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.
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.
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.)
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:
- 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.
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
A strong answer 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.
When you’re on the hunt for a good RFP management solution, make sure your answer library can do these three things:
- Be able to assign owners periodically and have an established review workflow, so your content never goes stale.
- Be able to identify duplicate content and have the flexibility to override what stays and what goes during a content audit.
- Be able to change responses into different languages to seamlessly communicate internationally, when applicable.
With your answer library, the right setup and consistent maintenance will set the tone for success at your organization. A disorganized or nonexistent answer library will only slow your team down.
“After the initial setup of our RFPIO answer library and the templates, we started saving a ton of time just having those responses available. It’s important to set the RFP response schedule and create a culture where that schedule is sacred.” – Hayli Hay, Metal Toad
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.