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How RFP software helps Smarsh win opportunities

How RFP software helps Smarsh win opportunities

Recently we had the pleasure of sitting down to chat about RFP response with longtime supporter and partner, Stephen Marsh, […]


How RFP software helps Smarsh win opportunities

How RFP software helps Smarsh win opportunities

Recently we had the pleasure of sitting down to chat about RFP response with longtime supporter and partner, Stephen Marsh, CEO and Founder of Smarsh. One of RFPIO’s earliest clients, the Smarsh team has experienced many benefits with RFP software, including an enhanced ability to create and win opportunities.

In this podcast interview, Stephen shares his company’s experience with RFP response, from the manual days of spreadsheets to the leap into automation—and how Smarsh has benefited companywide with a more streamlined approach to RFP management.


Listen to the podcast…


Read the interview…

Stephen, of course the RFPIO team is very familiar with your company, since Smarsh is one of our clients and partners. But for our audience today, can you share a little bit about Smarsh?

Smarsh is an electronic communications archiving company. For many companies in highly regulated industries, like financial services or government, we help capture their emails, text messages, social media, phone call recordings—any communication tools they’re using—and we preserve them for years.

This way they can comply with regulatory requirements or legal obligations that they might have.

Earlier this year, your team learned about RFPIO after catching an article in Portland Business Journal—Smarsh was using another solution at the time. You’ve been using RFPIO for some time now. How is RFP software helping your business?

RFPIO has actually been a huge help. Prior to the other RFP solution we were using, we experimented with spreadsheets and didn’t have any tools to help us manage the RFP process.

We had no centralized place to keep track of the RFPs we were participating in. A sales rep would learn of a sales opportunity that had an RFP associated with it. He or she tried to get others in the organization involved—typically the Friday morning that it was due at 4pm Eastern Time—and the whole company scrambled to put the response together.

This made it really difficult to divide and conquer just to complete one RFP response. Then it became even more problematic as we had multiple RFPs that we were responding to.

We also didn’t have the benefit of being able to reuse prior RFP materials, other than copying and pasting. We’ve tried other tools for preparing the response and managing multiple RFPs, and those methods had their share of shortcomings.

We’re so happy to hear that RFPIO is making work life easier for our friends at Smarsh! So based on your experience, what kind of companies can benefit from a tool like RFPIO?

Any organization trying to sell into enterprise or government can certainly benefit from RFPIO, much like we do. Any team preparing complex RFP responses or answering lengthy questionnaires—really any situation that involves collaborative responses to support the sales cycle. That’s where the tool can shine and add value for most organizations.

A lot of companies don’t realize they have this RFP problem, or they do and they feel stuck. At that point you have the entire organization, from sales engineers to product managers, contributing to the selling process.

Often times management doesn’t know this is happening. Meanwhile you’re wasting a lot of energy, and not responding as efficiently as you could be.

Do you have recommendations for sales teams struggling to prioritize their responsibilities and meet sales goals?

We weren’t good at organizing, prioritizing, and scheduling the activities that would go into responding to RFP questionnaires. Typically the squeakiest wheel or the noisiest salesperson would get the response from those in the organization who needed them to help out.

That’s not always the most appropriate way to allocate your resources. You might have a deadline pending or higher relative contract values associated with certain deals.

Without a tool to keep RFP responses centralized, it’s really hard to manage the resources that go into the effort. But once you do have them centralized, you can manage your resources better and get the benefit of reuse, so you’re not reinventing an answer each and every time.

No effort is complete without results. Paint us a picture of what sales success looks like at Smarsh.

Success at Smarsh is like many other organizations. It’s simply winning the deals that we want to win. That’s by far the biggest measure, but there is also the simple law of sales numbers.

We observed early on that when we did participate in RFPs, we would often win. The problem was that we weren’t completing enough of them, because we couldn’t do enough. We only had a couple of solution architects and sales engineers available to help out, and it was a very ad hoc process.

So, any tools or process improvements that help us participate more is a good thing. Again, the ultimate measure is the number of wins, and how much revenue we can book.

What is one piece of advice you would give to anyone working in RFP response?

For those participating in the response itself, reuse as much as possible. What I’ve always strived for in our responses is to improve quality over time. Without the right tools, responses tend to deteriorate or they don’t address the question as accurately as they should.

I would often read RFP responses, and I could tell when somebody had just copied and pasted answers, because they didn’t directly answer the question. They’re weren’t well-crafted. Or, when the entire document didn’t flow well, I could tell that different people had written responses.

The end goal is to participate in as many RFPs as you can and to have the highest quality response. And it does require some tools to get there. With RFP response, don’t underestimate the importance of having the right processes and the right technology.


smarsh ceo

Stephen Marsh

Founder, Chairman and CEO of Smarsh
Follow @SmarshInc

Stephen Marsh founded the hosted email archiving and compliance provider Smarsh, Inc. in 2001, and now oversees a global operation with more than 20,000 clients worldwide and 225 employees. Under Marsh’s leadership, Smarsh has grown to become the financial services industry’s premier electronic communications archiving provider, helping enterprises around the world meet their recordkeeping, supervision and e-discovery obligations.

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 answer 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 answer library.

Your answer 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 answer 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.

How RFP software helped DTI submit winning RFPs in less time

How RFP software helped DTI submit winning RFPs in less time

Jonathon Gudger, the Solutions Architect at DTI, used to spend anywhere from 20-30 hours responding to a single RFP.

This was in spite of the fact that Jonathon and his team had a documented RFP response procedure, and they had even implemented software that was allegedly designed to help them manage content. 

Jonathon knew that had to be a better way to respond to RFPs. So he set out in search of a better solution.

Better quality responses in less time 

After implementing RFPIO, all past question-and-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) and relevant documents were consolidated in a single answer library. Even better, the DTI team could use the auto-respond feature to automatically populate answers for up to 75% of questions. This meant his team had more time to finesse the final content and submit high-quality (read: winning) responses.

This early success with RFPIO prompted DTI to create a solutions desk to form support technologies that would further advance and enable their sales team.

Within the first two weeks, we were able to show upper management 1,000 questions and answers already populated in the tool. It was a huge selling point!”  

Responding to RFPs in half the time 

With a consolidated answer library and the ability to assign certain questions or sections to individuals—adding much-needed visibility and accountability to the RFP process—DTI can now respond to RFPs in half the time.

3 steps to help you complete your RFP on time (every time)

3 steps to help you complete your RFP on time (every time)

Admit it, you’ve missed out on RFP deadlines once or twice in your life. Sometimes the RFP preparation itself is so overwhelming that we have no clue where to begin. Other times trying to gather answers from our team to complete the RFP becomes the hang-up.

No matter the size of your team or company, the RFP process is never easy. It requires hours of work, reading through countless documents, and coming up with an effective response strategy that will win attention and business.

inefficient sales processSource: Salesforce

But, what is the point of that valiant effort if it isn’t done on time? When you’ve spent hours and resources creating an RFP response, you want to do everything in your power to submit before the deadline—to have a chance at winning.

Here are 3 steps to take well before the RFP lands in your inbox, so you can meet your deadlines every time.

Step 1: Bridge the communication gap between RFP leads and SMEs

Because the RFP process is such a huge undertaking, usually a dedicated proposal manager or lead is the point person. SMEs also play a key role in defining RFP responses by offering their expertise.

Problems arise when the lead is not clear on what the requirement is, making the SME more likely to ignore the request. Open and transparent communication among stakeholders is key for keeping the RFP process on track.

sales process

Source: Salesforce

The RFP lead needs to be clear on expertise needs from SMEs by asking clear questions and keeping SMEs informed about open items. Scheduling frequent review cycles and assigning specific areas of the RFP will ensure a smooth and faster completion of the RFP response to help bridge the communication gap.

Step 2: Work smarter within SME time constraints

SMEs offer valuable input for RFP responses, however spending time on RFPs is a low-priority task on their full plate. An often overlooked solution is scheduling time with SMEs to work on the proposal collaboratively —a 10-minute face-to-face discussion is a lot more efficient than an email request that is pushed aside for days or weeks on end.

An SME’s assigned section of a sales proposal is often technical, and the jargon comes with that territory, making it difficult to write and to consume. Requesting a high level outline of the response is helpful in creating an efficient response, rather than depending on the SMEs for the whole write-up.

Whether it’s a proposal writer, marketing team member, or the RFP lead, having a savvy writer polishing SME responses is the better way to go for the sake of a deadline. Your team will be happier if you leave the writing to the writers!

sales admin tasks

Source: Salesforce

Step 3: Use visual data to encourage the pursuit of new opportunities

Most organizations have multiple projects happening simultaneously, with resources being utilized across tasks. Responding to RFPs almost always takes a backseat, because the team doesn’t understand the purpose of spending long hours on a proposal that has slim chances of winning.

It is the responsibility of the RFP lead to drive communication about deadlines, but also to promote enthusiasm for the opportunity. Responding to relevant proposals that your company has a greater chance of winning is critical to your win rate success, but also in building trust with your internal team.

Show them why you are pursuing this business, and how that can be reflected in potential revenue. An RFP management solution will help you track and measure these efforts, but without a tool, you can share the data from your CRM’s pipeline dashboard or create a quick chart in a spreadsheet with historical data and predictions. Hard data in a visual dashboard is an easy way to align a busy team to aim for the right objectives.

Responding to RFPs differs greatly from one organization to another, but aligning efforts is a non-negotiable to complete an RFP response on time. Stop and look around—see how you can take steps that will not only improve your process but also create employee advocates who understand why RFPs are golden opportunities worth pursuing.

Do you have any tips or tricks that work with your team? We’d like to hear what’s working at your organization to submit your RFPs on time!

Get started on your RFP solution journey with this ROI calculator

Get started on your RFP solution journey with this ROI calculator

Even with the a growing amount of technology options, the majority of companies are still using a manual process to respond to RFPs. This time-consuming process of hunting through documents and spreadsheets for past responses when a deadline is looming can be a lot of pressure for any team.

Improve your win ratio with RFP automation

Issuers are putting out increasingly complex RFP’s, and answering them requires someone to lead the way and to collaborate between multiple SMEs to capture the responses. Most of us know that a well-executed response has a higher chance of winning than a hasty proposal that is rushed out the door.

Poorly executed RFP responses result in low close rates—typically less than 5%—an investment that is off-balance when you calculate the required time and resources. And though the right RFP response at the right time has the power to win new business, team members are aware of the low probability of a win and often push RFPs aside in favor of other priorities that don’t seem like a wasted effort to them.

It’s an understandable dilemma, but one that is possible to overcome. One of the best ways to increase efficiency of the process and improve your win ratio is to invest in RFP automation.

Make a case for a new addition to your sales stack

As technology stacks grow, proving the case for adding another tool is a necessary step. A good place to start gathering the numbers is to calculate the return on investment, and see how much the manual process is costing your team.

A client of ours, Josh Itzoe, Partner and Managing Director at Greenspring, found his team was spending 20-40 hours of work per RFP response. By tracking the effort his team was putting forth, he was able to make a case for RFP software.

We know time is at a premium for most people in business these days—and pulling together the data to back up your story can be stressful to think about—so we created a handy ROI calculator to help get you started!

Calculate the ROI of the RFP process

CALCULATE YOUR ROI

Ready to start increasing your ROI?

3 key metrics that will help you rock your RFP process

3 key metrics that will help you rock your RFP process

Many companies know the truth about responding to RFPs. Successful conversion rates of RFPs are very low—in fact, the common win rate for RFPs is less than 5%.

RFPs play a prominent role in the sales process for most organizations…to generate revenue. Unfortunately more often than not, sales teams simply aren’t sure whether an RFP is a genuine opportunity in a level playing field, or a buyer’s tactic to gain intelligence.

Still, sales teams should consider every RFP to be a golden opportunity, and put in a commendable effort with the response.

Since C-level execs are challenged with pinpointing their sales team’s’ efficiency by their win rate alone, we pulled together three key metrics to help you improve your RFP response process.

Metric #1: Average response rate for RFP process agility

Typically RFP response is not a primary job responsibility. Team members will often wash their hands of RFPs in favor of higher priority tasks, leaving them with no time for the RFP contribution effort when the deadline arrives.

Many RFPs will never come to fruition due to the limited availability of one or two SMEs (Subject Matter Experts). Because of this reality, determining the average response rate will illustrate whether or not the organization as a whole is motivated to respond to RFPs.

Average RFP Response Rate = # Incoming RFPs / # Outgoing RFPs

If the RFP response rate is high, you might conclude that your organization is keen to grab every opportunity that comes its way. However, it could also mean you are not employing enough checks to identify if the RFP source is genuine or not.

If the RFP response rate is low, your company might be losing out to more competitive and nimble organizations. Low RFP response rates commonly happen when teams are more engaged in servicing or firefighting with existing customers than pitching for new ones.

sales effectiveness

Source: 2016 Sales Enablement Survey by Highspot

Once you have calculated your company’s response rate, you can determine the root cause of the problem and make the necessary improvements to increase productivity.

An acceptable ratio to keep in mind with both scenarios would be about 50%, to strike a balance of responding to the RFPs that are the right fit without going after ill-fitting opportunities.

Metric #2: Average team hours for coordinated effort

Most products and services in the market today are complex and knowledge-centric, so giving an in-depth explanation involves experts from multiple fields. A single RFP might consist of hundreds of questions that need to be answered within a tight deadline. (You read that right…hundreds!)

Responders should consistently measure the amount of effort that goes into creating a solid response for every RFP. In addition, every team member who has collaborated with the response should track their hours.

This simple calculation of hours can go a long way, informing executives with hard data about how much that effort is truly costing the company. Then with this metric, two crucial questions can be answered:

  • Is this RFP worth the effort? If the chances of success are low, the organization would be better off diverting their energy to other priorities.
  • Is it time to purchase an RFP solution? One of our clients calculated he was spending 20-40 hours on a single RFP and he used this data to make a case for an RFP management tool. Using RFPIO, now he can complete an RFP response in less than 5 hours.

Metric #3: Average response time for process efficiency

The average response time for an RFP is a metric that captures how well-coordinated the organization is. It helps identify process bottlenecks, those specific tasks or teams that are taking longer during the RFP response process.

A late response isn’t necessarily a poor reflection on a team. While response time can vary from a week to a month in most organizations, one should also consider the enormous interdependence of various teams involved in the RFP process.

This insight could help shed some light on a particular department that is under-staffed. It can also help you standardize an RFP response process—or better an existing one—ensuring roles and responsibilities are clearly defined for a smooth submission by the deadline.

Is someone making a big impact in your organization? Knowing which team member is contributing more gives you an opportunity to recognize their talents either with an incentive or even a leadership opportunity. Offering a chance for that person to share what is working to help improve the overall effort is a great team-building exercise or lunch and learn activity.


All organizations—big and small, old and young—face tremendous challenges in getting prepared to respond effectively and efficiently to RFPs. To get an RFP to completion, teams across departmental boundaries and organizational ranks have to work together.

Calculating and tracking these RFP metrics can help your business understand the holes in your RFP response process, so you can take the right steps toward improvement as an organization.

How are you tracking RFP response metrics in your organization? We would love to learn from your experience!

How the RFPIO India team spends their half-day Fridays

How the RFPIO India team spends their half-day Fridays

One of the coolest things about working at RFPIO is being a part of an international team. We have offices in both Beaverton, Oregon and Coimbatore, India, and we are proud to be a living representation of the success that can happen cross-culturally.

Technology allows us to do some pretty amazing things today, breaking down barriers that used to exist solely because of a geographical distance. But the ease of communication is only one part of it—the RFPIO team on both sides of the world just work really well together.

Even with the twelve-hour time difference, we are all in sync. We share the same vision to offer the best possible product to our clients—and we also enjoy a great work-life balance that encourages a continuous positive spirit to support that collective vision.

In India half day Fridays is one of the many perks of working at RFPIO. So, to get to know our Coimbatore team a little better, we asked some of our employees to share how they like to spend their half days when they’re not busy making our software as awesome as ever.

How do you like to spend your half-day Fridays?


rfpio family time

Manish, VP of Technology

During the week it’s difficult to spend time with my daughter, because it’s so busy. Having half-day Fridays means spending more time with her, and it’s great to be home waiting for my daughter when she is done with school.


coimbatore hiking

Shajudeen, QA Analyst

Coimbatore is surrounded by the Western Ghats, a beautiful mountain range that keeps the climate pleasant year-round. The forest here is home to many varieties of wild animals, especially the Asian elephants. Hiking in the mountains is a popular pastime for Coimbatoreans, and I am always happy to carry on that tradition of enjoying nature.


hot air balloon festival coimbatore

Deepan, Business Analyst

I had the chance to participate in the International Hot Air Balloon Festival by Global Media Box and Camping Retreats recently. It was an amazing time!


roosters in india

Dinesh, UI Engineer

I spend every Friday with my pet roosters and hens. Breeding chickens is my favorite pastime.


wildlife sanctuary

Sathish, QA Analyst

I like to visit Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, which is about 100 miles from Coimbatore. Leaving early from the office allows me to arrive before dusk and enjoy the views.


rfpio culture

Emmanuel, Sr. UI Engineer

I listen to good music and I enjoy photography whenever I have leisure time. I also spend most of my free time with my baby.


temple coimbatore

Kaliraj, Technical Lead

Spending quality time with the family is the way I enjoy spending my half days. I also take the opportunity to visit temples around Coimbatore: Perur Patteeswarar Temple and Maruthamalai Temple. The ancient sculptures and stone carvings share years of history and teaches the real tradition of the Hindu culture.


We hope you enjoyed getting to know some of the RFPIO team today!

Are you in Coimbatore? Check out our open positions!

Relationships, technology, and data ruled Dreamforce 2016

Relationships, technology, and data ruled Dreamforce 2016

When nearly 200,000 people invade a crowded city like San Francisco, that might seem crazy any other week of the year. When it’s Dreamforce, all bets are off as salespeople, marketers, CEOs, and every techie imaginable come together to learn and connect…and celebrate all things Salesforce, naturally.

As the new startup kid on the block, the RFPIO team was excited to attend—and ready for almost anything.

salesforce dreamforce

Ganesh and Britt were having their first Dreamforce adventure, while Angela was on her fifth. Even with their different levels of conference “black belts,” the team spent the week soaking in unbeatable inspiration from one of the biggest sales conferences of the year.

Now that the team is back in the swing of things, we thought we would share a few takeaways for those who didn’t get a chance to attend this year’s conference—or those of you who went and had an entirely different experience.

So, what do we think ruled Dreamforce 2016? Relationships, technology, and data.


expo at dreamforce

Ganesh

What was your first impression of Dreamforce? Will you be back in 2017?

My first Dreamforce certainly isn’t going to be my last—it was quite a party from the daytime sessions to the nighttime events. Now that we are Salesforce partners, I am convinced that RFPIO should have a dedicated booth next year.

So, yes…I will definitely be back to explore more great sessions and the latest technology Salesforce has to offer.

You had several meetings with prospects. Can you share the importance of personal connections at Dreamforce?

As most sales occur virtually, Dreamforce is the perfect opportunity to meet prospects face-to-face and get to know them on a more personal level. It also gives the prospect an opportunity to know more about you and your company, which opens up conversations about how our tool integrates with Salesforce. The wonderful thing about Dreamforce is that everyone is connected to Salesforce in some way.

Making time at the conference for meetings is key to future opportunities. If every conversation happens remotely, you risk lacking a real connection with your prospects that has the power to deepen the relationship.

dreamforce conference

Britt

Session: #MarTech Demystified: Build Your Small Business Marketing Stack
By: Scott Brinker of Ion Interactive and Chiefmartec.com and Travis Wright of CCP Digital

Why did this session stand out to you?

This session was actually a last-minute addition for me and I was stunned by how jam-packed it was with solid insight. The Q&A led by Capterra’s Director of Marketing, Katie Hollar, was seamless, and both Scott Brinker and Travis Wright peppered plenty of humor throughout to top off a memorable discussion.

Frankly, it was the one session I went to where everyone was truly engaged—which is no easy feat with an audience of easily distracted marketers. It’s safe to say I wasn’t the only one in the room who didn’t want this session to end.

What were the key takeaways?

Beyond marketing technology, Scott and Travis provided learnings that can be applied to any solution purchase. They really stressed the importance of what technology means for individual companies—and how to get the right team and stack in place.

  1. Technology Investment: Use the 90/10 rule. 90% should be spent on teaching your team to understand and maximize the tool. The money invested in the software should be the smallest part of the ratio.
  2. People Investment: Wright warned there can be a deficit in your organization if someone is holding the keys to your castle. Employees will not stay at your company forever, so it’s smart to train multiple people on the tool.
  3. Future-Proof Technologies: As Brinker wisely said about the vendor selection process: “Vet vendors through a lens of optionality. Anticipate transitions. Say: I love you, I hope this lasts forever…but what is the prenuptial here?”

radius dreamforce

Angela

Session: The Network Effect on B2B Data
By: Darian Shirazi of Radius

Why did this session stand out to you?

What really stood out about the Radius session was how direct and valuable it was. Most of the sessions at Dreamforce take an aspirational theme—like exploring predictive analytics to get more accurate or quality leads, or 10 segmentation ideas you haven’t thought of before.

Darian’s discussion was refreshing, because it wasn’t about the shiny objects and tools. It was about the foundation of good data.

What were the key takeaways?

All of the campaigns and tactics are only as good as your data. If the data is bad, nothing will work—and unfortunately, the time and resources your company spent will be a waste of energy.

When you buy a tool, it can take months before you see revenue generation. If your data is in bad shape, it can take even longer. The house has to be in order.

Everybody tries to scale through automation. Think of the efficiencies that could be gained by sales teams if they had a good data set to work with.


dreamforce expo

Thanks for joining us on our Dreamforce journey! Here are some videos if you missed it.

Did you have any conference favorites? We’d love to hear about your experience!

6 must-see sessions at Dreamforce 2016

6 must-see sessions at Dreamforce 2016

Dreamforce 2016 is coming up next week and a few members from the RFPIO team are heading out to San Francisco to soak in some knowledge and connect with the sales community.

In case you’re still planning your Dreamforce attack—or curious about what you’ll be missing—here are six sessions we are looking forward to at this year’s conference to inspire you!


ganesh
Ganesh Shankar, CEO and Co-Founder
Dreamforce Focus: Sales Enablement and Technology

Is this your first time going to Dreamforce?

Yes. We are now a registered Salesforce partner, and we want to strengthen that relationship by showing our support and connecting with the greater sales community at Dreamforce.

What are you most excited about?

I’m a big advocate for improvements in sales operations, so I am most excited to learn about the latest technologies that will help teams become more efficient. The conference is a wonderful opportunity to meet with sales teams in the field dealing with the same inefficiencies as our clients, and explain how RFPIO fits into that ecosystem to support them.

One session I’m looking forward to is:

Quote-to-Cash Kickoff: Introducing CPQ, Contracts, and Orders

I’m looking forward to this session because:

Since this is the next step for companies after they submit RFPs, this is an intriguing session for me to hear how Salesforce is enabling sales teams to work out a truly tough process. We can relate to the pain and headaches that salespeople know every day, and we hope to see some valuable tools release that will improve the overall approach and win rate.

Another session I’m looking forward to is:

Administer and Build Proposals with Lightning and Salesforce CPQ

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I am curious to see how RFPIO can complement these technologies from Salesforce. Presumably they are building the proposal from content they are already using in their RFPs. So this session will shed some light on how they are doing this manually, giving us an opportunity to see how our tool might be able to help through automation.

What do you think the big theme is this year?

Sales enablement continues to be important year after year, with teams from companies of all sizes still battling inefficiencies. Sales needs more tools to help them focus on customer relationships and revenue generation, so they can spend less time worrying about documentation and manual processes—and focus on their primary job responsibility.


britt-skrabanek-rfpio

Britt Skrabanek, Communications Manager
Dreamforce Focus: B2B Content Marketing and SEO

Is this your first time going to Dreamforce?

Yes! I’ve been a consistent player in the B2B content marketing game for going on three years now. I have written post-conference blogs previously for others who have attended, but I’ve never actually been. I’m pretty pumped!

What are you most excited about?

Learning! Yes, I am that nerdy. I’m a champion for sales and marketing alignment, and Dreamforce truly embodies that concept by bringing the business community together to learn from each other in the great city of San Francisco.

One session I’m looking forward to is:

3 Effective Ways to Supercharge Your B2B Social Marketing

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I am not shy to say this…B2B social marketing ain’t easy. There are days when I miss the young me that ran content for a lovable non-profit, because engagement just happened. The business audience can be a tough crowd, and this session promises “not so typical” social media use cases which I’m eager to explore.

Another session I’m looking forward to is:

SEO Wins & Content Marketing Tactics: Turn Your Search Visitors into Customers

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I love how upfront the description for this session is…everybody is creating content nowadays. It’s true, and while I think it’s wonderful to see businesses getting in touch with their creative side, the noise is unmistakable. We spend a lot of time and resources on content, and this session offers actionable SEO tips and accessible conversion tactics to help make an impact—and show it with metrics to back up this monstrosity of an effort.

What do you think the big theme is this year?

Not everyone loves this word as much as I do, but “reinvention” certainly comes to mind. I think it’s crucial for those of us who have been doing content marketing for a while to embrace new ideas and channels to stand out from the crowd.


angela-earl-rfpio
Angela Earl, Senior Director of Marketing
Dreamforce Focus: ABM and Sales and Marketing Alignment

Is this your first time going to Dreamforce?

No, this will be my fourth year at the conference and each year it seems I learn another trick about navigating Dreamforce. I remember my first year—and honestly, even the second—as very overwhelming. One tip to anyone going for the first (or second) time: Look for sessions near each other in 2-hour blocks to keep from wasting time walking the place to place.

What are you most excited about?

All of my previous times at Dreamforce were solo ventures, so I’m excited to be going with a great team this year. Sharing the experience in real-time will be more enjoyable and rewarding for me. Oh, and the U2 concert, of course!

One session I’m looking forward to is:

Debunking the Myths of Account-Based Marketing

I’m looking forward to this session because:

Though it isn’t a new concept, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) can be a very effective strategy for tech companies I work with, but many marketers and sales folks I meet are struggling with getting their technologies to align with this way of thinking. It will be interesting to hear Salesforce’s ABM recommendations.

Another session I’m looking forward to is:

The Power of Data in Sales and Marketing Alignment

I’m looking forward to this session because:

I’m really looking forward to hearing what Akamai Technologies has to say about the power of data. Why? Because data is sexy and I never tire of hearing stories of what others have done. And as a marketing operations nerd at heart, I’m hoping for new ideas or insights to share with sales and marketing teams who continue to struggle with coming together for the greater good of the company.

What do you think the big theme is this year?

Predictive tools are continuing to be a big conversation. But, they require a solid foundation (clean data and well-defined processes) to be effective. This year I’m hoping to see less product pitching, and more shared experiences beyond implementation from those who have been on the journey, to get useful and actionable insights.

 

Are you going to Dreamforce?
We’d love to hear what sessions you are most excited about!

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

5 cloud security questions to ask when you’re SaaS shopping

If you take a good look at your SaaS vendor selection process today, is cloud security on your checklist? Or, does your checklist consist of all the shiny features you’d like to have?

The SaaS model makes it easy to sign up and get going—with free trials and integrations with your favorite applications. While it is important to evaluate if the solution solves your business problem, it is just as important to look beyond the core features.

cloud usage

Source: RightScale

SaaS vendors range from a couple of guys operating out of a garage to full blown enterprises. During the startup phase, the focus is on getting a workable product out to the market with the intent to “shore up” the product when they have a few customers that have kicked the tires.

Unfortunately security ends up taking a backseat. Failure to evaluate security features with these vendors can mean major trouble for businesses, both short term and long term.

As just one example, we’ll use cloud-based RFP software solutions.

Say your SaaS provider has an outage when you have a request for proposal deadline looming. You have no way of retrieving that data, and you don’t have it backed up, because you entrusted your SaaS vendor with everything.

By the time your vendor is up and running again, it’s too late. You missed out on submitting your RFP responses and lost millions of dollars in potential revenue.

cloud adoptionSource: RightScale

Focusing on a tool’s exciting features during SaaS vendor selection is alarmingly common. Enterprise companies will typically bring in their IT department when choosing a SaaS solution, but frequently companies operating with smaller teams miss this important step.

It’s never too late to optimize your vendor selection approach, whether you’re just establishing security measures, or strengthening existing processes.

Here are a few cloud security questions worth asking when you’re evaluating SaaS vendors.

saas challenges

Source: RightScale

#1  What is your disaster recovery plan?

Most SaaS vendors have a disaster recovery plan, but not all plans are created equal. Some mistakenly believe taking regular backups constitutes disaster recovery.

Make sure your SaaS vendor has a solid plan that covers a recovery timeline, routine testing, and geographic isolation. In other words, if there is a tsunami, is that going to wipe out all of your centers?

#2  What if you go out of business?

Often we think of catastrophic events in the form of natural disasters, but a vendor going out of business can do just as much damage. When comparison shopping, look into business viability and don’t be afraid to ask some tough questions.

If I invest all of my work, data, history into your solution, is that safe? What is your fallback plan? Having access to that data is non-negotiable no matter what happens outside your control.

it cloud softwareSource: RightScale

#3  Do you take my security seriously?

Okay, you don’t have to frame the question that way—instead you can ask if they have a proper security plan. Be careful when a vendor sidesteps security to focus on the shiny features. You don’t ever want security to be an afterthought.

If you find it difficult to know which security features are most important, bring in your IT department for guidance.

The security rundown might include:

  • Encrypting data
  • Secure data transmission and storage
  • Access restrictions
  • Secure practices
  • Staff training
  • Regular monitoring and scanning

enterprise cloud
Source: RightScale

#4  Who is responsible?

Accountability is a big one, because you want to know who you are dealing with when a support request spirals into a data mess. Many vendors depend on others, and the finger-pointing can escalate quickly. This is the last thing any business wants to experience when there’s a problem, so be upfront to avoid a surprise down the road.

A storage solution managed entirely by the SaaS vendor is preferable, as mom and pop cloud storage companies can be unreliable. The accountability factor can speed up your selection process in a jiffy if a vendor fumbles over roles and responsibilities.

#5  How scalable is your product?

It is one thing to watch a flawless demo, or run through a proof of concept without a glitch. But can the application withstand what the real world throws at it? Unfortunately, it is tough to know the answer to this until the real world happens.

For example, if one of the other clients of the service provider executes a huge project, is that going to negatively impact security? It is smart—and absolutely appropriate—to inquire about how well the vendor can scale their product to meet demands, and how quickly those demand will be met.

saas securitySource: RightScale

Finding the right SaaS vendor should never be taken lightly, so always think of it as a collaborative decision.

While these questions will cover your cloud security bases, if you can, get your IT person involved in the process too. If you are unable to engage your IT department in vendor selection, you can still take these steps to ensure the vendor has a solid security footing.

What cloud security questions do you ask when you’re selecting a SaaS vendor?

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 answer 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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