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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 […]


Category: Tag: Response management platform

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.

Bid & Proposal Conference Denver: Key takeaways

Bid & Proposal Conference Denver: Key takeaways

We just returned from 3 jam-packed days in Denver, Colorado—and we’re still buzzing from all the excitement. There’s just something so special about having real conversations with people in person. Although, remembering how to talk to people was definitely a bit of a learning curve.

In short, APMP’s 2021 Bid and Proposal Conference in Denver was great. It was held at the Gaylord Rockies—an absolutely gigantic hotel outside of Denver, complete with a waterpark. If anything, nobody was complaining about not getting their steps in.

I’d also like to call out what a good job APMP did with COVID precautions. Attendees could order a COVID test to come to your house right before the conference. And everyone needed to submit a health screening form and get their temperature taken before the day’s activities began.

Learning and growing

BPC did not lack in informative sessions. With more than 40 sessions over three days, we definitely left with far greater insights than we came with. Here were a few of our faves:

How to use FBI hostage techniques to get what you want from other people

This session was a huge hit—to the point that people had to stand in the back in order to sit in.

And the speakers, Adele Cehrs and Chip Massey, made some brilliant parallels between the job of an FBI agent and the job of a proposal professional.

When an FBI is in a hostage negotiation, they need to connect with the fugitive. So they approach the situation from the fugitive’s point of view. A good FBI agent will say: “I know what you’re going through. You’re looking over their shoulder, thinking something’s going to happen, you can’t trust anyone… You know you’re going to be brought in eventually. I’m here to help.”

If you looked at things from an FBI agent’s point of view, they’d just say, “Listen, I need to bring you in. So come on.” That’s not very convincing.

Proposal professionals are doing the same thing. They’re understanding the situation from the buyer’s perspective. What is their pain? Why are they seeking the solution? How can you help?

These are all questions a good proposal manager will ask themselves.

Bid Responsibility: Effectively Partnering with the Sales Team

The CEO of Patri, Josh Ellars, started off this presentation with this slide.

After this slide was shown, I imagine everyone in the audience mentally said, “Looks about right.”

A stark difference in headcount isn’t the only thing that’s disconnected between bid and proposal teams. In this presentation, Josh explained what else is missing—and what you can do about it.

Exploring the Future of Response Management

In this session, RFPIO’s very own CEO sat down with the President of APMP, Rick Harris for a “power half hour” coffee. They talked about everything under the sun, including where response management came from, where it’s going, and how the relationship between AI and humans will continue to evolve.

This was a well-attended session that saw lots of audience participation where people were able to interact with Ganesh. It was a really fun session to watch!

Managing the Changing Landscape of Response Management

Change is hard, but necessary. Because the risk of staying the same is much greater than the risk of accepting change.

In this session, Angela Earl, VP of Global Marketing at RFPIO, talked about how response management has changed over time—especially over the last few years.

At the same time, buyer’s expectations are changing. Buyers expect providers to know who they are, what interactions they’ve had, and where they are in the decision-making process. Prospects want to be heard, not herded.

Networking and reconnecting

BPC Denver was absolutely a chance for everyone to regrease those socializing wheels, dust off your electric magenta blazer, and get back out into the world of interacting with people in real life.

Luckily, APMP made networking and reconnecting easy. Here are some of the activities we enjoyed:

Regi-ception

We kicked off the conference with a “Registration + Reception” combo. This helped jumpstart everyone’s socializing skills and get everyone excited for the days ahead. RFPIO sponsored

THE TARA

“TARA” stands for “The Art of Reconnecting Annually”. And APMP did not disappoint. They had a ton of great food (the truffle mac n cheese was my personal fave), a VW bus photo booth, cornhole, ladder ball, and shuffleboard. It was a lot of fun!

RFPIO Booth

To honor the weirdness of the last year and a half, we were giving out some fun, practical SWAG at our booth—hand sanitizer and notebooks.

We also had a lot of fun with a photo booth! Anyone who took a photo at our booth would be entered into our raffle to win a $100 Amazon gift card. We only had four lucky winners, but a lot of wonderful entries!

On Day 2, I felt like everyone could use a bit of a pick me up… so I hyped up the music a bit. And it worked like a charm. As soon as I put on “We Will Rock You” by Queen, a group of people started stomp-stomp-clapping. And to honor their impromptu-ness, Angela, our VP of Global Marketing, gave them all impromptu raffle tickets!

Chapter of the Year: APMP India

Finally, I want to give a shout out to APMP India for winning Chapter of the Year award! This award honors the APMP chapter that demonstrates excellence in chapter sustenance and development through support of APMP initiatives.

Nice work, APMP India! 🎉

Looking forward

After all the fun we had at BPC Denver, we immediately checked when BPC 2022 would be. It’s already scheduled for May 22-25, 2022 in Dallas.

If you’re interested in more APMP events, make sure to register for their upcoming webinar, “How Proposal Teams Can Drive Sales Productivity and Improve Outcomes.” Watch the webinar here (you have to register before you can watch).

Also, make sure to sign up for updates about RISE UP 2022! It will be a fully virtual event, happening February 16-17, 2021.

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