I like to think of RFP response managers as the unsung heroes of their organizations. In a typical company, around fourty-five percent of revenue begins with an RFP, and response is becoming more and more competitive every day.
In addition to having a range of titles — proposal manager, bid manager, capture manager, or RFP manager — response managers wear a lot of hats. They’re part researcher, part writer, part salesperson, and part ringleader, although they may claim that they’re more than part ringleader. Keeping up with that evolving skill set can be exhausting!
You could go back to school, I suppose, or you can hone your skills through blogs. Every morning, I read a handful of curated blog posts to help up my game. They’re quick, convenient, and easy to come back to when interrupted, and the great ones make me feel a little bit smarter.
In this post, I will share some of my favorite blogs. Some are about RFPs and response management and others dust off and refine all those other hats you wear.
- Learning Hub from G2
- Insight Partners Blog
- Seth’s Blog
- Martech Blog
- Proposal Pro
- Presentation Zen
- Winning the Business from APMP
- Business Writing
Best blogs for general business trends
Gartner is a fantastic resource for all things tech. They offer business consulting and some of the most thorough statistical research out there. The blog contextualizes their research and offers invaluable actionable insights to increase revenue and navigate a dynamic business environment.
Post you should start with: Is now the time to stand up or invest in sales enablement?
Generating revenue is the single most important business goal. As a writer, I like to feel as though I am part of the revenue generation process, although not directly. My colleagues in the marketing department and I are responsible for creating brand awareness and helping our sales department sell. Does that make marketing “sales enablement?” Is RFPIO a sales enablement platform? Doug Bushée with Gartner thinks so.
“(Sales enablement is) an opportunity to help your sales force be more effective, not just through technology or training but with a complete package that includes content, technology, communications, sales process, and training to enable your sales teams to drive revenue.” – Doug Bushée
McKinsey & Company is an OG in the management consulting world. While their blog isn’t specifically geared toward RFP response, they offer insights and best practices for all verticals and organizational structures. Many in the response industry look to McKinsey for inspiration or statistics for their own blogs. McKinsey’s blog covers a wide range of topics including mergers and acquisitions, analytics, risk management, sales operations, and more.
Post you should start with: Better forecasting for large capital projects
You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry with more variables, at least when it comes to proposals, than construction. The larger the project, the more difficult the bidding process. Most (we hope) companies don’t want to underbid, but all too often, it happens. This blog post explores the psychological factors behind underbidding.
“Why do project planners, on average, fail to forecast their effect on the costs of complex projects? We’ve covered this territory before but continue to see companies making strategic decisions based on inaccurate data. Deliberately or not, costs are systematically underestimated and benefits are overestimated during project preparation—because of delusions or honest mistakes on one hand and deceptions or strategic manipulation of information or processes on the other.” – McKinsey & Company
I am sort of obsessed with reviews. I refuse to try a new hair stylist, dog groomer, or restaurant without first checking their online reviews. I’m that annoying person who scans QR codes in the aisles of Costco or Target to make sure I’m making the best buying decisions.
Before accepting my job with RFPIO, I made sure it was a cultural fit for me and I checked G2 to see what their customers had to say about the platform. G2 is more than a software review site. Its blog is a phenomenal source of information for nearly every vertical and every skill set.
Post you should start with: What is accountability in the workplace? 12 ways to foster it
Most RFP responses require several stakeholders, which is where that unofficial role of ringmaster comes in. Guest blogger Susmita Sarma has several very helpful tips to create accountability in the workplace, which is sure to help you spend less time chasing stakeholders down and more time doing the rest of your jobs.
“In reality, accountability at work is all of the above, which runs like a machine. But if the employees keep no accountability mechanism in place, things quickly fall apart. To avoid this, every employee should be accountable for their own actions at work. It builds confidence within teams and organizations because people know they can depend on one another.” – Susmita Sarma
Do you follow economic or industry news? If not, I completely get it. Sometimes our plates are so full that it’s difficult to see the world outside. Few know more about business trends than venture capitalists, which is why my go-to blog for all things business is Insight Partners.
Post you should start with: SaaS pricing tactics for a high-inflation environment
Pricing is one of the key components of an RFP, and the ultimate component of an RFQ (request for quote). Should you offer the same pricing structure today as a quarter ago? Should you raise prices to cover inflation or lower them to gain a competitive advantage?
“Properly setting prices is an untapped opportunity for SaaS providers to squeeze more value out of what they offer. We often see companies who haven’t touched their pricing for three years or more — which might explain the lack of inflationary growth in the sector. Usually this means companies have built up a significant amount of pricing power through market growth and product improvement which they haven’t yet monetized. While this was also the case well before the current inflationary environment, now the opportunities are even greater — while the risks of not adapting your pricing are more severe.” – James Wood
Best marketing blogs
5. Hubspot Blog
Hubspot is one of the top CRM platforms and it has a strong focus on marketing. Their blog could have gone under the “general trends” category, but I read Hubspot for their marketing tips. In their blog, industry experts discuss everything from a product’s life cycle to how to be more productive.
Post you should start with: 12 free personality tests you can take online today
Aren’t online personality tests so early 2000s? In most cases, I’d agree, but there is value in learning how you tick. By understanding your personality and triggers, you can help establish a more harmonious and productive work environment. And because more data is almost always better, have your teammates take the tests.
These tests are great conversation starters, especially among groups of people who don’t know each other very well. They can help create connections and establish common ground at work. Learning about your colleagues’ personality traits can reveal how each team member prefers to receive feedback and criticism. This can help your team avoid unnecessary miscommunication down the road, as well as lead to more productive projects and meetings.” – Caroline Forsey
6. Seth’s Blog
I guess you could call Seth Godin a marketing guru. He’s a Stanford Business grad, a published author, and a dot com alumnus. Now he blogs. Some of his posts read like streams of consciousness and others like social media posts. I call them bursts of marketing wisdom.
Post you should start with: Contracts and Power
Proposals aren’t technically contracts but many contain the same terms. Who has the power? Would it surprise you to know that the power shifts depending on where you are in the sales cycle? Can you control the shifts?
“In the moment before a contract is signed, the lower-powered party momentarily has more power. That’s because the other entity wants what you have. But as soon as they have it, it’s only the contract that offers concrete protection against future events.” — Seth Godin
7. Martech Blog
The content-rich Martech blog is the leading resource for tech marketers. Their team of marketing professionals blogs about diverse topics such as content strategy, World Cup marketing, and how to survive the death of cookies. They have a robust search engine, so if you have a marketing, or marketing-adjacent, question, just plug your query in to get expert tips. Check the site often as they typically post three or more blogs per day.
Post you should start with: Only 28% of B2B content marketers report having the technology they need
This post caught my attention because it’s one of the many areas where marketers and proposal professionals share common ground. Twenty-eight percent of B2B marketers have the technology they need. Proposal management is somewhat better; 43% say they have the technology they need to perform their jobs.
“The technology issues are likely the results of two things. First, too many B2B companies are letting features and functions determine what’s in their stacks, when it should be determined by their own strategy. Second, they may not understand the level of complexity and amount of resources needed to manage and maintain their martech tools.”
Best proposal blogs
8. Proposal PRO
I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t spend as much time talking about nonprofit grant proposals as we should. Even when taking profit out of the equation, as with any for-profit company, nonprofits still need to create a compelling case for organizations to untie their purse strings. Competing for an organization’s budgeted grant money is challenging. Because you have to demonstrate that your nonprofit meets a donor’s values, a captivating and clear narrative is perhaps even more important than with for-profit industries.
Jodie Eisenberg, the founder of Proposal PRO, specializes in government grants and has more than $500 million in federal grants and contracts under her belt. In her blogs, she shares the tips and tricks to win those super-competitive federal grants.
Post you should start with: 4 ways that grant-writing can ruin your personality
Confession time: one of my closest friends is a grant writer. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard more polite variations on #4, “Don’t talk to me—I’m on a deadline!” Proposal writers of all kinds are arguably some of the busiest in their organizations. Jodie empathizes and offers advice that might help save grant writers from themselves.
“Let’s face it, deadline pressure is a thing, and if you’re still waiting for people to sign documents, provide a final budget item, or just call you back with an OK to submit, things can get tense.” – Jodie Eisenberg
The first thing that caught my eye with Presentation Zen was, well, the name. I’m willing to bet that your job, like mine, is fast-paced and requires you to turn on a dime. Presentations, where perfection is expected, only add to the stress. Presentation Zen is all about bringing confidence to your presentations by featuring the best advice from presentation experts.
Post you should start with: Pixar Studios *still* offers free storytelling lessons online
You may wonder why I recommended a post about the largest animation studio in the world. I’m not suggesting you include cartoon characters and fantasy in your responses, but proposal writing, like most writing, should offer strong narratives and follow a similar arc to your favorite Pixar movies.
Pixar may be the best at the technical side of animation, but what really made them successful is their understanding of story and storytelling. In an old interview regarding Pixar’s success, Steve Jobs said this: “Even though Pixar is the most technologically advanced studio in the world, John Lasseter has a saying which has really stuck: No amount of technology will turn a bad story into a good story.”
10. RFPIO Blog
I know how it sounds to recommend our own blog, but we’re truly passionate about improving the full-circle RFP process with response management software. That means that within our blog we cover procurement in addition to proposal themes. This broad range of topics helps deepen understanding and collaboration between buyers and sellers. Not only that, but many of the posts in our blog are inspired directly by recent conversations with our customers.
Post you should start with: RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy
This post from Ganesh Shankar, CEO at RFPIO, offers a vision of how response teams can help their companies navigate economic uncertainty. Currently, for many, RFPs are manual, time-consuming, painful, and downright annoying — but they don’t have to be. In addition to identifying challenges faced by organizations, the post explores how technology, transparency, and collaboration can drive significant revenue.
“In the grand scheme of things, this is a time when companies are looking for ways to be more efficient. Technologies tend to help companies become more efficient.
Better efficiency doesn’t mean that automation will take people’s jobs. I strongly feel that technology will allow companies to produce more and deliver better outputs with less infrastructure.” – Ganesh Shankar
APMP (the Association of Proposal Management Professionals) is the resource for proposal managers and stakeholders. Their blog, not surprisingly, is a wealth of information. Some of it is serious and some is rather tongue-in-cheek although most posts focus on best practices and industry news.
Post you should start with: Is a business proposal different from a marriage proposal?
If you google “proposal,” you’ll find that most dictionaries offer two definitions. One is a written proposal and the other involves a ring and a knee. Is it a reach to compare the two? Winning the Business makes the case that the two types of proposals have a lot more in common than we think.
“This article considers the logical progression of the capture methodology by comparing it with (the) universal experience of personal courtship. Couples go through a multi-stepped process that is remarkably like the four-step capture methodology. Both scenarios have several similarities including a common means to prompt a positive response during the proposal stage.” – Alan L. Lewis, CP APMP
Best writing blogs
What do proposal managers and college students have in common? In a word, writing. And in both cases, grammar matters. sixty-two percent of procurement departments say that they regularly receive error-riddled RFP responses. Sadly, grammatical and spelling errors can take a bidder right out of the running, which is understandable since most customers want to see attention to detail throughout an RFP response.
There are several writing and grammar tools online, but I love Grammarly because it covers many of the confusing basics like when to use accept vs. except.
Post you should start with: How to write a great business proposal
Grammarly is far more than just an online grammar checker. Its blog offers real-world advice and business writing tips. Grammarly can help boost your win rate by showcasing your company in its best light. Rachel Meltzer offers guidelines for creating a business proposal, whether solicited through an RFP or unsolicited.
“A business proposal is a document that presents one company’s products or services to another company in detail. Business proposals are often customized for the potential client. It’s a way for the company to market its product and get on the same page as its potential client before they agree to work together.” – Rachel Meltzer
13. Business Writing
While I love Grammarly, its reach is broad. There are tips and tools for students, fiction writers, and writing hobbyists. If you’re looking for something that’s specifically focused on business writing, there’s the Business Writing blog. Like Grammarly, they write entire blog posts covering confusing words like “council vs. counsel,” but their posts all have business angles.
Post you should start with: Is “data” singular or plural? Does it matter?
A tech copywriter, technical writer, and data scientist walked into a bar to ponder the word “data.” Okay, I’m open to suggestions as to a punchline, but a debate over whether “data” is singular or plural could get a little raucous, especially if one of the writers is, shall we say, traditional. Business Writing’s Ryan Fisher tackles that surprisingly controversial issue just to conclude that we’re all right.
“A look at Google’s Ngram graph shows that in American English, while the plural form (the data are) has been predominantly more common, the singular form (the data is) has been rising and is now on par with the plural form.” – Ryan Fisher