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How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How is technology aiding the request for proposal (RFP) response process? To find out, we surveyed members of the Association […]


Category: Selling & Enablement

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How is technology aiding the request for proposal (RFP) response process? To find out, we surveyed members of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) to gain insight into current and future trends in proposal management processes across 10 industries. The resulting data has been compiled and analyzed for you in the 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management.

The clash of trend and reality

No doubt about it, the events of 2020 greatly influenced B2B sales — and proposal management for many organizations was not immune. In 2021, as we all seek more certainty, the most consistent trend we’ve spotted is that digital transformation in sales, marketing, and proposal management assures generic proposals will never again make the shortlist. Budgets in 2021 will be tight, and each new business purchase will involve increased scrutiny and justification. So how can your proposal be competitive?

For any proposal to have a chance, it has to illustrate how your solution solves the issuer’s specific problem, and it has to speak to proposal reviewers and decision-makers alike. This requires your organization to focus on responding only to the requests that you think you can win. It also helps to have dedicated proposal writers experienced in developing content that appeals to your target audience.

Both of these considerations clash with two trends our research identified: the need to respond to more RFPs in 2021, paired with a resistance to increasing headcount. The research shows that many organizations understand that they need to respond to more RFPs in 2021 in order to play the odds and generate revenue. With RFP opportunities averaging between $1M and $3M (according to RFPIO data), each one has the potential to make a significant impact.

But how can you respond to more requests, while simultaneously focusing only on the requests you have the best shot at winning? RFP technology enables organizations to efficiently invest time in the RFPs they go after, increasing the rate at which organizations can generate proposals. Some RFP softwares, likeRFPIO, even enable data-driven analyses of the characteristics common to all the deals you win, helping you focus your time where you have the greatest possibility of success.

It’s concerning, however, that proposal team headcount is expected to remain at its 2020 status quo throughout 2021. This indicates proposal managers will have to learn to do more with less. It also means that unless you already have proposal writers on staff, you’re less likely to hire any this year. You may want to buck that trend because our research also found that organizations with dedicated proposal professionals lap competitors by 3.5X.

75% of organizations plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021 than 2020. But only 37% plan to increase staff.

Organizations with dedicated proposal professionals submit 3x more RFPs than those without

Survey says: Douse proposals in fresh-baked cookie scents RFP software is an advantage

“With RFP competition predicted to increase, and teams already being challenged to do more with less, keeping proposal team staffing at 2020-levels only adds pressure. Proposal teams will need to invest in technology and automation to scale their responses, enhance efficiency, and maximize output.”

Fewer than half of the respondents to our survey currently use RFP software. This is surprising, considering the fact that those that use RFP software were able to submit 43% more proposals in 2020. Technology is transforming the proposal management landscape, making it easier for organizations to efficiently create their first proposal draft, thus giving them back the time they need to personalize responses to win effectively.

Only 43% of companies use RFP-specific technology today

We also discovered that organizations not using RFP software instead used, on average, nine solutions to compose their RFPs, compared to only five for those with a dedicated RFP tool. One study found that workers estimate switching between apps wastes up to 60 minutes of each day. Yet another asserts that up to 40% of a worker’s productive time is lost while switching between apps, a loss of focus it attributes to “context switching.”

For the sake of productivity, efficiency, personalization, as well as to help keep up with steeper competition for each request, organizations that want to take advantage of more revenue-generating opportunities will need to streamline their technology and automation to be effective in 2021 and beyond.

Check out the full report to learn more about the state of proposal management, including our four recommendations for success in 2021. If you’re one of those organizations trying to keep up without RFP technology, schedule a demo of RFPIO today. If you are already an RFPIO user looking to streamline your tech stack to increase efficiency, fill out this form to schedule time with your Account Manager.

20 stats proposal managers need before making that next big decision (new data)

20 stats proposal managers need before making that next big decision (new data)

The legendary Ted Lasso once said, “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.” Proposal managers can relate, especially staring down the end of a pandemic-induced paradigm shift in collaboration, automation, and workflow.

Digital transformation in response management has replaced proposal managers’ old challenges with new ones. Gone are the days of stalking cubicles of salespeople and subject matter experts (SMEs) to keep a proposal on track, manually completing questionnaires, and storing content in file cabinets or on shared drives. Enter the challenges of working remotely, videoconferencing fatigue, and high expectations for personalized proposal content.

What can you as a proposal manager do to stay on top of a dynamic response management industry? Before you consider your next automation solution, team addition or subtraction, or learning opportunity, make a decision based on some facts. We took the liberty of gathering 20 of them for you here.

RFP project management

  • “Only 43% of respondents report using RFP-specific technology today.” Organizations not using RFP-specific technology rely more on email, spreadsheets, content storage, and e-signature tools” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “57% of proposal managers said their primary goal is to improve the proposal management process over time.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “44% of project managers use no software, even though PWC found that the use of commercially available PM software increases performance and satisfaction.” – PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • “75% of senior executives said investing in technology to better enable project success was a high priority in their organization.” – Project Management Institute

As we see it, the trend for proposal teams is to break even on headcount while relying on automation and collaboration to increase productivity. Doing more with less is nothing new to proposal managers, and RFP software can help accelerate response time, centralize content management, and unify collaboration. In one case, it helped to triple RFP volume and reduce turnaround time by 40%.

RFP project collaboration

  • “Distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided. In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” – Harvard Business Review
  • “78% of survey respondents expect the amount of remote work to increase post-pandemic from its pre-pandemic levels.” – Verizon
  • “Organizations with dedicated proposal professionals submitted 3.5X more responses in 2020.” – Salesforce
  • “Today’s average proposal management team consists of: 1 person (6%), 2-5 people (33%), 6-10 people (24%), 11-20 people (16.5%), 21-50 people (12%), more than 50 people (8.5%).” – APMP

The way we work is changed forever. Whether you’re back in an office or embedded as a remote worker, you’ll be designating responsibilities that team members can accomplish onsite, on the road, or at home. We’ve all grown more familiar with remote work tools and have our respective cheers (e.g., accessibility) and jeers (e.g., too accessible). The upside is that your team will be able to adapt quickly to RFPIO’s @-mentioning functionality and its integrations with Slack, Salesforce, and more.

RFP response knowledge sharing

  • “The latest edition of Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends study ranks ‘knowledge management’ as one of the top three issues influencing company success, yet only 9 percent of surveyed organizations feel ready to address it.” – Deloitte
  • “40% of survey responders use RFPIO to manage company knowledge.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “44% of employees are ‘poor or very poor’ at transferring knowledge.” – Ernst & Young
  • “Workers spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.” – Mckinsey Global Institute

Whether the proposal is being proactively generated by sales to get their foot in the door or reactively created for an RFP, you want the brand, expectation-setting, and peace-of-mind benefits of knowledge sharing from the RFPIO Answer Library. Make this dynamic warehouse of Q&A pairs and content available to everyone in the organization through our unlimited license model. Even as a small team, you can respond to multiple RFPs simultaneously, scaling with the personalization necessary to merit serious consideration.

RFP content management

  • “Companies with a designated RFP solution are 32% more likely to have strong content moderation procedures in place, with 90% reporting this being a priority for them.” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “The most frequently cited typical approach taken by content creators in their business (43%) was project-focused – content is created in response to internal requests.” – Content Marketing Institute
  • “If searching is difficult and the results are not highly valued, workers lose trust in the knowledge systems. This, in turn, makes them less willing to share personal knowledge in those systems, which reduces the quality of the content.” – Deloitte
  • “50% of proposal managers said keeping response content up-to-date and accurate is their biggest challenge.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey

Second only to win rate, content carries the most weight when judging whether a proposal manager is a hero or a villain. How it’s created, maintained, stored, and accessed has a direct or indirect impact on almost everyone in the organization. Sales wants accurate, innovative content yesterday. Support wants content that accurately reflects service level agreements. Marketing wants content to be on-brand.

If you’re using RFP software, then you’ve gone to great lengths to curate the content library used to automatically populate proposals. Why not make that content available to the whole organization? With RFPIO Lookup, you can add a portal into your RFPIO Answer Library from everywhere your users work.

82% of our customers said managing response content all in one place is the primary way RFPIO helps them achieve success. Global organizations can take further advantage of separate content collections relevant to their region, which is especially beneficial for multilingual content.

RFP response efficiency

  • “On average, organizations with a designated RFP technology submit 306 proposals a year, while those without submit only 210 — a difference of nearly 43%.” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “86% of salespeople are looking for opportunities to shorten the sales cycle to close more deals. 79% of marketers are focused on using automated technology to execute more with less resource strain. 65% of subject matter experts aspire to increase efficiency through better processes.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “85% of proposal managers work over 40 hours a week, with 11% working over 50.” – APMP
  • “Solutions based on natural language processing/generation and robotic process automation can help reduce the time it takes to draft requests for proposals (RFPs) by up to two-thirds and eliminate human error.”- McKinsey & Company

Efficiency is the numero uno KSP for RFP software. The benefit you realize depends on how you re-invest time saved through efficiencies achieved by state-of-the-art automation, knowledge management, and collaboration capabilities. For example, Lauren Daitz, Senior Manager of the Proposal Department at HALO Recognition, said about RFPIO, “We’re up 25% over our average volume for the last six years and our staffing is down 50% at the same time. And we were still able to deliver every RFP on time or early and with 100% accuracy.”

Proposal managers can never be satisfied with the status quo. Always look for new opportunities for learning and growth. As competition increases and digital transformation continues, it’s either move forward or fall behind.

Like Ted Lasso says, the happiest animal in the world is a goldfish because it only has a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish. His wit and wisdom know no bounds.

If you’re ready to learn how RFPIO can help make you a more effective proposal manager, schedule a demo today.

3 steps to improving customer experience through pre-sales

3 steps to improving customer experience through pre-sales

If you’re reading this, then you’ve already bought into the importance of customer experience in your sales cycle. A simple product backed by great customer experience will always have more conversions than a great product with a terrible customer experience. Many of the world’s leading enterprises concur. Data points that support customer experience are plentiful, indeed. The one that stands out to me is from PWC’s Future of Customer Experience report: 73% of customers consider experience an important factor in their purchasing decision. 

73% of customers consider experience an important factor in their purchasing decision.

Obviously, pre-sales is not solely responsible for good customer experience — that’s an organizational responsibility for every department, from legal and security to executive and marketing, to product development and engineering. Whether your pre-sales function is its own entity or a responsibility tacked on to product management or sales or technical support, it can be solely responsible for strengthening (or damaging) trust with prospects and customers. 

The pre-sales process: A quick level-set

What is pre-sales? The short answer is.. It’s complicated. Most organizations differ in how they define pre-sales and the pre-sales process. Often, the definition is intentionally vague to give teams the flexibility necessary to respond most effectively to a customer.

 For the sake of this article, I’ll say the pre-sales process takes place from initial contact to demo or proof of concept (POC) presentation. From here, pre-sales hands off the relationship to the appropriate sales entity, such as a business development representative, a sales development representative, or even an account executive.

The overarching key to customer experience success resides in every hand-off. Prior to presenting a recent webinar, I surveyed registered participants—most of whom were pre-sales professionals. Only 50% were confident that commitments made in pre-sales get fulfilled. 

Only 50% of pre-sales professionals are confident their commitments made in pre-sales get fulfilled.

The only way to make sure details don’t fall through the cracks, or that promises made by one department aren’t met by another, or that any other pitfalls don’t derail the overall customer experience is through process. Process in a scaleup company is like a guitar string. If it is too tight, the quality of music is not great, and if it is too loose you cannot make any music at all. 

I apply an 80/20 rule to my pre-sales model. Basically, it means that 80% of the rules of engagement between teams during pre-sales are streamlined. The remaining 20% gives teams wiggle room to personalize customer buying journeys and react to exceptions pertaining to customer needs. 

Keep this in mind as you consider my model for creating trust during the pre-sales process.

Step 1: Collect and analyze data

Remember that from the customer perspective, their experience needs to be seamless. They expect consistency across channels–but different internal owners of parts of that experience can cause inconsistency. Take a longitudinal view of the total experience to spot inconsistency.

Data-driven insight is just as valuable in pre-sales as elsewhere in the organization. It’s just that at the pre-sales stage, much of the customer interaction involves gathering data. In my webinar survey, 33.3% of participants agreed that access to customer feedback data that allows them to measure customer experience would be helpful. And only 9.3% said they always have access to up-to-date information to answer customer questions. Easier access to data about prospects and your product or solution will always help pre-sales stay a step ahead during the evaluation process.

Most pre-sales professionals strongly agree developing customer trust is their top priority.

Research the company, business model, values, and funding (if applicable) 

Examine any existing CRM notes or call recordings all the way back to the first touchpoint. The first discussion should be as consistent as the most recent one. Get in sync by going through any previous activities and speaking to personnel who have been involved. Best practices say to automate this as much as possible through your CRM and other sales enablement tools.

Summarize and confirm findings-to-date during discovery

Get on the same page with prospects first, and then ask them if you have missed anything. Acknowledge their effort in the buying process so far. This is the first step in establishing trust and opens the door for a prospect to reveal new details because they view you as their advisor in the buying process. 

Next, ask open-ended questions to unearth details you can use to personalize your demo or POC engagement with the prospect. This can range from getting their core triggerpoint to identifying the details of their standard buying process to gaining insight into high-value stakeholders. Document all the discovery details.

Analyze data to inform your personalized engagement plan

You now have two critical data sets to help personalize your engagement and take the customer experience to the next level.

  • Research Data: Company, industry segment, persona role, timezone, culture, etc.
  • Sales & Discovery Data: Tone, intent, urgency, problems, specific features, success criteria, possible effort into evaluation, etc.

Evaluate all of this data to develop a personalized engagement plan for each prospect.

Step 1 to improving customer experience: Create a personalized engagement plan

Step 2: Personalize engagement

How does a touring stand-up comedian win over her audience in every new city by pointing out their local cultural idiosyncrasies? Carefully, respectfully, and by setting the right tone. In essence, this is what a pre-sales professional has to do: Point out what in the prospect’s process is not working to find the true selling opportunities. 

Build your ‘Persona 360’

So far, you’ve gathered intel on the prospect company and one or a few key individuals who have been involved in product evaluation to this point. Be transparent about the plan and share it with the prospect. For the demo/POC, expect additional stakeholders and testers to join the process. 

Use the initial discovery call and LinkedIn to find out more about these new additions: 

Fill out your Persona 360, which is a combination of the roles, work locations, industry segments, cultures, time zones, ages (estimated, by Generation X, Y, Z, etc.) and more of the entire evaluation team. 

A day or so before the demo, resend the personalized engagement plan to update expectations. Be sure to mention new members by name and ask them if they would like to see something specific in the demo/POC. 

Grow a library of demo/POC models

Always maintain a variety of demo/POC models. Match the most relevant version to the audience based on your Persona 360, weighting it for those who you deem to have the greatest influence in decision-making. Consult sales when you finalize your demo model. Each model may differ based on talktrack, flow, order of features shown, and time allocated to specific sections. 

The Persona 360 should also give you insights into optimizing the structure and timing of your demo/POC. You can personalize the demo/POC with prospect’s problem statements agreed upon during discovery and emphasize how your product’s features help them solve those problems. Educate the new audience without surprising the existing audience to further build trust. 

Create personalized success criteria templates

Improving customer experience is about showing your prospect you understand their needs. Do this by sending a personalized success criteria template

After the first demo with the majority of the evaluators from the prospect’s side, send them a success criteria checklist to illustrate how your product or solution directly addresses some of their key pain points. This checklist will also give the prospect an easy reference to compare how your offering measures up to a competitor’s.

The more activity around this checklist the better. It’s a strong signal of their intent to proceed further with the evaluation or even to purchase. It’s not a mandatory touchpoint. If the prospect already has a standard process for evaluation, respect that and only suggest best practices as a trusted advisor. 

Step 3: Prepare for hand-off

When we board a bus or a train, we trust the vehicle will take us to our destination because:

  1. The journey is short.
  2. The route (process) and destination (value) are defined.

Length of the buying journey varies according to product and industry. Customers are more likely to notice when the journey is too long or arduous than they are to notice that it’s too short. In SaaS, the higher the price point, the greater the customer expectation that they’ll have ample opportunity to demo and evaluate if it’s the right fit. No matter how long the buying journey is in your customer experience, always make room to deliver incremental value.

A feedback call is a mandatory checkpoint after the initial demo/POC to determine where you stand on the overall evaluation. On the feedback call, be ready to review your account handbook, which covers relationship details from discovery, Persona 360, user journey, feature wishlist, and information about post sales implementation and support.

The account handbook documents any business case you can build with the prospect to help advance evaluation to purchase. It also shows the prospect everything that’s been accomplished so far on their buying journey and gives the impression that you’re ready to proceed to the next step. Perhaps most importantly, the account handbook can be used as a hand-off document to the post sales team to ensure a seamless transition for the customer. 

If you want more details…

Check out the webinar I presented on the importance of pre-sales in providing a positive customer experience. You can learn more results of the participant survey (very enlightening) and access some of the nitty gritty details I didn’t have space for in this article. It’s especially valuable if you’re in B2B SaaS because I spend a lot of time discussing how to deal with feature requests throughout the customer experience.

Top blogs from 2020: Best practices for RFP response & content management

Top blogs from 2020: Best practices for RFP response & content management

It’s that time of year again… Time to snuggle into our houses, turn on the fire, buy eggnog, vow to never buy eggnog again, and reflect on the year we’re leaving behind. And, me oh my, what a year this was.

Rather than dwelling on everything we missed, the blog crew here at RFPIO decided to focus on what we’ve learned, and how to apply these lessons to the future.

In 2020, our blog posts were viewed nearly 150,000 times… a 50% increase from the same time period in 2019, when we recorded just over 100,000 views on our posts.

From those 150,000 views, we learned a lot about you, our readers.

First of all… you love content about content. 30% of our top blogs for the year are directly related to content management.

Piggy-backing off of that, you love learning, growing, and improving. 80% of this year’s top blogs offer strategies and best practices for upleveling skills, streamlining processes, and improving collaboration.

Finally, you are careful readers. The average read time for some of our blogs is upwards of six minutes (industry average for blogs is 2-3 minutes).

With that, thanks to all of you for sticking with us throughout the strangest year in my living memory. So, without further ado, let’s kick off our 10 most popular blogs from 2020!

3 RFP content management tips to help you dominate

What exactly does good content management look like in the RFP world? It’s a trifecta of resources, data, and process.

Good RFP content management means preparing the best version of your content alongside your internal process to accelerate success. RFP responses are groomed in such a way that the content is compelling and fresh.

But the ultimate result of good RFP content management? Winning new business. The trick is to continually improve internal processes. That starts with investigating the RFP content management efforts you have in place today.

Read it now

What a response management platform can do for your revenue team

First question — what even is a response management platform? And how is it different from RFP software?

Basically, it’s cloud-based software that helps revenue teams respond to queries from clients and prospects with maximum efficiency. When teams centralize content and facilitate collaboration, they experience higher levels of productivity and results.

In this blog, we talk about the potential of a response management platform like RFPIO, and give you the tools you need to approach response management more strategically.

Read it now

Why you need the ultimate library for your RFP responses

Because various content contributors must band together to create quality responses, this content must be centralized and accessible. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

In reality, response content tends to be scattered across spreadsheets, Google Drive folders, or perhaps a content management system.

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

Read it now

Orchestrate better RFPs with the best proposal team structure

You need to complete and submit winning RFP responses, and you can’t do it alone. As the conductor you’ll need the best orchestra members to all play their parts in the RFP response process. Start with the basics—staffing your proposal management team.

Proposal team structure may look different for your organization than someone else’s. You could have three people or 30 on your team, but the goal is the same… simple, efficient, and effective collaboration.

In this blog, we discuss strategies for orchestrating better RFP responses by harmonizing your proposal team structure.

Read it now

How to convince your boss you need RFP software now

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

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

In this blog, we crack open this fortune cookie and unpack its meaning—and give you the tools you need to close the RFP software deal with your boss.

Read it now

RFP response best practices for up-to-date and impactful content

An RFP is so much more than a sales pitch—it’s an important opportunity to tell your organization’s story.

A quality RFP response tells that story with accurate, cohesive, engaging detail that demonstrates your competitive differentiators. But if your content is scattered, unorganized, or unpolished, telling this story raises unnecessary complications.

The first step to creating this story is quick, easy access to high-quality RFP content. Check out this blog to learn best practices for keeping your content up-to-date and impactful.

Read it now

How intelligent RFP search saves valuable time for salespeople

An easy way to understand search capabilities within a solution like RFPIO is to think about the way you use Google to find information. The majority of Google searches involve a simple phrase or question.

But, did you know there are handy search commands you can use to find information even faster?

In this blog, we lay out all ways RFP responders like yourself can use search operators to better optimize your searches.

Read it now

Elevate the RFP process in your asset management organization

In asset management, the RFP process is critical to winning new business. The prospect directly references your RFP document during the sales conversation. You must convey your organization in the most professional, appealing manner possible.

If you’re looking for ways to empower your team, stand out in a competitive industry, and win more deals, this blog is for you.

Click in to learn how RFP software manages your RFP process from beginning to end—transforming RFP process management into a well-orchestrated strategy.

Read it now

Robust proposal automation software integrations for sales

You want one thing: To achieve your sales goals. But there are many steps between “wanting to achieve” and “actually achieving”. Effectively responding to RFPs is one of those steps.

Your team generates revenue when you win RFPs. Yet, responding to RFPs involves a substantial time commitment from sales, adding fuel to the fire for the 68% of salespeople who struggle with managing their time to focus on sales-related activities.

In this blog, we dig deep into proposal automation software integrations so you know which benefits to expect.

Read it now

How to improve RFP response time management long-term

The average professional works a mere three minutes before changing tasks.

As a key player with multiple roles to fill, how can manage your time better, while also leading your organization to long-term success?

In the blog, we dive into this topic and offer solutions—everything from improving content management and collaboration to finding opportunities for automation.

Read it now

Now that you’ve read our top blogs from 2020…

It’s time to get started on 2021 planning. For RFP responders, it looks like 2021 will be a year to optimize content management and enhance efficiency.

While you’re at it, let us know if there’s something you’d like to see for 2021! We are always trying to make our blog better and better, so if there’s anything we’re missing, we’re all ears.

Send us an email at: social@rfpio.com.

9 of the best RFP resources we’ve seen this year

9 of the best RFP resources we’ve seen this year

At RFPIO, it’s our goal to give you all the tools you need to do your best work. But that doesn’t just mean developing software to streamline the response process… it also means providing educational resources that make you a better proposal manager.

We’re always surprised at how tricky it is to find fantastic RFP response resources. There are countless how-to articles circling the internet for everything under the sun — from “How to Cook Asparagus” to “How to High Five” (I couldn’t believe that last one was a real article, either).

With that in mind, we thought we’d do the heavy lifting of scouring the internet for great content and pull together a beautifully curated list of quality resources about RFP response 

Whether you’re just kicking off your career in RFP response, or are an RFP response old-timer, there’s bound to be something in this list that tickles your fancy.

9 of the best RFP response resources for proposal teams

#1

The Ultimate Guide to RFPs

By Jami Oettig

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Hubspot’s Ultimate Guide to RFPs on a list of RFP response resources. It answers questions like, “What is an RFP”, “What is an RFP Process?”, and “What’s the difference between an RFP and RFQ”? 

Whether you have no idea what an RFP is, or haven’t written one for a while, their guide can help you out.

#2

Simple Words, Easy Fixes

Laura Yribia

I love this list of simple but easy-to-miss editing issues to look for before producing a final proposal document! Be sure to keep this open in your browser as you do the final check of your RFP.

“These words may seem small or insignificant, but when your readers see them again and again in a proposal, they can make an enormous difference in their willingness to read.”

#3

How Starting Earlier Will Improve Your Win Rate

Ashley Kayes, CP APMP

If you want to improve your overall win rates, Ashley Kayes has several tactics that can help you succeed. Check out this article to dive into one of the most important tactics: starting earlier. 

“There simply isn’t enough time to develop a winning strategy and winning proposal when you’re short on time.”

#4

The Case for Empathetic Proposals 

Kevin Switaj

If you’re someone who already knows you’re way around an RFP response, check out this article for a different perspective on how you should be approaching your writing.

“To be truly successful… we need to make a deeper emotional connection with our evaluators. This goes beyond the client-centered approach to develop empathetic proposals.”

#5 

If Necessity is the Mother of Invention, Consistency is the Father of Success

Tony Birch

In this article, Tony Birch — founder and Chairman of Shipley Limited in the UK — shares tips and best practices for maintaining consistency in your RFP responses. starts this article with a punch: 

“Having worked with a large number of organizations (both ones that are successful and ones that are not), I have become convinced that consistency is one of the key attributes of successful business writing organizations.”

#6

How to Get a Customer Excited

Geoffrey James

While not this article doesn’t talk about RFP responses specifically, it’s chock full of nuggets of wisdom useful for anyone trying to sell a product.

“For a sales claim to be effective, the customer must believe it, remember it, and want to take action based on it.”

#7

Make Your Mark as a New Proposal Manager

Miriam Ganem-Rosem

Just starting out in the world of RFP Response? This article is for you. In it, Miriam shares five actionable tips new proposal managers can use to make their mark.

My favorite tip? Ask good questions. 

“The questions you pose to your team can strengthen their proposal and make it more likely to win. In addition to checking for compliance, you should be asking ‘so what?’ and ‘says who?’ New proposal managers are perfectly placed to play devil’s advocate and ask these questions, because they themselves may not know the answers.”

#8 

Five Tips for Clearer Writing

Ashely Kayes, CP APMP

As a writer myself, I loved this piece. Full of great tips (and reminders) about how to be a better writer. Everyone — both veterans and newbies — has something to learn from this one. 

“In proposals, clear writing is critical to ensuring the evaluators understand the message you are trying to communicate. Even if you have the most valuable solution, if you can’t clearly articulate the features and benefits, you won’t have a high chance of winning.”

#9

A Complete Guide to Making Smart Bid/No-Bid Decisions

Emily Arnold, CF APMP

The title doesn’t lie. This really is a comprehensive guide for making smart bid/no-bid decisions — and an excellent resource for RFP responders everywhere.

“The proposal development process draws heavily on a company’s resources, so it is best to focus on opportunities that you have a good chance of winning.”

Did we miss an RFP resource from 2020? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list! 

How to build an effective & scalable proposal program

How to build an effective & scalable proposal program

Everyone has a proposal program. How do you differentiate yours to stay competitive?

Many companies want to respond to more proposals faster. Many are using proposal automation software like RFPIO as the platform to accelerate their RFP process. The competitive differentiator is how your company builds and manages the program around the proposal automation software.

Overall, you want to build a program that gives you the flexibility to complete what you need now but can also grow with your business in the future. Build for nimbleness. Make it moldable. Fit it around the people and programs that are already in your organization. Build an open architecture so you’re able to accomplish future goals that you’re not even going to be aware of at your initial launch. You also want to make sure your program addresses these seven considerations to optimize your chances of success.

#1 Crafting a mission statement

The mission statement is your proposal team’s anchor. Without it, your program is unmoored. The mission statement gives you the lens you need to see how your program is progressing.

It describes your areas of focus to your team and your customers (the rest of the company). Think of the results you want to realize. How will you impact sales productivity, mitigate bid risk, and minimize subject matter expert (SME) disengagement, for example?

For reference as you compose yours, here’s a sample proposal team mission statement:

Increase sales productivity and empower SMEs by providing the people, processes, and technology to efficiently manage proposal content services while delivering high-quality professional support to the field and partner ecosystem via solicited and unsolicited bids.

  • Create a centrally managed and continually validated repository
  • Become a one-stop shop for proposal content.
  • Scale the delivery of our proposal services globally and efficiently.
  • Develop a reputation for first-class proposal services.

#2 Building the proposal team

Who you decide to put on a team is critical. If you’re trying to improve proposal quality, then you have to have quality people on your team. You need people that can do something with the time savings that the technology platform produces. These are people that can synthesize information, that can build a comprehensive win theme, that understand how to write and edit. They’re learners because they need to understand your business and put it together in a cohesive package. They also need to partner with the sales team. In a way, this is a sales support role, but it’s much more than copy and pasting sales presentations into proposals.

As far as experience, recruit experienced writers and editors who know how to put together a story. If they already work for the organization then all the better—you have “bench depth” that you can turn to for help. These are people that already know your products and services well. If you don’t have existing bench depth, then you need to recruit writers and editors with proposal experience. It’s important to establish credibility and show immediate value across the organization. If team members have done it before, then they’ll be fast learners who can synthesize information into a story.

Your goals for a team culture are collaboration and ownership. For example, if yours is a global company, set up team leads in each region. Provide the collaboration tools, time, and opportunities so leads can meet and work together as mutual resources for troubleshooting issues.

#3 Staying flexible with the right tools

Whether you’re considering RFPIO or another platform, there’s one major consideration you have to address, according to FireEye proposal manager Brian Trigg: “Technology can either lock you in or open you up…the value of proposal technology really is in its ability to aggregate all of this information together, quickly access that knowledge, provide it across all the people that need to know or have input on this information…If you can’t do it openly and easily, then your technology is locking you up.”

#4 Building procedures based on mission

Consider your mission statement when defining your procedural objectives. Policies and procedures need to be set up to help you accomplish your mission. For example, if your mission statement includes emphasis on SME engagement, then you may want to consider implementing procedures that allow SMEs to define their own review cycles. Not only does this check off a key procedural step, it also engenders ownership of the overall program among SMEs.

#5 Showing value through metrics & reporting

Measure your engagement, open pipeline, impact to organization, won deals in number and dollars, content items under management, completed reviews, etc. Set up reporting for these and any other metrics where you can show your value back to the organization.

#6 Flushing out your content library

How do you get new content and fill up your Answer Library? One, create it from scratch (always awesome, but it can be time and labor intensive). Two, use old content, but be careful that it’s not outdated. Three, reverse engineer questions and answers based on message source documents, value discovery guides, data sheets, service descriptions, white papers, and any other marketing materials your company provides.

If your company doesn’t have these, then developing your proposal program gives you the leverage you need to drive their creation. Pitch it as a way that other departments in the company can contribute to consistency of message.

#7 Getting your booster rockets ready: Launch!

Hopefully, you’ve already put in in motion whichever mechanisms you need to solicit executive buy-in on your proposal program. At launch, executive support is essential to establishing company-wide credibility (aka, the booster rockets you need to get your program off the ground). Identify key stakeholders and communicate the benefit of the proposal program. Sell your mission statement through the perspective of how it will help them as executives as well as the company as a whole.

Bend, don’t break

Remember to iterate your program. It’s not going to be a perfect launch. Set up a program that you can flex into, something that you can change easily as you grow.

FireEye’s Trigg sums it up nicely: “Creating a flexible model, providing opportunities for ownership, driving engagement, and designing your content capture strategy properly are going to enable you to scale and synthesize your proposal team from more than a knowledge bank to a strategic part of your approach to market.”

If you would like to consult on how to build your proposal program for long-term success, schedule a demo today.

RFP process basics: An introduction to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, and DDQs

RFP process basics: An introduction to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, and DDQs

What’s an RFP? What’s an RFI? What’s a DDQ? Follow the journey of a manager learning about the intricacies of the RFP process for the first time.

[LOCATION: HOME OFFICE OF “KEYES,” THE SALES MANAGER/PROPOSAL MANAGER/MARKETING MANAGER HERO. KEYES LOGS ONTO A VIDEO CONFERENCE WITH “BOSS.”]

KEYES: Hi, Boss. Nice virtual background. That’s the most artistic rendering of taxidermy I’ve seen in some time.

BOSS: Cut to the chase, Keyes. I’ve grown weary of these online meetings. Unless you have a solution to our revenue and inefficiency challenges, I’d rather you send me an email.

KEYES: You’re in luck, sir. It just so happens that’s why I requested this meeting.

BOSS: That’s what I like about you, Keyes. Always presenting answers instead of complaining about problems. Proceed.

KEYES: We can increase revenue by streamlining our RFP process.

BOSS: Brilliant! I like it…no, I love it! Let’s start immediately. Now…

What is an RFP again?

KEYES: An RFP is a Request for Proposal…when a company needs services and products like ours, they issue an RFP to identify the optimal vendor.

BOSS: Sounds like a no-brainer. Why haven’t we been doing this the whole time?

KEYES: We have responded to RFPs in the past, but it’s not exactly a turnkey process…yet. RFPs can be thousands of pages about pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, and more. Responding puts a strain on our subject matter experts, sales teams, and anyone else who needs to carve out extra time to help with the process.

BOSS: That doesn’t sound efficient at all.

KEYES: Well, then you have to take into consideration RFIs and RFQs, too.

BOSS: Enough with the acronyms, Keyes.

What’s an RFI? What’s an RFQ?

KEYES: Sorry, Boss. Request for Information and Request for Quote. RFIs tend to appear early in the vendor-selection process. Companies issue them to find out if any vendors can help them solve a particular problem. They’re more generic and open-ended and would likely be used to craft a more targeted RFP. RFQs usually show up later in the vendor selection process, usually after we’ve submitted an RFP. This is when the company wants to know specifics on how much our solution will cost.

BOSS: RFPs, RFIs, RFQs… anything else I should know about? Wait, what’s that?!

KEYES: Good eye, Boss. That’s a cheat sheet on writing an executive summary. The executive summary is high-level content that covers the issuer’s challenges and demonstrates how our products and services will help.

BOSS: Sounds like a cover letter.

KEYES: That’s a common misconception, Boss. The executive summary is different from the cover letter. In an executive summary, we provide an executive-level summary of how our solution fixes their problem. In a cover letter, we talk about how great we are.

BOSS: I’m better at that than most.

KEYES: Of course you are.

BOSS: And what do our RFP-winning executive summaries look like?

KEYES: I’ll let you know when we win one.

BOSS: I was afraid you were going to say that.

KEYES: Don’t get discouraged, Boss. I have a plan to turn it around. The right RFP automation software will help us write RFP-winning executive summaries. Just like it will help with DDQs and security questionnaires.

BOSS: What did I just say about acronyms?

What’s a DDQ?

KEYES: Sorry. Last one. The DDQ is the Due Diligence Questionnaire. It’s usually one of the last stages of the response process. In fact, it may come after we’ve already been selected, when the company is doing their final due diligence. It typically involves a few hyper-specific points as part of their standard vendor onboarding protocol.

BOSS: And how is that different from a security questionnaire? In fact….

What even is a security questionnaire?

KEYES: Great question, Boss. Privacy is a hot button, and any company we work with wants to make sure we meet their privacy standards. Security questionnaires generally deal with privacy issues such as compliance, infrastructure security, and data protection. Depending on the company, this questionnaire can be a few hundred or a few thousand questions.

BOSS: Yowza. How long does it take to complete that?

KEYES: Weeks, if we don’t have a response process in place.

BOSS: Excellent. Let’s get it implemented. I’m putting you in charge of it, Keyes.

KEYES: I think that’s a good call, Boss. We’ll start with the 6-step RFP response process.

[CUT TO GRAPHIC OF 6-STEP RFP RESPONSE PROCESS]

BOSS: Looks like I put the right person in charge. You have all the answers, Keyes.

KEYES: Speaking of answers, that reminds of something else that’s essential to a smooth-running RFP process machine.

BOSS: Yes, yes, that’s why I brought it up. What’s on your mind?

KEYES: The Answer Library, Boss. It’s the secret to more efficient RFP content management. It’s what makes massive questionnaires answerable in a few clicks. It’s where content is marketing-approved and always ready to share. And if it’s intelligent—as it should be—it’s able to make recommendations along the way so that we can easily customize every RFP response. Plus, once a subject matter expert answers a question it stays in the library forever. From then on, they can take a reviewer role, saving them time and keeping them focused on their primary job duties.

BOSS: That’s it! You’re the winner, Keyes! Best video conference of the day.

KEYES: Thank you, Boss.

BOSS: No, thank YOU! Now, how do we get started. Will you—dare I ask—issue an RFP? Ha!

KEYES: Good one, sir, but no. I already have someone in mind.

[FADE OUT OF VIDEO CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO. ZOOM OUT TO SEE THE BACK OF KEYES. CUT TO BLACK. ROLL CREDITS]

[END]

How is your RFP process performing? Schedule a demo to see how RFPIO can help transform your RFP period piece into an action-packed RFP-process blockbuster.

Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Much like a human, every RFP is different. However, from an anatomical perspective, there are also similarities. Each RFP response your team creates will impact your organization’s win potential. Knowing how to respond to an RFP effectively can increase your chances of landing a deal.

This is by no means an extensive list of every question that you will encounter (or email you’ll have to send). Instead, we picked a few RFP questions and themes to explore. The goal is to help you know what’s coming ahead of time, so you are more prepared with a stronger foundation.

By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll understand that:

  1. Timing is the main difference between an RFP, RFI, and RFQ
  2. There is an effective way and an ineffective way to respond to an RFP
  3. Understanding the anatomy of an RFP helps you create stronger responses
  4. Team success happens by combining process with technology

Once you’ve completed this “lesson,” you’ll have the necessary anatomical background to respond to RFP questions with precision. And, you’ll also understand why RFP software is the primary set of tools you need to operate.

What is the difference between an RFP, RFI, and RFQ?

It’s true…a lot of acronyms get thrown around during the sales cycle. You need to know how to respond well to each request, so you have a better chance of making it to the next part of the process—and eventually, that happy day when you close the deal.

The difference between an RFP (Request for Proposal), RFI (Request for Information), and RFQ (Request for Quote) involves timing during the sales process. An RFP is issued early on when Company A needs a diverse, in-depth set of information about Company B to aid their vendor selection process. An RFI or RFQ occurs later when Company A needs additional information or specific requirements beyond the RFP.

RFP (Request for Proposal)

While RFI and RFQ can be classified together, an RFP is really in a category of its own. This document is typically lengthier than an RFI or RFQ, because it stirs up anything you can possibly think of that relates to your organization. Pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators…phew! We’re barely scratching the surface here. And you as the RFP responder must tackle ALL of these questions.

RFI (Request for Information) and RFQ (Request for Quote)

An RFI and RFQ can be classified together in regards to sales process timing. They usually show up later when an organization is close to making a final decision. This might happen after you’ve completed an RFP. Or, if you skipped responding to an RFP because you already made it to the final stage of the selection process, you may see an RFI or RFQ at that point instead.

Still with us? It’s time for the bonus acronym round…

DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire)

Similar to an RFI, a DDQ arrives much later in the sales process. In fact, it might even come after they’ve selected you as a vendor when they haven’t signed agreements yet and they’re doing their final due diligence. This document inquires about a few hyper-specific points as part of their standard company protocol.

RFx (Request for…)

An RFx is a term for the entire “request for” family of documents. This is important to know if you’re looking for technology like RFP software to help you respond to multiple documents. When you need to handle the entire family of possible requests, a solution like RFPIO can help you with these variations.

How to respond to an RFP effectively

Now that you feel confident about the definition of these wonderful sales acronyms, you have a better idea about which document will be coming your way—and when. As you can tell, of the potential request documents that might be issued to your organization, the RFP will likely require the most effort.

So, the question is: Do you know how to respond to an RFP? There’s really an effective way and an ineffective way to respond to an RFP.

The effective way to respond to an RFP

  1. Exceptional teamwork happens with every RFP project.
  2. Communication is clear and easy for all contributors.
  3. A documented RFP process serves as the anchor for your team.
  4. Content is easily accessible in an answer library.
  5. The answer library is always relevant to ensure quality.
  6. There is plenty of time to spare before the deadline.
  7. Branding and messaging is on point every time.
  8. A healthy percentage of these RFPs result in business won.

The ineffective way to respond to an RFP

  1. Teams and departments work in distinct silos.
  2. SMEs feel frustrated to contribute because of inefficiencies.
  3. Nobody owns the RFP response process.
  4. Responders can’t find content when they need it.
  5. Spreadsheets, emails, and online folders “store” historic responses.
  6. RFP contributors work after hours and weekends to meet deadlines.
  7. Inconsistent fonts and language are compromising the deliverable.
  8. A high percentage of these RFPs result in business lost.

The effective way is made possible with both a great internal process and technology that offers continued support. The ineffective way is the result of a manual RFP response approach where a lack of direction, process, and accessibility cause great inefficiencies.

Teams using RFP software experience a much more streamlined process. They not only cut their response time down, they also improve the quality of the responses to win more deals. Yet, only 16% of organizations are using RFP software to support their efforts.

This is a disservice to busy teams, who can benefit from a tool that helps them manage a lengthy document like an RFP. As we dig into the anatomy of an RFP, it’s easy to see just how many sections there are to handle—and how technology is really the right move here.

Understand the anatomy of an RFP response

Ready for your RFP anatomy lesson? From “head to toe,” here are some questions you will likely come across in an RFP.

Your homework as a responder is to familiarize yourself with the nuances of an RFP, so you can pass your prospect’s test with flying colors. Analogies aside, understanding these different questions and themes will help you craft stronger responses to win the next opportunity.

Company Information

“27% rated project management flow during the content creation process as ‘fair,’ revealing that some projects moved along efficiently but they faced bottlenecks.” – Content Marketing Institute

Though it may seem like a basic part of an RFP response, company information can be tough for teams. This content includes all of the foundational pieces for your organization: company name, address, annual revenue, employee count, website URL, year founded, etc.

While HQ’s address is an easy one, the employee count is not. Depending on company growth the number of employees might change dramatically every year or even every quarter. RFP software automates this basic content in your answer library, ensuring the most accurate information is on-hand for team members.

Executive Summary

Responding to an executive summary is tricky in an RFP, but it’s also one of the factors that affects your organization’s chances of winning. Though usually an optional section, this particular content section allows you to stand out by adding some flavor to your deliverable.

All too often responders mix up the RFP executive summary with the cover letter—but they are two distinct sections. An executive summary is high-level content that covers the issuer’s challenges, and demonstrates how your solution will help. While a cover letter is more of a conversational introduction that mentions your reason for responding and what you are providing in your RFP response.

Need a cheat sheet for your next RFP executive summary? Enjoy…

Competitive Differentiators

There’s a high probability that you will be asked to state your competitive differentiators when responding to an RFP. Here are some examples of what that question might look like:

  • What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
  • Describe your competitive position relative to your competitors.
  • When comparing yourself to the market, what are the unique selling points?
  • Briefly state how you are differentiated from any competitors.
  • Why should we work with you instead of one of your competitors?

Speaking of competitors…a generic RFP response to this particular question will only benefit your competitors dazzling the issuer with a great response. Instead of using jargon-y adjectives that everyone else uses, focus on demonstrating the value your solution provides.

Knowing company differentiators is half the battle for many organizations—take the time internally to explore what these are and how to communicate them. Once you have these locked down, make sure the best versions are readily available for your team to grab and tailor appropriately within your answer library.

“A value proposition offers clients something they want and gives them a good reason to choose you over your competitors. In the executive summary and in your full proposal, communicate a strong value proposition that matches your client’s needs and demonstrates your unique offer.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

Our Approach

The approach question is a seemingly straightforward inquiry. However, similar to competitive differentiators, this is another RFP response that teams struggle to execute well.

If someone were to ask who you are as a person, how would you answer them? You might go with a safe answer about your line of work and what you do. Or, you might share a little bit about what you value and believe in. There is no right or wrong way to answer this, because you are made up of all of these things.

When you respond to the approach question of an RFP, think about who your organization is along with what you do. Explain your methodology and how your solution benefits your customers. Also demonstrate why you do what you do to show your greater purpose behind offering the solution.

Branding

How does content impact an RFP response? Majorly. Which is why marketing teams often own this piece. Branding isn’t a specific question per say, but more about how the final RFP deliverable is presented. Messaging, font style, and any visual design must align with your brand.

Due to the collaborative nature of RFP responses, you end up with many voices and styles from SMEs who don’t always have their pulse on branding guidelines. Random fonts and bullet points combine with an ancient logo from eight years ago for a big design headache. Technical jargon makes sense to the expert, but isn’t engaging for the issuer reading the response.

To achieve a consistent look and feel when it’s time to wrap up the RFP project, manually fixing the branding bloopers can cost marketing a lot of time. RFP software helps teams save hours during the export process with templates that ensure consistency for a higher quality deliverable.

Learn How RFP Software Empowers the High-Performing Marketer

rfp response marketing
Security

Security is a concern for modern organizations and this topic is becoming more and more common in RFPs. You will either need to address your internal processes by responding to a specific section of the RFP or you may need to respond to a separate security questionnaire. It’s also quite possible that you will do all of the above.

A security questionnaire might arrive at the same time as an RFP, or along with the DDQ if you’re further along in the vendor selection process. Depending on your industry, a security questionnaire might have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand questions.

security questionnaire template
RFP software supports teams who are responding to these massive spreadsheets. Auto-response fills in the majority of questions from the start of the project. A template designed for even the largest Security Questionnaires imports the content in a single click. Technology makes a big difference in time-savings and providing the most accurate responses.

Pricing

To share pricing or to not share pricing…that is the question. As an RFP responder, you must answer this one way or another. There is a strategic decision to be made about pricing depending on many factors.

If you provide pricing in your RFP response upfront, you have less control over the conversation around pricing. Negotiation and discussion are replaced by numbers on a page. So, you might decide to hold off on providing pricing until you have advanced further in the RFP response process.

Like anything else, as long as you show the value of your product or service, the pricing should not disqualify you. In this case, you could get away with maneuvering around this question by sharing benefits of your pricing model without getting into exact numbers. It’s really up to your organization on this one, and you could test RFP responses over time to see if the price reveal is working for you or against you.

Support / Customer Service

Today’s buyer has many, many choices. When they choose your solution, they want to make sure they have a partner who will stick around to offer support long after the purchase. Your response is an opportunity to make your organization stand out as the obvious partner.

This is a great time to take advantage of subject matter experts from your appropriate service department to clearly explain these benefits. Do you have a help center where they are able to self-educate? Do you offer onboarding sessions and in-depth webinars to ensure they start and continue on the right path? When you respond to this question, you can highlight your service in a number of ways.

More powerful than your voice is the voice of your customer. So, another good move is to share validation from your happy customers. This could be a review or customer success story that covers the positive experience they had while working with you. Like this one…

“RFPIO’s customer service is amazing! Between weekly training and addressing questions with platform improvements in a matter of days, onboarding has been a pleasure rather than a chore.” – Lauren Daitz, Senior Manager at HALO Recognition

Including a great review can make a big impact with an issuer. All of your competitors are answering this same question—and they might be answering it the same boring way, with a generic rundown. Play to your strengths and to their emotions with a little storytelling.

Legal

With RFP responses, your legal team will be involved at some point. Specific wording must be used to stay in line with certain legalities. Legal might come in during the review process or to answer legal questions.

Collaboration with your legal team is much easier with RFP software. There is always a healthy amount of redlining in Google and Word docs when legal chimes in with feedback. This can all be handled within a solution to make communication and finalization easier on everyone.

Past responses that are “legal team approved” can be stored in your answer library as well to populate responses with correct information. That way legal only has to perform a quick review rather than repeating themselves every time a similar question arises.

General Requirements / Situational Requirements

Speaking of repetition, general requirements are the questions you have answered thousands of times on every other RFP for your product or service. They can be disqualifiers or “knock-out” questions you plow through quickly.

On the other hand, situational requirements are gaining popularity with RFPs. With these questions you respond to a scenario, rather than just saying “yes” or “we have this feature.” The issuer might spell out a problem and ask you the following:

  • How would your software handle this situation?
  • How would your solution solve this problem?
  • How would your approach alleviate this issue?

…no pressure, right?

Situational requirements require a thoughtful response that demonstrate how your solution is the right choice for them. As such, they take more time to craft and refine. These responses should reinforce some of the strongest parts from your competitive differentiators and approach.

Again, RFP software is highly useful for knocking both general requirements and situational requirements out of the park. All content is already stored in the answer library. Search functionality helps you select the most relevant response in seconds, versus endlessly digging through emails and folders—or rounding up a committee of SMEs and marketing to constantly create fresh content.

Combine a great RFP response process with technology

Nice work, RFP responder! You made it through your RFP response anatomy lesson. We hope you feel more confident about the next RFP that lands in your inbox.

By combining a great RFP response process with technology, your team will submit a quality deliverable that has a higher potential to land the deal. And, it will all happen in less time so you and your team can operate with greater precision and move on to other priorities.

Ready to improve RFP response operations? Reach out and we’ll show you how RFPIO can help you manage everything.

How managers can set their proposal teams up for success

How managers can set their proposal teams up for success

In 2019, 23.8% of the total workforce in the US was working from home, according to the US Labor Bureau of Statistics. Although the Labor Bureau hasn’t released stats for 2020 yet, I think it’s safe to say that the percentage of remote workers will be significantly higher than 23.8%.

While the media published plenty of grim predictions about what the sudden shift to remote work could mean, the anticipated doom and gloom has yet to appear. In fact, the majority of Americans have embraced remote work with open arms—one recent survey found that 54% of Americans want to keep working remotely, even after offices can safely reopen.

As we all settle more comfortably into remote work, lots of managers are getting creative, looking for new ways to help their teams succeed when working from home. Once you figure out the right workflow for your team, remote work presents lots of opportunities for your team to grow and thrive.

A few weeks ago, I talked with Kevin Knopf, the Sr. VP of Marketing and Communications at Keenan & Associates. Before the imposed lockdowns, 95% of Kevin’s team was coming into the office every day. In one day, this percentage flipped on its head, where 100% of his team was suddenly working from home. As he navigated this new working environment, he learned three key things about setting his team up for success.

1) Make productivity a priority

The one thing Kevin knew for sure is that he needed to do everything in his power to make the transition as smooth as possible, while also keeping his team productive. He started by focusing on his people.

The first thing Kevin did was encourage his team to adjust their work schedules according to when they were most productive, instead of sticking to the regular 9 to 5 routine. This small change greatly boosted the team’s productivity and helped them to better serve their clients.

As a manager, it’s important to listen to your team members and understand what they really need. This might mean telling them to take tomorrow off when they’re stressed out. Or making sure they log off at their designated quitting time. Giving your team the chance to take some time off helps them recharge and to come back mentally refreshed, ready to do their best work.

It’s also important for managers to find ways to be flexible and go with the flow when unexpected things happen. Maybe your team member’s kids bounded into the room during a video call. Taking a moment to smile and greet them shows your team members that you care about them as people and spreads positive energy throughout the team.

2) Strengthen your response process

When you’re thinking about strengthening your response process, the first thing you should focus on his finding technology that works for your team. For Kevin, having a solution like RFPIO was mission-critical when it came to creating remote workflows.

RFPIO has made a huge difference, especially the project management features that enable them to set up tasks and checklists. In addition to helping them organize their RFPs and respond to them in record time, these checklists have helped team members keep track of each project.

While Kevin’s team had always valued technology’s role in the RFP response process, the transition to remote work encouraged them to further explore some of RFPIO’s features that make remote work easier, especially features that support collaboration and project management.

Another part of setting up remote-friendly workflows is finding an onboarding process that works. Kevin starts the onboarding process with a video series that gives new proposal managers a virtual tour of the RFPIO platform. Kevin also provides a PDF step-by-step manual that the managers can follow as they review the training videos.

This remote onboarding process has been hugely successful at Keenan & Associates, giving new team members a chance to quickly get comfortable with the platform.

3) Build connections with team members

Having a close-knit team that values cooperation and creative problem-solving is key for making remote work a success. And this process starts with establishing connections among team members.

Since positive teams are more productive teams, he stayed on the look-out for ways to bring his team closer together, even though they were no longer sharing a physical space. He set up an open Zoom meeting where team members were free to talk about life outside of work. He also organized different “theme days” on Fridays—one Friday, everyone showed up to the video call wearing their favorite tie-dyed shirt.

It’s also important to hold regular meetings at least once or twice a week to touch base and make sure everyone is on the same page. These meetings should cover each team member’s home life as well as their work life. Talk about what’s happening at home, and what non-work responsibilities they have to take on this week. Regular check-ins like these help team members to understand what’s going on in each other’s lives and helps bring them closer together.

Take your proposal team to the next level

Remote work is here to stay, which gives proposal teams plenty of opportunities to rise to the occasion and embrace innovation in the workplace. This is the perfect time to take advantage of technology solutions such as RFPIO to establish efficient RFP workflows that boost productivity whether working remotely or in the office.

Watch my full webinar, below, to learn more about how to take advantage of technology to best support your remote team. Or schedule a demo to learn about how RFP software can help your remote proposal team.

3 ways technology improves the response process for remote teams

3 ways technology improves the response process for remote teams

Once upon a time, you had to walk around the office and ask collaborators to send you what you needed to respond to an RFP. As the digital revolution took hold, it became necessary to manage the process virtually across multiple geographies, languages, teams, and time zones.

Now that teams all over the world are learning to work remotely, RFP software has become even more important. One survey found that 47% of workers want to work from home one to four days a week, even after it’s safe to return to the office. 40% want to be remote all the time.

Because RFP response is one of the most collaborative activities an organization undertakes, proposal management teams are seeking out RFP software that helps them:

  • Embrace data-driven project management.
  • Free up strategic resources by automating administrative tasks.
  • Integrate workflows to capture, qualify, collaborate on, and respond to proposal requests.

What they’ve found in solutions such as RFPIO is that RFP software helps them drive the RFP process for remote teams in three key ways.

#1: Improve RFP management by breaking responses into manageable sections

The first thing you do when an RFP comes in is determine the resources and content required. How many sections are there? What sort of subject matter expertise is needed? And how do we ensure deadlines are met? When done manually, this could mean pasting sections into multiple documents, noting sections and sub-sections, and gathering content from disparate sources—a labor-intensive process for even the most experienced proposal manager.

When you upload an RFP document into RFPIO, artificial intelligence (AI) systems take over and help you auto-identify content requirements. Within minutes, you can know how many questions there are, which SMEs (subject matter experts) to involve, how many authors will be needed, and where potential bottlenecks may arise.

RFPIO also converts a one-dimensional RFP document into a dynamic, collaborative work environment where you can analyze bid requests, forecast resources, assign work, and track progress. It can be organized and quickly broken down into related question and answer (Q & A) fields. That way you don’t have to email an overwhelming source file to multiple responders. Instead, you can send collaborators only the necessary bite-sized sections that matter to them most.

Other benefits of creating a live work environment out of a stagnant document include:

  • Assigning tasks to responders with the most relevant expertise AND the time to contribute.
  • Monitoring what all authors and reviewers are working on to determine their workload and track their assignments.
  • Setting up and sending automated task notifications and reminders to keep collaborators on schedule. They can even be a guest working outside of the organization as an external user.
  • Allowing collaborators to respond directly in the task notification or reminder without the need to dig through attachments or file folders to find the content in question.
  • Visualizing overall progress and understanding resource costs of responding to each proposal.

#2: Save time by leveraging automation technology and centralizing content

Nobody likes spending their time answering the same question over and over again. That’s why RFPIO’s ability to automatically answer common questions is so valuable. Auto-response eliminates repetitive work and gives SMEs more time to focus on their specific areas of expertise. It’s a sophisticated feature that essentially lets proposal managers take heavy asks like…

“Hey, can you write down and define all the services that we offer?”

…and reframe them into simple questions like…

“Hey, RFPIO says these services apply to this RFP. Can you check to make sure they’re accurate?”

SMEs appreciate their time being valued. Proposal managers appreciate the fast turnaround. If you find auto-response technology tantalizing (who wouldn’t?) and want to learn more, go to the 19-minute mark in my webinar (below) for details.

Auto-response technology is made possible by a comprehensive answer library. SMEs don’t need to take the time to provide answers to this library. It’s passively populated every time they answer a question. If you want, you can add a reviewer or moderator. Whether it’s through email, Slack, Google Docs, or individual spreadsheets, RFPIO harvests that response to build an intelligent knowledgebase. Eventually, it’s commonplace for organizations to answer 70-80% of an RFP with their auto-response technology powered by their unique answer library.

Final RFP submissions include more than just Q & A pairs. They’ll have whitepapers, case studies, graphics, documents, and other content that needs to be easily searched, formatted, reviewed, and attached to response packets. RFPIO allows you to centralize all of that content without changing how it’s currently organized. Keep it in SharePoint, Google Chrome, CRM, Google Drive, OneDrive, or wherever, but make it searchable and retrievable through RFPIO.

#3: Make informed decisions on which bids you’re more likely to win

When you plug RFPIO in and start using it, you start amassing data. What’s working, what isn’t, win rates, time-to-completion, profiles of issuers, and much more.

For proposal managers, one valuable use of this data is to create a designated intake area for proposal requests. This achieves two goals: one, it helps you capture proposal requests; and two, it helps your company make data-driven decisions as to whether or not to pursue a proposal:

  • See all requests, including project details, client information, and supporting documents all in one place.
  • Gain visibility into the best authors for projects, how many days it will take to complete, and the estimated value based on prior outcomes.

This is an immensely beneficial feature. You can learn more about how it works at the 29-minute mark of my webinar.

Focus on the win

When RFPs come in, they can be both exciting and overwhelming. While the promise of winning the RFP should be the focus, teams often fall victim to worrying about barriers to success. Everything from how much time will be consumed to who will manage the whole process to how to manage version control problems creep to the surface. RFP software will help keep the organization focused on the excitement of a potential win.

Watch my full webinar, below, to learn more about how to use technology to improve the response process. Or, schedule a demo to find out how RFP software can help your proposal team, whether you’re remote or back in the office.

What can you expect in a security questionnaire?

What can you expect in a security questionnaire?

If you’ve dealt with security questionnaires before, you know they can contain hundreds of questions. As data privacy concerns grow and data breaches become more damaging, your customers will expect increasingly more robust security programs. For you, as a vendor, this means you’ll need to demonstrate practices your company has put in place to protect customers’ data against thousands of threat sources and hackers.

My goal in this article is to increase your security questionnaire “savviness”—and save you many, many hours—by showing you how to start building a reusable library of documents and answers. By the end of this post, I aim to increase your knowledge of types of questions and documents requested in a typical security questionnaire. Hopefully, with this extra bit of knowledge at your fingertips, you will be better equipped and feel more confident in dealing with security questions yourself (and perhaps not go looking for your friend in IT).

Below is a summary of types of questions and documents requested in a security questionnaire (and information you should always have handy in your content library):

Security compliance certificates (e.g. SOC2 or ISO)

Proof of security compliance certifications is the most commonly requested piece of information in a security questionnaire. These documents are a stamp (in fact a BIG STAMP) from an authoritative body (such as AICPA or ISO) stating that your company complies with industry best practices and objectives. The certificate itself is an answer to many questions in the security questionnaire, so definitely have yours handy in your content library.

These certificates are typically re-issued annually, so you should make sure you always have the latest one. If your organization has an IT Compliance team, ask them for the latest certifications. If there is no compliance team, then the Infosec team or designated CISO would be the best person to reach out to. If you’re looking for a streamlined way to manage your IT compliance, you might consider following in the footsteps of many successful organizations who hook their RFP response system up with an IT GRC tool like ControlMap.

Cybersecurity policies and policy documents

Policies establish the ground rules of cybersecurity in a company, consequently becoming the next most common set of security questions asked. These questions act as a tool for customers to assess IT security, data privacy, and business resiliency of vendors such as you.

Cybersecurity policy questions cover a comprehensive set of security areas and are often the most time-consuming. Here’s a sample of different policies you’ll likely be asked about:

  • Information security
  • Physical security
  • Application security
  • Infrastructure security
  • Network security

The Office of CISO maintains answers to policy questions, so that’s an excellent place to start. Assign cybersecurity questions to them. You may also want to get hold of the policy documents for your content library. Most of the time, snippets from policy documents serve as answers to items in the security questionnaire, but in other cases, you must attach the complete policy documents as a response.

I recommend that you at least aim to have the top 10 commonly requested policy documents in your RFP content library, along with answers to policy questions. The policies and the related documents are updated at different frequencies, so setting up an automated check-in with content owners—ensuring you always have the latest version on hand—will save you a lot of time in the long run.

Security procedures

The next set of commonly seen questions are about security procedures. These questions assess the security procedures put in place by vendors, such as you, to safeguard customer information, data, and systems. Most often, these include HR and IT operations procedures dealing with employees, information systems, and business resilience. Commonly requested procedures include:

  • Procedures for employee security awareness training
  • Procedures for patching, upgrading, and mitigating vulnerabilities on servers or desktops
  • Incident management procedures in case of a security breach or other incident
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity plan in case of prolonged downtime
  • Monitoring and tracking for malicious activity

Assign these questions to your IT Operations, HR Operations, and IT Compliance teams, as they own and operate these workflows and processes most regularly. Usually, procedures are stored in departmental wikis or document folders. To make sure all relevant content is stored in the same place, link to these folders or export documentation into your response document library.

IT risks and mitigation controls

The most important questions are related to the risk management practices of a vendor’s organization. Your customer has to accept the third-party risk they face, so they want to know what IT threats and vulnerabilities impact them the most and what you, as a vendor, are doing to mitigate those risks.

Top questions in the area of risk management include:

  • Submit a risk management plan
  • Identify the list of risks that could directly impact the customer’s data and information systems
  • Describe the risk assessment methodology
  • List security controls in place to mitigate the risks
  • List personnel/roles responsible for risk management

IT Compliance teams are responsible for IT risk management plans and maintaining a list of security controls that mitigate the risk—so reach out to them. Compliance teams regularly perform a risk assessment and update the security controls. Please ensure regular check-ins with the compliance team for latest and updated copies of all reports

Next steps for streamlining your security questionnaire response

I hope you feel a little bit wiser about how security questionnaires are organized. There could be many different ways to structure a questionnaire or a question, but it rarely falls outside of the categories discussed above.

If you’re dealing with multiple questionnaires at a time—and want to ensure each questionnaire is accurate and up-to-date—I’d recommend using RFP software to simplify your process. Many successful companies use RFP software to respond to security questionnaires, cutting down response time by over 50%.

See if RFP software makes sense for your workflow by scheduling a demo here.

Modernize your RFP process to support the healthcare sales cycle

Modernize your RFP process to support the healthcare sales cycle

Technology continues to rapidly change the healthcare industry every year. Successful organizations are those who integrate technological tools to automate work and streamline processes. Those who don’t automate and streamline simply won’t be able to compete in today’s landscape.

In healthcare organizations, the RFP process is a vital component of securing new business. Prospects consider your organization’s RFP response as a determining factor in the vendor selection process.

Your team must balance the creation of compelling response content with healthcare compliance. By modernizing your RFP process with automated technology, you will effectively support your healthcare sales cycle, win more deals, and grow your organization.

Coordinate teams with a collaborative RFP process

Winning competitive deals requires specialized knowledge and input from team members across departments. A collaborative RFP process integrates the best minds of your organization. Compelling data and insights are incorporated into any documents your team responds to—RFPs, RFIs, sales proposals, DDQs, and security questionnaires.

Departments frequently work in silos, but you still need to get the right minds involved in the RFP process. Establishing a collaborative RFP response process holds team members accountable. Empowering your team with RFP management tools makes it easier to gather appropriate subject matter experts when and where they are needed most.

Without leveraging technology in the RFP response process, teams do their best with what they’ve got: paper documentation, email chains, text files, and spreadsheets. As healthcare teams co-author content, RFP software gives them greater flexibility to keep content up-to-date and accurate.

Strengthen compliance in the healthcare sales cycle

Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries in the world. The need for compliance is only expected to grow in the United States, with the Bureau of Labor and Statistics projecting compliance officers to increase by 8% over the next several years.

From privacy laws and rules to state and federal regulations, healthcare compliance is a key factor when submitting RFPs in your industry. It’s the responsibility of each RFP contributor to respond with the most accurate and factual content available.

RFP software makes it easier for your team to handle compliance demands throughout the healthcare sales cycle. The answer library stores all of your response content in a centralized location.

Whether a salesperson is answering a prospect email or a proposal manager is responding to an RFI, the most current product or service content is readily available. Now, if your compliance or legal teams need to get involved, they only need to partake in a quick sign-off rather than spending time tracking down or reworking compliant responses.

Supporting the healthcare sales cycle with RFP software

Due to heavy industry regulations, healthcare organizations have historically been slow to adopt new technologies. It’s very easy for teams to be set in their ways, continue using antiquated systems and workarounds for the sake of familiarity.

But, familiarity doesn’t translate to efficiency in most cases. It also doesn’t translate to winning deals, as responders fall into a habit of submitting subpar content when they rush the RFP response process.

Those teams who modernize their process with RFP software see noticeable improvements in productivity and quality soon after adoption and onboarding.

Save time

RFP software offers an intuitive interface that requires minimal training so teams across departments can hit the ground running. The platform integrates with tools you’re already using, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, as well as popular CRMs, such as Salesforce and Hubspot. Powered by artificial intelligence and auto-respond features, the answer library is built for speed and accuracy.

Store knowledge

Collective knowledge from your subject matter experts is stored in a centralized answer library. If an SME leaves the organization, your content is safe and sound. If an SME is unavailable during an RFP project, responders have access to SME-approved content. With a stronger knowledge repository, RFP software protects your team during company transitions or tight project deadlines.

Maintain compliance

RFP software gives your team the ability to stay on top of audits, so answer library content is always groomed and up-to-date. Set a reminder at your preferred content audit cadence (i.e. monthly, quarterly, annually). Your “content gatekeepers” then field Q&A pairs to ensure only the most compliant content is selected by other responders at your organization.

When you combine a collaborative RFP process with RFP software, your team submits responses with greater confidence and efficiency. Modernize your process with RFPIO.

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