFP software

Calculate your ROI

How to select the best business proposal software

As you’re making your decision, here are some software selection steps you can follow:

1. Meet with your team

Before you commit to an annual subscription to business proposal software, schedule a meeting with any stakeholders in the proposal process. This includes subject matter experts, sales reps, and bid writers.

Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the main goals you hope to achieve.

Your final list could simply be a bullet list, like:

  • Improve collaboration on business proposals without relying on color-coded Word docs
  • Consolidate answers to common RFP questions in one place, so SMEs aren’t answering the same question over and over again
  • Create visibility, so leadership can easily check on proposal status

2. Do your research

Once you determine key goals for your proposal program, you need to prioritize business proposal software features. Divide features into two columns—”must-have” and “nice-to-have”.

If you want to make it easy for everyone to get up-and-running in the tool, an intuitive user interface might be a “must-have”. If your sales team lives in your CRM, an integration with Salesforce or Dynamics might be “nice-to-have”.

3. Read customer reviews

Just like you might check Yelp before you head to an unfamiliar restaurant, reading through reviews from verified customers on platforms like G2 should absolutely factor into your decision making process.

On G2, you can also sort reviews by company size, user role, industries, and region—so you can find reviews from users just like you.

Here is a screenshot of comparing four of the most popular business proposal software solutions:

Select the best business proposal software

Check on the full comparison on G2.

4. Understand the product and services

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of business proposal software providers, schedule a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering partnering with. Bring your priority feature list, along with a list of questions you want answered.

What is the best business proposal software?

Short answer: There is no “best” business proposal software. There’s only the best business proposal software for you and your team. 

This being said, the decision to implement business proposal software shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ll want to make sure the software you choose helps you, your proposal team, your sales team, and everyone at your organization achieve your goals and save time.

Here’s a list of the four top business proposal software:

RFPIO

RFPIO was created in 2015 by three founders who believed that Natural Language Processing (NLP) could permanently change the way businesses respond to RFx, security questionnaires, and other high-value external responses. Today, we are proud to be the trusted partner of more than 200,000 users across the globe. We support organizations of all sizes, from fast-growing start-ups to large multinationals doing business in dozens of languages. We’re people who value family, growth, new hobbies, and self care, and enjoy helping our users have more time and energy for such things. Our office community spans from Coimbatore, India, to Leawood, Kansas, to our corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Loopio

Loopio was launched in 2014 with the belief that responders “should never have to choose between quality and speed.” Loopio’s platform uses automation and collaboration tools to help companies create faster, more effective responses. They believe that every company has the opportunity to turn RFPs from revenue blockers, into a competitive advantage. Loopio is headquartered in downtown Toronto, Ontario and has a satellite office in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ombud

Ombud’s name is derived from the Swedish word Ombudsman: an individual who represents the interests of another individual, while investigating and addressing requests between the individual and the broader organization. Founded 2011, Ombud seeks to bring “context and collaboration” to their customers’ sales content, helping them streamline processes around RFPs, sales proposals, Statements of Work (SOWs), and Proofs of Concept (POCs). The company is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

Upland Qvidian

The history of Qvidian dates back to 1977 when Dr. Tom Sant founded the Sant Corporation in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. By the 1990s, Sant and his company grew to be leaders in both proposal software and strategy, with Sant authoring a book entitled Persuasive Business Proposals in 2003. In 2010, Sant Corporation merged with another proposal company called Kadient, to form Qvidian. In 2017, Qvidian was purchase by Upland Software, a public company with software offerings that include cloud-based fax services, telecom expense management, computer-telephony solutions, and IT finance management. The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Answers to frequently asked questions about business proposal software

We hear common questions from proposal teams at small businesses every day. Below we’ve answered these questions to help you feel more at ease with RFP software implementation and learn a few ways to improve your RFP response process along the way.

What should my proposal team look like?

If you’re a small organization, you might have 1- or 2-member proposal team, or sales reps could be responsible for creating their own sales proposals. Either your proposal team or your sales rep should own the proposal process, and reach out to subject matter experts on other teams (e.g. product, engineering, security, marketing, legal, etc.) for help on specific questions.

How do you write a good business proposal with software?

Writing a good business proposal starts with a strong process. Business proposal software simplifies that process, making it easier to collaborate with an extended team. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using answer libraries, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without software.

Here’s a quick overview of how you can write a good business proposal with software:

  1. Qualify the bid — Check data from past similar RFPs. What took weeks without RFP software may only take hours with it. All things being equal, is this RFP winnable?
  2. Understand requirements — Let the tool create a checklist of open items based on what remains after the automated first pass conducted at intake by your Answer Library.
  3. Answer commonly seen questions — RFP technology consolidates all your previous Q&A pairs into an intelligent answer library, so you can automatically respond to repeat questions in just few clicks.
  4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators — Assign each RFP question or section as a task to individual collaborators from the project dashboard in RFPIO. They’ll then receive a notification from where they’re already working (e.g. email, Slack, or Teams).
  5. Assign questions for review and approval — Simplify the review and approval process with automated reminders and cues across multiple platforms.
  6. Polish — From intake, work within a branded template and support answers with approved content that’s always up-to-date according to the SME in charge of that content.
  7. Proofread — Still important, but working with already-approved content will decrease how much you have to proofread.
  8. Submit to issuer — Push send from RFPIO or your integrated CRM

How does business proposal software support my process?

Business proposal software supports your proposal process and makes it easier to manage your RFP project and review everything in one place. With the right software in place, you’re able to assign tasks to authors and reviewers, assign content owners, and keep content organized and up-to-date.

If you’re a 1- or 2-person proposal team, software helps you provide enterprise-level support to your sales team. If you’re a sales rep responsible for managing your own RFPs, software helps you automatically respond to commonly seen questions—so you can focus on building customer relationships and closing deals.

How does business proposal software provide efficient collaboration?

Since fewer people are involved in the response process at smaller organizations, each person’s time is extremely valuable. Proposal software gives you the ability to share information across various platforms. Content and assignments are seamlessly integrated into one platform, without the need for cumbersome reformatting, converting, and importing/exporting tasks.

How do I get started with business proposal software?

Joan Dolence, Proposal Architect at Finastra, recommends that proposal teams plan for RFP software implementation, just as you would with any new technology you bring into your business. Do the prep work and housekeeping before jumping in. Then, teach everyone how to use the proposal software by managing each proposal like a project.

How long does it take to implement business proposal software?

The answer everyone hates: It depends. If you’re a small team with a lot of bandwidth to upload and organize your content, you could be up-and-running in less than a month.

But the more bells and whistles you add on—things like integrations with Salesforce, Slack, or SSO—the longer it takes. The more users you have, the longer it takes. The more complicated your process is, the longer it takes. The less bandwidth your team has to upload and organize your content, the longer it takes.

Is business proposal software really worth it?

In our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, we learned that organizations leveraging RFP-specific technology respond to 43% more RFPs than those who don’t. We also discovered that organizations not using RFP software instead used, on average, nine solutions to compose their RFPs, compared to only five for those with a dedicated RFP tool.

One study found that workers estimate switching between apps wastes up to 60 minutes of each day. By consolidating proposal management processes into one place, you and your team can stay focused, aligned, and on track.

Strengthen your business proposals with the right software

The only thing missing between you and your next winning proposal is the right software. If you’re ready to uplevel your business proposal process, schedule a demo of RFPIO today.

Business proposal example, template, and how-to instructions

Business proposal example, template, and how-to instructions

Before I get into the business proposal example, template, and tips, I need you to remember one thing: You’re Yoda, not Luke Skywalker:

“Think about Luke Skywalker and Yoda in Star Wars. When Luke meets Yoda, he encounters the perfect guide. Yoda understands Luke’s dilemma and has mastered the skills Luke must develop if he is going to defeat the Death Star.”
Donald Miller

As the writer of a business proposal, you want to come off as the perfect guide. Your goal is to make your prospect look like Luke Skywalker, the hero of the story. The prospect doesn’t care about your product; they care about solving their problem.

What is a business proposal?

Put simply, a business proposal is your solution pitch to a prospect’s business problem. It’s you saying, “I understand your problem. This is what the situation will look like after it’s fixed. Here’s a few ways we can help you fix it. Sign here to get the solution rolling.”

It’s used often, especially if your prospect isn’t the only stakeholder involved in deciding whether or not to buy your solution. In such situations, the business proposal is the document that your prospect will share with those decision-makers. Jeff Bloomfield, sales coach and author of NeuroSelling, says, “They need to know that they are saving money with your solution when compared to the high cost of the problem you are solving.”

As succinctly as possible, you need to tell the story of how your solution will help your prospect look like Luke Skywalker. That’s not much room; the opening scroll in all the Star Wars movies takes up more than two pages.

A business proposal is brief, yet informative and customized to every prospect’s specific problem, even if you only have one solution. Remember this is about their needs rather than your features. To put it another way, it’s the photo negative of a brochure or website.

How to write a business proposal

Arguably the most important step when writing a business proposal takes place before any writing begins: Confirm interest in your solution. Odds of winning deals from unsolicited business proposals are multi-state lottery-level. Any effective business proposal starts with a conversation.

When you understand objectives and have a solution, then you can begin writing. If after identifying the prospect’s pain points you believe that your solution isn’t strong enough, then keep digging for the pain points where you can excel. Sometimes you have to push to get the right objectives to make sure there’s enough pain to justify your solution.

Timing is essential because a business proposal needs to be educated and comprehensive. Too early and it’s going to land on deaf ears. Too late and either someone else solved the problem or you’re perceived as not caring enough to make it a priority.

As soon as you’ve identified pains, objectives, and how to position your solution as the ideal, then gather the following content:

  • Logos (yours and prospect’s)
  • Pricing options
  • Scope of work collateral you can link to from the business proposal

Now you just have to complete the business proposal template. These business proposal best practices will help.

8 business proposal best practices

  1. Take advantage of “title” real estate. As my esteemed colleague Keith Norrie explains in his expert advice on executive summaries, the title is too good of a setup opportunity to pass up. Use an action verb to surface the primary problem that you’re proposing to fix with your solution. The following power-verb examples will perk up stakeholders’ ears: increasing, reducing, accelerating, improving, streamlining, monetizing… Check out the business proposal example to see how I framed the solution in the proposal.
  2. Agree on 3-5 objectives with the prospect’s champion during your initial calls. These objectives will be based on pains that your prospect wants to overcome.
  3. Explain how your solution will enable these objectives. This isn’t an opportunity for you to list product features—most of which the prospect won’t care about. It’s where you tie solutions to problems. For example: “RFPIO’s AI-enabled Answer Library will reduce XYZ Company’s time spent responding to repetitive questions from 1,200 hours to 720 hours or fewer annually for an equal number of submitted RFPs.”
  4. Give multiple pricing options as a checkable list. Avoid line-item detail. Explain the difference between each option. For example, “This one allows you to scale…this one gets you to the end of the year…this one is best for small businesses…”
  5. Provide a high-level scope of work specific to the prospect’s need. Link out to data sheets or websites for more information.
  6. Include a call to action, preferably a signature request. At the very least, schedule a call to review next steps.
  7. Review the proposal with the prospect over the phone or through video conferencing. If possible, try to get the person you’re really building the proposal for (the decision-making stakeholder in the shadows behind the prospect champion) to join the review. If you can’t schedule a review, then record a Vidyard of you walking through the business proposal that can be shared with stakeholders.
  8. Be careful of jargon. Every industry has its unique terminology, but be wary of using jargon for jargon’s sake. With only two pages, you don’t have any room to waste on hollow language that doesn’t address the prospect’s specific problem.

Download your business proposal template & business proposal example

Here are the business proposal template and the business proposal example. When you’re ready to write your own business proposal, make a copy of the template. Then, delete all the instructions as you complete the sections. That way you don’t accidentally fire off a document complete with my tips and tricks. Also, if you build your business proposals from Salesforce, then these tips on Salesforce Proposal Builder will be a big help.

I hope you find the template and example helpful. Remember, the decision-making stakeholder (likely an executive) will be reviewing multiple proposals. They should be able to look at yours and identify that it’s comprehensive and customized for them. They’ll sniff out cookie-cutter treatments immediately and will sideline them while they look for something unique, like yours.

Be confident. This isn’t a shot in the dark. The prospect needs to solve this issue. Your business proposal will illustrate how you’ve thought through their problems.

How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

Executives don’t want to be summarized. They want to be briefed, which is what your executive summary needs to do. While common terminology is “executive summary,” approaching it as an executive briefing will put you in the proper persuasive mindset.

It all tracks back to Dr. Tom Sant. Know him? If you prepare proposals or briefings to make your sales living, then Dr. Sant’s subject matter expertise needs to be in your toolbox.

He’s written a few books, one of which is Persuasive Business Proposals. I highly recommend it, and not just because I used to work with Dr. Sant at one of the companies he founded. Its value is in how he ties proposal writing to the psychology of how humans make decisions. It’s a master class in how to use persuasive language in sales when building proposals and their executive summaries.

For the sake of this article—and to help keep us focused on the executive summary—I want to focus on one of Dr. Sant’s most helpful guidelines, which goes by the acronym NOSE.

  • Needs: Spell out your understanding of the prospect’s problems.
  • Outcomes: Confirm the results they anticipate when their problems are solved.
  • Solution: Recommend how you can solve the problem.
  • Evidence: Illustrate how you’ve solved similar problems in the past and who else trusts you to solve such problems.

According to Dr. Sant, by organizing your executive summary to align with NOSE, you’ll address three questions that executives want answered while being briefed:

  1. Are we getting what we need?
  2. Is it really worth the investment of resources and time?
  3. Can they really deliver?

Many salespeople make the mistake of focusing more on “summary” than “executive.” Summaries tend to not provide answers. They’re more like glorified tables of contents for the larger proposal.

Create the executive summary with the understanding that it’s likely the only part of a proposal that executive-level decision-makers will review. You have to elicit the desired response from a proposal without including everything that goes into a proposal. No doubt it’s a top-flight challenge in persuasion, but it’s the hurdle your executive summary has to leap.

Executives want to see that you understand their needs and desired outcomes, their pains and wants. Seeing this level of understanding articulated in the executive summary helps relieve any anxiety they may have as check writers. Many executives just want the briefing to overcome their fear of making the wrong decision or selecting the wrong vendor, which can be a career-damaging move.

5 more tips for writing an executive summary that packs a punch

There are heaps of tips written in-line in the template. It’s a template with instructions, like one of those fresh dinner boxes you can have delivered that has all the groceries and the recipe you need to make a meal, but without all the surprise prep work that no one ever mentions (“Wait, I still have to marinate this meat and chop all these veggies?”).

In fact, there’s so many tips that I didn’t have room for these four, so I’m dropping them in here:

  1. Create a title using a dynamic verb: Sadly, the most popular title for an executive summary is “Proposal for Prospect Company.” Use the title as an opportunity to capture the executive’s attention. “Increasing lead-generation…,” or “Visualizing revenue forecasting…,” or “Streamlining cloud storage…” or whatever it is that your solution is going to do for them.
  2. Use the recipient’s actual name whenever possible: It makes recipients feel important and personally attended to when they see their name on the front page.
  3. Aim for a 3:1 ratio of recipient company name versus your company name: Make the document feel customized to them, not you.
  4. Show how well you understand your prospect’s needs: Sales or business development representatives should provide this information either from experience or from a formal discovery phase that needs to happen prior to your building a proposal with an executive summary. List only 3-5. Six and beyond are dismissed by the brain as trivia, and are almost never read.
  5. Make sure your key functionalities match your prospects’s desired business outcomes: If they don’t, it’s probably not a good fit.

Executive summary template: Use it or reference it, whichever works best for you

I could tell you *how* to write an executive summary until the cows come home. But, if you’re anything like me, things don’t really click until you see these best practices put into action.

That’s why I pulled together an executive summary template based on Dr. Sant’s NOSE. Replace the in-line instructions with recommended content and you’ll end up with an executive summary that’s bound to impress. Or, at the very least, that’s bound to address executive-level strategic concerns about your proposal. Download the full template here.

Pro-Tip: When you’re ready to write your own executive summary, make a copy of the template. Then, delete all the comments. That way you don’t accidentally fire off a document complete with my tips and tricks.

Create effective executive summaries consistently

Some of us around here at RFPIO are prone to saying, “A proposal on its own is not likely to win a deal, but it can certainly lose it.” The same can be said for an executive summary.

Remember that executives buy a solution for different reasons than a production team (sales, marketing, IT, etc.) wants to use it. Executive teams have strategic goals while production teams have daily workflow improvement goals. In RFPIO’s case, while prospect executives may want to increase sales pipelines, sales and proposal teams just want time back for sanity.

I hope you find this template and walkthrough helpful. It’s been my experience that very few organizations or individuals get any training on writing executive summaries. Hence, on the sales side, there can be a lot of inconsistency across the organization when it comes to executive summary approaches. With RFPIO’s ability to work from templates for executive summaries and proposals, uploading this template can help establish a consistent foundation for executive briefing creation moving forward.

To learn more about RFPIO and functions such as Salesforce Proposal Builder, schedule a demo today.

What is an RFP?

What is an RFP?

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

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

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

What is an RFP opportunity?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a “go.” Now what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beef up your sales pipeline

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

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

Automate to dominate

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

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

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

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

What’s next? Demo.

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

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

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

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

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

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

1. Use SSO: A Sweet Security Option

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

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

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

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

2. Automate user management with SCIM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4. Control access with User Roles

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

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

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

5. Control visibility with collections

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

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

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

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

6. Get really granular with permissions

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

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

7. Keep up with your audits

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. Set up “session timeout”

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

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

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

9. Bring Your Own Key (BYOK)

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

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

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

10. Securely share information via Linked Companies

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

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

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