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Considerations when creating an RFP process

Considerations when creating an RFP process

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify […]


Category: Tag: Response management

Considerations when creating an RFP process

Considerations when creating an RFP process

“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. 

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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:

  • Quantitative:
    • 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.
  • Qualitative: 
    • 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. 

 

Benefits of a great RFP process

Benefits of a great RFP process

There was a time, I suppose, when major company purchases were relatively straightforward. If a company wanted to buy supplies, for example, they would simply contact vendors or put out the word that they were seeking bids. 

Then a salesperson answered the call with a detailed bid, including company information, product or service description, pricing, and timelines. 

Sure, there were some security concerns, as hacking and overall bad actors have been around for a very long time. Still, the regulatory environment was less rigorous, and it was generally easier to track down subject matter experts (SMEs). 

That’s not to say things were easy. Most early-day RFPs came from the government; enough said there, I assume. But response processes were somewhat less defined and usually handled by sales. 

Today, $11 trillion of revenue comes from RFPs. Many companies have entire response departments. Although nearly every other department, including sales, has software to help them become more productive, only about 16% of organizations use RFP software. 

Either organizations don’t see the viability in a robust RFP process, or it’s an issue of “why fix it if it ain’t broken.” The problem, though, is that it is broken. RFPs are tremendous revenue-generating opportunities, and a great RFP process can generate millions of dollars while saving valuable time and other company resources. 

If you are leaving viable RFPs in the virtual dustbin due to lack of time, or your win rate is in the tank, you need RFP processes. Processes will help you determine which RFPs you want to answer as well as organize timelines, key players, etc. Read on to learn more about how you can set up RFP processes for your company.

What is an RFP process?

In short, an RFP process describes the way a company responds to an RFP. It should define how you decide which RFPs are worth your time, organize the project, consult with SMEs, and determine how to manage any new content produced during the response. 

RFPIO’s response managers (yes, we answer RFPs too) use an 8-step response process which includes:

What makes a great RFP response process

The average RFP win rate is about 45%. A great RFP response process improves on that rate in a couple of ways—it allows you to zero in on winnable and profitable RFPs and spend less time on each response, thereby letting you focus on crafting winning bids for the desirable opportunities.  

Benefits of a great RFP process

A great RFP process doesn’t just benefit the response team; it benefits the entire organization with higher win rates, more revenue, and an organized and accessible knowledge base. 

Avoid missing or delaying opportunities

RFPs are like the lottery: you can’t win if you don’t play. If your RFP pipeline is backed up to the point where you’re missing or delaying viable opportunities, a great RFP process will help you break through the clogged pipeline by allowing you to triage opportunities and get the right RFPs into the right hands. 

Higher win rate

If you’re responding to a lot of bids without the revenue to match, it’s time to focus on your win rate. An effective RFP response process lets you spend more time on viable RFPs and less time spinning your wheels. 

Focus efforts in the right place

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” – Kenny Rogers  

Do you play poker? I don’t, but I know enough about the game to know that if you go all-in on every hand, you’ll probably lose all your money early in the game. If you take a strategic approach, however, and only bet on the hands you think you could win, the odds tilt in your favor. 

Your boss probably doesn’t want to hear this, but RFPs are a lot like poker. Indeed, there are very few royal flushes—or guaranteed wins—but laying your time and resources on the table for a less-than-viable RFP leaves you a lot less time and fewer resources for the ones you might win.

Learn to evaluate which RFPs fit with a go/no-go qualification system in place.

  • Do you know the customer? – Do you have an existing relationship with the prospect, or did they choose to send you the RFP for specific reasons? If so, your chances are much better than if it’s a more open bidding process.
  • Is yours the right company? – If your solution doesn’t fit the customer’s needs, you should pass. Even if you spend time trying to make their round peg requirements fit into your square hole solution, you’d be wasting the prospect’s time, and you could end up annoying them.
  • Can you match their budget? – Pricing is a tricky tightrope. On the one hand, you want to win the bid, but on the other, the deal should be profitable for your company. If your SMEs in charge of pricing say they can’t fulfill the customer’s needs within a reasonable price range, listen to them. 
  • Can your company meet their needs? – Do you realistically have the time and resources to onboard and support the customer?
  • Do you want the business? — Business opportunities are a two-way street. Does the company fit your product development or business strategy? 
  • Do you have the bandwidth to answer the RFP? – If you think you’re swamped now, the number of RFPs issued is increasing every year. Sometimes, even winnable RFPs have to take back seats to better opportunities. 

Less time per proposal means more proposals

This is a no-brainer. If you answer RFPs in a streamlined, more efficient way, you will have more of that aforementioned bandwidth for more RFPs.

Revitalized internal knowledge 

RFP response teams are perfectly positioned to become the gatekeepers of company knowledge. When they record and regularly audit answers in a centralized company knowledge base, it gives executives the information they need to make more informed decisions. It also provides quick answers to anyone who needs it, including other revenue-generating teams. 

Team building 

Team-building exercises are generally either fun or downright silly, not that downright silly can’t be fun. But you don’t have to fall backward into coworkers’ arms to find camaraderie. When a team works together toward a common goal, trust and friendships are bound to develop.

Even beyond that, RFP responses require input from multiple people spread across the organization. An effective response process helps tear down silos. 

Generate more revenue

I saved this one for last because if your bids aren’t generating revenue, there’s really no point. A great response process helps you identify the opportunities that will increase revenue. 

Why a company might want to reevaluate their response process

Maybe you know your response process isn’t working for you, but even if you feel it is, maybe there’s room for improvement. Here are four scenarios that should encourage you to take a deeper look at your processes:

  • You hired a new proposal manager – A new proposal manager taking over is a great time to reevaluate your processes using fresh eyes. 
  • Your current process is—shall we say—lackluster – Is your current process winning bids for you? Is your team working hard but bored out of their minds answering questions they’ve responded to 1,000 times before? Are your processes scalable so you can win future bids?
  • Your company merged with another – Which company has better results from their processes?
  • There was a significant change in your business – Do you have new products to offer? Have your products changed? If so, your RFP Q&A pairs will change as well. Sometimes a clean break is in order. Introduce new processes to go with your new everything else. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

All organizations benefit from high-quality RFP response processes, but not necessarily in the same ways. Here are a few real-world examples of our customers’ benefits after moving their processes to RFPIO.

  • An insurance company proposal manager said about RFPIO, “When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI (request for information) in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”
  • IBA, a medical device manufacturer in Belgium, increased its win rate by 15%.
  • TOMIA, a software company, streamlined processes, and improved company collaboration.
  • Genpact, a global professional services firm, dramatically improved proposal quality.
  • Microsoft (I assume they need no introduction) estimates they saved $2.4 million in the first 18 months after implementing RFPIO.
  • On average, it takes about 8 days to complete an RFP, and that’s when there’s a fairly sizable team. That’s about 8 RFPs per quarter. RFPIO helped this two-person team answered double that, 16, in the first quarter after implementation. 
  • Let’s cut to the chase. Your boss wants to know about ROI. Well, Crownpeak, a digital experience management platform, realized a whopping 6x return on investment with RFPIO. 

Want to make your RFP process great?

Now that you know the importance of a great RFP response process, where do you start

  • Set goals – Companies talk a lot about customer pain points, but what are your pain points? Would you like a new RFP response process to decrease your response time? Could the quality of your responses improve? Are you being taken out of the running too quickly?
  • Develop a checklist – My mother is a big list-maker. I’ve never been as organized as my mother, and I blame my lack of list-making. Be my mother. Here is a somewhat typical checklist, although yours might look a little different:
    • Identify key stakeholders – Your stakeholders won’t be the same for each RFP, but having a list of stakeholders will save you from having to reestablish roles each time.
    • What is your average timeline? – Having this as a benchmark will help you figure out where your bottlenecks lie.
    • Get company buy-in – A new process is only as good as the number of people willing to adopt it.
    • Figure out if an RFP is worth answering – See above.
    • Locate and evaluate content – Most often, this is the most time-consuming part of the RFP process. 
  • Consider RFP software – Okay, I’m biased, but RFPIO wouldn’t exist without a real need for better RFP processes.

RFPIO is an ideal tool for RFP response processes. 

  • RFPIO cuts response time by an average of 40% by answering up to 80% of an RFP’s queries using machine learning.
  • RFPIO simplifies data-driven decision-making with RFPIO’s customizable reporting dashboard.
  • RFPIO’s industry-leading Content Library democratizes knowledge management organization-wide.
  • RFPIO® LookUp gives any authorized user with a browser company knowledge at their fingertips, even if they are traveling or out in the field.
  • RFPIO integrates with more of the apps you’re already using than any other response platform. Use RFPIO within your existing CRMs, sales enablement, productivity, and vendor assessment apps. Communicate with stakeholders using your company’s favorite communication tools. Your IT team will be relieved to know we offer the same SSO authentications your company already uses.

Maybe your RFP response processes need a complete overhaul or a few tweaks here and there. Regardless of your needs and goals, see how RFPIO will quickly help you drive revenue and improve your processes. Schedule a free demo now.  

 

Understanding RFP management

Understanding RFP management

When a request for proposal (RFP) comes across your inbox, it might seem overwhelming. Some RFPs contain 100s of questions on 1,000s of pages (or vice versa). Your first instinct might be to set it aside in favor of more straightforward deals, especially if you’re in sales instead of on a dedicated response team.

RFPs might be long and complicated, but most high-value deals come through RFPs, so ignoring a viable opportunity could cost your company $10s of thousands of dollars or far, far more. Further, if the RFP comes from a well-known or enterprise organization, ignoring it could cost your company some coveted cache that could ultimately bring in more business through having that company on your customer roster.

Whether you’re a relative newbie to RFP responses or a seasoned professional, learning more about RFP management could help you win more bids. And while we can’t guarantee you’ll get a raise or promotion, winning a big deal is a big deal and might earn your boss’s respect.

What is a request for proposal (RFP)?

When a company needs to purchase a significant service or product, it will often issue a request for proposal (RFP) to collect bids from multiple vendors. Sometimes they solicit bids from specific vendors, and sometimes they open the bidding process to any potential fit.

RFPs are typically more than about getting the lowest price—we’ll get to that later in this article.

An RFP is often 100s or even 1,000s of pages long with questions as diverse as, well, diversity in hiring practices and whether the vendor complies with the customer’s regulatory requirements.

The primary purpose of an RFP is to help issuers determine which company is the best fit for their specific needs. An RFP also:

  • Formally announces a project for bidding – An RFP is a little like a starting gun at the beginning of a race. Instead of the first to the finish line, however, the winner is the vendor that best suits the customer’s needs.
  • Defines project for issuers and responders – RFPs offer detailed explanations of project requirements and expectations.
  • Enables buyers to compare potential vendors – If you’ve ever shopped for a mattress, it’s almost like each retailer or manufacturer speaks a different language. If two stores carry the same manufacturer, the model names and numbers are entirely different. That’s intentional; it makes it really difficult to compare pricing and features when you’re comparing apples to watermelons. RFPs let the buyers define the parameters, and vendors (should) respond with specific and straightforward answers, which enable apples-to-apples comparisons.

Proposal manager: role and responsibilities

At the very surface, a proposal manager is the project manager for the RFP response process. When we dig a little deeper, though, we see that proposal managers are some of the most important and knowledgeable people in an organization.

When a proposal manager isn’t herding cats, their job is to know the organization’s who, what, where, when, why, and how, or at least where to find such information. A proposal manager:

  • Is the point of contact for the organization – There to answer questions from RFP issuers, response teams, sales teams, executives, and SMEs.
  • Aligns tasks and team members – Herding those metaphorical felines
  • Facilitates team meetings
  • Drives discussion and collaboration – Once those cats are in line (I think I’ve milked this metaphor dry), the proposal manager is responsible for ensuring that the right people are answering the right questions.
  • Enforces timelines for project status – RFPs have strict deadlines. Proposal managers have the experience to know how to break the project up into manageable timelines to reach that final deadline.
  • Verifies project compliance – Does the proposal answer the issuer’s questions? Can the company comply with their needs?
  • Produces proposal submission – No matter how many stakeholders were involved in answering an RFP, it’s ultimately up to the proposal manager to ensure that it’s accurate, well-written, and on time.

Managing RFPs

An RFP response should be strategic and laser-focused on a single goal, winning those winnable bids. While it might sound straightforward, effective RFP management is akin to conducting an orchestra when the musicians are scattered throughout the music hall and even the world.

When a company specifically reaches out to your company for a bid, it’s sort of flattering, and the impulse is to answer the RFP. Many RFPs, though, are open to any bidder. A poorly-defined RFP management process might include answering the wrong RFPs and a disjointed response process, resulting in a low win rate.

That’s why a transparent, strategic approach is critical to managing RFP responses and fostering a more efficient proposal response process.

  • Organize RFP response process – Is the RFP worth pursuing? If so, who are the key stakeholders, and what are their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?
  • Establish a channel for accountability – RFPIO features communication and accountability tools to keep your team running smoothly and on time.
  • Decrease response time – Save time with efficient communication and an AI-enhanced content management system that can answer up to 80% of an RFP with a few clicks.
  • Improve response quality – Winning a bid is about far more than just price. Dramatically shaving time from the more monotonous parts of the response provides more time for crafting compelling stories and ensuring that the response is well-written, complete, and accurate.
  • Create a centralized database of assets and resources – Save subject matter experts (SMEs) and team members from having to duplicate their efforts by recording responses in a centralized database of assets and resources.
  • Increase bid win rate – Respond to the right RFPs instead of more RFPs to increase your bid win rate.

There are three primary options for managing RFP proposals. They include outsourcing responses, manual responses, and RFP software.

Outsourcing the response process

Many companies choose to outsource their response process, especially if they’re relatively small or their employees are strapped for time. While outsourcing has significant advantages, there are some steep downsides to watch out for.

Advantages of outsourcing

  • Saving time – Outsourcing does save significant company time. Proposal managers can step into more of a supervisory role and let the contractor do all the labor-intensive work.
  • Improved response quality – Outsourcing lets you pull the response manager out of the weeds and allows them to focus on the final drafts instead of each iteration.

Disadvantages of outsourcing

  • Risks confidential information – Providing outside access to proprietary information is risky. Hackers and cybercriminals could intercept even if the contractor is fully screened and has an airtight NDA.
  • Loss of business knowledge – RFP contractors don’t generally update a company knowledge base, meaning any information provided to them will be lost to the next person who needs it.
  • Big financial investment – Outsourcing the response process could pay for itself, if you answer a lot of RFPs each year. Otherwise, it’s much cheaper to keep it in-house.
  • Time spent tracking down stakeholders – The further a contractor is removed from your company’s infrastructure and org chart, the more time spent tracking them down.

Manual responses

Smaller companies, or those who haven’t found the right RFP software fit, may still use manual response processes. There’s often a reluctance to let go of manual processes, which we completely understand.

Are you working harder than you need to? As the response manager, you’re tasked with juggling all of a response process’s moving parts. It’s up to you to stay on top of everything, including sending emails, managing all authors and SMEs, reviewing each Q&A pair, and ensuring deadlines are met.

Still, there are some benefits to sticking with manual processes:

  • Requires no upfront investment – Manual processes utilize the tools you already have, such as document and spreadsheet software and PDF readers. And let’s not forget the most essential tool of all, human power.
  • Familiarity with tools and processes – If you’re already used to manual processes, there’s no learning curve.
  • No uplift – You’ll never have to worry about software price increases.

Still, it’s pretty hard to make the case that manual response management processes are the ideal solution for any company. They are:

  • Time-consuming – You have to answer how many questions? How many times can you answer the very same question? Why is pinning down SMEs so complicated?
  • Repetitive – How many times can you answer the very same question? Oh wait, did I just ask that?
  • Decentralized – Financial statements, diversity policies, data compliance assurance, timelines, pricing…an RFP will include information from multiple departments and sources. Do you have to chase each one down?
  • Collaboration inhibitors – Poor and non-existent communication and project management tools make collaboration challenging.
  • Response capacity killers – The more time you spend stalking stakeholders for information, the less time you have to craft a compelling response, and the less time you have for answering other RFPs.

Leveraging RFP software

RFP software is designed to organize and simplify the RFP response process. Most importantly, advanced RFP software lets you respond to more of the right RFPs, increasing your proposal win rate and producing a hefty ROI.

Recent statistics show that:

  • 77% of proposal professionals say that their response process could use some improvement.
  • 75% of proposal teams with fully-adopted response technology say they always respond on time.

That’s not to say all RFP software is the same, but there are some standard features.

Features of an RFP response tool

The core features of RFP software include:

  • Automation – RFP software should help make your entire response process more productive by automating as many tasks as possible.
  • Content library – A content library is a centralized resource, a single source of truth, that holds assets in a single, easily accessible location.
  • Collaboration tools – RFP response software should foster collaboration through notifications and efficiencies with repeatable tasks.

Integrations and extensions

Advanced RFP response management software has features that level up the response process with integrations and AI-powered intuition. An automated response process has demonstrable benefits, including faster response times, more accurate and better-written responses, higher win rates, and a substantial ROI.

Competitive advantages of automating the response processes with RFPIO include:

  • Efficient response management – Streamline the response process with project management features, accessible and searchable content, reporting, and intuitive automated responses that answer the majority of questions with a click of a button.
  • Improved response quality – Simplified collaboration and automated responses gives back time to response managers, allowing them to fine-tune their proposals.
  • Easier collaboration – Communicate across verticals, state lines, and oceans. Compile responses right inside your favorite communication app with RFPIO’s seamless integrations. We integrate with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, and Google Hangouts. Unlimited user access ensures that all stakeholders are included.
  • Standardized formatsRFPIO supports importing RFPs, security questionnaires, and DDQs from any format (such as Word, Excel, PDFs) and plugs the questions into your preferred template. From there, you can export using white-labeled templates or the source format (usually a spreadsheet).
  • Consistent deliverables – RFPIO’s project management features keep projects on track and on time.
  • Cost savings – Most SaaS products have subscription-based pricing models, which is costly, especially for smaller companies. RFPIO has a unique pricing model; instead of charging a subscription fee for each user, RFPIO charges based on the number of projects during any given time.
  • Increased revenue growthBetter bids translate to a higher win rate which translates to higher revenue.

There are some challenges to implementing RFP management software, although they don’t have to be deal breakers.

  • Demonstrating ROI – Demonstrating ROI to decision makers who may not even know what a response team does can be tricky. RFPIO makes it simple to make the case.
  • Securing an increased budget for an RFP management solutionSecuring budgets, especially in a tight economy, is challenging, even with a proven ROI. Your company already knows the value in sales enablement tools. RFPIO adds value to your existing CRMs and the rest of your tech stack with industry-leading integrations.
  • Onboarding RFP response team – There is a short ramp-up time to learn how to use RFP software, and RFPIO’s integrations help set your team up for a smooth transition.

Tips for improved RFP management

Whether you are full-time or an accidental response manager, and whether or not you use RFP software, follow best practices for facilitating more effective proposal responses by taking time and care when there’s an opportunity.

  • Develop an efficient go/no go process – Start by deciding whether an RFP is even worth it with an efficient go/no go process. Can you meet the customer’s needs? Do you want to meet the customer’s needs? What is your track record with similar RFPs?
  • Leverage automation to streamline workflow – Automated project management processes ensure that each deliverable is met. RFPIO’s automated Content Library does up to 80% of the work for you.
  • Create a quality content library – RFPIO’s Content Library is a single repository for all company knowledge, but it needs regular maintenance to deduplicate and ensure accuracy. Conduct regular audits; audit new clients more frequently and old customers less frequently.
  • Utilize branded response template – As much as we’d love you to sing our praises to all of your customers, responses come from you, not us. Add your brand to your preferred templates.
  • Consider an all-in-one software solutionRFPIO offers nearly anything you might want to see in an RFP response solution. If there’s a feature you don’t see, ask us.

The challenges of RFP response management

Additional challenges to the RFP response process include:

  • Labor-intensive processes – RFP responses are labor intensive, but proposal software can dramatically cut the number of hours.
  • Tight deadlines – If a proposal is due at noon on Wednesday, it’s due at noon, not 12:01, and definitely not Thursday. RFPIO’s project management features will help you meet that deadline.
  • Disorganized proposal contentData professionals spend around half their time trying to find, protect, and build content. Having that content in a single, easily searchable place saves hours each week.
  • Collaboration – Everyone, it seems, is either busy or far away. RFPIO’s collaboration tools take the hassle out of working together.
  • Security – Protect your data with RFPIO’s SSO Authentication.

How RFPIO can help

RFP response management software is a more efficient way to create quality responses. RFPIO utilizes advanced technology, including machine learning, and a unique pricing model to remain at the forefront of RFP response management software. We help companies overcome challenges with our:

  • Centralized proposal knowledge library – Most questions already have answers somewhere within your organization. Keep them all in one easy-to-find place with RFPIO’s Content Library.
  • Automated proposal responses – Let us answer the common and easy questions while you focus on the dealmakers.
  • Streamlined workflow and task management – Use RFPIO’s project management features or use RFPIO within your existing task management software.
  • Simplified communication – Gone are the days when we run down the hall to ask a question. RFPIO lets you ask any question or anyone in the organization at any time.
  • Integrated data protections into your management solutionRFPIO takes security very seriously.

Improve your RFP response process with better management solutions

Improve your work processes and impress your boss(es) with RFPIO’s all-in-one RFP management solution. Schedule a Free Demo to learn how.

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

“I don’t get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield

At RFPIO, we often say that proposal managers are the unsung heroes of their organizations. Proposal teams spend hours, weeks, and even months crafting perfect responses, yet who gets credit for the wins?

In siloed organizations, both proposal and sales teams have vital roles to play in the response process, but it’s often the sales team that gets credit for sealing the deal. Why is that? How can proposal managers prove their worth in a siloed organization? Can sales and proposal teams set their rivalries aside and recognize that their goals are not just aligned, but identical?

Don’t get me wrong; I would never throw shade at sales teams. They’re critical to any business, including ours. However, if an organization regularly receives RFPs, RFIs, RFQs, or RFTs, a dedicated proposal team with a professional proposal manager frees sales teams to make more contacts and close more deals. In other words, everybody wins.

Still, like the late, great, Rodney Dangerfield, proposal managers often don’t get a lot of respect. Oftentimes, their ideas are dismissed as uninformed or out of touch, if they even get a seat at the table – after all, it’s sales who has their collective ear to the ground. 

Maybe, but a good proposal manager is a fountain of knowledge. In many cases, they know more about their company than the founders. Additionally, the RFPs themselves offer essential insights into customers’ priorities and pain points that sales may not be aware of.

So, now that you know how valuable you are, how can you convince the rest of your company? What role does a proposal manager play in their organization?

In my upcoming May 19th webinar, I will talk about the steps you can take to prove your worth. In this blog post, I’ll outline some of the challenges the proposal managers we work with face, and I will give you an email template with the information your boss needs to see to validate your position.

Are proposal managers part of the sales team?

The short answer to whether proposal managers are part of the sales team is, maybe. The longer answer is that it typically depends on the size and structure of their company. In most small and medium-sized organizations, proposal managers answer directly to the director of sales, business development, or marketing. 

In larger organizations or enterprise companies, the proposal manager could be part of revenue management or finance. 

Do you feel like you’re pushing boulders by yourself?

We’ve all heard the story of Sisyphus, the ancient Greek king, who, as the legend goes, was punished by Zeus for cheating death. The punishment was to push an immense boulder up a hill, only each time, the boulder rolled back down the hill right before Sisyphus reached the top.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to Sisyphus. While your boulder is metaphorical, it’s every bit as frustrating when you’re trying to do the heavy lifting but you aren’t getting the support you need.

When sales hands the RFP off to proposal management, all too often, they wash their hands of it. Sales, however, should remain part of the process. Perhaps a salesperson or pre-salesperson was the catalyst for the RFP – in that case, they’re a subject matter expert on the customer. 

Sales should also help craft the proposal, and ensure that all the customers’ priorities are met before submitting the final bid. 

How to bring sales and proposal management together

In too many cases, sales teams forget about RFPs the second they are handed off to their proposal management team. But isn’t sales as vested in the outcome as anyone? A win for the proposal team is a win for the sales team, and vice versa. 

I will get into more detail in the webinar, but fostering communication and de-siloing the sales and proposal management teams will help create more wins for the teams and the company as a whole. 

How to convince leadership to keep you in the loop

Communication is the cornerstone of response management processes. As a repository for a company’s past and current content, RFPIO’s Content Library can automatically generate answers for up to 80% of an RFP’s queries. 

But what about the future? Perhaps there’s an exciting new acquisition that would make your company more appealing to the customer, or maybe the company is downsizing and can’t deliver on the requirements. 

Perhaps there is something that is a bit less newsworthy but still impacts the response to an RFP. For example, the company might have switched vendors, affecting the costs. Let’s go with an example that isn’t so hypothetical: The worldwide supply chain crisis could potentially affect every aspect of an RFP, yet if a response manager doesn’t know how the company is addressing supply chain issues, it’s nearly impossible to formulate an accurate response. 

And it’s tough to imagine that the sales team wouldn’t want to be part of the pricing discussion. Additionally, proposal managers need reports on their teams’ efforts as much as sales managers do. 

If you aren’t quite sure how to convince the sales manager to invite you to sales meetings, here is an email template that has worked for several of our customers:

Hi {boss name},

I’m writing to request an invitation to the sales team’s weekly sales huddles and pipeline meetings. 

As the proposal manager, I’m responsible for crafting a compelling proposal that solves our clients’ problems. The sooner I’m clued into the status of open opportunities, the sooner I can start researching our client—and the more compelling proposal I can write. 

To put a number on this:

      • Total dollar value of proposals won in [last year]:
      • Total dollar value of proposals lost in [last year]:

By joining sales conversations early on, I’m confident I can increase our proposal win rate—and help push deals deeper into the sales cycle.

Looking forward to seeing you in the first meeting!

Best, 

Your Name

If you are feeling left out of the conversation, join me on May 19, 2022, as we discuss challenges and methods for bringing the proposal team back into the fold. 

Why Business Units are best for visibility and control

Why Business Units are best for visibility and control

If you’ve attended an RFPIO webinar or conference recently—or read the Freedom to Thrive white paper—then you’ve heard us mention RFPIO’s ability to break down silos. If you’re an RFPIO customer, then hopefully you’re already living the silo-flattening dream.

Through knowledge management in the Content Library and Content Library in-app collaboration and project management tools, and real-time accessibility by way of RFPIO® LookUp to all of this content, silos can be reduced to rubble. Greater efficiency and productivity ensue, correlating quickly to improved response quality and increased win rates.

Nevertheless, sometimes separation is a good thing. Whether it’s for security or compliance purposes, or even perhaps geographic locations, there are RFPIO customers who want greater control and visibility. For this, we have Business Units.

“RFPIO’s enterprise-level capabilities enable multiple business units, including partners, to collaborate on a single platform. It also reduces communication channels during the proposal development process.”
-Page Snider, Director of Business Program Management, Microsoft Consulting Services What are Business Units?

Business Units (BUs) allow you to create distinct operating units within a single RFPIO instance. Think of them like individual villages within a kingdom. These BUs give you the control in keeping people, projects, and content confined to a specific BU, but also allow you to share any of those across your instance to another BU. User profiles remain unchanged as they’re shared with each Business Unit. Additionally, advanced features are available to provide cross-unit functionality across your entire enterprise.

While Collections pertain to simply restricting content, and complete separate RFPIO instances provide no collaboration between people on projects and content, Business Units can provide a level of control and collaboration to fit any growing enterprise business.

When should you use Business Units?

Software business units are quite common in enterprises, but they’re growing in popularity with small- and mid-sized businesses, too. Prior to the pandemic, it was standard operating procedure for sales teams to work remotely while marketing, InfoSec, and customer support worked onsite. With the trend toward hybrid and fully remote work for all teams, content accessibility and control—as well as visibility into how it’s used (or not used)—has rocketed up the priority list for many companies.

For businesses of any size, there are 3 typical use cases for Business Units.

Use case #1: Separate cost centers or business groups

Business Units are most often separated by business group (Marketing, Sales, etc.) or region (EMEA, NAM, LATAM, etc.).

Business unit - cost center

Many RFPIO customers start with two Business Units, separating InfoSec content from all other content that responders will be sharing with prospects, customers, analysts, or investors.

Regional separation would mean your organization wants a Business Unit for each GEO where business is conducted. Factors such as language and compliance weigh heavily into the determination to split an RFPIO instance into Business Units according to GEO boundaries.

business units - GEO

Use case #2: Mergers

The mergers and acquisitions trend in 2021 was off the charts, and it doesn’t appear to be letting up in 2022. According to Wolters Kluwer, the U.S. saw a record $2.9 trillion in transactions (up 55% from $1.9 trillion in 2020). As RFPIO grows in popularity (250K users and counting…) and response management gains traction as an integral part of the sales tech stack, it’s more and more likely that mergers will take place between businesses that are each running their own RFPIO instances.

When a merger occurs with two businesses that both use RFPIO, it’s certainly an option to maintain the two separate instances. However, if you want more control and visibility, then you can convert one instance into the primary instance and then add the team or teams from the other company as a Business Unit.

Use case #3: Projects portion control

Depending on how your business operates and is structured, separate teams may need different numbers of active projects enabled in RFPIO. Whereas you have a set number of active projects in a single RFPIO instance—50, for example—without Business Units it’s a free-for-all for teams to use those projects. If you find that one or two teams are constantly clamoring for additional active projects, then Business Units can help set aside a suitable amount of active projects for those teams.

Let’s take the example of a single RFPIO instance with 50 active projects. In the case of a software business, sales and InfoSec may need more active projects than marketing and customer support. Business Units can allocate projects to meet each department’s needs: 15 for sales, 15 for InfoSec, 10 for marketing, and 10 for customer support.

business units project allocation

What are the benefits of Business Units?

Primarily, project control and content visibility, which result in additional benefits, including:

  • Ability to scale RFPIO across multiple departments to increase win probability and close deals faster.
  • Rolled-up reporting allows for the most comprehensive visibility available for your RFPIO instance.
  • Identify areas that may need more project management support (we see this a lot in InfoSec).
  • Allow for greater content detail and answer accuracy, and, ultimately, a more robust content repository (which pays off when you need to share content across multiple Business Units).
  • Better, granular visibility into projects, people, and content in each Business Unit but still administered within a single RFPIO instance.

Cross-Business-Unit collaboration is something that we’ve seen more as use cases for BUs have evolved. For example, projects can be shared across Business Units. Say you’re running an InfoSec Business Unit project and you notice that some of the questions may be mapped to brand messaging, which would better be handled by someone in marketing. Share that project to the marketing Business Unit to 1) delegate to a suitable subject matter expert, and 2) ensure that you’re delivering the best possible response. There are some user permissions at play, but it’s certainly possible.

Here’s a real-world benefit example from an RFPIO customer I worked with. This client had a Business Unit for North American and another for EMEA. They wanted Business Units so that EMEA could more effectively track its project workflow and would not have to wait to be granted projects from a global team managing the original single instance.

Teams, content, and templates (by language) were separated. Leaders from both GEOs were connected, however, and collaborated on strategic initiatives. They set up the roll-up reporting so that executives could more effectively track time savings to determine how many more opportunities the EMEA team could pursue.

How do you know if you need Business Units with your RFPIO instance?

Review these 6 questions. If you answer “yes” to any of them, then schedule a consultation to see if Business Units may be a good option for you:

  • Do multiple teams/departments/cost centers use RFPIO?
  • Do you want to expand RFPIO in your organization?
  • Do you have RFPIO users located in multiple GEOs?
  • Do you respond to bids, RFx, security questionnaires, or other external requests in multiple languages?
  • Do you have a single executive stakeholder or team that reviews the effectiveness of RFPIO in the enterprise?
  • Have you merged, or are you planning to merge with a company that is also using RFPIO or RFP360?

If you’re still not sure but want to know more about Business Units, you can review my webinar in the Help Center if you’re an RFPIO customer.

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.

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.

4.5 reasons I (a sales pro) love Autograph e-signature

4.5 reasons I (a sales pro) love Autograph e-signature

As a sales professional, when I’m closing a deal I don’t want anything getting in the way. The closer I get to a win, the more I get nervous about two things: delays and relying on others. E-signature functionality has been a huge help to minimizing both.

On the delay side, if there’s always been one holdup that makes me question my closing skills more than any other, it’s waiting for a signature. Back in the paper days of yore, it was even worse. Fax machines were already gathering dust by the time I started my sales career in 2007. At that time, we had progressed to a print-fill out-scan-email process that was annoying enough for me, especially for complex contracts that required multiple signatures and initials. Inevitably, a client would miss an initial blank or two and I’d have to chase them down for it. Then I’d have to merge multiple documents to make a complete, legally binding signed contract.

I once had a client on a $150K deal sign one page of a contract but forget to sign another. While waiting for that second signature, other stakeholders entered the picture, held up the deal, and eventually it died…all because I didn’t have e-signature capability.

On the relying-on-others side, this isn’t a selfish play. On the contrary, I depend on my pre-sales, marketing, operations, product development, and customer support teams to help me do my job every day. This play is about streamlining the approval process: I seek to remove as many barriers as possible to simplify what prospects need to do to sign off on a contract. The less I have to rely on them to print, scan, and email, the faster I can get my signatures.

When e-signature hit the scene a few years ago, it was a game changer. Adoption was slow at first, but it’s picked up big time over the last year. The pandemic has helped, in a sense, because the accelerated digital transformation everywhere has increased usage and familiarity with e-signature functionality.

Now that RFPIO has integrated e-signature capabilities across the user experience for all customers, I’ve fallen in love with it all over again. Known as Autograph, there are 4.5 reasons why, as an account executive sales professional, it’s changing the way I work, for the better.

#1 I move faster

Yeah. I know. I was just complaining about delays. Well, I can be the cause of those delays, too. Even prior to Autograph, I wasted cycles toggling back and forth between my e-signature app and whatever I was using to build proposals and contracts (usually either PowerPoint, Word, or PDF).

With Autograph e-signature, I now have capabilities embedded in the same system I’m using to create proposals and contracts, which means no more toggling. From RFPIO I can create the document, add signature requests, send it out, and save the signed version all in the same application. From the moment I have verbal assent on a deal, I can spin up a proposal or contract in a matter of minutes.

The big bonus with it being in RFPIO is that everyone in the organization can have access at no extra costs.* And I’m not just saying that because I happen to work for the app creator. RFPIO’s unlimited user licenses means everyone can have access, and it’s now included as a standard feature.* In addition to not needing to toggle to and fro with your e-signature app, you don’t have to pay for it, either.

#2 I’m more efficient

It’s about more than just working fast. It’s also about having more control over the whole sales lifecycle. Like any other sales professional, I have a quota or goal that I aim to achieve every month, quarter, and year. Autograph enhances the control I was already gaining with RFPIOs other features. Now I can add e-signature to my ability to manage documents, create content, access answers in near real time, and collaborate with my teammates in sales enablement and proposal development.

One of the greatest efficiencies is with contracts that need signatures from multiple parties. With Autograph, I can set a signing order, include personalized private messages to each signer, set a deadline, and prompt reminder emails. Signers will be invited via email to review the document and add their signatures and initials.

#3 I have more visibility

No deal exists in a vacuum. Quota calls, and I need to keep an active pipeline. There’s a fine line between managing multiple deals and spreading yourself too thin. At any one time, I may have two or three contracts out for signatures. The most important deal is always the one I’m currently working, so it was frustrating and distracting to have to keep tabs on contracts that were awaiting signatures on other deals.

Autograph has a dashboard that helps me track all my contracts, including timestamps, what’s been signed, who still needs to respond to the signing order, and all other actions taken with the document. The dashboard is my window into an organized record of all my signed documents, all of which are also stored in RFPIO and only accessible by me. There is no limit to how many documents I save, and no one else can see the documents without my permission.

#4 I minimize my tech stack

Don’t get me wrong. I love my technology. The fact that I can do what I do from almost anywhere still sometimes astonishes me. But like the inevitable course of a TikTok challenge going too far, there can be too much of a good thing.

I’m of the school of productivity through simplicity and taking the straight line from point A to point B. In the face of Nancy Nardin’s overwhelming 2021 SalesTech Vendor Landscape, I’m seeking to consolidate for more efficiency, automation, and of course, ROI. RFPIO has my back: First, by introducing Autograph on top of another new product this year, RFPIO® LookUp; second, by integrating with other applications I already have in my sales stack. From Salesforce to Microsoft Teams to Google Chrome, I have my sales tech stack dialed in for optimal productivity.

#4.5 Get more colleagues involved

This is only 4.5 because, while the byproduct is still something I love, it also comes with the luxury of working for the company that built Autograph: We all use it already. For you, the benefit is that Autograph exposes RFPIO to other users in your organization who may not have experienced it yet. If you’ve been trying to get any engineers or finance team members—maybe even other sales teams—in your organization to start using RFPIO because it’ll make your life easier, then Autograph is the perfect lure.

I’m one of many who love it

Beyond the sales benefits, I’m hearing a lot of love for Autograph from customers on proposal, human resources, and operations teams. Proposal managers are turning around proposal components such as cover letters, legal documents, NDAs, and disclosures faster than ever. HR is incorporating Autograph into onboarding to make the process easier for administrators and new hires. Operational subject matter experts are realizing efficiencies in utilizing Autograph for vendor/supplier agreement contract management.

Autograph is a no-brainer. Free and ready to go if you’re a current RFPIO customer.* Why not try it? Log in. Navigate to Autograph on the left. Upload a doc. Set a signing order. Send it externally or internally. NEXT!

Request a demo and ask to see how Autograph works, or check out a cool GIF demo of Autograph in action. If you’re already an RFPIO customer, view our Help Center article for detailed instructions on using Autograph.

*The inclusion of the free Autograph tool depends on your RFPIO package. If you currently don’t have Autograph, but want it, please reach out to your Account Manager.

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

Let’s start with the good news: You have an RFP response process. You’d be surprised to know how many companies don’t even have that. If you don’t have a process yet, then I recommend reading How to create an RFP response process as well.

Now the bad news: It needs work. I can help. Let’s look at how to improve your RFP response process.

blog

Guide: How to Build and Use an RFP Response Template

Discover how to build better RFP response templates and get tips and insights on improving your RFP response process.

Get the guide

First, take inventory: How are RFPs viewed within your organization?

Before you improve, take a look at what you have and why. Does your organization view RFPs as a strategic revenue stream or a box to be checked? If the latter, are executive sponsors in place to help you lead the process change?

Change management is real. If past attempts to prioritize RFPs in the sales process were mishandled, then you may still be feeling the pain. If this will be your first sales process change as it pertains to RFPs, then how it’s managed will be just as important as what is implemented.

One advantage of improving your RFP response process now is that salespeople and customers are more open to change than they may have been prior to the pandemic. As people quickly adapted to a “new normal,” Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said, “We saw two years of digital transformation in two months.”

However, if you’re like most organizations, the change will need to take place while maintaining current staff levels. According to our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, 75% of organizations plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021, but only 37% of organizations plan to hire more RFP response staff.

5 steps to improving your RFP response process

  1. Only chase RFPs you can win
  2. Focus on content
  3. Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities
  4. Get to know your resources
  5. Rinse & repeat

Perfection is unattainable. There’s always room for improvement. I’ve seen organizations improve their RFP response process and see big gains within a year. One 2-person team successfully responded to 16 RFPs that were stacked on top of each other a year after having to push back on the same expectation. Hopefully these tips will help you attain the same kind of results.

Step 1: Only chase RFPs you can win

One of the best ways to make your RFP response process more effective is to stop wasting time on unqualified RFPs. Do this by setting up a qualification step or a go/no-go decision. Consider the following during this step:

  • What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued? RFPs are not the optimal time for cold calls. Odds are definitely better when you’ve been invited to respond to an RFP because sales or presales has developed a relationship with the prospect or you already responded to a request for information (RFI) or the prospect has done extensive research on you and your competitors.
  • Is your solution a fit? At minimum, it needs to meet the mandatory requirements. Everyone’s agile. Everyone’s flexible. Issuers already know that. You need to be able to prove that you have a battle-tested solution. If proof isn’t required in the RFP, then it will be at onboarding or implementation. RFPs fall into the category of “under promise, over deliver”; doing the opposite will sabotage future support, renewal, and upgrade efforts.
  • Does your price match the prospect’s budget? Of course there’s give and take when considering the opportunity and what it means to your business now and in the future. Nevertheless, the issuer will expect your solution to come with everything promised in your response. Whatever the cost to deliver on expectations, make sure you’re being fair to your prospect, your product, and your team responsible for supporting those expectations.
  • Is it a strategic fit? RFPs take a lot of time and effort, but not nearly as much time and effort as onboarding and supporting a customer that doesn’t fit your business or product development strategy. There are few things more frustrating than submitting and winning an RFP only to find out that you cannot follow through because it’s not a strategic fit for you or the issuer.
  • Do you have bandwidth? Too often, this consideration gets pushed to the side. It’s especially important if you’re responding to unqualified bids! It’s completely understandable to want to respond to more RFPs (we found that 72% of companies plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020). But don’t do it at the expense of response quality or your proposal team’s, sales team’s, and subject matter experts’ valuable time.

Step 2: Focus on content

Are you working from a content library, or are you still chasing down content ad-hoc? If you have a content library, make sure it’s up to date and that content is clean and reusable. Develop content so that it has the flexibility to either be easily customized or used in its generic form. It should all have a consistent voice to reduce editing and review time on the back end.

Your content library also needs to have an organizational structure that helps with searching. With RFP software such as RFPIO, you can use tags, collections, and custom fields. It might help to organize content to match the structure of the RFPs you receive. What sections do you always see? Sections common in many RFPs are:

  • Company overview
  • Training & implementation
  • Security
  • Software/Functional/Technical
  • Biographies
  • Case Studies

If you’re not using RFP software, organizing your files and documents this way will help reduce the need to chase down content for every new RFP.

Step 3: Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities

Have a project plan that emphasizes expectations. Someone has to own it and drive it to hold team members accountable to deadlines. If you don’t have a full-time proposal manager in place, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better reason to hire one than to improve and own your RFP response process.

Initiate a kickoff meeting for every response to discuss strategy and expectations with the entire response team. Surface scheduling conflicts, content gap concerns, or issues with deadlines to avoid surprises. Find a way to get visibility over the whole process.

Step 4: Get to know your resources

The better you know your resources, the better you are at going to the right person at the right time. Establish their preferred communication channel and respect it. RFPIO has integrations with several channels to make it easier, including email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Jira. Maybe you have an SME who hates writing. Call him up and have him talk out the answer, then you write it out. Putting in the legwork to build relationships with your resources will pay off at crunch time.

Step 5: Rinse & repeat

Any improvements need to be repeatable. For example, if you bring in a contract proposal manager for a response, then be prepared to do so every time. This is a process you will cycle through for every RFP. If it works as well as it should, then you may want to carry the process over to other responses, such as security questionnaires or due diligence questionnaires (DDQs).

 benchmark-blog-report

The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

8-step RFP response process

  • Qualify RFP: Insert a go/no-go evaluation at the beginning of the RFP response process. Sales will be the loudest voice, but proposal teams, SMEs, and executive sponsors will need to weigh in to evaluate risk, timing, and strategic fit.
  • Kick-off project: Provide clarity and accountability to the full response management team, including strategic objectives that everyone can work toward.
  • 1st response: Make an initial response pass based on reusable content. This step is much faster with RFP software.
  • 2nd response: Tap into resources for new questions, and assign segments that require customization to respective SMEs.
  • Review & revise: Conduct internal reviews to ensure a high-quality proposal. Link review requests to specific purposes (i.e., Are strategic objectives met? Are responses accurate and high quality? Did we fully answer the question?)
  • Submit: Deliver polished RFP with reviewed supporting materials. Follow up to confirm receipt. Keep internal stakeholders abreast of progress.
  • Save & audit: Save finalized responses in a centralized location and commit to regular content audits.
  • Post-mortem: Winning doesn’t always mean content was perfect. Losing doesn’t mean it was a bad response. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
    Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFP process and steps

Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFPs are becoming more complex. As technology has evolved, expectations have risen. With the capacity to answer more questions, issuers want to ask more questions.

In the past, RFPs were issued with the issuer not knowing if a solution even existed, let alone the company that could provide it. Now there’s a lot of research done online. Typically, there are multiple touchpoints with a prospective solution provider before an RFP is even issued.

In 2021, companies that use RFP-specific software responded to 43% more RFPs than those who use other solutions or techniques. They were also 25% more likely to agree that their processes are streamlined enough to make time to tailor their proposals to the issuers’ specific use-cases.

RFP software can contain and drive your response process. In RFPIO’s case, AI-enabled automation and collaboration begin at intake and carry all the way through to your postmortem.

For those increasingly popular but sometimes maddening online response portals, RFPIO® LookUp can help. The theory behind online portals is that they make RFPs easier. For the issuers, maybe. But not for responders. Even though you can have as many proposal team members respond as you want, there’s no visibility. If multiple responders are updating and changing answers then version and quality control are at risk. RFPIO® LookUp lets you work directly from your Content Library to fill out the online portal without having to leave your browser.

I hope this helps you formulate your next steps for improving your RFP response process. Eventually, you’ll be able to respond to more RFPs or improve the quality of your proposals, or both! You’ll also have a transparent, repeatable process that your proposal team and organization as a whole can rely on to push RFPs as a strategic revenue stream. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to see if it’s the process improvement driver you’ve been looking for.

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!

9 key RFP metrics for minimizing risk and enhancing efficiency

9 key RFP metrics for minimizing risk and enhancing efficiency

When I first started responding to RFPs, few people were paying attention to RFP metrics. Sure, there were definitely some trailblazers who were measuring performance, analyzing wins and losses, and optimizing efficiency… but I certainly wasn’t one of them. For me, responding to RFPs was less of a process than a mad scramble to the deadline.

Since then, my approach to RFP response has evolved. Admittedly, this is likely aided by co-founding a company that streamlines the response process via automation and analytics. This article will focus on the latter.

If you do it right, data-driven management can help sales teams sell smarter. But 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.

By the end of this article, you will understand which RFP metrics you should be tracking—and how to use these metrics to minimize risk and enhance efficiency.

RFP metrics overview

Responding to RFPs can be an expensive undertaking. When you’re working with limited time and resources, you need to be strategic about which projects you take on. Improving your odds of a win starts by determining whether you’re a good fit, and identifying risk factors early so you can avoid surprises and plan for success.

Don’t let dollar signs, commas, and zeros distract you from what’s possible. Go for that big deal, but don’t do it just because of the logo or the dollar value. Do it because the data tells you, “You have a great shot at winning!”

For answers about your future, look to the past. Use data from past wins, losses, and incompletes to determine whether a project is worth pursuing. When you capture an RFx and upload it as a new project to RFPIO, the system will evaluate past projects for comparison and provide a dashboard that gives you an idea of what to expect.

Here’s a small taste of some of the data points that will help you enhance efficiency and gain new insights throughout your response process:

Project Type: Segment your RFP data according to project type. If you respond to RFPs, Security Questionnaires, and DDQs, then you can set each of those as a project type so you’ll be able to compare apples to apples. You can also segment based on industry, size, geo, and more.

Segment your RFP data according to project type
Focus on Wins: How many similar past projects have you won? Lost? Understanding what kinds of projects have been submitted and won helps you focus your efforts only on projects you’re most likely to win moving forward.

Focus on RFPs you're likely to win
Project Scope: Identity total volume of work required to complete the project.

Identify project scope before starting any RFP
Time to Completion: See the shortest, longest, and average times for similar past projects. In a recent survey, we found that 57% of proposal managers said their primary goal is to improve the proposal management process to save time.

Understand the shortest, longest, and average times for similar past RFPs.
Resource Needs: Examine content that may need to be created or moderated. Identify primary authors and moderators from past projects.

Identify primary authors from past RFPs.
Content Needed: Understand what kinds of questions are being asked, and whether you have that information on hand.

Clearly understand the content available in the library
Taken in isolation, each of those data points means very little. Homing in on a single datapoint is just like trying to ride a bike with just the wheels—you can’t get anywhere without the pedal, seat, and handlebar.

Instead, it’s best to approach RFP metrics in context of the greater RFP response process. The trick is learning how to apply insights from each individual data point in a way that enhances efficiency and reduces risk.

To make this easier on you, this blog breaks down the RFP metrics you should be paying attention to according to how they fit into the RFP response process:

  • RFP metrics to inform bid/no-bid decisions
  • RFP metrics for planning, implementation, and finalization
  • RFP metrics for ongoing optimization

By the time you finish reading, you’ll understand which RFP metrics you should be tracking and how to track them.

RFP metrics to inform bid/no-bid decisions

The first step of the RFP response process is figuring out whether an RFP is a good fit. Is this RFP worth the time and resources it’s going to take to complete?

In making your fit analysis, you need to be selective. You don’t want to waste time and resources on an RFP you’re probably not going to win. But you also don’t want to walk away from a potential opportunity, and leave money on the table.

RFP metric #1: Determining whether you’re a fit

While this isn’t *technically* a metric, decomposing the RFP to determine whether you’re a fit is extremely important to the bid/no-bid decision making process, and worth mentioning here.

Before you spend anytime answering a single question, the first thing you’re going to want to do is determine whether your solution is in line with the key requirements. Do a quick scan to see if anything pops out at you.

What problem is the issuer looking to solve? What are the features and functionalities on their “must-have” and “should-have” list?

This is also a great way to determine whether you’re dealing with a wired RFP, where an incumbent exists and the issuer is just going through the motions. If there are a considerable number of requirements that seem irrelevant or very far off base, that’s a good sign the issuer isn’t interested and the RFP might not be a good use of your time.

If your solution isn’t in-line with the issuer’s needs… go ahead and throw it on the “thanks, but no thanks” pile.

Remember: Your time is valuable. Don’t spend it on proposals you’re not likely to win.

Even if you are a good fit, you may still decide it’s a no-go due to other priorities, deadlines, and resource commitments.

If you do find you’re regularly passing up potential opportunities due to bandwidth, you might consider a proposal automation solution. According to a recent survey, organizations using RFP-specific technology submit nearly 50% more RFPs than those who don’t.

RFP metric #2: Do your homework on the RFP issuer

Yes, okay, we’re two for two for metrics that aren’t technically metrics. But you’re going to want to do a background check on the RFP issuer before you do a single iota of work. Nothing is worse than putting the final touches on an RFP, only to discover you already submitted a near-identical RFP two years ago.

Once you’ve determined the decomposition of data is a fit, there are a few questions you’ll need to answer:

  • Has this company previously issued RFPs?
  • If yes, did you win? Were you short-listed?

If you did submit an RFP for this particular company before—and you lost—it might not be worth your time. But if you were short-listed, and the company ended up going with another vendor, it could indicate that they weren’t happy with the other vendor’s solution… and this might be your chance to shine.

If you have submitted an RFP for this particular company before, pull that old RFP from the archives, and examine it with a critical eye. What did you do well? What can be improved? You don’t always get a second chance to demonstrate your competitive advantage—don’t let this opportunity slip you by.

RFP metric #3: Analyzing past wins based on company profiles

Compare company size, project value, and vertical to your typical customer profile. If you usually work with enterprise companies, and the RFP you’ve just received is from a startup, your solution might not be a good fit.

Save yourself some time in the future by tracking these data points as you go along. Each time you receive a new RFP, make a note of the parameters you want to track. As a starting point, I would suggest tracking*:

  • Vertical
  • Company Size
  • Product Line
  • Project Type*
  • Project Stage*
  • Number of Questions*
  • Project Value*

*RFPIO tracks project type, stage, number of questions, and project value by default. You can track vertical, company size, and product link by creating a custom field.

Be diligent about tracking each parameter whenever you receive a new RFP. Over time, you’ll see how well you perform for each of your chosen parameters.

If you’re using RFPIO, you’ll get a performance snapshot each time you import a new project, including project status (e.g. won, lost), time spent, and Content Library usage (i.e. how many of the questions were answered using Auto Respond).

With RFPIO, you'll see a performance snapshot each time you import a new project.

RFP metric #4: Tracking your average RFP response rate

Your average RFP response rate is a function of the number of outgoing RFPs divided by the number of incoming RFPs.

Average RFP Response Rate = # Outgoing RFPs / # Incoming RFPs

There is no rule of thumb for what your average RFP response rate should be. For some companies, an 80% response rate is too low; for others, a 30% response rate is too high.

One thing that can be said for certain is that if every RFP that comes in is being responded to, something is off. It means you’re not qualifying what’s coming in. By going after everything, you end up wasting time and effort on deals you’re probably not going to win.

You can adjust your average RFP response rate as you go along. If your win rate is astronomical, it could be a sign that you want to start responding to more RFPs (and vice versa).

On the flip side, if you’re responding to 50% of RFPs, and your win rate is abysmal, it could be a sign you need to better qualify the deals you’re going after.

RFP metrics for planning, implementation, and finalization

Once you’ve decided this RFP is a go, it’s time to get to work. That means building out your team, keeping your project on track, and submitting a polished final product.

RFP metric #5: Determining Workload

Before you do anything, check the project size (i.e. number of questions) and the due date. This will give you a general idea of how much work you’ll have to do based on past performance.

After that, you can start assigning work out to your team. As you’re choosing SMEs, the most important metric to track is current assigned workload. If one of your SMEs has four projects due by the end of next week and you’re adding another one, you’re just asking for trouble. That’s the time you proactively find an alternate SME.

If you’re using RFPIO, you can check current SME workload right in the application. The system will tell you how much work is assigned to which SMEs, what the workload looks like, and if there is any overload.

If you’re not using proposal management software, you can also keep track of SME workload using spreadsheets; you’ll just have to make time to keep your spreadsheet up to date.

RFP metric #6: Readability Score

If a proposal is difficult to understand, it increases the cost for bidders during the procurement process. Confusion leads to delays. Delays drive up costs. And everyone loses.

Most people read at a 10th grade level. Make life easy for your buyers by writing at that same level. Avoid delays by calculating readability as content is being added, using an editing tool like the Hemingway App or the Flesch reading ease test.

RFP metric #7: Probability of Win Score (PWIN)

Here’s where you take an honest look at your work so far and ask yourself: How can I increase my odds of winning?

A PWIN (Probably of Win) score is calculated based on the answers to a variety of questions designed to best determine how well the company’s team, experience, and contacts match those required for the opportunity. The higher the score, the better chances of winning the contract will be.

Ask questions like:

  • How does the language compare to previous projects? Is it accurate, positive? Does it align with winning RFPs from the past?
  • Have you answered all the questions? Have you met all the required conditions?
  • How often do you answer in the affirmative vs. negative?

Be honest with yourself. Have you said “no” to a certain percentage of must-have or should-have requirements? Are you qualifying too much, or agreeing to build too many features? It might not be worth the final proofing and polishing to primp your proposal to perfection.

Just because you’ve spent a lot of time getting your proposal this far, it doesn’t mean you need to spend even more time getting it over the finish line. Your time is valuable. It’s okay to throw in the towel.

Regardless of whether you decide to submit the proposal, make note of the requirements you’re missing, and coordinate with your product management team to get them into the roadmap.

RFP metrics for improving win rate and optimizing efficiency

You should constantly be looking for opportunities to optimize efficiency and improve win rate. Tracking metrics and analyzing the data can help you do that.

RFP metric #8: Identify Content Gaps

Auditing your Content Library is an art unto itself. From an RFP metrics perspective, RFPIO includes an insights tool that helps you identify content gaps, content that needs to be updated, and content that needs to be created.

What terms are being used in search? What’s being found? What’s not being found? Let’s say a security product company is seeing a lot of requests for “zero trust” but no content exists because it’s new terminology that has quickly become industry norm.

The insight tool alerts content owners that content needs to include “zero trust” in order to stay relevant—and could provide insight to leadership and product teams on where the market is headed.

Sometimes you just need new content in your library. For example, if a lot of people are looking for information about “outages” (i.e., what has been your longest outage?), but turning up empty-handed, it might be a good idea to reach out to your product team to let them know new content is needed.

RFP metric #9: Determine content library health

To determine how healthy your content library is, see what percentage of RFPs can be completed with auto-respond, as opposed to manually creating answers from scratch. With a well-curated Content Library, 40-80% auto-response is realistic. 30-40% of content exists but needs editing. 20-30% needs to be brand new.

If your auto-respond is hovering below 40-50%, that’s a good sign you’re in need of a content audit. If this sounds like you, check out our guide on how to conduct a content audit in 3 steps.

4-Step RFP Content Audit

Future impact

There’s more to discover after delivering a project. Before you even know if you won or lost, you can start mitigating future risk based on what you learned during this project.

How long did it take (longer/shorter than average)? How many deadlines were missed? How much content was re-used? How much content was missing? Set up a feedback mechanism to share these findings with content owners and SMEs so you can continue to improve knowledge management and the response process.

Time matters

Our success metric is not to have users spend more time in our platform. This is not social media. We want users to be able to work responses faster and more effectively than they’ve ever thought possible. Which brings me to the last RFP metric I want to mention here: how well you’re using your team’s time.

Generate an Application Usage Report to gain insight into which modules (Project, Content Library, etc.) your users spent their time. Compare that time spent against past similar projects. Did you save the team time? Did it take longer than average? From here, you can dig into why and start minimizing risk for the next proposal.

Gain insight into which modules your users spend their time
Schedule a demo today to see how to use some of the RFP metrics mentioned in this article to improve proposal management.

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