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5 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

5 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

You lose every RFP you don’t submit, but that doesn’t mean that proposal response is a numbers game. Without quality […]

Category: Tag: Communication

5 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

5 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

You lose every RFP you don’t submit, but that doesn’t mean that proposal response is a numbers game. Without quality responses, your team is just spinning their wheels, which is even worse than failing to submit at all. 

Instead, to win more bids, you need to manage a difficult feat: submit a high number of responses and make sure all of them are good enough to be competitive. 

We’ve provided a lot of resources on how to increase your RFP response rates, even if your team is small. But even if you manage to quadruple the number of proposals you submit, you need a solid RFP win rate for all that work to turn into real profits. 

“Too many opportunities are lost because of ambiguous and overly complex language, long and dense sentences, and vague, lifeless prose. Clear writing, in contrast, makes its points simply, demonstrating a bidder’s competence and quality.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

For that, you need your proposals to stand out, and directly address all of the customers’ requirements. The kind of persuasive proposals that win business tend to have a few main things in common:

Best practice #1: Customize answers with specific deliverables

Does it ever feel like you’re operating in rote? You have spent so much time talking up your company that you can cite its features and metrics with your eyes and ears closed. That might be fine for a cold call, but RFP issuers want deeper, tailored answers.

That’s not to say that you can’t get some help from past answers. There’s nothing wrong with repurposing and reusing old answers on new proposals—it’s a smart way to get more done, especially when using RFPIO’s Answer Library. But for those estimated 20% of questions that require customized answers, reinvest some of the time saved through automation into really trying to impress reviewers at every level.

Related: Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

To be truly persuasive, you need to convince your audience that you understand their particular situation well enough to provide the right solution. That means using content you’ve already created, but making changes to bring it in line with the specific use case of this client. 

RFP response example:

RFP response sample question: On average, how long does implementation take?

The easy RFP response sample: On average, implementation takes X months. 

The better RFP response example: The average implementation takes X months. For organizations of your size that will include setting up integrations with X, Y, and Z products; we estimate implementation will take around X months, with X weeks for training and onboarding. 

Why it’s better: Making your answer specific to their particular needs and situation makes it more relevant to them. It also shows that you do your homework. Not only do you have the expertise to provide a knowledgeable answer, but you understand enough about their needs to provide one with greater accuracy. 

Best practice #2: Be succinct and real

Talking about complicated technological tools can get, well, complicated. The more complex the subject matter you’re dealing with, the more important it is to emphasize clarity in your answers. You may not be able to avoid technical terminology entirely, but you can look for opportunities to simplify your language and sentence structure. The ability to explain a complicated subject in clear, understandable terms demonstrates expertise better than industry jargon or needlessly long words ever will.

RFP response example:

Sample question: What is your company’s approach to project management?

The wordy RFP response sample: We systematically approach each project. We follow several phases in which we gather requests, develop our strategy, create a WBS, execute on our plan within the estimated project timeline, and then deliver on all desired outcomes. We implement each project and validate that it has met the needs of the customer according to their primary KPIs.

The better RFP response example: Our project management team is agile. We tailor our proven process to each client’s unique needs with the main steps remaining consistent: build, test, and deploy to deliver value.

“Every reader, even a technical expert, appreciates clarity. Use the same style of English you use in conversation to make your proposals more open and accessible to a wide range of audiences.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

Why it’s better: It’s easy to hide behind jargon. Big words like methodology, execution, strategic, etc. have their place in business, but with RFPs, they feel generic, scripted, and empty.

You should also assume your audience is busy. The people reading your proposal (and making a decision based on it) want to get the answers they need quickly and easily, without extra fuss. If you use confusing terminology or overlong sentences that make it harder to get through each answer, you’ll lose them. Getting straight to the point with a clear response gets your point across better. 

Click here for winning RFP response examples using story telling

“Your goal is to make readers spend less time untangling your meaning and more time reviewing your solution.” – APMP Body of Knowledge



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

Best practice #3: Make life easier for the issuer 

Reviewing a (long) proposal is a tedious enough process, don’t also make the issuer do extra digging to find answers. Rather than directing them to an attachment or a URL to find the answer they’re looking for, answer their question within the proposal itself. In addition, you can always provide an attachment to expand on your answer, or to offer supporting evidence for it. 

RFP response example:

Sample question: Has the tool been subject to any application security testing? (e.g. Veracode, other). Please attach if yes.

The RFP response sample that creates more work: Yes. Please refer to <file name>.

The better RFP response example: We practice secure application design and coding principles. Engineers are required to undergo security training for security awareness and secure coding. 

We use third-party services to perform vulnerability/application security scans annually. 

The most recent penetration report is attached to this package: <file name> 

Why it’s better:

The issuer gets information that lets them know your company meets their needs on this point right there in the proposal, without having to stop their review and go look for a separate document. But they also have access to the additional supporting documentation to prove that your claims are legitimate. 

Click here for sample RFP response cover letter

Best Practice #4: Elaborate when appropriate

You don’t want to be too wordy or provide unnecessary information, but there are instances where a bit of elaboration is valuable. Sometimes you have to read between the lines to figure out what the customer needs. Rather than just providing the most direct answer to the question, try to understand what the buyer is actually trying to learn. If a more detailed response provides a better answer, go for it. 

RFP response example:

Sample question: How do you communicate new features to your clients? 

The simple RFP response sample: Upcoming platform enhancements are communicated to customers via email. They can also be accessed from the Help Center.

The better RFP response example: Our roadmap is heavily influenced by our customers, through a feedback/enhancement request feature within the application. Customers can interact with one another’s requests, as well as with the development team. Their comments, voting, and status reports all influence future enhancements. 

We then communicate enhancements to our customers via email release announcements. This email will have the major highlights from the release, a document outlining all the release details, and a link to the release details that can be accessed 24/7 in the Help Center. 

Why it’s better: While we believe that clear, concise answers are far better than those loaded with unnecessary filler words, this detailed response shows a well-developed and thought-out process for improvements. It answers the question, but also provides additional reasons for why the company is worth choosing. 

Best Practice #5: Say no with style

When filling out an RFP, a “no” can seem scary. If you don’t offer everything the company wants in a vendor, won’t that lose you the sale? It could, but it doesn’t have to. 

An honest answer is always better than a misleading one. And finding the right way to frame that answer can make a big difference. When the honest answer to an RFP question is “no,” think about how you can make the answer more useful and compelling than those two letters.

RFP response example:

Sample question: Does your tool integrate with XYZ tool? Please explain. 

The basic “no” RFP response sample: No, our solution does not integrate with XYZ tool.

The better RFP response example: Currently, the solution does not integrate with XYZ tool. However, a potential integration is on our 6-12 month product roadmap. We would love the opportunity to partner with you in identifying the best path forward to build an XYZ tool integration.

Why it’s better: It makes clear that you don’t intend to stop at “no”—you have a plan for providing what they’re looking for in the near future. And it lets them know that you’re actively interested in their input so you do things in a way that works for them. 

Click here for more RFP examples and a free RFP response template

Modernize your RFP response process and complete more winning bids with artificial intelligence

None of these best practices are worth much if you can’t manage to complete each potentially winnable RFP, or find time to customize them when you do. To get to the point where you can actively put this advice into practice, you need software that takes care of the more tedious and time-consuming parts of an RFP. 

Related: Create proactive proposals at scale with proposal automation software

RFPIO uses automation to do most of the proposal process for you, so your team can stick to customizing specific answers to improve quality. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to get started with a better RFP process. 

How to write a proposal cover letter [with example]

How to write a proposal cover letter [with example]

Like the devilishly tempting Hostess Ding Dongs treat, a proposal cover letter has to be short, sweet, and dense. Unlike that aforementioned hockey puck of delectability, proposal cover letters cannot be mass-produced. To write a proposal cover letter with nary a wasted word, you first need to understand its strategic significance in the overall proposal.

I’ve spent more than 17 years on proposals and have written hundreds of proposal cover letters. When I started, we printed out proposals and created huge binders to share with reviewers. Reviewers would open the binders to see the proposal cover letter, then an executive summary, and then dig into the proposal itself. Binders are part of a bygone era; there’s been a big digital shift since I started.

Requests for paperless submissions and the growing popularity of online portals has altered the strategic significance of the proposal cover letter. It’s gone from a “must-have” element, to a “nice-to-have” one. My background is predominantly healthcare and insurance. Anecdotally, maybe only 30% of requests for proposals (RFPs) in healthcare and insurance request executive summaries while most volunteer that a cover letter is optional. If they give you an option, take it.

Some online portals don’t even give you an opportunity to include extra documents like cover letters. In such cases, you now have to include the cover letter as part of your proposal PDF. At the same time, RFPs are more complex than ever, requiring more details in submitted proposals. Issuers expect you to have your content in order, and a lot of it.

Speaking of issuers and what they’re looking for in proposal cover letters: They don’t need information that they can find on your website, that they can Google, or that sounds canned. They want to make sure you’ve reviewed the RFP requirements, and it’s absolutely essential to hit them with that up front, in your proposal cover letter. Especially if your solution meets all of the issuer’s requirements. Emphasize that fact simply and directly.

What is a proposal cover letter?

The proposal cover letter is meant to frame up your RFP proposal. It’s not a rehashing of the proposal or executive summary. It’s a vehicle to thank the issuer for the opportunity to respond, to say, “We’ve seen your business requirements and composed this proposal because we think we’re the best partner for you.” Think of it as the bow on your RFP proposal package.

Whether paper, PDF, or stone tablet, one thing that hasn’t changed about the proposal cover letter is that it’s your first opportunity to declare the value propositions that differentiate yours from competitive proposals. These value props will be the threads that weave through your proposal, from cover letter, to executive summary, to answers to questions.

As far as length, I aim for a page and a half when I write proposal cover letters. Try to keep it under two. Go longer only if a template or specific framework for the cover letter is provided by the issuer, which is sometimes the case in government RFPs.

Why a good proposal cover letter matters

RFP reviewers will be looking for deviations in responses. Deviations among responders as well as deviations from their (the issuers) requirements.

When you can write a cover letter and state, “After reviewing the RFP, we are confident that our solution meets all requirements and detail that fact in our proposal,” you make a compelling argument for reviewers to concentrate on how your proposal illustrates how you solve problems. They’ll notice cover letters that do not mention something that direct, and will review those proposals to look for where the solutions fall short.

When should you write the proposal cover letter?

It’s page one so it should be written first, right? Not necessarily. I’m a proponent of writing the executive summary first, the cover letter second, and then building the proposal. Certainly review the RFP first so you can determine what it’s asking for. But don’t just jump into a response from there. Take the time to establish the value props that will make it a cohesive proposal.

Writing the executive summary first helps you formulate your argument and determine which content you’ll need for the proposal. Once you know what you need to be persuasive and how you can solve the issuer’s problem, then you can develop the three-to-five value props (I try to boil it down to three solid, unique value props) that you can define in the proposal cover letter.

Who signs the proposal cover letter?

Notice I didn’t title this section, “Who writes the proposal cover letter?” The person who writes it and the person who signs it may not be one and the same.

If your proposal team is fortunate enough to have a dedicated writer, then have them write the letter based on input from the frontline sales rep. Whoever writes the letter must be fully informed of response strategy and have intimate knowledge of the proposal and executive summary. Strategy, voice, and style need to be consistent across all documents (cover letter, executive summary, and proposal).

Who signs it depends on a variety of factors. In most cases, the frontline sales rep will sign the proposal cover letter. They have the relationship, own the strategy, and likely conducted the discovery that informed the proposal. However, it’s not uncommon for an executive sponsor such as a VP of sales to sign. The thinking being that executive reviewers may appreciate seeing a proposal that’s been vetted by a fellow executive.

There are also those cases when the executive of executives, the CEO, signs the letter. There are two common scenarios for this play. One, the RFP may be large enough to represent a significant percentage of a responder’s annual revenue. Two, the responding organization is concerned with appearing relatively small, and in an effort to improve its stature, seals the proposal with a CEO’s signature.

There’s definitely some gamesmanship at play here. Even so, the name on the letter will never overshadow the content of the proposal.

7 steps to write a proposal cover letter

The compact nature of the proposal cover letter makes it difficult to fit everything in one or two pages. Good writers are valuable assets in these instances. Every proposal cover letter should contain the following sections:

  1. Thank the issuer (and broker, where applicable) for the opportunity.
  2. Recite your understanding of the opportunity to validate that you reviewed the RFP requirements.
  3. List your abilities to meet requirements. If you can meet all of them, lead with that fact.
  4. Describe your value propositions. You’re trying to portray that, “This is what we bring to the table, and that’s why we’re the best choice.”
  5. Provide a high-level future snapshot of what business will look like after your solution is chosen.
  6. Conclude with a persuasive delivery of your understanding of next steps: “We look forward to the opportunity to discuss our proposal further.” Show that you’re able and willing to move forward in the sales lifecycle.
  7. Sign it from the frontline sales representative or executive sponsor. This should not look like a form letter from the organization as a whole.

3 common mistakes to avoid

Beyond the mistakes of not including a proposal cover letter at all or writing one that’s too long, proofread your next letter for the following mistakes before sending it.

  1. Avoid repeating anything from the executive summary or proposal. Those documents need to live on their own, just like the proposal cover letter.
  2. Don’t waste space with your resume. Something like this…

    RFPIO’s growing list of 600+ clients including 40+ Fortune 500 organizations continue to take advantage of our one-of-a-kind Unlimited User licensing model, expanding their usage on the platform to scale organizational success. With RFPIO as their team’s support system, every day they break down silos by facilitating collaboration and efficiency in their RFx response process
    ….is boilerplate that can appear elsewhere in the proposal or not at all, given that it’s likely available to the issuer on your corporate website.
  3. If a broker is involved, thank them, too. The proposal cover letter is also an opportunity to directly address the issuer. This can be particularly valuable when a broker is involved. Some issuers rely on RFP brokers to sift through responses to make sure only the best possible solutions get serious consideration. Ignore these brokers at your peril. While the response and executive summary will address the issuer and the problem at hand, the cover letter is where you can give a nod to the broker. Acknowledging their involvement in the process and thanking them for the opportunity as well will at the very least alert all reviewers that you paid close attention to the RFP requirements.
  4. Don’t guess. Make sure you or someone on your team does the legwork and discovery to inform your response strategy. The more you have to guess, the longer the letter will take to write.

Proposal cover letter example

Feel free to use the proposal cover letter example below as a template for your next letter. One of the many advantages of proposal building software such as RFPIO is the automation of the cover letter process. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to write it, but RFPIO helps:

  • Access and write in the template within the platform (no need to toggle back and forth between a word processor and whatever application you’re using to build your proposal)
  • Include identical brand elements as the proposal and executive summary
  • Add the cover letter to the front of the proposal and/or executive summary when you output it for submission

When you use the following example, you’ll need to swap out the RFPIO-centric items with your own company and solution information as well as the custom value props for that specific proposal. The three value props highlighted in the example are Salesforce integration, data security, and customer support. For your letter, these will be specific to your solution and the problem stated in the RFP.

Hi [Issuer(s) first name(s)],

Thank you for considering RFPIO as your potential vendor for RFP automation software. We are cognizant of the effort it takes to make a selection like this, so we very much appreciate the opportunity. First and foremost, RFPIO meets all of the requirements detailed in your RFP. That’s illustrated in greater detail in this proposal. In the meantime, the following capabilities make us confident that RFPIO is the most qualified company and solution for [issuing company name’s] [RFP title].

  • Helping businesses improve and scale their RFP response process for greater efficiency. The time and resource savings reported to us from our clients has allowed them to participate in more proposals and provide high-quality responses that create additional revenue opportunities.
  • Automating the import and export functions, centralizing content for RFPs, and facilitating collaboration among key stakeholders.
  • Managing knowledge and content through our AI-enabled Answer Library.
  • Giving clear visibility into the entire RFP process through reports and dashboards—including project status and progress, and analytics for actionable insights.

We know that it’s important for [issuing company name] to find a solution with a strong integration with Salesforce. This proposal details RFPIO’s integration with Salesforce, and how it will work for you. In addition to that, RFPIO’s open API allows for integrations with many other technologies for cloud-storage, collaboration, and other desired platforms.

We also take your data security concerns highlighted in the RFP very seriously. You can be assured that your data will be safe and accessible. We work with a variety of enterprise customers and understand the necessary level of security that is required. From the beginning, we made it a priority to build security right into RFPIO’s technology, which we continue to maintain. We are SOC 2 and ISO27001 certified, while continuing to pursue other best-in-class certifications to ensure security.

Regarding your requirement for ongoing support following implementation: When it comes to customer support, our technical and account managers are high performers. We have an expert group of 110 nimble programmers and developers who are always ready to provide quick technical fixes (that you can request right within the solution). Our reliable and attentive account team is ready to fully support [company name] should we move forward as your vendor.

Upon deploying RFPIO, it’s intuitive user experience is simple to get used to. You’ll also get free access to RFPIO University for all your training needs, now and in the future. Getting started is as simple as loading that first project. The whole team will be collaborating from there. As your Answer Library grows, machine learning will provide more and more automation opportunities. It won’t be long before you see a drastic uptick in proposal quality and number of proposals submitted.

If you’re interested in comparing our solution to other comparable tools, we recommend that you visit software review platform G2 Crowd’s top RFP Solutions grid. This information is based on user satisfaction and places RFPIO at the top in all categories.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss our proposal further. We appreciate your consideration, and wish you luck on your selection.

[Signee’s name]
[Signee’s title]

You should have it “cover”-ed from here

If you’ve done your research and client discovery, and you know the value props specific to the RFP that you’ve already reviewed, then letter writing will go fast. The better you know the client and people involved, the easier it is going to be for you to tailor the proposal cover letter, the executive summary, and, most importantly, the RFP proposal.

To learn more about how RFPIO can help you write better proposal cover letters, schedule a demo today!

How to get your team on board with RFP management software

How to get your team on board with RFP management software

RFPs are highly complex projects. As a proposal manager, you work under a deadline to captain the whole ship. Responding to an RFP means you need all hands on deck. Your crew members (aka RFP contributors) all squeeze responses into their hectic schedules to help out.

Here are RFP response contributor insights you’ll find interesting:

  • 68% of salespeople struggle with managing their time to focus on sales-related activities.
  • 43% of marketers mentioned their top hurdle was wearing too many hats and not having time for extra projects, like RFPs.
  • 43% of subject matter experts revealed their top challenge was spending too much time on RFP responses.

You know collaboration is the key to getting the job done. But you also know what you’re up against with your team. RFP management software is the right solution for your organization. Now you just need to get everyone on board. Check out these strategies for getting team buy-in.

Involve key stakeholders to create early buy-in

Your product and IT teams dream of an efficient method for managing security questionnaires. Your legal team yearns for a well-maintained, readily accessible content library. Salespeople want to give proper attention to RFPs but don’t want to lose focus on making sales. Your go-to SMEs would love a way to collaborate more effectively and ditch the spreadsheets.

Your response management team might not yet realize what you already know—the solution is RFP management software.

When searching for the right RFP software, it’s best to know exactly what people need—so ask them. Create a cross-functional project team to identify salient challenges with your RFP response process. That way players join forces to define their requirements and goals.

Be sure to involve heavy-hitters like your security, finance, and legal teams. If you generate early buy-in from the people most closely entwined with leadership, you’ll catalyze whole enterprise buy-in.

When you link stakeholders in early, they are already sold on the solution before it ever rolls out. Everyone will be itching to use the great new software that transforms collaboration and makes RFP responses hyper-efficient.

Market RFP management software to your team

When you ask team members to use something new, they may be reluctant to take time out of their busy day to learn it. RFP management software exponentially improves operational efficiency.

Once you get your team to jump in and try it, they’ll discover a user-friendly experience and see immediate benefits. So what’s the secret to inspiring RFP contributors to take that leap of faith? Market the solution to your team with the following selling points…

1. Prove that RFP management software saves time

RFP management software like RFPIO has a timer function that tracks how long team members spend on specific tasks.

Let’s say you’re under a tight deadline and you need a few quick details for an RFP. You seek out one of your best (and therefore, in-demand) SMEs. They want to help you but think they can’t find the time. This is when you show them the time data. When they see that an RFP response only takes twenty minutes, they’ll likely pop into the project and get it done.

2. Show how easy it is to access and create content

You’ll facilitate better collaboration with RFP management software, thanks to the answer library. In fact, 82% of proposal managers said RFPIO helps them manage response content all in one place.

A major component of smooth collaboration is the ability to source information independently when it’s needed. RFP response software has a robust, dynamic content library—meaning, no more information hunts or silos. Tell everyone about this exciting news. Let them know that when they get their next action item, they’ll have quick and easy access to quality content.

3. Train closely, inspire change, and demonstrate value

You’ve done the work upfront to get team buy-in…but we all know there’s always one in the bunch—the anti-change person. Work with this person. Do some personalized training and get them inside the tool, trying things out. Then, pinpoint exactly what they dislike and target a solution. Maybe they hate automated email reminders—so, show them how to change their settings.

Share success stories with your team and demonstrate the value of RFP response software to even the most reluctant users. Publish testimonials and statistics in a newsletter and quantify the results in concrete, relatable terms.

You are the captain of your RFP response process. Get everyone on board with RFP management software, and don’t let them jump ship. With these strategies and a little persistence, you’ll be well on your way to smooth sailing with your next RFP. Experience the collaborative power of RFPIO. Schedule a demo, then get your team on board.

What response management software can do for your revenue team

What response management software can do for your revenue team

Since we started RFPIO, we have been on a mission to help RFP responders succeed. We have been a leader in this relatively new technological space, one of the first to bring efficiency to responders who had lived with a manual approach to everyday business.

As we move into a new year, we are redefining the way our solution supports everyone across the organization. Though our origins are rooted in helping teams respond to RFPs, what we began to notice along the way was the many use cases for our software.

To support you and your revenue team, let’s look at the vast potential of response management software like RFPIO. You’ll walk away with a more strategic approach to response management.

What is response management software (RMS)?

Response Management Software (RMS), helps companies create, manage, and automate responses to both long-form and short-form business inquiries at any stage of the sales cycle. These inquiries can range from formal business requests issued by buyers such as RFPs and Security Questionnaires, to informal questions submitted by prospects through chatbots or from customers through support tickets.

Response Management Software serves as an internal knowledgebase, integrating with CRMs, Content Management Systems (CMS), and Collaboration tools to capture and democratize subject-matter-expertise and content across multiple teams, business units, or companies.

RFPIO is the leading solution in response management, having pioneered the most advanced technology for RFP responders over the past several years. With process and technology improvements, responders are able to create higher quality responses and additional revenue opportunities.

RFP software vs. response management software

RFP software is fairly one dimensional in that responding to RFPs is the primary use case. With response management software, the technology supports many use cases. Content can be repurposed for responding to a multitude of business queries—RFx (RFP, RFI, etc.), statements of work (SOW), security questionnaires, CAIQ and grants.

In addition, organizations who think outside the box use our solution to store anything from sales follow-up email templates to onboarding materials. Content is engrained in all of our business processes. Response management software helps you organize, store, and execute from a single source of truth.

A response management software like RFPIO:

  • Is cloud-based, so you don’t have to navigate a maze of documents and folders—and find ways to store your content.
  • Uses patented import technology and exports back into templates and originals files to start and finish each project smoothly.
  • Includes a dynamic answer library, which serves as the hub for all of your organization’s content and company information.
  • Has an AI-powered content recommendation engine that makes finding your best responses easier.
  • Offers bi-directional integrations with your team’s favorite technologies, along with an open API, so everyone and everything is connected.
  • Allows you to search, select, and store answer library content across all web pages and applications through a Google Chrome extension called RFPIO Lookup.
  • Brings clear and instant visibility with reports and dashboards that help you track project status and progress and discover insights to make data-driven decisions.
  • Helps you respond to ANY type of query faster.

Let’s say you are a sales manager at an enterprise technology company with a high stakes deal on the table. The prospect you’ve been working with sends you a large security questionnaire, along with a DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire) that you must turn around by the end of the week.

Resources are spread very thin right now. You must complete the majority of the questionnaire on your own and engage subject matter experts (SMEs) sparingly. You have several new deals in the works that require your constant attention. You’re not sure how you’ll pull this DDQ and security questionnaire off before the deadline while keeping other opportunities on the right track.

Response management software allows you to manage multiple queries at once. You can handle the entire family of possible requests during the sales process—the RFP (Request for Proposal), RFI (Request for Information), or DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire).

For the security questionnaire, use bulk answering to knock out sections at a time then call in your SME to fill in gaps and sign off. While all of this deal is in motion, you continue to nurture other prospects using RFPIO’s answer library to populate follow-up emails with relevant communication and high-performing sales content.

You submit everything with time to spare and keep moving other deals forward. That’s the difference between response management software and RFP software. This technology supports you throughout every stage of the deal. And, it’s there whenever you need support for other business queries that come up.

Strategic response management across revenue teams

Today’s revenue team isn’t the sales team alone. Revenue teams include sales, marketing, support, and customer success. To improve response management across revenue teams, it is equal parts process and technology.

Creating a great process is always step one. What we find is that even with the best technology, teams need to be united by a strategy in order to maximize the features and capabilities of the very technology their organization invests in. We recently created a user adoption strategy to help.

If you are leading the charge with user adoption, it’s important to know the benefits of the software and how one solution can be used in multiple scenarios and initiatives. Below we have outlined the many use cases of our response management solution.

This breakdown will help you understand the diverse capabilities of RFPIO. If you are an existing client, you will find new ways of using the solution. If you are searching for a comprehensive content management platform, you will see the many possibilities that will exceed your organization’s response and query needs.


RFPIO can be used for any RFx project. This includes an RFP (request for proposal), RFI (Request for Information), RFQ (Request for Quote), or a DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire). Some or all of these RFx documents come and go throughout the sales process.

Our response management solution allows you to respond to any of these documents in a collaborative ecosystem, making the process easier and efficient for your organization’s many contributors.

Security Questionnaires

A security questionnaire comes in many forms – Security Questionnaires Lite (Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaires), VSAQ (Vendor Security Assessment Questionnaire), CAIQ (Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire), and VSA (Vendor Security Alliance Questionnaire), NIST 800-171 (National Institute of Standards and Technology Questionnaire
CIS Controls).

One thing they all have in common? They are complex and time-consuming, without the right tools.

RFPIO greatly reduces completion time for buys teams, with auto-response and bulk answering doing the majority of the work upfront. This extra time allows teams to perform their due diligence with accurate responses that meet the issuer’s requirements.

After the responses are ready, teams export responses back into the original sources with clean data, eliminating the need to wrestle with editing and formatting.

Marketing Content

Often marketing teams think their involvement with response management software is limited to the RFx process. They come in at the end to perform a buff and polish, to prepare the deliverable.

Because RFPIO is a content management platform at its core, marketing teams can use the solution to store and create content, such as—brand guidelines, testimonials, press releases, and award submissions.


To present the scope for a highly complex project, response management software is extremely useful for SOWs. Rather than using various documents and spreadsheets to piecemeal sections together, section templates offer standard content that can be reused and customized.

From content creation to the review process, the SOW workflow is easier when everyone has one tool to operate inside.


Time is money for any business, especially a non-profit who needs to stretch their budget and resources. With grant writing, teams strengthen their content by using the answer library to search and select the latest stats and financials.

Often sign-off from an executive or board of directors is needed with grants, and sequential reviewing clarifies the chain-of-command throughout this completion process.


RFPIO allows unlimited users, promoting wide-scale adoption throughout various departments, including human resources, support, and customer success teams. Because very little training is required, all teams can jump into the tool and customize it for their needs.

Organizations often use the solution to support their hiring efforts, as the content repository simplifies the constant need to add and update onboarding content. The same applies to support and customer success team members who need to be quickly brought up to speed.

Discovery Calls

Since RFPIO offers a single source of truth, sales teams lean on the power of the answer library every day for many other tasks outside of responding to RFx documents. An SDR can keep RFPIO open on his or her computer screen during discovery calls to find any company or product information immediately.

This ability makes sales teams nimble and confident during the discovery process. The prospect leaves the call informed and interested.

Proactive Proposals

To sell within a highly competitive industry, sales teams will sometimes turn to proactive proposals to beat their competition to the punch. Minimal effort is needed to pull together a proactive proposal within our response management solution.

Sales teams use the top content feature to select the best responses, then export everything into a branded, cleanly formatted template.

Sales Emails

The need for speed is perhaps the motto for any salesperson completing sales-related tasks. RFPIO Lookup recommends email content to help sales teams answer prospect questions.

When using a Google Chrome browser, this feature allows sales to access responses across web pages and applications. They grab the information they need and include it within the email, without losing time to hunt down the answer.

Knowledge Sharing

It would behoove us not to mention knowledge sharing as a whole. RFPIO’s answer library serves as the single source of truth for the entire revenue team: sales, marketing, support, and customer success.

Information silos disrupt your response workflow. Foundational company knowledge ends up in a variety of documents, from visual slide decks to data-heavy spreadsheets—stored on shared drives and folders. Rather than team members feeling they can’t access the information they need, RFPIO makes all necessary content available and ready so everyone can do their best work.

I always like to say: “Recycle, reuse, don’t reinvent.” Response management software allows you to put this mantra into action, so your organization spends more time on refinement and less time on repetition. With this advancement in your response process, your team will produce quality content that results in opportunities, revenue, alignment, and teamwork.

Start your year off with a strategic approach to response management. Schedule a demo of RFPIO.

10 RFP issuers reveal what they’re looking for in an RFP response

10 RFP issuers reveal what they’re looking for in an RFP response

“Think of the RFP issuer” is a piece of advice we have always given to RFP responders. Although responders put a lot of effort into their work, so do the teams evaluating RFP responses.

Both parties are spending hours and resources submitting and evaluating RFPs. In the spirit of saving everyone time and energy, we decided to step in and break down the barriers between RFP issuers and RFP responders.

We asked issuers to speak up about what they’re looking for in an RFP response. Listen to what they had to say, so you can impress your next RFP issuer with a standout RFP response.

What RFP issuers expect from your RFP responses

Maurice Harary, CEO at The Bid Lab

Don’t reinvent the wheel each time you receive an RFP—you should always store your responses in a database after you submit each bid. That way, you can build on existing content while tailoring responses to your individual bid.

Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva

When I put out an RFP for an audit, I absolutely need impeccable formatting in your proposal. If I’m going to trust someone with the keys to our company’s backend, they better be able to tiptoe in, execute, then extract themselves without a single bit of data knocked out of place.

If you are sending in a proposal that is improperly punctuated or formatted, how can I possibly trust you with this job? It might seem strict, but I cannot spare the time to monitor your every movement. I need a firm which demonstrates flawless work.

Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa, Behavioral & Marketing Psychologist at Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa and Associates

As a behavioral and marketing psychologist, allow me to first say that most of your providers will tell you how painful your RFPs are if you are brave and self-confident enough to ask. Respond using conversational language rather than talking at the reader. Use no more than two subjects and predicates in each sentence. Most responders emulate William Faulkner.

Brian Sheehan, Marketing and Sales Manager at Hollingsworth

Winning RFPs are clear and concise—and backed with storytelling data. We look for both anecdotal and quantitative data to determine the success of the grantee. If the RFP is clear and concise, this saves us time in reviewing the stacks of RFPs that we receive. Also…

  1. Make your RFP responses easy to understand, straightforward, and impactful. For quality control, multiple reviewers should check responses before you submit. People want to make sure they’re working with the best organizations to further their mission.
  2. Have a clear budget and timeline. Ensure that your budget matches your deliverables. Create a timeline for the project and what to expect every week, month, etc.
  3. Adhere to RFP formatting requirements. Many RFP issuers will have specific formatting requirements, which may include: printing front to back, single sheet only, certain font size, number of words, forms that must be used, etc. A simple formatting mistake might disqualify you.

Chris Ciligot, Marketing Assistant at Clearbridge Mobile

An effective RFP should provide a high-level overview of your company. This includes answering: what products/services your company provides, who key stakeholders are, what industry or market you operate in, and most importantly—why your company exists and what problem you are trying to solve.

Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO at GetVOIP

Relevant recent work is important. Because everything about the internet is always in flux, we need to know that you understand best practices today…not best practices from five years ago. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors impact our decision. First impressions matter, so we make sure that every respondent to our RFPs can work to our quality standards.

Chris Stasiuk, Founder + Creative Director at Signature Video Group

The perfect proposal aims to satisfy every personality type at the decision-making table: trust and a clear definition of solutions for leadership, storytelling for the creatives, timelines for the process-driven folks, numbers for the accountants, and careful formatting for the procurement people. Do this and you will consistently win more RFPs.

Caitlyn Helsen, Project Manager at Watchdog Real Estate Project Management

Graphics really help! We understand there is a lot of information to report, but long narratives can be cumbersome and make the RFP response feel daunting. RFPs that convey information in a creative way are more dynamic, and therefore, the reader is more engaged in the actual content.

Ryan Glick, Co-Founder at Pixelayn Innovations

The majority of vendors I’ve interacted with over the past 15 years have used cookie-cutter RFP responses that they send to all inquiring businesses. Sure, it’s understandable to use standard responses for some RFP questions, but this shouldn’t be the strategy used for everything. Rarely do I see vendors take the time to research my business and adjust their responses to be more specific and meaningful. When a vendor provides responses that appear like they were written specifically for my company, this catches my attention.

John Hrivnak, President at Hrivnak Associates, Ltd.

The strategy worked in a very competitive marketing effort for a $220M project…

  1. Out-homework your competition.
  2. Use information from your homework to hit “their target” not “your target.”
  3. Confirm “their targets” with your account managers.
  4. In the cover letter, relay that you have heard them loud and clear regarding their needs.
  5. Put the name of each recipient on the cover letter to personalize. If you’ve talked with the RFP evaluator, add a hand-written note on the cover letter.
  6. In the executive summary, repeat “their targets” again and include a sense of urgency. (i.e. If they act now, you can prioritize their project in the queue.)
  7. Within the body of your RFP responses, always reiterate their questions followed by your responses.
  8. Judiciously weave in how you will manage the project to hit “their targets” throughout your RFP responses.
  9. Try to make time to edit your RFP responses.

Ready to impress your next RFP issuer? Schedule a demo of RFPIO to find out how our response management platform makes it easier for your content to stand out.

How to format a proposal

How to format a proposal

In today’s climate of information overload, it’s more important than ever to ensure your message gets across to your reader.

Proposals, and especially RFP responses, are selling documents that are intended to move the customer towards a decision in your favor. You need to use every available technique to ensure your proposal is read and understood, so that the document achieves its mission.

This post does not focus on actual proposal writing techniques. But, it does cover proposal writing formatting, which can significantly contribute to the impact your document makes. Here are some key proposal format techniques you should consider to gain the upper hand over your competitors, win over your reader…and capture more business as a result.

People don’t actually read proposal documents

In 2005, I commissioned a research study with a grad student from the University of Portsmouth in the UK to research and validate proposal document formatting techniques. The goal of the study was to find out what formatting techniques worked and which didn’t when people read and evaluated documents.

One main outcome of the research proved this: People don’t actually read documents in detail…they tend to skim them. So the key points must quite literally catch their eyes as they fly past.

When you realize that skimming is how people will consume your content, you will understand why following these proposal formatting do’s and don’ts can make a big difference.

14 proposal format do’s

Let’s get into some of the do’s of proposal document formatting, so you can make your messaging easier to grasp.

1. DO use serif fonts for paper-based communication.

While you may favor other font styles, consider switching to serif fonts which have been tested and proven as the easiest to read.

2. DO use sans-serif fonts for online communication.

The winner for on-screen readability, sans serif fonts is the best choice for digital content.

3. DO use a double-space between sentences.

Double-spacing makes your proposal document much easier to skim.

4. DO insert paragraphs every 3-5 sentences.

Always break up monolithic blocks of text, since lengthy paragraphs can overwhelm your reader.

5. DO use graphics/images with discretion.

Too many graphics or images make proposal documents look like picture books, and divert emphasis from the text. If you do use images, make sure they have relevance.

6. DO use graphical timelines to illustrate processes.

To bring your process to life within a proposal document, a graphical timeline can really help. Rather than talking about an implementation flow, show it instead.

7. DO use plenty of clear headings.

Use headings and subheadings in fonts of different sizes and colors to demarcate text and paragraphs.

8. DO use a clear table of contents.

A table of contents permits the user to understand the structure of the document and quickly locate the information they need.

9. DO use the client’s name in a 3:1 ratio.

Your client wants to feel that the proposal document is about them, written for them, and focused on their situation. Overuse of your company’s name makes the document appear self-centric. Especially in the executive summary, use the client’s name in a 3:1 ratio vs. your organization’s name.

10. DO learn how to use punctuation correctly.

If you aren’t the best at punctuation, find a reviewer that has a good grasp of grammar rules—especially commas and semicolons. When so used, they serve to insert “mini-pauses” in the document, increasing readability and reading velocity.

11. DO consider using a one-third/two-thirds layout.

Compelling testimonials and key metrics deserve the spotlight. Use a one-third margin layout for important text call-outs (aka “vignettes”) to draw the reader in.

12. DO use consistent formatting.

Many documents, especially those with multiple contributors like RFPs (request for proposals) and SOWs (statements of work), can suffer from abrupt font size or style changes. This is known as the “patchwork quilt” effect, and it does not give a favorable impression.

13. DO use your client’s logo.

Using your client’s logo in headers and footers is a great way to leverage design elements for personalization. A word of caution…use your client’s logo:

  • Only if you have permission to do so.
  • Only if you have ensured you are using the client’s current logo, in accordance with their corporate branding standards.
  • Only if you can have a crisp, non-pixelated high-resolution version.

14. DO use plenty of white space.

A dense, information-packed document can put off your reader. When in doubt, space your content out.


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

12 proposal format don’ts

Now it’s time to explore the don’ts of proposal document formatting. Break these bad habits and you’ll increase the effectiveness of future proposals.

1. DON’T use fully-justified text.

Use justified left, ragged right. Irregular spacing between words slows down reading speed. This isn’t a novel—it’s a skimmable document.

2. DON’T use landscape orientation for text.

The human eye has to sweep too far, again, slowing down reading speed and reducing comprehension.

3. DON’T over-fancify the presentation.

Think very hard about using PowerPoint as a vehicle for written proposals or RFP responses. (This is prolific in consulting and creative agencies). Your stunning document may inadvertently make the evaluator’s job harder.

4. DON’T use twin or multiple columns.

Leave multiple columns to the NY Times. The eye has to perform too many sweeps, resulting in fatigue and loss of concentration.

5. DON’T write long sentences.

Comprehension of text rapidly decreases after 17-20 words, requiring your reader to re-read sentences to understand them. More often than not, they don’t bother to re-read and the information is not fully conveyed.

6. DON’T overuse bullet points.

This is a big one. The ideal number of rows in a bulleted list is three, with a maximum of five on any one page. When you get up to ten or more bullet points, the content tends to be scanned and skipped.

Your reader’s brain considers the list to be unimportant and moves on—exactly the reverse of the intended behavior!

7. DON’T overuse bold, underlining, and italics.

As with bullet points, font altering should happen sparingly to attract the reader’s eye to essential points. When font styles are overused, the reader’s brain dismisses them.

8. DON’T use intermingled red and green text.

In consideration of readers that may have color blindness, avoid getting creative with red and green text. Approximately 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women in the world are color blind, so it’s more common than you think.

9. DON’T use acronyms without defining them.

You may define an acronym early in the document, and consider that to be sufficient. But people often don’t read the whole document. To be safe, define the acronym during the first instance on every page where the acronym is used.

10. DON’T use hyperlinks in paper-based documents.

While hyperlinks can be effective within electronic proposal documents, links spelled out in paper documents only adds to user workload and removes immediacy of information transfer.

11. DON’T use internal references in documents too frequently.

This is where you say “See answer to question #5” when the user is on question #312. Using this technique may seem easier for you when you’re responding to hundreds of RFP questions, but you’re only increasing your reader’s workload and reducing the speed of evaluation.

12. DON’T use low-contrast font colors.

Light grey is the perfect “what not to use” example with fonts. Low-contrast font colors are harder to process, especially for older readers. Also, these fonts do not print or copy well.

When you format for a proposal, remember the goal—the proposal is intended for your prospect, not you. Make your reader’s job as easy as possible by using document formatting techniques that create a skimmable—and pleasant—reading experience.
When you execute well, your reader will pause and hear what you have to say. Then you’re that much closer to gaining the competitive edge you need to win new business.

Formatting any type of business query is easier with our response management platform. Schedule a demo to get started with RFPIO.

Using the RFP process to improve content effectiveness

Using the RFP process to improve content effectiveness

Our latest for The Marketing Scope, by: Ganesh Shankar (RFPIO) and Lori Coffae (SHI, International)

Do you develop content once and then walk away forever? Are your customer needs exactly the same from year to year? In your dreams maybe, but in reality, we all know those are ridiculous questions to even ask. As a marketer, you know your company’s content is never static. It gets developed, reworked, and revised constantly. Content requires attention, consideration and testing. It’s no simple task to stay on top of steady change and making sure that you are improving your content effectiveness as well as keeping sales teams up to date.

For many companies, the intersection where marketing content meets the field organization is the request for proposal, or the RFP. If you work in a company that responds to a large number of RFPs, one surprisingly effective way to curate, manage and share content – one that is often overlooked – is through this very process: the RFP response.

The RFP response process can give marketers a chance to gain valuable feedback from your most important audience – your potential customers – on the impact of the company’s content. Sound like a stretch? Today, proposal managers (professionals who own the RFP response process for a company) gain deep insight into the content that leads someone to action compared with content that doesn’t initiate any type of result. Put simply, marketers can use the RFP process to improve content effectiveness.

Taking advantage

The RFP process can help create cohesion to your content across a variety of elements like voice, message development, and tone. When content is moved to a centralized answer library, you can start to compare and assess content effectiveness based on what really matters – win rates. This assessment is enabled through the use of response management software with an intelligent, centralized answer library. With such a system in place, marketing and sales teams can begin to learn the effectiveness of various messages with different types of customers, helping shape future responses in unexpected ways.

Marketers can use the RFP process to ensure that sales teams are armed with the latest answers – even technical content – reducing the need to call a scarce resource like a technical expert every time.

When integrated into sales tools like Slack or Salesforce, an answer library becomes a single source of truth for responses to customers. Having a repository of content to address specific questions becomes an increasingly valuable asset over time. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time your company responds to an RFP or launches a new email marketing campaign, they can go into the content repository to tap into the strength of your most powerful content.

In addition, marketing leaders can cultivate accountability, ownership and responsibility for teams owning the content. Marketers can assign someone on the team to be a reviewer of a particular piece of the content. This way, the rest of the team has visibility into who added or edited the content, changes that were made and when. With a good content library, you’ll see who is working on what content, and you can assign a moderator to ensure facts are facts and company branding is on point.

Take measure

A good first step is to set aside a few hours to review all of the materials in your content library. Why? Because identifying and using your best content will improve your chances of winning RFPs. But for marketers, the key is understanding the nuances of how content resonates with target audiences. A good rule of thumb is to do a content audit at least once a year to keep your content fresh and increase content effectiveness.

Marketing owns a company’s brand and the key messages that can be delivered through a variety of channels including the website, social media, white papers, case studies, YouTube, public relations and email campaigns. Once you have a better idea of which content is valuable, you’ll be in a much better position to update your content library so that everyone in the company is able to provide consistent messages to your audiences.

When you review your content, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the content address your customer’s business challenges?
  • Is the value that your company’s products or services offer coming across clearly?
  • Does the content read well? Does it tell a cohesive story?
  • Is the tone of the content consistent throughout all of your marketing materials?
  • Has the content performed well in RFPs over the past year? How much interest has there been?

Final thoughts: It’s like gardening

As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, content is never static. It requires attention, consideration, and cultivation. It’s like being a gardener where your content answer library acts as your greenhouse, housing your content, keeping it protected from the elements, and providing it a fertile environment in which to grow. By thinking about your precious content like a garden, you’re being sensitive to its environment – what grows in Florida doesn’t work in upstate New York.

While the RFP team may reach out to the leaders of the marketing department to participate in an RFP, marketing executives should also see the opportunity that an RFP presents to fine-tune marketing content and messaging and increase content effectiveness.

Podcast: Talking RFPIO on The RFP Success Show

Podcast: Talking RFPIO on The RFP Success Show

RFPIO’s Communications Manager, Josie Fey, recently sat down with Lisa Rehurek, founder of The RFP Success Institute and host of a weekly podcast called The RFP Success Show, to discuss the emergence of RFP software, RFPIO’s competitive differentiators, and the efficiencies it brings to companies in the RFP response process.

The RFP Success Show is a weekly podcast that provides, “information, strategy, or resources to help you win more RFPs and have some fun.”

The RFPIO team met Lisa at APMP’s Bid & Proposal Conference earlier this year, and invited her to speak at our User Conference 2018 this October in San Francisco. She has an extensive background in RFP responding and consulting, and is a proponent of using tools like RFPIO to make the process more strategic.

Here are some highlights from the discussion (edited for clarity):

What does RFPIO do?

Lisa: Let’s kick it off with you telling us a little about your background, and what it is that you do.

Josie: Sure, my name is Josie Fey and I am the Communications Manager at RFPIO. I’ve been here for a little over a year. The company has been around for just over two years, so we’re still kind of in startup mode but we’ve grown really fast.

I handle communications, marketing, public relations, and internal comms. We did have our User Conference recently—our first two—so I did a lot of interviewing and talking with clients while we were there too, and that was really exciting.

Lisa: Let’s talk about RFPIO, the technology, and what it does.

Josie: Very simply, RFPIO is a cloud-based RFP software that makes the process of responding to RFPs and security questionnaires and all varieties of those, easier, more efficient and more collaborative.

There are two big things that RFPIO does: it’s a hub for collaboration, so you can contact people, assign out questions to subject matter experts and any other collaborators. It’s also a repository for your question and answer content. Everything stays in one place and can be recent and updated and approved. If you have your processes in place, it makes things that much easier in the response process.

“This software is world’s beyond where I came from, years ago, when the software was so hard and so arduous and not user friendly at all.” – Lisa Rehurek

How does RFPIO manage document control?

Lisa: One of the things I hear is that it’s so much work to get those answers updated in order to put them into the software. What would you say to that?

Josie: That does matter. It’s an automation platform but it needs people to make it work. It’s just like any kind of database, you have to be careful what you put in there. We talk with our clients about having a review cycle every so often—checking in on that stuff, making sure it’s the right content—but the beauty is that it’s all in one place. So everyone can go to the same place to check it out and it’s not two or three or however many people with different versions.

Lisa: Can people collaborate on a document at the same time? Like you can with a Google doc where people can be working on it at the same time, and it’s saving all versions that are happening. Does it work like that in RFPIO too?

Josie: Yes. The nice thing too is that, like Google, you can assign different sections to people. So most of the time it’s one person working on one question and a different person working on another, but they can do that at the same time for the same project.

Lisa: That’s really huge because one of the pains that my clients feel is document control. Who’s got the latest version and, “oh shoot I thought I made some changes in this, but I forgot to send them to you, and then I didn’t track them in tracked changes, so I don’t really remember what I made” and it can be a nightmare. This software really makes a difference with that.

Josie: Right. That’s one of the big benefits. There are also other formats of these documents. A security questionnaire that’s really long, a spreadsheet with lots of questions, looks different than an RFP, and we can support that too. You can import these documents and start working on them right from the document.

Lisa: You can import it right from the RFP itself?

Josie: Yes. You just import the document right in. We actually have a patented process for that. In fact, RFPIO stands for Request for Proposal Input Output. So that’s kind of the point. You can pop this document in, do all the things you need to do, work with people, get the content in there, do your formatting, either on the source file or on a branded template, and then output that beautiful document very easily.

Lisa Rehurek

Lisa Rehurek at RPFIO User Conference 2018 San Francisco

What are RFPIO’s competitive differentiators?

Lisa: That’s pretty amazing. You know, I have a lot of clients that are small businesses that think these softwares might be too big for them. What’s too small for RFPIO?

Josie: We work with companies that have just a one person team, and we work with enterprise level companies with teams of hundreds. The way we’ve set up our pricing model is different than our competitors, and in most cases, the better way to go. We do it not by individual licenses, but by projects. So if you’re a company that’s not doing a lot of projects in a year then this might not be right for you. But not having an individual license model means that you can scale.

Lisa: That’s a key differentiator to understand. There are other software companies out there that do this. Back in my early days, I worked with a company called RFP Machine. It was so hard, and of course the cloud didn’t exist back then. What stands out about RFPIO from your competitors?

Josie: I would say 3 main things:

Our technology. The import technology we have patented so we are innovators in that area. We also were first to put AI in what we call the Answer Library, where content is stored. There’s a recommendation engine, so if you go in, kind of like you might notice from [Gmail]. It learns from you and understands, do you want to email this person? Because last time you emailed this person about this—contextually relevant information.

RFPIO can do that when you’re looking for an answer to a question; it learns. You’ve worked with Lisa on this before, do you want to assign her anything? Or, you’ve used this answer before, does this look like the right one? So it speeds things up even more, and makes things more efficient, because it’s smart.

Lisa: That’s cool.

Josie:  Second thing is, when we had these user conferences I had a lot of interviews with people and I heard over and over that our customer support is incredible. And I believe it, I work with these guys all the time. It’s really important to our founders to be people centric—and that’s for our team and our clients.

The technology can be wonderful but it’s the people that make this happen. We take a lot of feedback from clients, so if there’s something that’s not working quite right or isn’t intuitive, we talk to our development team and they may change it. And sometimes those requests turn around in a week, so clients are really impressed by that too.

And I’d say the third thing is that pricing model, that’s really a differentiator. I think that separates us from the competition because in many cases a company needs to scale up or down. We want this to be collaborative, so that’s why we did that.

Lisa: And you know what’s cool about that, I have a client, one in particular that comes to mind, and they’ve got 250 people and there’s always the core group of people that work on a proposal, but at any given time those 250 people could be assigned maybe 1 RFP in a year, so do you get them a license? Is it worth paying for a license for that one user?

Josie: It seems as though it’s easier for companies to predict how many RFPs they may get in a year. We know that we typically respond to this many, but bringing people in is different. With RFPIO you also have the ability to bring in people outside the company.

Lisa: Oh that’s cool, like a subcontractor or partner or something like that. I love that, that’s very cool.

How does RFPIO help with user adoption?

Lisa: One thing that stuck out to me when I talked to one of your clients was, she said they have easily saved 50% of their time using this software. And I’d like to talk about this, because back to my comment about people saying it’s too hard to get up and running, well it might take a little effort on the front end, but on the back end, here’s what it’s going to save you in the long run. Can you talk more about that time saving?

Josie: I think new technologies, no matter how easy they are to use or how intuitive they are, do sometimes—not scare people, but it’s like oh great now we have to learn a new tool.

Lisa: I think it is scary sometimes, or can be bothersome.

Josie: Right, or it seems like, this is going to add to my workload. Now I have to learn this new thing and work in this new system and I just don’t have time for that.

In the RFP world especially, by the time people get to us, they’re being challenged by this process already. So when I talk to people, they’re so grateful to know there’s even a solution available. I think sometimes with technology it sometimes creates a problem that it needs to fix, we all know examples of that. This is not that.

People are so grateful for something like this. When it comes to saving time—I’ve had clients tell us they spent hours just making sure fonts are the same. It’s document control and content management and making sure everything has the same voice. And when everything is in the same place, it’s a lot easier for the people reviewing it to make sure that everything sounds right and it flows right and you’re putting your best foot forward.

And then also communicating with people. All of our inboxes are full and we’re constantly being inundated, but if someone gets this particular notification that says, please just answer this one question, it saves everybody time. Those are the two main things that people tell us, it helps them collaborate better and save a lot more time.

Lisa: Yeah the formatting issue is interesting because, with version control, no matter what, when we’re shoveling around a word document, I maybe have spent a bunch of time formatting it and then in a final look, somebody may have changed something. And just in the transition from them back to me, all the headers get out of whack and the headings are changed or a font gets changed on one page, oddly. So you’re saying the RFPIO helps prevent that?

Josie: Yes, absolutely. You can have it branded in your own way, and there are ways to templatize your documents as well.

Lisa: Nice. The other thing I noticed when I was getting the demo is that it doesn’t have the feeling like, you know back to what my experience was like with RFP Machine, it felt like at that time that we had to do everything for it to really work. But with RFPIO, it felt like you could kind of start easy, and small, and you could start with one piece of the puzzle and learn that, and then maybe move on to this next piece. You don’t have to learn the entire system all at once. Is that a correct statement?

Josie: Absolutely, in fact, another hats off to our customer support team. Part of the process of onboarding new customers is to have them send us an example RFP that they might respond to, some questions and answers that they’ve used before, and then we go through an example process.

We help them populate their database a little bit, we try to get all the stakeholders, all the people that might get involved—there are different roles that people are assigned in RFPIO, which helps manage access—we go through the process of that first before we send them off on their own. By the time they’ve gone through the initial onboarding and training, they should have their teams figured out, their roles figured out, their answer library content started, and have gone through a project so they know what they’re doing.

user interface

What’s RFPIO’s user experience like?

Josie: It’s so intuitive. Our founders all responded to RFPs before they decided to do this.

Lisa: So they felt the pain!

Josie: They were very aware, so they really thought through the user experience too. Like, when somebody inputs this document, what’s the first thing they’re going to want to do? And how does this process go? So they made it really intuitive and easy for people in a way that just makes a lot of sense.

Lisa: Your user interface is amazing. It’s super easy and super intuitive. I was very impressed with that. A lot of time with these technologies they get overthought and over processed and the user experience gets lost in that. I was very impressed with that piece of it, so kudos.

Josie: We do take user feedback really seriously, and there are lots of different ways they can provide us with that feedback, so we’ve made changes based on that stuff. They’re the ones who are using it, so, they’re the experts really. We want to make it easy for them and save them time. Because the more time they save, maybe the more RFPs they can do and the more money they can make. So it’s good for business to be efficient.

Lisa: It is, and it’s good for the team too. Because the team gets tired of bidding on things that they lose, or bidding on things at the last minute, the arduousness of bidding, where the process is a hot mess, you know, dealing with people that are not getting their stuff back.

There’s a lot to be said for the pressure that it puts on the team that’s responding. And that can cause problems down the road if the team’s not happy. So there’s a whole lot going on here.

It was really clear to me too, and I know that I’m kind of tooting RFPIO’s horn here a lot, but it’s because I was very impressed. Not just from my interaction at the user conference, but also with my experience with you guys at APMP and how you guys connect with your clients.

Hearing what your clients had to say, and their experiences working with your customer support team, that is also something that gets lost in translation with technology a lot. Here’s a technology you’ve bought and now you’re on your own. You guys are really hands on and very close to the ground.

Lisa: So how long does it take to get a technology like this up and running?

Josie: The nice thing about RFPIO is it’s just a turn-key solution, cloud-based software. So, you just sign in and you’re ready to go. But like I said, we don’t just leave it at that. It’s very easy to get it up and running, there’s no deployment that you have to do, but we also make sure that we’re there for customers in that first phase to make sure they know what they’re doing, and can ask questions, and run through a couple projects before they’re off and going.

But, most of the time they tell us—again they’re so ready and anxious for a solution that they’re just on it—but as soon as they get it they can just sign in and start working.

Lisa: It is true, I think in the RFP world in general we’re always in reactive mode. One of the things I try to work on with my clients is getting them into proactive mode. And it’s really hard, and they need tools and resources like this, in order to help them do it.

I would encourage anybody listening, if you’re thinking, “well we don’t answer enough RFPs in a year,” just pick up the phone and schedule an appointment with RFPIO. Because you never know.

Anything like this that can bring in potential efficiencies—the people I talked to at the San Francisco user conference, they were talking about significant time savings. It can and should be done and this is the perfect tool to do that, so I am excited that you were here, Josie. Thank you so much for being here.

RFP content library methods that make life better for all

RFP content library methods that make life better for all

By now we’ve all heard that old adage—content is king. In the context of RFPs, RFIs, and security questionnaires, the higher quality your content…the more efficient your responses will be.

Your RFP content library is really the heart and soul of your response process. Without one, your team lacks quick access to company information that fuels the chaotic operations of RFP projects.

While having an answer library to store responses is tremendously important, so is how your organization tends to that content.

Let’s make life better for your response team by exploring a few methods for fine-tuning the hub of your entire RFP process…the answer library.

Why clean up your RFP content library?

Think of your RFP content library as your bedroom closet. Seasons change, so you have to swap out shorts for sweaters—clothes go out of style or they wear out.

Thousands of Q&A pairs that aren’t culled periodically will affect your team in the long run. Instead of a hole in your favorite t-shirt, it’s a hole in your workflow. And folks, that’s a lot harder to fix.

It never fails that panic and excitement come with every RFP, where all questions need to be answered as efficiently and effectively as possible. The added pressure, of course, lies in the outcome you are aiming to achieve of winning new business.

When you’re under the gun, you want to have peace of mind and feel confident in the historical data resting in your content library. So, just like you clean out your closet at home…it’s time to take inventory of your RFP responses.

Treat RFP content with the same respect

Responding to RFPs involves a ton of content management. This is something many responders don’t realize, because they don’t relate the two.

Content is the culprit, but a necessary one across different stages and departments of every modern organization. Oddly enough, there are many shared challenges proposal teams face that marketers already know.

content management process

Source: ClearVoice

When 1,000 marketers were asked to reveal content challenges related to process, well over half said “time” was an issue. Yet, the remaining marketers were divided among management, planning, and communication with content.

Sound familiar? It does to us too. Because lack of time is the result of an inefficient process. Managing an RFP content library well can dramatically save your team hours when an RFP is due.

Ownership is worth noting here. Just as you would have someone owning all the content for marketing, the same rule applies to your RFP content. Make sure you identify the content manager for RFPs—whether that’s a proposal manager or someone in marketing.

Small organizations often have one person who drives the RFP response process and takes full ownership of the content. Larger teams typically require multiple people to handle content management variables.

Content audits for a slick RFP response process

Great. Now you know a bit about why you need to clean up your RFP content and who will run the show.

A key thing to remember is that quality RFP responses win deals. Even the most captivating content will collect dust in your library if it’s buried under a mess of stale, outdated information.

To avoid this all-too-common bottleneck in the RFP process, content audits are necessary for proposal management teams. At a minimum, audit your content annually. Better yet would be to perform an audit twice a year. Best of all, we recommend quarterly audits.

“84% of organizations still use a manual process to manage RFP responses.”

Really, it depends on bandwidth and how much content you have on-hand in your answer library. The point is…make sure you take the time to audit. We find the quarterly cadence works best for a lot of teams, because it’s not overkill for a busy team-of-one or a team of many.

Consistent content audits will keep quality front and center, so deciding on cadence is truly one of the most important steps in this process. From there, you can decide on the criteria for sorting through your RFP responses. (Helpful questions can be found right here to help guide you through an RFP content audit.)

Neat ways RFP software helps you manage content

While it’s possible to organize RFP content with a well orchestrated system of spreadsheets, technology wins by a longshot when it comes to boosting productivity. RFP software allows you to centralize content for a stronger process from start to finish.

It’s up to individual teams to maximize their success by leveraging features that work best with their process. Here are a few methods that make managing content easier in RFPIO:

Tagging responses accordingly

Tags make finding responses a breeze, and they might be named: Company, Benefits, Security, etc. If you’re the content owner, check that these tags make sense to everyone on your team so they can quickly find the right content.

Assigning cntent to owners

This feature clarifies ownership to ensure content stays in top condition, such as performing regular content audits. Avoid assigning 200 questions to one person to monitor by divvying up responsibility to relevant owners across the organization.

Viewing answer library report

This report shows you the health of your RFP content library. Seeing top owners is helpful in understanding your team’s workload—and when you need to call in support. A timeline allows you to review cadence from last year and know what’s coming up in your pipeline. That way when you’re scheduling those important content audits, you know what’s on your plate.

Your RFP content library deserves a little love from time to time. These are just a few ways to improve your RFP content library to have a successful year. As always, do what’s best at your organization.

Client Spotlight: PerfectMind’s Salesforce Integration Success

Client Spotlight: PerfectMind’s Salesforce Integration Success

Salesforce integration is an important component for any technology stack used by RFP responders. Coupled with RFP software, it connects the dots between sales and marketing teams, proposal managers and SMEs to make the RFP response process run smoothly.

Technology fatigue is a common occurrence with busy teams. Ironically organizations are investing in solutions to encourage success, but one look at this year’s Martech Supergraphic tells us everything we need to know. Organizations are facing more inefficiencies by taking on too many tools.

marketing technology landscape

Source: Chiefmartec

This is why having an intelligent tool stack with beneficial integrations is a good move. For RFP responders, a solution like RFPIO offers a true bi-directional integration with CRMs, including Salesforce, to bring every stage and insight of the RFP response project into one dedicated platform.

Recently we met up with the PerfectMind proposal management team to discuss their progress with RFPIO. Today Randy, Catherine, and Garrett are pulling back the curtain on their RFP response process and sharing how Salesforce integration is an essential piece of their strategy.

Proposal Specialist at PerfectMind

Describe your involvement in the RFP response process.

Once assigned new RFPs by the Senior Proposal Specialist, I create and import projects into RFPIO. I project manage the authors and reviewers for question/answer responses, create new responses and maintain section templates and other content within RFPIO. I also export, edit, and finalize RFP documents.

Why was the Salesforce integration important for you?

Our company is using Salesforce widely as a one-stop place to maintain client information. So integration with RFPIO seemed like a natural addition.

What was the primary reason you chose to purchase RFP software?

Before RFPIO we were using MS Word documents to store boilerplate content, which was slow and resulted in copy/paste errors. Additionally we responded to questions on spreadsheets—with hundreds of questions per RFP.

To respond to new questions, authors would need to manually search through old Excel documents to find answers. We decided it was time to make a change, so we explored RFP software options until finding RFPIO.

In RFPIO, the bonus features of tagging and assigning content to Subject Matter Experts is particularly important as SMEs play a critical role in maintaining content. The central access point to content eliminates inconsistencies and potential discrepancies when developing RFP responses.

How important was the integration with Salesforce in determining your decision?

I was not involved in that decision.

How have your RFP process and strategy changed since using RFPIO? What part does the connection to your CRM play in that?

Our process is more structured and more collaborative. Each response we complete builds upon the experience of previous responses (good and bad). Our account executives spend a significant amount of time in Salesforce and the integration is valuable to them once a project has been submitted.

My first RFP response using RFPIO reduced prep time by almost 70%, so now we can focus more on customised content instead of boilerplate responses.

Catherine Lauzon

What is your role at PerfectMind?

Senior Proposal Specialist

Describe your involvement in the RFP response process.

I oversee the entire response process. I receive new RFPs and create and import projects into RFPIO. I project manage the authors and reviewers for question/answer responses, create and maintain section templates and other content within RFPIO. Additionally, I export, edit, and finalize RFP documents.

Why was the Salesforce integration important for you?

My manager required that we have an integration to Salesforce, since our company is moving towards using that platform company-wide as a one-stop place to maintain client information.

What was the primary reason you chose to purchase RFP software?

Prior to RFPIO, we were using Word documents to store all of our content. We often responded to hundreds of questions within spreadsheets as well. We decided to purchase RFP software to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and create one place where we could store approved content for clients.

How important was the integration with Salesforce in determining your decision?

Salesforce integration was not important for me personally, but my manager really wanted this feature.

How have your RFP process and strategy changed since using RFPIO? What part does the connection to your CRM play in that?

Absolutely, we have a more streamlined, collaborative process now. Our team works more easily together than ever before. I don’t really use the Salesforce integration that much, but it’s nice to have it available. If someone is looking at a Salesforce record, it is really convenient for them to be able to click on the RFPIO project to see those details.

Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn 

“63% of survey respondents said that Salesforce was the CRM their company used.” – IBD Lucep Survey

Garrett Ungaro

What is your role at PerfectMind?

Enterprise Sales Manager

Describe your involvement in the RFP response process.

I am the final approver and content contributor.

Why was the Salesforce integration important for you?

As I review open accounts in Salesforce, it is great to see the RFPIO add-in so I know what the status is. It’s also helpful to be able to click on the add-in and drill down further for more response project details.

What was the primary reason you chose to purchase RFP software?

All of our business is RFP driven and as such, we were losing track of commonly requested questions/answers, deadlines, contributors etc. We needed an overall RFP management platform to keep track of each response and re-purpose the answers.

How important was the integration with Salesforce in determining your decision?

Salesforce integration was a mandatory requirement for our purchase decision.

How have your RFP process and strategy changed since using RFPIO? What part does the connection to your CRM play in that?

The main benefit with Salesforce integration is being able to stay within the CRM—and not having to swivel-chair into RFPIO to see data or information on an account opportunity.

Beyond that, our overall RFP process is night-and-day better and the quality of our responses has increased significantly. We have structure and defined processes now and we couldn’t manage the volume of RFPs we handle without RFPIO.

Connect with Garrett on LinkedIn

expo at dreamforce

Want to see how RFPIO’s Salesforce integration can make your response process more efficient? Join us at Booth #145 at Dreamforce next week for a free personalized demo to learn more.

Schedule right now and win an Amazon Fire Stick after your demo completion.

Smash the differentiator question for an unbeatable RFP

Smash the differentiator question for an unbeatable RFP

Stating your differentiator is a high probability when you’re responding to an RFP.

It’s a question that definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly. A generic response might be the deal breaker that benefits one of your competitors, while a compelling response serves as the tipping point that benefits your organization.

The differentiator question might come dressed in many ways, such as the following:

  • What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
  • Describe your competitive position relative to your competitors.
  • When comparing yourself to the market, what are the unique selling points?
  • Briefly state how you are differentiated from any competitors.
  • Why should we work with you instead of one of your competitors?

Whatever the question looks like doesn’t matter. What your response looks like is a different story. And, that’s why an absolute must for your RFP response strategy is clearly defining your competitive differentiators.

Recently the RFPIO team enjoyed the takeaways in APMP’s on-demand webinar, A World of Difference: Differentiate Yourself From Competitors. The presenter, Chris Sant, is a consultant and trainer who has helped companies in engineering, IT, banking, and HR improve their sales proposal process.

“Having real differentiators is how you become something that is not a commodity like everybody else. Research shows that strong differentiation results in twice the profit margin. If people want it, they will pay a premium for it.” – Chris Sant

Because the presentation was so insightful, we’re passing along a few nuggets from Chris to help you make your response to the inevitable differentiator question stronger than ever. There is no magic bullet with this one, but there are strategic steps you can take to position yourself above your competitors.

Are you really differentiated?

That’s the million-dollar question if we’ve ever heard one.

When Chris Sant presented on the differentiator topic at this year’s Bid & Proposal Con by APMP, he asked the audience of proposal professionals if they felt they were differentiating their organizations well. The lightbulb moment happened as everyone looked around to see the room filled with raised hands.

The majority think they have differentiators handled, but in reality there is plenty of room for improvement. Why does overconfidence happen in organizations? Lack of feedback and lack of an outside perspective influence this behavior.

Because proposals are often rushed out the door, sliding the boilerplate response in that says you’re “uniquely qualified” ends up being the quick fix. But a quick fix won’t win deals in a highly competitive space.

“Ask executives whether their company’s offerings are differentiated and about 80% will say yes. But ask customers of those companies the same question and only about 10% will agree.” – Harvard Business Review

You’re uniquely qualified…like everybody else

You might be in the proposal professional camp who believes your differentiator game is strong. However, your prospect sees the exact same proposal over and over.

And, guess what? They all claim the organization is “uniquely qualified.” What you see and what they see is entirely different. When RFPs are indistinguishable from one another, they are called proposal penguins.

Proposal penguins generally use one of two types of fake differentiators:

  1. Marketing list type – When you throw in a bunch of positive leaning marketing terms. The random list results in a weak impact.
  2. “In love with our recent investment” type – We just spent $14M on this and we are going to talk about it every chance we get. The client doesn’t care nearly as much as you do.

Do you want your proposal to get lost in the waddling group dressed in tuxedos? Or, do you want to stand out?

Differentiation absolutely matters to your prospects

In the modern age companies and agencies are using proposals as the touchstone for making the purchasing decision. Proposals should be seen as co-equal with sales, not as sales support.

So, do clients want to know your differentiators and what makes a vendor unique? Chris revealed the answer in a survey of managers across the U.S., Canada, UK. 92% said they want to know.

When we are swamped with proposals, it is very easy to get caught up with ourselves. During the everyday hustle and bustle we fall back on the hard sell. We feel we need to convince the prospect, but forget that these are real people that are trying to make real decisions.

“The client does not know about your differentiators if you don’t tell them.” – Chris Sant

It is our responsibility to talk about our differentiators in a compelling way that makes sense. The RFP response to this question is a grand opportunity to speak to your organization’s value. If you do this well, it helps your client understand and it helps you win more.

Put your best foot forward with differentiators

Truly knowing your differentiators is more involved than crafting an extraordinary response on your next RFP. Because it involves your entire organization.

Silos and lack of ownership will prevent strong differentiation from happening.

Departments must work together to unify the company’s vision and messaging—and eliminate silos holding a team back from reaching their potential. Someone involved in the proposal process needs to take charge of the differentiation strategy, or it will continue to be glossed over by busy team members.

Including claims about being “innovative” and repurposing generic product descriptions won’t provide value or give you leverage when you’re competing against other organizations. Understanding and demonstrating your differentiators effectively will give you the competitive advantage.

The more the client desires what you have, the less they are going to be willing to move onto the next vendor.

It’s time for a differentiator gut check

Okay, so what is a differentiator?

A differentiator is anything that is both rare and adds value. If it’s rare, but it does not add value, it is trivia. If it adds value, but it isn’t rare then the client doesn’t understand why they need you. The proposal should be built around why we are better than everyone else.

You’ll know your differentiator is working if you force your competitors to respond with new products or price cuts. If they’re not responding this way, it might be a sign that your differentiators need some work.

Chris really hits a good point home in explaining the purpose of a proposal. Proposals are all about a prospect’s sources of distress and desired achievements. We have to move prospects from the distress phase to the achievement phase.

Take a good luck at your differentiator response and run through this checklist:

  • Are you demonstrating the rarity of your solution?
  • Are you sharing how much value your solution will add?
  • Are you showing how your solution will combat distress and help them achieve?

If you can answer these questions with confidence, then your RFP will be in a more favorable position when your prospect is sifting through the pile of proposal penguins. A clear demonstration of value and what’s in it for them will get you noticed.

Clearly defining your differentiator is a worthy organizational exercise. Your prospect wants to hear the reason why they should choose you. So make it easy on them by presenting a thoughtful response to every question on the RFP—especially the differentiator one.

Make incremental improvements in your RFP response process and you will be rewarded. Put the effort in, and give them an unbeatable reason to choose you over someone else.

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