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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 […]


Category: Tag: Communication

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 a response management platform can do for your revenue team

What a response management platform can do for your revenue team

The beginning of the year is a time for new beginnings. You and your team have a clean slate, a whole year ahead to meet your revenue objectives. You’re evaluating your internal processes to find gaps and opportunities, so you can achieve those goals. Response management is likely one of those internal processes you’re investigating.

Since we started RFPIO four years ago, 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 a response management platform like RFPIO. You’ll walk away with a more strategic approach to response management.

What is a response management platform?

A response management platform is cloud-based software that helps revenue teams respond to queries from clients and prospects with maximum efficiency. Teams experience higher levels of productivity and results by centralizing content and facilitating collaboration among stakeholders.

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

RFP software vs. response management platform

RFP software is fairly one dimensional in that responding to RFPs is the primary use case. With a response management platform, 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 the platform to store anything from sales follow-up email templates to onboarding materials. Content is engrained in all of our business processes. A response management platform helps you organize, store, and execute from a single source of truth.

A response management platform 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.

A response management platform 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 a response management platform 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.

RFx

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 platform 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 a response management platform 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.

SOWs

To present the scope for a highly complex project, a response management platform 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.

Grants

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.

Onboarding

RFPIO allows unlimited users within the platform, 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 platform.

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.” A response management platform 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.

RFP cover letter vs. executive summary: Here’s the difference

RFP cover letter vs. executive summary: Here’s the difference

Responding to a request for proposal (RFP) is a standard step in the buying process. With RFP responses, there are always opportunities to improve the quality of your content and improve your conversion rates as a result.

90% of successful marketers at B2B companies prioritize the audience’s informational needs over a sales/promotional message. The introduction of an RFP response involves a cover letter and an executive summary—these sections offer golden opportunities to develop content that is laser-focused on your prospect’s needs.

RFP responders commonly use cover letters and executive summaries interchangeably, when they are, in fact, two different sections. Confused about the difference between an RFP cover letter and an executive summary? Not sure if you need both sections? Not sure which section comes first?

Let’s help you fully understand the nuances of the RFP cover letter and the executive summary, so you can get a strong start with your RFP response and improve your organization’s chance of landing the deal.

What is an RFP cover letter?

First up is the RFP cover letter. For positioning on your RFP response, this section should come before your executive summary. A cover letter should be no more than one page in length.

An RFP cover letter is a conversational introduction at the beginning of your RFP response. Similar to a cover letter you submit for a job opportunity, this letter is your chance to tell a little bit about yourself and why you’re the best candidate. It is almost always a requirement of an RFP, even if the issuer does not include a specific section.

The RFP cover letter:

  • States that you are bidding for their business by responding to the RFP.
  • Reiterates details from their RFP (i.e. company name, service/product requested).
  • Explains why your organization is qualified to respond to the RFP.
  • Reveals key benefits they will experience while working with you.
  • Lists anything you are providing in your RFP response.
  • Demonstrates your excitement for the potential partnership.

The RFP cover letter is not:

  • An excuse to jump into a sales-y spiel about your product or service.
  • Formatted with images or headers…it’s a letter with a greeting and sign-off.
  • The time to go into great detail about your strategy or execution.

An RFP cover letter example you can replicate

The goal of your RFP cover letter is to eloquently introduce your organization as the right partner. By the time the issuer reaches the last sentence, they should feel confident about spending their time reading the rest of your RFP responses.

RFP cover letter example:

Hello [first name of RFP issuer]:

I speak on behalf of the entire [RFPIO] team in saying how thrilled we are to have been selected to respond to an RFP to become [Company]’s preferred partner for [Company – service or product need].

We look forward to showing the [Company] team why [RFPIO] is a strategic solution that will address the current and future challenges that [Company] is facing in their [response process]. With [RFPIO] as your partner, we will help:

[Create a more consistent process across international regions.]
[Save your team time to focus on other initiatives.]
[Provide insights into all RFP analytics across your organization.]

Included in this RFP, you will find responses that meet and exceed your requirements along with the [Company – additional materials] you requested. Should you need any other information to move this process forward and further validate your decision, please let us know.

We are grateful for this opportunity with [Company].

Thank you for your time,
Kylie

What is an RFP executive summary?

Next is the RFP executive summary. For positioning on your RFP response, this section should come right after your cover letter. Like a cover letter, an executive summary should be no more than one page in length.

An RFP executive summary is a high-level statement after the cover letter section in an RFP response. This statement is your offer to the decision-makers, a chance to address your buyer’s needs and goals directly. The executive summary is optional, and not a requirement of an RFP.

Providing an executive summary can put your organization at a competitive advantage, giving you more room to explain the benefits of working with you.

The RFP executive summary:

  • Hooks the buyer with an opening statement about your solutions.
  • Explains how your solution benefits the market as a whole.
  • Uses storytelling to convey your company’s mission, history, and purpose.
  • Demonstrates the impact of your solution, including expected results.
  • Includes optional images that support the content.

The RFP executive summary is not:

  • The cliff notes of your entire proposal.
  • Formatted like a letter…it’s a statement.
  • Several pages of client testimonials or stories—stay focused on this prospect.

An RFP executive summary example to follow

Why should this prospect select you as their partner? By the time the RFP issuer is finished reading your executive summary, they should strongly consider the partnership possibilities already before reading the rest of the RFP.

A cover letter tends to be more straightforward, while executive summaries are more complex. Because there was such a demand for executive summary resources for response teams, we created an RFP executive summary template that gives you the building blocks for writing more effective content.

If we take this template and create a real executive summary example, it would look a little something like this…

Executive summary example:

Content is engrained in all of our business processes. RFPIO enhances collaboration and fosters a truly efficient and effective response process with a response management platform that is built to encourage collaboration and create winning responses.

Even in today’s highly technical business environment, 84% of responders are still using a manual process to manage business queries across the organization, which directly impacts resources and the ability to achieve revenue goals. To ensure your organization’s success, our cloud-based software platform is suited for efficiently responding to all types of business proposal documents—RFx (RFP, RFI, etc.), statements of work (SOW), security questionnaires, CAIQ, grants, along with marketing and sales content.

Before founding RFPIO, we were RFP responders that worked overtime to meet deadlines too. This experience led us on a mission to create RFPIO, which is now the leading solution in response management—helping companies streamline their proposal efforts, provide high-quality responses, and create additional revenue opportunities.

We know that for [Company] it’s paramount to improve process consistency and team efficiency, while gaining more insights and visibility into RFP response activities across your organization. With RFPIO as your team’s response management platform, we feel confident that you will be able to achieve your goals within a secure and scalable solution.

We hope this breakdown of the differences between the RFP cover letter and the RFP executive summary helps you create a more compelling intro. When in doubt, think about the RFP issuer’s informational needs…and keep the content short and impactful.

Creating high-quality RFP cover letters and executive summaries is easier with RFPIO. Sign up for a demo to see how it works.

Proposal format: Know the do’s and don’ts to gain the upper hand

Proposal format: Know the do’s and don’ts to gain the upper hand

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.

proposal format

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.

proposal document

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.

Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

We won’t sugarcoat this…losing a request for proposal is never a fun time. You and your team, many who work in multiple departments at your organization, put a lot of time and energy into crafting your RFP responses. You lose an important account in Q4 that could have helped you make your year.

At the end of the day, losing an RFP is kind of a bummer. However, as we experience in life, lessons can always be learned.
Jeffrey Davis, writing in Psychology Today, has these words of wisdom to share: “What matters is being able to delineate the reasons we’ve failed, and instead of taking the rejection personally, making it useful. If it isn’t useful, then it has to be left behind.”

On that note, let’s learn a few lessons after losing a request for proposal—along with some motivation to help you move forward and increase your win rate potential next time.

You just lost a huge RFP…Now what?

Step one: Breathe before you do anything else. You need to compose yourself, then proceed with sharing the news with other team members or responding to the prospect. For moral support, gain quick inspiration from famous “failures” who never quit:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Michael Jordan
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Thomas Edison
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Steve Jobs
  • Etc., etc., etc.

The one question you’re probably saying over and over again is: Why? Why didn’t we win? Why did they pick those [insert competitor nickname] over us?

Quite often it isn’t clear why your proposal didn’t succeed. Your product or service might be above and beyond your competitors. Yet somehow they’re celebrating the deal they just landed while you’re crying in the corner of the parking lot, wondering where it all went wrong.

A discreet call to your key contact at the organization may give some clarity as to why they chose your competitor over you. Use caution with this tactic, as they will likely give some rehearsed speech riddled with vague generalities that don’t help you at all. Then, you just end up spending time on an awkward phone call together. No good, right?

Which is why a classy email is your best move. We created several RFP response specific email templates for you to copy and send. Because we know responding to RFPs isn’t always about winning, you can use this email template the next time you need to have that tough conversation with a prospect…

RFP response email: Send after losing RFP

Hi [first name] –

Thank you for the update. I am surprised by this result as I remember specifically how well the demo went with your team, and the excellent fit between [Company] and [RFPIO].

I absolutely respect your decision, and I only ask for some additional feedback so I can understand how [RFPIO] can continue to improve. Let’s schedule a few minutes to chat, so I can better understand the specifics you were looking for. Any feedback I can glean in this scenario is very valuable.

Thank you very much,
Konnor

The goal is to lose gracefully. Equally important is to demonstrate complete confidence in your solution until the bitter end. You never know—this deal may come back around one day.

Hold a post-mortem to analyze your RFP loss

A “post-mortem” sounds dreary, but having a dedicated pow-wow after losing a request for proposal allows your team some time to work together for the sake of improvement. The idea here is that you will find some gaps and opportunities in your process—or within the RFP response content itself.

In a post-mortem session, use constructive criticism and don’t turn against each other. “Where can we improve?” is a better mindset than “Whose fault is it?”

A post-mortem certainly doesn’t need to happen after every single RFP. To stay consistent, schedule these meetings ahead of time at a cadence that makes sense for your organization. If you send over 100 RFPs annually like 28% of organizations, analyze your RFP response process once a month. A quarterly post-mortem might be more reasonable if you respond to 50 RFPs a year.

annual number of RFPs

Another option is to hold a post-mortem after losing a key business opportunity. This strategy is more reactive and should be held in addition to your regularly scheduled post-mortems. Everyone is busy, so don’t spring post-mortems on your team too much or they will lose their effectiveness. Your team will not be as engaged, or they may find ways to skip attending in favor of other priorities.

Once your team is together, identify the stage where the proposal was rejected. If your RFP made it to the last two or three stages, that’s considered a good performance as most proposals don’t reach the final pitching stage. You probably only need to tweak your RFP responses slightly to get more wins in the future.

Let’s look at the main reasons why RFPs don’t make the cut, so you can leave your post-mortem with an action plan.

Ways to improve your RFPs to land your next deal

1. Always sell the benefits

Consider the benefits (not the features) that you are offering to your client. Most organizations look at their product through rose-colored glasses. It’s great to be proud of your product, but we always have to go back to our favorite saying…What’s In It For Them (WIIFT).

You may have the coolest software on the market. Well, friend, the client only cares that the software saves them time and money. If they can earn money on top of that? Even better. Exhibit A…

At RFPIO, we get a taste of our own medicine and regularly respond to RFPs. Rather than saying “RFPIO is the best software,” we say “Our clients report an average time savings of 40% while using RFPIO, allowing them to focus on creating effective proposal content that creates additional revenue.”

“Actually talk to your customers. Use the language that they use. Talk about the things they talk about. Never feed salad to a lion.” – Jay Acunzo

2. No pain, no gain

Prospects are looking for RFP responses which understand their problems and provide a solution. If your proposal doesn’t foreground this, then it won’t stand out among the sea of RFPs your competitors submitted.

Be crystal clear about what your organization’s remedy is for the pain point. Include testimonials for customer validation, along with other tangible content, like results in the form of percentages or dollars that increased or decreased because of your solution.

3. Too technical

Many RFPs, particularly ones that are rejected, barrage the receiver with technical detail. This can be a monumental mistake. Some of the decision-makers are technical engineer types, but many are business-minded.

That means they don’t want volumes of details and specs, they want to know exactly how your solution will help their organization. And, they don’t want to have their technical team translate everything so they can figure that out. Make it easy on your prospect by simplifying your RFP responses.

4. Less is more

If your RFP needs a fork-lift to bring it into the office, it is probably too detailed. Most RFP responses are long, because responders think they need to cram it all in. They worry they won’t meet requirements and end up over-achieving in a way that is disadvantageous for them.

Being concise is a factor in winning the deal. Look at it this way—if someone liked your proposal, but felt they needed some more information in a particular area, they can ask for an additional submission. This happens and it’s perfectly acceptable.

Winning companies continuously upgrade their content and RFP response process, so that they can provide a streamlined delivery system for responses. We’re big fans of content audits. If you’re unfamiliar with content audits for RFPs, check out this resource.

5. Tell stories

An RFP is yet another opportunity to tell our brand’s story—in this case, it must be powerful to convince the prospect that you are the partner they need. Like a classic narrative, your RFP response should have a beginning, middle, and an end.

The RFP should be structured and have built-in “success factors” by drawing parallels with various projects your organization has completed and success stories from satisfied customers.

In the RFP response process, we’ll turn to Vince Lombardi for some inspiration: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” Losing an RFP is a process we all have to go through. It’s up to you and your team to move forward strategically to make your next RFP response a winner.

10 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

10 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

If you responded to 100 RFPs this year, you might be in a situation where the number of wins can be counted on one hand. Since the win rate for RFPs tends to be on the low side, it’s up to RFP responders to do everything in their power to change that statistic. That starts with the quality of your RFP responses.

“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

We all repurpose and customize historic RFP responses. Succeeding in the request for proposal process means taking a long look at the content sitting in your answer library to see how you can make these foundations stronger. Much of that strength will come from the simplicity of your messaging.

Ready to say the right thing and land your next big deal? Here are several simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it.

Remember the goal of each RFP response

Before we get into the examples, let’s slow down and remember why we’re responding to RFPs in the first place. The goal of each RFP response is to win new business. If you want to win, you need to put your best foot forward anytime you are communicating with a prospect.

That means customizing each RFP response, versus throwing in boilerplates every time. That means performing a thorough review cycle, versus shipping a deliverable that isn’t client-ready. Time is always a factor, which is why using technology like RFP software is advantageous. An answer library helps you select top content in a matter of seconds. Navigating a maze of spreadsheets and emails for previous responses can take hours.

A full RFP process may take up to three months. That is a lot of time for both organizations to invest in the process. Since you are making the effort anyway, you might as well make it count.

Have an RFP response process in place that defines roles and responsibilities—from proposal writers to proposal managers, from subject matter experts who contribute to executives who give approval. And, consider bringing in RFP software to support that process.

Let’s keep your eyes on the prize and dig into some of the messaging principles and RFP response examples that will drive success for your organization.

RFP response example: Focus on humans

We’re all people here. Focus on the human subject of your proposal, whether you are talking about your team or the team you want to work with. Use actionable verbiage to show results succinctly, like so…

Don’t write it this way: Software features were the result of requests from end-users.
Instead, write it this way: Our developers deliver features your team needs, such as x, y, and z.

In the first poorly written example, you have a few different things going on. First, it shows as if the software development team just did what the ask was, without going above and beyond. Rather than using action words, the writing is passive.

Focusing on the human subject showcases action for the end-user. Here are a few more similar examples:

Don’t write it this way: Each team member has the experience to meet your every need.
Instead, write it this way: Our highly-experienced team delivers results. (Include real client example.)

Don’t write it this way: Manufacturing decisions were made based on requested specifications.
Instead, write it this way: Our manufacturing team creates quality and efficient products that help you achieve x, y, and z.

Don’t write it this way: The expense management software has helped each customer reduce fraud.
Instead, write it this way: This is how our expense management software combats your fraud risks. (Include results and/or testimonial.)

“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

RFP response example: Be succinct and real

Every single reader of an RFP response enjoys succinctness and clarity. They also want to get to know you and understand what your real voice is. We often spend too much time trying to sound fancy in an RFP response, trying too hard to impress.

Get to the point and show the prospect what you sound like as a human. If you win the proposal, that is the true beginning of your relationship.

Here are some winning RFP response examples to help with succinct, real voice usage.

Don’t write it this way: The engineering team is top-class and has expertly designed systems to meet specifications.
Instead, write it this way: Our top-class engineering team designs systems to meet your needs.

Don’t write it this way: The software development process we follow meets milestones timely and delivers on each requested business requirement.
Instead, write it this way: Our software developers deliver value on time.

Don’t write it this way: We approach each project in a systematic way. We follow three phases where we gather requests, develop, and then deliver. We implement each project and validate that it has met the needs of the customer.
Instead, write it this way: Our project management team is agile. We build, test, and deploy to deliver value.

In each of the examples above, you see situations where there are too many words. You also see cases where the real voice of you begins to shine through. Focus on how you talk and seek clarity in the messaging you deliver. Remember, every word counts.

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

RFP response example: Cut unnecessary words

You want to speak with action in your RFP responses and cut out words that weaken the statement. Avoiding the passive tense is critical to the win. Here are some examples of cutting out the passive and reducing the word count.

Don’t write it this way: We have been the best software developer for the past three years.
Instead, write it this way: We are an award-winning software developer.

Don’t write it this way: It is believed our engineering solution is the best.
Instead, write it this way: Over 200 users are happy with our engineering solution. (Provide short testimonial.)

Don’t write it this way: The last real estate project we finished was completed on-time.
Instead, write it this way: We finish each real estate project within 3 weeks.

“Applying principles of clear writing will make your proposal easy to see, follow, and understand, making it easier for your readers to say yes.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

Write every single RFP response with the intent of winning, but also write the same way you would talk to someone. Focus on everyday language, as if your customer was sitting across from you and you were having a conversation.

Leave plenty of time to review each RFP response to make sure you’re nailing that message. If you are continually rushing and skipping a thorough review, RFP software is here to help you and your team be more efficient with your entire process.

Schedule a demo of RFPIO and we’ll show you how RFP software supports your process, allowing your success rate to skyrocket.

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.

Randy White

What is your role at PerfectMind?

Proposal Specialist

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.

Connect with Randy on LinkedIn

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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