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Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

We won’t sugarcoat this…losing a request for proposal is never a fun time. You and your team, many who work […]

Category: Selling & Enablement

Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

We won’t sugarcoat this…losing a request for proposal is never a fun time. You and your team, many who work in multiple departments at your organization, put a lot of time and energy into crafting your RFP responses. You lose an important account in Q4 that could have helped you make your year.

At the end of the day, losing an RFP is kind of a bummer. However, as we experience in life, lessons can always be learned.
Jeffrey Davis, writing in Psychology Today, has these words of wisdom to share: “What matters is being able to delineate the reasons we’ve failed, and instead of taking the rejection personally, making it useful. If it isn’t useful, then it has to be left behind.”

On that note, let’s learn a few lessons after losing a request for proposal—along with some motivation to help you move forward and increase your win rate potential next time.

You just lost a huge RFP…Now what?

Step one: Breathe before you do anything else. You need to compose yourself, then proceed with sharing the news with other team members or responding to the prospect. For moral support, gain quick inspiration from famous “failures” who never quit:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Michael Jordan
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Thomas Edison
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Steve Jobs
  • Etc., etc., etc.

The one question you’re probably saying over and over again is: Why? Why didn’t we win? Why did they pick those [insert competitor nickname] over us?

Quite often it isn’t clear why your proposal didn’t succeed. Your product or service might be above and beyond your competitors. Yet somehow they’re celebrating the deal they just landed while you’re crying in the corner of the parking lot, wondering where it all went wrong.

A discreet call to your key contact at the organization may give some clarity as to why they chose your competitor over you. Use caution with this tactic, as they will likely give some rehearsed speech riddled with vague generalities that don’t help you at all. Then, you just end up spending time on an awkward phone call together. No good, right?

Which is why a classy email is your best move. We created several RFP response specific email templates for you to copy and send. Because we know responding to RFPs isn’t always about winning, you can use this email template the next time you need to have that tough conversation with a prospect…

RFP response email: Send after losing RFP

Hi [first name] –

Thank you for the update. I am surprised by this result as I remember specifically how well the demo went with your team, and the excellent fit between [Company] and [RFPIO].

I absolutely respect your decision, and I only ask for some additional feedback so I can understand how [RFPIO] can continue to improve. Let’s schedule a few minutes to chat, so I can better understand the specifics you were looking for. Any feedback I can glean in this scenario is very valuable.

Thank you very much,

The goal is to lose gracefully. Equally important is to demonstrate complete confidence in your solution until the bitter end. You never know—this deal may come back around one day.

Hold a post-mortem to analyze your RFP loss

A “post-mortem” sounds dreary, but having a dedicated pow-wow after losing a request for proposal allows your team some time to work together for the sake of improvement. The idea here is that you will find some gaps and opportunities in your process—or within the RFP response content itself.

In a post-mortem session, use constructive criticism and don’t turn against each other. “Where can we improve?” is a better mindset than “Whose fault is it?”

A post-mortem certainly doesn’t need to happen after every single RFP. To stay consistent, schedule these meetings ahead of time at a cadence that makes sense for your organization. If you send over 100 RFPs annually like 28% of organizations, analyze your RFP response process once a month. A quarterly post-mortem might be more reasonable if you respond to 50 RFPs a year.

annual number of RFPs
Another option is to hold a post-mortem after losing a key business opportunity. This strategy is more reactive and should be held in addition to your regularly scheduled post-mortems. Everyone is busy, so don’t spring post-mortems on your team too much or they will lose their effectiveness. Your team will not be as engaged, or they may find ways to skip attending in favor of other priorities.

Once your team is together, identify the stage where the proposal was rejected. If your RFP made it to the last two or three stages, that’s considered a good performance as most proposals don’t reach the final pitching stage. You probably only need to tweak your RFP responses slightly to get more wins in the future.

Let’s look at the main reasons why RFPs don’t make the cut, so you can leave your post-mortem with an action plan.

Ways to improve your RFPs to land your next deal

1. Always sell the benefits

Consider the benefits (not the features) that you are offering to your client. Most organizations look at their product through rose-colored glasses. It’s great to be proud of your product, but we always have to go back to our favorite saying…What’s In It For Them (WIIFT).

You may have the coolest software on the market. Well, friend, the client only cares that the software saves them time and money. If they can earn money on top of that? Even better. Exhibit A…

At RFPIO, we get a taste of our own medicine and regularly respond to RFPs. Rather than saying “RFPIO is the best RFP software,” we say “Our clients report an average time savings of 40% while using RFPIO, allowing them to focus on creating effective proposal content that creates additional revenue.”

“Actually talk to your customers. Use the language that they use. Talk about the things they talk about. Never feed salad to a lion.” – Jay Acunzo

2. No pain, no gain

Prospects are looking for RFP responses which understand their problems and provide a solution. If your proposal doesn’t foreground this, then it won’t stand out among the sea of RFPs your competitors submitted.

Be crystal clear about what your organization’s remedy is for the pain point. Include testimonials for customer validation, along with other tangible content, like results in the form of percentages or dollars that increased or decreased because of your solution.

3. Too technical

Many RFPs, particularly ones that are rejected, barrage the receiver with technical detail. This can be a monumental mistake. Some of the decision-makers are technical engineer types, but many are business-minded.

That means they don’t want volumes of details and specs, they want to know exactly how your solution will help their organization. And, they don’t want to have their technical team translate everything so they can figure that out. Make it easy on your prospect by simplifying your RFP responses.

4. Less is more

If your RFP needs a fork-lift to bring it into the office, it is probably too detailed. Most RFP responses are long, because responders think they need to cram it all in. They worry they won’t meet requirements and end up over-achieving in a way that is disadvantageous for them.

Being concise is a factor in winning the deal. Look at it this way—if someone liked your proposal, but felt they needed some more information in a particular area, they can ask for an additional submission. This happens and it’s perfectly acceptable.

Winning companies continuously upgrade their content and RFP response process, so that they can provide a streamlined delivery system for responses. We’re big fans of content audits. If you’re unfamiliar with content audits for RFPs, check out this resource.

5. Tell stories

An RFP is yet another opportunity to tell our brand’s story—in this case, it must be powerful to convince the prospect that you are the partner they need. Like a classic narrative, your RFP response should have a beginning, middle, and an end.

The RFP should be structured and have built-in “success factors” by drawing parallels with various projects your organization has completed and success stories from satisfied customers.

In the RFP response process, we’ll turn to Vince Lombardi for some inspiration: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” Losing an RFP is a process we all have to go through. It’s up to you and your team to move forward strategically to make your next RFP response a winner.

RFP software use cases

RFP software use cases

If you think RFP software is just for RFPs, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to clear the air and help you see just how many use cases your organization is missing out on.

The first step is understanding that RFP software is really an intelligent content management system. Capabilities of this kind of technology can reach far beyond responding to request for proposals.

You may have RFP software already, so what follows will help you uncover more ways to maximize the technology you invested in. You may be considering a solution, and this post will help you see the realm of possibilities.

Being that our name is RFPIO, a common misunderstanding we come across is that our solution is only for RFPs—when in fact our clients use the application for numerous projects across departments. Here are some real-world RFP software use case examples that have transformed organizations. Get ready to gain inspiration and efficiency!

RFP software for onboarding

Onboarding new hires is one of the most important first steps when an organization is building a strong team. From job descriptions to employee handbooks, from training materials to online courses…a lot of company information is needed throughout the HR process.

While basic company information may not change too often, it will still change. Roles within the company, and the necessary training to learn the nuances of that job, can change frequently—especially in a growing organization. Having access to the most current company information, and being able to revise HR-related content, are big time-savers for organizations.

RFP software like RFPIO was made to promote collaboration, so any number of users can access the solution. Since usage is not limited, we often see human resources teams using the platform directly for onboarding new-hires. It’s easy for them to learn, and they can quickly use or add content at will to support their hiring efforts.

RFP software for discovery calls

When it’s time to qualify a prospect, it’s up to an SDR (Sales Development Representative) or BDR (Business Development Representative) to pick up the phone and be ready for anything. A prospect will have any number of questions, many of them technical.

While sales should know a product or service inside and out, it’s impossible for them to know every detail. They turn to account executives or product teams for answers, or scour many Google docs and folders to locate information.

RFP software offers a single source of truth for teams within an Content Library. Many sales teams we know keep RFPIO open on their computer screens during discovery calls, because they can rapidly search for any type of company or product information and instantly answer prospect questions.

RFP software for proactive proposals

To sell within a highly competitive industry, sales teams must be proactive. Even if a prospect hasn’t issued an RFP, if sales feels their organization is the perfect fit, they can take steps to stand out from the competition.

Creating a proactive proposal isn’t typically a priority for busy teams who are juggling opportunities with multiple prospects. Like any formality with a prospect…these things take time. At this stage in the sales process, it’s more about presenting your organization in a favorable light.

We love seeing how sales teams are assembling proactive proposals with minimal effort using RFPIO. Top content is one our client’s favorite features—they quickly identify the best and most current responses, filtering by star rating or review date. Since presentation is everything with a proactive proposal, they use customized templates to easily export the document with a beautifully branded finish.

“RFPIO can be utilized to manage both Q&A RFPs, as well as unsolicited proposals. Each project includes a ‘tasks’ page where all non-submission tasks can be tracked (e.g. intent to bid, follow-ups, etc.) It has already helped us cut the response/review workflow time in half. As a small team who ships a lot of projects, this is a game changer for us!”- Carah Counts, CareATC

RFP software for sales emails

Sales teams live in their inboxes more than they would like to admit. Whether they are describing features, answering questions, or following up after submitting an RFP…they compose and send hundreds of emails every day.

Even with numerous forms of communication like Slack or LinkedIn, email conversations will inevitably come into play. While there is no way to eliminate email, there are ways to use technology like RFP software to your advantage. Which is exactly what some of our smartest clients do to enable their sales teams.

RFPIO has a great feature that recommends email content. RFPIO Lookup helps sales manage Content Library content across all web pages and applications when using a Google Chrome browser. Sales teams can leverage this feature to speed up email responses, and ensure they are presenting quality information that will inform and impress prospects and clients.

RFP software for marketing content

Modern marketing teams greatly depend on content for countless initiatives. Marketing owns: brand guidelines, blog content, email campaigns, testimonials, case studies, ad campaigns, social media content, public relations…and, the list goes on.

We’ll use our own example for this one. When submitting for software awards, repetitive questions kept coming up. Rather than copying and pasting from various documents or creating new answers for each submission, our marketing team used RFPIO to store responses to these questions…

  • Basic company / contact information
  • Product / service value proposition
  • Competitive advantages
  • Employment data
  • Financial data
  • Customer testimonials
  • Awards and achievements

With each award submission, marketing saved time by repurposing previous responses in minutes. Marketing teams are usually familiar with technology like RFP software, because they are involved in the messaging side of the RFP response process. It’s worth stopping to explore how a collaborative, content management platform like RFPIO can be utilized even more.

RFP software for SOWs

Although SOWs are specific to project scope, they don’t need to be created from scratch each time. This is a common trap teams fall into, but there are ways to use technology like RFP software to work smarter with SOWs.

Projects lean toward the complex side. In a recent report by Project Management Institute, only 22% said projects within their organizations had a low level of complexity. Figuring out how to convey the project scope with a highly complex project can be difficult, but it is not impossible when teams have a strong toolset to work with.

rfp project management

Source: Project Management Institute

When our clients use RFPIO to complete SOWs, they are spending much less time than before with documents and spreadsheets. Section templates consist of standard content that can be repurposed and used for different stakeholders. Reusing and assigning content within the application greatly improves workflow for SOWs, from content creation to the review process.

“Running our SOWs through RFPIO has helped us keep our documents better organized. The team can quickly review their assigned sections and they don’t have to scroll like they would do in a Google or Word doc. The time-savings has just been awesome.”- Hayli Hay, Metal Toad

RFP software for grants

Similar challenges and solutions discussed in the previous SOW section also apply to teams writing grants. At a nonprofit organization, resources are typically even more scarce. Grant writing can take a lot of time away from other priorities. The key here is to repurpose your content with the help of technology like RFP software.

Using a manual process will only hold a nonprofit team back from reaching their true potential. Funding is critical for the longevity of any nonprofit organization, so the grants they submit must be accurate and compelling. Grants must be submitted often to keep funding opportunities coming in.

We see nonprofits using RFPIO’s Content Library to access powerful stats and current financials to strengthen their grant content—without searching endlessly for these numbers. A sequential review process is also helpful in case a team of one needs to get approval from other directors or a board before submitting.

RFP software for security questionnaires

While sales teams may live in their inboxes, team members who face security questionnaires reside primarily in spreadsheets. Security questionnaires are becoming more common as privacy and security concerns move top of mind for any organization beginning a partnership with another.

On average, a security questionnaire will consist of hundreds of questions—sometimes, thousands. These are the numerous types of security questionnaires…

  • 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

….and any variety listed here can be completed efficiently in RFPIO.

Our clients depend on auto-response and bulk answering to cut completion time dramatically, since the solution does a majority of the responding upfront. At the end of the RFP security questionnaire, teams finish up with the source export, which allows them to export back into the original source with clean data.

“RFPIO not only has more flexible configuration for those compliance questions, it does store responses. As far as I can tell, RFPIO is the ONLY software you should be considering.”- Anthony Rossi, MasterControl

“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” Peter Drucker said those words, and we couldn’t agree more.

Every organization has complex projects, and every team is searching for ways to make processes more efficient. Your resources are valuable, and you want to ensure time is spent optimizing strategies rather than managing tasks.

RFP software is an unbeatable time-saver across organizations. We hope these real-world use cases inspire you to think outside the box, so you can utilize automated technology in new ways and achieve higher levels of success.

How to position financial services RFP responses for success

How to position financial services RFP responses for success

Do people believe their organization fully understands the value of project management? A substantial 42% said “no” in a recent report by Project Management Institute. A big reason why companies spend more time than they should on RFP responses often comes down to not valuing project management enough.

An inefficient RFP response process is a common link between modern organizations across a range of industries. But, for financial services, there are unique obstacles that keep teams from reaching their growth objectives. And since competition in the financial world is always intense, winning RFPs is a pretty important step in the sales cycle.

Better RFP response management for financial services organizations is possible. First you need to recognize your process roadblocks to find the best solution for your team. This is how you get started, so you can position your RFP projects for success.

The roadblock in a financial services RFP response process

Financial services companies usually have a different setup internally. Often there is no gigantic sales team or proposal management team handling RFPs. So, the main roadblock you will run into with your RFP response process is the workflow.

Typically someone who is working with a potential client is the one who receives the RFP and starts working on it. Then, they pull in other subject matter experts when necessary. Although this person has other primary responsibilities, they have to throw on their proposal manager hat to see the project through to completion.

Sound familiar? Though responding to RFPs isn’t your job, bringing in new business is. It is for everyone at an organization.

We get it. You feel your time is better served in front of clients. This is obviously important for the business as well. If you’re not doing so already, prioritizing technology will help you save time with your RFP response process. That way you can get back to focusing on your clients.

Prioritizing technology for managing RFP responses

40% revealed that investing in technology is a high priority for enabling project success. That leaves many others who don’t see the value in technology they are currently using or considering.

project management priorities

Source: Project Management Institute

Since it’s more “all hands on deck” with RFPs at a financial services company, everyone has to contribute in some way. You don’t have a dedicated proposal management team to steer the ship. And, your sales team is spread thin. Might technology be the answer?

RFP software can help you manage all of this, whether you are a team of few or many. Compared to a manual RFP response process, technology allows you to do more with less while organizing the everyday complexities of your unique workflow. Whether you’re repurposing content from past responses or collaborating with SMEs on current projects, you can get more done with RFP software.

Solve Inefficiencies with This Security Questionnaire Template

security questionnaire template

How financial services can benefit from RFP software

Look, we understand that you probably like spreadsheets more than the average professional. But, managing your RFP responses that way is far from efficient. Working after hours using Control+F to hunt down a past RFP response? We know you’ve done that right before a deadline.

RFPIO has quite a few features that will make proposal management easier for you. Here’s how…

Gain RFP project visibility

Dashboards allow you to track and manage your RFP projects, so you always know what’s going on. You can see who has been assigned to specific sections of an RFP or security questionnaire and track completion progress. It’s a lot easier to handle an RFP when you have this level of visibility and know where the entire project stands.

Automate RFP responses

Auto-response fills in the majority of questions from the beginning of each RFP project, defeating even the most massive security questionnaire. You can auto-respond to everything, review, then fill in the gaps by engaging the necessary SMEs. If you’re taking the lead, this does a lot of the work for you.

automate security questionnaires
Increase accuracy with RFPs

Manually copying and pasting from past responses might be the death of your RFP. Reusing content is fine until you call a client by the wrong name. Merge tag functionality saves you from a lot of anxiety, since the system replaces those fields automatically.

Store and filter RFP content

A content library allows you to keep RFP responses organized in one easily searchable place. You don’t have to sift through past RFPs, use CTL-F to find the response, then copy and paste into your document. RFP software does the heavy lifting for you—all you have to do is click a button.

Standardize the export process

A major timesaver happens during the export process. You have the ability to export into either the source document or a corporate template, so you have a uniform RFP deliverable. When 15 people contribute to an RFP, 15 different sized fonts usually happen along the way. What used to take a couple of hours can be done in a couple of seconds.

Investing in technology like RFP software will only help you do your job better. By spending less time responding to RFPs with a more efficient process, you’ll be able to turn more attention to your clients and priorities.

You’re doing the right thing by taking the lead with your company’s RFPs. Now you just need the technology to support your mission.

Software RFP responses: Practice what you preach to succeed

Software RFP responses: Practice what you preach to succeed

Perhaps the greatest irony of working for a software company is that we live and breathe technology, yet we aren’t always the best at practicing what we preach. This is even more apparent with RFP responses.

It’s crazy to think that the majority of companies—84% to be exact—are still responding to RFPs manually. Meaning, no software to promote efficiency and smooth out the ride. I wish I could say that SaaS companies were exempt from this technology averse group. In truth, they are just as guilty.

Software RFP responses are a different beast. Let’s get into some of the challenges SaaS organizations see daily, and how RFP software makes a definitive improvement on productivity.

3 common software RFP response challenges

In general, SaaS companies are unique. Oftentimes they consist of large sales teams that spend most of their time hunting for new business. These team members don’t necessarily have a lot of technical knowledge and they definitely don’t have a lot of time.

Teamwork is a huge part of RFP response success. As we get into three common challenges with software RFPs, you’ll see just how important teamwork is for your organization.

Challenge #1: Workflow

The very people that are working with a customer on the frontline of sales are the same team members that receive the RFP. Should sales respond to all of these questions in some dark corner of the office? Not if you’re planning on winning business—which is kind of the whole point of responding to RFPs.

Sales knows the product, and they have a good handle on what their company does. But they’re not able to take a deep dive into details on the same level as an SME (subject matter expert). With RFP response, there’s usually a pretty big disconnect between the frontline and the people doing the heavy lifting in the back.

The workflow has to be worked out. Some SaaS companies prefer to have Joe the sales rep take a shot at the first round of RFP responses before sending the document along to Hans in sales ops for the next round. Others don’t include sales reps in the RFP response process at all, because they have a dedicated proposal management team handling everything.

Figure out a workflow that makes sense for your organization. And make sure everyone understands their role in the RFP process. If Sue on the marketing ops team knows when she’ll be responding, and to which specific questions, she’ll be more willing to contribute to RFPs.

Challenge #2: Collaboration

Collaboration is key during the RFP response process. Streamlining communication efforts between departments and teams can be a substantial obstacle. It’s even more substantial for a SaaS company with remote teams in different cities, countries, and/or continents.

Remember…SaaS teams are largely sales teams. Sales is going to go where the easy money is. If they have other deals that are closer to closing, they’re going to focus their attention there rather than a stressful RFP situation they may win down the line in a few months.

Outside of sales, other team members will gladly pass up responding to RFPs in favor of the project they feel is more important. Again, everyone has a full-time job here. The reality is that you need engineers and product managers to weigh in to create quality RFP responses that land the deal.

Responders need to understand that an RFP is a breadwinner, not a waste of time. Getting everybody on the same page with this concept will move RFPs up higher on their priority lists. A stronger team commitment equals a stronger RFP.

Challenge #3: Security

These days companies have major security concerns, especially with products in the cloud. That means SaaS companies are required to respond to security questions and full-on security questionnaires often.

Security questionnaires can be a major setback for software companies. Hundreds or thousands of repetitive questions must be answered quickly. And, no pressure—how well you respond will either put the prospect at ease about your product or cause them to run off with one of your competitors.

Most team members won’t feel confident about answering highly technical questions. This responsibility falls upon the people who can respond, which ultimately exhausts your go-to SMEs.

Security is a part of life for software companies, so be prepared with the right team and a solid way to manage these responses. That’s not as easy as it sounds. But, just like any of the usual RFPs or RFIs, there are ways to take control of security questionnaires too.

Conquer software RFP response challenges and move on

Enough with the doom and gloom already, am I right? You don’t want to hear about RFP response challenges, because you see them every day. I bet you want to know how you can beat some of those challenges and move on with your life. So, here we go…

  • Have a clear and defined team – Your proposal management team doesn’t have to be big. Your team could be one or two people that manage the RFP response process, who call in technical reinforcements as needed.
  • Structure a communication system – Visibility needs to be there for all parties involved in your RFP process. Make communication easy between teams outside of email, so things don’t get lost in crowded inboxes.
  • Build a database of RFP responses – Repetition will happen, especially with responses to security questionnaires. A huge help is creating a centralized, searchable database of common questions and answers.
  • Yeah….Just use RFP software – This is really number one. To beat these software RFP challenges—and be more productive as an organization—you need technology to get the job done.

RFP software makes life easier for SaaS companies

Since you and I both work at SaaS companies, I’ll shoot straight with you. You don’t necessarily need RFP software. You can survive without it, but you’ll be surviving rather than succeeding when your Content Library is a spreadsheet instead of a system.

You don’t need to drive your car to get to work. But you also don’t want to spend two hours on public transportation when you could get there in 25 minutes. This is how RFP software works. It makes life easier.

RFP software helps you define a positive workflow, where you spell out roles and responsibilities. You have one page of communication with chat tools inside the platform, along with integrations with crowd favorites like Slack and Salesforce. You give everybody visibility into the process with dashboards. You stop wasting your effort, typing the same thing or searching for responses, because you’re storing everything inside an intelligent Content Library.

RFPIO’s features are likely in line with the goal of the product you stand behind at your company. We’re all building technology to make processes more efficient for people. For you, that means no more Control+F to find RFP responses. It’s time to practice what you preach and use software to make RFP response a successful endeavor for your team.

5 ways to impress an RFP issuer and win the bid

5 ways to impress an RFP issuer and win the bid

Think of the issuer

Having been in the proposal and RFP space for the better part of 20 years, I’m intimately familiar with the pains and challenges companies face when responding to RFPs (and all their variants).

Most companies are focused on responding as fast as they can, hopefully in time to meet the potential customer’s deadline, and see the RFP as a “necessary evil” component of the sales process.

But, have you ever considered the effort required to evaluate various RFP responses from all the respondents? Think of the RFP issuers that spend hours combing through multiple responses to make the right selection.

Over and over, I’ve seen that responses that make the evaluator’s job easier will advance, even if they don’t have the best fit or lowest price. With that in mind, consider the following techniques to help ensure your response is the one that makes the cut.

  1. Follow instructions
  2. Make their job as easy as possible
  3. Use formatting to make key differentiators stand out
  4. Keep bulleted lists brief
  5. Provide thoughtful answers

How to impress them

1. Above all, follow the RFP issuer’s instructions.
Yes, sometimes companies will make you jump through hoops, repeat yourself, have you fill out tedious forms and spreadsheets—all of which burns your time and may feel like wasted effort. But read, understand, and make sure you follow the instructions provided in the RFP, just as they were presented in the document. Your prospect has asked for what they need, and will appreciate the responses that match those requirements.

2. Make their job as easy as possible.
When responding to a questionnaire, you may see questions that have already been answered elsewhere in the document. It’s tempting to respond by saying, “See question No. 44”, or, simply including a URL, and moving on. Doing this might make your life easier, but it requires the RFP issuer to jump around in the response document, adding to their workload. Do this too much, and you can annoy them, subconsciously causing them to mark you down. If possible, answer the question fully, everywhere it is asked. After your response you can add a postscript, such as “also see question No. 44”.

3. Use clever formatting to make differentiators stand out.
Especially in long responses, evaluators may need to wade through an ocean of text, drowning out the key information you want them to see—for example, key differentiators or other standout data that will illuminate your company in its best light. My recommendation is to carefully use formatting techniques (bold font, call-out boxes, white space, highlighting, etc.) to draw attention to key points.

4. A few bullet points can go a long way.
Bullets are one of the most prolific devices used in content. Their intention, originally, was to draw readers’ attention to the adjacent content. However, they are almost always over-used. Research has shown that the optimal number of bullet points in a list is three. If you can help it, try not to use more than five. Any more than that, and the human brain tends to dismiss them as trivial, and move on, often without reading any of them!

5. Build credibility by giving thoughtful answers.
Most RFPs contain several straightforward questions that seek to clarify simple facts—e.g. those having to do with the size and history of your company, or key details of your recommended solution. But buried within the list will be the questions that carry the most weight, or will really get to the heart of the solution. When you come across those questions, don’t just answer them factually. Using this three-part structure can increase the persuasiveness of key answers.

  1. First, restate the question, and make it clear that you understand why it is important.
  2. Next, provide your answer, clearly and concisely.
  3. Finally, especially in the case you have made a claim or stated a differentiator, substantiate that claim, preferably with 3rd party evidence. For example, consider including a quote from a customer, or a recognized analyst.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give some credit to Tom Sant—a legend in the RFP and proposal space—for inspiring some of these tips. They have served me well, and are surely to give you an advantage when you’re being evaluated against your competition. If you’re interested in talking more about our solution for RFP response, we’re happy to schedule a demo.

10 of the most bizarre RFP questions for responders

10 of the most bizarre RFP questions for responders

You’ve probably seen thousands of questions as an RFP responder. Most of them are “the usual” and you respond without hesitation. But every now and then, something comes along that makes you question the sanity of both you and your prospect.

You blink repeatedly when you first see the question, thinking your eyes are playing tricks on you. It’s early—maybe you aren’t caffeinated enough for this RFP project. You go for a walk to clear your head and grab a cup of coffee. But when you come back, it still doesn’t make sense.

Next you ask Joe in sales if he’ll take a look. Joe’s a dependable guy and he has a knack for reading people. Alas, even Joe can’t solve this mystery. You both say aloud what you’ve been thinking all along: What in the world?

Then, you call an emergency proposal management team meeting. It’s due tomorrow, it’s mission critical at this point. But you know you must respond to every question on this RFP to have a chance at winning new business. It’s gonna be an all-nighter, but together, you’ll come up with something that will work in time for the deadline.

Sound familiar? It does to us too. We’ve seen it all over the years. Just when you think you have a solid RFP response process happening, life throws you a curveball.

Because we were curious about the bizarre questions other RFP responders have seen out in the world, we ran a survey for a few months. What follows are some of the strangest questions from survey participants, along with a few tips on what to do when the next RFP bafflement ensues.

Are you a proposal manager? This success guide was made for you. 

What is the strangest question you’ve ever seen on an RFP?

Truthfully, we weren’t sure if there were other RFP responders out there like us who had seen outlandish questions throughout their career. We launched the survey to see what would happen. It turns out, bizarre RFP questions are a thing.

Without further ado, here are some of the strange RFP question sightings from fellow responders across a multitude of industries. Prepare to scratch your head and/or chuckle with your team!

  1. When I was selling print advertising several years ago, I received an RFP that asked “If your magazine was a famous celebrity, which celebrity would it be and why?”
  2. Keep in mind, we are a technology software company responding to a technology software RFP. It wasn’t a question per se…but we had to supply an affidavit of compliance regarding profits derived from slavery if we were established during the slavery era.
  3. Does your solution have a feature that has been copied from your competitor? If “yes,” list out the features and explain how your solution has been designed differently.
  4. Do you charge to answer the questions?
  5. It’s the absence of the sustainability question that seems odd. In every business plan there should be the question: How does your service/product/business contribute to reduce internal combustion, fossil fuel usage, co2 emissions, generate energy, generate more clean water, reduce waste and contribute to sustainability?
  6. What is the profit size of your business?
  7. Do you make apps for the Blackberry?
  8. If you are shortlisted, would you be ready to have your product validated by one of your competitors?
  9. Please provide contact information for two clients who have fired your firm for breach of contract. (I mean, you have to give them credit for the temerity to expect a legit response.)
  10. No joke, in a dental benefits RFP for somewhere in Texas, the question was asked, “Who is your favorite college football team?” We went with a local Texas school just to be safe!

What to do when an oddball RFP question comes up

Run. We’re kidding. Don’t run. Stay and fight for that new business.

“63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months—and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.” – Marketing Donut

Remember, if you’re dealing with a crazy question, that means your competitors are too. Sometimes an organization will throw in the wild card to see what you can do with it. Leaving a question blank is never the way to go. No matter how strange it is, do your best to come up with a response.

Who knows? Maybe that question is all it takes to spook one of your competitors, so they skip it. Then, you’ll be the one that gave it your all—even if you felt ridiculous while answering it.

If you have time, you can have a little fun with your team using gamification. Offer an incentive to whoever can come up with the best answer. The winning answer might be with someone who doesn’t normally contribute to RFPs. So, this obstacle in your RFP project can actually be used to promote teamwork.

Having a solid RFP response process helps too

As always, efficiency is key. And when a question comes along that stumps you, it can eat up more of your time when you’re trying to figure out a clever or suitable way to respond.

Having a centralized Content Library will make it easier to find a response that is close, then you can tailor from there. If the question is completely coming out of left field, it makes sense to pull in support from your team.

With RFP software, collaboration is easy when you need quick clarification. You can ping other team members with @-mentioning or on Slack. This is a better use of time for contributors, versus back-and-forth emails or random meetings. And if the question is especially challenging, you can quickly ask multiple team members for their thoughts.

Of course, it’s also important to make sure you are pursuing RFPs that are a good fit for your organization. Being able to identify those opportunities is a critical part of the sales cycle. If it’s not the right fit, you don’t need to spend time on strange questions that won’t result in revenue.

[PODCAST] How RFP Software Helps Viewpoint Elevate Their Strategy

Bizarre questions happen to all of us RFP responders. In a way, it’s part of the process. A mind-boggling—and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny—part, but part of the process nonetheless.

Agility is what makes us good at what we do. So, the next time a strange RFP question appears, take a moment to laugh, cry, or whatever you need to do. Then, come up with the best possible strategy for answering that question.

The good news is that you can take some comfort in knowing that others are having the same experience as you…including us. From one responder to another, we salute you!

Here’s a list of “normal” RFP questions to know, so you can respond more effectively.

4 positive effects that happen when you respond to RFPs

4 positive effects that happen when you respond to RFPs

A lot of companies stay away from RFPs. A lot of people think RFPs are a waste of time. However, those who consistently prioritize and pursue RFPs are successful organizations seeing positive effects.

RFP response often bears a negative feeling for teams, but it certainly doesn’t have to. A new perspective coupled with technology are necessary if you are ready to make changes that will benefit your organization.

An RFP isn’t bad—far from it, in fact. It is a great opportunity for your company if you have the right tools. These are a few of the positive effects RFPIO’s clients have experienced—and you can too, once you see RFP response in a different light.

Responding to RFPs creates more opportunities

When an RFP arrives in your inbox, it’s a business opportunity. If your team doesn’t participate in RFPs, you risk losing the opportunity to the organization that goes after it. Let’s say you are participating consistently in RFPs. Are you putting your best foot forward to win? Or, are you going through the motions just to get the RFP project out the door?

As with any pursuit, competition can be fierce. The only way to see the positive effect with opportunities is to outshine your competitors with the quality of your submission.

The goal with every submitted RFP is to make your organization stand out as the obvious partner. Everything from the executive summary to key differentiators should be carefully crafted and tailored for your prospect.

Boilerplate content won’t win anyone over. Think about the last time you received anything automated and impersonal, even if it’s an email. You likely already forgot that company, or you ignored the email and never saw the message.

This is where RFP software comes in to help teams leverage technology for a stronger deliverable. Your Content Library stores all of your company information in Q&A pairs, so you can quickly search for responses in one place—not fifty places—such as folders, emails, and spreadsheets.

Tags make searching easier for your team and star rating influences the recommendation engine to highlight the best responses. After repurposing this content through the Content Library, you can customize the response for the individual prospect to impress them. Use any sales intelligence to make your content relevant, and have marketing do the final polish for readability, brand alignment, and engagement.

Responding to RFPs revitalizes internal knowledge

Company information changes constantly, whether you have a team of 50 or 50,000. A product company will have new features, technical specs, and updates, while a government organization will have security and compliance standards to maintain.

Staying on top of the latest internal knowledge is critical for anyone at an organization who is involved in responding to RFPs. When companies rely on a manual approach, responses often end up buried in a spreadsheet without being updated consistently. Outdated content works against the end goal of any RFP…to win business.

RFP software includes an Content Library to centralize your company’s internal knowledge base, making the information easily accessible the next time an RFP, security questionnaire, or unsolicited proposal come up.

Regular content audits ensure the most updated responses are front and center. With RFPIO, you can set up alerts to help admins remember to comb through the Content Library, to clean up the content and make pertinent updates.

Having this knowledge repository goes far beyond an RFP response project for your sales team. If you’re just selling on your own path, having this wealth of information handy refreshes company knowledge, security policies, and processes at a glance.

Frontline salespeople are using RFPIO to answer technical or product questions on sales calls. They don’t need to tell the prospect to hold on while they try to find the information—or say they need to follow up or have someone get back to them. Many sales teams, including our own, leave the Content Library on the screen during the sales call to share information that bolsters the conversation.

manage rfps

Responding to RFPs generates more revenue

The reason any organization responds to RFPs is in the hopes of generating more revenue. But, companies turn away from RFPs because of the time commitment they don’t want to invest for a potentially low win rate.

This is an understandable challenge for companies. The thing they all have in common is they are still working with a manual RFP response process. In our RFP response habits survey, we learned that only 16% of organizations are using RFP software.

We have seen companies using RFPIO cut their response time in half. The time-savings is experienced companywide—from the SMEs taking time out of their day to contribute information to the proposal manager wrangling with a needlessly difficult import and export process.

Being able to save time allows teams to prioritize other high-priority tasks, but also to respond to more RFPs. Without automating repetitive tasks, a team can only take on so many RFP projects. When the majority of the responses are populated by intelligent technology, that speeds up the process exponentially.

Win rates are also positively impacted with RFP software—the Smarsh team reported a significant win rate increase with RFPIO. How? More time can be spent polishing the deliverable, so you submit a winning response. When your team isn’t rushing, they can focus on the quality.

“Our company’s sales team uses RFPIO because it saves us a significant amount of time on RFP projects and, giving us the opportunity to participate in more RFPs with higher quality responses that ultimately help us win more business,” said Stephen Marsh.

Listen to the podcast to find out how Smarsh wins more deals.

Responding to RFPs brings teams closer together

Every RFP is a team effort, requiring expertise and strategy from diverse groups inside an organization. Marketing and sales, IT and product management—teams who work together in an office, and those who work in global locations.

Silos happen, especially with information. These information silos can bring the RFP response process to a standstill. Information might be exchanged well within departments, but an RFP project pushes these boundaries so that teams must work together effectively.

A centralized Content Library is a key piece of the collaboration puzzle. Teams using RFP software will have an easier time accessing the right information, whether they are on opposite sides of a building or a map.

Communication is another area that proves challenging during the RFP response process. Again, this goes back to a manual process. Teams are depending on emails or meetings to work on RFP responses together. Emails can be missed and meetings can take too much time.

team communication rfps

RFPIO brings easier communication between teams with @-mentioning within the solution, along with Slack integration. It’s simple to assign SMEs to a certain section of an RFP, so they can jump in and share their contribution. It’s also easy to ask for clarification on a response to speed up the review process, versus following up constantly by email.

Collaboration always has room for improvement at an organization. Responding to RFPs is a great exercise for breaking down barriers and opening up the line of communication.

From easier access to internal knowledge to better verbal communication, a stronger RFP response process delivers ongoing positive effects that trickle down into the daily lives of your team.

Successful response teams are using RFP software to be more productive and do their best work. Since RFPs are a key part of the sales process, this elevated approach leads to greater opportunities and revenue.

Responding to RFPs will make your team more effective as a whole when you are using technology that enables them to succeed.

See the positive effect of RFP software in action. Calculate your ROI in a few seconds.

5 RFP response habits for reaching organizational success

5 RFP response habits for reaching organizational success

The task of responding to RFPs is just like any other habit—some are good, some are bad.

A good habit is using intelligent search in your Content Library to find the perfect RFP response. A bad (or, if you prefer…not-so-good) habit is pillaging endless spreadsheets at midnight when your RFP is due first thing tomorrow morning.

No matter the size of your organization, the RFP response process is complex. And habits? Well, they rule your organization more than you think.

The goal is to transform bad habits into good habits. That all starts with deciding it’s time to make a positive change at your organization, so you can achieve success.

Winning habits of successful organizations

Why change your existing RFP response process? Because you want your organization to be liberated from bad habits, so you can make more room for the good.

We don’t often take the time to investigate how habits can impact our organization. But it’s critical to acknowledge them—then focus on improvement. Because a team following good habits is a successful one.

An organization with good habits is completely focused on achieving the best results. They aren’t spending precious hours with manual processes, because they’re using technology that automates repetitive tasks and boosts productivity. The team is in sync, working toward the same goals together instead of working separately in silos.

Every day the organization benefits from these positive habits. Over time, with regular good habits, more success is achieved.

Why good habits matter when responding to RFPs

Think of your health. What is one bad habit you are trying to change? Why are you working so hard to change that bad habit into a good one?

Maybe you want more energy. You want to feel happier. Or, perhaps you want to live longer.

Your RFP response process can experience those same benefits with improved habits. The health of your organization isn’t all that different from physical health.

manage rfps
Let’s say you’re like the majority of organizations, the 84% still using a manual process to respond to RFPs. Turning this bad habit into a good one might mean adopting RFP software to help you manage the process.

Saving time gives your team more energy to focus on high-priority tasks. Without inefficiencies and silos, they’ll feel happier working together toward a common goal. A more sustainable process will help your organization live longer.

When you improve any type of habit, it feels good, right? The RFP response process can undergo the same transformation with a mindset switch.

What habits set proposal teams up for success?

We interviewed proposal managers across industries to learn what differentiates successful proposal teams from the rest, and how technology aids the request for proposal (RFP) process.

In our research, we learned that proposal team headcount is expected to remain at its 2020 status quo throughout 2021, indicating proposal managers will have to do more with less.

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

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

Check out the full report to learn more about the state of proposal management, including our four recommendations for success in 2021.

Gain visibility with RFP response management dashboards

Gain visibility with RFP response management dashboards

Where are we with the RFP? This is perhaps the most common question asked of team members and SMEs contributing to a request for proposal.

I was a product manager for nearly a decade, and during that time I responded to countless RFPs manually. About 30% of my time was spent responding to RFPs, so I lived many of the same inefficiencies our clients experience in the field.

Inevitably, the question would be asked: Where are we with the RFP?

There was no easy answer to this, because everybody was being kept in the dark. As an SME, I felt frustrated because RFP response wasn’t my primary job responsibility. When it was time to contribute to an RFP, I had to drop everything to complete the task.

“A business with 100 employees spends an average downtime of 17 hours a week clarifying communication, translating to an annual cost of $528,443.” – Siemens

Sales was equally frustrated with the process. RFP responses are their bread and butter, so of course there is a sense of urgency. They didn’t know if I was on vacation—and if an RFP came in while I was out, they would be left hanging and potentially miss out on a new business opportunity.

To overcome these RFP process hiccups, companies will have standup meetings or send regular email updates to stay on top of project completion progress and make sure the deadline will be met. This works to a certain extent, but it requires more time and effort than most teams can spare.

This is where an RFP management dashboard comes in, alleviating common challenges with the analytics, insights, and reporting capabilities your team has been waiting for.

What is an RFP response management dashboard?

A manual approach to RFPs keeps teams guessing throughout the entire lifecycle of an RFP project. Grasping the progress of an RFP response is extremely limited when communication is happening by email and the project is viewed in spreadsheets.

An RFP response management dashboard takes guesswork out of the workflow by providing insights at-a-glance. The proposal lead can have full visibility into the project, knowing exactly where everything stands.

RFP management
Knowing an RFP project’s status is just scratching the surface when it comes to available insights within a dashboard. There are several types of RFP response management dashboards that bring teams visibility they didn’t even think was possible before with a manual RFP process.

Dashboard types for measuring RFP response projects

Every RFP management solution is different, but the most robust technology will offer dashboards. RFPIO has multiple dashboards that teams can use to support their RFP response efforts.

Project Overview Dashboard – When you need a progress update, you don’t need to ping your team members or stress about the status. Everything is right here for your RFP response project: deadlines, progress completion, and authors and reviewers summaries. (Can be viewed directly in your CRM.)

Response Dashboard – Wonder how many responses are complied or supported for a yes/no answer? Sales would be curious to know—and this could be a dealbreaker. If 90 out of a 100 questions are a “no,” then what’s the point in bidding for it? These insights give you a sneak peek into the process.

Executive Dashboard – Gain visibility into your team’s efforts to quickly perform win/loss analysis, view average completion time, and identify your top contributors. Now you can give recognition to your SMEs doing great work consistently with RFPs. (Can be viewed directly in your CRM.)

Content Library DashboardContent audits are necessary for overall RFP response quality. Here, admins can assign content owners and set up automatic reminders to notify when it’s time to refresh the Content Library, based on the audit frequency you choose.

Benefits of dashboards in your RFP management solution

RFP response management dashboards will grant you visibility into the entire process to save your team hours. The great unknown of RFP response will be eliminated with this level of analytics and reporting. Regular status meetings and emails will become obsolete when you can simply view the dashboard and know on the spot.

If you assign 50 questions to your SME and he has completed 28, he feels more confident being able to track his progress. You will also feel more confident, knowing your SME is working to meet the deadline.

If another SME skips a few questions, you will be able to recognize the oversight and nudge them to finish their assigned responses. This is clearly better than when you used to submit an RFP without knowing RFP responses were missed, then losing an opportunity because the vendor thought you dropped the ball.

For executive and sales teams, some dashboards can be viewed directly in their CRM. This brings quick insights to the table, without the extra step of logging into a separate platform. Being able to view the RFP response project in the tool they use daily will limit questions and provide real-time access.

Contributor recognition is another important benefit of RFP response dashboards. With smaller teams, it’s obvious when someone is contributing—but with larger teams, it can be more challenging. Being able to recognize your key RFP contributors and incentivize for more participation will encourage your team. This internal motivation will ultimately drive more revenue, since your organization will be enthusiastic to contribute to the next RFP.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” – Mark Twain

Your team’s potential becomes limitless when you have RFP dashboards incorporated into your workflow. Start giving your organization full visibility into the response process by using RFP software.

Why it’s time to embrace the RFP sharing economy

Why it’s time to embrace the RFP sharing economy

When we think of the sharing economy, we might think of companies who have popularized that concept, like Uber and AirBnB. But it also means the sharing of information, the knowledge that is passed along for the greater benefit of a community or organization.

We don’t live in a time where one person holds the keys to the castle, nor should we. In fact, with RFP response…one person holding the keys to the castle can be a point of weakness for companies. Information silos will only cause inefficiencies that spread through your organization, while greater accessibility to information promotes unity and growth.

Ready to improve your approach to RFP response? Here’s how you can overcome information silos by embracing the sharing economy with your RFP process.

Information silos disrupt your RFP response flow

Productivity for any RFP response team is strongly linked to having access to the organization’s collective knowledge base. Since RFP response requires strong collaboration between team members, the information passes through many people in various fashions.

RFP response is a cross-departmental effort. Information can flow well within certain departments but not be shared openly with others. When a restriction of information disrupts the flow for RFP collaboration, these silos will hold your team back from achieving their best work together.

“Sales reps average about 43 hours a month searching for information or content.” – Aberdeen

In addition, the expertise necessary to respond to an RFP often lives not in a shared folder but inside the mind of an SME (Subject Matter Expert). An SME can have technical prowess that nobody else in your company can begin to understand. And, it’s the job of the proposal manager to capture that information accurately, then translate it into a compelling response for the decision-maker who will eventually read it.

But, what if that SME leaves? So, does their expertise.

This is where having a centralized repository for RFP responses comes in handy. No matter what changes at an organization—be it an important role or product overhaul—the information will be safe and sound…and easily accessible when the next RFP arrives.

Wrangling your RFP responses into an Content Library

Foundational knowledge about an organization’s products and services will end up in a variety of documents, from visual slide decks to data-heavy spreadsheets. They will be stored on shared drives and folders. Some can find these fairly easily, while other team members feel they are on a quest to find this information.

On top of that, information between people is naturally exchanged through conversations, like chats and emails. This knowledge is the most elusive, as it’s not even accessible to others in the organization when it’s stored in individual chat and email history.

Having a centralized knowledge repository like an Content Library will help tremendously. This way the proposal manager doesn’t become a full-time RFP response wrangler on top of their other responsibilities. This also promotes the idea of a sharing economy with your RFP process, allowing your entire organization to have access to important company information.

The information hunt is tough for any busy team. Whether it’s information needed for an important sales call or RFP response, this type of knowledge base will save your team time so they can focus on performance and growth.

RFP software takes knowledge sharing a big step further

It’s a step in the right direction to have a dedicated knowledge repository. But the ongoing maintenance and quality control when a manual effort is involved comes with challenges.

Busy teams simply won’t have time to keep up with spreadsheets, so the content in the repository won’t be the most current information. Unfortunately, stale content will not do you any favors when you’re trying to land new business with a shining RFP response.

Here are a few questions you used to ask that you won’t have to worry about with RFP software:

  1. Repetitive requests to SMEs? That’s no longer necessary when you have an intelligent way to store your RFP responses. You can easily search to find the best response from your existing library, then you can assign the SME to review the content for accuracy.
  2. Lacking effective communication? Having the ability to @-mention users and using communication integrations like Slack keep the conversations tied directly to the RFP response project. And this is much quicker than email.
  3. Missing the most updated information? You won’t have to rely on your team to constantly update the Content Library. Even better, you can schedule content audits, which send reminders to help you keep your knowledge base in great shape.

When you’re using RFP software, your Content Library is on a whole other level. It serves as a gathering point for all of the content in your organization, so it’s both easy and quick to access for any team member.

It’s time to embrace the sharing economy with our RFP response process. That starts with taking a good look at the manual ways we are practicing today to collaborate on RFPs.

There’s no need for anyone to feel like a bottleneck when it’s time to meet a tight RFP deadline. And, there’s no need for anyone to feel left in the dark by not having access to company information.

With a renewed commitment to our approach, we can overcome information silos to work more effectively and reach greater heights.

Who really owns the RFP response process?

Who really owns the RFP response process?

There’s a common phrase in the tech world that you can’t have it “Good, fast and cheap, you have to pick two.” Anyone who has tried to achieve all three has struggled to find the balance…good enough, fast enough and within budget.

Yet despite the phrases’ popularity and known constraints, companies—especially those on a growth trajectory—continue to seek this elusive pot of gold. Two continual shifts in the marketing and sales environments have been driving teams to find the perfect balance with proactive account-based strategies and technology.

So, what does that mean for the RFP response process? Some very interesting changes.


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Who owns the budget?

Like many companies working an account-centered plan, RFPIO’s team is always looking to learn more about the people interested in and buying their software. Our communications manager ran a weekly Twitter poll campaign for a month to grab some helpful bits of information she could share with the sales team.

When she asked who owned the RFP process, the results were surprising. Expecting the usual suspects from sales and operations, it turns out marketing actually owned it.

As you might imagine, this data point became the tip of an iceberg exploration. The entire team was eager to validate the information and to understand the buying motives for this new segment.

The further the team pressed in, the more obvious the cause became. As organizations mature, the goals between marketing and sales teams begin to align around revenue. And as the team at RFPIO knows well, when done right, RFPs can be a major contributor to revenue and organizational success.

Once aligned around the same goals, it’s very common for marketing to own a greater percentage of opportunity creation. When this happens, we see a shift in the budget. Frequently the head of marketing—rather than sales—has the dollars to generate new business, including RFP responses.

Who owns technology?

Not surprisingly, Gartner’s 2016-2017 CMO Spend Survey reported that marketing budgets continued to increase for another consecutive year, comprising up to 12% of total company revenue in some cases.

A closer look at the detail behind these numbers reveals that almost a third of the average marketing budget is spent on technology.

martech spend

Source: Chief Martec

Another level deeper and you’ll see that much of this (44%) goes toward infrastructure or external service technology.

Once a cost center, over the last decade marketing has shifted. The shift caused shockwaves of changes in the business landscape with the most obvious…marketing technology. We created technology which created data, then we created technology to make sense of all the data we created. Then we created technology to predict the future.

One glance at the now infamous MarTech Landscape graphic and you’ll easily see why its creator calls it “mind-boggling.” A total of 3,874 marketing technology solutions on a single 16×9 slide—almost twice as many as the previous years. And no doubt many more have come to market since its publish date. (We’ll soon see, I anticipate the newest version will be released at this week’s MarTech conference in San Francisco.)

marketing technology
Among the vast sea of marketing technology, RFP response software sits alongside CRMs, marketing automation, and project management platforms these solutions are all tuned to help the organization deliver a strong and growing revenue stream.

With more than half of companies still managing this process manually, it will be exciting to see how marketers—now technology aficionados—integrate this emerging solution into their stacks.

Who owns the RFP response process?

The emergence of marketing operations has been a realization that technology alone cannot solve problems. Technology must be paired with processes that are customized to the company’s needs and desired results.

Like most processes, RFP response involves stakeholders from all over the organization. Executives weigh in on vision and growth, client success puts in a story or two, product development puts together feature lists and solution-oriented descriptions…and the list goes on.

As natural collaborators, marketing sits among the many contributors. Experienced in crafting messaging and ensuring brand consistency, marketing was the natural hub to oversee the production of a deliverable that can land the deal.

So, it turns out that marketing plays a much bigger role in the RFP response process—and in today’s MarTech landscape, it makes perfect sense. Marketers continue to play an integral role in the long-term success of an organization.

We’ll continue to see marketing doing much more beyond the buff and polish before the RFP deliverable goes out the door. Ownership by marketing, driven by the latest technology, will help more companies find effective ways of responding to RFPs to ultimately win more business.

Want more marketing content? Read our in-depth guide: How RFP Software Empowers the High-Performing Marketer

Why RFP collaboration is just better without email

Why RFP collaboration is just better without email

Email has been the most common form of communication for businesses since the emergence of the internet in the 1980s. We’ve sung email’s praises for decades, saying it facilitates easier communication and helps us get more work done. But email only goes so far when it comes to managing the RFP process. Especially since it’s not 1987 anymore.

The world has about 2.6 billion email users. That number is expected to grow to 2.9 billion by 2019. You might be thinking: “So email should be the ideal medium to exchange ideas on RFPs, right?”

Well, not really.

Growth has its share of pitfalls, and there is plenty of spam to deal with in the email world today. The sheer volume we face in our inbox is enough without adding the communication it takes to complete an RFP response within a tight deadline.

So, why do we think email is the only way to collaborate? Here are a few ways using RFP software can change your outlook and enhance team collaboration.

Tracking RFP progress and improving productivity

RFPs often come in as a last-minute surprise, with strict deadlines for submission. Anyone working on RFP responses knows that the request just gets more complex, and there is no looking back once the initial email arrives asking for input.

Only using email communication as a way to assign tasks, measure working hours, and track the daily status of the RFP process is far from efficient. Tracking and reporting productivity becomes increasingly difficult, as your inbox is already cluttered with other priorities.

Since RFPs are typically low on the priority list already. Having other distractions around can easily steal an SME’s attention, leaving the unanswered RFPs collecting dust in a file or tossed away in the trash “for later.”

Here is where an RFP response solution truly scores over email. It enables large teams to track RFP progress, aiming at reduced redundancy and improved productivity. This is crucial because team members might be working on the same RFP, so a tool can alleviate the weight on your organization’s resources.

Managing your internal RFP responses

Email threads involved in RFP responses are often so long that it’s tough to track the single response which triggered the email chain in the first place. This often leaves us searching for emails with the latest version of a file, managing revisions of outdated documents, or having multiple versions of a document in circulation.

Usually there are dozens of emails with similar subject lines. Filtering out the irrelevant and locating the relevant responses is a job all on its own. Even with a dedicated proposal manager or lead, it’s hard to read through complicated email threads and note individual responses from SMEs when you’re trying to get the RFP response out the door.

Our client Brian Zielinski from Wolters Kluwer ELM Solutions had this to say:

“On average, a company responding to 2-4 RFPs per month can expect to save, at minimum, 80-100 man hours in time spent researching and answering technical questions. With employee hourly rates ranging anywhere from $25 to $50 per hour (or higher), the cost savings on man-hours far outweighs the cost of RFP software.”

Using an RFP platform that organizes individual responses and pinpoints accountability of team members can go a long way. Email simply can’t compete.

Clear communication and less email

Email doesn’t allow for the exchange of ideas, which is why there are so many popular communication platforms that exist today to eliminate the confusion of email collaboration. With the RFP process, there are often multiple team members working together and things can easily slip through the cracks.

Imagine this…you have a slew of email attachments from different team members that talk about different aspects of the RFP. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a single dashboard that clarified the purpose and impact of every response? RFP software does that.

Necessary integrations with apps like Salesforce and Slack make communication much easier for teams across various stages of the RFP process. While email still has its place, it’s a catch-all. The clearest communication will happen in a solution that is built for the goal your team is trying to accomplish.

Easy collaboration promotes high-quality responses

When working on an RFP through email, there is no way of telling who sent the initial document and who owns the most current document. The document might be revised multiple times by various team members, so efforts are being duplicated.

Scouring through multiple email threads to find relevant information that would add value to the RFP also makes collaboration more challenging. A strong Content Library of responses gathers expertise from your team in one place to eliminate repetitive tasks.

A high-quality RFP response is what we need to increase our chances of winning. Easy and consistent collaboration can truly set successful teams apart from the competition. Optimizing your Content Library and fine-tuning your review process for RFPs can make a big difference—yet another reason why RFP software wins email.

Email as a tool for simple communication serves its purpose with everyday business. For RFP collaboration, having a dedicated internal tool will ultimately help your team be more effective and efficient with RFP response.

Still using email to collaborate on your RFPs? We hope you’ll consider changing your ways to enhance your team’s productivity.

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