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The best business proposal software for small business

The best business proposal software for small business

If you’re a small business that creates proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and requests for bids/tenders, it’s time […]


Category: Product & Best Practices

The best business proposal software for small business

The best business proposal software for small business

If you’re a small 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.

Compared to enterprise organizations, smaller teams have several advantages when responding to RFPs:

  • Your team is closer to the proposal content, so you really understand what the ask is
  • With fewer cooks in the kitchen, you have a more consistent voice
  • Collaboration is close, and you are in tune with what each team member brings to the table

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 for small businesses

When you’re working on a small team, 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 to respond to commonly-seen questions.

“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

Making the case for business proposal software to your boss

Maybe you know that you need business proposal software—you just need to convince your boss.

A good way to start is by finding a way to align business proposal software to a stated business imperative. Anything related to revenue or margin impact is a good thing, like the following:

Proposal value isn’t always obvious to an organization’s stakeholders. When you align it with your business imperatives they can more clearly see the value.

How to select the best business proposal software

Here’s a secret. There is no “best” business proposal software. It all depends on your specific needs.

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 and your team achieve your goals and save time.

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.

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 efforts 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.

Where’s the answer? Ask Slack!

Where’s the answer? Ask Slack!

“Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If I were writing the poem, The Rime of the 21st Century Proposal Manager, it might include the lines:

Data, data everywhere, Not a clue to find
As silos rise, I lose my mind.
I chase my tail. I chase your tail.
My efforts always seem to fail.
Chaos abounds.
My head spins round.
Where, oh where, does my answer lie?
In the depths of our silos, it seems to hide.

I’m no poet, wouldn’t you know it?

But I am a Senior Proposal Manager at Illuminate Education, Inc., and I am charged with taming our data sprawl problems using RFPIO. I started by creating a data map. By assigning collections, tags, and subtags, I can migrate from data everywhere, including…

  • Google Drive
  • Confluence
  • Drop Box
  • HubSpot
  • Website
  • Client Library
  • Resource Center
  • Individual PCs

…to a consolidated Answer Library in RFPIO. At that point, a new $64K question pops up: Can I make it accessible to everyone in the company? I could add as many RFPIO users as I wanted at no extra cost. But introducing another new software platform to the team is a challenge. Not because I doubt the value; but because some people resist change—even if it helps. It’s a lot easier to call me than to learn a new process!

Enter RFPIO® LookUp, which makes the RFPIO Answer Library accessible from Google Chrome, Microsoft Teams, and, most importantly for Illuminate, Slack. The LookUp for Slack is the wrecking ball I need to break down all of the data silos used across my organization.

All teams use Slack. We talk, ask questions, and collaborate with Slack. Now we can extend this engagement to include RFPIO proposal projects. Log into Slack, ask a question, and BOOM! There’s the answer. Using @mentions or inserting a tag using #hashtags, users find their answers. They can even do it from their phone! All activity is captured by RFPIO for tracking usage and uncovering retraining opportunities.

Slack questions are easy to add to our knowledge base. We simply grab the conversation from Slack and create a new Q&A pair. Our workflow delivers the new content to moderation for edits and enhancements. Once moderation is done, the content is available in the library.

Slack evolves into an on-demand knowledge base. Through Slack Bot, we eliminate the “I need an answer and I need it now” dilemma. As a self-service tool, management teams, sales, SMEs, customer support, and all Illuminators can get answers or content quickly. Fast answers. Quick responses. Improved quality. What more can you want?

While RFPIO® LookUp for Slack is a huge help for all your users, your sales team will be doing happy dances! To just type in a question on their phone or laptop while sitting with a customer, and get a trusted answer—well, that is huge.

Sales is your biggest challenge. They’re busy, short on patience, rely on others, and hate change. Training this team is a challenge. LookUp for Slack simplifies integrating sales into the RFPIO proposal process and exposes them to an Answer Library knowledge base.

If you’re looking for more information about how I am implementing RFPIO® LookUp at IlluminateEducation, check out my RISE UP session! If you like detailed anecdotes, data maps, and user adoption hacks, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. Although, admittedly, I may be biased.


Building a portal to your company knowledge base from Slack is just the beginning of what RFPIO® LookUp can do. LookUp is also compatible with Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and more! Learn more here.

How to use the Microsoft Teams integration to optimize RFPIO features

How to use the Microsoft Teams integration to optimize RFPIO features

“Poise counts!” — Cosmo Kramer

Oh Kramer! How times have changed since the days of Seinfeld. But there is something to be said about “Poise counts,” especially for Proposal Managers from the minute that RFP hits their inbox to the second before it’s due. We all know that being organized helps us from getting our hair in a twist and in this blog I’ll talk about how the integration between Microsoft Teams and RFPIO puts you in even more control of your team and deliverables, so not only will your proposal “own the catwalk” but you’ll be seen as a poised, reliable, and trusted proposal professional.

Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson about how important poise is to proposal professionals. While working as an independent consultant, I made the mistake of using an image on my business card of an over-caffeinated and disheveled “proposal veteran” with glasses broken and taped together. My intent was to display my commitment to hard work…something along the lines of, “Put this workaholic to work for you!”

Proposal teams don’t want their responses created through a frantic, chaotic process, no matter how hard the leader of the process is working. Organizations that rely on proactive responses from sales or reactive responses to requests for proposals (RFPs) – for a revenue stream – recognize that their response has to be an accurate reflection of the organization as a whole.

At Microsoft—where hundreds of sellers have RFPs in flight all over the world—RFPIO puts knowledge and organization at our fingertips so that all of our users (including 100 proposal professionals) can feel empowered to represent our organization’s mission statement “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

We have adopted, capitalized, and evangelized the capabilities of RFPIO for about 7,500 RFPIO users and 25K+ re-usable assets. But it’s RFPIO’s integration with Microsoft Teams that has been a game-changer for knowledge sharing, user onboarding, and increasing efficiency.

Microsoft Teams for knowledge sharing

In our “Resuable IP Team Site,” one of the first RFPIO channels we set up was our chatbot. RFPIO users at Microsoft use a chatbot to search our knowledge base for relevant content. We’ve essentially turned Teams into an on-demand knowledge base. We can:
● Use @commands to keyword search RFPIO for Q&A pairs.
● Preview top search results in the Teams chat window, or easily view all matching Q&A pairs in RFPIO.
● Control which Teams users have access to specific RFPIO Answer Library content.

In this Teams site we added a QuickStart guide that provides an overview of what’s in the knowledge base, how the chatbot finds answers, and instructions for finding secure content.

All users are added to this Teams site and many have taken advantage of the chatbot. Because we can easily monitor this space, we’ve welcomed many new users who have asked for support either for a little hand-holding for finding content or to request content, that we quick-turn curate for future use.

Microsoft Teams for user enablement

The chatbot Teams channel QuickStart guide is one of many RFPIO how-to guides and best practices we make available within Teams. Posting to both the public (all users) and private (proposal professionals only) channels we regularly post “Did You Knows?” to keep everyone updated and informed – whether it’s important new content that has been recently curated, or a new feature, tip or trick, our RFPIO governance team remains visible and engaged with all users across Microsoft.

Microsoft Teams for RFP efficiency

One of the most important Teams integrations that we have leveraged is that of pulling an RFPIO project into a Team site. We show new sellers how projects from RFPIO can be added to their opportunity in Teams and document all the RFPIO functions that can be performed in Teams without needing to switch between platforms. Having ONE “runway” definitely supports a cohesive response fabric.

Ultimately, the goal of using RFPIO is to give time back to sellers, subject matter experts (SMEs), Proposal Managers, and Content Managers.

With the Teams integration, we increase that time payoff because users can collaborate on RFPIO projects without the need to leave Teams! Through their RFPIO dashboard in Teams, users can monitor project status and:
● Control project visibility of 3rd-party/guest signers.
● See when and where others have viewed, edited, downloaded, or signed documents.
● Automatically store and retrieve previous versions of signed documents.

We can also execute essential RFPIO features in Teams such as analyzing project resources, assigning authors, and uploading documents.

Improve RFPIO collaboration with Microsoft Teams

We partnered with RFPIO to give everyone time back to focus on selling digital transformation. While it already helped break down silos, reduce inefficiencies and redundancies, and drive consistency and compliance, the Teams integration has allowed us to multiply those gains exponentially.

With a team of 100+ proposal professionals and user-base of 7,500 – it helps me maintain my poise, too.


The Microsoft Teams integration is part of the RFPIO® LookUp Subscription. Learn more about Lookup here, or schedule a demo to see the full platform in action—Microsoft Teams integration and all.

Get instant access to your company knowledge base with RFPIO® LookUp

Get instant access to your company knowledge base with RFPIO® LookUp

Blast! Just as I’m about to write this article about RFPIO® LookUp—a search portal that transforms your RFPIO Answer Library into an instantly accessible company knowledge base—the discovery of a new portal to a 5th dimension tries to steal my thunder. Lucky for me, I can confirm that the RFPIO® LookUp portal is real. No need to fire up the Large Hadron Collider.

RFPIO® LookUp is a game-changer for organizational knowledge base integration. The subscription unlocks subject matter expertise from your RFPIO Answer Library and makes it available to everyone in your organization, from almost anywhere they work. This knowledge base solution includes compatibility with all of the following:

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

With all of these applications, as soon as your RFPIO® LookUp subscription is live you’ll see a search bar and results pane where you can immediately access content without having to switch between applications. There are no limits on user licenses—the LookUp subscription can be added to your RFPIO package without worrying about a per-user cost.

Until now, RFPIO® LookUp has only been available as a Chrome extension. Now that it’s available to use almost anywhere, your entire organization can take advantage of the curated, brand-approved expertise that you’ve amassed for use on requests for proposal (RFPs), security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), requests for information (RFIs), and requests for quote (RFQs).

Spread the content wealth across teams

For proposal managers and teams, RFPIO® LookUp eliminates you being the bottleneck between proposal-ready content and the sales, support, and marketing teams that rely on you to provide it. It also enables you to:

  • Consolidate, organize, and moderate company knowledge, and make it easily accessible for teams across your organization
  • Complete online questionnaires faster
  • Quickly respond to short questionnaires (e.g. RFIs, requirements questionnaires) in Microsoft Word or Excel
  • Leverage knowledge stored in the RFPIO Answer Library to create sales proposals, SOWs, and presentations in Microsoft Office

We found that 81% of proposal managers with RFP software agree that dynamic content libraries save time, and RFPIO® LookUp definitely makes any Answer Library dynamic.

For sales, RFPIO® LookUp acts as an on-demand, real-time SME that lifts the burden of chasing down answers to prospect and customer inquiries. It enables all sales team members to:

  • Quickly access the most up-to-date and accurate company information from where you’re already working, including Salesforce, SalesLoft, Google Docs, and any web-based software.
  • Respond to prospect and customer questions directly from Outlook, Gmail, or any web-based email platform
  • Streamline sales proposal and slide deck creation in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Sales representatives can improve response time, which will lead to faster conversions and more revenue. They can then also spend less time wandering around the company wiki and more time nurturing relationships with prospects and clients.

For customer service and technical support teams, RFPIO® LookUp enables real-time access into corporate expertise so they can seamlessly respond to support requests.

For marketing and other content creators, RFPIO® LookUp provides access to the most up-to-date product, solution, pricing, and other company information that’s been curated by SMEs. This allows marketing teams to focus on efficiently creating content and running campaigns instead of conducting research and monopolizing time and resources of other teams.

Watch proposal quality rise

We’re still in the early days of this new RFPIO® LookUp portal, but we’re already hearing some positive feedback from organizations using it as a shortcut to their company knowledge base. Vicki Griesinger—Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft—said, “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.”

“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

And Assistant VP of Content at Genpact, Shashi Kumar, said, “With RFPIO® LookUp, bid managers have immediate access to pre-approved content they can easily add to their proposals. As a result, proposal quality has increased dramatically.

If you already use RFPIO as your response management platform, then it’s extremely simple to add RFPIO® LookUp as a knowledge management solution. Simply reach out to Tina (tina@rfpio.com), and she’ll connect you with your account manager to get the ball rolling. If RFPIO® LookUp is the knowledge base integration portal you’ve been looking for to put you over the hump on your RFP software decision, then schedule a demo today.

If the portal to a 5th dimension is what you’ve been looking for, then maybe RFPIO® LookUp can help you manage your research on dark matter and gravitational waves. We’re always happy to help develop a deeper understanding of cosmological history!

Still need more information? Learn more about RFPIO® LookUp here.

How to turn proposals into a revenue-driving engine

How to turn proposals into a revenue-driving engine

Can the best proposal in the world win a sale on its own? Honestly, probably not. Proposals are just one element of a lengthy and involved sales process.

Flip the question on its head and ask, “Can a poor proposal torpedo a sale on its own?” Absolutely. As can a bad demo, negative reference, or a disagreeable price.

My point is that while the proposal cannot win you the sale on its own, it still plays a pivotal role. Whether it’s reactive (RFP, RFI, Security Questionnaire, etc.) or proactive (sales-generated to show product solution or value), a proposal’s job is to advance the sale. How do you propel something forward? Build an engine.

Build your revenue-driving proposal engine

A revenue-generating response engine can change how your organization feels about proposals, turning it from a necessary evil to a strategic advantage in the sales lifecycle. I’ve broken the engine down into four key components, the first of which is people. Based on my experience, with respect to the way proposals are handled, organizations fall into one of these categories :

  • Ad hoc: 20% of organizations have no dedicated proposal team, instead relying on sales to take it on. This is a reactive approach that typically produces low-quality proposals and poor win rates.
  • Tactical: By far the most common, 60% of organizations have a proposal support team. It’s more efficient than an Ad-hoc approach, but still reactive, not highly prioritized in the organizational structure, and results in a win rate that makes stakeholders hem and haw over whether it’s all worthwhile every year.
  • Strategic: This dedicated proposal function with defined processes and staffed by capture planning specialists, bid and proposal managers, proposal writers, and content managers—in place at only 20% of organizations—produces the highest quality proposals that result in the highest win rates.

People need processes—the second engine component—to optimize their efficiency, enable visibility, and forecast accurately. A well-documented process will help with qualifying opportunities, deciding on win themes, building the response team, assigning roles, tracking and reviewing proposals, assembling the final proposals for publishing, etc.

The third engine component is no surprise: content. Obviously, you need to illustrate how your product or solution solves the problem that has necessitated the response. The differentiator here is in content quality, access, re-use, and personalization.

All three of the components mentioned above will be highly influenced by the fourth engine component: the technology tools you invest in for your response management engine. These will include your CRM, collaboration and web conferencing tools, and, of course, proposal software solutions.

When the engine is firing on all cylinders

After you build the engine, you can expect improvements in the following:

Repeatability

This refers to whether you have a streamlined process that you can apply any time a response is required. Once you’ve established your process, it can be triggered by intaking a project in your proposal software or CRM.

Whether or not your process is easily repeatable depends on content. Do you define service level agreements that can be adhered to time and again? Are you capitalizing on the wealth of information that already exists in your proposal software’s Content Library? If you’re finding ways to reuse existing content, you’re already well on your way to repeatability.

Visibility

Gain macro clarity of your proposal team’s performance. Are there any patterns where win rates vary? This will help identify key characteristics of your most winnable deals. Which content is most popular? Most effective?

This will help identify where to invest subject matter expert (SME) time in content development.

Efficiency

Make everything easier and faster—from finding content and assembling documents, to working with collaborators. Teams that do so are often able to increase efficiency by 40%. Sometimes it’s even more.

There’s no question that proposal software saves time, no matter how many people you have responding to proposals. Friend and peer BJ Lownie, managing director and principal consultant at Strategic Proposals believes that, “Situations exist for one-man shows and full-blown proposal departments.” Having proposal software on hand will help produce higher quality proposals faster, filled with brand-approved content and output according to your style guides.

Quality

Give everyone back time to reinvest in improving the quality of their work. Salespeople can spend more time on revenue-generating operations. The proposal team can spend more time on creating high-quality responses. SMEs can focus their efforts on their primary job functions and other equally important operational activities.

The purchasing decision is a consensus activity these days. Emotional and political factors are also at play. On balance, you always want to put your best foot forward. Proposal quality matters. It can positively influence deals.

Revenue

Link 1-4 together and you discover that proposal software fuels your revenue-generating response engine!

Ultimately, you want your revenue-generating response engine to guide your organization to the point where you’re only responding to winnable deals. Data output from the engine will help you answer questions like:

  • What is your relationship to the organization you’re responding to?
  • Have you had any prior engagement with that organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why that organization is soliciting responses?

Time is finite in the response world. The response due date is a deadline not a guideline. To paraphrase a quote I recently read on LinkedIn, proposals are never done; they’re just due. This engine will help you be more discerning with how, when, and where you invest your time and energy.

Proven value of proposal software

At RFPIO, our mission is to provide technology that streamlines the proposal process. No question that a library of pre-written content is a backbone to increased productivity. As are collaborations with sales and SMEs. We want to reduce the friction of hunting for content and herding SME cats. With proposal software, RFPIO customers are able to:

  • Submit 25% more responses with 100% accuracy while staffing is down 50%.
  • Increase win rate by finding more time to craft compelling win messages.
  • Triple proposal capacity and create efficiencies across all teams.

We deliver time back. How would you like a week back in your typical three-week proposal
process? How that time is reinvested will determine your win rate success. With a response team firing on all automated cylinders, you can unleash proposal development best practices while protecting sales and SMEs from the inefficiency rampage of a frenzied response process.

Start building your revenue-generating response engine by scheduling a demo to see how much time you can free up to reinvest.

Integrating Salesforce is a simple way to add tons of value to RFP software

Integrating Salesforce is a simple way to add tons of value to RFP software

This is about as “meta” as it gets in RFP software sales: RFPIO client Salesforce is currently in the process of integrating Salesforce with its RFPIO response management solution. How can a CRM integrate with itself? As Cosmo Kramer once said, “I must be at the nexus of the universe!” 

More than 30% of RFPIO customers who use Salesforce have already integrated the solutions. The Salesforce integration is by far the most popular CRM integration at RFPIO — 20x more customers use it than our next most popular CRM. So why do customers love it so much? 

Visibility and efficiency to start, but there’s more to it than that. 

“RFPIO’s Salesforce integration is helping our business be more efficient and organized with RFPs and RFIs. We can easily view insights and progress with every RFP right from Salesforce.”

-Alison Moeller, Accolade (full case study here)

Why you need it: Integrating RFP software with your CRM makes everything easier

Integrating Salesforce and RFP software workflows gives proposal and sales teams bi-directional access to all response management functionality. In other words, whether they’re working in Salesforce or RFPIO, users can perform all response management functions—from launch to development to publishing—seamlessly, without any redundancy or confusion. Here’s one possible workflow of how it can work for you:

Step 1: Sales rep launches RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, or any other response project directly from Salesforce. Expedite project creation by launching with existing Salesforce data in a few button clicks.

Sales teams can send intake requests to the proposal team right from their favorite CRM (Salesforce).

 

Step 2: Proposal manager receives automated trigger notification of new project launch, analyzes what’s needed at intake to determine if it qualifies as an active project, and either rejects it or begins proposal development in RFPIO.

Track and monitor progress in real-time

 

Step 3: Sales rep and proposal manager can track and monitor project progress in real time from either application.

When a new project launches, proposal managers are automatically notified

 

Step 4: Response packets and related documents are automatically published back to Salesforce so sales rep can send them to the prospect or customer.

Sales reps can automatically send response packets to their prospects after they're published back to Salesforce

 

Step 5: Fine-tune proposal operations for sales and proposal teams with in-depth analytics output through Salesforce Reports Builder.Sales and proposal teams can fine-tune operations with detailed ananlytics

 

“The Salesforce integration has helped us align sales and proposal teams. Now, sales has full visibility into project status. They can see how a current project is progressing, or check which future projects are in the queue, all from the RFPIO dashboard in Salesforce.”

-Lauren Joy, the Proposal Team Manager at Hyland (full case study here)

How you get it

The Salesforce integration raises awareness of RFPIO with more people in your organization. It becomes recognized as more than just a tool for the proposal team. It becomes the platform for expanding opportunities with prospects and customers. For example, after an integration, you can use the Salesforce Proposal Builder to create personalized proactive selling documents based on the up-to-date, brand-approved RFPIO Content Library

CRM integration is usually a high priority for our customers. Especially one or two years into a subscription, after their proof of concept for response management has hit its goal. 

Compared to other applications available through the Salesforce AppExchange, integration with RFPIO is a light lift. It all starts with a demo. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the stakeholders you want in the “room” and what you want us to prepare for them.

After you decide to add the Salesforce integration, the process moves pretty quickly. The integration fully supports Salesforce Lightning as well as the classic Salesforce configuration. It works with either or both. A seasoned Salesforce admin can have it ready in 1-3 hours as long as there isn’t a lot of custom mapping. If there are a lot of custom fields, then the configuration can stretch into a few days–still on the lighter side of configuration. 

We often recommend a trial integration. Connect an RFPIO production environment with a Salesforce sandbox to test the integration in a safe space that won’t create disruptions in your Salesforce production environment. It’s simple to migrate this trial setup to a production environment.

If security is a concern, it shouldn’t be. We’re already published on the Salesforce AppExchange, which means we went through the Salesforce security review. Also, we are quite comfortable navigating any enterprise security review. So far, we’ve passed 100% of every one we’ve been through.

“We’re using the Salesforce integration to pull data in from an existing account or opportunity. This both ensures the data is matching and also means there are fewer fields to fill out–saving time and avoiding errors” -Lisa McNeely, Proposal Services Team Manager at Hyland (full case study here)

What you can expect 

You’ll start seeing the value of real-time visibility and increased efficiency from the Salesforce integration almost immediately. Another huge value comes from the reporting capabilities, and this value grows over time. By creating associations between Salesforce objects and RFPIO projects, managers, directors, VPs of sales, and other teams can identify which projects were successful, which RFPs were won, and how that impacted the Salesforce opportunity outcome. You can find patterns that help identify more successful opportunities and the teams involved with those opportunities, which will ultimately lead to higher conversion rates and more revenue.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Salesforce integration with RFPIO, then contact us to set up a demo.

“The Salesforce integration for intake requests is a game changer. When I started the proposal process from the ground up at my company, sales people had no idea where to send RFPs—they were just throwing them to legal. Now there’s an easy way to request support right in Salesforce!”

2020 proposal software features to prepare you for the year of “access anywhere”

2020 proposal software features to prepare you for the year of “access anywhere”

It’s rare that you hear this, but 2020 was awesome. When it came to implementing new proposal software features in RFPIO, that is. And most of the awesome ideas came from you, our customers! 

Of the 1,855 submissions to our Idea Portal in 2020, we have already implemented almost half (769). Another 66 are planned or under development. 989 are still under consideration or waiting for other feature dependencies. Your feedback is integral to a better performing product. Keep ’em coming!

The following describes some of our favorite proposal software features of 2020. At the end of the article, you’ll see why 2021 is shaping up to be the year of “access anywhere” at RFPIO.

Proposal software features part 1: Project management

Automate Transfer of Intake Team to Project Team

“Intake” creates a staging area for RFP/Proposal requests where they can be evaluated in one place to make a bid/no-bid decision without using active project bandwidth. Now, the team you assign at intake will automatically carry over if the project goes active. No more re-assigning team members!

Automatically transfer intake team to project team, simplifying proposal management

Choose from More Translation Options

  • Translate entire projects or source files on-demand as they’re imported. Previously, this was only available within Answer Library or individual Q&A pairs.
  • Bulk translate content in Answer Library.
  • Retain images and formatting in translated content.
  • Enjoy a better translation review experience to verify translation quality, whether you rely on automated translation or a translation service outside your organization.
  • Try the new translation engine: DeepL now available in addition to AWS, Google, and Microsoft. You can choose your preference.
  • Experience the RFPIO user interface (e.g., menus, modals, etc.) in Chinese, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Gather E-Signatures Without Leaving RFPIO

Instead of exporting or printing out for signing, you can now collect signatures and place signature related fields on documents right from RFPIO! What’s really cool about this is that you can set a sequential signing order, on both the team and the individual level. 

After you’ve collected all your signatures (including guests), all that information flows directly into RFPIO—so you can easily check audit logs for signing activity history, including name of signer, time of activity, location, and type of activity. 

Gather e-signatures right in your proposal software

Import Markup Tracking in Microsoft Word Files 

When you’re importing long and complex proposals in Microsoft Word, RFPIO automatically generates a table of contents, so you can easily navigate up to 5 levels of sections and subsections. 

Also, we know that when you’re confronted with… let’s just call them “creatively styled” RFPs, maintaining the formatting during import can be challenging. This new enhancement makes that process a lot easier.

Easily import tables into your proposal software

Flexible Review Process at the Question or Section Level

With our new enhancements, we’ve strengthened our review functionality… which means you can get even more granular when setting up your review process.

Now, you have three options when setting up review cycles. 

  1. All — Just as it sounds. In order for this question to be marked as “reviewed”, all assigned reviewers need to sign off. 
  2. Any — Let’s say you have a go-to team of reviewers, any of whom you would trust to give the final sign-off on your content. By selecting “any”, if any one of those reviewers signs off on that content, the question is marked “review”
  3. Sequential — Need to get your immediate manager’s sign-off, before sending it up the ladder? No problem. All you have to do is set up sequential reviews, and you’re all set!

Set up advanced review cycles when managing proposals

Proposal software features part 2: Content management

Streamline Content Access Through Linked Companies

If you have reseller partners that need access to your content — or if you’re a parent company of multiple brands that need to access — then the new linked companies functionality is for you. 

It gives you the ability to grant access to your Content Library and specific collections in a completely separate RFPIO instance. That content will also be updated when you update the source file. You can enable (or disable) comments and discussions around specific content between linked companies.

Give different departments or reseller partners access to your RFP content library using the linked companies feature

Access Variable Answers Faster with Linked Content

Linked content allows similar content — variable answers to a single question or translated versions of the same answer — to be linked together and grouped for streamlined searchability and review management. You can even subscribe to specific content in the library to get notified any time there’s a change to that content.

Set 1 Source of Truth with Document Linking

This is something our customers have been asking for a long time. 

Let’s say you’re responding to an RFP, and are asked to  “please provide an example of when you’ve solved problem X.” This is a standard RFP request where you’ll want to use the same document — perhaps a case study — as your answer. 

Now, you can attach documents (e.g. docx, islx, pdf) to question-answer pairs in the Answer Library. And anytime you update the document, it automatically updates the corresponding linked attachment, establishing a single source of truth across the board.

Improve content management for your proposal content with document linking

Access Multiple Versions of a Document

Upload up to 20 versions of the same document. View the different versions of a current document as well as revert to any previous versions, a la Google Docs.

Get Help Choosing SMEs 

The SME recommendation dictionary helps you choose experts and reviewers. RFPIO will auto suggest users when assigning individual questions within a project. Assign topics or keywords to users or groups of users. This is especially helpful for larger organizations with a lot of SMEs from which to choose. It makes it easier to find the right author to own the content. 

Proposal software features part 3: Integrations

Access More Slack Functionality

We made a lot of Slack integration enhancements this year. Collaborators were already able to receive and reply to RFPIO project notifications and tasks within Slack–without having to log in to RFPIO. Now you can also:

  • Add Slack conversation content into the RFPIO Answer Library as new Q&A pairs.
  • Search the RFPIO Answer Library for answers to questions from Slack (this will help increase engagement with users who don’t use RFPIO often but are heavy Slack users).
  • Search questions, answers, and fields such as tags, collections, language, custom fields, and more.
  • Perform combination search using Boolean operators, range search, wildcard, and fuzzy search.
  • Admins can customize the number and type of results shown when others execute a Slack search.

Experience Full-Circle Project Creation and Retrieval in Salesforce

Upload files directly from Salesforce and create a project request in RFPIO. View the status of in-flight projects and retrieve completed response packets back in Salesforce. Auto-publish completed response packets to Salesforce pages. Add team members while creating projects from CRMs such as Hubspot, Pipeline, Pipedrive, MS Dynamics, and Salesforce. If you have any task assignments in your CRM, then this is a great way to add that project team while it’s being created.

Get a Head Start on the Sales Cycle with the Salesforce Proposal Builder

The new Salesforce Proposal Builder allows sales reps working Salesforce opportunities to generate proactive proposals on a self-service basis using all of the dialed-in content and templates you already have in RFPIO. This feature is included in the RFPIO Salesforce integrationGenerate proactive proposals in Salesforce, using content stored in your proposal software

Try the New Google Hangouts Integration

RFPIO for Google Hangouts allows you to receive @mentioned comments as direct messages. Search the Answer Library and view contents with a simple click. 

By integrating proposal software with Google Hangouts, you can receive @mentioned comments as direct messages.

Get Chat Endpoint API Enhancement

For those concerned with compliance, you can now pull all of your RFPIO chat conversation data into whatever 3rd-party location you prefer, from security to archival systems.

Proposal software features part 4: Business intelligence/reporting

Create Custom Reports & Dashboards

Improve how you analyze your data and make informed decisions. New reporting features include charts, tables, grouping, and aggregate functions. The dashboard provides an effective way of organizing reports in a single page with a combination of charts and tables. New improvements include date field calculations, daily/weekly/monthly scheduling, auto-delivery of reports, and more! 

Use proposal software to create custom reports and dashboards

Visualize Data on Your Platform of Choice

If you use Tableau or other data visualization solution, you can now pull RFPIO custom configure paths for metadata between RFPIO and 3rd-party or homegrown reporting tools or BI systems.

2021: Introducing the year of “access anywhere”

If you thought 2020 features were good… wait until you see what we have in store for 2021!

2021 will be the year of “access anywhere”. In short, that means we’re going to be releasing features that makes it easy to work on projects and search for RFPIO content… from wherever you might be. This includes things like offline mode, a new-and-improved RFPIO Lookup, and more!

Contact us to learn more about these new proposal software features, and find out how you can take advantage of them.

Expand sales intelligence and personalize sales documents with RFP automation software

Expand sales intelligence and personalize sales documents with RFP automation software

When customers start using RFPIO’s RFP automation capabilities, most of them quickly expand response management to their overall sales intelligence program. They enable sales teams to generate personalized sales documents and proposals on a self-service basis. With easy access to a robust content library, sales representatives can (relatively) easily piece together pre-approved, pre-vetted content to create proactive selling documents.

In the spirit of transparency, we happened upon these added benefits somewhat by accident. We actually learned about them from our first enterprise customers, who had thousands of projects running in RFPIO. Upon evaluation of all the content they had accumulated in their Answer Libraries, they asked a seemingly simple question: With all this great content in RFPIO, how else can we use it?

Ever since, we’ve been fine-tuning features so that RFP automation software adds more value to the greater sales intelligence program for customers of all sizes.

How your sales representatives respond matters. For more conversions at higher price points, they need to respond quickly, with a personalized touch, and they need to do it efficiently so they spend more time on revenue-generating activities.

According to Forrester, there are three key elements to sales intelligence.

  1. Operational Intelligence: “What is happening and what has happened.” In other words, these are the KPIs that guide day-to-day activities (e.g., number of calls, proposals delivered, pipeline-to-quota coverage ratios, average deal size, etc.).
  2. Diagnostic Intelligence: Analyze the KPIs established in operational intelligence to gain a meaningful view of data and identify trends that may determine future performance.
  3. Interpretive Sales Intelligence: Use operational and diagnostic intelligence to guide and support revenue generation throughout the organization, from optimizing responses to prospects and customers to structuring compensation plans.

Based on this definition, RFP automation software can have a significant impact on sales intelligence. Here’s why.

Without data, nothing is driving your sales intelligence

Sales intelligence is all about identifying buyer signals and nailing the timing. Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Depending on your product or service and your market, the amount of analysis that goes into signal identification could range from hours to months, or even years.

Sales is like the rest of the intelligences that are all the rage right now. Artificial, business, military… you name it, if it’s intelligent, then it depends on data. Similarly, sales intelligence relies heavily on data collection, management, and insight.

Your CRM is the central nervous system of your sales intelligence. Let me throw some borrowed knowledge at you (source).

  • CRM is among the top three tools and technologies for creating personalized interactions with customers to foster loyalty and better marketing ROI. (Salesforce, 2017)
  • 73% of marketers with a CRM system use it for a shared customer view between their service and sales teams. (Salesforce, 2017)
  • High performers are happier with the level of collaboration between their marketing team and other departments and they’re also three times more likely than underperformers to extensively use CRM tools. (Salesforce, 2017)

Much of the client, opportunity, and product data that can be leveraged to personalize proposals already exists in CRMs. By integrating RFPIO and CRMs like Salesforce, sales reps can now generate personalized selling materials without leaving their CRM. RFPIO can link CRM data from client, industry, job title, product information, and opportunity fields to dynamic proposal templates that allow sales reps to hyper-efficiently generate proactive proposals.

A real-world use case is:

  1. Sales rep Alpha finishes their first phone call with a prospect. They enter what they’ve learned about the prospect, such as product interests or points of contact. These fields will be used to swap out the dynamic templates when the proposal is generated.
  2. The prospect has asked Alpha to send a solutions brochure to learn more about Alpha’s company and solutions. The sales rep will click on “create proposal” to get started.
  3. Alpha navigates their CRM (e.g., Salesforce) interface to select “Create Proposal in RFPIO” from a list of available document templates (NOTE: You’ll need to set up the document templates ahead of time, but once you do so, it’s just a matter of plug-and-play content!).
  4. Alpha completes the proposal builder without leaving the CRM to add content relevant to this particular prospect and include personalization variables. These can include contact fields such as name and title, relevant quotes and testimonials from companies in their industry, the specific solutions and prices that the prospect needs, implementation team, timeline, etc.
  5. Alpha clicks the “Generate” button.
  6. Voila! Alpha has a personalized, on-demand proposal to share, which will be much more effective than a boilerplate email or generic brochure. The generated proposal is then automatically published to the Salesforce page from which it was created. Now, it’s ready for the sales rep to download or share as needed.

Sales intelligence with RFP software integrated into your CRM enables more informed selling, allowing you to take advantage of the personas you’ve been developing and the hard-fought information you’ve been gathering on your prospects and customers.

5 sales intelligence advantages of RFP automation software

Let’s say you’ve integrated RFP software into your CRM. What benefits can you expect?

  1. Keep sales reps focused on selling: Are your salespeople spending less than 36% of their time selling? Sales VPs and directors want reps living in the CRM, focused on revenue-generating activities. By providing access to RFP content and automating its generation from the CRM, reps spend less time chasing down content or composing proposals.
  2. Gain leverage from content analytics: Track the content that’s being consumed, by whom, and how it’s being shared. Identify the most common and popular content to help inform future content development. Analyze trending queries, both internally and externally.
  3. Strengthen your account-based selling strategy: Make it easier for your sales team to collaborate on developing multiple contacts and relationships within a single account. Content analytics helps you track the buying signals throughout different levels of your most complex accounts.
  4. Personalize every response: With the data stored in your CRM combined with the high-quality content stored in RFPIO, proposal managers, marketing teams, or sales teams can create pre-approved content blocks that sales teams can piece together to create proactive selling documents. What would it mean to your team to send professional, personalized proposals with every response?
  5. Take a big lift off of proposal and marketing teams: No more one-off requests for content or proposal support from sales reps because they’ll be able to do it themselves. For example, Microsoft estimates that its RFPIO Answer Library saves up to 5,000 hours per year.

A rising tide lifts all boats

Advanced sales intelligence will also contribute to greater success with RFP responses. For proposal managers, customer data points from the CRM will help automate the completion of a proposal and inform bid decisions.

Natural language processing and analytics will help decipher what kinds of questions will be asked in an RFP. RFPIO can estimate what type of proposal to expect, compare it to past RFP responses from similar client profiles, and analyze how you performed in the past to determine your likelihood of success and how long it will take to complete. The proposal manager can also estimate resources and identify contributors that will need to be allocated in order to win the RFP and determine if it’s worth it to the organization to proceed.

What’s it gonna take?

We’ll need to connect the systems, so there is some administrative setup. However, we’ve already synced up with multiple CRMs, so we know what to expect.

Schedule a demo today, and we can discuss whether it makes sense for you to integrate your CRM with RFPIO RFP automation software.

You need RFP software. Here’s how to convince your boss.

You need RFP software. Here’s how to convince your boss.

The first question will be, “Why do we need it?”

Tell your boss, “Because we can’t afford to gamble our relationships, and our contacts cannot afford to gamble on us.”

Now let’s crack open this fortune cookie and unpack its meaning.

In sales, relationships are everything. Many companies won’t even respond to an RFP if they don’t have relationships established with the RFP-issuing group. Sales professionals protect these relationships like they’re hoards of treasure. Much time and effort is put into cultivating them.

However, the art of the deal has changed over the many years I’ve been in the proposal game. The deal that used to be made via handshake with a high-powered decision-maker now has to be vetted by multiple stakeholders. A single decision-maker won’t gamble their career on selecting a vendor anymore—no matter how strong a relationship exists.

In a highly competitive RFP, multiple prospective vendors will have strong relationships within the RFP-issuing organization. You as a sales organization don’t want to gamble your hard-earned relationship by underperforming at the proposal stage and losing the deal.

In the modern sales landscape, your relationships plus a high-quality proposal will give you the best chance to win the deal. RFP software helps you create proposals that eliminate your contacts’ need to “gamble.”

Now that you’ve explained why you need RFP software, answer these three questions to close the RFP software deal with your boss:

  1. Which of our corporate initiatives does this investment support?
  2. What is the ROI and over what time period?
  3. Why do it now?

Build on these 4 initiatives

Find a way to align RFP software to a stated business imperative. Anything relating to revenue or margin impact is good thing, like the following:

Proposal value isn’t always obvious to an organization’s stakeholders. Aligning it with your business imperatives makes it harder for stakeholders to ignore the fact that response management is an essential cog in your sales lifecycle.

Cut to the chase: ROI in less than 2 months*

One of our more impressive recent data points is that Crownpeak saw a 5-6x ROI after using RFPIO for just a few months. If your bosses hang their hats on ROI, then don’t hold back. Calculate your ROI here to include an estimate in your pitch to your bosses.

Efficiency is going to be your primary ROI metric. With RFPIO, organizations increase response management efficiency by 40%, on average. Broken down by role, we are currently seeing the following:

  • 63% of salespeople said RFPIO enables them to automate their process, so they can make time to pursue new business with RFPs.
  • 71% of marketers said RFPIO helps them centralize company content for easy access.
  • Subject Matter Experts (SME) gained back 39% of their daily hours with RFPIO.

RFPIO doubles as a knowledge management tool, which will increase proposal production for sales and reduce the burden on SMEs from legal, IT, security, procurement, contracts and other departments that typically contribute to responses. It’s a cost-effective method to give everyone at your organization access to your answer library, while also empowering your proposal team to do more.

*On average, based on verified customer reviews collected on G2.

ROI calculator

See How Much You Can Save With RFPIO

Why do we need RFP software now?

For you, it’s about leveling the playing field. Harking back to my earlier reference of an RFP where five proposals are delivered and three of them likely have relationships with the RFP issuer…In this case, at least one of the vendors that responds will be using RFP software. They will have completed up to 70% of the RFP using automated features, which means they can put 100% effort on the remaining 30%. How likely are you to win any race when you give your competitors a 70% head start? (Flipside bonus you’ll want to call out to your bosses: On the off chance that you’re the only one using RFP software, then you will have a 70% head start!)

For your bosses, it’s about showing accountability to their commitment to success. If sales is the lifeblood of your business, then a fine-tuned RFP process will be as valuable as a multifunctional CRM, an integrated marketing strategy, a highly responsive customer service system, or any other support system that is already included in your budget.

But are proposals really that important?

YES!

The most common pushback you may need to address is that a proposal is just one part of a complex and lengthy sales process. That is true, and the best proposal in the world will not win you the deal on the spot. But a poor proposal will likely cause doubt in the issuer’s mind. At best, this will extend the sales cycle. At worst, you lose the deal.

A good proposal provides the opportunity to encapsulate everything you have learned during the sales process. RFP issuers never say they’re hemorrhaging clients or cash or taking a beating from their competitors, even though you understand that’s probably why they’re issuing the RFP.

The proposal is your opportunity to document how well you understand the issuer’s underlying needs or pains. You can do it passively (“We help with client retention by…” or “We’ve helped X clients increase revenue by X%…” or “3 out of 4 industry leaders rely on us to….”), but stating your solution to an unspoken problem validates your expertise. Ultimately, that’s exactly why they should choose to work with you.

And the only way to communicate that information to all stakeholders involved in the decision is through your response to the RFP.

Ready your pitch for RFP software

Twenty years ago, I expected RFPs to go the way of the dodo. Because of the Internet, you see. I thought that any generic information an issuer would need about a company could be found on the Internet. I was wrong. RFPs didn’t go away.

The way companies select vendors based on RFP responses is what changed. Out went the single decision maker, in came the decision by committee. The proposal management market is booming ($3.1B by 2024) and RFPIO has more than 1,000 customers only three years after signing its first.

RFPs have grown in complexity and require more customized responses. Part of a response is cookie cutter (another reason you need response management software), but the part of the response that requires more customization to explain your value—the part that shows you an issuer wants to deal rather than just kick the tires—is the part that you need to spend the most time on.

If you see any variation of this question, then you know the issuer is serious and in need of innovation: “What can your company offer that others cannot?

Want help prepping your RFP software pitch to your boss? We can help. Schedule a demo to get started.

How to use RFP software to improve sales contract management

How to use RFP software to improve sales contract management

If sales is the rock and legal is the hard place, then you’ll often find sales contract management stuck right in the middle. The constant dilemma of the sales contract manager is, “How can we propose redlines that make legal happy and mitigate business risk, but still get sales contracts done efficiently?” There are two common approaches to dealing with this dilemma.

One, you can manually execute contract management through a hodgepodge of emails, spreadsheets, document versions, and pleas for responses ASAP. This exposes your process to a host of issues, including:

  • Lack of continuity or redundancy in the contract review process.
  • Significant differences in the redlines proposed by contract management staff.
  • Disparate systems and processes to manage sales contract terms between departments.
  • Too many contracts at different stages to effectively track.
  • Missed renewal opportunities.
  • Misfiled or lost versions.
  • Reused contract language that is no longer accurate or is out of date.
  • Easily lost tribal knowledge about preferred redline responses.
  • Lost time waiting on SME feedback for specific clauses or Exhibits.
  • Inflexibility in negotiations due to fear of swamping a deal in the contract morass.

Two, you can use RFP software that will bring together the parties involved in contract review and will create consistency in redlining through a knowledge repository of legal-approved contract language. This certainly shuts down the issues that arise from the standard email process, but it opens you up to the expense of a new platform. Small to midsize businesses will need to evaluate whether they create enough contracts to justify the ROI. Organizations that derive their revenue predominantly from requests for proposals (RFPs) may want to consider another option: Using RFP software to augment contract management.

How can RFP software improve sales contract management?

Throughout my contract management career, I’ve learned that there’s a wide variance in how companies structure their contract management departments. Some are embedded in legal, some in sales or business operations. Others oversee multiple functions such as procurement, sales and RFP responses. And then there are the lone wolf departments — sometimes operated by a team of one — that focus only on contracts but depend on all other departments to contribute.

In any one of those situations, the contract management process can benefit from knowledge management capabilities in RFP software. At RFPIO, my team uses our Answer Library to manage contract content and various redlining playbook language. It gives us access to pre-approved content that my team needs to complete sales contracts without having to unduly burden any other departments. We utilize a private collection in the system as a contract language repository. It increases efficiency for legal, sales, contracts, and other subject matter experts (SMEs) whom we rely on for contract management. It also helps me train new team members in a consistent review process and helps reduce the likelihood of brain drain if a member of the team leaves.

A simple process

Your RFPIO Answer Library can serve the same function for contract language management as it does for RFP responses. But instead of using it as a hub for Q&A pairs you need for an RFP, use it as a hub for contract clauses that have been approved by legal or any applicable content from an SME. Other than that, just like for RFPs, you can use it for interdepartmental communication, and it will all be enhanced by an intelligent recommendation engine.

Start by approaching legal with the clauses that get the most pushback from customers. These are the clauses that require more customization. The same ones you have to email over and over again to legal and wait too long for a response. After these clauses are in the Answer Library, contract management staff can reduce the content that legal needs to review (and in an iterative process, new language provided by legal can be added to the Answer Library to minimize the back and forth even further!).

Create a collection that’s only accessible to the contracts and legal teams. Cordon it off so only your team can see it and maintain version control. For example, you may want to set up a “change to governing law” section. Then you can have the legally approved clause applicable to Delaware or Idaho or California or Alpha Centauri. Do the same for clauses relating to payment terms, auto renewal, notice periods, limitation of liability, warranties, and indemnification; the same applies for certificates of insurance (COIs) exhibits, data privacy agreements (DPAs), SLA response times, or whatever else appears in your contracts.

Preserve lawyers’ more expensive time

Debate value of different positions all you like. The fact is that the average lawyer will be more expensive for your company than the average salesperson, contract administrator, or proposal manager.

Also, legal likely has many other priorities that require their time, which means that addressing sales contracts will not be as important as it is to sales. With your Answer Library in place, you can retain up-to-date, legal-approved content that is easily accessible by the entire contracting team, minimizing the sales contract review time for lawyers. Showing legal that you respect their time will also go a long way toward getting faster turnarounds for non-standard contract language.

Make sales look good

One of the most frustrating responses you have to provide to a salesperson is, “We’re still waiting on legal.” It impacts that person’s commission, endangers their deal, and causes unnecessary interdepartmental friction.

Avoid the big time suck of sending every contract to a lawyer by using the approved clauses in your Answer Library. Sales can work faster, and they can also work smarter. Eliminating the fear of avoidance frees them up to be more flexible in their negotiations. It’s easier for salespeople to cater to prospect and customer needs if they know their contract changes won’t bog down negotiations.

Increase value of your contracts team

With an Answer Library chock full of legally approved clauses and communication features that help track a project, the contracts team now has the ability to view an entire project and see what has already been answered. This can be a blind spot for many contract managers, especially if the contract team is separate from a proposal team. Now a contract administrator who can see what’s already been answered in a questionnaire or pre-RFP response doesn’t have to search around in the project’s history or shared file or email chain.

Contract teams deal with subject-matter-experts other than legal, too. Procurement may need to add customers as additional insureds to the COI. IT and/ or IS will need to weigh in on the DPA and SLA information, and Operations may be needed for product information, quantity commitments and timeline obligations. Have the pre-approved contract language set aside for access only by your contracts team and a system where SMEs can quickly review instead of create. “Is this the right clause?” requires a “yes” or “no,” whereas, “Please provide the most recent insurance verbiage,” requires more of a time commitment.

Finally, with a knowledge management system in place, you can focus contract team training on how to use discretion within the system and how to chase down only the non-standard answers.

Emerge from between the rock and hard place

Knowledge management with a solution such as the RFPIO Answer Library alleviates pressure between departments in the contract review process and allows each department to specialize: sales on generating revenue; legal on compliance; and contracts on contracts.

Schedule a demo today to learn more about RFPIO Answer Library.

Reinvest time saved from a high-powered RFP process

Reinvest time saved from a high-powered RFP process

Whether it’s RFPIO or another RFP automation solution, the reason your company initially invests is to accelerate your RFP process. Sarah Ellerman, leader of proposal teams at Salesforce and an RFPIO customer, put it this way: “It’s kind of like in The Walking Dead, [RFPs] just keep coming. You can easily take care of each one. On The Walking Dead, they’re like, ‘OK, I’ll grab that one,’ and ‘OK, I got this one,’ but you start to get in trouble when there’s more and more and more. That’s the stage we were at when we knew that we needed an RFP automation tool.”

After you accelerate your RFP process, what will you do with all of your time dividends? Did Apple hit a trillion-dollar valuation by cashing out every year and implementing a 20-hour work week? Not if Apple Park is any indication.

If you want to disrupt like Apple, then you need to reinvest like Apple. As it pertains to your RFP process, reinvest time dividends to realize long-term growth in content quality, workflow efficiency, and proposal team job satisfaction, and do more than just fend off RFPs.

According to Ellerman, by reinvesting time saved using RFP automation software, you can expect the following outcomes:

  1. Better Deliverables: Finish more RFPs with better-quality content. Proposals can include images, up-to-date contact, all new products and services, and can be output as a beautiful package that will get you up-leveled to win the deal.
  2. Engaged Employees: By spending more time on training proposal team employees and subject matter experts (SMEs) on RFP best practices and products, you’ll have happier teams working in a collaborative environment.
  3. Data-Driven Decisions: When decisions can be made based on data instead of hunches, it leads to more credibility with leaders, especially when an uptick in RFP success coincides with the onboarding of your RFP automation software.

And how should you go about disrupting your RFP program? In this article, you’ll learn how to:

  • Invest in Content
  • Enrich with Context
  • Elevate your People

Invest in content: Use automation to advance your content management system

Curate Content: Continually add and edit content to make it as relevant as possible. Make it pretty. Add images, bullets, and attachments to make it look as professional and polished as possible.

Optimize for Automation: Address proposal team fears that software will be taking over their roles (it’s not; their expertise, credibility and consultative skills will always be necessary). Also clarify with leaders that robots are not in charge of RFPs. Success is still team driven. RFP automation software helps you complete more RFPs more accurately, but it’s not an AI infiltrator.

Also, the proposal team and management need to understand that automation takes time. The software will need help to learn. For example, different RFPs will ask the same question in many different ways. As part of the workflow, team members need to recognize that an answer already exists for a question if it’s being asked with different verbiage. Take the step to add the new verbiage to the Answer Library (essentially clicking two or three buttons) to help the system learn and enrich search functionality.

Speak Your Customer’s Languages: With legacy approaches to RFP responses, teams may have relied on siloed systems (aka, multiple Excel docs or tabs) to translate RFP responses from English into other languages. Lots of problems here. Content in other languages may not be as up to date. Increased globalization sees many more companies in need of multilingual capabilities. International proposal teams may feel overlooked if the content in their language is out of date and requires more time and effort than their English-language counterparts. RFPIO has multilingual capabilities so that updating content in one language actually updates it in every language.

Enrich with context: Integrate your RFP process with your existing tech stack

Examine Your Integrations: Whether you use Google Drive, Salesforce, Slack, or other tools that you want integrated with your RFPIO solution, set it up at implementation. RFPIO already has integrations set up with many of these tools. It’s just a matter of customizing it for you.

Explore the APIs: RFPIO offers custom integrations with your projects and answer library. With RFPIO’s Project API, you can connect your project data to a BI tool such as Tableau and execute even more complex reporting than you may have been able to do with your CRM integration. Our Answer Library API allows you to hook it up to a homegrown CSM system or other software. APIs are yet another option to embed RFPIO into your existing systems so convincingly that both your responses and your team’s engagement with the process will be enriched.

Reinvent/Reimagine Metrics: Time isn’t the only metric you can use to determine success, but it’s a primary driver for most companies investing in RFP software. Tracking how much time each contributor spends on an RFP is a key metric to resource allocation. Without RFP automation software, you have to rely on manual reporting. Not that people purposely misrepresent how much time they spend on a proposal, but with everyone multitasking, stepping away for meetings, or contributing to multiple responses, manual reporting results in under- or over-reporting hours spent. RFPIO automates time tracking so you can eliminate any manual bias and have a single source of truth when it comes to resource allocation.

Elevate your people: Make collaboration as easy as possible

Build a Culture of Collaboration: How do you find the happy medium between abandoning a team member to work alone and forcing every team member to be exposed to every issue? According to Ellerman, her teams at Salesforce had the most success in RFPIO when they “buddied up.” These smaller teams are able to help each other through challenges, create a standard of accountability, and work faster than solo practitioners or large teams.

Refresh Your Team’s Mission Statement: With RFPIO on board, your old mission statement of, “We save the company time by answering questionnaires,” will be out of date. Set up a team lunch to discuss all that your team does for the company post-RFPIO implementation, including everything from communication to efficiency to increasing revenue. A team with a bigger mission will feel compelled to make a greater contribution to the company.

Redefine Team Personas: Not everyone is an “answerer” anymore. Content will need to be updated. Training and enablement will need to be expanded. Give team members an opportunity to deepen and specialize. While everyone may be involved in answering an RFP, primary roles may change to focus on content or training or leadership. Examine what the organization needs and what employees want to do, then identify how to mesh the two together with new capabilities afforded by RFPIO. Everyone will be happier with a job persona that fits.

Scaling: How can you unleash RFPIO on your organization? Get more people involved than just RFP staff. Salespeople and engineers who start recognizing the benefits of RFPIO will want to get involved to accelerate business development or strengthen content being used for answers.

Certifications: Certifications command respect. Start with APMP Certification, offering the world’s first, best and only industry-recognized certification program for professionals working in a bid and proposal environment. With this level of recognition and expertise, your RFP team can be unstoppable!

Do more with less with RFP software

Whether you’re dealing with a headcount freeze, budgetary constraints, or leaders who want results faster than ever, RFPIO will help you do more with less. How will you reinvest the proceeds of a fine-tuned RFP process?

Why you need the ultimate library for your RFP responses

Why you need the ultimate library for your RFP responses

People from unique business units respond to RFPs, and only a select few have “RFP management” listed in their job descriptions. Because various content contributors must band together to create quality responses, this content must be centralized and accessible.

In reality, response content is scattered across spreadsheets, Google Drive folders, or perhaps a content management system. The result of a disjointed RFP response process is apparent in these survey responses about top challenges:

  • 43% of SMEs are spending too much time on RFP responses.
  • 50% of proposal managers can’t keep content up-to-date and accurate.
  • 43% of marketers are wearing too many hats and don’t have time for RFPs.
  • 68% of salespeople struggle with focusing on sales-related activities.

So, what is the secret to more efficient RFP content management? You need the ultimate answer library for your RFP responses.

It’s time to address your RFP content production cycle

With the high number of RFPs you’re responding to, you know you don’t want to start from scratch with each response. It will only be more time lost when you don’t have any to spare.

Perhaps your response management team has already recognized the importance of having an answer library, but the best they could come up with is a workaround. Keeping up with a spreadsheet database is practically a job on its own and searchability isn’t the best. And, how can you begin to keep graphics or supporting attachments organized?

38% of content marketers said the production of content was by far their biggest challenge. Even if you are not a marketer, you are undeniably a content creator if you respond to RFPs. The same content creation challenges ring true in the response process.

Your RFP content production cycle should include an easy way to:

  • Find content.
  • Create content.
  • Customize content.
  • Review content.
  • Format content.
  • Audit content.

RFP software is a dedicated solution that provides a robust, collaborative answer library to meet all of your RFP response needs. Best of all? It’s easy to use.

What to expect from the ultimate RFP answer library

We’ll admit…the word “ultimate” gets thrown around a lot in the business world. But, when you modernize your RFP response process with RFP software, you truly have the ultimate RFP answer library at your disposal.

Because you are working within a dedicated solution for responders—rather than a system of workarounds—you’ll enjoy many benefits that positively impact your RFP content lifecycle.

Store marketing-approved content in one place

Most marketing departments are in charge of approving content for RFP responses. Your answer library serves as a centralized location for marketing approved content to keep the RFP process moving forward smoothly. When approved content is sitting in an email or Excel, it can easily slip through the cracks and delay progress.

Stitch quality content together quickly

An RFP software answer library gives you an option to browse various responses for a similar question in historical RFPs. Quickly stitch together high-quality responses to customize your response for a better chance of closing the deal. It’s never one-size-fits-all for RFP responses, so it’s important to have that level of control over your content.

Organize your answer library to easily find content

The key to an organized answer library is using tags—something you would be hard-pressed to pull off in a spreadsheet. Tags might include: security, architecture, pricing, customer references, terms and conditions. Narrowing down your response content hunt with effective tagging makes searching highly targeted and efficient for your team.

Automate response content and customize

How great would it be if an answer was already generated for you in your answer library? Going the extra mile, a recommendation engine takes searching out of the equation entirely—a lot like the auto-suggest features you’re familiar with in other search platforms or email solutions. And you’re never stuck with the recommended answer, because you have the power to customize it.

Optimize responses with content audits

Your answer library is a living breathing resource, and there are times when it needs a cleanup or refresh. Having a workflow option where the system periodically sends out a friendly content audit reminder to content owners will help everyone stay on top of RFP responses, so they are always relevant and optimized.

89% love having a centralized answer library

Whenever we ask responders about their favorite RFPIO feature, the answer library is consistently the top choice. 89% of responders love having a centralized answer library, because they have unmatched abilities when it comes to storing, organizing, and accessing responses—especially when compared to a previous manual process.

As the Manager of Sales Solution Architects at LexisNexis, Jeff Skott achieved content management mastery and reduced his response time by 25-30%. Watch the video to learn how Jeff gained these superpowers after transforming his answer library.

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