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Reducing RFx response time for a health insurance company from days to hours

Reducing RFx response time for a health insurance company from days to hours

Improving RFx response outcomes through automation, advanced content management, and winning trust from all users. Health insurance is one of […]


Category: Tag: RFI

Reducing RFx response time for a health insurance company from days to hours

Reducing RFx response time for a health insurance company from days to hours

Improving RFx response outcomes through automation, advanced content management, and winning trust from all users.

Health insurance is one of the most established industries in the U.S. With an ever-changing regulatory environment and evolving healthcare challenges, agile and prompt response processes are critical to insurance companies’ business models.

Despite being well-versed in building complex business relationships, one large regional nonprofit health insurance provider struggled with slow, siloed response management processes.

For years, they had been using requests for proposals (RFPs) as an essential business development strategy. For commercial and government bids, they used old RFP software that was universally despised and not at all user-friendly. Additionally, content could not be shared, and there was no transparency.

The proposal manager for the company recalled one instance where a subject matter expert (SME) was reviewing an answer and asked, “Who said this?” After too much time spent digging through past email chains to track down the source, the manager discovered that the source of the original answer was the very same SME.

Overall, the old RFP response system simply wasn’t working. Even though they were implementing best practices, it wasn’t getting at the root cause of what was happening and wasn’t addressing the pain points that RFP coordinators were seeing. The manager said, “When we took a holistic look at our entire process, we knew we needed to do something different. We had to change how we looked at RFPs from the culture side. And we had to change the technical side—the process.”

Sales departments complained about the system’s inefficiency. Everyone involved in the RFP process worked in a silo and had no idea what was happening elsewhere in the organization. The only way for sales to stay up to date on an RFP was to ask the proposal team to send over the most recent version.

SMEs—also working in silos—would send information to the proposal team, where it would vanish into a black hole. Because they couldn’t access in real-time any progress made on RFPs, they couldn’t know how the RFP response ended, whether it was successful, or whether the right content and messaging were being used.

There was no feedback in any direction. Email chains were too big and unmanageable—and usually got lost among the hundreds of emails everyone received every day. Requests to provide the same information over and over again were commonplace.

Solution: Automate to improve the user experience organization-wide

At the end of 2018, the manager realized it was time to take the company’s RFP response process to the next level and their current RFP software wasn’t going to solve their problems.

Initially, her primary goals were to automate the RFP response process and enable a more user-friendly experience for the proposal team, sales, and SMEs. After learning more about RFPIO’s functionality, she discovered many other ways the platform could improve systems within her organization.

Of RFPIO’s many applications at this health insurance company, perhaps the most shocking is that first drafts of requests for information (RFIs) that once took as many as five days to complete now take just a few hours. That was just one of the many unexpected benefits.

By bringing in RFPIO, the health insurance company improved their RFP response process with:

  • Content Management: They removed the proposal team as the “middleman” for content creation, review, and management. RFPIO enables SMEs to own their respective content; they now use the correct content version every time.
  • Intuitive Workflow: RFPIO is designed to be a response platform. Features such as the Content Library are flexible and adaptable. In this case, the Content Library adapted to how the health insurance industry thinks. For example, sometimes, a question requires a different response depending on who’s asking and in what context. RFPIO leverages AI to make response management intuitive and seamless.
  • Import/Export: Now, they can easily upload questionnaires into RFPIO and then download responses in their own branded templates.
  • Collaboration Tools: All communication for each RFP is captured and acted upon within RFPIO. Even if an SME or salesperson responds via email, RFPIO logs the response. There are no more long email chains, no more lost version control, and no more inefficient reviews. An added benefit is that SMEs can learn from each other. As they review other comments from all departments involved with the RFP, they can gain new perspectives on their own responses.
  • Sophisticated Tracking & Reporting: RFPIO tracks and monitors all content and communication related to each project and allows any user to check the project status. The platform automatically creates a log of all discussions, comments, and content.
  • Salesforce Integration: RFPIO Salesforce integration enables the organization to launch RFPIO projects, track progress in real-time and at every level, and submit bids directly from Salesforce.

RFPs were just the beginning: RFP software also helps with RFI response and content management

“When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”

The company rolled out RFPIO in September 2019, intending the entire focus of the platform to be on RFPs. However, January 2020 marked the beginning of their RFI season. After the first few started trickling in, they decided to try putting the RFIs into RFPIO.

“We realized that RFPIO is brilliant for automating RFI response,” said the company’s proposal manager.

RFIs involve hundreds of questions and must be completed at least annually, sometimes multiple times a year. Rarely are there any changes from one RFI to the next. Most new RFI data are updates, built on the idea of review and update.

When an 817-question RFI arrived one day at 11:30 a.m. and was in the SME’s hands for review by the end of that same day, the manager was ecstatic. “When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”

Another RFPIO use case included managing content related to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. From the beginning of the pandemic, there was confusion, constantly changing content, and breakthroughs about testing, treatment, and vaccinations. Brokers and employer groups needed regular updates on how to handle all of this new information.

To help ensure the health insurance company maintained consistency in messaging both internally and externally, they developed a COVID-specific content collection in RFPIO. The collection enabled the company to track whether something had been reviewed, was ready to publish, or had already been published.

It also helped them keep up with constant updates to content that SMEs owned and could share company-wide, avoiding any missteps such as publishing May 2020 messaging, despite a June 2020 update. The collection allows the company to update in real-time as talking points change.

“I tell people when I’m training them that you can’t break RFPIO, and it tracks everything,” the proposal manager said. “That gave people the comfort and freedom to get creative with the platform.”

The health insurance company continues to expand its RFPIO collections. Recently, they built one for their provider team to track their responses for health systems. Another separate line of business has its own unique collection because it’s not quoted very often. The RFPIO collection provides access to content and assigns owners for updates and tracking.

Content transparency starts with unlimited user access

With their old system, the company had to purchase hundreds of licenses to give salespeople and SMEs access to the platform.“To pay that just to give people access, it wasn’t a good way of going about it,” they said.

With RFPIO, everyone can have access without needing to purchase individual licenses. And everyone does have access—beyond the proposal team. Underwriters, sales, SMEs, and security all use RFPIO. The more it’s used, the more other departments want to take advantage of its capabilities.

“For us, it’s really gone beyond just responding to RFPs. It’s using it to collaborate and track and respond to the market,” the manager said. “The more we use it, the more I hear, ‘Hey, it would be great if we could use RFPIO for this.’”

Are you ready to respond to RFPs faster and gain control of your content? Get started by scheduling a demo today.

Due to privacy and confidentiality restrictions, RFPIO is not disclosing the company name or the names of interviewed case study participants.

 

 

 

RFP 101: Request for proposal basics

RFP 101: Request for proposal basics

If you’re new to the proposal or bid process, then you’ll need the request for proposal (RFP) basics. Even though, like all business processes, the request for proposal process has changed over the years, many of the basics have held true.

This article will brief you on what you need to know about requests for proposals so you’ll be ready to take on the response process with aplomb.

What does RFP stand for?

RFP stands for request for proposal. As a remnant of government contracting processes, it’s no wonder “RFP” is more popular as an acronym. After all, in byzantine bureaucratic processes, responding to an RFP from the DoD is the only way to share your KSP with a VIP who prefers to keep their ID on the QT until they determine ROI. And this all started before texting and social media! LOL!

Why do RFPs exist?

Organizations and agencies issue RFPs as part of their vendor selection process. It’s an attempt to create parameters that enable apples-to-apples comparisons of solutions to a particular problem.

Outside of the United States, RFPs are also known as tenders. Instead of “issuing an RFP,” organizations “run a tender.” Instead of “responding” to an RFP, vendors “bid” on a tender.

Other RFP-related terms

To learn more about common RFP-related terms, you have 3 options. One, check out the quick definitions below (it’ll take less than a minute). Two, read my new screenplay for the short film, “Once Upon a Time in an RFP Process,” later in this article (it’ll take you 3-5 minutes). Three, do both! Note: If you are an artist who can help me storyboard the movie, let’s talk (think low-budget, though).

Proposal
The proposal is your response to an RFP. If an organization or agency asks, “How can I solve X?” in an RFP, then your proposal is the answer: “I propose this solution to X.” Like Dr. Barbay’s single question for Thornton Melon’s academic evaluation that ended up having 27 parts, your RFP proposal can be hundreds, if not thousands of pages long.

RFP Executive Summary
The RFP executive summary sets the tone of the proposal. It’s usually written first, by the salesperson in charge of the relationship. It will summarize the highlights of your proposal. There are occasions when it will be the only part of your proposal that some of the issuing stakeholders will review.

RFI: Request for Information
RFIs, or requests for information, are more casual than a request for quote and more generic than an RFP, RFIs are either a fishing expedition or a clarification exercise.

RFQ: Request for Quote
When someone issues an RFQ, or request for quote, they want you to tell them how much your product or service will cost. Lowest price definitely does not always win. This is an opportunity to illustrate everything included in your offering as well as prospective ROI.

DDQ: Due Diligence Questionnaire
DDQs, or due diligence questionnaires—not to be confused with a security questionnaire (see below)—are all about compliance. You might see one as part of the RFP process, but it’s also likely you’ll be filling these out throughout your partnership with the issuer. With increasing scrutiny on data security and privacy, you may be filling them out more often, too.

Security Questionnaire
This will be one or more standardized questionnaires designed to assess risk of taking you on as a vendor. Popular questionnaires include SIG, SIG-Lite, VSAQ, CAIQ, and more.

When to use an RFP

Say you’re an enterprise or government agency. Through research and experience, you’ve identified five possible vendors that may be able to help solve a particular problem. Now you can issue an RFP to gather everything you need to know about the solution, its cost, and its impact on your operations after selecting a vendor. The level of complexity, number of questions, and deadline will vary greatly depending on your industry and the sophistication of the solution.

When to respond to an RFP

There are several factors to consider when determining whether or not to respond to an RFP. We recommend that your standard RFP intake process include a go/no-go step. Only respond to RFPs that you can win:

  • Is the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses all of the challenges presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match the budget?
  • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

When to use RFP software

If you’re responding to a couple of RFPs, a few security questionnaires, and spend most of your time sending out direct responses to RFQs, then RFP software may not be the best fit.

RFP software falls into a new category of software known as response management. Response management software’s primary value is efficiency. How you repurpose time saved will determine much of your success. Some organizations seek to respond to more RFPs, others seek to improve response quality. Most want both.

If you think RFP software and its automation capabilities would help, then it’s important to consider your entire response universe when selecting a vendor. For example, do you only want help responding to RFPs? Or do you want to automate responses to security questionnaires and DDQs, too?

What about proactive proposals? Do your sales, presales, and support teams want a better way to respond to prospects and customers?

RFPs are sales vehicles, and how your organization responds is a sales support function. The response management solution you choose will be determined by how much sales support you want to offer.

Sometimes you wonder if life is a movie…

Me, too! So if you had to break down RFP basics into a scene in your life’s movie it might look like…

“Once Upon a Time in an RFP Process”

By Sue Donim

[LOCATION: HOME OFFICE OF “KEYES,” THE SALES MANAGER/PROPOSAL MANAGER/MARKETING MANAGER HERO. KEYES LOGS ONTO A VIDEO CONFERENCE WITH “BOSS.”]

KEYES: Hi, Boss. Nice virtual background. That’s the most artistic rendering of taxidermy I’ve seen in some time.

BOSS: Cut to the chase, Keyes. I’ve grown weary of these online meetings. Unless you have a solution to our revenue and inefficiency challenges, I’d rather you send me an email.

KEYES: You’re in luck, sir. It just so happens that’s why I requested this meeting.

BOSS: That’s what I like about you, Keyes. Always presenting answers instead of complaining about problems. Proceed.

KEYES: We can increase revenue by streamlining our RFP process.

BOSS: Brilliant! I like it…no, I love it! Let’s start immediately. Now…

What is an RFP again?

KEYES: An RFP is a Request for Proposal…when a company needs services and products like ours, they issue an RFP to identify the optimal vendor.

BOSS: Sounds like a no-brainer. Why haven’t we been doing this the whole time?

KEYES: We have responded to RFPs in the past, but it’s not exactly a turnkey process…yet. RFPs can be thousands of pages about pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, and more. Responding puts a strain on our subject matter experts, sales teams, and anyone else who needs to carve out extra time to help with the process.

BOSS: That doesn’t sound efficient at all.

KEYES: Well, then you have to take into consideration RFIs and RFQs, too.

BOSS: Enough with the acronyms, Keyes.

What’s an RFI? What’s an RFQ?

KEYES: Sorry, Boss. Request for Information and Request for Quote. RFIs tend to appear early in the vendor-selection process. Companies issue them to find out if any vendors can help them solve a particular problem. They’re more generic and open-ended and would likely be used to craft a more targeted RFP. RFQs usually show up later in the vendor selection process, usually after we’ve submitted an RFP. This is when the company wants to know specifics on how much our solution will cost.

BOSS: RFPs, RFIs, RFQs… anything else I should know about? Wait, what’s that?!

How to write executive summary
KEYES: Good eye, Boss. That’s a cheat sheet on writing an executive summary. The executive summary is high-level content that covers the issuer’s challenges and demonstrates how our products and services will help.

BOSS: Sounds like a cover letter.

KEYES: That’s a common misconception, Boss. The executive summary is different from the cover letter. In an executive summary, we provide an executive-level summary of how our solution fixes their problem. In a cover letter, we talk about how great we are.

BOSS: I’m better at that than most.

KEYES: Of course you are.

BOSS: And what do our RFP-winning executive summaries look like?

KEYES: I’ll let you know when we win one.

BOSS: I was afraid you were going to say that.

KEYES: Don’t get discouraged, Boss. I have a plan to turn it around. The right RFP automation software will help us write RFP-winning executive summaries. Just like it will help with DDQs and security questionnaires.

BOSS: What did I just say about acronyms?

What’s a DDQ?

KEYES: Sorry. Last one. The DDQ is the Due Diligence Questionnaire. It’s usually one of the last stages of the response process. In fact, it may come after we’ve already been selected, when the company is doing their final due diligence. It typically involves a few hyper-specific points as part of their standard vendor onboarding protocol.

BOSS: And how is that different from a security questionnaire? In fact….

What even is a security questionnaire?

KEYES: Great question, Boss. Privacy is a hot button, and any company we work with wants to make sure we meet their privacy standards. Security questionnaires generally deal with privacy issues such as compliance, infrastructure security, and data protection. Depending on the company, this questionnaire can be a few hundred or a few thousand questions.

BOSS: Yowza. How long does it take to complete that?

KEYES: Weeks, if we don’t have a response process in place.

BOSS: Excellent. Let’s get it implemented. I’m putting you in charge of it, Keyes.

KEYES: I think that’s a good call, Boss. We’ll start with the 8-step RFP response process.

[CUT TO GRAPHIC OF 8-STEP RFP RESPONSE PROCESS]

RFP process and steps

BOSS: Looks like I put the right person in charge. You have all the answers, Keyes.

KEYES: Speaking of answers, that reminds of something else that’s essential to a smooth-running RFP process machine.

BOSS: Yes, yes, that’s why I brought it up. What’s on your mind?

KEYES: The Content Library, Boss. It’s the secret to more efficient RFP content management. It’s what makes massive questionnaires answerable in a few clicks. It’s where content is marketing-approved and always ready to share. And if it’s intelligent—as it should be—it’s able to make recommendations along the way so that we can easily customize every RFP response. Plus, once a subject matter expert answers a question it stays in the library forever. From then on, they can take a reviewer role, saving them time and keeping them focused on their primary job duties.

BOSS: That’s it! You’re the winner, Keyes! Best video conference of the day.

KEYES: Thank you, Boss.

BOSS: No, thank YOU! Now, how do we get started. Will you—dare I ask—issue an RFP? Ha!

KEYES: Good one, sir, but no. I already have someone in mind.

[FADE OUT OF VIDEO CONFERENCE CALL AUDIO. ZOOM OUT TO SEE THE BACK OF KEYES. CUT TO BLACK. ROLL CREDITS]

[END]

How is your RFP process performing? Schedule a demo to see how RFPIO can help transform your RFP period piece into an action-packed RFP-process blockbuster.

RFP vs RFQ vs RFI: How response management reflects sales success

RFP vs RFQ vs RFI: How response management reflects sales success

There are more responses in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your RFx, to badly paraphrase Hamlet. In an enterprise sale or government bid, you’re likely to run into one or more of the following: request for proposal (RFP), request for quote (RFQ), and request for information (RFI). How your organization responds to these requests has direct implications on your sales process: Improve how you respond, improve how you sell.

What is an RFP?

RFP stands for Request for Proposal.

For the proposal team, this is the be-all, end-all of responses that stirs up everything you can possibly imagine about your organization. Pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, case studies, references, implementation, SLAs…phew! As the owner of the RFP response process, the proposal manager must ensure that ALL of these questions are tackled.

For the deal that’s already several touchpoints in the making, this response can either help seal it or kill it for the sales team. The importance of the RFP in the overall sales process varies according to industry. But across the board, it’s one of the touchpoints—along with product demo, pricing, and references—that every stakeholder will take into consideration when deciding on vendor selection.

Bottom line? No matter how awesome a response turns out, it alone cannot win the deal. Alas, a subpar response can indeed kill a deal all by itself.

What is an RFQ?

RFQ stands for Request for Quote.

If you receive an RFQ, then one of two things have likely happened. One, your RFP passed muster and you’re a finalist. Or two, there never was an RFP and you’re being approached because yours is a known solution for one reason or another. Either way, details are important in an RFQ. The issuer wants to know exactly what they’re getting at what price.

Lean heavily on subject matter experts (SMEs) to ensure accuracy. In some cases, you may need to complete a table of specific line items and include a cost for each. Your industry dictates your details. The point is that you need to be ready to deliver those details in an RFQ. There’s usually no room for creativity like you might have in an RFP. And remember, anything you commit to in the RFQ will have to be backed up down the line during implementation and support. You’re setting up expectations for the customer experience moving forward, after the hand-off from sales.

What is an RFI?

RFI stands for Request for Information.

There are two schools of thought regarding RFIs. The first school says an RFI is a fishing expedition for organizations who have questions but don’t know who to ask. In this case, RFI responses usually end up forming the basis of an RFP.

The second school says that RFIs are closer to RFQs and are used only with RFP finalists. In this case, the open-ended questions may try to clarify something in your RFP or may give you an opportunity to explain use-cases of how your solution solves specific challenges.

The RFI is usually more casual than the RFQ and will give you room to be creative. In some cases, it can even be your last opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. End on a high note!

What is the difference between an RFP, RFI, and RFQ?

Obviously, there are many differences, based on the definitions above. But the biggest difference between these three requests is in the content of your response.

  • RFQs will be structured; content will likely be technical, financial, and legal.
  • RFIs are more casual; content will be more along the lines of solution briefs, case studies, and custom answers to open-ended questions.
  • RFPs will be structured and formal, but they’ll also provide opportunities to show off your creativity and competitive differentiation. Content will be in the form of answers to many, many questions. Hopefully you have a response management solution in place to automate and manage content. It makes your life much easier.

Ways RFPs, RFQs, and RFIs help your sales process

Back in the days of paper forms and manual processes, if an RFP was involved, then you could count on a long wait before knowing if you won the deal. That’s not necessarily the case anymore. Digital transformation has introduced three new trends with regards to the RFP as it relates directly to the sales process.

  1. Deadlines are sooner: Issuers expect vendors to have technology and expertise in place to turnaround RFPs faster than ever. Besides, in some instances, the ability to respond fast may be part of an issuer’s filtering process.
  2. RFPs are more complex: Lots of reasons for this. More complex problems, competitive industries that have more vendor options, and the ability for issuers to do a lot of research on solution providers prior to launching an RFP (thanks a lot, Internet) are the biggest, in my mind.
  3. Globally, more organizations and agencies are using them: Actually, there’s a flip side to that idea, too. More solution providers are able to respond to global RFPs. Few of us are limited by borders anymore when it comes to conducting business. If you offer a product or service that the world needs and you can deliver it, then go after the business!

Regardless of your RFP vs RFQ vs RFI predicament, if you work on the following two things, your sales process will be the better for it.

#1 Know your competitive differentiators

There’s a high probability that you will be asked to state your competitive differentiators when responding to an RFP. Here are some examples of how that might look:

  • What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
  • Describe your competitive position relative to your competitors.
  • When comparing yourself to the market, what are the unique selling points?
  • Briefly state how you are differentiated from any competitors.
  • Why should we work with you instead of one of your competitors?

A generic RFP response to any of these will only benefit your competitors who are able to dazzle the issuer with a great response. Instead of using jargon-y adjectives that everyone else uses, focus on demonstrating the value your solution provides.

Knowing company differentiators is half the battle for many organizations—take the time internally to explore what these are and how to communicate them. Once you have these locked down, make sure the best versions are readily available for your team to grab and tailor appropriately.

“A value proposition offers clients something they want and gives them a good reason to choose you over your competitors. In the executive summary and in your full proposal, communicate a strong value proposition that matches your client’s needs and demonstrates your unique offer.”

– APMP Body of Knowledge

#2 Build and use an Content Library

How do you make sure the best versions of your competitive differentiators are easy for your team to grab and tailor? Make sure they’re in your Content Library, of course. It won’t be long before response management software will no longer be a choice; it’ll be an imperative.

Most RFP-specific technologies include an Content Library component. This is where all the content is stored and organized for use in RFPs or other responses, depending on the flexibility of the solution. Much of the content in these libraries exists as Q&A pairs. For the sales process, using AI functionality from an Content Library improves:

  • Repeatability: Build your response process around the foundation of your response management software. It will help establish steps for how you develop a response, access content, and collaborate with writers, editors, and experts time and again.
  • Efficiency: Make everything easier and faster—from finding content and assembling documents, to working with collaborators. Teams that do so are often able to increase efficiency by 40%.
  • Quality: With much of the time-intensive activities of responding offloaded to AI-enabled software and rock-solid processes, you can spend more time on personalizing responses and generating revenue.

Improve how you respond, improve how you sell

We found that organizations using RFP software submitted 43% more responses in 2020 than those without. We also found that organizations averaged a 45% win rate in 2020. From a sales perspective, that’s a huge opportunity for improvement: submit more responses, win more deals.

To learn more about how response management can benefit your sales processes, schedule a demo today!

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