Start Responding Like a Pro

The RFPIO blog is full of insights and best practices, giving you the tools you’ll need to streamline your process and respond with confidence.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

To become a valuable subject matter expert, think revenue

To become a valuable subject matter expert, think revenue

Take it from someone who’s been there: A subject matter expert, or SME (sometimes pronounced “smee,” like Mr. Smee from […]

Category: Tag: Customer Stories

To become a valuable subject matter expert, think revenue

To become a valuable subject matter expert, think revenue

Take it from someone who’s been there: A subject matter expert, or SME (sometimes pronounced “smee,” like Mr. Smee from Peter Pan), is the person with the answers. The disconnect is that sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to sync up those who have questions with those who have the answers.

As a product manager, I spent 20 to 30 percent of my time responding to RFPs. I knew there had to be a better way for me as a subject matter expert to share my knowledge with the proposal and all other teams in the organization. That’s actually the driving force behind why I helped found RFPIO.

In this article, I want to delve into what subject matter experts do, how to become one, their importance in the sales process, and how knowledge sharing can help scale their expertise.

What is a subject matter expert?

A subject matter expert is the person that sales, proposal, and marketing teams rely on for their abundant knowledge and experience within a specific practice, process, technical method, or piece of equipment, according to Indeed’s career guide. They’re the specialist. They exist in every industry and discipline. They come by their expertise through either education, experience, or a combination thereof.

In addition to the product-side expertise, SMEs also possess expert insight into the prospect base. They may not necessarily know the details of every buyer persona, but they’ll understand the pain points of the prospect business case better than most in your organization. In many cases, they amassed their expertise working for one of your prospects or customers. They may have even used your product while working for a customer and became such an evangelist that they either sought you out, or you recruited them.

The EF Hutton television commercials in the 1970s and 80s are the epitome of a subject matter expert’s impact. In the ads, whenever someone utters the phrase “EF Hutton” everything around them comes to a halt, and people in the area unabashedly cup their hands behind their ears to listen in. The voiceover drops the tagline, “When EF Hutton talks, people listen.”

In the sales process, you want to enable open access to a subject matter expert when the prospect or customer is ready to listen. In an enterprise sale, there are likely multiple touchpoints where there’s a listening opportunity that can be seized by a subject matter expert.

How to become a subject matter expert

Learn, study, synthesize, experiment, test, and do. Subject matter experts are self-driven to become authorities in their chosen areas of expertise. Nevertheless, the strongest SMEs recognize that problem-solving is less about dictating expertise than it is about sharing expertise when the opportunity arises.

Subject matter experts need to develop superior listening skills so they’re able to absorb a client’s problem, synthesize it quickly, and respond in a fashion that is enlightening, while avoiding any hint of condescension. In other words, it’s not enough to be an expert on a particular subject matter and prospect base. SMEs must also be experts in sharing their expertise.

Colleagues may recognize them as an authority on specific areas and topics, but they may not know how to access them or their knowledge. SMEs need to be proactive in their involvement with RFP responses, sales and marketing strategy, customer support, and any other initiatives where their expertise is warranted.

Why SMEs are essential to winning new business

Sales and marketing may be the influencers, but SMEs are the experts…it’s in the name, right? According to Adweek: “Expertise is how someone reacts to your knowledge, whereas influence is how someone reacts to your status. People who have true expertise are inherently more influential, based on the power of that expertise.”

Responding to RFPs is one of the key opportunities for winning new business. They are a team effort on the grandest scale, requiring an organization to work closely together to submit a compelling deliverable.

The best proposal writer in the world won’t have the necessary expertise to fill in every detail. Even with attractive branding and the most driven sales team, a sales proposal still needs technical and strategic heart and soul. When it comes to response management, subject matter expertise holds the power to influence the entire deal.

Like the first whispers of a meme stock, once momentum starts, there’s no stopping it. When colleagues learn about SME availability, they’re going to find new ways to capitalize. Because buyers are more comfortable talking to SMEs; they know SME answers are the best answers, unfiltered by relationship-building concerns of sales or branding concerns of marketing. If a buyer is at the stage where they want to hear from an SME, then they want to be told rather than sold.

How to integrate SMEs into the sales process

Subject matter experts are the new rainmakers, with specialties that hold high value throughout the sales process. When SMEs are surrounded by support and resources, they can drive increased revenue goals.

It’s becoming more popular for presales teams to hire SMEs, illustrating a high priority on implementing subject matter expertise throughout the sales lifecycle. In the presales stage of the sales process, SMEs can act as solutions engineers or sales strategists. When preparing a demo or proof of concept (POC), SMEs are invaluable at uncovering pain points and feedback, which can then inform what to include in the demo or POC.

Presales SMEs can straddle relationship roles, taking the perspective of both the prospect and the provider. From the prospect’s perspective, a SME can be seen as an ally who truly understands their need and will fight to make sure the solution is the right fit.

Even if they don’t have a direct line to a sales team, top-performing SMEs see revenue support as an important function of their job. Other optimal sales process integration points include:

  • Handoffs: Even if the SME is not on one of the teams involved in the handoff (from security and compliance to CSM, for example), their presence may be a comfort to the customer. Again, the trust they’ve built during the sale can be used to engender long-term loyalty.
  • Account management check-ins: Periodic review of customer feedback helps in two primary areas. One, it helps close the loop on any concerns brought up during the presales stage of the process. Two, SMEs approach upsell or cross-sell opportunities with different eyes. Their experience with the customer as a prospect, overall experience with the industry, and interaction with the customer’s competitive landscape can lead to revelations an AM or CSM might not be privy to.
  • Implement a comprehensive knowledge sharing solution: While the subject matter expert may not always be available every time you need them, their expertise can. With a knowledge sharing solution like response management software, you can absorb and centralize subject matter expertise, and make it searchable from anywhere.

Knowledge sharing leads to viral expertise

Any subject matter expert will tell you that there’s far more to them than the sum of their extensive knowledge. Their demeanor, patience, and ability to establish rapport are vital to ingratiating trust with prospects and customers. In a perfect world, they would be available for every question, demo, or emergency that crops up. Since that’s not possible, making their expertise available 24/7/365 from anywhere is the next best option.

In response management, the answer library is the engine that drives knowledge sharing. That’s where question-answer pairs and other content created by SMEs are captured, curated, and shared with the rest of your organization. While building proposals, developing responses, creating new content, or trying to answer client questions in real time while you’re on the phone with them, you can tap into the subject matter expertise in your answer library.

In addition to daily sales process operations, the answer library is also essential to onboarding and training. As you hire new employees, they can reference the answer library to expand their understanding of products, capabilities, and your customers in context, making it a much more efficient learning experience.

Another advantage of knowledge sharing is that when subject matter experts move on, their expertise doesn’t walk out the door with them. Unfortunately, in this situation, you’ll have to find someone else who can pick up the subject matter expertise mantle and service prospects, customers, and the colleagues they need to support. But the transition will be easier with knowledge preserved from other SMEs who have come before them.

Knowledge management by response management

A response management platform like RFPIO has many benefits for organizations, yet only 43% use RFP-specific technology. One of the main benefits is streamlining the knowledge sharing process for everyone. Not only does it help you capture subject matter expertise, it also saves time, according to 82% of RFP software users, by providing:

  • A searchable information hub for all of your organization’s content called an Answer Library.
  • An AI-powered content recommendation engine that uses machine learning to always surface the most relevant answers.
  • Integrations with the most popular CRM, communication, cloud storage, and browser applications in use today.
  • Organization-wide accessibility through RFPIO LookUp, which allows you to search, select, and store answer library content from the applications where different users work.

An SME’s time is extremely valuable, second only to their expertise. Response management software is the ultimate solution that helps you get the most out of both.

Find out how to capture and use all of your organization’s subject matter expertise by scheduling a demo today!

The 6-step IT RFP response subject matter expert guide

The 6-step IT RFP response subject matter expert guide

The IT sector is highly competitive and innovation is the currency that separates successful technology companies from the rest. Maintaining innovation was even revealed as one of the top 5 challenges the tech industry needs to be prepared for.

Tech industry organizations must maintain a balance, continually innovating to gain a competitive edge with their products or services while using the latest technologies for optimizing their internal operations.

As a Subject Matter Expert (SME) at a technology company, your expertise is often called upon to help maintain that balance. It is especially valuable when new business is on the table and your knowledge elevates the quality of an IT RFP response.

In the following IT RFP response guide, you’ll learn the most efficient methods for contributing to your organization’s success. The next time your expertise is summoned for an RFP, you’ll be ready.

The IT RFP response guide for SMEs

1. Show more value to your revenue team

What’s the main difference between top-performing SMEs and average SMEs? They show more value by directly contributing their expertise to the organization’s revenue-generating objectives.

Responding to RFPs is one of the key opportunities for winning new business. Revenue teams include people from sales, marketing, support, and customer success. An SME at a technology company is also part of this revenue team. Their contributions are needed to refine details that can influence a deal.

You’re busy. Revenue is only part of your overall responsibilities. If you are willing to make time to contribute to revenue-generating objectives like RFPs, you’ll show more value to both your revenue team and your organization.

2. Make the process more efficient with technology

On the heels of participation in the process comes a willingness to make the process better than before. Technology is often the missing ingredient for continued innovation. Ironically, technology organizations and IT teams are stuck in the old, manual way of response management. They live in spreadsheets and Google folders instead of a technologically advanced platform.

A response management platform like RFPIO saves companies time and resources when they are responding to ANY type of business query. That business query could be an RFx (including RFPs, RFIs, etc.) or any form of security questionnaires (Security Questionnaires Lite, VSAQ, CAIQ, VSA, etc.). That business query could also be the repetitive technical questions you receive from your sales team.

No matter the type of response, using technology like a response management platform offers a single login application for you to quickly locate, filter, and populate the answers to these questions. It also integrates with popular solutions (like Slack, Salesforce, Sharepoint, and Microsoft Teams) to improve collaboration.

Discover Your Time-Savings Potential with Our ROI Calculator

3. Communicate to keep the RFP project on target

Often you are the one creating highly technical content within an RFP response. Be clear on the requirements so you understand exactly what the issuer needs to know. If you reuse an older response that doesn’t meet that requirement, then you might affect your organization’s chances of capturing new business.

Being that the tech space is so competitive, another company is typically right behind yours all the way through the sales process. Before diving into your response or section, clarify the details and language with your proposal management lead—or connect with the issuer directly.

4. Position your organization as a security expert

Security-related questions are becoming an everyday occurrence in the high-tech space. Because you’re the technical subject matter expert, security questionnaires inevitably end up “on your desk.” While these can be daunting documents, it’s also easy to understand that the issuer is only doing their due diligence before committing to a vendor partnership.

To put your potential partner at ease, you’ll want to show that your organization takes their security seriously by taking security questionnaires seriously. Since these vendor assessments often have hundreds of questions, your best bet is to lean on a response management platform to bulk-answer and import/export smoothly.

“RFPIO helped us build a scalable, repeatable process for handling a large number of RFPs, IT security questionnaires, due diligence forms, and vendor applications. This system allows us to easily invite multiple contributors, authors, SMEs, and reviewers at a Project, Section, and Questions level.” – Gavin O’Donoghue, Global RFP Manager at Cision

5. Participate in the review workflow

Before you are brought into the RFP response process, a typical RFP has been touched by a group of people, possibly including: a proposal writer, a proposal manager, a sales manager, and a marketing manager. It’s your responsibility to ensure relevancy and accuracy with technical responses whenever a non-SME drafts the content first.

The review process can be confusing and you may not know where your place is within that workflow. Rather than skipping the review cycles in favor of other priorities, be the SME that establishes some ground rules so everyone is clear on timing. If your organization is missing an RFP response process, use this one as your guide.

6. Keep the best content relevant

Over time, every business evolves. But a technology company evolves even faster. Successful response management is rooted in consistent content management. Having a centralized knowledge repository is a step in the right direction. Maintaining that repository is the next—often forgotten—step.

RFPIO offers an answer library for storing and organizing all of your responses. A quarterly content audit should be performed to keep company information updated. To audit your content consistently, simply set up custom reminders at a cadence of your choosing.

Even if you have a proposal manager who handles content audits, that person will not know the latest technical info like you do. By stepping in to regularly help with content audits, you’ll make the process faster the next time a business query arrives. Content will be current, so you can customize and plug in responses without starting with a blank page.

Now that you have the IT RFP response guide in your hands, let’s show you how a response management platform like RFPIO helps you succeed in your role. Schedule a demo right here.

Develop a user adoption strategy to find renewed success

Develop a user adoption strategy to find renewed success

As you’re wrapping up the year, you’re probably looking at next year’s budget and analyzing your organization’s technology stack. The 2018 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic revealed nearly 7,000 technology solutions, with response management platforms like RFPIO being one of them.

Next year the technology landscape will surely be even bigger. And organizations have to ask themselves: Do we want to continue to invest in this or that software?

Before you decide whether this or that software is on the budget chopping block, first you need to look inward at your internal user adoption efforts. See if you did everything humanly possible to maximize the features and benefits you and your team had all this time.

Every day we come across teams that aren’t using our own RFP software to its fullest extent. Along the way, we have found several software user adoption tips and processes to help organizations find renewed success with the technology they’ve had all along.

Need some ideas for improving user adoption? This is how you develop a user adoption strategy that protects your technology investment and renews success at your organization.

What to include in your user adoption strategy

Organizations are investing in thousands of software solutions, but often they don’t take a step back to develop a user adoption strategy. The goal of a user adoption strategy is to maximize the ROI of the technology you invested in so your team can achieve greater success.

Here are some points to consider including in your user adoption strategy:

1. Share what will stay the same in the process

Some team members will naturally resist change. List the elements of your process that will stay the same to get people more comfortable.

2. Discuss what will change in the process

You gave your team some familiarity to hang onto during the first step. Now it’s time to gently introduce the unfamiliar. List out process changes that will occur once the software application is in use.

“In overcoming resistance to change and building support for change, leaders need to communicate an appealing vision of change in combination with a vision of continuity.” – Harvard Business Review

3. Identify the owners

Ownership is incredibly important for the success of any software solution. Decide who will own different pieces of the process (i.e. content management strategy, project management, etc.).

4. Clarify authority levels

After you identify owners, spell out their level of authority to make decisions. This helps everyone be clear about who is handling various stages of the process.

5. Perform consistent data audits

Even though software solutions are cloud-based, data audits and clean-up are always necessary. With RFPIO’s answer library, we recommend that teams decide on a specific content audit cadence. RFP responses inevitably build up—this is the time to de-duplicate and update content.

Without a consistent content audit, the answer library loses some of its ability to make teams faster at responding to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, etc. Decide on a cadence, whether that is weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Audits will keep your solution running at optimal levels, keeping your users happy as a result.

6. Assign a dedicated auditor

You would think this one could be rolled into #3 above about identifying the owners. The reason we’re calling this out? Because organizations typically don’t assign specific team members to own data, content, or project audits.

To make sure audits happen, make sure someone owns this part of the process too.

7. Decide user roles

Your software will have different user roles within the application that limit or grant access to various features and actions. Decide user roles based on their role in the process. Adjust accordingly if the user needs less or more to do their jobs effectively within the solution.

user adoption
8. Figure out a rollout timeline

“All at once” isn’t a rollout plan. Instead, create a timeline and roll out the solution over time. Decide on a trial period, when it begins and when it ends. Also, have a drop-dead date when you want to be using the solution for all projects.

9. Have a back-up

Even the best stage actor has a back-up in case something happens. So should you. Figure out who will step in and take someone’s place if someone transitions out of a role or the organization entirely. Make sure the back-up is trained properly ahead of time so they can jump in when they are needed.

10. Improve user experience

Within the platform, there are numerous ways to improve the user experience for your team. Customizing your instance with your logo and brand colors bring a sense of familiarity. Managing integrations is also important. Make sure all technology is talking to each other to promote a seamless experience for your team.

11. Provide ongoing training

Training is never a one-and-done situation with long-term user adoption success. Know how often you will host a refresher training for existing or new colleagues (monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, etc).

Also, schedule time to make sure each person knows how to execute with different features, based on their role. In RFPIO, we might want to make sure someone knows how to search the answer library, how to edit a Q&A pair, and how to mark content as reviewed.

12. Share user best practices

Check in with your team regularly to find out how they’re using the solution, then share some of those best practices. Where software gets complex is the bells and whistles. Some team members will discover tips and tricks that others don’t. Share those stories to help everyone be more effective together.

13. Uncover information silos

Even with the best software, and with your best intention to improve user adoption, you might find people digress to old ways of doing things. Then, you end up with information silos—not to mention a lack of collaboration.

If you find team members storing content in other solutions or folders, encourage them to centralize that data back into the solution the organization is using. These team members likely need additional training to feel more comfortable with the process, but they also might not ask for help. Be proactive by offering to have one-on-one training with them.

14. Measure user adoption success

How do you know if your user adoption efforts are paying off? By establishing goals upfront that allow you to measure success. Perhaps you want to see X number or X percentage of projects or team members active within the solution. Figure out that metric and track your progress so you can adjust user adoption efforts as needed through the year until you reach that goal.

User adoption success depends on defining and implementing a strategy that ultimately helps people succeed in their roles. By developing a user adoption strategy, you’re taking the right steps to invest in your team for the software investment you already made.

RFP answer library: 10 before and after RFP software stories

RFP answer library: 10 before and after RFP software stories

What do buyers really think of bidding organizations? Well, er…some of the results from this survey weren’t so favorable for RFP responders. At the end of the day, nearly half of these buyers felt that bidders just didn’t do themselves justice in their proposals. However, there is light at the end of your RFP answer library.

With any organizational challenges, identifying the root cause of the issue is the best way to create a long-term solution. Buyers think RFP responses are not up to snuff because—let’s face it—they probably aren’t as amazing as they could be. RFP software gives your team more time to do a better job…your answer library is ultimately the key to your success.

Because you all love seeing real examples in the RFP response world, we combed through tons of RFPIO user reviews to gather and share authentic RFP content management solutions. What follows is a snapshot of RFP responders’ lives, before and after RFP software.

Customer-centric RFP responses increase win rate

Before RFP software

A proposal manager spent most of his time researching multiple documents and resources to eventually produce an “okay” answer. His SMEs were always short on time—they either provided rushed responses or ignored his emails when he needed input. They could never get ahead of the RFP deadline, no matter how many times they repeated the process.

After RFP software

An RFP answer library offered the gift of speed. Centralizing responses and organizing them with tags helped his team respond accurately in a client-focused manner. Instead of spending hours researching and gathering information, he used that extra time to focus on an RFP response strategy. In a short time frame, this organization improved its win rate with customer-centric responses that helped them stand out in a competitive market.

High organizational productivity to process more RFPs

Before RFP software

A director of presales support saw that her entire organization had room for improvement with their process for answering security questionnaires, RFPs, and RFIs. Since everyone was piecing content together in their own silos, her team produced less effective responses as a result. They didn’t accurately track the effort of their work, but they knew their RFP response time could be more efficient with a team solution.

After RFP software

All business units started contributing content to a centralized RFP answer library. She trained employees worldwide to use the application, integrating users from: IT, HR, Legal, Finance, Professional Services, and Education Services. RFx documents became consistent, and she was able to track progress. High productivity helped her team process more RFP projects than before.

Convenience improves RFP response completion time

Before RFP software

A senior solutions engineer typed the same RFP responses over and over again with every new business opportunity. The repetition should have made his job easier. Yet he still had to dig for historical responses to copy and paste them in the RFP. He used multiple computer monitors to find the information he needed as quickly as possible, using the Control+F function.

After RFP software

No more Control+F! With a searchable RFP answer library, he easily pulled information from a single source. Since he no longer depended on extra monitors to complete RFPs, he took advantage of working remotely— at home, or when he had downtime at the airport. This convenience made it easier for him to complete RFP responses on his preferred schedule to meet the deadline.

Time to tailor RFP responses for a stronger deliverable

Before RFP software

A business analyst identified key issues that could only be solved by an investment in an RFP content management solution. RFPs consumed too many resources and took too long. It finally got to a point where SMEs (subject matter experts) didn’t want to contribute, because they answered repetitive questions constantly.

After RFP software

An RFP answer library was the missing ingredient all along. Auto-response filled in repetitive questions with historic RFP responses for him upfront, lightening the workload for busy SMEs. Rather than starting from scratch each time, answer recommendations provided relevant content and SMEs only had to perform a quick review for accuracy. This saved hours for everyone, which they reallocated to tailor content for a stronger RFP deliverable.

An RFP answer library breaks down information silos

Before RFP software

A senior sales engineer saw that his team continually came up with workarounds to manage RFP and sales content. Information silos were prevalent across the organization, and it was slowing down their entire sales process.

After RFP software

His team quickly realized the functional opportunities with their new RFP answer library. IT team members loved how much time they saved just by looking up previous RFP responses. An added bonus they discovered was using the content library to store all internal FAQs, giving every team member one access point for company information whenever they needed it.

Approved content in an accessible RFP answer library

Before RFP software

A proposal manager felt that the quality of her organization’s RFP response content wasn’t up to par. She did her best to organize RFP responses in a series of Word docs and spreadsheets. She kept up with a spreadsheet of approved responses, but team members continued copying and pasting from various RFPs, resulting in copying and pasting errors and inconsistencies.

After RFP software

The RFP answer library and section templates allowed her team to save questions and blocks of boilerplate text. Managing and auditing RFP content was easier, so she was able to make approved content easily accessible for her team. Compared to copying and pasting, searching for the best response became a fast and intuitive practice for everyone.

Better RFP responses and better sleep patterns

Before RFP Software

A senior solutions executive realized tracking down past responses in his labyrinth of Google Drive folders took several hours for every RFP. He always questioned his selections, wondering if what he did find was the best possible response—or if the better option was buried deep in another folder. Unable to handle his workload during business hours, he worked late at night to submit RFPs at the eleventh hour.

After RFP Software

He fundamentally changed the way his team managed RFPs with an answer library. No longer did he burden valuable internal resources with repetitive questions. By leveraging the tagging and star system, his team felt more confident about their choices. He used search functionality to find answers in seconds instead of hours. Since he didn’t have to work late anymore on RFPs, overall he felt more rested and productive.

Cost savings on RFP response team resources

Before RFP software

A senior proposal manager recognized the rising internal resource costs of their RFP response process. On average, this organization responded to 2-4 RFPs per month and spent about 80-100 hours researching and answering highly technical questions. With employee hourly rates ranging from $25 to $50 per hour, resource budgets were out of control.

After RFP software

The cost savings on resource hours far outweighed the cost of the RFP software he purchased. When responding to imported RFP questions, answer recommendations automatically populated the best-fit response directly from the answer library. Typing in one or two keywords into the search bar produced accurate results. Resource costs decreased exponentially, freeing up the budget for his other business initiatives.

Complete control over the RFP response process

Before RFP software

A strategic sales support manager did not have a formal RFP response process or an RFP content management tool at her organization. She tried using other content management systems to organize their Q&A pairs but often ended up with duplicate answers. It was difficult to repurpose variations on the same RFP responses, so her team ended up customizing the answer every time.

After RFP software

A smarter approach to RFP content management brought immediate time-savings benefits to her RFP response team. She added alternate questions and answers with customized names (short response, excel response, division-specific response, etc.) She gained complete control over their RFP content and she felt new responses were stronger than in previous RFPs.

Winning more deals with quality RFP responses

Before RFP software

An enterprise account executive responded to many RFPs, RFIs, and VSQs. It was the nature of their business, and his team worked hard to meet short turnaround times in the hopes of gaining new business. Since numerous departments were involved in RFP responses, they couldn’t respond to as many opportunities and they weren’t reaching their sales goals.

After RFP software

A new ability to collaborate in real-time reduced turnaround on these RFP requests. The answer library stored typical Q&A pairs that could be added and customized in a few minutes. This improved process allowed his team to take on more RFPs than before. Responding faster—with more consistent RFP responses—helped them win more deals at a higher rate.

Rushing an RFP out the door doesn’t exactly leave much time for fine-tuning the deliverable with a strategic mindset. The good news is that we can positively shift the buyer’s perspective if we improve the way we manage our RFP content library. That means saying goodbye to your labyrinth of Google drive folders and being more methodical with RFP software.

Join thousands of other RFPIO users to become our next before and after RFP software success story. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to manage your RFP content like a pro.

Why listening is the key to a satisfying customer experience

Why listening is the key to a satisfying customer experience

In the age of snake oil salesmen and traveling doctors, a “quick close” was the best (and only) way to do business — gotta close the deal before anyone finds out it’s all a sham. 

For organizations today, closing the deal is only the first step. After a prospect becomes a customer, successful organizations work on forming real partnerships with their customers — rather than treating them as another tick up on their quarterly revenue quota.

In other words, organizations are putting more value on customer experience. And one of the tried and true ways for improving the customer experience is listening to your customers.

“Because customers today are so discerning and powerful, most organizations need to invest far more in customer experience” –PwC 

Encourage customer feedback

Many organizations are leery about encouraging their customers to leave reviews because they fear a bad review might come out in public on a third party site, like G2 Crowd or Capterra.

But in this day and age, reviews are the lifeblood of any organization. The more reviews you have, the more credibility you have — even bad reviews up your credibility as an organization. And the truth of the matter is that, unless you’re selling ice cream, you’re not going to make everyone happy.

90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends over advertising.” – Hubspot 

So why are reviews so important? A big reason is that we have all been trained to distrust advertising and marketing material. A 2017 Deloitte Global Study found that 75% of North Americans engage in at least one form of regular ad-blocking. 

Meanwhile, 75% of people mistrust advertising and only 8% of people agree that internet advertising is the best source of information, according to 2019 Hubspot data.

However, people trust people. According to the same Hubspot data, 90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends, while 70% believe other consumer opinions. 

When it comes to establishing credibility and trust, it’s smart to have a plan in place to focus on gathering support from your customers on these review platforms.

Ditto, for product feedback. You want to have your door wide open, so customers feel comfortable leaving suggestions. Whether that’s a user community, a customer success team, or any combination that works, your product and your organization should be equipped to accept requests easily and often.

Read and react to your customers’ reviews

Having your door open is one thing. To truly make the customer feel welcome, you have to be a good listener. Each review your organization receives should be read (not scanned), and whenever possible, shared with your team.

At RFPIO, our CEO Ganesh reads each review aloud to the marketing and sales team. Our development team in Coimbatore receives an email of each review. This ensures that the whole team is in the loop with both feedback to improve the tool—and customer success stories we can all celebrate together.

“The customer of 2020 will be more informed and in charge of the experience they receive. They will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalize the experience.” – Walker

After you read the review, it’s time to react. Internally, define your customer review strategy to keep responses consistent. Are you going to respond to all reviews, good or bad? Are you only going to address the negative reviews to let your customers know you’re taking their suggestions seriously?

Whichever response strategy you decide, once a review is posted, respond to your customer within 24 hours. Remember, they took time out of their busy schedules to leave a review for you. They deserve a prompt reply that expresses your gratitude and/or concern for their happiness.

Learn from your customers to improve your product

The same rule with reviews applies to product feedback. Listen to what your customer has to say, then take action as a team. Actively engaging with your customers and promoting a sense of community involvement will only make your product stronger.

Your customers are in the solution more than you are—well, with the exception of the development team. The big difference is that they are working in the tool, so there are real situations and deadlines at play.

We can learn a lot from our customers to improve our product. And, we certainly do here at RFPIO—over 90% of customer feedback has been implemented or is in development.

While the 24 hours review response rule is likely too challenging for product changes, timeliness is what can truly wow the customer. Establish ground rules for customer feedback implementation, along with a goal each month for how much feedback you want to implement. This is the action piece of your customer engagement strategy, and how you execute will demonstrate your organization’s commitment.

What happens to your organization when you listen well?

Good things. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when you’re a SaaS company…reviews are priceless. Your customer’s first-hand experience helps prospects understand what it’s like to use your tool. Even the best demo by your top salesperson can’t compete with a glowing user testimonial.

Traction will inevitably start to happen over time. Your product will start to gain recognition in your industry, recognition that’s powered by the people—your community of users.

When you take your customer’s feedback seriously, you’re fully engaging your customer through the lifecycle, well past the closing of the sale. You’re not treating any relationship as a transaction, because you know it’s a partnership.

This approach will support customer retention by creating advocates for your organization. By maximizing the opportunities your customers can bring—product development, long-term value, referrals, other partnerships—your listening will certainly pay off.

Many may assume that once the deal is done, it’s time to move on to the next one — but that couldn’t be further from the case. On the contrary, a closed deal is when the real work begins.

The opportunity to engage and listen is right there for your organization. If you take the time to show this level of commitment, your product will be better for it. Most importantly, your customers will reciprocate that commitment and help champion your brand.

How solutions engineers met growing RFP demand with RFPIO

How solutions engineers met growing RFP demand with RFPIO

If you’ve ever logged into a website with a traditional email or through social login, it’s likely you’ve used Janrain in the process. Founded in 2002, the company was a pioneer in the area of Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM). They work with many global enterprises and high profile consumer brands to help manage the login process for their web and mobile properties.

Information about a user’s login behavior has become a foundational element of many companies’ marketing strategy. According to Manuel Cruz, Janrain’s Director of Solutions Engineering, for those organizations, “the notion of a single identity across multiple brands or multiple divisions is like the Holy Grail.”

The demand for Janrain’s turn-key CIAM solution and GDPR readiness resources has increased as marketing strategy evolves to require more personalized and secure user experiences across web and mobile. From 2016 to 2017, the number of RFPs they received more than doubled, and that number was on trend to keep pace in the current year.

As the volume of RFPs increased, it became apparent that Janrain would need to bring in a response automation solution like RFPIO. Without a more efficient process, Manuel and his team of solutions engineers were beginning to feel stretched beyond their means.

It was important for Manuel’s team to find an RFP solution that would support these 3 things:
1. Collaboration among multiple users and departments
2. Quick implementation of their historic question and answer pairs
3. Functionality to store multiple answers for similar questions

With RFPIO, they were able to refine their RFP strategy in these 3 ways:
1. Have all their RFP content in one place, accessible to all contributors
2. Provide some relief for the increasingly busy solutions engineering team
3. Form a relationship with RFPIO’s customer success team for ongoing support

The subject matter experts

With 15 years experience as a solutions engineer, Manuel Cruz has seen his fair share of RFPs.

It is a solutions engineer’s job to assist in the technology sales process by offering technical knowledge of the product or service, and to deliver that information in a way that translates to the potential buyer. This often makes them the subject matter expert on technical questions that accompany an RFP.

In the past, Manuel’s experiences responding to RFPs were varied. He’d save questions and answers in spreadsheets or shared documents and go on elaborate quests to find the right content.

At times, he’d worked for companies that had a dedicated “RFP guy” who would independently manage the process. Since he’s been at Janrain, he has experimented with RFP automation software, but it wasn’t until RFPIO came along that the future started to look brighter.

A solution for the solutions engineers

To get ahead of their expanding number of RFPs, the team at Janrain decided to align people and processes. They started with a content exercise that would bring together representatives from all the departments that contribute to any given RFP.

They collected and combined all the question and answer pairs they could come up with. Because they work with buyers of all levels of technical prowess, it was necessary for them to store different answers for similar questions.

Manuel and team needed the right solution for storing all this content, and managing the collaborative process of responding to their growing number of RFPs. They decided on RFPIO’s response automation software, and once they were up and running, the first project was to upload the Q&A so they could get to work.

“Getting started with RFPIO was really easy. The team helped us with the initial seeding of the answer repository and a quick tutorial, which got us up to speed,” Manuel said. “The tool itself is very intuitive.”

A true customer success

Since deployment, Manuel and team have been able to meet their increasing RFP demand with time to spare and a newfound sense of relief. “I’m still not crazy about RFPs, but you guys definitely make it a more satisfying experience.”

That doesn’t mean that they went without challenges, though. Because the Janrain team was so eager to use RFPIO when they secured it, they realized after a few months that they hadn’t fully embraced the tool’s complete functionality.

So Manuel invited RFPIO customer success manager, Andrew Stone, to their office to help them manage roadblocks and take advantage of features that would address their particular needs.

“It was incredibly helpful to have that health check with Andrew,” Manuel said. “Now we know more about how to use the tool, and we have the resources to train people internally as the need arises.”

Ready for easier RFP response? Schedule a Demo with our team.


“RFPIO has absolutely been able to provide efficiencies that have allowed us to answer more RFPs with the same number of people, in less time.” – Manuel Cruz, Janrain

Manuel Cruz is the Director of Global Solutions Engineering at Janrain, a Portland-based pioneer in Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM). He has been a Solutions Engineer and Product Manager within the Financial Services, CRM, and Telecommunications industries over the past fifteen years, and has extensive experience selling and deploying web- and telephony-based solutions within large companies like AT&T, Walmart, Banamex, Telcel, and Mondeléz. As a Solutions Engineer with Janrain, Manuel has worked closely with global enterprise customers across the US, South America, Europe, and Asia helping deliver technical and digital strategy to Qantas, Electrolux, the NBA, and Coca-Cola. He received his B.S. from Yale and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Why a marketing team upgraded RFP response tools

Why a marketing team upgraded RFP response tools

The need for a better solution

Kevin Knopf decided it was time for a change. As the head of Keenan & Associates’ proposal management efforts and a longtime RFP responder, Kevin was already familiar with RFP software. But it was important that his team of marketers could do their job, and the RFP response tool they were using was falling short.

At Keenan & Associates, the marketing team is in charge of proposal management. They are responsible for developing and maintaining relevant content, and providing assistance to the sales team and subject matter experts involved in the process. Since the organization works with government agencies, they have to be able to update proposal content as regulations change, and the accuracy of the language they use is critical.

“Organizations don’t submit proposals because they want a sales pitch. They want to know the differentiators that show value in the services they’re looking for instead of just a simple answer.” – Kevin Knopf

Making the right choice

Kevin wanted to facilitate a more efficient process and deliver the best content for positive results. His journey for a better software solution led him to RFPIO, and the rest is history.

Kevin and his team were looking to upgrade their RFP software to fit these 3 needs:

  1. A dynamic content library that would be simple to update for all stakeholders.
  2. The ability to scale for an ever-changing number of collaborators, without extra cost.
  3. A better user experience with fewer clicks and an uncomplicated interface.

These 3 positive results came from his decision to choose RFPIO over other proposal response tools:

  1. More efficiency in the response process led to better work-life balance.
  2. Greater confidence in proposing bid turnaround times to executives.
  3. Customer experience with RFPIO went beyond expectations.

Click here to watch Kevin’s story.


“RFPIO has made it easier to reply with response requirements because we can see it all there in one centralized place instead of a document or spreadsheet that’s cobbled together. I can get an update on progress really easily.”

– Kevin Knopf, Keenan & Associates

How RFP software helped DTI submit winning RFPs in less time

How RFP software helped DTI submit winning RFPs in less time

Jonathan Gudger, the Solutions Architect at DTI, used to spend anywhere from 20-30 hours responding to a single RFP.

This was in spite of the fact that Jonathon and his team had a documented RFP response procedure, and they had even implemented software that was allegedly designed to help them manage content. 

Jonathan knew that had to be a better way to respond to RFPs. So he set out in search of a better solution.

Better quality responses in less time 

After implementing RFPIO, all past question-and-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) and relevant documents were consolidated in a single answer library. Even better, the DTI team could use the auto-respond feature to automatically populate answers for up to 75% of questions. This meant his team had more time to finesse the final content and submit high-quality (read: winning) responses.

This early success with RFPIO prompted DTI to create a solutions desk to form support technologies that would further advance and enable their sales team.

Within the first two weeks, we were able to show upper management 1,000 questions and answers already populated in the tool. It was a huge selling point!”  

Responding to RFPs in half the time 

With a consolidated answer library and the ability to assign certain questions or sections to individuals—adding much-needed visibility and accountability to the RFP process—DTI can now respond to RFPs in half the time.

How an RFP solution dramatically reduced completion time

How an RFP solution dramatically reduced completion time

Spending precious hours rifling through Word docs and spreadsheets is a common story for businesses. A typical response for Josh Itzoe of Greenspring required 20-40 hours of work—it was clear this wasn’t a good practice for maximizing the value of his time and skills.

Enduring the manual execution firsthand prompted Josh to find an RFP solution that would not only significantly decrease RFP completion time, but also deliver seamless accessibility for his team to make the approach more scalable and effective.

Josh’s team sought to improve their RFP process in 3 ways:

  1. Locate similar questions and answers he could easily replicate to save 20-40 hours for each response.
  2. Maximize the value of his time and skills to be able to spend more time on other business priorities.
  3. Delegate proposals to other team members to grant access to their knowledge base for a more sustainable process.

These 3 factors contributed to Josh’s newfound success with RFP response:

  1. Eliminating the information hunt became possible with a repository.
  2. Automating responses overcame delays to meet short deadlines.
  3. Reducing response time to less than 5 hours offered growth opportunities.

“In our business, we’ve found that the sales process for RFPs is very much a numbers game, but before RFPIO we were much more limited in the number of RFPs we could respond to. RFPIO enables us to have more ‘at-bats’ and I expect this will positively impact our revenue growth.”

– Josh Itzoe, Greenspring

3 ways to de-stress your RFP process right now

3 ways to de-stress your RFP process right now

RFPs are a team effort, requiring hours and resources companies often feel they don’t have to spare. But to source new business and win clients, responding to RFPs is crucial to an organization’s success.

The manual approach to RFP response is a common one among businesses—even today, with the wealth of technology at our fingertips. But someone has to do the job of responding to RFPs, so we might as well make it as stress-free as possible. With a few important tweaks, your sales team can spend less time on administrative tasks and more time generating revenue.

Here are 3 ways to de-stress your RFP process, so you can focus on growing your business.

1. Centralize RFP answers

A known pitfall with RFPs is the low win rate chances, and inconsistent responses are often the culprit. It’s no wonder when teams across departments are using spreadsheets and emails to store their answers—hunting down responses in a hurry when the deadline is looming, and rushing to get the RFP out the door in time for submission.

Fortunately, RFP management solutions minimize that risk by automatically storing responses as the RFP is completed. An answer library has the power to become your organization’s knowledge base, not only for RFPs but also as a repository your sales team can always refer back to for intelligence.

2. Optimize your SMEs

Your subject matter experts are valuable for your business—and so is their time. Let them do what they do best…help your business grow and thrive. Answering the same questions over and over again is not the best use of their time, and most high performers avoid these tasks in favor of other priorities.

Why send a person to do a machine’s job? Instead, use technology to automate the response process. These tools apply adaptive learning to understand the questions, and automatically recommend the most accurate answers based on your past responses. The time-savings alone will benefit your business, which on average is 40% with a robust RFP management tool.

3. Automate RFP assembly

Typically the most time-consuming part of responding to an RFP is assembling the answers in a cohesive format. The importance of a quality delivery can’t be overlooked, because sloppy responses can reflect poorly on your brand and harm a potential deal.

With several different authors providing input, it can be challenging for the proposal manager to gather, organize, compile, and construct the response package so it’s client-ready. RFP management software can automate the whole assembly process to help you deliver the highest quality product that will impress your client and potentially win business for you.

RFP management technologies have come a long way. It’s time for us to leave behind the old-fashioned approach of spreadsheets and docs, and enter a more efficient era through automated solutions.

How are you making your RFP process as stress-free as possible? We’d love to hear your tricks and tips!

Get the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our blog and never miss an important insight again.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.