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E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

Just like Law & Order: SVU, cloud-based sales technologies kicked off in 1999 and somehow continue to come out with […]


E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

Just like Law & Order: SVU, cloud-based sales technologies kicked off in 1999 and somehow continue to come out with new material 20 years later.

Since the debut of Salesforce’s cloud-based CRM in 1999, thousands of new sales automation solutions have been introduced to the market. Each with the promise of enhancing efficiency and saving time.

But as any good sales leader knows, increasing efficiency through technology doesn’t mean adopting many different technologies. It means strategically identifying the tech that works for you and your sales team, and finding opportunities to bring things under one roof.

According to a recent study by RingCentral, two-thirds of workers spend at least 60 minutes a day toggling back and forth between apps. This adds up to more than a month lost every year and costs billions of dollars in lost productivity annually for businesses.

[queue dramatic *CHUNG CHUNG*]

Two-thirds of workers spend at least 60 minutes a day toggling back and forth between apps. This adds up to more than a month lost every year and costs billions of dollars in lost productivity annually for businesses.
RingCentral

At RFPIO, we automate our responses to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, and other complicated questionnaires using our own RFP automation solution. But if we needed to get anything signed—be it a cover letter, an NDA, or a contract—we would need to make a special trip into a separate e-signature tool.

So we decided to bring e-signature and proposal management under one roof, with our brand spanking new e-signature tool: Autograph.

Autograph is an e-signature tool designed specifically for sales and proposal teams. But the best news is that it’s absolutely free to RFPIO customers.*

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s clear up some basics.

What is electronic signature (e-signature)?

Electronic signature, e-signature, or digital signature is an efficient, legally binding way to get approval on electronic documents.

For any electronic signature solution to be legally binding, it must:

  • Enable signing parties to explicitly consent to use electronic signature and do business electronically,
  • Give users the choice to decline to sign electronically,
  • Track how the document was signed, and
  • Send a copy of the completed/signed document to all signing parties.

Sales and proposal teams use electronic signatures on documents like NDAs, cover letters, legal documents, disclosures, and more. Unlike traditionally signed documents—which take 5-6 days to process—electronically signed documents can be signed within minutes.

With Autograph, you can embed e-signature within your proposal management solution, further streamlining the e-signature process by keeping your signed documents all in one place.

How to sign sales contracts online (and other documents) with Autograph

Signing sales documents using Autograph is extremely intuitive. Just like many other e-signature tools, e-signing documents using Autograph can be done in just 4 steps.

Step 1: Open the document for signature

Navigate to the Autograph dashboard, click on “Awaiting my signature”, and click open the document. You can also open the document directly from your email.

Step 1: Open the document for signing

Step 2: Consent to online signature

When you open the document, you’ll see a prompt to ask you to read the Electronic Record & Signature Disclosure. After reading this document, click the box to indicate that you consent to using electronic signature and doing business electronically.

Step 3: Start signing

Sign and initial where indicated in a couple clicks. Autograph stores your preferred signature and initials, so it’s ready for you when you need it.

sign document

Step 4: Download documents

Download a copy of the signed document for your records. A copy will also be sent to your email, and you can access other documents you’ve signed from your Autograph dashboard.

download documents

How to integrate e-signature into your sales tech stack

If you’re already an RFPIO customer (or planning to be) integrating e-signature into your sales tech stack is as easy as opening your RFPIO dashboard. Autograph is included with all RFPIO subscriptions—and it’s totally free for all RFPIO users at your company. Which, if you’re taking advantage of our unlimited licensing model, means everyone.*

The most challenging part of any new tool—even if it’s free for everyone,* easy to use, and integrates into existing processes—is getting people to use it. People don’t like change, even if the change is good for them.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting the rest of your organization rocking and rolling in Autograph:

Step 1: Get buy-in from leadership

When you’re having the conversation with leadership about Autograph, make sure to bring up the fact that it’s free for all RFPIO users.* If you’re already paying for an RFPIO subscription, using Autograph is a no-brainer.

Here’s a sample email template you can use when sharing information about this new feature with leadership:

SUBJECT: Free e-signature feature included with our existing subscription

Hi ,

RFPIO, our proposal automation solution, has just introduced a built-in e-signature functionality—at no additional cost to us.

Because we have an unlimited user license with RFPIO, anyone at can use e-signature for free.

I’d love to help get the team up and running with this tool. I’ll be scheduling training sessions with the team over the next couple of weeks.

Can you help communicate the importance of this free new feature with the rest of the team?

Here are some resources you can check out to learn more about their e-signature functionality:
Blog: E-signature for sales and proposal teams
Help Center Article: Autograph Overview

Thanks,

Step 2: Schedule training

The key to helping your team get up and running with e-signature is to show them how it works. Schedule a training session to show them how they can use Autograph to sign NDAs, contracts, and other documents.

If you have a large team, it’s better to roll out the new tool in waves. Rather than trying to train everyone all at once, start with a small group and expand from there.

Step 3: Share information

Before you conduct your training session, send an email to your team with information about Autograph, the training agenda, and other resources they can peruse.

Here’s a sample template you can use:

SUBJECT: Announcement: New e-signature tool training

Hi everyone,

I’m excited to announce that RFPIO, our proposal automation solution, has recently introduced a built-in e-signature functionality!

I’ve just sent out an invitation for a training session to show you how to use the tool, and answer any questions you might have.

Before the session, please read these resources to learn more about the new feature and how it works:
Blog: E-signature for sales and proposal teams
Help Center Article: Autograph Overview

Let me know if you have any questions.

See you during the training!

Step 4: Schedule follow-up training

Remember: Training is not a “one-and-done” thing. People hate change, even if it’s good for them.

Schedule regular follow-up training to see what questions people have, what users want to learn more about, or are struggling to understand.

Start e-signing contracts, sales documents, and more

Autograph is free for all RFPIO users,* which makes sending and signing documents that much easier.

If you’re already an RFPIO customer, check out our Help Center article for detailed instructions on using Autograph.

If you’re thinking about becoming a customer, schedule a demo to see how Autograph works.

*The inclusion of the free Autograph tool depends on your RFPIO package. If you currently don’t have Autograph, but want it, please reach out to your Account Manager.

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

Let’s start with the good news: You have an RFP response process. You’d be surprised to know how many companies don’t even have that. If you don’t have a process yet, then I recommend reading How to create an RFP response process as well.

Now the bad news: It needs work. I can help. Let’s look at how to improve your RFP response process.

First, take inventory: How are RFPs viewed within your organization?

Before you improve, take a look at what you have and why. Does your organization view RFPs as a strategic revenue stream or a box to be checked? If the latter, are executive sponsors in place to help you lead the process change?

Change management is real. If past attempts to prioritize RFPs in the sales process were mishandled, then you may still be feeling the pain. If this will be your first sales process change as it pertains to RFPs, then how it’s managed will be just as important as what is implemented.

One advantage of improving your RFP response process now is that salespeople and customers are more open to change than they may have been prior to the pandemic. As people quickly adapted to a “new normal,” Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said, “We saw two years of digital transformation in two months.”

However, if you’re like most organizations, the change will need to take place while maintaining current staff levels. According to our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, 75% of organizations plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021, but only 37% of organizations plan to hire more RFP response staff.

5 steps to improving your RFP response process

  1. Only chase RFPs you can win
  2. Focus on content
  3. Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities
  4. Get to know your resources
  5. Rinse & repeat

Perfection is unattainable. There’s always room for improvement. I’ve seen organizations improve their RFP response process and see big gains within a year. One 2-person team successfully responded to 16 RFPs that were stacked on top of each other a year after having to push back on the same expectation. Hopefully these tips will help you attain the same kind of results.

Step 1: Only chase RFPs you can win

One of the best ways to make your RFP response process more effective is to stop wasting time on unqualified RFPs. Do this by setting up a qualification step or a go/no-go decision. Consider the following during this step:

  • What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued? RFPs are not the optimal time for cold calls. Odds are definitely better when you’ve been invited to respond to an RFP because sales or presales has developed a relationship with the prospect or you already responded to a request for information (RFI) or the prospect has done extensive research on you and your competitors.
  • Is your solution a fit? At minimum, it needs to meet the mandatory requirements. Everyone’s agile. Everyone’s flexible. Issuers already know that. You need to be able to prove that you have a battle-tested solution. If proof isn’t required in the RFP, then it will be at onboarding or implementation. RFPs fall into the category of “under promise, over deliver”; doing the opposite will sabotage future support, renewal, and upgrade efforts.
  • Does your price match the prospect’s budget? Of course there’s give and take when considering the opportunity and what it means to your business now and in the future. Nevertheless, the issuer will expect your solution to come with everything promised in your response. Whatever the cost to deliver on expectations, make sure you’re being fair to your prospect, your product, and your team responsible for supporting those expectations.
  • Is it a strategic fit? RFPs take a lot of time and effort, but not nearly as much time and effort as onboarding and supporting a customer that doesn’t fit your business or product development strategy. There are few things more frustrating than submitting and winning an RFP only to find out that you cannot follow through because it’s not a strategic fit for you or the issuer.
  • Do you have bandwidth? Too often, this consideration gets pushed to the side. It’s especially important if you’re responding to unqualified bids! It’s completely understandable to want to respond to more RFPs (we found that 72% of companies plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020). But don’t do it at the expense of response quality or your proposal team’s, sales team’s, and subject matter experts’ valuable time.

Step 2: Focus on content

Are you working from a content library, or are you still chasing down content ad-hoc? If you have a content library, make sure it’s up to date and that content is clean and reusable. Develop content so that it has the flexibility to either be easily customized or used in its generic form. It should all have a consistent voice to reduce editing and review time on the back end.

Your content library also needs to have an organizational structure that helps with searching. With RFP software such as RFPIO, you can use tags, collections, and custom fields. It might help to organize content to match the structure of the RFPs you receive. What sections do you always see? Sections common in many RFPs are:

  • Company overview
  • Training & implementation
  • Security
  • Software/Functional/Technical
  • Biographies
  • Case Studies

If you’re not using RFP software, organizing your files and documents this way will help reduce the need to chase down content for every new RFP.

Step 3: Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities

Have a project plan that emphasizes expectations. Someone has to own it and drive it to hold team members accountable to deadlines. If you don’t have a full-time proposal manager in place, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better reason to hire one than to improve and own your RFP response process.

Initiate a kickoff meeting for every response to discuss strategy and expectations with the entire response team. Surface scheduling conflicts, content gap concerns, or issues with deadlines to avoid surprises. Find a way to get visibility over the whole process.

Step 4: Get to know your resources

The better you know your resources, the better you are at going to the right person at the right time. Establish their preferred communication channel and respect it. RFPIO has integrations with several channels to make it easier, including email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Jira. Maybe you have an SME who hates writing. Call him up and have him talk out the answer, then you write it out. Putting in the legwork to build relationships with your resources will pay off at crunch time.

Step 5: Rinse & repeat

Any improvements need to be repeatable. For example, if you bring in a contract proposal manager for a response, then be prepared to do so every time. This is a process you will cycle through for every RFP. If it works as well as it should, then you may want to carry the process over to other responses, such as security questionnaires or due diligence questionnaires (DDQs).

 benchmark-blog-report

The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

8-step RFP response process

  • Qualify RFP: Insert a go/no-go evaluation at the beginning of the RFP response process. Sales will be the loudest voice, but proposal teams, SMEs, and executive sponsors will need to weigh in to evaluate risk, timing, and strategic fit.
  • Kick-off project: Provide clarity and accountability to the full response management team, including strategic objectives that everyone can work toward.
  • 1st response: Make an initial response pass based on reusable content. This step is much faster with RFP software.
  • 2nd response: Tap into resources for new questions, and assign segments that require customization to respective SMEs.
  • Review & revise: Conduct internal reviews to ensure a high-quality proposal. Link review requests to specific purposes (i.e., Are strategic objectives met? Are responses accurate and high quality? Did we fully answer the question?)
  • Submit: Deliver polished RFP with reviewed supporting materials. Follow up to confirm receipt. Keep internal stakeholders abreast of progress.
  • Save & audit: Save finalized responses in a centralized location and commit to regular content audits.
  • Post-mortem: Winning doesn’t always mean content was perfect. Losing doesn’t mean it was a bad response. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
    Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFP process and steps

Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFPs are becoming more complex. As technology has evolved, expectations have risen. With the capacity to answer more questions, issuers want to ask more questions.

In the past, RFPs were issued with the issuer not knowing if a solution even existed, let alone the company that could provide it. Now there’s a lot of research done online. Typically, there are multiple touchpoints with a prospective solution provider before an RFP is even issued.

In 2021, companies that use RFP-specific software responded to 43% more RFPs than those who use other solutions or techniques. They were also 25% more likely to agree that their processes are streamlined enough to make time to tailor their proposals to the issuers’ specific use-cases.

RFP software can contain and drive your response process. In RFPIO’s case, AI-enabled automation and collaboration begin at intake and carry all the way through to your postmortem.

For those increasingly popular but sometimes maddening online response portals, RFPIO® LookUp can help. The theory behind online portals is that they make RFPs easier. For the issuers, maybe. But not for responders. Even though you can have as many proposal team members respond as you want, there’s no visibility. If multiple responders are updating and changing answers then version and quality control are at risk. RFPIO® LookUp lets you work directly from your Answer Library to fill out the online portal without having to leave your browser.

I hope this helps you formulate your next steps for improving your RFP response process. Eventually, you’ll be able to respond to more RFPs or improve the quality of your proposals, or both! You’ll also have a transparent, repeatable process that your proposal team and organization as a whole can rely on to push RFPs as a strategic revenue stream. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to see if it’s the process improvement driver you’ve been looking for.

IBA increased win rate by 15% by improving response and bid quality

IBA increased win rate by 15% by improving response and bid quality

There are niche markets. Then there are niches of niche markets. IBA, a medical device manufacturer based in Belgium, is in one of those niches. That’s why they face such tough competition for every one of their 30, on average, annual request for proposal (RFP) responses or tender bids.

IBA global director of sales support and tender management, Grégory Saive, and his team review every document released in relation to IBA’s proton therapy technology. Due to the sensitive nature of the technology—it’s at the forefront of cancer treatment innovation—and the level of investment required to build and furnish a proton therapy suite, RFPs and tenders are understandably complex. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages of technical, legal, and medical information are included in responses and bids. Multiple subject matter experts must weigh in to ensure accuracy and mitigate risk.

Three years ago, Grégory took over a team of regional product managers and tender specialists participating in the business development of Proteus® proton therapy technology. At the time, the team faced multiple challenges:

  • Even though team members carried the title of “specialist,” the monotony of repetitive bid and response tasks relegated them to feeling more like “assistants”
  • Manual processes took up too much time and had to be repeated for every bid or response
  • Bids and responses did not accurately represent the quality the company or the team wanted to portray when representing such a high-end brand in competitive evaluation processes
  • Content was scattered, siloed, and difficult to keep current

When Grégory took over, he committed to transforming the team’s response processes while promising not to increase headcount. In order to fulfill his commitment, Grégory and his team knew that they needed a tool that could be the foundation for the team’s transformation. Given the nature of his work, he began the process by running a tender. “We are tender specialists, so I found it strange that my team would select a tool based on a whim. So we created a full tender for RFPIO and some of its competitors,” Grégory said.

First impressions

IBA offered the tender to four pre-selected solution providers. During the demo process, RFPIO’s search functionality stood out as a definitive competitive differentiator. Grégory said, “I was impressed by how easy it was to tag answers with associated keywords, search for those keyword tags, and view search results with a score index to see the questions that are the most recent and most used at the top.”

In the past, when Grégory wanted to find the proper wording for an answer—wording that he knew existed but he could not precisely recall its location—he had to search through multiple documents line by line until he found it. With the search functionality he witnessed in the demo, he realized that he wouldn’t have to conduct those manual searches ever again.

For Grégory, response management software was a tool. Alone, it could not transform his team or response processes. Using response management software as the foundation, he sought to achieve three goals that he believed would result in a successful transformation.

Goal #1: Improve Quality

From the day Grégory took over his team, his goal was not primarily to increase efficiency. His goal was to improve bid and response quality. “We do not win a deal with a tender, but we can definitely lose a deal because of a tender,” he said.

With such a highly specialized solution, the market and opportunities are extremely limited. His team responds to an average 30 tenders or RFPs every year because there are only that many real opportunities that become available on a global scale.

Increasing efficiency so his team could produce more responses or bids would do nothing for IBA’s bottom line. They had to improve the quality of their bids and responses to increase the win percentage of existing opportunities. And IBA is not alone in its desire to re-invest time saved into improving bids. In fact, 84% of companies with designated RFP software agree that they have more time to personalize proposals for specific use cases.*

After a year of using RFPIO, IBA increased their win rate for Grégory’s business unit to 80%.

“With RFPIO, I would say we have increased our win rate by 15%.”

He’s quick to point out that RFPIO isn’t the only reason for this uptick. It’s also due to how he’s spent the time saved by using the tool. By reducing time spent on searching documents and copy and pasting answers, the team has more time to strategize about how to compose the best answers.

“RFPIO allows the team to spend more time on meaningful tasks…either training, reviewing answers, or improving quality. That’s where I’ve spent most of my time saved since the beginning.”

Goal #2: Improve Content Management

Prior to implementing RFPIO, Grégory and tender specialists had to browse hundreds of documents during the bid process. When they found something that was remotely close, then they copy and pasted it. They could not spend the time necessary to fully think it through and make sure it was a contextually sound answer because they had to move on.

That presented a problem for answers that had not been used in awhile. According to a Deloitte article called The new knowledge management, “If searching is difficult and the results are not highly valued, workers lose trust in knowledge systems.”

With RFPIO, the team now searches the Answer Library for the most relevant answer and trusts the results based on the content score. When they find an answer, they can also see when and how often that answer was used. If the answer is two years old, for example, then it is likely out of date because the product has evolved. The team knows that the answer needs to be reviewed by a product manager or other specialist, depending on the context, and can assign and track that review through RFPIO.

But even that process will continue to improve. Because Grégory’s team focuses only on proton therapy business, they can work in a single Answer Library. They are implementing processes to proactively review answers—especially long answers that are used regularly—with experts every six months. So in future searches, fewer Q & A pairs will be out of date and require detailed review during a bid in-flight.

In the case of content that needs updating more often, Grégory hopes to focus the review process even more. “Content relating to financing options—stuff that we don’t use often or that’s really specific to a country or prospect—usually needs 50% or more changes. Maybe in five years, we tag that content with special comments saying that it needs to be automatically reviewed by financial experts at IBA.”

While content management has already improved, IBA continues to identify new ways to streamline their review processes to identify more time that can be spent on improving bid quality.

Goal #3: Enable Better Training

Grégory promised management that in exchange for investing in a response management tool such as RFPIO, he would not add headcount. One of the primary reasons he’s been able to keep his promise is because of the training advantages offered by RFPIO.

IBA is not alone in its focus on training and maintaining headcount. 63% of proposal teams plan to increase team training on RFP response, while only 37% plan to hire more staff.*

Again, it’s not just the tool. As Grégory said, “It’s a great tool, but it’s not a magical tool.” While the RFPIO Answer Library helps streamline the answer process, it also gives time to Grégory and his team members to think and customize their answers.

For Grégory, he can take the time to train team members on how to answer, or what makes a good answer to a particular question. For his team, it’s the difference between plowing through the bid process feeling like an “assistant” or “generalist” and approaching each question as a “specialist” who can deliberate on differentiating IBA from competitors.

Although he is not adding headcount, transition on Grégory’s team does occur due to rotations some employees take from one department to another. In such cases, onboarding is much faster with RFPIO in place. “Again, the ease with which we are able to search the Answer Library has improved the onboarding process.” When new recruits don’t have to take the time to familiarize themselves with what the content is and where answers might be located, they can jump right into identifying the right answers through search.

IBA improved proposal quality and increased win rate by 15% with RFPIO

Next steps

So far, IBA has used RFPIO only for Proteus®. In the future, they hope to expand their Answer Library and Collections to include partner software and hardware that can make a solution even better. This will require a culture change around collaboration, but it’s all part of Grégory’s long-term plan to transform the team. IBA is also in the process of bringing its OneDrive integration online, which will expand their Answer Library with marketing videos, documents, and other content.

As for advice on how to get the most out of RFPIO, Grégory recommends having someone in charge of response management who can drive processes and establish goals. Setting ground rules and expectations for management as well as team members is essential to success.

The tool may not be magical, but it gives Grégory and his team time and opportunity to insert magic into their answers to improve the quality of their bids and responses.

“I cannot really measure the increase in quality in terms of answers, but I can certainly measure the increase of quality in my team.”

Ready to start increasing your win rate?

See how automating your RFP responses can help your team improve proposal quality, increase win rate, and generate revenue. Schedule a demo to get started.

How TOMIA improved global collaboration with bid response software

How TOMIA improved global collaboration with bid response software

As a company that creates solutions for the world’s leading service providers, including some of the telecommunication industry’s largest groups, TOMIA defines its mission as enabling their customers to drive the future of connectivity through new technologies.

They’re also a company that takes compliance extremely seriously, which is why requests for bids are such an important part of their business model. Bids and tenders are their opportunity to demonstrate their expertise, professionalism, and commitment to security in the fullest detail—and clearly showcase why they’d be the best fit.

John Marcow, the Bid Response Manager at TOMIA—and a veteran of the industry, who’s responded to 700+ bid requests in his lifetime—knows better than most how important bids are to the sales cycle. “It doesn’t matter how good your relationship is. Sometimes you need to respond to an RFP if you want to win the deal.”

Before RFPIO, the TOMIA bid response process was highly manual. After receiving a bid request, John would paste the following table underneath each question:

He would then ask subject matter experts (SMEs) to search for their name and respond to all their assigned questions.

As one can imagine, this process not only left plenty of room for human error, it also lacked visibility John needed to keep RFPs on track. Since everything was answered in static documents on personal computers, John would constantly send emails to assignees, requesting status updates or reminding them of the due date.

Once John received all answered questions (often in the eleventh hour), he would proofread and polish each of the answers, and compile the responses into a single, cohesive document.

This process was tedious, time-consuming, and inefficient. The TOMIA bid response team knew there had to be a better way to respond to RFPs. So they turned to RFPIO’s AI-enabled RFP response solution.

Bid proposal software: Before and after
Before RFPIO:

  • Assigned questions to SMEs by adding a table to the Word or Excel document that includes assignee name, compliance status (y/n), and a place to write supporting information.
  • After receiving completed questions from SMEs, the documents would need to be compiled into a single cohesive document.
  • The bid manager constantly reminded SMEs to finish their assigned questions.
  • The bid manager had no visibility into project status. He had to manually reach out to SMEs via email to ask whether they had started working on their questions.
  • SMEs who wanted a question reassigned to someone else would ask thebid manager (John) to do so.

After RFPIO:

  • Questions are assigned in just a few clicks.
  • RFPIO automatically sends reminders.
  • The bid manager has full visibility into question status from the project dashboard.
  • Questions are reassigned by the SME in RFPIO.
  • Completed, cohesive responses are exported into the source file in a few clicks.

Improving collaboration and increasing efficiency with RFPIO

When the TOMIA team responded to their first RFP using RFPIO, it was hard to believe how much of a difference it made.

With RFPIO, John uploads an RFP to the platform and assigns questions or sections to subject matter experts. After that, the process is relatively hands-off—RFPIO will automatically send reminders to everyone who hasn’t answered their questions.

seamlessly collaborate by assigning tasks to collaborators in-app

John also has full visibility into project status from the project dashboard. He uses that information to send out periodic project updates to keep everyone informed and keep projects on track.

Identify project scope before starting any RFP

“RFPIO gives me full visibility into the entire process. And I’m able to easily collaborate with team members across the organization, from product to finance to legal.”

Getting stakeholders across the organization up and running in RFPIO

Since TOMIA implemented RFPIO in 2018, they’ve created user accounts for 25% of the company, even though most of them only use it for a few questions. But since RFPIO has an unlimited user license, they’re able to maintain their accounts for those moments when they do need to support RFPs.

“One of the best things about RFPIO is that it’s really intuitive. You don’t need much instruction to use it. Our SMEs are able to easily answer any questions they’ve been assigned with little to no training.”

When an SME has been assigned a question, they’ll receive a notification in their inbox letting them know their expertise is needed. They can either respond directly from their email, or open up the platform to respond there.

When they log into the platform, the first thing they see is the list of questions they’ve been assigned. They can click into the question to respond. Or, if they don’t know the answer, they can assign the question to someone else—or simply @mention them for help.@-mentioning makes it easy to collaborate on RFP projects

Overall, RFPIO has significantly cut response time and improved the bid response process. With RFPIO, the TOMIA team—with regional headquarters in the US, Israel, Luxembourg, and India—is able to collaborate with team members all over the world to craft compelling bids that win more business.

“I would absolutely recommend RFPIO to anyone looking for a better way to manage proposals. With RFPIO, we’re able to collaborate in real-time with team members all over the world. It has made a huge difference.”

Ready to streamline collaboration on bids and tenders?

See how RFPIO can help your team uplevel your bid response process and make global collaboration a breeze. Schedule a demo to get started.

RFP automation: What it is, how it works, and best practices

RFP automation: What it is, how it works, and best practices

If you’ve ever responded to a request for proposal (RFP), you know they tend to be about 80-85% boilerplate content. The remaining 15-20% is where you really have the freedom to adapt your proposal to a client’s specific needs.

This skewed structure means you might spend 80-85% of your time responding to repeat questions. Subject matter experts (SMEs) could spend up to 30% of time they didn’t have to spare responding to RFPs. Valuable time is spent on repetitive tasks. Information and departmental silos keep teams from reaching their fullest revenue-generating potential as a collaborative unit.

But with RFP automation, the story changes. Automating the RFP response process means less repetitive labor, more time for other high-priority tasks—and the chance to make each RFP you submit pack a bigger punch.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

What is RFP automation?

RFP automation is a cloud-based B2B sales technology that helps teams maximize resources and time being spent on RFPs. As a result of these time savings, team members are able to return to other high-priority tasks.

But let’s take a step back.

Billions of years ago (in the late 2000s), marketing automation caused an important shift in email marketing. Automation allowed marketers to achieve more as a team and make a bigger impact on revenue.

Over the past few years, the proposal management industry experienced the same transformative effect with RFP automation.

It’s a collective effort to respond to an RFP, with involvement from multiple departments—sales, marketing, legal, finance, product, compliance, IT—and the list goes on. Often (but not always) there is a dedicated proposal manager directing these projects to keep everyone moving toward the same target…a timely, quality RFP response.

In the olden days, an RFP would come in. The proposal manager would “shred” it and assign questions to an SME—the all too familiar questions the SME had answered many times before on other proposals.

The SME then would spend too much time looking through folders and documents to copy and paste previous responses. There would be little time to ensure quality control.

With RFP automation, an SME only has to answer a question once, and then it’s captured in an Answer Library. The proposal manager can then reference the Answer Library to populate the responses with relevant content. SME involvement consists only of oversight, making sure the content is accurate and optimized.

Automation helps teams maximize resources and time being spent on RFPs. Time savings allow team members to return to other high-priority tasks. Some of your most valuable and costly resources are involved in RFP responses. If you respond to 100 RFPs in a year, this really adds up. To calculate your RFP automation cost savings, check out our ROI calculator.

How do you automate an RFP response?

Automating an RFP response comes down to two main things: Artificial intelligence and content. AI-enabled RFP automation technology uses AI to match existing content with new incoming RFP questions. The more content you have, the more accurate the result.

When we set out to build a consolidated (and better) solution for RFP response management back in 2015, over and over we heard that responders wanted a platform that would help them improve collaboration and automate workflows.

A few RFP automation solutions existed, but they weren’t easy to use. And these solutions didn’t integrate with systems that teams were already using across an organization, including CRMs like Salesforce, communication tools like Slack, or cloud storage like Google Drive. With more than 8,000 solutions in the marketing technology landscape, the last thing an organization needs is a solution that doesn’t play nice with other technology its stack. 

marketing technology landscape

To make sure we built a solution for proper RFP automation, we focused on three aspects:

  • Artificial intelligence: (AI) is changing the way we all work, including how proposal management teams “shred” their RFPs. It’s easier to break up relevant sections, auto-identify response content, and assign questions to subject matter experts.
  • Integrations: Our integrations keep all team members working in their preferred tools. Salespeople don’t want to leave their CRM to respond to RFPs and they no longer have to. SMEs are unreachable by email, but they’ll engage through Slack.
  • Content management: The Answer Library is the content management hub—not only for RFPs, but for all company information. Anyone has access to the latest and greatest content, which can be easily searched, selected, and inserted into a variety of business documents…even emails.

Benefits of RFP automation

Achieving more with RFP automation also means responding to more RFPs. Organizations that use RFP software respond to 43% more RFPs per year, on average. Because the time-savings realized from automation can be re-invested to maintain or improve response quality, imagine what this scenario, based on data from our research, would do to your revenue forecast:

  • Prior to RFP automation, let’s say you responded to an average of about 50 RFPs every year.
  • Each RFP win equals, on average, $1-3 million.
  • Add 43% more responses per year with RFP software.
  • At an industry average of 45% win rate, that equates to 22.5 more wins per year.

In this scenario, your revenue forecast from RFPs could increase upwards of $22.5 million to $67.5 million in a year!

Without automation, response management teams can only dream of increasing RFP responses, let alone revenue forecasts. They respond to RFPs in a reactive state, which, of course, is not the way to produce a quality deliverable for the prospect.

Saving time through efficient processes turns into extra hours to consider viable business opportunities—perhaps even breaking into new markets. RFP automation gives your team the space to establish a proactive process, where technology handles much of the heavy lifting. Team members are brought in to use their strengths to strengthen the content—and the chances of winning the deal.

RFP automation: Is it a good AI use case?

Someone has to say it. Doc Brown of Back to the Future fame wasn’t a scientist. He was a tinkerer who built Rube Goldberg machines. Everything from his dog Einstein’s automatic feeder to the Delorean’s lightning rod was an overly complex chain-reaction contraption. Until he invented the Flux Capacitor. That was the real science that made time travel possible.

How is Doc Brown’s evolution from tinkerer to scientist relevant to automation? In the case of responding to RFPs, you cannot simply automate all of the manual tasks that go into a response. If you do that, then you’ll end up with an RFP Rube Goldberg machine that may not be as reliable as the manual processes you’re trying to eliminate. But in situations where AI is appropriate? That’s the real science that makes automation possible.

As promising as AI is, it’s still just plain hard. Projects are costly, unwieldy, and difficult to complete. Only 53% of AI projects make it into production, and those that do are only profitable about 60% of the time.

RFP automation best practices

In the case of RFPIO’s Auto Respond functionality, AI-enabled automation:

Populates the “first pass” of responses of an entire project or section of a project References Answer Library records in conjunction with a series of filters and the ranking of metadata Uses a recommendation algorithm to prioritize and rank the results Allows results previews so users can decide whether or not to use the answers

To do this, AI operations factor in, among other things:

  • Access to the Answer Library content by user
  • Similar questions or alternate questions in the Answer Library
  • Answer Type/Compatibility
  • Content-to-search match percentage
  • Star rating (content quality)
  • Used count (how often the content is used)
  • Last used date
  • Last updated date
  • Exact word/phrase match

When effectively executed, AI enables RFP automation because the solution has been built by qualified data scientists, extensively tested, based on accurate data models, and designed to scale. It’s also important to note that AI isn’t meant to be used to replace humans; it’s intended to enhance us.

The secret to RFP automation success: Organized content

Even artificial intelligence needs a brain. Don’t worry. This isn’t a Skynet scenario. For RFP automation, the brain is your content library. More specifically, in RFPIO this is known as the Answer Library.

With a robust, well-maintained Answer Library as a resource, your AI can grow in sophistication from machine learning. Users will be able to filter at higher levels, access the cleanest Q&A pairs, and move faster through the response process. Additionally, time saved from RFP automation can be re-invested into developing better content and curating existing content to improve its quality.

A long-term benefit of RFP automation is increased visibility into which content is most popular and where you have gaps. Data from these insights will be valuable in your content strategy moving forward.

So through RFP automation using a reliable Answer Library you get to create better content and find time to continuously organize content, all while responding to more RFPs. That sounds like a profitable use case for AI.

Are you ready to see if RFP automation is right for you? Schedule a demo to find out.

RFP 101: Request for proposal basics

RFP 101: Request for proposal basics

If you’re new to the proposal or bid process, then you’ll need the request for proposal (RFP) basics. Even though, like all business processes, the request for proposal process has changed over the years, many of the basics have held true.

This article will brief you on what you need to know about requests for proposals so you’ll be ready to take on the response process with aplomb.

What does RFP stand for?

RFP stands for request for proposal. As a remnant of government contracting processes, it’s no wonder “RFP” is more popular as an acronym. After all, in byzantine bureaucratic processes, responding to an RFP from the DoD is the only way to share your KSP with a VIP who prefers to keep their ID on the QT until they determine ROI. And this all started before texting and social media! LOL!

Why do RFPs exist?

Organizations and agencies issue RFPs as part of their vendor selection process. It’s an attempt to create parameters that enable apples-to-apples comparisons of solutions to a particular problem.

Outside of the United States, RFPs are also known as tenders. Instead of “issuing an RFP,” organizations “run a tender.” Instead of “responding” to an RFP, vendors “bid” on a tender.

Other RFP-related terms

To learn more about common RFP-related terms, you have 3 options. One, check out the quick definitions below (it’ll take less than a minute). Two, read my new screenplay for the short film, “Once Upon a Time in an RFP Process,” later in this article (it’ll take you 3-5 minutes). Three, do both! Note: If you are an artist who can help me storyboard the movie, let’s talk (think low-budget, though).

Proposal
The proposal is your response to an RFP. If an organization or agency asks, “How can I solve X?” in an RFP, then your proposal is the answer: “I propose this solution to X.” Like Dr. Barbay’s single question for Thornton Melon’s academic evaluation that ended up having 27 parts, your RFP proposal can be hundreds, if not thousands of pages long.

RFP Executive Summary
The RFP executive summary sets the tone of the proposal. It’s usually written first, by the salesperson in charge of the relationship. It will summarize the highlights of your proposal. There are occasions when it will be the only part of your proposal that some of the issuing stakeholders will review.

RFI: Request for Information
RFIs, or requests for information, are more casual than a request for quote and more generic than an RFP, RFIs are either a fishing expedition or a clarification exercise.

RFQ: Request for Quote
When someone issues an RFQ, or request for quote, they want you to tell them how much your product or service will cost. Lowest price definitely does not always win. This is an opportunity to illustrate everything included in your offering as well as prospective ROI.

DDQ: Due Diligence Questionnaire
DDQs, or due diligence questionnaires—not to be confused with a security questionnaire (see below)—are all about compliance. You might see one as part of the RFP process, but it’s also likely you’ll be filling these out throughout your partnership with the issuer. With increasing scrutiny on data security and privacy, you may be filling them out more often, too.

Security Questionnaire
This will be one or more standardized questionnaires designed to assess risk of taking you on as a vendor. Popular questionnaires include SIG, SIG-Lite, VSAQ, CAIQ, and more.

When to use an RFP

Say you’re an enterprise or government agency. Through research and experience, you’ve identified five possible vendors that may be able to help solve a particular problem. Now you can issue an RFP to gather everything you need to know about the solution, its cost, and its impact on your operations after selecting a vendor. The level of complexity, number of questions, and deadline will vary greatly depending on your industry and the sophistication of the solution.

When to respond to an RFP

There are several factors to consider when determining whether or not to respond to an RFP. We recommend that your standard RFP intake process include a go/no-go step. Only respond to RFPs that you can win:

  • Is the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses all of the challenges presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match the budget?
  • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

When to use RFP software

If you’re responding to a couple of RFPs, a few security questionnaires, and spend most of your time sending out direct responses to RFQs, then RFP software may not be the best fit.

RFP software falls into a new category of software known as response management. Response management software’s primary value is efficiency. How you repurpose time saved will determine much of your success. Some organizations seek to respond to more RFPs, others seek to improve response quality. Most want both.

If you think RFP software and its automation capabilities would help, then it’s important to consider your entire response universe when selecting a vendor. For example, do you only want help responding to RFPs? Or do you want to automate responses to security questionnaires and DDQs, too?

What about proactive proposals? Do your sales, presales, and support teams want a better way to respond to prospects and customers?

RFPs are sales vehicles, and how your organization responds is a sales support function. The response management solution you choose will be determined by how much sales support you want to offer.

Sometimes you wonder if life is a movie…

Me, too! So if you had to break down RFP basics into a scene in your life’s movie it might look like…

“Once Upon a Time in an RFP Process”

By Sue Donim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is an RFP again?

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

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

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

BOSS: That doesn’t sound efficient at all.

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

BOSS: Enough with the acronyms, Keyes.

What’s an RFI? What’s an RFQ?

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

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

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

BOSS: Sounds like a cover letter.

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

BOSS: I’m better at that than most.

KEYES: Of course you are.

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

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

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

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

BOSS: What did I just say about acronyms?

What’s a DDQ?

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

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

What even is a security questionnaire?

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

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

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

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

KEYES: I think that’s a good call, Boss. We’ll start with the 8-step RFP response process.

[CUT TO GRAPHIC OF 8-STEP RFP RESPONSE PROCESS]

RFP process and steps

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

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

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

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

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

KEYES: Thank you, Boss.

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

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

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

[END]

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

LevelUp interview series: The evolving role of content in the sales process

LevelUp interview series: The evolving role of content in the sales process

Is content important to your business?

If you asked a business leader this question just 10 years ago, their answer would likely be quite different than it is now.

In 2019, 41% of marketing budgets were spent on content alone, compared to just 23% in 2018, according to Hubspot’s State of Content Marketing 2020.

Bottom line: The role of content for B2B business has changed dramatically. And these changes have monumental implications for the sales process and beyond.

To dig deeper into what those changes mean, we invited sales and marketing leaders to share their experiences navigating the changing nature of content. During these conversations, we discussed what organizations can do to better leverage company knowledge and what we predict the future of content will bring.

Watch our video series below!

Asher Matthew, VP of Revenue at Demand Matrix


Tune into this 15-minute conversation to hear Asher’s take on all things content, including:

  • Why relevancy is so important to content creation,
  • How content can bridge the gap between sales and marketing teams, and
  • How content creators can make sure their content is buyer-centric

Connect with Asher on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Eric Wittlake, Senior Director of Category and Product Marketing at 6sense


Tune into this 15-minute conversation to hear Eric’s take on the role content plays in the sales process, including:

  • The importance of involving buyers in the selling process,
  • What personalization means for content (and what it doesn’t mean), and
  • How to enable sellers to better leverage content.

Connect with Eric on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Stephen Diorio, Executive Director at The Revenue Enablement Institute


Learn about the new “21st century commercial model” and why content is even more critical to the sales cycle than ever. During this 15-minute conversation, Stephen touches on:

  • Why lack of content is the #1 impediment to selling, and what to do about it,
  • The increasing importance of personalized content, and
  • How to get the most mileage out of your content and increase your “Return on Asset”

Connect with Stephen on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Matthew Volm, CEO and Co-Founder of Funnel IQ


Hear Matthew’s thoughts on good content creation in this 15-minute fireside chat, where he touches on:

  • How organizations can prepare themselves for content creation,
  • Finding the “why” of content, and
  • The three tenets of good ops

Connect with Matt on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Scott Olsen and Gary Brashear of Olsen Group


Listen to Scott and Gary talk about how content can empower your sales teams. In this 15-minute conversation, they discuss:

  • How to improve sales-marketing alignment,
  • Why storytelling is important for sales, and
  • The role exclusivity plays in sales content

Connect with Scott and Gary on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Where’s the answer? Ask Slack!

Where’s the answer? Ask Slack!

“Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

If I were writing the poem, The Rime of the 21st Century Proposal Manager, it might include the lines:

Data, data everywhere, Not a clue to find
As silos rise, I lose my mind.
I chase my tail. I chase your tail.
My efforts always seem to fail.
Chaos abounds.
My head spins round.
Where, oh where, does my answer lie?
In the depths of our silos, it seems to hide.

I’m no poet, wouldn’t you know it?

But I am a Senior Proposal Manager at Illuminate Education, Inc., and I am charged with taming our data sprawl problems using RFPIO. I started by creating a data map. By assigning collections, tags, and subtags, I can migrate from data everywhere, including…

  • Google Drive
  • Confluence
  • Drop Box
  • HubSpot
  • Website
  • Client Library
  • Resource Center
  • Individual PCs

…to a consolidated Answer Library in RFPIO. At that point, a new $64K question pops up: Can I make it accessible to everyone in the company? I could add as many RFPIO users as I wanted at no extra cost. But introducing another new software platform to the team is a challenge. Not because I doubt the value; but because some people resist change—even if it helps. It’s a lot easier to call me than to learn a new process!

Enter RFPIO® LookUp, which makes the RFPIO Answer Library accessible from Google Chrome, Microsoft Teams, and, most importantly for Illuminate, Slack. The LookUp for Slack is the wrecking ball I need to break down all of the data silos used across my organization.

All teams use Slack. We talk, ask questions, and collaborate with Slack. Now we can extend this engagement to include RFPIO proposal projects. Log into Slack, ask a question, and BOOM! There’s the answer. Using @mentions or inserting a tag using #hashtags, users find their answers. They can even do it from their phone! All activity is captured by RFPIO for tracking usage and uncovering retraining opportunities.

Slack questions are easy to add to our knowledge base. We simply grab the conversation from Slack and create a new Q&A pair. Our workflow delivers the new content to moderation for edits and enhancements. Once moderation is done, the content is available in the library.

Slack evolves into an on-demand knowledge base. Through Slack Bot, we eliminate the “I need an answer and I need it now” dilemma. As a self-service tool, management teams, sales, SMEs, customer support, and all Illuminators can get answers or content quickly. Fast answers. Quick responses. Improved quality. What more can you want?

While RFPIO® LookUp for Slack is a huge help for all your users, your sales team will be doing happy dances! To just type in a question on their phone or laptop while sitting with a customer, and get a trusted answer—well, that is huge.

Sales is your biggest challenge. They’re busy, short on patience, rely on others, and hate change. Training this team is a challenge. LookUp for Slack simplifies integrating sales into the RFPIO proposal process and exposes them to an Answer Library knowledge base.

If you’re looking for more information about how I am implementing RFPIO® LookUp at IlluminateEducation, check out my RISE UP session! If you like detailed anecdotes, data maps, and user adoption hacks, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. Although, admittedly, I may be biased.


Building a portal to your company knowledge base from Slack is just the beginning of what RFPIO® LookUp can do. LookUp is also compatible with Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, and more! Learn more here.

How to use the Microsoft Teams integration to optimize RFPIO features

How to use the Microsoft Teams integration to optimize RFPIO features

“Poise counts!” — Cosmo Kramer

Oh Kramer! How times have changed since the days of Seinfeld. But there is something to be said about “Poise counts,” especially for Proposal Managers from the minute that RFP hits their inbox to the second before it’s due. We all know that being organized helps us from getting our hair in a twist and in this blog I’ll talk about how the integration between Microsoft Teams and RFPIO puts you in even more control of your team and deliverables, so not only will your proposal “own the catwalk” but you’ll be seen as a poised, reliable, and trusted proposal professional.

Many years ago I learned a valuable lesson about how important poise is to proposal professionals. While working as an independent consultant, I made the mistake of using an image on my business card of an over-caffeinated and disheveled “proposal veteran” with glasses broken and taped together. My intent was to display my commitment to hard work…something along the lines of, “Put this workaholic to work for you!”

Proposal teams don’t want their responses created through a frantic, chaotic process, no matter how hard the leader of the process is working. Organizations that rely on proactive responses from sales or reactive responses to requests for proposals (RFPs) – for a revenue stream – recognize that their response has to be an accurate reflection of the organization as a whole.

At Microsoft—where hundreds of sellers have RFPs in flight all over the world—RFPIO puts knowledge and organization at our fingertips so that all of our users (including 100 proposal professionals) can feel empowered to represent our organization’s mission statement “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

We have adopted, capitalized, and evangelized the capabilities of RFPIO for about 7,500 RFPIO users and 25K+ re-usable assets. But it’s RFPIO’s integration with Microsoft Teams that has been a game-changer for knowledge sharing, user onboarding, and increasing efficiency.

Microsoft Teams for knowledge sharing

In our “Resuable IP Team Site,” one of the first RFPIO channels we set up was our chatbot. RFPIO users at Microsoft use a chatbot to search our knowledge base for relevant content. We’ve essentially turned Teams into an on-demand knowledge base. We can:
● Use @commands to keyword search RFPIO for Q&A pairs.
● Preview top search results in the Teams chat window, or easily view all matching Q&A pairs in RFPIO.
● Control which Teams users have access to specific RFPIO Answer Library content.

In this Teams site we added a QuickStart guide that provides an overview of what’s in the knowledge base, how the chatbot finds answers, and instructions for finding secure content.

All users are added to this Teams site and many have taken advantage of the chatbot. Because we can easily monitor this space, we’ve welcomed many new users who have asked for support either for a little hand-holding for finding content or to request content, that we quick-turn curate for future use.

Microsoft Teams for user enablement

The chatbot Teams channel QuickStart guide is one of many RFPIO how-to guides and best practices we make available within Teams. Posting to both the public (all users) and private (proposal professionals only) channels we regularly post “Did You Knows?” to keep everyone updated and informed – whether it’s important new content that has been recently curated, or a new feature, tip or trick, our RFPIO governance team remains visible and engaged with all users across Microsoft.

Microsoft Teams for RFP efficiency

One of the most important Teams integrations that we have leveraged is that of pulling an RFPIO project into a Team site. We show new sellers how projects from RFPIO can be added to their opportunity in Teams and document all the RFPIO functions that can be performed in Teams without needing to switch between platforms. Having ONE “runway” definitely supports a cohesive response fabric.

Ultimately, the goal of using RFPIO is to give time back to sellers, subject matter experts (SMEs), Proposal Managers, and Content Managers.

With the Teams integration, we increase that time payoff because users can collaborate on RFPIO projects without the need to leave Teams! Through their RFPIO dashboard in Teams, users can monitor project status and:
● Control project visibility of 3rd-party/guest signers.
● See when and where others have viewed, edited, downloaded, or signed documents.
● Automatically store and retrieve previous versions of signed documents.

We can also execute essential RFPIO features in Teams such as analyzing project resources, assigning authors, and uploading documents.

Improve RFPIO collaboration with Microsoft Teams

We partnered with RFPIO to give everyone time back to focus on selling digital transformation. While it already helped break down silos, reduce inefficiencies and redundancies, and drive consistency and compliance, the Teams integration has allowed us to multiply those gains exponentially.

With a team of 100+ proposal professionals and user-base of 7,500 – it helps me maintain my poise, too.


The Microsoft Teams integration is part of the RFPIO® LookUp Subscription. Learn more about Lookup here, or schedule a demo to see the full platform in action—Microsoft Teams integration and all.

How Genpact transformed proposal quality with an access-anywhere knowledge base

How Genpact transformed proposal quality with an access-anywhere knowledge base

Genpact (NYSE: G) is a global professional services firm that makes business transformation real. The company drives digital-led innovation and digitally-enabled intelligent operations for its clients, guided by its experience of running thousands of processes primarily for Global Fortune 500 companies across more than 30 countries.

One of the recent examples is the transformation of the BidPro (the bid and proposal team) team. The team was spending 80% of time on deals that represented just 20% of revenue. As is common across the industry, bids turned into fire drills and deal managers provided stock-standard responses rather than focusing on winning messaging.

The result? Poorly articulated value propositions. Inconsistent messaging. Low team morale. And disappointing conversion rates on deals they knew they should be winning.

There was no doubt that the bid-pro team was ready for a transformation. And one of the key catalysts of this transformation was content.

Here’s the story of how they did it.

Chapter 1: Building a strong content backbone

Content is at the heart of any strong proposal. While there were already different types of collateral available, proposal-specific content is a different ball game. It needs a differentiated approach. In addition to content “breadth and depth”, content also needs to be of the right quality.

By simultaneously broadening and deepening leadership-approved content, they were able to give bid managers the valuable content they needed to build out a standard proposal and could customize from there — improving the quality of the final submission, the way they always hoped to do.

The next big thing was ensuring content was available in multiple formats. 80% of their submissions were made in Microsoft PowerPoint, which meant the RFPIO library needed to be compatible with PowerPoint.

The Genpact team partnered with the RFPIO team to find a solution that could serve their unique needs. After multiple discussions and iterations, an optimum solution was agreed upon and the new capability was launched. With this, the proposal library became comprehensive, full of Q&A pairs, templates, boilerplates, infographics, and images.

Chapter 2: Making content easily accessible

Before RFPIO, the Genpact team was managing content on a different cloud-based system. Since this content catered to different use cases, finding the right content was not easy. They kept hearing the same feedback over and over again — nobody could find relevant content, content was dated, and searching for content was a pain.

RFPIO met their needs on both content management and search.

However, change is never easy. To simplify the process and provide a seamless user experience, the Genpact team implemented the RFPIO® LookUp subscription, giving the BidPro team direct access to the RFPIO Answer Library via Microsoft 365 programs like Word and PowerPoint.

In addition, people outside the BidPro team can download template slide decks directly from the library. Then, they can create the storyline using boilerplate content (also stored in the Document Library) and customize it to the client’s specific use case.

Using RFPIO® LookUp, the Genpact bid-pro team can now download template slide decks directly from the Answer Library. Then, they can create the storyline using boilerplate content (also stored in the Answer Library) and customize it to the client’s specific use case.

By strengthening content quality and creating easy access to the Answer Library via RFPIO® LookUp, bid managers now have immediate access to pre-approved content they can easily add to their proposals. As a result, proposal quality has improved dramatically.

Chapter 3: Increasing efficiency by 30% by empowering a team of high-achievers

Before RFPIO, the bid-pro team would repeatedly answer factual questions such as “What’s your address” and “What’s your D&B number”. As such, talented proposal professionals weren’t able to seize opportunities to advance their career.

“Since implementing RFPIO, we’ve been able to do so much more with the same headcount. We’ve increased efficiency by at least 30-35%. We’ve diverted the effort and time to more value-added activities, creating a win-win both for the organization and the team members”.
-Shashi K, Assistant VP of Content at Genpact

Bid-pro team members are no longer grinding to complete repetitive tasks. Instead, they’ve been able to grow into content professionals who are experts in the subject areas they’ve helped build-out. “Not only are they creating real value for deal managers, but they’re developing important skills to advance their careers,” Shashi said.

Another key benefit of RFPIO for a fast-paced organization such as Genpact is accelerating onboarding. With a rich repository of high-quality, pre-vetted content, new team members across the organization are able to create strong proposals without relying on their more-senior counterparts.

And like they say, the proof of the pudding lies in eating. The team is witnessing early success —over 90% of the content they’ve created is being used. Their content strategy is working. Going forward, they’re going to continue to use RFPIO’s built-in analytics to track how their team is using RFPIO® LookUp for Microsoft Office to gain more insight into how their content is being leveraged.

Epilogue: And the journey of excellence continues

In addition to the outcomes envisaged, this transformation has also been recognized by the industry. In 2020, they were recognized by the Association for Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) as “Best Team of the Year.”

And they’re not finished yet. As Sanjay Singh, Vice President, BidPro says, “And the journey has just about begun. The BidPro team is now planning to empower the entire sales team to create proactive proposals using standard content from the RFPIO Answer Library. A new phase begins.”

And they’re not alone. According to the 2021 Benchmark Report on Proposal Management, of organizations planning to respond to more RFPs in 2021, 82% will also complete more proactive proposals.

Powered with strong content and a drive to succeed, the Genpact BidPro team is perfectly poised for the next phase of its transformation. At Genpact, the future is bright.

Get instant access to your company knowledge base with RFPIO® LookUp

Get instant access to your company knowledge base with RFPIO® LookUp

Blast! Just as I’m about to write this article about RFPIO® LookUp—a search portal that transforms your RFPIO Answer Library into an instantly accessible company knowledge base—the discovery of a new portal to a 5th dimension tries to steal my thunder. Lucky for me, I can confirm that the RFPIO® LookUp portal is real. No need to fire up the Large Hadron Collider.

RFPIO® LookUp is a game-changer for organizational knowledge base integration. The subscription unlocks subject matter expertise from your RFPIO Answer Library and makes it available to everyone in your organization, from almost anywhere they work. This knowledge base solution includes compatibility with all of the following:

  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Chromium Edge
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack
  • Google Hangouts

With all of these applications, as soon as your RFPIO® LookUp subscription is live you’ll see a search bar and results pane where you can immediately access content without having to switch between applications. There are no limits on user licenses—the LookUp subscription can be added to your RFPIO package without worrying about a per-user cost.

Until now, RFPIO® LookUp has only been available as a Chrome extension. Now that it’s available to use almost anywhere, your entire organization can take advantage of the curated, brand-approved expertise that you’ve amassed for use on requests for proposal (RFPs), security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), requests for information (RFIs), and requests for quote (RFQs).

Spread the content wealth across teams

For proposal managers and teams, RFPIO® LookUp eliminates you being the bottleneck between proposal-ready content and the sales, support, and marketing teams that rely on you to provide it. It also enables you to:

  • Consolidate, organize, and moderate company knowledge, and make it easily accessible for teams across your organization
  • Complete online questionnaires faster
  • Quickly respond to short questionnaires (e.g. RFIs, requirements questionnaires) in Microsoft Word or Excel
  • Leverage knowledge stored in the RFPIO Answer Library to create sales proposals, SOWs, and presentations in Microsoft Office

We found that 81% of proposal managers with RFP software agree that dynamic content libraries save time, and RFPIO® LookUp definitely makes any Answer Library dynamic.

For sales, RFPIO® LookUp acts as an on-demand, real-time SME that lifts the burden of chasing down answers to prospect and customer inquiries. It enables all sales team members to:

  • Quickly access the most up-to-date and accurate company information from where you’re already working, including Salesforce, SalesLoft, Google Docs, and any web-based software.
  • Respond to prospect and customer questions directly from Outlook, Gmail, or any web-based email platform
  • Streamline sales proposal and slide deck creation in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Sales representatives can improve response time, which will lead to faster conversions and more revenue. They can then also spend less time wandering around the company wiki and more time nurturing relationships with prospects and clients.

For customer service and technical support teams, RFPIO® LookUp enables real-time access into corporate expertise so they can seamlessly respond to support requests.

For marketing and other content creators, RFPIO® LookUp provides access to the most up-to-date product, solution, pricing, and other company information that’s been curated by SMEs. This allows marketing teams to focus on efficiently creating content and running campaigns instead of conducting research and monopolizing time and resources of other teams.

Watch proposal quality rise

We’re still in the early days of this new RFPIO® LookUp portal, but we’re already hearing some positive feedback from organizations using it as a shortcut to their company knowledge base. Vicki Griesinger—Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft—said, “We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the field. RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the field. RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

-Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft

And Assistant VP of Content at Genpact, Shashi Kumar, said, “With RFPIO® LookUp, bid managers have immediate access to pre-approved content they can easily add to their proposals. As a result, proposal quality has increased dramatically.

If you already use RFPIO as your response management platform, then it’s extremely simple to add RFPIO® LookUp as a knowledge management solution. Simply reach out to Tina (tina@rfpio.com), and she’ll connect you with your account manager to get the ball rolling. If RFPIO® LookUp is the knowledge base integration portal you’ve been looking for to put you over the hump on your RFP software decision, then schedule a demo today.

If the portal to a 5th dimension is what you’ve been looking for, then maybe RFPIO® LookUp can help you manage your research on dark matter and gravitational waves. We’re always happy to help develop a deeper understanding of cosmological history!

Still need more information? Learn more about RFPIO® LookUp here.

How Microsoft saved an estimated $2.4 million with RFP software

How Microsoft saved an estimated $2.4 million with RFP software

Microsoft is a company dedicated to empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. True to its mission, Microsoft is committed to helping customers modernize processes and achieve digital transformations at scale. This commitment applies internally, as well: Microsoft encourages all employees to use a growth mindset across all efforts and requires everyone to ask questions and continually improve their processes, tools, and workflows.

In 2019, proposal professionals at Microsoft saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of proposal response management with AI-based tools and enhanced collaboration across teams. By augmenting Microsoft’s proposal response process with the right solution, it was clear they could save their salesforce valuable time that could be otherwise spent with customers — and propel their proposals to a new level of excellence.

Microsoft needed a scalable and flexible response management platform that supported multiple teams, languages, and content types, while smoothly integrating into its tech stack. And it needed the right solution partner to help. With RFPIO’s partnership, Microsoft reimagined its proposal process — significantly improving efficiency and productivity with 5 key principles:

Unleash the power of knowledge

According to a McKinsey report, employees spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

RFPIO believes that democratizing knowledge is essential to working effectively. That’s why it offers an unlimited user licensing model, enabling customers to give everyone access to the answers they need. No hidden fees, and no strings attached.

Similarly, Microsoft believes in giving its teams the tools they need to thrive. For sales teams, that means spending less time searching for answers, and more time listening to customers, creating solutions, and managing pipelines.

RFPIO made giving access easy, thanks to its integration with Azure Active Directory (AAD). With a simple email, thousands of users across the company have securely activated their accounts using their existing Microsoft corporate credentials.

The response from the field has been overwhelmingly positive. Eric Fink, Dynamics & Business Applications Specialist, said, “The first time I logged into RFPIO, it took me about 10 minutes to get comfortable with the platform. After that, I quickly found responses to all of my open questions — seeing 100% value from the very beginning.”

Today, a year and a half after implementing RFPIO, over 7,000 Microsoft users already have access to the platform. In the 18 months since deployment, Microsoft users have pulled over 36,200 ready-to-go RFx responses from the managed RFPIO Answer Library. With a conservative estimate of 20 minutes saved per response, Microsoft estimates $2.4M in savings.

After implementing RFP software, Microsoft saved an estimated $2.4 million

Stay secure and connected

Strong privacy and security practices are critical to Microsoft’s mission and essential to customer trust. The standards captured in its Supplier Security and Privacy Assurance (SSPA) reflect company values and extend to suppliers who handle Microsoft data on their behalf.

RFPIO’s proposal automation solution meets the privacy and security policies and integrates nicely into Microsoft’s existing tech stack. Microsoft’s RFPIO platform is hosted securely on Azure with AAD authentication and integrates with Microsoft Translator to support its multi-lingual customer base. In addition to the standard browser experience, RFPIO fosters adaptation by meeting employees right where they are, including:

  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Microsoft Office, and
  • Microsoft Outlook

By giving everyone access in familiar platforms, RFPIO has improved collaboration and enables proposal managers, contributors, and Field users to search faster — and find the information they need to work effectively.

“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the Field. RFPIO is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”
~Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector  

Simplify content curation

According to 2019 research from Richardson Sales Performance, the top two biggest challenges when pursuing new opportunities are demonstrating competitive differentiation and creating a case for change.

When sales and proposal teams have ready access to pre-approved content, they’re able to spend more time showing how their solution addresses their customers’ specific problems.

That’s where content curation steps in. At Microsoft, content curation goes beyond organizing and presenting online content. It’s a craft. Content managers shape compliant, compelling, and customer-focused information by proactively seeking out information from subject matter experts, harvesting answers from proposals, and storing content in a shared database for future users.

RFPIO simplifies this process. Advanced content organization, moderation, and review features mean content managers are able to keep content relevant, fresh, and working in harmony with RFPIO’s AI engine.

As a result, proposal professionals can use the AI engine to automatically respond to commonly-seen questions — SIG questionnaires (documents many corporations use to understand risk from potential bidders) that used to take several days to complete, now take just a few hours.

With trusted content at their fingertips, Microsoft’s proposal professionals have time to focus on crafting compelling win messaging tailored to each customer’s needs. With more time to spend polishing each proposal, the stronger their proposals are — and the more likely they are to win.

“At a fast-paced company that is agile at anticipating and responding to the ongoing evolution of technology, Microsoft’s Content Managers have relied on RFPIO to efficiently deploy the best competitive positioning to win business”
-Lisa Duplessie, Business Program Manager at Microsoft

Enhance communication and collaboration

A 2019 study from Forrester found that teams save an average of 4 hours per week from improved collaboration and information sharing. Teams stay collaborative and aligned when all members are working in sync and communicating constantly to accomplish a common goal.

When communication is dispersed across email, chat, and in-person meetings, keeping track of moving parts is complicated and time-consuming, and it’s easy for teams to fall out of alignment.

Microsoft focused its attention on keeping everyone connected and communicating by rethinking their proposal processes. With RFPIO, all communication happens within the application in a single place, using in-app commenting and @-mentioning. Proposal contributors and proposal managers use in-app collaboration features for their projects. SMEs, proposal managers and content owners all communicate within each question-answer pairing, which helps keep content fresh and improves deadline commitments.

Communication around project status has also been simplified to a few clicks. Rather than reaching out to proposal managers for a status update, anyone can check RFPIO project status right from the dashboard in Microsoft Teams. By tracking status in real time, project teams are able to prevent roadblocks before they happen.

“RFPIO’s enterprise-level capabilities enable multiple business units, including partners, to collaborate on a single platform. It also reduces communication channels during the proposal development process.”
-Page Snider, Director of Business Program Management, Microsoft Consulting Services

Stay flexible and keep evolving

According to the Adobe State of Create Report, 78% of respondents agreed organizations that invest in creativity increase employee productivity. When each problem or inefficiency becomes an opportunity to think creatively about finding a solution, the lines defining limitations become blurred.

When the team at Microsoft set off to reimagine the proposal process, they knew it would be a continual journey, a persistent state of questioning the status quo — constantly making tweaks, adjustments, and changes as they go along.
That’s why a solution that was flexible enough to grow alongside their process was a necessity.

“RFPIO has unmatched flexibility in completing a wide variety of Excel templates, making my job easier and faster. Not only that, I appreciate that RFPIO approaches our relationship as a partnership, listening to and implementing our suggestions.”
-Lisa Puckrin, Shipley Certified Proposal Manager at Microsoft

The customer success team at RFPIO has worked closely with Microsoft to continuously evolve to meet its changing needs. Diane Holt, business program manager at Microsoft, added, “RFPIO is a rare gem in that the company delivers a mature product with the agility of a startup. This tool continually improves with capability and usability.”

RFPIO and Microsoft are working together to find new ways to improve efficiency and advance productivity. Rather than staying ensconced in familiar workflows, Microsoft is a company that welcomes the hard work and creative thinking required to push the status quo.

In the end, both Microsoft and RFPIO believe that when teams are willing and encouraged to think outside the box, processes become more efficient, nimble, and agile… and that’s when results start snowballing.


Ready to achieve your own cost savings with the leading AI-enabled RFP response management solution? Schedule a demo to get started.

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