“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency”.
– Bill Gates
Do you know how you’ll approach the RFP that arrives in your inbox today? What about one that comes next week or next quarter? You might be tempted to say, “Obviously not, because each RFP is different.” If that’s your answer, it might be too late to win those bids.
Let me ask a more personal question. Have you received a bill lately? You’re probably nodding right now. How do you plan to pay that bill? If it’s a fixed bill, such as insurance or your mortgage, you might set up automatic payments. If the bill is for something unexpected, say a car repair or vet bill, you might turn to your savings account or a credit card.
What will happen if you don’t have the resources to pay that bill?
What I just described are processes. Bill-paying processes ensure that you barely have to blink when paying expected bills and are prepared in the event of something unexpected.
What does that have to do with RFPs? Out of hundreds to thousands of questions in a typical RFP, most are, if not expected, standard. Much as you have systems to pay expected bills, a great RFP response process allows you to respond to those common questions in seconds.
But what about the rest of an RFP? Certainly, cookie-cutter responses to complex questions aren’t going to win many bids for you. If you don’t plan for the unique parts of an RFP, you will spend more time on it, and there’s a very good chance you’ll lose your bid.
So, what should you consider when creating an RFP process?
What is an RFP process?
A request for proposal (RFP) is part of a broader category called RFx. RFx also includes requests for information (RFI), and requests for quotes (RFQ). It can also apply to other supplier questionnaires, such as security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires (DDQ).
An RFP process is a roadmap. It outlines the entire RFP journey, from how it’s received within your organization, whether to reply, who the stakeholders are, who is responsible for each task, when each deliverable is due, how and when to send the response, to how to record and organize the attached question and answer (Q&A) pairs and documents.
An effective and efficient RFP process decreases response time, improves response quality, and is far more likely to get your responses to the top of the prospects’ shortlists.
Designing a great RFP process
An effective RFP response process—assisted by industry-leading automation—has several quantitative and qualitative benefits, including:
- Faster responses – Set your stopwatch! A great RFP response process speeds up your response time.
- More responses – Faster responses = more time to respond to RFPs you might have set aside.
- A higher win rate – The average win rate is about 45%. A great response process can increase that by 15% or more.
- Significant ROI – See how one RFPIO customer saw a 6x return on investment within just months.
- Better teamwork – Great RFP response processes help develop collaboration, even across silos.
- A comprehensive and up-to-date company knowledge base – A great RFP process includes knowledge management. Make sure to schedule regular audits.
- Focus – When team members know what is expected of them, and when, they are far more likely to approach a goal with focus.
- More opportunities to personalize and customize — Re-invest time saved to give every response a better chance to win.
Considerations when creating an RFP process
One of our most common questions from our potential customers is whether RFPIO integrates with their existing software. Since the platform seamlessly and scalably integrates with more than two dozen popular business applications, the answer is almost invariably “yes.”
Companies understand the value of business applications, especially when it comes to sales. 91% of companies with more than 10 employees use CRMs in their sales departments, so why do only 16% of companies use RFP software? $11 trillion in annual revenue, and some of the biggest deals, come from RFPs. Shouldn’t RFP response processes be as big a priority as sales processes?
Part of the answer is undoubtedly within companies’ cultures. RFP response processes require expertise from people throughout an organization. Additionally, RFP response often has a haphazard rather than strategic approach. Defining processes before RFPs hit your inbox will help you to determine which RFPs are worth your time and how to focus your efforts.
Getting buy-in from stakeholders
Unlike a straightforward sales deal, an RFP response requires multiple stakeholders. An RFP process could require buy-in from finance, HR, operations, security, purchasing and procurement, sales, R&D, manufacturing, IT, etc. In other words, stakeholders can come from anywhere in the company, and you will need their cooperation at some point.
Getting everyone aligned on the process is an essential consideration in creating it. Fortunately, RFPIO can help make the case for you. 63% of salespeople say RFPIO gives time back to them, enabling them to close more deals overall.
71% of marketing executives say RFPIO’s Content Library saves them time locating company knowledge, and subject matter experts (SMEs) gain back more than ⅓ of each day.
Quantity vs. quality
Is it better to submit more RFPs or focus on improving your responses? In an ideal world, the answer is both, but is that reality? Although both approaches could be suitable for companies, depending on their resources and RFP landscapes, a clearly-defined response process should help with both.
Beyond question, a response manager should focus on crafting the best responses on the most winnable RFPs. Responses riddled with errors, typos, and incomplete answers are wastes of time. So, in that respect, quality wins out over quantity.
That said, RFP responses are a numbers game. The more well-written responses you submit, the more revenue you will generate. Given a choice, however, it’s far better to submit a few great responses than many mediocre ones.
Where to focus
When choosing where to allocate your RFP response resources, it’s best to institute a go/no-go evaluation process, which means only responding to RFPs you have a good chance of winning. You may ask about each incoming RFP:
- Do you know the company sending the RFP? – Do you have an existing relationship with them? Were they referred to you? Your odds of winning a bid are much higher if there was a specific reason they sent the RFP to you.
- Is yours the right company? – One of the biggest temptations among revenue-generating employees is to say, “Sure, we can do it!” While that might be true, RVP issuers aren’t looking for what you might be able to offer in the future; they’re looking for the here and now, preferably with a track record showing the ability to accomplish exactly what they are asking within their timeline.
- Can you meet their budget requirements? RFPs are not the time for guesswork. Consult with the right SMEs to ensure that the price you’re offering is competitive but also accurate. There might be room for some negotiation, but not for lowball bids. Suppose you happen to win a lowball bid. In that case, you risk alienating not just that customer but others in and around their industry, as well as your own company, as costs will undoubtedly escalate beyond the initial bid.
- Is it an all-around strategic fit? – Do their needs match your organization’s business or product development strategy and vice versa? Is their industry one you know?
- Do you have the time? – How much is on your and stakeholders’ plates? Can you answer the RFP on time without affecting other responsibilities?
- Have you won similar bids in the past? – Your chances of winning a bid go up when you’ve won and successfully fulfilled similar projects, especially from the same issuer.
Who’s on the team?
RFP response teams are as unique as their companies. Some, such as this RFPIO customer, have 2-person response teams. Others are larger, but the vast majority of RFPs require input from people outside the department. SMEs and other stakeholders vary from RFP to RFP, but you should have that all figured out before placing a bid.
Response managers are often known for their near-encyclopedic knowledge of their companies. They might not know every employee, but they know where to turn when they have questions. To ensure goodwill, make sure each stakeholder is aware of their roles and has the capacity to carry theirs out.
Where is the relevant content?
Office workers report spending more than half of their time searching for information. Imagine how much more productive they would be if every bit of company knowledge existed inside a single, easily accessible, and searchable database.
RFPIO’s search feature pulls relevant content from docs, spreadsheets, and even PDFs. RFPIO’s Content Library makes it easy to find RFP Q&A pairs, answers to security questionnaires, company history, etc. You can even store documents.
Once you find the content you’re looking for, you can apply those answers as-is in a click or two or modify them as needed.
What else should an RFP process take into consideration?
Just as most sales departments couldn’t imagine achieving their processes without the help of their trusty CRMs, response teams should include advanced RFP software in establishing their procedures. RFPIO follows an RFP from inception to completion and even beyond.
Whether you’re starting anew or you have an existing process, RFPIO can help by providing a framework for an optimal RFP process and the tools to get there.
- Import an RFP from any format – Whether you receive the RFP via a document, spreadsheet, or PDF, RFPIO will capture the information and plug it into an intuitive UX platform, ensuring consistency and simplicity for each stakeholder.
- Shred the RFP – With RFPIO, you can organize and section RFPs in the best way for your organization.
- Analyze the project – RFPIO features built-in project management analytics to estimate the project’s time requirements and your likelihood of winning.
- Answer all the questions you can – Tap into your Content Library to answer up to 80% of an RFP’s questions in seconds.
- Engage SMEs – For those questions that require additional input, RFPIO will suggest SMEs based on previous, similar RFP responses and the SMEs’ availability. Collaborate from around the globe with RFPIO’s translation tools and multi-language UI.
- Track the project – RFPIO’s project management tools track each deliverable to ensure on-time delivery.
- Submit the proposal – Design your customized branded template to ensure a professional and consistent look.
- Store your new content – Once you’ve submitted the RFP, store all new content in your RFPIO Content Library for use next time.
- Rinse & repeat – Time to start the next RFP.
Improve your win rate, organize your RFP response process, save time, and increase revenue using RFPIO. Take a few minutes for a free demo of RFPIO.
As for Bill Gates, he’s not wrong, but RFPIO goes beyond just magnifying efficiencies. RFPIO helps response teams establish, as well as enhance, efficient processes. His brainchild, Microsoft, agrees.