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What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

When you’re invited to respond to an RFQ that aligns with your business goals, it can be an enticing prospect. […]


Category: Response management

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

When you’re invited to respond to an RFQ that aligns with your business goals, it can be an enticing prospect. RFQs are typically for large projects, which drive more revenue and often a better bottom line.

While the opportunity might be tempting, one thing stands in the way: how do you create a winning RFQ response?

Before exploring the “how to,” let’s talk about how RFQs are used. To put them into perspective, automotive purchases are probably the closest most consumers get to knowing how business procurement departments make their large purchases.

Like when you set out on your car buying journey, an organization knows what kind of product they need to purchase, but first, they need to do their research. Let’s continue with our car analogy:

  • They send due diligence questionnaires (DDQs) to determine potential vendors’ compliance and long-term viability, much like you research manufacturers and individual dealerships.
  • They send security questionnaires to assess security compliance, like a car’s safety rating.
  • They send requests for proposals (RFPs) to get more detailed information, such as whether the car is in stock, how long it will take to get it, why you should do business with that particular dealership—and yes, the price.
  • At some point, it is time to sit down at the negotiating table and get straight to the bottom line without all that other information to distract us. That’s when a company sends requests for quotes (RFQs)

Naturally, this is an oversimplification, and large business purchases are far more complex. In this blog, we will get into the surprising nuances of those straight-to-the-bottom-line RFQs.

What is an RFQ?

An RFQ, also known as an invitation for bid (IFB), is a document of trade inviting vendors to offer their best prices and terms of payment. It is issued by an entity or company inviting suppliers or vendors to submit their offers to provide a particular product or service.

In many cases, the issuer has chosen their preferred vendor, but they need assurance that the vendor can meet their business and project needs. When completed, the quote will include the vendor’s costs, terms of payment, and specifications or details about the product(s).

But let’s back up a bit, beginning with when the RFQ arrives at the vendor’s doorstep.

An RFQ generally arrives via email or in a company’s CRM. It could be in the form of a Word or Excel document. From there, the vendor’s response or sales department gathers a team that includes a project manager, subject matter experts (SMEs) to address the issuer’s questions, and response writers and editors to draft the perfect proposal.

Typically, the issuing company would customize the RFQ that they sent to get specific details needed to finalize a purchasing decision.

A comprehensive response includes complete project or product details, product quantity, availability, delivery times, and price.

RFQ vs. RFP

While an RFP is broad, and can cover just about any element of the procurement decision-making process, an RFQ is much more specific. Organizations send RFQs when they know the precise deliverables and simply want price quotes.

RFQs are structured, and content is generally technical, financial, and legal. RFPs and RFQs share some similarities. Both are usually sent after the needs are well defined.

The procurement process involves companies and vendors sending out either an RFP or an RFQ to assess and compare products, prices, and services.

After receiving the proposals, the purchasing organizations compare quotes and attempt to obtain the best price (either through negotiations or through an electronic or reverse auction).

Responding to an RFQ is far simpler than an RFP. The document should be thorough enough to indicate that you have a firm understanding of the specifications and quantity of the required product or service. In contrast, RFP responses, with their be-all, end-all list of questions, stir up everything you can possibly imagine about your company.

RFPs could include questions about pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, case studies, references, implementation, and SLAs.

Benefits of using an RFQ

Comparison

When RFQ formats are consistent, sourcing firms can easily compare by having a solid understanding of the specifications and quantity for their required product or service. The process enables buyers to save money and get the best value.

The ability to compare prices and quotes from a myriad of suppliers makes the selection process simpler by aiding buyers in making the most informed decision because vendors have a better understanding of their needs.

Requests then become shorter and more specific, meaning less time wasted looking for the right supplier. By making it easier to differentiate between suppliers, the buyers will be able to find the best vendor for their needs much more quickly and easily.

Consistency

RFQ responses should use consistent language, standard formatting, and generally standardized templates that allow for easy understanding. This makes both issuing and responding consistent and allows for quicker processing.

Streamlining

The RFQ process streamlines the purchasing process for both the buyer and vendor or supplier.

A well-written, thorough RFQ can help vendors send competitive quotes that help meet the needs of their business and projects.

When you might receive an RFQ

RFQs are not appropriate for all purchases. You may receive an RFQ if:

  • You are a prequalified vendor
  • The customer is looking for an out-of-the-box product or service that needs no customization
  • The issuer won’t need vendor support after delivery
  • Pricing is the key determinant

If, for example, the customer is looking for a bespoke software solution, pricing is only one of many considerations. In that case, you’re more likely to receive a more comprehensive document, such as an RFP.

Features of an RFQ

A request for proposal includes general bidding company information, specifications for a required product or service, terms for payment, a due date for bids, and other necessary details to successfully place a bid.

A request for quote, on the other hand, is used to obtain price and payment information about a vendor’s products and services.

How to respond to an RFQ

Winning RFQs becomes more likely when you understand the parameters, utilize templates to respond, and automate the process.

Submission instructions

Almost every RFQ includes the following:

  • The submittal deadline for submitting a bid
  • How the response or proposal should be formatted
    • Vendors submit their entire RFQ response in a form to expedite the bid-reviewing process.
  • Contact information

Responses should demonstrate that you understand the buyer’s strategic goals and can build a relationship for future projects.

How to determine whether you should respond

Understandably, buyers feel that they run the show when they’re ready to invest in a product or service. But that doesn’t mean that you have to respond to every RFQ in your inbox. If you can’t meet their needs, you may choose not to respond at all, and that’s okay.

Here are the essential facets to consider when responding to an RFQ:

  • Specifically address everything in the RFQ in precise detail. Leave nothing unresolved.
    • Is the RFQ the right fit for your organization and solution?
    • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses each of the challenges presented in the request?
    • Does your pricing match the budget?
    • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
    • Do you have any insight into why the organization issued the RFQ?
  • Research the buyer’s business.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to respond but DO NOT miss the deadline, which is an absolute must in proving you can meet the requirements not just of the RFQ but of the proposed project.

The goal of any RFQ response is to win the bid. Here are some tips:

  • Deliver the response on time.
  • Be flexible if the requirements change.
  • Mention experience or history of meeting similar buyers’ needs.
  • Provide added value to the buyer.

Even if you do not win the bid, an RFQ response could lead to future opportunities.

Include an executive summary

Once you’ve determined that you can meet the customer’s needs, provide an executive summary of your company which should demonstrate your understanding of the parameters.

Despite being the very first thing on a quote template, the introduction is usually populated last. Other things to include in this executive summary could include broader business goals, essentially anything the issuers need to understand the bid.

RFPIO saves you from having to manually recreate the introduction for each RFQ—or RFx—by using machine learning to auto-populate, with your approval, of course, each element of your executive summary.

Templatize your pricing

If you use a pricing template, the issuer can compare quotes easily. A pricing template provides uniformity, so the issuer will know exactly where to find pricing and product or service details.

An RFQ template should provide an offered price column. Other fields should include specifications and the quantity of products or services.

While templates will vary from product to product and RFQ to RFQ, the goal is to have all the information for a specific product in the same format so the purchaser can compare the bids quickly, easily, and accurately.

RFPIO includes both built-in customizable branded templates and provides the option to create your own.

Specifications

RFQ responses need to be specific. If one is not detailed enough, it could lead to misunderstandings, potentially jeopardize the deal, and even land you in legal hot water for misrepresentation. Templates help ensure you don’t miss anything.

Contract and fees

Vendors should know that most organizations require bid fees with each response. The assumption is that having skin in the game on the part of vendors helps ensure that the process is open and transparent. The money is typically held in escrow during the RFQ process.

If the vendor earns the contract, the payment schedule will reflect the fee. The remaining money in escrow is returned to the vendors that did not win the contract.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve provided your best price and terms, the customer is ready to make their decision. With any luck, they’ll soon drive away with a shiny new (metaphorical) car and you’ve made a profitable sale!

RFPIO is an end-to-end response management platform that helps you sell more cars (yes, RFQs are sometimes used for literal cars, especially fleet vehicles), widgets, services, etc.

We provide customized templates for automated response tools to help you win more business. To learn more about how RFPIO can streamline your process and help ensure quality responses, let’s chat!

How to respond to a security questionnaire

How to respond to a security questionnaire

If you’re like me, you regularly receive emails advising you to change your passwords because one company or another has suffered a security breach. Unfortunately, data breaches are all too common.

In 2021, there were over 1,800 reported data breaches. That is a significant uptick from prior years. 83% of those breaches involved sensitive customer information, such as Social Security and credit card numbers.

The average data breach costs $4.4 million, and much of that is passed on to customers—the same customers who had their sensitive data compromised.

No wonder many businesses now consider cybersecurity their number one concern. Not only does a data breach cost money, it also runs the risk of damaging credibility and eroding trust. Some companies, especially small companies, never recover.

More than half of organizations have experienced third-party data breaches, often despite having what they think is a rigorous security protocol.

The average tech stack might contain dozens of different applications and tools. Sometimes, bad actors sneak in through one of those third-party applications, so it’s critical to properly vet each vendor’s security protocols as you would your own.

The most common way to vet vendors is through security questionnaires. But what are security questionnaires, and how do you respond to them in a way that you, as a vendor, will instill trust?

What is a security questionnaire?

After reading this far, you probably have a good idea of what a security questionnaire is. Still, to boil it down, it’s a questionnaire designed to determine whether a vendor or potential vendor is compliant with your security and legal requirements.

Not surprisingly, security questionnaires are complex and highly technical. The good news is that most questions have “yes” or “no” answers.

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

Many people confuse security questionnaires and DDQs (due diligence questionnaires). It’s easy to see why, as both are issued to assess a company’s compliance with the issuer’s regulations and security requirements.

Neither DDQs nor security questionnaires are specifically part of a sales cycle, although they may be issued before entering into a contract. They might also be issued before an organization is even buying to weed out non-compliant companies before and if the buying process begins.

There are significant differences between the two types of documents, however. You’re most likely to see DDQs if you’re in the financial segment. They are broader in scope than security questionnaires and may ask about business plans, profits and losses, revenue, etc. They might also ask about cybersecurity policies.

A security questionnaire is more straightforward and can be issued from any segment to any organization, although primarily to tech companies. While DDQs ask broad questions about processes, often in narrative form, a security questionnaire forces you to pony up your proof of compliance.

You might see both a DDQ and security questionnaire before receiving an RFP. Generally, the DDQ will come first. Once the issuer is satisfied that you meet their requirements, they might send a security questionnaire to gather certificates and other forms of proof.

In some cases, a security questionnaire follows an RFP and could be the last step before finalizing a deal.

Preparing for a security questionnaire response

Security questionnaires usually arrive via the response manager or perhaps through a CRM. Since most questions center around cybersecurity, SMEs can be from IT, risk management, sales engineering, accounting, information security, operations, and even HR.

The response turnaround time is typically shorter with a security questionnaire than with an RFx. The issuer might want it within days.

Components of a security questionnaire

There are many, many types of security questionnaires, and it would be impossible to list them in this blog post, but here are some examples of what a security questionnaire might assess:

  • Network security
  • Information security
  • Datacenter and physical security
  • Web application security
  • Infrastructure security
  • Business continuity
  • Security audits and penetration testing
  • Personnel policies, hiring practices, and training programs
  • Security certifications
  • SLAs and uptime vs. downtime

Types of security questionnaires

There are several types of security questionnaires, but primarily, you will see these:

Security Questionnaires and Security Questionnaires Lite – Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaires

  • VSAQ – Vendor Security Assessment Questionnaire
  • CAIQ – Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire
  • VSA – Vendor Security Alliance Questionnaire
  • NIST 800-171 – National Institute of Standards and Technology Questionnaire
  • CIS Controls – Center for Internet Security Questionnaire

How to respond to security questionnaires – and how RFPIO will help

If you are a response manager, you’re likely very comfortable responding to an RFx or even a DDQ. Both allow for a bit of creativity, in that, along with answering questions, you’re constructing a narrative to show how your company is the right fit for the issuer.

Security questionnaires aren’t about narratives. They are straightforward and stringent, and accuracy is a legal requirement. Clearly, there’s no room for error. If you’re ready, let’s grab a cup of coffee, or your favorite motivational elixir, and dive right in.

Step 1 – Search for all available materials

While security questionnaires are undeniably bulky and complex, there’s a lot of redundancy. You have probably answered many similar questions before. Search your existing database for those answers.

Often, issuers send a boilerplate questionnaire rather than customize it to each product. Eliminate the questions that don’t apply to your product. Don’t be afraid to ask the issuer to clarify questions that seem confusing or unnecessary.

Step 1 with RFPIO – Prebuilt centralized Content Library

RFPIO features the industry-leading AI-powered prebuilt Content Library. Every previous security questionnaire and all your documentation are housed in one place, accessible to any authorized user.

Step 2 – Answer only the pre-existing matching responses

Response management isn’t like school. In fact, copying other people’s work is encouraged. Search your existing database for pre-existing matching responses and use them when you can.

Step 2 with RFPIO – System-driven identification of sections and questions

RFPIO’s import capabilities, which include Lightning import through Salesforce, leverages machine learning to automatically find matching responses, without you having to initiate the process. This feature alone can do up to 80% of the work for you.

Step 3 – Group all unanswered questions and collaborate with SMEs

Once you’ve found all the applicable existing content, you’ll need to collaborate with SMEs to finish the process. Group all your unanswered questions, broken up by SME, and inform them of their timelines.

Step 3 with RFPIO – Automate through AI

RFPIO’s auto-respond feature and recommendation engine find existing documents and similar, although not specifically matching, content for SMEs’ review. As a side benefit, once SMEs recognize the time-saving capabilities of RFPIO, they’ll be far more likely to help you in the future.

Step 4 – Follow up and track the status of responses

Make sure every team member is completing their portion in a timely manner.

Step 4 with RFPIO – Streamline collaboration through project management capabilities

RFPIO’s Project Module offers up-to-the-minute reporting and reminders to ensure that the questionnaire will be ready on time.

Step 5 – Manually collate and complete the questionnaire

Whew! You’ve answered all the questions and all you have to do is collate the answers and export them back to the original document. Unfortunately, for many companies, that’s a manual process which could take hours—and sometimes days.

Step 5 with RFPIO – Export to the source file

RFPIO eliminates all of the cumbersome manual work with automatic exporting to the response file, all within seconds.

Security questionnaire response obstacles

There’s no direct line from a security questionnaire to revenue generation, which is why they’re sometimes left on the back burner. But that’s not the only reason there might be reluctance on the part of your response team. Other obstacles include:

  • Length – A security questionnaire can have hundreds to thousands of questions. That’s more than a little intimidating if the answers aren’t ready to go.
  • You’re time-bound – Sometimes the questionnaire gets stuck in an internal limbo, and sometimes the issuer sends it expecting an almost immediate turnaround. Having most of the answers ready will cut your response time to a fraction of what it could have been.
  • SME cooperation – SMEs are busy people, so understandably, they might not put the security questionnaire at the top of their “to-do” list. Assure them that you value their time by completing as much of the questionnaire as possible.
  • You don’t have all the certifications and protocol – Most companies won’t be able to answer every question in the affirmative. Submit what you have and perhaps see this as an opportunity to reevaluate where your company might be lacking.
  • Too much jargon – Security questionnaires tend to be jargon-heavy, and if you aren’t familiar with what they’re asking, you might not provide an accurate answer. SMEs can help but so can a well-organized, searchable even by jargon, Content Library.
  • Scattered knowledge (identifying and locating the right content) – If you have a siloed knowledge base, tracking everything down is challenging and time-consuming. Upload all of your certificates, documents, and Q&A pairs to a single source of truth accessible to any authorized stakeholder.
  • Non-compliant content management software – If your content management software isn’t compliant with your company’s requirements, SMEs, especially those in security, won’t use it. RFPIO is even secure enough for Microsoft.

Priorities and tips for the response process

As you’re staring down a seemingly infinite inbox and a calendar filled with back-to-back meetings, speed might be your top priority. However, security questionnaires are legal documents, so accuracy is the most crucial consideration. Fortunately, response software with built-in content management helps ensure both.

Streamlining workflow

RFPIO has several tools to help streamline your workflow, including:

  • Import/Export capabilities – Avoid disorganized, inconsistent, illogical formatting by importing security questionnaires right into your customized template for uniformity, making each stakeholder’s job much more manageable. Once you’ve completed the questionnaire, upload it onto your branded response template or straight to the source document.
  • Project management – If your workforce is like ours, you have people working from home, on other floors, in other buildings, and across the world. RFPIO helps you virtually gather your scattered stakeholders and track progress without chasing people down.
  • Content management – If I, for some reason, were forced to choose my favorite RFPIO feature, it would be the AI-powered Content Library. It:
    • Busts down silos – RFPIO’s Content Library is a single source of truth, with all of your company’s knowledge and documents in one repository.
    • Does most of the work for you – Once you upload the questionnaire, the Content Library’s magical gnomes—we call them the recommendation engine—comb through past responses to make suggestions. All you have to do is accept, edit, or reject. Since security questionnaires ask yes/no questions, there’s little to no editing.
    • Stores content – As the company creates more knowledge and documents, the Content Library will store them for future use.
    • Organizes content – Format, tag, and generally organize the content how you want.
    • Helps keep you compliant – Since we’re talking about security questionnaires, your security team will love this! RFPIO reminds you of expiration and “shred by” dates. It also reminds you when to review specific content and when to audit.
  • Integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with nearly all the communication apps, CRMs, and productivity apps your company uses every day.
  • RFPIO® LookUp – Access the Content Library from anywhere in the world.
  • Autograph – With RFPIO’s Autograph, there’s no need to hunt signatories down. They can sign right from their computers.

Improving Content Library

Keep your Content Library clean, up to date, and organized by consulting with sales engineers and others involved in answering security questionnaires. Ask for their input in categorizing and tagging.

Keeping information up-to-date

Because security questionnaires are legal documents, accurate and up-to-date information is vital. RFPIO reminds you to clean out all the ROT (redundant, outdated, and trivial) information and documents. It even helps you locate all the ROT.

Software for security questionnaire responses

Many companies still rely on manual responses, which are time-consuming and inefficient.One way to differentiate your company from your competitors is to use advanced response software for security questionnaires.

Response software, such as RFPIO, gives each security questionnaire the thoroughness and scrutiny required while saving your team’s time, keeping SMEs on your good side, and helps keep you compliant.

Automation

If you use a CRM or project management software, you probably already know the benefits of automation. Most users do. In fact, IT professionals, such as those helping answer security questionnaires, save up to 20 hours a week using automated processes.

Automation is a morale booster! 45% of knowledge workers report feeling less burned out when they use automation tools, and 29% say automation lets them leave their jobs at the end of the official workday.

RFPIO’s automated response processes automatically fill in most of your answers to a security questionnaire and pull corresponding documents. One customer reports that after RFPIO security questionnaire automation, they can answer 100 questions in just 2 hours!

Templated responses

Most security questionnaires arrive in Excel, which, as you know, is about as standardized as the snowflakes covering Mount Everest. Excel isn’t to blame. Microsoft designed the OG of spreadsheets to track everything from kids’ activities to trips to space.

RFPIO imports the hundreds to thousands of lines on a security questionnaire spreadsheet onto your customized template, ensuring that everyone knows exactly how to find what they need. Additionally, since many questions are redundant, RFPIO answers those duplicate questions for you.

RFPIO’s approach to security questionnaire responses

Breathe a little easier next time you receive a security questionnaire, knowing that RFPIO has your back. You will save loads of time, create accurate, complete responses, and stay on your SMEs’ good sides.

If you don’t already use RFPIO, try a free demo.

How to respond to a DDQ

How to respond to a DDQ

Entering into a business relationship, whether it includes making a large purchase or even a merger or acquisition, is complicated. With today’s security challenges, it is riskier than ever.

When a company receives a DDQ, the document shouldn’t be taken lightly. Lack of due diligence on the part of the responder can risk future deals, future partnerships, and even the company’s reputation.

What is a DDQ?

DDQ stands for due diligence questionnaire. While that sounds somewhat vague, a DDQ is all about mitigating risk by determining whether the company receiving the DDQ complies with the issuer’s standards and regulations.

A DDQ could be a precursor to an RFP, a merger or acquisition, or an audit from an existing customer. It could even be a way of creating a list of “safe” companies for future dealings.

Naturally, DDQs are as varied as the companies, and especially the industries, that issue them. Tech companies, for example, emphasize security and privacy compliance. Financial institutions want assurance that vendors won’t put them in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission, among other regulatory agencies. And those in the healthcare industry need to verify HIPAA compliance.

Naturally, it’s not that simple. There’s a lot of overlap. Every industry, for example, is concerned with security and privacy. Nearly every DDQ, regardless of sector, probes companies about their history, investments, organizational structure, etc.

In short, the job of a DDQ response team is to paint a picture of a company that is stable and compliant.

A DDQ is not a sales document. Most DDQs will not ask about product functionality, market share, hiring practices, etc., although they might ask about major new product releases, as they could affect financial forecasts.

Who issues DDQs?

While any organization could issue a DDQ, they’re primarily issued by technology companies, financial services companies, and government agencies.

DDQs can have dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of questions, but even the simplest DDQs require input from multiple stakeholders. If you’re in charge of responding to DDQs, you may need input from the following roles:

  • Financial – You could receive questions regarding your company’s financial health. These may include questions about anything from investors, to financial statements, to liens, to the amount of taxes your company pays, etc. If you work for a privately held company, you might not choose to answer those questions, but the issuer will ask.
  • Legal – Most legal questions fall under the purview of RFPs. However, you may see DDQ questions related to legal compliance.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions – Companies must issue DDQs before entering into mergers or acquisitions.
    Analysts – While raw data might be enough to answer some questions, many will need a deeper understanding and even forecasting.
  • Compliance – Gauging compliance is the core function of a DDQ.
  • IT – IT departments are at the front line of enacting and maintaining security protocols.
  • Procurement – In many companies, procurement departments are DDQs’ project managers. It’s rare, however, to see questions related explicitly to procurement.

Why do companies issue due diligence questionnaires?

Issuing a DDQ simplifies the collection and delivery of vital information needed before engaging in or continuing a business relationship.

A DDQ enables the issuer to learn about current or prospective partnerships’:

  • Financial status – It’s easy to understand why a company might want to learn about a potential vendor’s financial position. A financial misstep from a vendor could have reverberations down the line. However, many, if not most, privately held companies will not open their books to people outside their organization. Publicly traded companies are another story; their financial statuses must be public.
  • Business holdings – Business holdings are part of financial due diligence and could reveal debts and potential tax liabilities.
  • Compliance standards – Compliance requirements are numerous and deep. If a vendor is out of compliance with an issuer’s obligations, the issuer could find themselves out of compliance,

A DDQ helps a company measure risk in a variety of types of business transactions. Reasons for issuing DDQs include:

  • Completing a merger – A merger is a marriage, so to speak, between two companies. It’s a legally binding agreement that essentially states, “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” It would be irresponsible to enter into a merger without knowing what the “yours” that will be “mine” is.
  • Assessing an acquisition – An acquisition is much like a merger in that transparency is critical, and a DDQ will reflect that.
  • Considering an investment – Large investors want to vet their potential investment before writing a check.
    Third-party vendor risk management – Even if a company is 100% compliant, their vendors could put your customers at risk. Risk assessments have to dig below the surface.

Responding to a DDQ

An effective DDQ response provides enough information to empower buyers, prospective investors, or business partners to confidently move forward.

A DDQ response process has a lot in common with an RFP response process, but there are some differences. Here are the key steps for responding to a DDQ:

1. Define your response strategy

Just as responding to an RFP requires a strategy, so should a DDQ response. First, you must determine:

  • Whether the SLA (service level agreement) is defined and available.
  • Who to put in charge of intake.
  • When you will be ready to start answering questions.
  • Who will answer the DDQ.
  • How long the DDQ will be in question/answer mode.
  • When the DDQ will be ready for review.

2. Assign tasks and due dates

A typical DDQ will have several SMEs and stakeholders. Make sure everyone knows their precise roles and responsibilities and expected timelines.

3. Answer commonly seen questions

Most questions on a DDQ, or for that matter, an RFx, are identical or nearly identical to questions you’ve answered before. A well-developed Content Library should automatically provide those repeatable answers, enabling you to accept them as is or edit them as needed.

4. Consult with collaborators

Once you’ve answered all the common questions, it’s time to turn to the experts. Consult with your response team and SMEs (subject matter experts) to complete the DDQ.

5. Review

Go through the DDQ with a fine-toothed comb to ensure there are no errors or missed (answerable) answers.

6. Submit the Questionnaire to the issuer

On time, right?

Due Diligence response best practices

Even though companies send DDQs with different goals in mind, and they are as varied as any other type of document your proposal team may see, there are a few best practices you should follow for all your submissions.

Understand your position in the sales funnel

Your latest DDQ may or may not be part of the sales process. If it leads to a potential sale, you’ll typically see a DDQ high up in the funnel, perhaps as a way of selecting compliant vendors before issuing an RFP.

Occasionally you might see a DDQ after responding to an RFP and as the prospect is nearly ready to select a vendor.

Sometimes, though, the DDQ is so far removed from the sales process that it’s nothing more than information gathering, either on current vendors or maybe-one day-in-the-future vendors.

No matter where the DDQ is in the sales funnel, if it’s in the sales funnel at all, it’s not a good idea to set the document aside. Maybe it will lead to future deals, or perhaps it will expose some of your own vulnerabilities.

Aim for a consistent and systematic approach

Some DDQs have thousands of questions, which might feel intimidating, and your instinct might be to answer each question as succinctly as possible. While that approach might save you time, proving compliance requires a detailed and consistent response.

Still, you can take steps to ensure that you don’t skip questions and to help you manage the time required to provide complete answers. They include:

  • Prepare a customized checklist – Create a customized checklist of the types of information you might need, preferably categorized by industry. You could require an organizational chart, financial information, legal documents, and of course, governance, risk, and compliance documents. Here’s one you can download right now.
  • Create due diligence questionnaire templates – Consistency saves time. If you upload your DDQs into a customized template, each stakeholder will know precisely where to locate what they need.
  • Leverage RFP response management softwareRFP response management software also works for DDQs. Intelligent response management software will help you create and store both checklists and templates.

Centralize response information

Most of the questions on a DDQ are very similar to questions you’ve answered in previous questionnaires. Storing your responses and documents in a single source of truth for information can save hours, days, and sometimes even weeks on your response process. Beyond saving time, a Content Library:

  • Ensures accuracy – A company is legally bound to their answers, so accuracy is critical. The Content Library will hold on to the company-approved answers, enabling users to produce accurate responses.
  • Supports transparency – Transparency is critical for both trust and employee morale. When all the necessary information is right there for authorized users to see and use, it creates trust among the rest of the response team and potential customers.
  • Improves knowledge access – Anyone with the proper credentials can access the knowledge they need.

Automate the response process

You may not be using automation in your response process, but your competitors and many—if not most—of your customers and clients are. There are several reasons leveraging automation improves the DDQ response process, including:

  • Tracking real-time vendor completion progress – Automated response software has (or should have) project management built right in. It tracks each stakeholder’s progress.
  • Streamlining response time – Automation can answer up to 80% of your DDQ with just a few clicks.
  • Scaling ability to respond to DDQs – Automation helps determine the size and scope of the ideal response team as well as timeline estimates.
  • Efficiently managing tasks and deadlines – Define and manage tasks and expectations with automation.
  • Improving collaboration – Automated responses value and save SMEs’ time, creating more willingness to collaborate.

Due diligence checklist

While all transactions differ, a DDQ checklist facilitates a more thorough response through better organization and time management.

Common materials collected during a DDQ response include general corporate information, financial information, compliance certifications, licenses, legal documents, etc.

Organization and ownership

A DDQ might be a potential vendor’s first encounter with your organization, which means they need a proper introduction. The DDQ could ask for:

  • An organizational chart
  • Partnership/profit sharing agreements
  • Records of shareholder meetings
  • Senior leadership information (e.g., age, tenure, promotions, etc.)

Human resources

DDQs don’t generally dive too deeply into human resources issues, but you can learn much about a company’s long-term viability and potential problems from the HR department. DDQs might ask HR about:

  • Projected headcount (by function and location)
  • Benefit plans
  • Key employment agreements
  • Personnel turnover data
  • Incentive stock plan overviews
  • Employee litigation

Financial

DDQs are common in financial service organizations. Also, because DDQs might precede a lengthy business relationship, the issuer will want to know your organization is financially stable. It is important to note, though, that many privately-held companies will not provide financial documents. Requested financial records might include:

  • Annual and quarterly financial information
  • Accounts receivable
  • Capital structure
  • Summary of all debt instruments
  • Financial projections
  • Revenue (by product type, customers, and channel)
  • Major growth drivers and prospects
  • Summary of current tax positions
  • Schedule of financing history (equity, warrants, and debt)

Fund information

DDQs are necessary for mergers, acquisitions, or business partnerships. It probably goes without saying that fund information is crucial for financial or investment partner due diligence. The document might request information about:

  • Fund strategy
  • Product and fund descriptions
  • Market share
  • Timing of new products
  • Cost structure
  • Profitability

Governance, risk, and compliance

Assessing governance, risk, and compliance is the primary purpose for issuing a DDQ. Be prepared to offer documentation for:

  • Policies
  • Code of ethics
  • Fund exposure
  • Service provider risk
  • SEC communications

Legal

Legal documentation helps issuers determine whether a company is in good legal standing. You may be asked to provide information on:

  • Pending and past lawsuits
  • Environmental and employee liabilities and safety
  • Intellectual Property
  • Insurance coverage details
  • Summary of material contacts
  • History of regulatory agency issues

Streamline your DDQ response process with RFPIO

Issuing and responding to DDQs can be repetitive and time-consuming, and not just for dedicated response teams. RFPIO’s automated response software saves time, improves quality and accuracy, and helps foster good working relationships.

Due diligence software offers several features to help optimize the DDQ response process, including:

Knowledge library

RFPIO’s AI-powered Content Library is a centralized knowledge source—a single source of truth—that enables streamlined responses by intelligently answering most of a DDQ’s questions and providing the corresponding documents without asking SMEs to reinvent the wheel each and every time a similar question arises.

Answer intelligence

Using machine learning, RFPIO response management software understands the questions and knows how to respond to routine (and some not routine) requests based on previous answers. All you have to do is edit or accept the suggested responses.

Collaborative integrations

RFPIO offers best-in-class integrations with all the productivity, sales enablement, communication, and CRM tools you already use.

*Put your best answers forward with RFPIO*

Learn how RFPIO can help your company respond to DDQs with accuracy, efficiency, and expedience. Schedule a free demo – RFPIO, DDQ management software.

Understanding due diligence questionnaires

Understanding due diligence questionnaires

The internet allows consumers to easily arm themselves with information that may influence their buying decisions. Before spending money at a restaurant or hair salon, for example, they might consult Yelp or Google Business reviews.

When a business enters into an agreement with another company, whether it’s a large purchase or even a merger or acquisition, making informed decisions is a little—okay, a lot—more complicated than just checking Yelp reviews. Before entering into a business relationship, buyers must do their due diligence, or there could be severe repercussions.

What does doing “due diligence” entail when entering into business agreements? In this blog, we’ll talk about when you can expect a DDQ (due diligence questionnaire), what to expect from it, and how to make filling one out a whole lot easier.

What is a due diligence questionnaire (DDQ)?

A DDQ is a formal document and request from a company looking to have a set level of understanding of a specific topic from a potential vendor. A DDQ enables the issuer to vet prospective partnerships.

It is worth noting, however, that DDQs vary between industries and types of products or transactions. Also, unlike an RFP, a DDQ is not a sales document and may not even be a precursor to a sales document.

Although, similarly to how many (if not most) companies run background checks on new hires, a DDQ might be that “background check” before signing an official deal. DDQs are most commonly sent from highly-regulated companies, such as those in the financial services industry.

Some DDQs are product-focused, asking, for example, what the product capabilities are. However, a DDQ is not a sales document, so it generally won’t get into specific product features, pricing, or logistics.

DDQs include:

  • Financial status – Businesses make large purchases to help them fulfill their customer obligations. Suppose they choose to do business with a company that isn’t on good financial footing and could go bankrupt. In that case, the purchasing organization risks financial loss, potential legal problems, damage to credit, and a hit to its reputation. This isn’t to say they’ll always receive the answers they’re looking for; we’ll get to that in a moment.
  • Business holdings – Asking an organization to disclose its business holdings is part of the financial vetting process. It could reveal potential red flags that expose the vendor—and potentially, by extension, the purchaser—to legal and tax vulnerabilities.
  • Compliance standards – Does the vendor meet the purchaser’s industry standards and applicable government regulations? These questions might arrive via a separate security questionnaire.

Due diligence core areas

Many people confuse DDQs with RFPs and security questionnaires, but they are quite different. As mentioned earlier, an RFP is a sales document. A security questionnaire has more in common with a DDQ than an RFP but security questionnaires are generally straightforward yes/no questions.

A DDQ might contain some narrative questions, similarly to an RFP. But a DDQ is strictly about vetting a company, not making a sale. The core areas include:

  • General organizational information (business credentials) – Typically, DDQs only ask about surface business credentials, such as company name, company legal name, year founded, primary products, number of customers, etc.
  • Financial review – Financial due diligence is one of the primary purposes for DDQs, especially in financial services. Customers may want to see the last three years of financial statements. Privately-held companies are not legally required to release financial information—and as a matter of course, they won’t. As an alternative, the vendor might suggest a phone call to discuss concerns.
  • Human resources – HR questions are generally more characteristic of an RFP than a DDQ. There might be some surface-level questions, such as “how many employees,” etc., but granular questions about HR are left to the RFP.
  • Funding – A DDQ issued to a startup company might ask about funding. A DDQ may also ask about a fund manager’s strategy.
  • Governance, risk, and compliance – This is a core piece of DDQs.
  • Legal – Legal questions are usually categories under compliance. Legal agreements are generally more RFP-focused.

What does a DDQ include?

While DDQs might have some narrative questions, most are yes/no. DDQ questions might cover several categories.

They might include:

  • Company questions – Company questions might include some narrative questions, such as, “tell us about (company history, organizational structure, subsidiaries, majority stakeholders, investments, etc.).”
  • Financial information – Financial information includes income, balance sheets, accounts payable and receivable, tax returns, credit reports, etc. Many privately held companies will not answer these questions.
  • Employee information – Employee information is generally part of an RFP. However, a DDQ might ask high-level questions such as the number of employees, types of non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, etc.
  • Legal overview – A DDQ is not a legal contract, but that doesn’t mean incorrect answers won’t get you in legal hot water in the future. You may see questions about litigations, permits, licensing, etc.
  • Financial and debt statements – It’s common for a DDQ to ask for financial and debt statements. However, while that information is public for publicly traded companies, privately held companies may not, and often do not, provide those answers.
  • Consumer/customer information – Customer questions are generally not part of a DDQ. However, it might include questions about security surrounding customer records or any litigations.
  • Industry and market insights – Industry and market insights are not common DDQ subjects.
  • Intellectual property – Intellectual property questions are common on DDQs. You could be asked how many patents your company holds, whether your products are intellectual property or crowdsourced, etc.
  • Operational information – Like HR questions, operational questions are typically high-level, such as about network security. However, in manufacturing, operational questions tend to be far more complex and in-depth.
  • Regulatory compliance – Regulatory compliance is generally the most critical part of a DDQ, especially in the tech, financial, and healthcare industries. You can expect several questions about whether you comply with an issuer’s regulatory requirements.
  • Data security and privacy – In most cases, data security and privacy fall under regulatory compliance. Some issuers might want to know whether you go above and beyond to meet stringent compliance requirements.
  • Contractual obligations – Contractual obligation questions are typically in an RFP instead of a DDQ.
    Reputation and publicity reports – Reputation and publicity report questions are not generally part of a DDQ. However, you will find them on RFPs and RFIs (requests for information).
  • Information technology systems – It’s common for a DDQ to ask about existing software and hardware.
  • Tax history – Tax history typically falls under financial questions. Most privately held companies won’t answer.

Why do organizations issue DDQs?

While DDQs are not a direct part of the sales cycle, they can help facilitate it. A company may issue a security questionnaire before an RFP or even compile a list of compliant vendors for future use.

It’s also prevalent for companies to issue DDQs to existing vendors to address significant organizational changes and maintain standards in their vendor pool.

  • Mitigate risks – Risk mitigation is the fundamental reason to issue a DDQ. Risk mitigation is a common concern in investment management. DDQs are often issued for existing relationships to ensure up-to-date compliance.
  • Guarantee compliance – This falls under risk mitigation.
    Streamline disclosure process – A comprehensive DDQ is designed to streamline information collection and disclosure.
  • Enable efficient gathering of large amounts of data – DDQs can collect large amounts of data, within limits. Large response teams can provide more data than smaller teams, although advanced response software helps level the playing field.
  • Accelerate transactions – Generally, DDQs do not accelerate transactions. However, they can make choosing vendors in the short or long-term future much simpler.

Understanding DDQ responses

An effective DDQ response provides enough information to empower transactions to proceed with assurance. Quality responses can help:

  • Demonstrate strengths with compliance – Demonstrating compliance can set you apart from some of your competitors, but again, DDQs are not sales documents. It’s essential to follow the issuer’s guidelines and never fudge or exaggerate your compliance.
  • Confirm historical performance – A DDQ may ask about past performance trends, especially in investment and financial firms. Other industries might be asked about overall growth, etc., although that’s usually not a focus.
  • Investment and asset management – A DDQ might also ask about investments and asset management. However, privately held companies might not answer the questions.
  • Disclose risks – From the buyer’s perspective, a DDQ is about disclosing any risks before entering into or maintaining a business relationship. Vendors might be tempted to gloss over risks, but it’s critical to be honest about your limitations and hopefully create a plan to address them.
  • Grow revenue – DDQs are not specifically revenue-generating documents, but in many cases, they are a necessary piece of housekeeping, so to speak, before entering a sales cycle.

Types of due diligence questionnaires

DDQs are about as varied as the industries they come from and their ultimate purposes. Some industry-specific or situational questions you might find are:

Mergers and acquisitions due diligence

Not surprisingly, DDQs issued before a merger or acquisition are highly detailed. Nothing is off the table, although a DDQ will commonly ask about financial history and obligations, security compliance, legal matters, contract obligations, etc.

It is worth noting that since mergers and acquisitions are typically not public knowledge within a company, the vendor should limit project access to executives and others involved in the query.

Vendor due diligence

Not all customer/vendor relationships begin with a DDQ; it depends on the industry. For example, purchases in the investment and management realm must include DDQs. Vendor management is about standardization to take any surprises out of future business arrangements. Overall, the goal is to reduce risk and inform decision-making.

Business relationship due diligence

DDQs can be a critical part of ongoing business relationships. Have regulatory requirements changed? Have you kept up? Has your business made any structural changes?

Investment due diligence

A DDQ is extremely important in vetting companies before investing. It is worth noting, once again, that the types of questions asked on an investment DDQ ask for sensitive information, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be answered by response teams.

Due diligence questionnaires: Best practices

Unlike the RFP process, which focuses on features, pricing, onboarding processes, etc., the DDQ process elicits details and insights that may be overlooked.

Define your strategy

Your DDQ strategy should begin long before you receive one. Response managers should determine:

  • Whether their SLAs are defined and available.
  • Who is going to intake the DDQ?
  • How long will it take before you start answering questions?
  • Who will answer the questions?
  • How long will the DDQ be in question/answer mode?
  • When will the DDQ be ready for review?

Address vulnerabilities

It’s easy to assume that a DDQ mitigates risks for the issuer with little benefit to the company responding. However, it’s not that simple. An accurate and thorough DDQ response strategy can identify vulnerabilities within your organization.

As for the issuer, failure to issue a comprehensive DDQ can result in:

  • Security breaches – If a company fails to properly vet vendors for compliant security protocol, they risk breaches that are out of their control, and the vendor risks fines and litigation when they fail to deliver or try to gloss over risks.
  • Failed revenue goals – If a purchase is tied to your company’s revenue and you’ve failed to do your due diligence, it could have revenue ramifications for several quarters.
  • Falling out of compliance – Even if all of your company’s systems are compliant, a non-compliant vendor could knock you out of compliance.
  • Breached contracts – If you choose a vendor who fails to adhere to their agreement, your customers will blame your company, not the vendor.
  • Fraud – Fraud in B2B (business to business) sales is rare, in no small part because the vetting process is far more rigorous than with most consumer purchases.
  • Mismanagement – DDQs help protect against the mismanagement of funds or data.

Clearly articulate core DDQ objectives

Why did you receive the DDQ? Is it a precursor to a sales process, or will it be an ongoing quarterly or yearly review or audit?

Employ a consistent and systematic approach

An effective DDQ response process requires thoroughness, accuracy, and consistency. Advanced response management software, such as RFPIO, is the tool that creates time-saving repeatable processes.

  • Prepare customized templates – Create a branded answer template that easily imports information from whatever format a DDQ appears in.
  • Identify and quickly access SMEs – Are the questions in their area of expertise, and do they have the time?
  • Leverage RFP response management software – RFP response management software helps ensure that your answers are accurate and on-brand while saving time and resources.

Work from due diligence checklists

Checklists are built into nearly every project management software. Checklists keep you on time and on track.

Super-organized issuers might even build checklists into their DDQs.

A checklist:

  • Enables easier comparisons – Think of a DDQ as an opportunity to check your company’s compliance as it compares to yours and your issuer’s standards.
  • Effectively collects information – A checklist helps ensure that you aren’t missing anything and aren’t gathering the wrong information.
  • Prevents missed deadlines – A checklist will help ensure that your response is complete and on time.

Centralize organizational knowledge

DDQs aren’t known for originality; however, two issuers rarely ask similar questions in identical ways. Can you make the answers repeatable? Can you store answers in a single source of truth to accelerate future DDQ responses? Whether a DDQ has 20 or 2,000 questions, having content in place is by far the biggest time saver.

A single source of truth:

  • Ensures accuracy – All information stored in a company’s knowledge library should be verified accurate through regularly scheduled audits.
  • Supports transparency – With pre-approved answers, a comprehensive AI-powered knowledge library does much of the work for you.
  • Improves knowledge access – In a perfect world, every DDQ stakeholder would have access to their single source of truth. RFPIO’s unique project-based, rather than user-based, pricing structure gives access to any authorized person without having to purchase additional licenses.

Leverage automation

Because DDQs arrive via a myriad of formats, it’s crucial to have software in place that helps you standardize them. Intelligent automation goes several steps further by doing up to 80% of your work.

Benefits of DDQ response automation include:

  • Tracking the completion process in real-time
  • Streamlining the response time
  • Scaling the ability to respond to DDQs
  • Efficiently managed tasks and deadlines
  • Improved collaboration

Due diligence example questions

Not surprisingly, a DDQ’s questions are industry-specific. Below are some common industry-specific examples:

Organizational due diligence questions

Organizational due diligence questions can be a part of any DDQ, but in-depth organizational due diligence questions are more common in mergers and acquisitions than in vendor DDQs.

Questions might include:

  • What is the organizational structure of your company?
  • Can you provide professional bios for senior leadership?
  • Can you offer diagrams and charts of your corporate structure?

Financial due diligence questions

DDQs are most common in the financial services industry. Expect DDQs to ask:

  • What are your operating costs?
  • Can you provide income statements and balance sheets?
  • Can you provide accounts receivable information?
  • Can you give a breakdown of sales and gross profits (by Product Type, Channel, and Geography)?

HR due diligence questions

HR due diligence questions are uncommon but not completely unheard of. You may have to answer questions such as:

  • What do current employee contracts look like?
  • What are historical and projected head counts, both by function and location?
  • What are your benefit plans?
  • Can you provide incentive stock plan overviews?

Investment fund information

Investment and hedge funds, of course, are an arm of the financial services industry, so you will generally see DDQs. Questions might include:

  • What are your fund strategies and goals?
  • What are your historical and projected growth rates?
  • What is your market share?

Governance, risk, and compliance

A DDQ’s most basic function is to determine and mitigate risk. Governance, risk, and compliance questions include:

  • What are your organizational policies?
  • Can you provide an organizational code of ethics?
  • Can you provide a breakdown of service provider risk?
  • Can you provide your SEC communications plan?

Legal due diligence questions

Legal questions generally fall under RFPs rather than DDQs, however there are some cases where an issuer might include legal questions, including:

  • Have you been involved in any litigation?
  • Are you currently involved in any litigation?
  • What trademarks and patents do you currently have?
  • Can you provide insurance coverage details?
  • Can you provide your history of regulatory agency issues?
  • What are your compliance programs and policies?

Simplify due diligence with RFPIO

Repetitive, manual due diligence efforts are inefficient and cumbersome. RFPIO is a response platform and a project management platform. Simplify your DDQ response processes with:

Standardize importing – Whether your DDQ arrives as a spreadsheet or a Word document, import it into RFPIO for standardized, highly-searchable, formatting and functionality.
Project management – RFPIO will let you set project goals and timelines, helping ensure your answers will arrive on time.
The ability to choose your SMEs – Your SMEs are very busy and have varying degrees of expertise. RFPIO will show you the SMEs who’ve answered similar questions in the past, and show their availability.
Repeatable answers – DDQs can have thousands of questions. RFPIO’s Content Library stores approved answers to previous questions, letting you auto populate and edit as you see fit.
Standardize exporting – RFPIO lets you customize templates to match your brand and impress the issuer.
Responding to DDQs

RFPIO is the number one response management platform, and not just for RFPs. Leverage RFPIO throughout your entire DDQ response process to provide professional, accurate, and on-time responses. RFPIO’s AI-powered response platform provides:

  • A single knowledge library (RFPIO’s Content Library) – Add answers to any DDQ from anywhere within the company
  • RFPIO® LookUp– Provides access to the Content Library to any authorized person with a browser.
  • Recommendation Engine – Automatically suggests the best responses
  • Project management functions – Assign, manage, and track workflow tasks and deadlines.
  • Scalability to respond to DDQs – While most SaaS (software as a service) products have a per license pricing model, RFPIO allows for unlimited users with project-based pricing. Your capabilities will grow as you need and scale back when your response team can take a little breather.

RFPIO also enables collaboration with seamless integrations with all of the most popular communication applications. Keep in touch with teammates from anywhere in the world using Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or Jira to:

  • Ensure accuracy – It would be tough to answer a DDQ without help from some SMEs. Real-time communication and fact checking helps you submit accurate answers.
  • Efficiently manage tasks and deadlines – Stay in touch with each stakeholder to ensure each task is completed on time.
  • Streamline response time – Better communication enables faster response times.

Explore a better DDQ solution

RFPIO isn’t just for RFPs. Our comprehensive response management platform makes responding to DDQs fast, secure, scalable, accurate, and on time. If you would like to learn how RFPIO can help you demonstrate compliance, schedule a free demo.

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

From content to timing, confusion often surrounds the differences between due diligence questionnaires and security questionnaires. Read on to learn the nuances of each document to improve your responses and win that next deal.

What is a DDQ?

A DDQ stands for due diligence questionnaire. Organizations send them to mitigate risk before entering into an agreement with another company. It is a formal document designed to establish whether a vendor complies with industry and/or customer standards or needs, including how the vendor manages its own network and cybersecurity protocols.

Unlike an RFP, a DDQ is not as much about competitive evaluations. A DDQ is all about compliance and business practices.

What is a security questionnaire?

Much like it sounds, a security questionnaire is sent to potential vendors to determine whether their security protocol meets the issuer’s standards and legal requirements. Security questionnaires are technical and usually highly complex, however most questions are “yes” or “no” rather than narrative.

Note that neither DDQs nor security questionnaires are sales documents.

DDQs vs. Security Questionnaires

Now that you know the definition of a DDQ, let’s get into how security questionnaires are unique, along with a few similarities they share with DDQs.

Common industry

Any organization can issue a DDQ, but we see them most in the financial services industry. Security questionnaires are primarily used by organizations operating in technology—either hardware or software.

Market evaluation

Much like a DDQ, a security questionnaire will not be used as a method of evaluation between vendors. Although, if an organization throws an RFP (request for proposal) into the mix, then both questionnaires play a role in market comparison.

Because a security questionnaire is not a competitive evaluation, the issuer won’t spend time performing a security review with more than five potential vendors. It’s completely different from responding to an RFP, which may be sent out to tons of vendors to cast a wide net.

Issuing departments

Usually, a security questionnaire comes from a security department (infosec, IT security, cloud security, etc.). While a DDQ will not necessarily come from that department—marketing, client services, or compliance teams frequently send these documents to responders.

Sales timing

Security questionnaires and DDQs typically show up early in the sales cycle. They may come in when an organization is trying to set you up as the vendor of choice or before it’s time to renew. Before you can become their new vendor, they need to make sure you’re compliant. If you’re an existing vendor, they might need to ensure you’re still compliant.

Even when you become their vendor partner, you might see a due diligence questionnaire again and again. Especially in the financial services industry, DDQs are sent to vendors annually—even quarterly—so make sure you’re up to speed on industry regulations.

Document types

A security questionnaire is predominantly an Excel spreadsheet. A DDQ could be a spreadsheet, but about 70% of the time, this questionnaire lives in a Word document.

Question types

Security questionnaires tend to be a standard set of questions, where you answer some variation of a yes/no answer in a drop down. You might need to add some commentary to back up your answer. While there will be some black or white questions in a DDQ, there is also room for interpretation and creating a narrative.

Succeeding with Security Questionnaires and DDQs

To knock content out of the park with security questionnaires and DDQs, naturally, the best technique is accuracy. With that top of mind, here are other tips to help you succeed as a responder.

Security Questionnaires

You have a lot less room to knock this content out of the park. Your data is encrypted or it’s not. You either have the firewall or you don’t. It’s not about how you implement the firewall, it’s simply: Do you have the firewall set up?

Stick to the facts

Obviously, one thing you don’t want to do is lie. Let’s say you are asked if you check your disaster recovery plans every 60 days. If your process is checking disaster recovery plans once a year, don’t say “yes.” They will find out 60 days later when you don’t meet their requirements.

Time to completion

Time to completion is a really good thing to shoot for with security questionnaire responses. You’re usually still in an evaluation process where you might be the vendor of choice or you’re one of two choices.

DDQs

Similar to an RFP response, there is more room for creativity with your DDQ content. However, don’t respond to a DDQ exactly as you would to an RFP. Before you respond, consult with the correct SMEs (subject matter experts).

Early stage advice

If you receive a DDQ in the early stages of the sales cycle, this document might be their vendor filtering method. DDQs are not the time for a sales pitch. Instead, consider showing your strengths with compelling and (most importantly) accurate narratives showing compliance. Late stage advice

During the late stage of the cycle, your DDQ might be a recurring document you respond to with an existing client, or it could be in addition to a DDQ you’ve already answered. Get straight to the point and ensure accuracy to show you are still in compliance.

Next steps

If a DDQ is part of a sales process, and even if it’s not, response software such as RFPIO makes answering it a whole lot easier. Your RFPIO Content Library can answer many of a DDQ’s questions with a few clicks.


RFPIO can help you increase DDQ and security questionnaire accuracy and efficiency.  Demo RFPIO today to support your sales process.

RFP process recommendations

RFP process recommendations

Drawing a clear line between business activities and profits is often challenging. But two things that have a clear impact on the business bottom line are: the number of RFP (request for proposal) responses you complete, and the quality of the proposals you submit. 

Every time you fail to respond to an RFP by the deadline, that’s a sale you’ve lost. And any time you send a lackluster proposal because you were rushed and sloppy in getting it out (relatable though that may be), your chances of landing that sale don’t improve by much.  

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Guide: How to Build and Use an RFP Response Template

Discover how to build better RFP response templates and get tips and insights on improving your RFP response process.

Get the guide

Even understanding the value of a competitive RFP response, many companies struggle to complete persuasive proposals in a timely manner. If every RFP at your business requires internal scrambling and stress, that means you lack a strong RFP process. And that lack is costing you. 

What is an RFP Process?

An RFP process consists of the steps your company takes each time you respond to an RFP, the tools you use to enable those steps, and the people who complete them. Establishing a clearly defined process for RFP responses is crucial for getting more proposals out on deadline and ensuring each one is high-quality. 

Designing a Great RFP Process

At companies that lack a clear RFP process entirely, the response to an RFP can tend toward disorganized chaos. But while any RFP process is better than no process at all, a weak one can still leave your team unorganized, unprepared, and overwhelmed. That won’t improve your results by much. 

A great RFP response process is one that’s clearly defined, efficient, and consistently produces strong proposals. You’ll know you’re on the right track when collaboration between team members starts to run more smoothly, you increase the number of RFP responses submitted, and the workload of completing each one decreases. Oh, and when you start to win more of those RFPs, of course. That’s the best part. 

7 RFP Process Recommendations

To create the kind of RFP process that achieves those results, you’ll want to follow a few main RFP process recommendations. 

1. Determine the right tools for the job

The tools you use impact what your RFP process will look like. Many companies default to using the basics:

  • 28% rely on spreadsheets to capture information
  • 54% use email for communication and shared folders like Google Drive to share information
  • 84% stick with a manual process for RFP responses 

In some cases, those tools do the job just as well as you need them to. 

But if you’re struggling to stay on top of RFPs using the tools you have now, this is a good opportunity to consider whether it’s time for an upgrade. As you develop a clear RFP process—or work on updating the one you have—consider what needs you have that a new product (or a couple) could address.

If the stakeholders involved in your RFP response process can’t seem to get on the same page, you may want to go beyond email and invest in better collaboration tools. If your SMEs (subject matter experts) bristle at having to answer the same questions over and over again with each new RFP, a good knowledge management tool will help them reuse the work they’ve already done.

And if your team is letting relevant RFPs slip by because you can’t get them done in time, RFP automation software can considerably cut down on the time and work each proposal requires. Companies that invest in RFP software manage to submit 43% more RFP responses than those without. 

Be careful here not to confuse picking a product with solving your RFP response issues. The right tool has to be matched to the right process to make a meaningful difference. But once you’ve identified the tools that best address the RFP process challenges you face now, you can develop a more effective process based on the features you gain.  

2. Evaluate RFPs strategically

Even with an awesome team and the right products, you won’t be able to respond to every single RFP that comes your way. Crafting a strong proposal takes time, and submitting a sloppy one isn’t worth the effort. To keep the work manageable, an important RFP management best practice is developing criteria to determine which RFPs are worth your time.

Some useful questions to consider at this stage are:

  • Is our product even a fit for this RFP? You’re not going to win an RFP if your product doesn’t meet their needs. And you wouldn’t want to—trying to make your product stretch to do something it’s not meant for would be a bad experience for both of you. If you’re not the right answer to what they’re looking for, skip the RFP.
  • Is this company in our target market? Some prospects are worth more to your business than others. If you haven’t yet, define your ideal customer. Then weigh RFPs against how closely the company matches your target market. You may find it worthwhile to respond to RFPs for companies that don’t exactly match your ideal customer profile, but any time you have to choose between RFPs based on your capacity, it will help you prioritize your options.
  • Can they afford us? Don’t go through the whole process of responding to their RFP and pitching your product, only to learn that their budget is far too small. Consider this question upfront, so you don’t waste your time.
  • Do we have a relationship with the company? Any good salesperson can tell you that who you know is a big part of how sales get made. If the company issuing the RFP already has a prior relationship with your company, then you’ve got a bit of a head start.
  • Can we realistically meet this deadline? There’s no point in devoting the hours and work to starting on an RFP that you don’t have time to finish. If you can’t realistically meet the deadline with the resources available to you, let that RFP go. 

One of the fastest ways to make your RFP process more efficient is to weed out the bad-fit RFPs early on. That frees up time and resources to focus on the ones you most want to win.

3. Design your process to prioritize speed

RFP responses require a lot of labor hours. But when deadlines loom, taking the care you need to get every part of the RFP response just right can feel out of reach. And since your salespeople and SMEs have other important obligations, you can’t ask too much of their time without it costing your organization in other ways.

A good RFP process has to find the balance between working fast and doing good work. If you can hire more people to help, that’s one easy solution. But it’s an expensive one that isn’t always an option. If you’re at one of the 63% of organizations with no plan to increase staff, you have to look for ways to make your process more efficient.

Some of the RFP process recommendations on this list will help with this part, but additional tips to consider for efficiency:

  • Commit to moving fast to get started once an RFP makes it through your evaluation process. 
  • Create standard answers for as many common parts of the RFP as possible, so part of the work is already done. Something like company information doesn’t need to be written from scratch every time, when it mostly stays consistent.
  • Establish the priority level for RFP responses throughout the organization, so everyone involved in a response knows not to let it sit on the desk for weeks. Establishing a service level agreement (SLA) between departments can help with this. 

Considering efficiency as you define your process will pay off in faster and easier responses as you enact it. 

4. Clarify roles and responsibilities

When it’s time to move forward with an RFP, if you have to stop and figure out who should be assigned to each part of the process, that’s time wasted. If you then have to spend time convincing them to do their part, you’re facing an unnecessary bottleneck to the whole process—one that will lead to missed deadlines.

Instead, do this part in advance. Clarify who will consistently take charge of each part of the process. Figure out who the right SMEs are for each RFP section, so you always know who to turn to. Then make sure everyone knows their role and understands the importance of the process.  

Once you have your team clearly defined, ask them to provide their input on the RFP process. What would make their job easier? How can you best enable collaboration and communication between the whole team? Letting the key stakeholders weigh in will help you create a process that works for all of them. 

5. Use the content you already have

A smart way to cut down on the work and time involved in a RFP response is to use the content you already have. Answering every question in an RFP from scratch every time is extremely time and labor intensive. Consulting a Content Library to see if a good answer already exists is much faster and easier.

In order for this to be a useful part of your RFP response process, you do need to create and maintain a Content Library. Establish a library that collects all the best answers to the common questions you encounter in one place. Then think about how best to organize it so those answers are easy to find the moment your team needs them. Employing features like tagging, custom fields, and collections can improve discoverability, which is especially valuable when your team is in a time crunch. 

Having a well managed content library only matters if people use it. Make it part of your established RFP response process to look for any answers that already exist. The team will often want to tweak existing content to make it more relevant to the specific RFP they’re working on, but that’s still a lot faster than writing up a new answer from scratch.

6. Agree on clear metrics to evaluate your RFP process

No matter how much thought you put into developing a strong RFP process now, there will be room for improvement. Think through what a successful RFP process means to you, then select the best metrics to evaluate your success. 

Tracking relevant metrics enables you to spot ways the RFP process falls short, so you can improve it over time. And it’s how you gain proof of improved results, which is key for keeping (or gaining) the support of your executives and SMEs. 

Some RFP process metrics to consider include:

  • Number of RFP responses
  • Average response rate
  • Average response time
  • Time spent per RFP
  • RFP win rate

You’ll want to include metrics that measure process efficiency, as well overall results. A faster process is only valuable if quality doesn’t suffer as a result. 

7. Evaluate and improve

Anytime you get complacent, you stop improving. Make evaluating your process a regular part of the process itself. Review your metrics to determine if you’re meeting your goals. Check in with all stakeholders to gain feedback on their experience. And update your RFP process as needed to incorporate what you learned. 

Continual RFP process improvement will lead to a number of benefits that go beyond the RFP process itself. You’ll strengthen your Content Library, improve the relationship between internal teams, and increase overall revenue for the company. But getting those results requires doing the work to analyze how well your process works and strengthen your approach over time. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

Does putting all of this work into creating a great RFP process really make a difference? A number of companies have put that question to the test and seen notable results.

RFP Process Example #1: 

Between entrenched silos and outdated software (that everyone involved in the process hated), a health insurance company realized their RFP process was an inefficient mess. Getting RFP responses out was too slow, and none of the stakeholders involved ever knew enough about what was going on. They decided to address the issue by reworking the process to make it more user friendly. They incorporated RFPIO AI-powered automation into the process to save stakeholders time on the more tedious tasks, and made collaboration easier between team members.

With a new, improved process powered with better tools, they:

  • Improved collaboration between team members and opened easier lines of communication, so that everyone involved could keep up-to-date on the status and results of each RFP
  • Created a content library that helped them create consistent messaging and re-use quality content that’s already been created
  • Reduced the time it took to complete the RFI (request for information) portion of the process from around five days to just a few hours

RFP Process Example #2:

Small teams often feel buried under the work RFPs require, but hiring more people isn’t always an option. A two-person team at a growing software company could never manage to keep their content library up-to-date, because the process of manual updates was slow, and chasing the next RFP kept them too busy. 

But responding to those RFPs without an up-to-date Content Library to pull from was a slow and tedious process. They were stuck. So they looked at their RFP process. 

They changed the system they used for updating their Content Library by introducing RFPIO response software that made adding new content much easier. And instead of asking SMEs to provide answers to RFP questions in color-coded spreadsheets—a system that caused a lot of confusion and wasted time—RFPIIO allowed the proposal team to assign questions to each SME that would show up for them in an email. Much easier for all involved.

As a result, they: 

  • Doubled the content in their library within a few months, ensuring future RFPs are easier to respond to
  • Enabled their tiny team to manage more RFP responses at a time, while keeping track of where they are in all of them
  • Managed to submit 16 RFPs on deadlines in the first year of using their new RFP process—not bad for a two-person team

Creating a more effective RFP process

Whatever your particular challenges and needs, better RFP results start with developing an improved process. Many aspects of that process will be easier, faster, and produce higher quality RFP responses if you choose the best tool for the job.

RFPIO offers features that help with several parts of the RFP process. Some highlights include:

  • Collaboration tools that allow stakeholders to communicate with each other, clearly understand their role in the process, and stay updated on each RFP’s status
  • Automation tools that do a portion of the work of each RFP for you, significantly cutting down on the time commitment
  • A Content Library that enables you to easily update and organize your knowledge base in ways that make reusing existing content and finding the best answer every time fast and easy
  • A system that automatically tracks the most important RFP process metrics, so you can evaluate and improve your process with minimal extra work

Creating the right RFP process for your organization will work a lot better if you have the right tool for the job. To get started on your new, improved RFP process, get in touch with RFPIO’s team

 

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

Organizations issue requests for proposals (RFPs) because they have a need that cannot be fixed internally—a big need—one that will cost lots of money. This isn’t calling a plumber to fix a clog. This is soliciting bids from multiple contractors for complete remodels, or to construct full-on additions.

Obstacles in the RFP response process

The scale of an RFP can be huge

RFPs contain up to thousands of questions and requests for specific content. If your company has a solution to the problem put forth by the issuer, then you respond with a proposal that includes all the answers and requested content. Depending on the size of the RFP, it can take you hours, days, or weeks to prepare a response. As long as you submit your completed RFP response by the deadline, your solution will be considered.

Competition is fierce

The issuer compares your RFP response with all of the other RFP responses received from your competitors. Sometimes, the lowest price wins. Other times, the best solution wins. Sometimes, it’s both…or neither.

Success requires more than paperwork

Much of the time, the winner results from the best pitch — an umbrella term that includes the RFP response, relationships built with sales and subject matter experts (SMEs) during the process, pricing, reputation, and a variety of other factors. Then there are the times when winners are selected based on prior or existing relationships between the two organizations.

No matter what the deciding factor between an RFP win or loss, the ultimate truth is that you have to compose an RFP response to have a chance. Why not put your best foot forward?

How to respond to an RFP

The RFP response process is cyclical, not linear. I’ll get into more of that in the best practices section. For the sake of getting a proposal out the door, you need to follow these eight steps after you first learn about the RFP.

1. Qualify the bid

Is this worth going after? As I mentioned earlier, RFP responses can take weeks to compose. Starting off with a go/no-go checkpoint gives you an opportunity to evaluate how your solution measures up, the financial viability of the project, availability of resources you’ll need to submit a response by the deadline, and any other factors that will impact your business during the response process. Essentially, building a proposal is like investing in your future. Every investment requires close scrutiny.

2. Understand requirements

What do you need to get it done? This ranges everywhere from the type of content, to who produces the content, to who is responsible for signing off on the final proposal. The list can be quite lengthy, but it must be comprehensive to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Answer commonly seen questions

Pull from your content library to fill in answers to commonly seen questions. If anything needs to be reviewed by a subject matter expert, be sure to get their eyes on it before submission.

4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators

Whose expertise do you need to get this done? After you determine requirements, you’ll identify all the milestones. There’ll be due dates for content, reviews, edits, and approvals for multiple collaborators. The trick is respecting everyone’s time while driving the process forward.

5. Assign questions for review and approval

Who needs to sign off on this content? Likely, this will not be a Caesar sitting in the stands giving thumbs up or down. You’ll have multiple approvers to sign-off on content related to sales, product, support, legal, branding, etc.

6. Polish

Make sure you’re telling the story you want to tell. Add visuals or other supporting content to tell your story better. This is where you can nail the competitive differentiation. If you have the good fortune to have a dedicated proposal team, this may fall on writing and design specialists within that team. It may also be someone from branding or marketing—someone who puts eyes on anything that your organization produces for external audiences. Ensure your proposal is in a clean, easy-to-read format. Or, even better, put it into a branded template.

7. Proofread

Don’t let poor grammar and typos be the reason you lose the bid.

8. Submit to issuer

Push send with no regrets (See? Proofreading is important!).

The Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful moving forward

Read the report

Best practices for responding to an RFP

Whether you have a dedicated team of stakeholders from each department or you assign a new team for each project, what matters most is that everyone in the organization recognizes that they have skin in the game. 

RFP wins, proactive sales proposals, and fast turnaround on questionnaires equate to revenue and may determine whether the company grows, shrinks, or offers an extra percentage point in next year’s retirement fund match.

Build the right team

Proposal managers lead the proposal team. Proposal managers may think of themselves as the director of a motion picture. After that “Directed by” end title flashes, another three minutes of credits roll by.

The proposal team I’m referring to is made up of the individuals you rely on for a variety of roles:

  • Prospect and customer interaction – Customer-facing teams have their fingers on the pulse of competitors and customer needs.
  • Subject matter expertise – Many RFP questions require detailed answers, and for those you should turn to the people who know the most about their particular area of expertise.
  • Brand messaging – Consult with marketing before submitting your response to ensure that you are on brand.
  • IT support – Can your company support the issuer’s needs?

… and all of the others who are vital to creating a winning proposal.

Even a one-person proposal department needs input from internal or external SMEs to build a high-quality response. 

Only respond to RFPs you can win

As part of your bid-qualifying at the beginning of your RFP response process, add a go/no-go checkpoint to ensure that you only respond to RFPs you can win. Whether it’s a scheduled team meeting or a checklist, you need to answer:

  • Is the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses all of the challenges presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match the budget?
  • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

Basing the answers to these questions on data rather than anecdotal evidence will help validate the go/no-go step as well as your role as a proposal manager. RFPIO’s AI-powered analytics tools provide that data.

Respect contributors’ time

If you want SMEs and other stakeholders to feel a sense of ownership for their proposal responsibilities, then you have to respect their time. RFP responses will suffer if contributors end up working after hours and weekends, rushing to meet deadlines. Get their buy-in ahead of time on deadlines and time required for reviews and approvals.

Document your process

A documented RFP response process will anchor your team during the most chaotic times. It’s up to you to own the process, but RFP software will make it easier to automate, execute, and monitor processes from beginning to end on multiple projects running simultaneously.

Conduct a win/loss review

The win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. Internally evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

Did you win? Why? How can you repeat it for future proposals?

Did you lose? Why? How can you avoid it in future proposals?

Include the whole proposal team in a wrap-up summary, but make the extra effort to work hand-in-hand with sales enablement so they can bring in the customer perspective.

Let technology do the heavy lifting

Remember earlier when I said the RFP response process is cyclical? The win/loss review will inform your new go/no-go step, increasing your predictive accuracy of which RFPs you can actually win. It helps to have RFP software for a win-loss review because you have everything that went into the response—the planning, communication, content, and the actual response—in one place.

Software is the single most effective way to overcome lack of time, experience, and other resources. It’s the difference maker that will help you respond like a boss. With only 43% of organizations using RFP-specific technology, there’s a huge opportunity for you to get a leg up on competitors.

How RFPIO can help

RFPIO RFP software makes it easier to collaborate with an extended team and leverage the power of technology. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using our industry-leading Content Library, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without RFP software or with less advanced software solutions. 

You create more time to spend customizing the responses that really matter and focus on differentiating yourself from the competition. And that’s only the beginning! 

Using software at every step in the RFP response process

Here’s a quick overview of how RFPIO RFP software helps during each of the seven steps of RFP response:

  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 Content Library.
  3. Answer commonly seen questions — RFPIO RFP technology consolidates all your previous Q&A pairs into an intelligent Content Library, so you can automatically respond to repeat questions in just a 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!

We recently created a Proposal Management Benchmark Report where we found that organizations using RFP software already managed 43% more RFPs than those who do not use RFP software. If you’re looking to speed ahead of the field in RFP response, then gain traction faster with RFP software.

I’ll just leave these other tidbits right here…

Recognize SMEs and salespeople at quarterly meetings. Salespeople are competitive and like to be recognized for winning.

Implement formal kickoff meetings for RFPs. Make them quick and include pre-reading materials in the invitation to hit the ground running. Some organizations combine this with a go/no-go checkpoint.

Hold 15-minute daily standup meetings or calls as you approach the RFP deadline. Focus on status reports and action items.

Commit to professional development time. Join this LinkedIn group, the response management Slack community, or connect with APMP. This is especially valuable for small shops, where it can be hard to build a network.

If this has inspired you to investigate RFP software, then schedule an RFPIO demo today!

Considerations when creating an RFP process

Considerations when creating an RFP process

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency”.

– Bill Gates

Do you know how you’ll approach the RFP that arrives in your inbox today? What about one that comes next week or next quarter? You might be tempted to say, “Obviously not, because each RFP is different.” If that’s your answer, it might be too late to win those bids. 

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Let me ask a more personal question. Have you received a bill lately? You’re probably nodding right now. How do you plan to pay that bill? If it’s a fixed bill, such as insurance or your mortgage, you might set up automatic payments. If the bill is for something unexpected, say a car repair or vet bill, you might turn to your savings account or a credit card. 

What will happen if you don’t have the resources to pay that bill? 

What I just described are processes. Bill-paying processes ensure that you barely have to blink when paying expected bills and are prepared in the event of something unexpected.

What does that have to do with RFPs? Out of hundreds to thousands of questions in a typical RFP, most are, if not expected, standard. Much as you have systems to pay expected bills, a great RFP response process allows you to respond to those common questions in seconds. 

But what about the rest of an RFP? Certainly, cookie-cutter responses to complex questions aren’t going to win many bids for you. If you don’t plan for the unique parts of an RFP, you will spend more time on it, and there’s a very good chance you’ll lose your bid.

So, what should you consider when creating an RFP process?

What is an RFP process?

A request for proposal (RFP) is part of a broader category called RFx. RFx also includes requests for information (RFI), and requests for quotes (RFQ). It can also apply to other supplier questionnaires, such as security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires (DDQ). 

An RFP process is a roadmap. It outlines the entire RFP journey, from how it’s received within your organization, whether to reply, who the stakeholders are, who is responsible for each task, when each deliverable is due, how and when to send the response, to how to record and organize the attached question and answer (Q&A) pairs and documents. 

An effective and efficient RFP process decreases response time, improves response quality, and is far more likely to get your responses to the top of the prospects’ shortlists. 

Designing a great RFP process

An effective RFP response process—assisted by industry-leading automation—has several quantitative and qualitative benefits, including:

  • Quantitative:
    • Faster responses – Set your stopwatch! A great RFP response process speeds up your response time.
    • More responses – Faster responses = more time to respond to RFPs you might have set aside. 
    • A higher win rate – The average win rate is about 45%. A great response process can increase that by 15% or more.
    • Significant ROI – See how one RFPIO customer saw a 6x return on investment within just months.
  • Qualitative: 
    • Better teamwork – Great RFP response processes help develop collaboration, even across silos. 
    • A comprehensive and up-to-date company knowledge base – A great RFP process includes knowledge management. Make sure to schedule regular audits.
    • Focus – When team members know what is expected of them, and when, they are far more likely to approach a goal with focus.
    • More opportunities to personalize and customize — Re-invest time saved to give every response a better chance to win.

Considerations when creating an RFP process

One of our most common questions from our potential customers is whether RFPIO integrates with their existing software. Since the platform seamlessly and scalably integrates with more than two dozen popular business applications, the answer is almost invariably “yes.” 

Companies understand the value of business applications, especially when it comes to sales. 91% of companies with more than 10 employees use CRMs in their sales departments, so why do only 16% of companies use RFP software? $11 trillion in annual revenue, and some of the biggest deals, come from RFPs. Shouldn’t RFP response processes be as big a priority as sales processes?

Part of the answer is undoubtedly within companies’ cultures. RFP response processes require expertise from people throughout an organization. Additionally, RFP response often has a haphazard rather than strategic approach. Defining processes before RFPs hit your inbox will help you to determine which RFPs are worth your time and how to focus your efforts

Getting buy-in from stakeholders

Unlike a straightforward sales deal, an RFP response requires multiple stakeholders. An RFP process could require buy-in from finance, HR, operations, security, purchasing and procurement, sales, R&D, manufacturing, IT, etc. In other words, stakeholders can come from anywhere in the company, and you will need their cooperation at some point. 

Getting everyone aligned on the process is an essential consideration in creating it. Fortunately, RFPIO can help make the case for you. 63% of salespeople say RFPIO gives time back to them, enabling them to close more deals overall. 

71% of marketing executives say RFPIO’s Content Library saves them time locating company knowledge, and subject matter experts (SMEs) gain back more than ⅓ of each day.

Quantity vs. quality

Is it better to submit more RFPs or focus on improving your responses? In an ideal world, the answer is both, but is that reality? Although both approaches could be suitable for companies, depending on their resources and RFP landscapes, a clearly-defined response process should help with both. 

Beyond question, a response manager should focus on crafting the best responses on the most winnable RFPs. Responses riddled with errors, typos, and incomplete answers are wastes of time. So, in that respect, quality wins out over quantity. 

That said, RFP responses are a numbers game. The more well-written responses you submit, the more revenue you will generate. Given a choice, however, it’s far better to submit a few great responses than many mediocre ones.

Where to focus

When choosing where to allocate your RFP response resources, it’s best to institute a go/no-go evaluation process, which means only responding to RFPs you have a good chance of winning. You may ask about each incoming RFP:

  • Do you know the company sending the RFP? – Do you have an existing relationship with them? Were they referred to you? Your odds of winning a bid are much higher if there was a specific reason they sent the RFP to you.
  • Is yours the right company? – One of the biggest temptations among revenue-generating employees is to say, “Sure, we can do it!” While that might be true, RVP issuers aren’t looking for what you might be able to offer in the future; they’re looking for the here and now, preferably with a track record showing the ability to accomplish exactly what they are asking within their timeline. 
  • Can you meet their budget requirements? RFPs are not the time for guesswork. Consult with the right SMEs to ensure that the price you’re offering is competitive but also accurate. There might be room for some negotiation, but not for lowball bids. Suppose you happen to win a lowball bid. In that case, you risk alienating not just that customer but others in and around their industry, as well as your own company, as costs will undoubtedly escalate beyond the initial bid.
  • Is it an all-around strategic fit? – Do their needs match your organization’s business or product development strategy and vice versa? Is their industry one you know? 
  • Do you have the time? – How much is on your and stakeholders’ plates? Can you answer the RFP on time without affecting other responsibilities?
  • Have you won similar bids in the past? – Your chances of winning a bid go up when you’ve won and successfully fulfilled similar projects, especially from the same issuer.

Who’s on the team?

RFP response teams are as unique as their companies. Some, such as this RFPIO customer, have 2-person response teams. Others are larger, but the vast majority of RFPs require input from people outside the department. SMEs and other stakeholders vary from RFP to RFP, but you should have that all figured out before placing a bid.

Response managers are often known for their near-encyclopedic knowledge of their companies. They might not know every employee, but they know where to turn when they have questions. To ensure goodwill, make sure each stakeholder is aware of their roles and has the capacity to carry theirs out. 

Where is the relevant content?

Office workers report spending more than half of their time searching for information. Imagine how much more productive they would be if every bit of company knowledge existed inside a single, easily accessible, and searchable database. 

RFPIO’s search feature pulls relevant content from docs, spreadsheets, and even PDFs. RFPIO’s Content Library makes it easy to find RFP Q&A pairs, answers to security questionnaires, company history, etc. You can even store documents. 

Once you find the content you’re looking for, you can apply those answers as-is in a click or two or modify them as needed.

What else should an RFP process take into consideration?

Just as most sales departments couldn’t imagine achieving their processes without the help of their trusty CRMs, response teams should include advanced RFP software in establishing their procedures. RFPIO follows an RFP from inception to completion and even beyond. 

Whether you’re starting anew or you have an existing process, RFPIO can help by providing a framework for an optimal RFP process and the tools to get there.

  • Import an RFP from any format – Whether you receive the RFP via a document, spreadsheet, or PDF, RFPIO will capture the information and plug it into an intuitive UX platform, ensuring consistency and simplicity for each stakeholder.
  • Shred the RFP – With RFPIO, you can organize and section RFPs in the best way for your organization.
  • Analyze the project – RFPIO features built-in project management analytics to estimate the project’s time requirements and your likelihood of winning.
  • Answer all the questions you can – Tap into your Content Library to answer up to 80% of an RFP’s questions in seconds. 
  • Engage SMEs – For those questions that require additional input, RFPIO will suggest SMEs based on previous, similar RFP responses and the SMEs’ availability. Collaborate from around the globe with RFPIO’s translation tools and multi-language UI.
  • Track the project – RFPIO’s project management tools track each deliverable to ensure on-time delivery.
  • Submit the proposal – Design your customized branded template to ensure a professional and consistent look.
  • Store your new content – Once you’ve submitted the RFP, store all new content in your RFPIO Content Library for use next time.
  • Rinse & repeat – Time to start the next RFP.

Improve your win rate, organize your RFP response process, save time, and increase revenue using RFPIO. Take a few minutes for a free demo of RFPIO. 

As for Bill Gates, he’s not wrong, but RFPIO goes beyond just magnifying efficiencies. RFPIO helps response teams establish, as well as enhance, efficient processes. His brainchild, Microsoft, agrees. 

 

Benefits of a great RFP process

Benefits of a great RFP process

There was a time, I suppose, when major company purchases were relatively straightforward. If a company wanted to buy supplies, for example, they would simply contact vendors or put out the word that they were seeking bids. 

Then a salesperson answered the call with a detailed bid, including company information, product or service description, pricing, and timelines. 

Sure, there were some security concerns, as hacking and overall bad actors have been around for a very long time. Still, the regulatory environment was less rigorous, and it was generally easier to track down subject matter experts (SMEs). 

That’s not to say things were easy. Most early-day RFPs came from the government; enough said there, I assume. But response processes were somewhat less defined and usually handled by sales. 

Today, $11 trillion of revenue comes from RFPs. Many companies have entire response departments. Although nearly every other department, including sales, has software to help them become more productive, only about 16% of organizations use RFP software. 

Either organizations don’t see the viability in a robust RFP process, or it’s an issue of “why fix it if it ain’t broken.” The problem, though, is that it is broken. RFPs are tremendous revenue-generating opportunities, and a great RFP process can generate millions of dollars while saving valuable time and other company resources. 

If you are leaving viable RFPs in the virtual dustbin due to lack of time, or your win rate is in the tank, you need RFP processes. Processes will help you determine which RFPs you want to answer as well as organize timelines, key players, etc. Read on to learn more about how you can set up RFP processes for your company.

What is an RFP process?

In short, an RFP process describes the way a company responds to an RFP. It should define how you decide which RFPs are worth your time, organize the project, consult with SMEs, and determine how to manage any new content produced during the response. 

RFPIO’s response managers (yes, we answer RFPs too) use an 8-step response process which includes:

What makes a great RFP response process

The average RFP win rate is about 45%. A great RFP response process improves on that rate in a couple of ways—it allows you to zero in on winnable and profitable RFPs and spend less time on each response, thereby letting you focus on crafting winning bids for the desirable opportunities.  

Benefits of a great RFP process

A great RFP process doesn’t just benefit the response team; it benefits the entire organization with higher win rates, more revenue, and an organized and accessible knowledge base. 

Avoid missing or delaying opportunities

RFPs are like the lottery: you can’t win if you don’t play. If your RFP pipeline is backed up to the point where you’re missing or delaying viable opportunities, a great RFP process will help you break through the clogged pipeline by allowing you to triage opportunities and get the right RFPs into the right hands. 

Higher win rate

If you’re responding to a lot of bids without the revenue to match, it’s time to focus on your win rate. An effective RFP response process lets you spend more time on viable RFPs and less time spinning your wheels. 

Focus efforts in the right place

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” – Kenny Rogers  

Do you play poker? I don’t, but I know enough about the game to know that if you go all-in on every hand, you’ll probably lose all your money early in the game. If you take a strategic approach, however, and only bet on the hands you think you could win, the odds tilt in your favor. 

Your boss probably doesn’t want to hear this, but RFPs are a lot like poker. Indeed, there are very few royal flushes—or guaranteed wins—but laying your time and resources on the table for a less-than-viable RFP leaves you a lot less time and fewer resources for the ones you might win.

Learn to evaluate which RFPs fit with a go/no-go qualification system in place.

  • Do you know the customer? – Do you have an existing relationship with the prospect, or did they choose to send you the RFP for specific reasons? If so, your chances are much better than if it’s a more open bidding process.
  • Is yours the right company? – If your solution doesn’t fit the customer’s needs, you should pass. Even if you spend time trying to make their round peg requirements fit into your square hole solution, you’d be wasting the prospect’s time, and you could end up annoying them.
  • Can you match their budget? – Pricing is a tricky tightrope. On the one hand, you want to win the bid, but on the other, the deal should be profitable for your company. If your SMEs in charge of pricing say they can’t fulfill the customer’s needs within a reasonable price range, listen to them. 
  • Can your company meet their needs? – Do you realistically have the time and resources to onboard and support the customer?
  • Do you want the business? — Business opportunities are a two-way street. Does the company fit your product development or business strategy? 
  • Do you have the bandwidth to answer the RFP? – If you think you’re swamped now, the number of RFPs issued is increasing every year. Sometimes, even winnable RFPs have to take back seats to better opportunities. 

Less time per proposal means more proposals

This is a no-brainer. If you answer RFPs in a streamlined, more efficient way, you will have more of that aforementioned bandwidth for more RFPs.

Revitalized internal knowledge 

RFP response teams are perfectly positioned to become the gatekeepers of company knowledge. When they record and regularly audit answers in a centralized company knowledge base, it gives executives the information they need to make more informed decisions. It also provides quick answers to anyone who needs it, including other revenue-generating teams. 

Team building 

Team-building exercises are generally either fun or downright silly, not that downright silly can’t be fun. But you don’t have to fall backward into coworkers’ arms to find camaraderie. When a team works together toward a common goal, trust and friendships are bound to develop.

Even beyond that, RFP responses require input from multiple people spread across the organization. An effective response process helps tear down silos. 

Generate more revenue

I saved this one for last because if your bids aren’t generating revenue, there’s really no point. A great response process helps you identify the opportunities that will increase revenue. 

Why a company might want to reevaluate their response process

Maybe you know your response process isn’t working for you, but even if you feel it is, maybe there’s room for improvement. Here are four scenarios that should encourage you to take a deeper look at your processes:

  • You hired a new proposal manager – A new proposal manager taking over is a great time to reevaluate your processes using fresh eyes. 
  • Your current process is—shall we say—lackluster – Is your current process winning bids for you? Is your team working hard but bored out of their minds answering questions they’ve responded to 1,000 times before? Are your processes scalable so you can win future bids?
  • Your company merged with another – Which company has better results from their processes?
  • There was a significant change in your business – Do you have new products to offer? Have your products changed? If so, your RFP Q&A pairs will change as well. Sometimes a clean break is in order. Introduce new processes to go with your new everything else. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

All organizations benefit from high-quality RFP response processes, but not necessarily in the same ways. Here are a few real-world examples of our customers’ benefits after moving their processes to RFPIO.

  • An insurance company proposal manager said about RFPIO, “When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI (request for information) in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”
  • IBA, a medical device manufacturer in Belgium, increased its win rate by 15%.
  • TOMIA, a software company, streamlined processes, and improved company collaboration.
  • Genpact, a global professional services firm, dramatically improved proposal quality.
  • Microsoft (I assume they need no introduction) estimates they saved $2.4 million in the first 18 months after implementing RFPIO.
  • On average, it takes about 8 days to complete an RFP, and that’s when there’s a fairly sizable team. That’s about 8 RFPs per quarter. RFPIO helped this two-person team answered double that, 16, in the first quarter after implementation. 
  • Let’s cut to the chase. Your boss wants to know about ROI. Well, Crownpeak, a digital experience management platform, realized a whopping 6x return on investment with RFPIO. 

Want to make your RFP process great?

Now that you know the importance of a great RFP response process, where do you start

  • Set goals – Companies talk a lot about customer pain points, but what are your pain points? Would you like a new RFP response process to decrease your response time? Could the quality of your responses improve? Are you being taken out of the running too quickly?
  • Develop a checklist – My mother is a big list-maker. I’ve never been as organized as my mother, and I blame my lack of list-making. Be my mother. Here is a somewhat typical checklist, although yours might look a little different:
    • Identify key stakeholders – Your stakeholders won’t be the same for each RFP, but having a list of stakeholders will save you from having to reestablish roles each time.
    • What is your average timeline? – Having this as a benchmark will help you figure out where your bottlenecks lie.
    • Get company buy-in – A new process is only as good as the number of people willing to adopt it.
    • Figure out if an RFP is worth answering – See above.
    • Locate and evaluate content – Most often, this is the most time-consuming part of the RFP process. 
  • Consider RFP software – Okay, I’m biased, but RFPIO wouldn’t exist without a real need for better RFP processes.

RFPIO is an ideal tool for RFP response processes. 

  • RFPIO cuts response time by an average of 40% by answering up to 80% of an RFP’s queries using machine learning.
  • RFPIO simplifies data-driven decision-making with RFPIO’s customizable reporting dashboard.
  • RFPIO’s industry-leading Content Library democratizes knowledge management organization-wide.
  • RFPIO® LookUp gives any authorized user with a browser company knowledge at their fingertips, even if they are traveling or out in the field.
  • RFPIO integrates with more of the apps you’re already using than any other response platform. Use RFPIO within your existing CRMs, sales enablement, productivity, and vendor assessment apps. Communicate with stakeholders using your company’s favorite communication tools. Your IT team will be relieved to know we offer the same SSO authentications your company already uses.

Maybe your RFP response processes need a complete overhaul or a few tweaks here and there. Regardless of your needs and goals, see how RFPIO will quickly help you drive revenue and improve your processes. Schedule a free demo now.  

 

Understanding RFP management

Understanding RFP management

When a request for proposal (RFP) comes across your inbox, it might seem overwhelming. Some RFPs contain 100s of questions on 1,000s of pages (or vice versa). Your first instinct might be to set it aside in favor of more straightforward deals, especially if you’re in sales instead of on a dedicated response team.

RFPs might be long and complicated, but most high-value deals come through RFPs, so ignoring a viable opportunity could cost your company $10s of thousands of dollars or far, far more. Further, if the RFP comes from a well-known or enterprise organization, ignoring it could cost your company some coveted cache that could ultimately bring in more business through having that company on your customer roster.

Whether you’re a relative newbie to RFP responses or a seasoned professional, learning more about RFP management could help you win more bids. And while we can’t guarantee you’ll get a raise or promotion, winning a big deal is a big deal and might earn your boss’s respect.

What is a request for proposal (RFP)?

When a company needs to purchase a significant service or product, it will often issue a request for proposal (RFP) to collect bids from multiple vendors. Sometimes they solicit bids from specific vendors, and sometimes they open the bidding process to any potential fit.

RFPs are typically more than about getting the lowest price—we’ll get to that later in this article.

An RFP is often 100s or even 1,000s of pages long with questions as diverse as, well, diversity in hiring practices and whether the vendor complies with the customer’s regulatory requirements.

The primary purpose of an RFP is to help issuers determine which company is the best fit for their specific needs. An RFP also:

  • Formally announces a project for bidding – An RFP is a little like a starting gun at the beginning of a race. Instead of the first to the finish line, however, the winner is the vendor that best suits the customer’s needs.
  • Defines project for issuers and responders – RFPs offer detailed explanations of project requirements and expectations.
  • Enables buyers to compare potential vendors – If you’ve ever shopped for a mattress, it’s almost like each retailer or manufacturer speaks a different language. If two stores carry the same manufacturer, the model names and numbers are entirely different. That’s intentional; it makes it really difficult to compare pricing and features when you’re comparing apples to watermelons. RFPs let the buyers define the parameters, and vendors (should) respond with specific and straightforward answers, which enable apples-to-apples comparisons.

Proposal manager: role and responsibilities

At the very surface, a proposal manager is the project manager for the RFP response process. When we dig a little deeper, though, we see that proposal managers are some of the most important and knowledgeable people in an organization.

When a proposal manager isn’t herding cats, their job is to know the organization’s who, what, where, when, why, and how, or at least where to find such information. A proposal manager:

  • Is the point of contact for the organization – There to answer questions from RFP issuers, response teams, sales teams, executives, and SMEs.
  • Aligns tasks and team members – Herding those metaphorical felines
  • Facilitates team meetings
  • Drives discussion and collaboration – Once those cats are in line (I think I’ve milked this metaphor dry), the proposal manager is responsible for ensuring that the right people are answering the right questions.
  • Enforces timelines for project status – RFPs have strict deadlines. Proposal managers have the experience to know how to break the project up into manageable timelines to reach that final deadline.
  • Verifies project compliance – Does the proposal answer the issuer’s questions? Can the company comply with their needs?
  • Produces proposal submission – No matter how many stakeholders were involved in answering an RFP, it’s ultimately up to the proposal manager to ensure that it’s accurate, well-written, and on time.

Managing RFPs

An RFP response should be strategic and laser-focused on a single goal, winning those winnable bids. While it might sound straightforward, effective RFP management is akin to conducting an orchestra when the musicians are scattered throughout the music hall and even the world.

When a company specifically reaches out to your company for a bid, it’s sort of flattering, and the impulse is to answer the RFP. Many RFPs, though, are open to any bidder. A poorly-defined RFP management process might include answering the wrong RFPs and a disjointed response process, resulting in a low win rate.

That’s why a transparent, strategic approach is critical to managing RFP responses and fostering a more efficient proposal response process.

  • Organize RFP response process – Is the RFP worth pursuing? If so, who are the key stakeholders, and what are their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?
  • Establish a channel for accountability – RFPIO features communication and accountability tools to keep your team running smoothly and on time.
  • Decrease response time – Save time with efficient communication and an AI-enhanced content management system that can answer up to 80% of an RFP with a few clicks.
  • Improve response quality – Winning a bid is about far more than just price. Dramatically shaving time from the more monotonous parts of the response provides more time for crafting compelling stories and ensuring that the response is well-written, complete, and accurate.
  • Create a centralized database of assets and resources – Save subject matter experts (SMEs) and team members from having to duplicate their efforts by recording responses in a centralized database of assets and resources.
  • Increase bid win rate – Respond to the right RFPs instead of more RFPs to increase your bid win rate.

There are three primary options for managing RFP proposals. They include outsourcing responses, manual responses, and RFP software.

Outsourcing the response process

Many companies choose to outsource their response process, especially if they’re relatively small or their employees are strapped for time. While outsourcing has significant advantages, there are some steep downsides to watch out for.

Advantages of outsourcing

  • Saving time – Outsourcing does save significant company time. Proposal managers can step into more of a supervisory role and let the contractor do all the labor-intensive work.
  • Improved response quality – Outsourcing lets you pull the response manager out of the weeds and allows them to focus on the final drafts instead of each iteration.

Disadvantages of outsourcing

  • Risks confidential information – Providing outside access to proprietary information is risky. Hackers and cybercriminals could intercept even if the contractor is fully screened and has an airtight NDA.
  • Loss of business knowledge – RFP contractors don’t generally update a company knowledge base, meaning any information provided to them will be lost to the next person who needs it.
  • Big financial investment – Outsourcing the response process could pay for itself, if you answer a lot of RFPs each year. Otherwise, it’s much cheaper to keep it in-house.
  • Time spent tracking down stakeholders – The further a contractor is removed from your company’s infrastructure and org chart, the more time spent tracking them down.

Manual responses

Smaller companies, or those who haven’t found the right RFP software fit, may still use manual response processes. There’s often a reluctance to let go of manual processes, which we completely understand.

Are you working harder than you need to? As the response manager, you’re tasked with juggling all of a response process’s moving parts. It’s up to you to stay on top of everything, including sending emails, managing all authors and SMEs, reviewing each Q&A pair, and ensuring deadlines are met.

Still, there are some benefits to sticking with manual processes:

  • Requires no upfront investment – Manual processes utilize the tools you already have, such as document and spreadsheet software and PDF readers. And let’s not forget the most essential tool of all, human power.
  • Familiarity with tools and processes – If you’re already used to manual processes, there’s no learning curve.
  • No uplift – You’ll never have to worry about software price increases.

Still, it’s pretty hard to make the case that manual response management processes are the ideal solution for any company. They are:

  • Time-consuming – You have to answer how many questions? How many times can you answer the very same question? Why is pinning down SMEs so complicated?
  • Repetitive – How many times can you answer the very same question? Oh wait, did I just ask that?
  • Decentralized – Financial statements, diversity policies, data compliance assurance, timelines, pricing…an RFP will include information from multiple departments and sources. Do you have to chase each one down?
  • Collaboration inhibitors – Poor and non-existent communication and project management tools make collaboration challenging.
  • Response capacity killers – The more time you spend stalking stakeholders for information, the less time you have to craft a compelling response, and the less time you have for answering other RFPs.

Leveraging RFP software

RFP software is designed to organize and simplify the RFP response process. Most importantly, advanced RFP software lets you respond to more of the right RFPs, increasing your proposal win rate and producing a hefty ROI.

Recent statistics show that:

  • 77% of proposal professionals say that their response process could use some improvement.
  • 75% of proposal teams with fully-adopted response technology say they always respond on time.

That’s not to say all RFP software is the same, but there are some standard features.

Features of an RFP response tool

The core features of RFP software include:

  • Automation – RFP software should help make your entire response process more productive by automating as many tasks as possible.
  • Content library – A content library is a centralized resource, a single source of truth, that holds assets in a single, easily accessible location.
  • Collaboration tools – RFP response software should foster collaboration through notifications and efficiencies with repeatable tasks.

Integrations and extensions

Advanced RFP response management software has features that level up the response process with integrations and AI-powered intuition. An automated response process has demonstrable benefits, including faster response times, more accurate and better-written responses, higher win rates, and a substantial ROI.

Competitive advantages of automating the response processes with RFPIO include:

  • Efficient response management – Streamline the response process with project management features, accessible and searchable content, reporting, and intuitive automated responses that answer the majority of questions with a click of a button.
  • Improved response quality – Simplified collaboration and automated responses gives back time to response managers, allowing them to fine-tune their proposals.
  • Easier collaboration – Communicate across verticals, state lines, and oceans. Compile responses right inside your favorite communication app with RFPIO’s seamless integrations. We integrate with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, and Google Hangouts. Unlimited user access ensures that all stakeholders are included.
  • Standardized formatsRFPIO supports importing RFPs, security questionnaires, and DDQs from any format (such as Word, Excel, PDFs) and plugs the questions into your preferred template. From there, you can export using white-labeled templates or the source format (usually a spreadsheet).
  • Consistent deliverables – RFPIO’s project management features keep projects on track and on time.
  • Cost savings – Most SaaS products have subscription-based pricing models, which is costly, especially for smaller companies. RFPIO has a unique pricing model; instead of charging a subscription fee for each user, RFPIO charges based on the number of projects during any given time.
  • Increased revenue growthBetter bids translate to a higher win rate which translates to higher revenue.

There are some challenges to implementing RFP management software, although they don’t have to be deal breakers.

  • Demonstrating ROI – Demonstrating ROI to decision makers who may not even know what a response team does can be tricky. RFPIO makes it simple to make the case.
  • Securing an increased budget for an RFP management solutionSecuring budgets, especially in a tight economy, is challenging, even with a proven ROI. Your company already knows the value in sales enablement tools. RFPIO adds value to your existing CRMs and the rest of your tech stack with industry-leading integrations.
  • Onboarding RFP response team – There is a short ramp-up time to learn how to use RFP software, and RFPIO’s integrations help set your team up for a smooth transition.

Tips for improved RFP management

Whether you are full-time or an accidental response manager, and whether or not you use RFP software, follow best practices for facilitating more effective proposal responses by taking time and care when there’s an opportunity.

  • Develop an efficient go/no go process – Start by deciding whether an RFP is even worth it with an efficient go/no go process. Can you meet the customer’s needs? Do you want to meet the customer’s needs? What is your track record with similar RFPs?
  • Leverage automation to streamline workflow – Automated project management processes ensure that each deliverable is met. RFPIO’s automated Content Library does up to 80% of the work for you.
  • Create a quality content library – RFPIO’s Content Library is a single repository for all company knowledge, but it needs regular maintenance to deduplicate and ensure accuracy. Conduct regular audits; audit new clients more frequently and old customers less frequently.
  • Utilize branded response template – As much as we’d love you to sing our praises to all of your customers, responses come from you, not us. Add your brand to your preferred templates.
  • Consider an all-in-one software solutionRFPIO offers nearly anything you might want to see in an RFP response solution. If there’s a feature you don’t see, ask us.

The challenges of RFP response management

Additional challenges to the RFP response process include:

  • Labor-intensive processes – RFP responses are labor intensive, but proposal software can dramatically cut the number of hours.
  • Tight deadlines – If a proposal is due at noon on Wednesday, it’s due at noon, not 12:01, and definitely not Thursday. RFPIO’s project management features will help you meet that deadline.
  • Disorganized proposal contentData professionals spend around half their time trying to find, protect, and build content. Having that content in a single, easily searchable place saves hours each week.
  • Collaboration – Everyone, it seems, is either busy or far away. RFPIO’s collaboration tools take the hassle out of working together.
  • Security – Protect your data with RFPIO’s SSO Authentication.

How RFPIO can help

RFP response management software is a more efficient way to create quality responses. RFPIO utilizes advanced technology, including machine learning, and a unique pricing model to remain at the forefront of RFP response management software. We help companies overcome challenges with our:

  • Centralized proposal knowledge library – Most questions already have answers somewhere within your organization. Keep them all in one easy-to-find place with RFPIO’s Content Library.
  • Automated proposal responses – Let us answer the common and easy questions while you focus on the dealmakers.
  • Streamlined workflow and task management – Use RFPIO’s project management features or use RFPIO within your existing task management software.
  • Simplified communication – Gone are the days when we run down the hall to ask a question. RFPIO lets you ask any question or anyone in the organization at any time.
  • Integrated data protections into your management solutionRFPIO takes security very seriously.

Improve your RFP response process with better management solutions

Improve your work processes and impress your boss(es) with RFPIO’s all-in-one RFP management solution. Schedule a Free Demo to learn how.

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.

Content Library

RFPIO’s Content Library uses AI to intuitively auto-populate and answer all of the most common and not-so-common questions. In addition, the Content 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 Content Library, I start with the Content Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Content 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 Content 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 Content Library?

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

Is your Content 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 Content 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 Content 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

Content Library Insights Report

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

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Content 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 Content 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 Content 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.

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