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Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

In part 1, we discussed the best practices to scale your response management process from your end. This week we […]


Category: Tag: Response management automation

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

In part 1, we discussed the best practices to scale your response management process from your end. This week we will look at how RFPIO’s toolbox can help you standardize your operations, improve communication, and trim response time, so your team can spend more time driving revenue. 

The RFPIO features that can help manage your response time

The RFPIO platform includes several features to help with your bid/no-bid decision-making. 

Intake

We designed the intake feature to help teams submit their project requests as intakes to the proposal team. The intake submits project requests to the designated user(s), who will approve or reject them. In addition, you can create an intake form with custom fields that will help you decide whether or not to pursue a project.

CRM integration

Another way to increase transparency and automate processes around the bid/no-bid decision is through one of our CRM integrations. For example, if sales is tracking information used in a bid decision, you can pull those fields into RFPIO. Your sales team will only ever have to enter the information once. Some of RFPIO’s CRM integrations even allow teams to fill out the intake form without ever leaving the CRM.

Reporting/custom fields

Lastly, you can use custom reporting on any fields you create in the intake form to analyze your win/loss rates and how they may be affected by certain factors in the opportunities you choose to pursue. This enables your team to evaluate your strategy and determine if you use your resources wisely when responding to RFPs.

What is your proposal management process?

You’ve decided which RFPs are worthy of responses. The next step in auditing your RFP process is evaluating how you’re managing the proposals. 

Are you having kickoff meetings?

A kickoff meeting is one of the most critical parts of the response process. At the end of a successful kickoff meeting, each team member will leave armed with clear roles and responsibilities – all designed with one clear goal, winning the bid! 

  • Are roles and responsibilities crystal clear? – Following a kickoff meeting, each team member should have an action plan. Follow up in your project management software.
  • Do you have a specific schedule? – Create hard deadlines for each team member and each response phase. 

Are you following the proposal’s progress?

Proposal managers should perform daily progress evaluations to ensure that they can address issues and lags before causing delays or inaccuracies.

How are you managing your team?

Proposal response has a lot of moving pieces. A proposal manager’s role is to follow those pieces, even if the responsibilities are outside the team’s immediate control. For example:

  • How are you tracking and managing tasks outside of the RFPIO platform?
  • How are subcontractors managed? 
  • How do your teams juggle multiple proposals?
  • Is there a shared calendar?

Task templates

How many of you have several tasks for every project? And how many of those tasks have nothing to do with the work in RFPIO? I’m referring to things like responding to an intent to bid or prepping shipping labels. Task templates can help you track those tasks automatically. Suppose you’re the manager of a team of proposal managers. In that case, you can even automate the tracking of tasks or stages across a shared calendar for a team, giving you better insight into the team’s workload on a given date or week. 

These are great ways to automate task creation. You can create a template for standard tasks under your organization settings and have it appear in each project upon creation. If there are tasks that you track as a team in a shared calendar, you can create a user in RFPIO that is assigned to these tasks automatically when you set them up in your organization settings. You can then sync that user’s calendar to a shared calendar in Outlook or Google to see all tasks across your team.

Clarifications 

Clarifications, often overlooked, is a great tool to help you compile any questions that you and your team need to send back to the issuer of your project. Then, you can export the questions, send them to the issuer, and import the responses back into the system.

Calendars 

RFPIO’s calendar view provides at-a-glance project management for you and your team.

Integrations 

Adding on our integrations for Teams or Slack can help increase transparency. I’ve also known clients to take advantage of our API integrations in their project management tools.

Discussions tab/comments

The discussions tab in the project is a great way to not get behind on potential issues. From this tab, you can quickly sort through open comments within the task. When managing multiple projects at a time, I made it a habit to open the discussions tab of each project every day to help reassign questions and resolve issues as they appeared.

Content Library

RFPIO’s Content Library uses AI to intuitively auto-populate and answer all of the most common and not-so-common questions. In addition, the Content Library offers several filtering tools, options, rules, and tags to help ensure that you’ll receive the most appropriate answer, even with simple one or two-keyword searches. Furthermore, your AI-driven library will update as you input data. 

Look inside your content management lifecycle

When did you last audit your content?

I’m going to let you all in on a bit of a secret. Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s Content Library, I start with the Content Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Content Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

You can also use RFPIO to create an internal knowledge base, perfect for training new hires. Here at RFPIO, all of our sales enablement content and sessions are easily accessible from our company-wide instance of RFPIO. It’s easy for me to remember a session from a month ago, and I can simply use the search to find a Q&A pair that directs me to the video.

Other customers have found increased collaboration between their proposal team and their marketing and security teams but are saving the most recent versions of client-facing documents in the Content Library. Using RFPIO as an internal knowledge base and a single source of truth also provides a level of self-service to your organization that can boost morale.

Lastly, especially for small companies and startups, using RFPIO to track crucial information related to delivery can help create an excellent database for client references in the future.

Are your Q&A pairs going unused?

RFPIO’s Q&A pairs is one of the most exciting features on the platform. Users can upload any type of document and customize it to suit their needs. In addition, you can edit and store content in almost 20 languages. In other words, the majority of what you need to respond to an RFP is right there, at your fingertips, and best of all, RFPIO is consistently learning.

How often do you manually respond to RFPs?

Sometimes, old habits die hard. Perhaps response managers feel they need to manually respond to justify their worth. RFPIO doesn’t want anyone to lose their job; we want to help them be more productive and respond to the RFPs they might not have had time for before automation.

How often do you automatically respond to RFPs?

RFPIO makes the RFP response process easy through near-total automation. Sure, some questions require at least partially manual responses to push the RFP over the finish line, but RFPIO will take you as much as 80 percent of the way toward full automation

If you aren’t automatically responding to every RFP that is worth a bid, we would love to hear from you and see how RFPIO will make the response process faster, less expensive, and, dare I say, enjoyable. 

How do you utilize your Content Library?

I’ll bet you that you’ve answered most questions on each RFP multiple times – perhaps for other customers. Utilize the Content Library to let RFPIO take care of the redundant and tedious aspects of response management. 

Is your Content Library content relevant and up to date?

Perhaps the most common feedback we get, especially from companies that aren’t fully utilizing RFPIO, is that they’re hesitant to use the Content Library because they haven’t audited it. Hence, their content isn’t up to date. I get that. It seems daunting to audit and update answers, but it’s not, and you can’t beat the long-term benefits.

Here at RFPIO, we refer to auditing the Content Library as getting rid of the ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial content). Here is a simple guideline to take you through the process. 

I get it if you’re worried about deleting information you’ll need one day. Who hasn’t thrown something away in a fit of cleaning, only to need it the next day? Instead of deleting that information, you can warehouse it in case you might need it again in the future.

Are you utilizing your subject matter experts?

Subject Matter Experts (SME), which we sometimes pronounce “smee,” are, as the name implies, experts in proposals, sales, marketing, etc. Your SMEs might be experts on your organization or in their fields in general. They’re the people you turn to when you don’t know how to answer a particular question.

Do you have a moderation process?

Do you have a moderation process? Is the moderation process documented? When was the last time you checked the moderation’s organization settings? Does the content have owners and review cycles? How do you ensure your library is free of redundant, outdated, and trivial content?

The RFPIO features that help keep your content organized and current

Content Library Insights Report

Here’s a tip: Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s Content Library, I start with the Content Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Content Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

This report is an excellent way to see what can be easily archived: Q&A pairs that you don’t use or pairs with a star rating of less than 3. This report can also help see if Owners are becoming inundated with reviews. Maybe you can reassign Q&A pairs to another SME.

I recommend customers look at the Content Library Insights Report and the Executive Dashboard routinely. Use them both to guide your content strategy and look for improvements.

Additionally, you may want to evaluate where you can use merge tags more. While a lot of our customers are familiar with the use of merge tags to replace a client or a company name in a proposal, did you know you can use merge tags for content that gets updated frequently? For example, track the number of employees in your organization or clients who use a specific product version. Updating that number once in the organization settings will reflect wherever the merge tag is used in your library and carry over into the project.

Lastly, many of our customers add on custom reporting to help guide their strategy. It allows for more in-depth reporting of custom fields and usage. I have seen customers use this feature to determine areas where they may need more content developed in their library.

Executive Dashboard

You never want to leave your response management team guessing. The Executive Dashboard provides your team insights at-a-glance. The dashboard tracks the lifecycle of your RFP from the time it’s received until it’s archived.

The Executive Dashboard lets users create reports, such as RFP viability, based on similar bids from the past. In addition, managers can pull win/loss analysis, average completion time, and identify the top contributors. 

If this blog post inspired you and you want to dive deeper into your workflow or content management strategy, RFPIO’s Professional Services Team can help! As an RFPIO customer, you can purchase bundles of Professional Services hours for specific projects and initiatives. You’ll work alongside a Professional Services consultant like myself for the entirety of your engagement. Reach out to your customer success manager or account manager, and they’ll connect you with a member of my team who can scope your project.

 

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 1

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 1

You have probably heard the expression that you can’t win if you don’t play. The business equivalent of not playing is failing to respond to an RFP. You might ask what that has to do with you and your response management team. After all, your team responds to every RFP that comes their way, right?

Playing to win requires more than filling in the blanks, however. It requires updated and defined RFP response processes to maximize efficiency and accuracy while saving time and company resources – all with the ultimate goal of winning the bid!

This article will discuss the revenue-driving and resource-saving Association for Proposal Management Professional (APMP) best practices for updating and defining your organization’s response management process.

End-to-end processes help future-proof your RFP response flow.

Organizations that consistently follow a defined business development process win more business and use fewer investment resources. ~ Association of Proposal Management Professionals  

If your company is anything like ours, and I’m sure it is, you have dozens, if not hundreds, of distinct personalities and work styles. You also have attrition, onboarding, PTO, etc. Yet surprisingly, you rarely devolve into chaos.

Why is that? It’s because you’ve established defined processes. So if, for example, a client calls with questions for their customer service rep who’s out of the office, your CRM will arm everyone else in the department with the information they need to answer the questions. 

CRMs are great at helping define processes, and so is RFPIO.

Do you have a defined response management process?

If you won the lottery today, would someone be able to pick up your job tomorrow? How fast will it take your replacement to ramp up?

According to the APMP, every organization should design its own end-to-end process suited to its organization and customers.

Sure, we’d all like to feel indispensable, but if we are the exclusive key holders to critical processes, we’re doing a huge disservice to our companies. I would even argue that the best employees, at least those whose values align with their organizations, are transparent about their work processes. 

In turn, the best-run organizations have processes to ensure that when an RFP manager takes a day or week off, or even leaves, it won’t derail responses. 

If you have a defined process, have you recently reevaluated your processes?

If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s change. Just a little over two years ago, remote work was relatively rare. Then, everything suddenly turned upside down, and we all needed to adapt. 

Guess what? We did, at least for the most part, and the world didn’t implode. I don’t think it’s a giant leap to say that defined processes kept the economy humming, despite unforeseen challenges. Defined processes certainly helped keep RFPIO thriving, but only because we regularly reevaluate them.

In the software industry, especially in SaaS, things change quickly. At RFPIO, we have to be agile. As our customers’ needs change, so must we. When the market or regulatory environment changes, we have to adapt. That’s why we have new releases almost monthly. 

**It only takes about 15 minutes each month to learn about the new features.**

Of course, defining your processes requires more than updating software. Do you regularly interact with your subject matter experts? Do you ask them for feedback on your Content Library? If you don’t, your subject matter experts may be frustrated, but they may start to feel heard by opening the door to collaboration. Also, they’re a potential wealth of ideas. 

After speaking with the experts, bring your Customer Success Manager into the fold. Ask them about the challenges they have run across. They might have solutions that they’ve previously been reluctant to mention.

How to identify a response management black hole

In an ideal world, we’d have months to respond to each RFP. But, unfortunately, that’s rare. Often, we have two weeks or less. I’ve even seen two days! But, thankfully, that’s also rare. 

How often does this scenario happen: The RFP landed in your inbox just days before it was due, but you saw that it was issued weeks earlier! 

Obviously, two days is an extreme example. A more common scenario might look something like this: The RFP was issued two months ago. It sat somewhere, untouched, for weeks. Then, just as you were confident you were on track for all your deadlines, the RFP lands on your lap, and it’s due by the end of the week. 

The fact is, you can’t win them all. So when buried under an avalanche of response deadlines, many companies choose to triage, or employ the bid/no-bid strategy, where you bid the RFPs with the higher win rates and let the less viable opportunities go. 

But what if the RFP that sat in the pipeline for weeks has a high win rate? What happened to the RFP during those weeks? Where is that black hole, and how can you plug it? Let’s see if we can help you identify the problem(s) and help you create a bid/no-bid strategy with this attached downloadable worksheet.

In the second of our two-part series, we’ll explore the tools RFPIO provides to help scale your response management process and, of course, win those bids!

In the meantime, let us know if you’d like to learn more about RFPIO and how we can help you scale your response management process.

Your guide for selecting the best business proposal software

Your guide for selecting the best business proposal software

If you’re a business that creates proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and requests for bids/tenders, it’s time to take a serious look at business proposal software.

Why should you invest in AI-enabled proposal software? Because proposals are mission-critical revenue generators for companies who prioritize them and optimize their response process.

Add technology to the mix, and you’ll be unstoppable. Business proposal software provides quick access to proposal content, simple ways to collaborate, and built-in project management features that make it easy to keep proposals on track.

If you’re ready to automate your RFP response process to save valuable time and increase revenue, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out how business proposal software gives small businesses like yours a competitive edge.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

What is business proposal software?

Business proposal software is a cloud-based program designed to help businesses develop proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and bids/tenders. It can also be used to respond to security questionnaires (e.g. VSAs, CAIQ, SIG), create proactive proposals, write SOWs, and manage company knowledge.

The key to business proposal software is that it simplifies the proposal creation process with a few core functionalities:

  1. Storing and organizing internal knowledge

Just like the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, a content library is essential to any good business proposal software.

The content library consolidates subject matter expertise in one place. Then, the next time a new RFP opportunity pops up in your inbox, you’ll be able to tackle commonly seen questions in one fell swoop.

The more efficiently you can respond to RFPs, the more time you and your team have to work on other projects—be it building relationships with customers, creating sales collateral, or responding to more RFPs.

Consolidate RFP content using rich text editing

2. Keeping projects on track

RFPs and other business proposals are often the most collaborative activity an organization undertakes. When you’re working at a small company, it’s possible that everyone at your organization will be involved, in part, in a response to an RFP.

When your team adopts business proposal software, it means you’ll no longer be managing proposals via email, Teams, Slack, or spreadsheets.

Most business proposal software comes with built-in project management features, including:

  • Importing RFPs onto the platform in Word, Excel, or pdf format
  • Assigning questions and/or sections to key collaborators
  • Automated reminders
  • Sequential review cycles
  • Exporting to source file
  • E-Signature

3. Seamless collaboration

In addition to project management features, business proposal software also streamlines collaboration with in-app commenting and @mentioning.

When all proposal-related conversations are in one place, you can make sure your organization stays aligned on proposals (and declutter your inbox in the process).

seamlessly collaborate by assigning tasks to collaborators in-app

When you’re ready to evaluate vendors, be sure to demo the various platforms. You’ll want to find something that’s powerful enough to suit your needs, but intuitive enough to make sure your small team can get ramped up in no time.

4. Make data-driven decisions

Top-notch business proposal software comes with built-in dashboards and analytics, giving you the insights you need to minimize risk and enhance efficiency.

If you do it right, data-driven management helps sales teams sell smarter. It can also provide insights into how proposal teams can identify—then either avoid or plan around—process challenges, such as resource management challenges, reduced ROI, missing deadlines, and inefficient content development.

Make data-driven decisions

5. Integrate into your existing tech stack

The final component of business proposal software is the ability to integrate into your sales tech ecosystem.

Since responding to RFPs is a key part of the sales process, it’s critical that the business proposal software you choose is able to smoothly integrate into your tech stack.

This is especially important when working on a small team that doesn’t have the bandwidth to manually update your business proposal software to work in-sync with your CRM, like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, or Hubspot.

Benefits of business proposal software

Business proposal software can be an absolute game-changer. Instead of spending your time on menial tasks—like tracking down RFP answers in emails and old drafts—business proposal software makes it easy for proposal managers to achieve success.

“Auto Respond is absolutely brilliant. We click on it and RFPIO answers about 80% of an RFP in a few seconds.”
-Paul Taylor, Vice President of Solutions Engineering at Crownpeak

Read the full story —>

Here are real results we’ve seen from customers after automating their response process with business proposal software:

Calculate your ROI here to see how much time and money your team could save with business proposal software.

calculate your roi to see how much you could save with RFP software

Calculate your ROI

How to select the best business proposal software

As you’re making your decision, here are some software selection steps you can follow:

1. Meet with your team

Before you commit to an annual subscription to business proposal software, schedule a meeting with any stakeholders in the proposal process. This includes subject matter experts, sales reps, and bid writers.

Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the main goals you hope to achieve.

Your final list could simply be a bullet list, like:

  • Improve collaboration on business proposals without relying on color-coded Word docs
  • Consolidate answers to common RFP questions in one place, so SMEs aren’t answering the same question over and over again
  • Create visibility, so leadership can easily check on proposal status

2. Do your research

Once you determine key goals for your proposal program, you need to prioritize business proposal software features. Divide features into two columns—”must-have” and “nice-to-have”.

If you want to make it easy for everyone to get up-and-running in the tool, an intuitive user interface might be a “must-have”. If your sales team lives in your CRM, an integration with Salesforce or Dynamics might be “nice-to-have”.

3. Read customer reviews

Just like you might check Yelp before you head to an unfamiliar restaurant, reading through reviews from verified customers on platforms like G2 should absolutely factor into your decision making process.

On G2, you can also sort reviews by company size, user role, industries, and region—so you can find reviews from users just like you.

Here is a screenshot of comparing four of the most popular business proposal software solutions:

Select the best business proposal software

Check on the full comparison on G2.

4. Understand the product and services

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of business proposal software providers, schedule a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering partnering with. Bring your priority feature list, along with a list of questions you want answered.

What is the best business proposal software?

Short answer: There is no “best” business proposal software. There’s only the best business proposal software for you and your team. 

This being said, the decision to implement business proposal software shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ll want to make sure the software you choose helps you, your proposal team, your sales team, and everyone at your organization achieve your goals and save time.

Here’s a list of the four top business proposal software:

RFPIO

RFPIO was created in 2015 by three founders who believed that Natural Language Processing (NLP) could permanently change the way businesses respond to RFx, security questionnaires, and other high-value external responses. Today, we are proud to be the trusted partner of more than 200,000 users across the globe. We support organizations of all sizes, from fast-growing start-ups to large multinationals doing business in dozens of languages. We’re people who value family, growth, new hobbies, and self care, and enjoy helping our users have more time and energy for such things. Our office community spans from Coimbatore, India, to Leawood, Kansas, to our corporate headquarters in Portland, Oregon.

Loopio

Loopio was launched in 2014 with the belief that responders “should never have to choose between quality and speed.” Loopio’s platform uses automation and collaboration tools to help companies create faster, more effective responses. They believe that every company has the opportunity to turn RFPs from revenue blockers, into a competitive advantage. Loopio is headquartered in downtown Toronto, Ontario and has a satellite office in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Ombud

Ombud’s name is derived from the Swedish word Ombudsman: an individual who represents the interests of another individual, while investigating and addressing requests between the individual and the broader organization. Founded 2011, Ombud seeks to bring “context and collaboration” to their customers’ sales content, helping them streamline processes around RFPs, sales proposals, Statements of Work (SOWs), and Proofs of Concept (POCs). The company is headquartered in Denver, Colorado.

Upland Qvidian

The history of Qvidian dates back to 1977 when Dr. Tom Sant founded the Sant Corporation in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. By the 1990s, Sant and his company grew to be leaders in both proposal software and strategy, with Sant authoring a book entitled Persuasive Business Proposals in 2003. In 2010, Sant Corporation merged with another proposal company called Kadient, to form Qvidian. In 2017, Qvidian was purchase by Upland Software, a public company with software offerings that include cloud-based fax services, telecom expense management, computer-telephony solutions, and IT finance management. The company is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Answers to frequently asked questions about business proposal software

We hear common questions from proposal teams at small businesses every day. Below we’ve answered these questions to help you feel more at ease with RFP software implementation and learn a few ways to improve your RFP response process along the way.

What should my proposal team look like?

If you’re a small organization, you might have 1- or 2-member proposal team, or sales reps could be responsible for creating their own sales proposals. Either your proposal team or your sales rep should own the proposal process, and reach out to subject matter experts on other teams (e.g. product, engineering, security, marketing, legal, etc.) for help on specific questions.

How do you write a good business proposal with software?

Writing a good business proposal starts with a strong process. Business proposal software simplifies that process, making it easier to collaborate with an extended team. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using answer libraries, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without software.

Here’s a quick overview of how you can write a good business proposal with software:

  1. Qualify the bid — Check data from past similar RFPs. What took weeks without RFP software may only take hours with it. All things being equal, is this RFP winnable?
  2. Understand requirements — Let the tool create a checklist of open items based on what remains after the automated first pass conducted at intake by your Content Library.
  3. Answer commonly seen questions — RFP technology consolidates all your previous Q&A pairs into an intelligent Content Library, so you can automatically respond to repeat questions in just few clicks.
  4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators — Assign each RFP question or section as a task to individual collaborators from the project dashboard in RFPIO. They’ll then receive a notification from where they’re already working (e.g. email, Slack, or Teams).
  5. Assign questions for review and approval — Simplify the review and approval process with automated reminders and cues across multiple platforms.
  6. Polish — From intake, work within a branded template and support answers with approved content that’s always up-to-date according to the SME in charge of that content.
  7. Proofread — Still important, but working with already-approved content will decrease how much you have to proofread.
  8. Submit to issuer — Push send from RFPIO or your integrated CRM

How does business proposal software support my process?

Business proposal software supports your proposal process and makes it easier to manage your RFP project and review everything in one place. With the right software in place, you’re able to assign tasks to authors and reviewers, assign content owners, and keep content organized and up-to-date.

If you’re a 1- or 2-person proposal team, software helps you provide enterprise-level support to your sales team. If you’re a sales rep responsible for managing your own RFPs, software helps you automatically respond to commonly seen questions—so you can focus on building customer relationships and closing deals.

How does business proposal software provide efficient collaboration?

Since fewer people are involved in the response process at smaller organizations, each person’s time is extremely valuable. Proposal software gives you the ability to share information across various platforms. Content and assignments are seamlessly integrated into one platform, without the need for cumbersome reformatting, converting, and importing/exporting tasks.

How do I get started with business proposal software?

Joan Dolence, Proposal Architect at Finastra, recommends that proposal teams plan for RFP software implementation, just as you would with any new technology you bring into your business. Do the prep work and housekeeping before jumping in. Then, teach everyone how to use the proposal software by managing each proposal like a project.

How long does it take to implement business proposal software?

The answer everyone hates: It depends. If you’re a small team with a lot of bandwidth to upload and organize your content, you could be up-and-running in less than a month.

But the more bells and whistles you add on—things like integrations with Salesforce, Slack, or SSO—the longer it takes. The more users you have, the longer it takes. The more complicated your process is, the longer it takes. The less bandwidth your team has to upload and organize your content, the longer it takes.

Is business proposal software really worth it?

In our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, we learned that organizations leveraging RFP-specific technology respond to 43% more RFPs than those who don’t. We also discovered that organizations not using RFP software instead used, on average, nine solutions to compose their RFPs, compared to only five for those with a dedicated RFP tool.

One study found that workers estimate switching between apps wastes up to 60 minutes of each day. By consolidating proposal management processes into one place, you and your team can stay focused, aligned, and on track.

Strengthen your business proposals with the right software

The only thing missing between you and your next winning proposal is the right software. If you’re ready to uplevel your business proposal process, schedule a demo of RFPIO today.

How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

Executives don’t want to be summarized. They want to be briefed, which is what your executive summary needs to do. While common terminology is “executive summary,” approaching it as an executive briefing will put you in the proper persuasive mindset.

It all tracks back to Dr. Tom Sant. Know him? If you prepare proposals or briefings to make your sales living, then Dr. Sant’s subject matter expertise needs to be in your toolbox.

He’s written a few books, one of which is Persuasive Business Proposals. I highly recommend it, and not just because I used to work with Dr. Sant at one of the companies he founded. Its value is in how he ties proposal writing to the psychology of how humans make decisions. It’s a master class in how to use persuasive language in sales when building proposals and their executive summaries.

For the sake of this article—and to help keep us focused on the executive summary—I want to focus on one of Dr. Sant’s most helpful guidelines, which goes by the acronym NOSE.

  • Needs: Spell out your understanding of the prospect’s problems.
  • Outcomes: Confirm the results they anticipate when their problems are solved.
  • Solution: Recommend how you can solve the problem.
  • Evidence: Illustrate how you’ve solved similar problems in the past and who else trusts you to solve such problems.

According to Dr. Sant, by organizing your executive summary to align with NOSE, you’ll address three questions that executives want answered while being briefed:

  1. Are we getting what we need?
  2. Is it really worth the investment of resources and time?
  3. Can they really deliver?

Many salespeople make the mistake of focusing more on “summary” than “executive.” Summaries tend to not provide answers. They’re more like glorified tables of contents for the larger proposal.

Create the executive summary with the understanding that it’s likely the only part of a proposal that executive-level decision-makers will review. You have to elicit the desired response from a proposal without including everything that goes into a proposal. No doubt it’s a top-flight challenge in persuasion, but it’s the hurdle your executive summary has to leap.

Executives want to see that you understand their needs and desired outcomes, their pains and wants. Seeing this level of understanding articulated in the executive summary helps relieve any anxiety they may have as check writers. Many executives just want the briefing to overcome their fear of making the wrong decision or selecting the wrong vendor, which can be a career-damaging move.

5 more tips for writing an executive summary that packs a punch

There are heaps of tips written in-line in the template. It’s a template with instructions, like one of those fresh dinner boxes you can have delivered that has all the groceries and the recipe you need to make a meal, but without all the surprise prep work that no one ever mentions (“Wait, I still have to marinate this meat and chop all these veggies?”).

In fact, there’s so many tips that I didn’t have room for these four, so I’m dropping them in here:

  1. Create a title using a dynamic verb: Sadly, the most popular title for an executive summary is “Proposal for Prospect Company.” Use the title as an opportunity to capture the executive’s attention. “Increasing lead-generation…,” or “Visualizing revenue forecasting…,” or “Streamlining cloud storage…” or whatever it is that your solution is going to do for them.
  2. Use the recipient’s actual name whenever possible: It makes recipients feel important and personally attended to when they see their name on the front page.
  3. Aim for a 3:1 ratio of recipient company name versus your company name: Make the document feel customized to them, not you.
  4. Show how well you understand your prospect’s needs: Sales or business development representatives should provide this information either from experience or from a formal discovery phase that needs to happen prior to your building a proposal with an executive summary. List only 3-5. Six and beyond are dismissed by the brain as trivia, and are almost never read.
  5. Make sure your key functionalities match your prospects’s desired business outcomes: If they don’t, it’s probably not a good fit.

Executive summary template: Use it or reference it, whichever works best for you

I could tell you *how* to write an executive summary until the cows come home. But, if you’re anything like me, things don’t really click until you see these best practices put into action.

That’s why I pulled together an executive summary template based on Dr. Sant’s NOSE. Replace the in-line instructions with recommended content and you’ll end up with an executive summary that’s bound to impress. Or, at the very least, that’s bound to address executive-level strategic concerns about your proposal. Download the full template here.

Pro-Tip: When you’re ready to write your own executive summary, make a copy of the template. Then, delete all the comments. That way you don’t accidentally fire off a document complete with my tips and tricks.

Create effective executive summaries consistently

Some of us around here at RFPIO are prone to saying, “A proposal on its own is not likely to win a deal, but it can certainly lose it.” The same can be said for an executive summary.

Remember that executives buy a solution for different reasons than a production team (sales, marketing, IT, etc.) wants to use it. Executive teams have strategic goals while production teams have daily workflow improvement goals. In RFPIO’s case, while prospect executives may want to increase sales pipelines, sales and proposal teams just want time back for sanity.

I hope you find this template and walkthrough helpful. It’s been my experience that very few organizations or individuals get any training on writing executive summaries. Hence, on the sales side, there can be a lot of inconsistency across the organization when it comes to executive summary approaches. With RFPIO’s ability to work from templates for executive summaries and proposals, uploading this template can help establish a consistent foundation for executive briefing creation moving forward.

To learn more about RFPIO and functions such as Salesforce Proposal Builder, schedule a demo today.

Create proactive proposals at scale with proposal automation software

Create proactive proposals at scale with proposal automation software

Salesforce found that salespeople spend 66% of their time generating quotes, writing proposals, and chasing down approvals instead of closing deals. According to Blake’s edict (Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross), that doesn’t leave much time for coffee. If a Cadillac is within reach, then why would your sales team be spending most of its time going after steak knives?

There’s no questioning the importance of proactive proposals in the sales process. The configure, price, quote (CPQ) software category is expanding rapidly for good reason. Automation of proactive proposals, scopes of work (SOWs), quotes, service level agreements, (SLAs) and their ilk accelerates close rates and increases visibility in the process.

Traditionally, proactive proposals required extra time because salespeople wanted to personalize them for an optimal customer experience. The thinking is sound here. You feel like you have a good shot at a deal, you want to put your best foot forward. The problem is what you have to go through to execute.

Old way challenges

This manual process might involve working from a Word document or PowerPoint deck that includes multiple versions of paragraphs or slides. A salesperson would start building their proactive proposal by deleting the paragraphs or slides that don’t apply and augmenting those that do. The process quickly devolves into a time suck if your sales team has to navigate:

  • Multiple platforms or applications — Between the CRM, content management system, and Microsoft docs, too much time is lost switching between applications. And that’s not even including email or Slack or the support ticketing system that’s also likely in play. Switching between apps is a productivity killer, accounting for up to 40% of a worker’s time.
  • Decentralized content (marketing, technical, legal, etc.) — Even if all your sales-ready content is organized in a content management app or shared drive, your sales team still has to find it, make sure it’s the right version, and import it into the proactive proposal. There’s also always a question of whether or not the proposal includes all the content necessary to be effective. Who has visibility into quality control?
  • Non-branded formats — Many organizations at the very least create their Word doc or PowerPoint deck template according to brand guidelines. But even then, versions get saved to local drives for easier access. Margins are pushed to include more content. Fonts are changed to add “emphasis.” Multiple edits done with each proposal creation result in a Frankensteined template that doesn’t accurately reflect your company’s brand. Next thing you know every salesperson is sending out their own unique proposal, which can present severe disconnects during handoffs.
  • Complex solutions to multiple problems — The more complex your solution, the faster your proactive proposals will go off the rails if they’re not tightly controlled. How can you provide salespeople with the freedom to be creative while ensuring their proactive proposals consistently represent a deliverable solution time and again?

Any solution you implement to help your sales team with building proactive proposals must include:

  1. Customizability
  2. Automation
  3. Repeatability

There’s only so much time in the day. Sometimes your sales team is under the gun to create multiple proactive proposals or SOWs. While that’s a good problem to have, you still need to be prepared for when it happens. The last thing you want is to under-deliver, especially at the early stages of a customer relationship.

Introducing Salesforce Proposal Builder

Integrating Salesforce Proposal Builder with RFPIO hits on all three of the solution requirements—customizability, automation, and repeatability—and much more. Our customers are already realizing huge gains in sales team efficiency. For example, ECS, a cybersecurity firm, integrated Salesforce Proposal Builder with their RFPIO platform to help with SOW development. A process that used to take 45 minutes to two hours per document now only takes a few minutes of clicks and navigating dropdowns.

“Each customer has a different problem. Each requires a different solution. Through customizable capabilities that Proposal Builder offers, we realize how much of a positive impact it makes on us, and therefore, on our customers”

-Jeff Rozines, Channel Manager at ECS.

Top-level benefits beyond the huge time savings include:

  • Always working from approved content. RFPIO can act as your knowledge management platform so sales has access to the most up-to-date content available.
  • Spend more time in Salesforce. Avoid the need for complex training, and simplify onboarding of new sales reps. Generate self-service proposals without the need to visit other applications.
  • Take advantage of the great content and subject matter expertise curated in RFPIO for use in requests for proposal (RFPs) responses.

Set up the self-service user experience once and then update as necessary. Working in RFPIO, you’ll create the building blocks of your proactive proposals. This is where you create the user experience for sales, build templates, and connect content. From there, it’s just a matter of showing salespeople where they need to go in Salesforce to initiate their proactive proposal.

Initiate a proactive proposal project directly from Salesforce

The software walks them through the Proposal Builder step by step.

  • Work from response templates to standardize the look and feel of your proposals.
  • Compile section templates into a comprehensive proposal by automatically knitting together fundamental areas of information based on clicks through dropdowns.
  • Customize content such as testimonials, use cases, implementation timelines, and pricing by using catalogs.

After a few clicks, your salesperson has a final proactive proposal, in Microsoft Word format, ready to send to prospects or customers.

Of organizations planning to respond to more RFPs in 2021, 82% also aim to complete more proactive proposals82% of organizations planning to respond to more RFPs in 2021 also aim to complete more proactive proposals. The most efficient way to make that happen is with Salesforce Proposal Builder for RFPIO. Schedule a demo today!

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