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Are you asking too much of your RFP process?

Are you asking too much of your RFP process?

There are many things your company can offer another, but offering everything in the world probably isn’t one of them. […]

Category: Selling & Enablement

Are you asking too much of your RFP process?

Are you asking too much of your RFP process?

There are many things your company can offer another, but offering everything in the world probably isn’t one of them. So, why are RFP process expectations so high?

It’s a sound question for a common problem. Unfortunately, this comes up A LOT in big organizations—spanning verticals from energy to government (and everything in between)—when there are small departments who aren’t aligned in their internal processes.

Every RFP consists of multiple layers, and it’s a collaborative effort that requires manpower and finesse. But those efforts are invested with the hope that the deal will close—even when those chances are slim.

But sometimes, even when you have the time and resources to respond, an RFP comes along that your company ultimately decides not to respond to. And, that’s because that other company is asking for too much.

I’ll share a little RFP story with you to show you what I mean…

This company asked too much of their RFP process

Another company (who shall remain unnamed) came to us, because they were looking for a better solution to help them manage a specific area of their business.

Instead of focusing on solving the problem, they decided to involve different business units to see if they could get all of them into a single software platform. Since each of the business units had competing interests, the RFP was a complete mess.

Mainly they were asking for something that didn’t exist. By the end of the call there were only a few vendors left, many of which were overstating their capabilities.

To be honest, they were using the RFP process as a means to generate a shopping list. It had nothing to do with evaluating pre-qualified vendors they had researched, with a phone call to know specific answers to outstanding questions. It was clear they just googled a term that brought them to our company and sent out an RFP to anyone they found within that search.

It was the perfect setup for an efficiency disaster, one that could have been avoided with a better process.

This is what will happen to that company

Because none of the vendors can do what this company is asking—except for those claiming they can and are misrepresenting their company—they are in for a wake up call.

This company is missing out on good qualified partners that can fulfill what they need, since they are overreaching and asking for too much. Vendors started dropping off a quarter of the way into the call, as they realized the deal was going to be a mess.

The wasted time and money, not to mention the all-around frustration, means expectations can not be met. As more departments are added, the wish list grows, as does the number of “mandatory” requirements that no solution can solve in one application. The worst case scenario would involve needing to replace the software suite again in a year or two.

How that company can turn things around

Believe it or not, all is not lost for this company. If you’re struggling with a similar situation of asking for the world in your RFP, it’s not too late to change your ways.

  1. Do your research. Figure out the specific problem you are trying to solve by creating a list of needs, and ask your team to weigh in to ensure you’re not overlooking anything. Break them down by priority, so you can focus on specific services that will provide solutions for the most pressing needs.
  2. Honor your budget. Review historical spend data to compare categories and vendors, so you know what to budget and how you want to divvy it up. While collaboration is good, remember to keep business units to a minimum to control scope creep. Involve only key players that will need to be active on the project.
  3. Explore your options. Once you have your priorities, budget, and team defined, create another list for vendor comparison. Check out their website and online reviews to narrow down the list. Before issuing the RFP, talk to potential vendors to decide if they are the best fit for your company without jumping the gun on the process.

Aligning your internal processes is a must well before it’s time for the RFP to go out. If you jump the gun, your company will risk not only spending valuable time and resources, you also won’t find the solution you’re seeking.

Get your team on the same page and know what the end-goal is. That’s the best way to find long-lasting success, and ultimately a better return on investment for your efforts.

5 ways to work smarter with your RFP response process

5 ways to work smarter with your RFP response process

Our approach to responding to RFPs (Request for Proposals) is critical to our organization’s success. It can mean the difference between winning new business or losing out to one of our competitors. It can also be extremely inefficient, which is why the most successful teams have to work smarter—and they have to do it together.

“You don’t have to be great to start,
but you have to start to be great.” – Zig Ziglar

Rather than jumping straight into execution, now is the time to evaluate our sales processes to ensure we have a solid foundation to fortify our efforts. If that foundation is shaky in any way, by mid-year teams risk facing greater inefficiencies while racing to meet their revenue goals.

Here are five ways to optimize your RFP response process to set yourself up for success.

#1) Strengthen your Content Library with a content audit

Whether you’re using RFP software or spreadsheets, don’t wait until you’re in the spring cleaning mood to overhaul your Content Library.

Your Content Library likely has anywhere from hundreds to thousands of RFP responses. Take the time to delete irrelevant content and refresh existing answers to make them stronger. A high quality response will increase your win rate—if an answer hasn’t worked for you in the past, it’s time to move on. (Learn how to do an RFP content audit here.)

#2) Automate time-consuming manual procedures

After performing an Content Library audit in that hefty spreadsheet, you will likely be asking yourself: Why are we still working like this?

It’s a valid question, and one that deserves attention in your next all-hands meeting. Unfortunately trying to maintain your own RFP response database wastes valuable hours teams really can’t spare.

sales administrative tasks

Source: Hubspot

And companies trying to find a middle ground between manual and automated use tools like SharePoint. While that’s a step in the right direction, they experience workflow obstacles and realize it’s not a sustainable solution. So, take a good look at these repetitive tasks and find ways to save hours through automation.

#3) Identify your SMEs for better collaboration

An RFP response simply doesn’t work without the expertise of your SMEs (Subject Matter Experts). Because RFP response is a time-consuming process—and not a primary job responsibility for SMEs—the tendency is to give sales proposals the brush-off instead of taking ownership.

Does the project lead know who these experts are? Do these experts know what is expected of them? Identify the key players in your organization and be clear about roles and responsibilities ahead of time. That way when an RFP comes in, there isn’t a scramble to figure this out, pointing fingers while you’re trying to meet a tight deadline.

#4) Reduce friction between teams with an SLA

When teams are fully aligned, revenue growth is the ultimate reward. Only 22% of sales and marketing teams have a formal service level agreement (SLA) in place, leaving too many responsibilities and timelines in the dark.

sla team alignment
Source: Hubspot

Even the best-in-class organizations using SLAs use them in the traditional sense for inbound leads. But RFPs should be treated the same way, so sales doesn’t have to worry about what’s going on and the project lead can rest assured that the RFP is being handled.

Like inbound leads, RFPs can come in at any time and establishing a defined SLA greatly decreases internal frustration. Create one with the project lead, SMEs, and sales to realign your RFP response procedure.

#5) Track metrics to improve your RFP process

Measuring your team’s efforts is the most accurate way to pinpoint the gaps in your RFP process. Few organizations track metrics relevant to RFPs, but there are several simple calculations that will offer useful insights, such as:

  • Average Response Rate – A high RFP response rate can reveal a need for more checks to ensure the RFP source is a genuine pursuit. A low rate will show the likelihood that your company is losing out to more nimble and effective organizations.
  • Average Team Hours – Every team member collaborating on an RFP should track their hours diligently. This hard data will inform executives on the true internal resource cost of RFP efforts.
  • Average Response Time – Rather than being a poor reflection on a team, a late response will shed light on an understaffed department that needs to be addressed. It can also help you clarify involvement required by team members to improve your RFP workflow.

sales tech

Source: Hubspot

How we approach RFP response is the differentiator between growth and stagnation in an organization. By making strides to work smarter early on, we can build the strong foundation necessary to realize success.

Ready to work smarter with your RFP response process?

Calculate your ROI to see how many hours you can save right now.

3 ways to de-stress your RFP process right now

3 ways to de-stress your RFP process right now

RFPs are a team effort, requiring hours and resources companies often feel they don’t have to spare. But to source new business and win clients, responding to RFPs is crucial to an organization’s success.

The manual approach to RFP response is a common one among businesses—even today, with the wealth of technology at our fingertips. But someone has to do the job of responding to RFPs, so we might as well make it as stress-free as possible. With a few important tweaks, your sales team can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time generating revenue.

Here are 3 ways to de-stress your RFP process, so you can focus on growing your business.

1. Centralize RFP answers

A known pitfall with RFPs is the low win rate chances, and inconsistent responses are often the culprit. It’s no wonder when teams across departments are using spreadsheets and emails to store their answers—hunting down responses in a hurry when the deadline is looming, and rushing to get the RFP out the door in time for submission.

Fortunately, RFP management solutions minimize that risk by automatically storing responses as the RFP is completed. An Content Library has the power to become your organization’s knowledge base, not only for RFPs but also as a repository your sales team can always refer back to for intelligence.

2. Optimize your SMEs

Your subject matter experts are valuable for your business—and so is their time. Let them do what they do best…help your business grow and thrive. Answering the same questions over and over again is not the best use of their time, and most high performers avoid these tasks in favor of other priorities.

Why send a person to do a machine’s job? Instead, use technology to automate the response process. These tools apply adaptive learning to understand the questions, and automatically recommend the most accurate answers based on your past responses. The time-savings alone will benefit your business, which on average is 40% with a robust RFP management tool.

3. Automate RFP assembly

Typically the most time-consuming part of responding to an RFP is assembling the answers in a cohesive format. The importance of a quality delivery can’t be overlooked, because sloppy responses can reflect poorly on your brand and harm a potential deal.

With several different authors providing input, it can be challenging for the proposal manager to gather, organize, compile, and construct the response package so it’s client-ready. RFP management software can automate the whole assembly process to help you deliver the highest quality product that will impress your client and potentially win business for you.

RFP management technologies have come a long way. It’s time for us to leave behind the old-fashioned approach of spreadsheets and docs, and enter a more efficient era through automated solutions.

How are you making your RFP process as stress-free as possible? We’d love to hear your tricks and tips!

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