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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 […]


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.

This is what it takes to win an RFP from start to finish

This is what it takes to win an RFP from start to finish

Winning an RFP is always the goal. But often we aren’t sure what it really takes to win—no matter how many hundreds of RFPs we’ve responded to.

There are many moving parts involved with every RFP response. Collaboration and efficiency are absolutely critical, but so is the writing. The quality of your response will determine whether the prospect chooses your organization or one of your competitors.

One of the most memorable deals I landed in my sales career happened with an RFP response. It was a big name company, and a highly competitive RFP. But I knew our product was the right fit, so I did everything in my power to win the deal. And, it worked.

This is what that winning RFP process looked like from start to finish, and some tips on how you can replicate this successful response strategy with your team.

What happened before the RFP

Copying and pasting responses as usual into the RFP wouldn’t cut it this time. Because I knew our product was the right fit—and we had a great chance at winning the account—I spent a lot of time getting to know the company. That way I felt comfortable speaking their language when I wrote the content.

I was a sales rep and the RFP lead, so my intentions were completely focused on winning with the energy I put into the project. It was hard work that was not in the scope of my day-to-day sales activities.

There were over 100 pages when I was done, with tons of tables and narrative answers. What made it easier was the homework I did beforehand, like building relationships with the individuals I knew were going to be involved in the review.

Responding to RFPs is part of the sales cycle, and it’s important to remember that selling is an important part of these beginning stages—not only in the final closing stages. By taking the time to understand the company and team members, you’re setting up your RFP response project for success.

What happened during the RFP

When it comes down to it…what is an RFP?

An RFP is trying to make an apples to apples comparison with multiple vendors. In a competitive space, everybody is trying to get that edge. The RFP response has to illustrate why you’re better than other organizations with a similar offering.

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” -Zig Ziglar

With this winning RFP, the deadline was tight and it was during the holidays. Needless to say, it was stressful to get the project done well and on time. In fact, we ended up being late with our submission—which is the kiss of death in the RFP world. However, because I had this existing relationship that I worked so hard to cultivate, they accepted anyway.

I didn’t use amazing language, but because I did the legwork before the RFP project started, I knew the qualifications they were looking for. I repurposed answers from historical RFPs, but I made them more relevant. I took the time to show how much we wanted to win them as a customer. And despite being late with our submission, we still won.

You have to find your edge when you’re responding to RFPs. Going into an RFP, know that five other vendors are probably answering the same way you are. If you answer “yes, we have this function” or “yes, we have this feature” that won’t differentiate your organization at all.

Answer to what they want, rather than just answering correctly. This process takes longer. And when you have a high volume of RFPs, you may not want to do it. So make sure this prospect is the best fit, a customer that you want, then go the extra mile.

What happened after the RFP

Because the foundation was so strong before the RFP, this company remained a happy customer that stuck around with no contract. They hadn’t switched their software in over 20 years, so it was a monumental change for them.

As they always do with large-scale implementations, things went wrong. And as you recall, we missed the RFP deadline and still closed the deal.

When you take your time and think through an RFP strategy, it pays off. It doesn’t mean you should take the same approach with every RFP that comes your way. But when it’s the right prospect, and you want to win that business, then it’s worth the extra effort when it has the potential to become a lasting partnership long after the close.

Your turn…replicate a winning RFP process

I’ve won and lost plenty of RFPs throughout my career. This was a strategy that worked well, and you may find it’s something worth trying at your organization.

Before the next RFP lands in your inbox, consider your entire process as having three stages.

  1. Before the RFP – Do the homework. Collaborate with sales to cultivate the relationship and uncover customer intelligence that will make your RFP response stronger. (In your CRM, you can have direct visibility into these activities.)
  2. During the RFP – Tailor the responses. Use the relationship and intelligence to level up your company. Sales should continue nurturing the prospect, rather than going radio silent once the RFP is in progress.
  3. After the RFP – Maintain the satisfaction. Know that the great effort you put in won over your customer. This isn’t a free pass when things inevitably go wrong, so continue deepening relationships months or years after the initial RFP.

A lot of RFPs are formalities. And RFP responders don’t want to take the time, because they know that. This level of care works when the partnership is an ideal match with your organization. If you really want to win, you need to recognize the best opportunities and do everything you can to win them.

Building the relationship and tailoring your content will help your organization rise above the competition. Whether you’re a team of one (like I was) or you have multiple departments involved in RFP responses, collaborate with sales to align your efforts through every stage of the process.

The average completion time for an RFP deadline is typically 2-3 weeks. Think of what you and your team can do during that amount of time, and work together to create your best possible RFP responses so you can find your edge and win.

Join RFPIO in the Give Back to School campaign

Join RFPIO in the Give Back to School campaign

It’s back to school time, so the RFPIO team is giving back to our educational community. For our Q3 philanthropy mission, we’re partnering up with a local school in Beaverton to support their school year initiatives.

There are many causes, and each quarter we think about the best way to lend a helping hand to our community. There are plenty of options online, but we truly love to serve our local organizations. We are fortunate to have the support of our community as a rapidly growing startup and we feel it’s important to give back.

school libraries

Source: American Association of School Librarians

As Salesforce partners, we work with Pledge 1% to participate in the culture of giving.

In Q1 we hosted the ROI of Compassion and helped Oregon Food Bank bring over 600 meals to families in need through online donations and an office food drive. In Q2 we got our hands dirty with SOLVE for the Go Green campaign and cleaned up Kelley Point Park on Earth Day. The result? Nearly 6,000 volunteers collected 35 tons of trash and debris from 162 sites.

Now we’re kicking off our Q3 initiative, the Give Back to School campaign. It was difficult to choose from so many wonderful schools near our headquarters, but Elmonica Elementary happens to be the same school where Ganesh’s daughter attends—so we reached out to find out how we could help.

That was when we discovered their amazing new program, MakerSpace.

pledge one education
Elmonica Elementary is beginning to use the idea of MakerSpace to enhance the learning environment by combining the benefits of library, media, and technology. The Elmonica staff believes in teaching students to be independent thinkers who will actively learn and create. MakerSpace blends the traditional library experience with 21st Century technology skills. Elmonica would like students to explore STEM learning while they research ideas.

Being a technology company, the RFPIO team was excited to help support this forward-thinking program to support the students at Elmonica. Last week RFPIO donated to the MakerSpace program, giving solar robots and a crazy fort (yes, we’re considering one of these for the office!).

“In a traditional library setting students listen to a book that is read to them, then check out a book. We want to flip this idea so that students can still listen to a book, then actively engage in processing and creating new information. Students interested in robots can read about them before entering challenges where they build a robot that can move weight or go a certain distance. Elmonica is looking to create active learners in all aspects of the school day. The MakerSpace program will make this learning style achievable.” – Cynthia Moffett, Principal at Elmonica Elementary School

Want to contribute to RFPIO’s Give Back to School campaign?

Supporting education is incredibly important and we’re excited to help make a positive impact on Elmonica’s bright young minds. You can help too!

We understand if you have local schools you want to work with, and we fully support that. If you’re not sure where to start, and you’d like to join forces with the RFPIO team, you can donate to Elmonica’s MakerSpace program easily by selecting items straight from their Amazon wish list.

Donate online right here to help Elmonica Elementary!

How to prevail over 4 common RFP response inefficiencies

How to prevail over 4 common RFP response inefficiencies

Any growing business wants and needs to gain new customers. RFP responses are an integral part of the sales process. To achieve growth, these proposals have to be managed effectively.

High-quality RFP responses are key, but the last-minute nature of these requests can make it difficult for organizations to put their best foot forward. Many even miss deadlines for important RFPs—and with that, they miss the chance to win business.

In our recent RFP response habits survey, 84% of proposal professionals revealed they are still using a manual process. Inefficiencies caused by this approach directly affect the potential of teams responding to RFPs.

rfp response organization
To identify the root cause of why organizations are missing new business opportunities, it’s good to understand what the underlying efficiencies really are. We’re investigating four common showstoppers in your RFP response process, so you can overcome them.

#1)  Lost historical RFP responses

Not being able to locate a key piece of content that’s relevant to the RFP at hand can disrupt your entire project workflow. This sends proposal managers and SMEs on an information hunt they truly don’t have time for: searching emails, folders, and spreadsheets. The effort to relocate the content is already high, but the effort to recreate an RFP response from scratch? Even higher.

RFP software gives responders an intelligent Content Library that both decreases time spent finding answers while providing the most relevant option. You can browse various responses for a similar question in historical RFPs and use auto-response functionality to move even faster. This way you have the power to choose a hybrid of multiple responses to customize each response for a better chance of closing the deal.

#2)  Ineffective communication thread

Communication gaps happen—but with RFP response, the impact can mean the difference between winning and losing your next deal. If an SME overlooks an urgent request from a proposal manager by email or if a salesperson never steps out of their beloved CRM, valuable time will be lost when an RFP deadline is looming.

RFP software improves collaboration between teams with specialized integrations, like Slack and Salesforce. Busy SMEs will quickly respond when a clarification is needed on a response. Busy sales teams will view everything related to the RFP project in a Salesforce dashboard, with less distractions and logins. Less email and more focus helps teams keep their eyes forward on winning the RFP together.

RFPIO Customer Pro Tip: “Make sure you spend time—preferably in person—with each person that participates in your RFP response workflow. You will be pleasantly surprised by the details you can get over a cup of coffee, versus a conference call. It certainly helps me highlight areas in our workflow to target for improvement.” – Jim Tapscott, Director of Inside Sales at Continuity Logic

#3) Confusing review workflow

The review process is critical for your organization, since the new business you’re chasing greatly depends on your RFP deliverable. Multiple team members are involved across departments to meet the vendor’s request. SMEs can be difficult to track down, but their expertise is a must. Once they contribute, it’s up to the proposal manager and the marketing team to make the RFP response accessible to the vendor—without sacrificing the technical points.

RFP software gives complete access to the RFP’s progress and the ability to assign reviewers in the optimal order to finish the response well and on time. There is a lot less guesswork with this level of visibility, so the proposal manager can feel more confident about meeting the deadline with a quality deliverable. This eases concerns on all sides, because there is a method that systematizes the workflow.

#4)  Incorrect effort estimation

Many RFP responders discover that the time left to respond to a few queries in the RFP might take more time than what they have available. Procrastination plays a part, since responding to RFPs is typically not a primary job responsibility for the contributors. The aforementioned inefficiencies then add extra hours to the entire process.

RFP software makes the workflow easier on teams, so they don’t feel the same aversions they did before with a manual approach. The proposal manager can steer the ship by assigning tasks and deadlines. SMEs and sales teams can respond in half the time, because they aren’t hunting for responses or repeating unnecessary tasks. By avoiding the last-minute scramble, the RFP response will be more thoughtful for each opportunity—and will have a better chance at winning over the vendor.

RFPIO Customer Pro Tip: “With the stringent timelines to respond to RFXs, we are always racing against time. It’s important to thoroughly review the content and note the selection criteria, which is a key driving factor for writing a winning response. Craft the entire RFP response by paying careful attention and emphasizing the value of choosing you.” Abhinay Gajula, Sr. Executive – Business Development/Business Analyst at ProcessMAP

Like any business process, there are inevitable hiccups that contribute to missing RFP deadlines. All of these inefficiencies can be avoided with the right RFP software, but they can be amplified with a manual workflow.

When key RFP contributors work together effectively, these commons showstoppers will be resolved. Since RFP response requires an incredible amount of teamwork, there are no individuals moving toward the win. You need all hands on deck—and you need better tools to manage everything.

There is no magic bullet to help every organization overcome the many challenges they face with responding to RFPs. But, the value of a dedicated RFP management tool has immediate benefits for those who work closely together with a solid process.

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.

8 RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts

8 RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts

Wait…where are all of the RFP response resources? Professionals in other industries are drowning in content—and surviving with arm floaties. But we RFP responders are still looking for the pool.

When you search for “sales tips,” the world is your oyster…

help with sales
When you search for “RFP response tips,” you get this…

help with rfps
Since our team knows just how challenging it can be to find useful tips in our industry, last quarter we created a resource round-up to help fellow RFP responders improve their RFP response game. It ended up being one of our most popular posts of the year, which confirms what we’ve known all along…RFP response resources are hard to come by.

We know how hungry you are for resources, so once again we hunted down the best of the best for RFP responders. Here are our Q2 picks for RFP response resources that will inspire your efforts.


8 RFP Response Resources to Inspire You

#1

Quality Proposals = More Wins
By Visible Thread
RFP Takeaway: The quality of your proposal will be the deciding factor for winning.

“A professional proposal tells decision makers that they are important and you spent time improving your submission (and the solution). It speaks to the quality of support your organization will provide.”

#2

eBook: Your Complete Guide to Winning RFPs
By Primary Intelligence
RFP Takeaway: Writing a successful response will give you a competitive edge.

“You need to have a well-written response to a Request for Proposal that convinces the decision makers to pick your product instead of the competition.”

#3

Getting to Gold: The Importance of an Effective Review Process for a Winning Proposal
By AOC Key Solutions
RFP Takeaway: An effective RFP review process is key for improved workflow and quality.

“The proposal should be not only instructionally and technically compliant, but also compelling in its sales message and its response to the evaluation factors.”

#4

Price Negotiations: How to Respond When a Competing Vendor Underbids You
By Closeio
RFP Takeaway: Be a savvy negotiator to set yourself apart and win more sales.

“When a prospect appears to be fixated on price, it’s up to you to steer the conversation towards what really matters, and that’s value.”

#5

What Do You Mean When You Say “Review” a Proposal?
By PropLibrary
RFP Takeaway: Checking everything in the review process means focusing on win factors.

“There should be nothing in your proposal that is not important for winning. Quality half-measures is not a winning strategy. A partial review is not better than nothing if it misses something that results in a loss.”

#6

The Third Revenue Ops Pillar: Technology & Project Management
By Radius
RFP Takeway: Technology planning and project management enables the overall business strategy.

“97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.”

#7

How To Solve 5 RFP Challenges [Infographic]
By Mimeo
RFP Takeaway: These common RFP challenges an be alleviated with the right RFP software.

“43% of organizations lack a documented and repeatable strategy for RFPs. 37% of proposal professionals indicated that errors are common.”

#8

5 Pros Reveal Their Time-Savings Tips for RFP Response
By RFPIO (yes…we had to throw one of our own in!)
RFP Takeaway: RFPIO’s clients share their RFP wisdom on how they’re saving time.

“It’s all about organization and making sure each team member knows what’s expected of them—and when. Clear expectations lead to success!”

5 ways to organize your request for proposal for the win

5 ways to organize your request for proposal for the win

Even an RFP response has a story to tell.

The hardest part of writing any type of content is finding a way to get you (the lovely reader) to believe the promises made at the start, and move beyond them to the next sentences until you feel compelled to take action. That’s any kind of content, including a response to a request for proposal.

Instead of a reader, it’s a buyer. And the action we want them compelled to take is to do business with us.

We can’t move a prospective buyer down the path and fulfill early promises if there’s no plan for where the path leads. I can’t say “We’ll help you save more time with our solution, if you keep reading” without first developing a plan—a plan to show how our solution will save them time, money, or whatever it is that is the main benefit you have to offer.

Responding to an RFP is no different. You want the decision-maker to get to the good stuff, but that means they’ve first got to endure all the technical stuff. The key to successful proposals—and to winning more opportunities with them—is to go into the writing process with a plan.

1. Hook the decision-maker with reassurance

When you’re speaking or writing for a known group, you have the benefit of acquaintance. When you’re an unknown quantity responding to an RFP, you’ve got to spend time laying out how you’ve interpreted the RFP and who you are as an organization to hook the buyer.

The first part of your plan should be to familiarize yourself with the RFP to a point that you can easily summarize and repeat it back—which is exactly what you’ll do.

Your proposal should lead off with a distillation of the RFP. This lets the company you’re trying to win over know that you’ve understood what’s being asked of you. It also shows that you’ve put the time in to understand the project.

“All those decision-makers read the executive summary. They read it first, and sometimes it is all they read. Because of this, the executive summary provides a terrific opportunity. If effective, it fosters a ‘pre-sold’ mindset.” – Dennis Green, APMP

From the restatement of the RFP, you can jump right into your business’s resume, the offerings you have that will be the answer to your buyer’s everyday challenges. Any of the major strengths you’ve highlighted here should be applied throughout the response, using the executive summary as the guiding light that will make your RFP more effective.

2. Open up about what the buyer can expect

In movies, there’s a pretty common narrative device around planning. It’s the one where a character says, “I’ve got a plan—but it’s not going to be easy.” After you hear that setup, you can’t wait to find out what this awesome, yet challenging plan could be. The next section of your proposal is the business equivalent of that phrase.

Let’s say you’re a marketing agency working on an SOW (Statement of Work). Here, you’re laying out how long your incredible team is going to need and what resources you’ll pull. While you shouldn’t be wantonly obscure with your planning, a little mystery can go a long way as long as it’s not too vague.

What not to say: “We’ll need a few hours, six bottles of weak lager, and a rabbit cage.”

Remember, each step of a proposal should move the decision-maker on to the next step. You want them to hit each section of the response, hungry for more. In the time and costs section of an SOW, that means having realistic expectations about resources and working in some more reassurance.

Explain why your previous experience has led you to believe a project is going to take five weeks. What about the last project you completed that led you to a $125,000 estimate? Get the buyer to follow you along so that they’re itching to hear all the details of this wonderful plan that will ultimately help them be more successful at their job.

3. Make your RFP response a cohesive story

Now that you’ve set the scene, laid out how long the process is going to take, and given the decision-maker some ideas about cost, it’s time to fill in the blanks.

There are more lessons to be learned here from content writing. Say what you need to say about a process and move on. People want the action to keep moving, not to hear the same thing phrased 15 different ways.

Especially when SMEs get involved with the RFP response—and start adding technical jargon that no buyer will understand—the content needs to be finessed after team members contribute their responses. You want to position yourself as an expert, but you don’t want the buyer to miss out on benefits simply because they don’t fully grasp the offering.

Trust in your process and explain how each step is related to the next and the previous. The details of your RFP response need to be a cohesive story, not a random list of tasks and technical lingo.

Details are important. Sure, you’re explaining the process, but you’ve got to get the buyer interested enough in the details that they move on to the end of the proposal. The goal is always the same with the work we put into an RFP response: to win them over.

4. Build a great Content Library and repurpose

To have a higher chance of winning an RFP, the quality of the response you craft means everything. It can be disheartening to be crafty when you’re facing a proposal with hundreds of questions you have to answer. Especially when the deadline is…tomorrow.

You’ve already been around the block a time or two with RFPs, so you have plenty of content to work with already—without needing to start from scratch. Building a great Content Library for your team will save a lot of man-hours
when the proposal lands in your inbox.

There’s definitely a wow factor when an RFP response is both relevant and polished. Whenever you repurpose a previous response, take the time to make sure you’re highlighting the features and benefits for that particular buyer. They will sniff out a generic response, so give it a personal touch to showcase the value you can provide.

5. Proposal management software for the win

I’d be a pretty poor technology proponent if I didn’t point out the value of some proposal software in all this.

A good proposal software system can help you spend less time laying things out, hunting for content in spreadsheets, and chasing down SMEs and salespeople for their input. Instead, you can spend more time focusing on delivering the best possible RFP response that has a much better chance at winning.

Proposal software will keep you on track by helping with: formatting, importing and exporting, document and content management, workflow, collaboration, and insights. It’s a pretty wise investment—spending more time planning your response and less time making sure it looks nice—by automating and streamlining all the fiddly bits.

“Reuse as much as possible. What I’ve always strived for in our responses is to improve quality over time. With RFP response, don’t underestimate the importance of having the right processes and the right technology.” – Stephen Marsh, Smarsh


Regardless of how you put your RFP response together, get out there and do it well. The more RFPs you respond to, the more you’ll learn about the process.

Practice, they say, makes perfect. It also means falling on your face a few times, but don’t let that deter you. Good luck!

5 pros reveal their time-savings tips for RFP response

5 pros reveal their time-savings tips for RFP response

Time is a commodity, a precious commodity when you’re an RFP responder. Every day we’re doing what we can to help our organizations reach their growth objectives by meeting tight deadlines with the highest quality responses we can dish out.

We know exactly how challenging it can be to lead the RFP process, but we also know there are countless ways to overcome those same challenges. But rather than us sharing our usual tips and tricks to enable your team’s success, we decided to bring in the pros who know RFP response best…five of our amazing clients.

These sales professionals in the field are just like you—RFP responders doing fantastic work. We asked them to share one epic RFP response tip, so we can all learn from each other and work more efficiently together.

Without further ado, here they are with five tips to help you save more time with your RFP response efforts.


Brad Bieber

Brad Bieber

Sales Operations Manager at EMS Software
Follow @EMS_Software

“Always be mindful of customers introducing contract terms and conditions into the RFP that they think may govern the actual purchase as well. Be prepared, with a comment that suggests: We are open to negotiating a good faith contract, but we will need to contract under our own paper and include required terms where possible.”


Abhinay Gajula

Abhinay Gajula

Sr. Executive – Business Development/Business Analyst at ProcessMAP
Follow @ProcessMAP

“With the stringent timelines to respond to RFXs, we are always racing against time. It’s important to thoroughly review the content and note the selection criteria, which is a key driving factor for writing a winning response. A best practice is to include an RFX compliance matrix and respond to each and every selection criteria. Craft the entire RFP response by paying careful attention and emphasizing the value of choosing you.”


Amy Cook

Amy Cook

Sales Operations Analyst at Evisions
Follow @EvisionsInc

“It’s all about organization and making sure each team member knows what’s expected of them—and when. Clear expectations lead to success!”

 


Jim Tapscott

Jim Tapscott

Director of Inside Sales at Continuity Logic
Follow @jim_tapscott
Follow @ContinuityLogic

“Make sure you spend time—preferably in person—with each person that participates in your RFP response workflow. You will be pleasantly surprised by the details you can get over a cup of coffee, versus a conference call. It certainly helps me highlight areas in our workflow to target for improvement.”


Lihod Rachmilevitch

Lihod Rachmilevitch

PreSales Manager at OwnBackup
Follow @Lihodr
Follow @OwnBackup

“Our technical sales team leverages RFPIO to manage all of our RFPs and InfoSec questionnaires. RFPIO has already shown so much value in a short amount of time, as it definitely helps to have workflow trails available for internal auditing and progress tracking. The best thing you can do for your RFP process is spend time optimizing your Content Library. Creating a centralized place to store all of your organization’s questions and answers will make the knowledge much easier to share internally while saving your team time.”

 Special thanks to our awesome clients (Brad, Abhinay, Amy, Jim, and Lihod) for sharing their RFP wisdom with us all today!

Have a go-to RFP response tip you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below. 

How to work with SMEs for a smooth sailing RFP process

How to work with SMEs for a smooth sailing RFP process

There are many ways to improve team collaboration in the workplace. Setting clear business objectives is a great place to start with the why of your organization’s vision. Then, it’s time to move your team toward that goal with the how—using tools and technology that will help them succeed.

Healthy collaboration during the RFP response process is important for any organization working together with a unified vision. When an RFP is due in two days and it’s 100 pages long, it may feel like a feat of mythic proportions for you as the proposal manager.

“86% of executives identify ineffective collaboration and communication as a major cause of failure in business.” – Salesforce

But if the experience is positive and seamless from the minute the RFP arrives, the team is already set up for success. If not, the opposite will happen.

You want to see your team work well together, and you definitely want the RFP response to go out the door on time. We drummed up a few strategies to keep in mind to help you optimize SME collaboration for smooth sailing.

SMEs have unique personalities

When interacting with technical experts and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), it’s common for sales and marketing teams to forget they are working with people who have completely different personality types. There might seem like a disconnect with business priorities with these experts, because they are so engrossed in the very work they offer expertise in.

When your SME does find the time to contribute to the RFP, the response can be difficult to understand when it’s blanketed with technical details. These SMEs are passionate about what they do, but they don’t always realize the best way to frame the content to engage buyers.

rfp success

Source: Wrike

The language and tone will inevitably need to be tweaked to make your RFP response compelling. However, you will still need help from your SME during the review process to ensure the technical details are correct. You don’t want to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of a more enjoyable reading experience.

The answer to improved team collaboration resides in your Content Library. How you organize your content and solidify the review process will help protect the time of everyone involved in RFP responses at your company. Spend time setting up a good Content Library and keep your content fresh with regular content audits.

Overcoming different business priorities

Reluctance for SMEs to take on more work within a tight deadline is understandable given their busy schedules. When it’s time to respond to an RFP, they will deprioritize the task in favor of more important tasks on their plate.

“Just 42% of organizations report having high alignment of projects to organizational strategy.”      – Project Management Institute

Though responding to RFPs may seem like a lower priority to SMEs, the reality is that they help drive revenue for an organization. And so RFPs matter for everyone, regardless of their role, because winning an RFP equates to new business.

As the RFP lead, your job is to be clear about deadlines and expectations, and also to drive enthusiasm for the opportunity. Using RFP software can greatly reduce completion time and workflow constraints as it is a tool built to alleviate the complexities associated with a very complex process.

As always, the people behind the tool are what make it work. Teams need to be aligned—with the big picture business priorities front and center, and excellent technology that increases collaboration and efficiency.

Strategies to make the RFP effort easier

Now that you’re rethinking your collaborative mindset, it’s time to jump into some useful strategies that will help you get the RFP done effectively. Here are several simple ways to minimize the effort needed by the SME, so they can contribute their expertise willingly and on time:

  1. In your RFP solution, immediately assign tasks and deadlines to SMEs for the response. Give yourself wiggle room with the drop-dead RFP deadline, so you have plenty of time for revisions. If using a spreadsheet, highlight specific sections which need input and follow-up with a spirited communication cadence.
  2. Simple and concise instructions will make your SMEs life a heck of a lot easier, which will make them more likely to prioritize the task. Avoid overwhelming them with the entire RFP, by allowing them to focus on their assigned question only. This is easiest to organize in RFP software, but you can get creative with spreadsheets as well.
  3. Include guidelines to set expectations with the RFP response, including character limitations and branding preferences. This will save time during the review process in case your SMEs go overboard with techy content. In your RFP solution, you can export responses into a branded template to clean up the formatting so you can spend less time polishing the final deliverable…at midnight, on Friday.
  4. Avoid inbox clutter by replacing emails with communication tools, like Slack, and use groups to organize and track conversations. This will ensure your request doesn’t get missed or trashed, and it will minimize the back and forth. RFP software will have @-mentioning and even integrate with Slack to smooth out the process.

project alignment

Source: Wrike

Teamwork truly does make the dream work when it comes to the RFP response process. You need your SMEs to buy into the importance of RFPs, but you also need to fine-tune your approach to make things easier on them.

Take a good look at your existing RFP workflow with your SMEs and see how you can improve it. Organizations aligned around a common vision—with technology that supports collaboration—will ultimately save teams time and help them reach success together.

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

A proposal has many faces—whether it looks like an RFP or a security questionnaire. When it’s time for a business to respond to a proposal, there isn’t a lot of time to get acquainted with a proposal. It’s go-time the second it greets you in your inbox.

One look at the stats Capterra rounded up in this article reveals how truly necessary project management is, with: “97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.”

The days of manual, repetitive tasks are behind us in many ways but still tend to be a common occurrence for companies of all sizes responding to RFPs. This is where RFP software comes in to alleviate project management stress for teams to make them more productive.

“Competently responding to RFPs is just the lowest bar to clear when looking to grow your business. Anyone can read the requirements and submit a bid. To really grow your business, you need to focus on how the solution you provide solves the problems laid out in the request. By automating and streamlining your responses with RFP software, you can spend more time crafting a solution and less time fiddling around with layouts and basic information.” – Andrew Marder, Capterra

Just like any other technology, there are a lot of options to choose from—especially with SaaS solutions. According to The Access Group, “Reliability, ease of use, and ease of integration are the top three requirements project managers look for when shopping for software.”

So, how do you know which is the right RFP software for your team? How do you know which features will provide lasting benefits?

Here are our picks for the top three RFP software features that will help make your work life easier.

Import and export

Ask any proposal manager and they will tell you…this is the part of the RFP process they spend the majority of their time on. Our client, Josh Itzoe from Greenspring, realized that a typical RFP required anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of manual work, so he made it his personal mission to make their process more scalable and effective.

By using RFP software, he was able to cut completion time down to 5 hours. The ability to import and export with ease made a big difference for Josh.

Import

One question can have multiple responses. If you work with security questionnaires, you’re very familiar with the Excel document that has rows and columns that seem to go on forever.

Although there are technologies that allows you to import questions and requirements, very few can support multiple answers for the same question. For example, do you support XYZ feature? Column 1 – Yes/No. Column 2 – Additional Comments.

import rfp

It’s important to have a dependable import to save you time from the beginning of the RFP project. Equally important is to be able to import from any source—be it Word, Excel, or even PDF (which is a recent feature we implemented at RFPIO.)

Export

When you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you want the export process to go smoothly. However this is another task that can delay teams that think they are finished with an RFP then realize the formatting is all wrong.

With RFP software, there are two ways to export an RFP:

  1. Export to the source: This exporting option is critical when you have a specific format to follow and you don’t want to modify the source document. Typically we see this in spreadsheet-based RFPs.
  2. Export in a template: You want to be able to customize templates at will, with the flexibility to have one template for an unsolicited proposal and another for an SOW. You should even have the ability to send the final proposal in your own corporate template. (Yes, RFPIO supports unlimited templates!)

The key with exporting is consistency.

SMEs spanning departments will come together to respond to an RFP—and often everyone has different fonts they prefer. If you have a great template, it doesn’t matter if you used Arial 10, Susan used Calibri 12, and Jim used Comic Sans 18 because he has a weird sense of humor.

Your deliverable will have a consistent look and feel because the system will align font, colors, bullet points, etc. Then, marketing doesn’t need to spend as much time manually polishing the deliverable—and your team is much happier and productive as a result.

Curious about how much RFP software can save you?

ROI calculator

Use our ROI calculator to find out!

Integrations

RFP software on its own will increase your organizational effectiveness by eliminating the manual labor of spreadsheets and documents. A solution that integrates with other applications you’re already using will further boost your team’s productivity.

CRM

Salespeople typically accept one tool, the CRM—and they will rebel against learning new technology that might steal them away from selling time. Having a true Salesforce integration means your sales team can remain in the tool they already use daily, without being distracted by a technology learning curve.

Long term, a CRM integration will require much less effort with team collaboration while keeping sales focused on revenue generating priorities.

rfpio salesforce appexchange

View RFPIO on Salesforce AppExchange

Collaboration

Less email is a good thing, not only for our inboxes but also for better RFP collaboration. Integration with popular communication tools, like Slack, can greatly reduce friction between a proposal manager and an SME when an RFP deadline is looming and input is needed.

With email, it’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks. Slack is a nice complement to RFP software, because team members can communicate more effectively.

Cloud Storage

Support documents need to be centralized and accessible, and companies want a centralized drive that meets their storage needs. RFP software integrating with cloud storage solutions kills two birds with one stone, allowing teams to manage all responses in the cloud with quick access to the latest and greatest content.

Content Library

A strong Content Library helps speed up the RFP process tenfold, but the majority of companies are still storing their responses in a disorganized fashion: some are in emails, others are in spreadsheets, the rest are in forgotten folders. This is where RFP software truly helps organize existing content—and even autosuggest answers—to save teams time.

Content Library review
When you’re on the hunt for a good RFP management solution, make sure your Content Library can do these three things:

  1. Be able to assign owners periodically and have an established review workflow, so your content never goes stale.
  2. Be able to identify duplicate content and have the flexibility to override what stays and what goes during a content audit.
  3. Be able to change responses into different languages to seamlessly communicate internationally, when applicable.

rfp software multiple languages

With your Content Library, the right setup and consistent maintenance will set the tone for success at your organization. A disorganized or nonexistent Content Library will only slow your team down.

“With RFPIO, one other marginally technical person and I were able to respond to a 70-question RFP in less than 2 hours. Before, this would have been an all-night session for me.” – Jonathan Reed, Progress

Read the full Progress story

With the time and resource constraints companies are often working with, it is absolutely necessary to have a sound RFP process in place before the proposal shows its face. This not only helps teams collaborate easier to meet a quick deadline, it allows teams to focus on delivering a high-quality response with a greater win potential.

When you’re on the hunt for RFP software, these three features are a non-negotiable for the ultimate success of your organization. Take your time and find the right fit.

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.

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

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