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RFP management best practices

RFP management best practices

“You have to have a plan, or else you’re just creating a recipe for chaos.” ~ David Brooks What is […]


Category: Tag: RFP best practices

RFP management best practices

RFP management best practices

“You have to have a plan, or else you’re just creating a recipe for chaos.” ~ David Brooks

What is your first instinct when an RFP lands on your desk? Do you push it aside in favor of more urgent matters? Do you dive right in, or do you already have a strategy in place?

New York Times columnist David Brooks might not have been talking about RFP management, but as with many things, having an RFP management plan, a strategy, can mean the difference between winning your bid and chaos. 

What is RFP management?

At the highest level, RFP management is about managing the process of responding to proposal requests from start (even before receiving the RFP) to finish. Responsibilities vary from organization to organization, but the goals are the same, which is to win new business. 

At their core, RFP response is about answering how you will address a prospect’s requirements, but a good response goes far beyond giving rote answers. Using carefully curated and fresh content, the response should tell a story demonstrating that you understand the customer’s needs and how to best address them. 

RFP management includes leveraging company resources, such as subject matter experts (SMEs), existing data, and of course processes. If you consistently provide quality answers to RFPs, your win rate will increase. Below are the best practices we and our customers use to drive revenue and elevate win rates. 

Bid for RFPs strategically

There’s strength in numbers, right? The more RFPs you answer, the more you’ll win, right? Probably not. Some of the RFPs you receive aren’t a good fit for your company, so why waste time and resources on those? 

Tools such as RFPIO’s AI-powered content library, which answers up to 80% of an RFP’s questions, makes answering an RFP much faster and less resource-intensive. But if you know going in that you won’t win the bid, or you can’t service it, you’re still wasting valuable time and resources. Is the bid winnable? Follow these steps to narrow down which RFPs you should respond to. 

  • Do you have a preexisting relationship with the customer? Did they specifically choose to send it to you, or are they using a buckshot approach? A previous relationship—or when the issuer has done their own research—will dramatically improve your win rate over the RFPs that are automatically sent to everyone in your industry.
  • Is your company a fit? If you can’t service the customer’s needs, there’s no reason to answer their RFP.
  • Can you address all of the challenges presented in the RFP? Or at the very least, the most important ones?
  • Is your pricing within the customer’s budget? No, money isn’t everything, and often, features and ability to meet the RFP’s challenges will win out. However, if your solution is far outside of the customer’s budget, it’s a tough hill to climb and efforts will be best spent elsewhere.
  • Can you meet the prospect’s timeline? Can you meet the submission deadline? What about each deliverable? Can your organization fulfill all of the requirements on time?
  • Do you know why the RFP was issued? This could help determine the customer’s pain points.

First you should identify and consult with your SMEs. If you haven’t won similar bids before, or if you’d have a difficult time fulfilling the requirements, you might be better off passing on that particular opportunity. 

Have a clearly-defined RFP team

Regardless of whether your organization has a proposal management team or proposal management is the purview of the sales team or even a single person, there should always be a person who’s ultimately in charge. 

From there, the team might vary depending on the customer’s needs and your company’s organizational structure. Titles are often used interchangeably and can mean different things to different organizations. 

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) membership roster includes more than 1,300 different job titles. You might have a dedicated proposal management team, but they may need to involve additional SMEs and stakeholders such as the executive team, legal, HR, information security, training and implementation, sales, customer success, account managers, IT, operations, finance, etc. Each organization is different, but proposal management team roles might include the following: 

  • Bid (or project) manager — The bid manager leads the proposal management team and is involved in every stage of the bid process.
  • Proposal manager — The proposal manager works on a more granular level than the bid manager. Proposal managers oversee the entire process.
  • Proposal writer — The proposal writer is responsible for responding to the customer’s requirements in a persuasive style that includes relevant information such as case studies and other differentiators.
  • Proposal coordinator — The proposal coordinator is responsible for the administrative aspects of the response, including coordinating the internal flow, schedules, security and integrity, and directing submission of final documents.
  • Proposal editor — The proposal editor ensures that the writing is high quality, persuasive, and maintains a consistent voice. They also check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and format consistency.
  • Content manager — The content manager is responsible for adding to, maintaining, and periodically reviewing the content library. 

In many organizations however, all of these roles are being filled by only a few individuals or even one, which means those individuals often wear a lot of hats. Be sure to have actionable deliverables to ensure that each person contributing to the response has clear expectations. This applies even if there’s a single contributor. 

Fully understand the customer’s expectations

There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter RFP or customer. It’s critical to fully understand a customer’s specific wants and expectations before attempting to answer their RFP. For example, don’t mention features that don’t matter to the customer, such as niche certifications that don’t apply.  Start with what interests the issuer and then tailor your responses to those interests.

Read between the lines in trying to understand customer pain points. For example, if a customer asks a software developer if they offer user-based pricing, rather than answer “yes” or “no,” ask yourself why a customer might ask that. Perhaps they’ve reached limitations with other systems, or there’s a competitor that offers a more appealing pricing structure.

Determine how you stand out from your competitors, which of course can include cost, but it can also include product or service quality, expertise, customer service, and overall reputation. 

Manage and organize RFP content

As baseball icon Babe Ruth once said, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” Similarly, yesterday’s answers don’t win today’s RFPs, even if you’ve won that exact same RFP for the exact same customer in the past. Why? Because as your business changes, so should the content. 

When you search your content library, you might find hundreds or even thousands of relevant Q&A pairs. Weeding through them might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Managing and organizing your content library should be an ongoing process, but there are some things you can do right now to help whittle down your Q&A pairs. The key is to focus on quality rather than quantity. You should regularly audit your content library for:

Accuracy – If, for example, you inadvertently lowball the bid, you could be contractually obligated to honor that pricing. Additionally, if you erroneously claim regulatory compliance, your organization could be held responsible for data breaches, etc. In other words, accuracy is critical, as is regularly auditing your content library to archive outdated information and update as applicable. 

Content availability – RFPs are bulky and time consuming, and most organizations are stretched thin. Finding the correct answer quickly is critical. An updated content library lets you easily find the right information without having to sift through thousands of documents and megabits of data.

Naming and tagging – Establish a standardized naming convention for each project. Not only does that make the content more accessible to each team member, it helps you find customer-specific content for future requests. You can further narrow down the content by tagging. How you want to tag is up to your company. Many choose tagging by industry or general requirements. This can help dramatically narrow down your content.

Keep content up-to-date

The best way to get around content bloat is to avoid it in the first place. Perform regular audits to keep your content fresh. 

  • Is the content still current?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Are the answers relevant to your customers?
  • Is the content well-written?
  • Does the content match your company’s voice and tone?
  • Is the content easily accessible?

Regularly scheduled audits might not be enough, though, especially if your company goes through pricing, service, or regulatory changes. 

RFPIO response management software is a proven tool to increase RFP win rates and help you keep your content up to date. If you’d like to learn more about how you can win more by doing less, schedule a demo. 

5 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

5 simplified RFP response examples that will help you nail it

You lose every RFP you don’t submit, but that doesn’t mean that proposal response is a numbers game. Without quality responses, your team is just spinning their wheels, which is even worse than failing to submit at all. 

Instead, to win more bids, you need to manage a difficult feat: submit a high number of responses and make sure all of them are good enough to be competitive. 

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

We’ve provided a lot of resources on how to increase your RFP response rates, even if your team is small. But even if you manage to quadruple the number of proposals you submit, you need a solid RFP win rate for all that work to turn into real profits. 

“Too many opportunities are lost because of ambiguous and overly complex language, long and dense sentences, and vague, lifeless prose. Clear writing, in contrast, makes its points simply, demonstrating a bidder’s competence and quality.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

For that, you need your proposals to stand out, and directly address all of the customers’ requirements. The kind of persuasive proposals that win business tend to have a few main things in common:

Best practice #1: Customize answers with specific deliverables

Does it ever feel like you’re operating in rote? You have spent so much time talking up your company that you can cite its features and metrics with your eyes and ears closed. That might be fine for a cold call, but RFP issuers want deeper, tailored answers.

That’s not to say that you can’t get some help from past answers. There’s nothing wrong with repurposing and reusing old answers on new proposals—it’s a smart way to get more done, especially when using RFPIO’s Content Library. But for those estimated 20% of questions that require customized answers, reinvest some of the time saved through automation into really trying to impress reviewers at every level.

Related: Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

To be truly persuasive, you need to convince your audience that you understand their particular situation well enough to provide the right solution. That means using content you’ve already created, but making changes to bring it in line with the specific use case of this client. 

RFP response example:

RFP response sample question: On average, how long does implementation take?

The easy RFP response sample: On average, implementation takes X months. 

The better RFP response example: The average implementation takes X months. For organizations of your size that will include setting up integrations with X, Y, and Z products; we estimate implementation will take around X months, with X weeks for training and onboarding. 

Why it’s better: Making your answer specific to their particular needs and situation makes it more relevant to them. It also shows that you do your homework. Not only do you have the expertise to provide a knowledgeable answer, but you understand enough about their needs to provide one with greater accuracy. 

Best practice #2: Be succinct and real

Talking about complicated technological tools can get, well, complicated. The more complex the subject matter you’re dealing with, the more important it is to emphasize clarity in your answers. You may not be able to avoid technical terminology entirely, but you can look for opportunities to simplify your language and sentence structure. The ability to explain a complicated subject in clear, understandable terms demonstrates expertise better than industry jargon or needlessly long words ever will.

RFP response example:

Sample question: What is your company’s approach to project management?

The wordy RFP response sample: We systematically approach each project. We follow several phases in which we gather requests, develop our strategy, create a WBS, execute on our plan within the estimated project timeline, and then deliver on all desired outcomes. We implement each project and validate that it has met the needs of the customer according to their primary KPIs.

The better RFP response example: Our project management team is agile. We tailor our proven process to each client’s unique needs with the main steps remaining consistent: build, test, and deploy to deliver value.

“Every reader, even a technical expert, appreciates clarity. Use the same style of English you use in conversation to make your proposals more open and accessible to a wide range of audiences.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

Why it’s better: It’s easy to hide behind jargon. Big words like methodology, execution, strategic, etc. have their place in business, but with RFPs, they feel generic, scripted, and empty.

You should also assume your audience is busy. The people reading your proposal (and making a decision based on it) want to get the answers they need quickly and easily, without extra fuss. If you use confusing terminology or overlong sentences that make it harder to get through each answer, you’ll lose them. Getting straight to the point with a clear response gets your point across better. 

Click here for winning RFP response examples using story telling

“Your goal is to make readers spend less time untangling your meaning and more time reviewing your solution.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

 

 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

Best practice #3: Make life easier for the issuer

Reviewing a (long) proposal is a tedious enough process, don’t also make the issuer do extra digging to find answers. Rather than directing them to an attachment or a URL to find the answer they’re looking for, answer their question within the proposal itself. In addition, you can always provide an attachment to expand on your answer, or to offer supporting evidence for it. 

RFP response example:

Sample question: Has the tool been subject to any application security testing? (e.g. Veracode, other). Please attach if yes.

The RFP response sample that creates more work: Yes. Please refer to <file name>.

The better RFP response example: We practice secure application design and coding principles. Engineers are required to undergo security training for security awareness and secure coding. 

We use third-party services to perform vulnerability/application security scans annually. 

The most recent penetration report is attached to this package: <file name> 

Why it’s better:

The issuer gets information that lets them know your company meets their needs on this point right there in the proposal, without having to stop their review and go look for a separate document. But they also have access to the additional supporting documentation to prove that your claims are legitimate. 

Click here for sample RFP response cover letter

Best Practice #4: Elaborate when appropriate

You don’t want to be too wordy or provide unnecessary information, but there are instances where a bit of elaboration is valuable. Sometimes you have to read between the lines to figure out what the customer needs. Rather than just providing the most direct answer to the question, try to understand what the buyer is actually trying to learn. If a more detailed response provides a better answer, go for it. 

RFP response example:

Sample question: How do you communicate new features to your clients? 

The simple RFP response sample: Upcoming platform enhancements are communicated to customers via email. They can also be accessed from the Help Center.

The better RFP response example: Our roadmap is heavily influenced by our customers, through a feedback/enhancement request feature within the application. Customers can interact with one another’s requests, as well as with the development team. Their comments, voting, and status reports all influence future enhancements. 

We then communicate enhancements to our customers via email release announcements. This email will have the major highlights from the release, a document outlining all the release details, and a link to the release details that can be accessed 24/7 in the Help Center. 

Why it’s better: While we believe that clear, concise answers are far better than those loaded with unnecessary filler words, this detailed response shows a well-developed and thought-out process for improvements. It answers the question, but also provides additional reasons for why the company is worth choosing. 

Best Practice #5: Say no with style

When filling out an RFP, a “no” can seem scary. If you don’t offer everything the company wants in a vendor, won’t that lose you the sale? It could, but it doesn’t have to. 

An honest answer is always better than a misleading one. And finding the right way to frame that answer can make a big difference. When the honest answer to an RFP question is “no,” think about how you can make the answer more useful and compelling than those two letters.

Sample question: Does your tool integrate with XYZ tool? Please explain. 

The basic “no” RFP response sample: No, our solution does not integrate with XYZ tool.

The better RFP response example: Currently, the solution does not integrate with XYZ tool. However, a potential integration is on our 6-12 month product roadmap. We would love the opportunity to partner with you in identifying the best path forward to build an XYZ tool integration.

Why it’s better: It makes clear that you don’t intend to stop at “no”—you have a plan for providing what they’re looking for in the near future. And it lets them know that you’re actively interested in their input so you do things in a way that works for them. 

Click here for more RFP examples and a free RFP response template

Modernize your RFP response process and complete more winning bids with artificial intelligence

None of these best practices are worth much if you can’t manage to complete each potentially winnable RFP, or find time to customize them when you do. To get to the point where you can actively put this advice into practice, you need software that takes care of the more tedious and time-consuming parts of an RFP. 

Related: Create proactive proposals at scale with proposal automation software

RFPIO uses automation to do most of the proposal process for you, so your team can stick to customizing specific answers to improve quality. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to get started with a better RFP process. 

Prepare for 2022 with our top blogs from 2021

Prepare for 2022 with our top blogs from 2021

It’s that time of year again… Time to snuggle into our houses, light the fire, find a warm nook, and wait for spring.

If anyone is in the Pacific Northwest like me, you’ve probably been enjoying two solid weeks of rain. If you aren’t in the Pacific Northwest, please don’t rub it in.

As we near the end of the year, we like to reflect on the year we’re leaving behind. For our small but mighty content team, that means better understanding our readers—and seeing how we can improve for next year.

In 2021, our blog posts were viewed more than 200,000 times… a 50% increase from the same time period in 2020, when we recorded just under 150,000 views on our posts.

From those 200,000 views, we learned a lot about you, our readers.

First, you love learning, growing, and improving. Almost all of our top blogs offer strategies, templates, and best practices for up-leveling skills, streamlining processes, and improving collaboration.

Second, you’re looking for new ways to collaborate with your team (and your boss). Nearly 50% of our top blogs touch on improved processes, strategies for better collaboration, and tactics for having tough conversations with your boss.

Finally, you are careful readers. The average read time for some of our blogs is upwards of six minutes (industry average for blogs is 2-3 minutes).

With that, let’s get to the good stuff! Here are our 11 most popular blogs from 2021.

Follow along as I craft an RFP executive summary

Your executive summary needs to persuade your reader (usually an executive) that your product or service is exactly what they need to solve their problem. And you need to do it in just a few pages.

In this blog, our Senior Sales Director, Keith Norrie, shares an example of a beautifully crafted executive summary—based on the executive summary writing guidelines he outlined in the prequel to this blog, “How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing.”

Ready to home your executive summary writing skills? Read our blog(s) to learn how to write an awesome RFP executive summary that blows your reader away.

Read it now

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

​​RFPs are issued as questionnaires of up to thousands of questions and requests for specific content. If your company has a solution to the problem put forth by the issuer, then you respond with a proposal that includes all the answers and requested content.

The issuer compares your RFP response with all of the other RFP responses received from your competitors.

In order to have a chance to be on the shortlist, you have to compose an RFP response. Read this blog to learn how to put your best foot forward, every time.

Read it now

Guide to a great RFP response process

Bottom line: Responding to RFPs is easier if you have some kind of process in place. The better the process, the easier the response.

If you don’t have a process, but want one, how do you get started? If you have a process, but it’s not that great, how do you make it better?

This blog—written by Tara Konlinsky, an APMP-certified Customer Success Manager at RFPIO—answers all those questions and more.

Read it now

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

If you have an RFP process, that’s great news. You’re already a step ahead of the game.

Now you need to think about how to turn your RFP response process into the best one that ever was.

Read this blog for our 5 simple steps to create an RFP response process that others will drool over.

Read it now

E-signature for sales and proposal teams: Autograph

This year we released our snazzy new e-signature feature—and our readers wanted to learn all about it.

This blog explains what e-signature is, and how you can use Autograph to sign contracts, proposals, and all kinds of other documents.

Read it now

How proposal teams can prepare for 2021

How is technology aiding the request for proposal (RFP) response process? To find out, we surveyed members of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) to gain insight into current and future trends in proposal management processes across 10 industries.

If you liked this blog, keep your eyes peeled for new research debuting in 2022. 👀

Read it now

How to write a proposal cover letter [with example]

A proposal cover letter has to be short, sweet, and dense. To write a proposal cover letter with nary a wasted word, you first need to understand its strategic significance in the overall proposal.

In your proposal cover letter, you need to demonstrate you’ve reviewed the RFP requirements and that your solution meets all those requirements—that is key.

Read this blog learn how to write a proposal letter that blows your issuers away.

Read it now

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

Friction can be a good thing. With the right amount, sales and pre-sales teams share productive exchanges, respectful pushback during disagreements, and shared admiration for jobs well done on all sides.

Too much, and those relationships can quickly flare up with resentment or burn out in an unwinnable blame game. Too little, and silos develop, making collaboration difficult and agility nearly impossible.

How do you maintain that ideal level of friction? Glad you asked. Read this blog to find out.

Read it now

How to build a business case for a full-time RFP content manager

For those of us in the weeds of proposal development, it’s fairly obvious that there’s so much an RFP content manager can do for an organization.

That’s why it can be especially difficult to justify the need for one with upper management.

Read this blog to learn how you can help change mindsets that dedicated RFP content managers aren’t just a “nice-to-have”—they’re a “need-to-have”.

Read it now

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Introducing new software into your sales enablement tech stack and workflow is no joke.

As soon as I get my chance to work with the person or team in charge of deploying RFPIO, I recommend inhabiting the following mindset: “How do I set myself up for success?”

My answer? Follow 7 steps to improve user adoption. Read this blog to roll through them.

Read it now

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset, and being able to access it quickly and easily is essential to enhancing productivity and achieving goals. To make that a reality, you need to create and maintain an internal knowledge base, also known as a company knowledge base.

This is a guide to making that happen.

Read it now

Follow along as I craft an RFP executive summary example

Follow along as I craft an RFP executive summary example

I recently wrote an article on how to write an executive summary that will give you the best chance to win your request for proposal (RFP). It’s a riveting read! I included a template in that article to give you a head start. Now I’d like to draft an executive summary example with you using that template.

Now I’m not suggesting that you create War and Peace here, but there are some key elements you need to include. And, as I mentioned in the other article, follow Dr. Tom Sant’s guidelines for persuasive writing, namely following his NOSE acronym:

  • Needs: Demonstrate your clear understanding of the prospect’s business problems. Only by demonstrating that you truly understand the customer’s specific problems, and that you understand the business payoffs of solving those problems, are you qualified to recommend a solution.
  • Outcomes: Confirm the results they will achieve when their problems are solved.
  • Solution: Recommend a specific solution.
  • Evidence: Illustrate how you’ve solved similar problems in the past and provide convincing proof of your track record.

Follow along or skip to the section you want to focus on:

“N” of NOSE: Understanding your prospect’s needs
“O” of NOSE: Surfacing desired outcomes
“S” of NOSE: Presenting the solution
“E” of NOSE: Providing evidence of your solution’s validity,
Conclusion: Sign off with a thank you

I recommend opening the template in a separate window and reviewing this example in parallel with the instructions included in the template. It’s a richer experience.

Also, note that I created the example using a fictional software company (“Paradocx”) responding to another fictional company’s RFP (“ACME”). While Paradocx is a complete fiction, ACME is loosely based on a running gag in Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons—but still a complete fiction.

RFP executive summary example: Read, copy, and make it your own

The first thing you’ll notice in the executive summary example is that I’ve dubbed it an executive briefing instead of an executive summary. “Brief” is more active and meets the expectation of the executive, the intended audience of this document. The intention is to inform and persuade the executive, not attempt to abbreviate and condense the response into a couple of pages. Most of the time, the executive will only read this brief instead of the whole RFP, so it has to be right on the money.

Executive Briefing

Thank you for inviting Paradocx to participate in ACME Global’s RFP for your time travel software initiative. The entire Paradocx team is eager to partner with ACME, and having carefully considered your requirements, we are very confident we can deliver a solution that will deliver significant efficiencies and competitive advantage to your organization.
In this executive briefing, we outline how our solution will address ACME’s stated requirements and deliver on your desired outcomes. We provide a high-level overview of Paradocx’s recommended solution, before then providing justification as to why Paradocx is the right choice for ACME.

“N” of NOSE: Understanding prospect’s needs

Our Understanding of ACME’s Needs

Safe, on-time delivery of overly complex devices intended to capture roadrunners—no matter how remote the location or how much TNT is included—is essential to maintaining ACME’s perceived value and satisfying subscribers. In our conversations with your team, you have informed us that you currently face several challenges with ACME’s shipping and packaging services, including:

Skyrocketing customer churn rate
Simply put, when deliveries don’t arrive on time, customers are rushed, mistakes are made, and roadrunners escape. Dissatisfied customers are quick to terminate subscription services, especially with your primary competitor, Zambezi, offering incentives to do so.

Fewer new subscriptions
ACME market share has dropped by an average of 6% year-over-year since 2017. Influx of competitors such as Zambezi has created a price war over scarce consumer dollars. ACME’s safety reputation has been damaged by social media coverage of unplanned TNT explosions.

Response times slowed by lack of data, poor decision-making
Unexpected supply chain delays surprised ACME during the pandemic crisis of 2020 and 2021. Siloed data and legacy systems that could not be integrated blocked the packaging department’s ability to find new materials in a timely manner. Panic buying of sawdust and styrofoam peanuts resulted in a dangerous hazardous waste debacle.

Too many missed on-time delivery milestones
Inability to find replacement parts for Rube Goldberg contraptions delayed delivery on more than 17% of orders in Q2 2021. Lack of communication with shipping resulted in promises of delivery times and sites based on 2018 manufacturing times that could not be matched in 2021.

“O” of NOSE: Surfacing desired outcomes

ACME’s Desired Business Outcomes

By implementing ACME’s Time Travel SaaS Platform, you wish to benefit in several ways in addition to addressing the above challenges. The desired outcomes you shared with us include:

Reduce churn while increasing customer retention
By resetting the timeline and meeting shipping deadlines for 90% of transactions tagged as “late arrival,” ACME will eliminate cause for switching services while limiting risk to reputation.

ACME will also be able to proactively alter shipping deadlines based on navigation of the near future. Headcount in the shipping and packaging department can remain constant until customer onboarding rate outpaces customer churn rate.

Distance ACME further ahead of the competition
Next-level customer rewards programs will make for a difficult choice if customers want to take their business to competitors such as Zambezi. Additionally, improved response, accurate deliveries, and better overall service will make leaving ACME even less appealing.

Many Paradocx customers have related to us that even minor interruptions in the timeline allow them to gain a toehold against aggressive competitors. Like a loud noise distracts an angry dog, time travel disrupts competitors’ momentum and returns the advantage back to our customers.

Accelerate response time

Responding to complex order requests to remote destinations takes time, especially if fireworks are involved or the destination is not a physical address. Consequently, roadrunners have already passed the target zone by the time deliveries arrive, resulting in frustrated customers.

A time travel software solution can deliver significant efficiencies to address these concerns, as well as significantly improving the probability of upgrading orders to increase average order value.

Guarantee delivery to desired destination, no matter how remote

There’s nothing scarier than receiving a delivery request to a pin on a map. No address. No roads. And barely any landmarks to establish a frame of reference. Despite their name, roadrunners don’t always spend their time on main highways. Coyotes need to follow the scent no matter how treacherous the terrain.
With ACME’s Time Pause functionality, shippers can freeze time for up to 72 minutes and reroute our GPS satellite to the delivery site. From there, it’s just a matter of drawing a topographic map of the area and letting our AI-enabled drone army strategize a delivery plan.

“S” of NOSE: Presenting the solution

Paradocx’s Recommendation for ACME

Having diligently studied your requirements and challenges, stated above, we strongly urge ACME to invest in Paradocx’s Time Travel SaaS Platform.

Paradocx’s market-leading solution was designed with customer retention and improving service quality as priorities. Paradocx’s founders were career time travelers and therefore have firsthand experience of how to reset timelines while managing chaos risk. Simply put, our solution was designed by time travelers to help you control time.

Consequently, Paradocx will eliminate ACME’s past mistakes so you can reduce customer churn and begin increasing subscriber revenue. The core capabilities of our solution are highlighted in the graphic below:

Paradocx’s Key Functionality – An Overview

Analysis of the Past:

Without time-traveling software designed to analyze past transactions and identify the flashpoints that undermined your intended customer experience, you can spin your wheels for years. Even if you are lucky enough to find the right transactions, you still need the ability to travel backward and alter the outcome.

Paradocx’s Analysis of the Past allows you to alter only the outcomes that matter so that you don’t waste resources on those that don’t. This functionality also limits your risk of causing chaos or possibly opening a wormhole.

Timeline Correction:

Some say that there is inherent danger in changing the past and that doing so becomes an exercise in butterfly effect management. We agree.
Butterfly effect management is the difference maker in timeline correction. Following Analysis of the Past—when we’ve identified the most impactful flashpoints—our patented timeline correction process reverses results while limiting butterfly effect risk. Moving forward, butterfly effect management will result in fewer timeline corrections with future planning.

Future Planning:

It’s not enough to change the past and live in the now. Maintaining competitive performance for the long haul requires future planning based on insight into tomorrow.
In addition to identifying upcoming service interruptions and opportunities for customer rewards, future planning also monitors what will happen with Zambezi and other competitors. This level of insight is not available anywhere else because of Paradocx’s hold on a proprietary fixed point in spacetime.

Pause for Accuracy:

Customer expectations are off the charts. Packaging and/or shipping deadlines are bearing down. You’ve already used your monthly allotment of timeline corrections. Is there anything else you can do to accelerate response time?

Engage pause for accuracy, an up-to-72-minute dimensional freeze-frame in which you can still move around freely. Seems like a paradox. We thought so too until we accidentally developed it 7,000 years from now.

Data Security:

Customer data is the lifeblood of your business at ACME. Without pinpoint accurate location coordinates, payment information, and certification data at your fingertips, your deliveries are at risk.
We recognize how vital your data is and want to assure you that we’ve taken measures to keep it secure now, in the past, and in the future. And if there is a catastrophic breach? We’ll perform a timeline correction (at no extra cost) to fix it. Our security protocols meet the following standards:

  • SOC II
  • GDPR
  • ISO 27001

System Uptime:

At ACME, the shipping and packaging processes are mission-critical to your end-to-end services, so your chosen solution needs to recognize that fact. Paradocx is as reliable as it is secure.

Our Time Travel SaaS Platform is 100% cloud-based with redundancy provided by ultra-reliable Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting infrastructure.

In fact, Paradocx has achieved 99.98% uptime since our inception, and we considered deploying timeline correction to bring it to 100%. However, future planning indicated doing so increased the possibility of an event horizon forming in the Southern Ocean if we had. Barring the possibility that doing so may end existence as we know it (in which case our services are moot), you can be confident that Paradocx will always be up when you need it.

“E” of NOSE: Providing evidence of your solution’s validity

Why should ACME partner with Paradocx?

We completely understand that ACME has a choice of vendors with whom you will partner. So, with several outwardly similar solutions on the marketplace to choose from, why should ACME select Paradocx?

ACME asked us to explain clearly how we are different from our competitors. While there are many differences between us and our competitors, we’ll highlight the four that are most relevant to ACME’s needs.

ACME’s Key Differentiators

We’re all still here

Paradocx is the only time travel software provider that has been used by our competitors to save existence from annihilation. The physics and mathematics driving our software development actually enable time travel capabilities for all our competitors. We invented it and made it openly available to the world.

Results are guaranteed

We’re not the largest, most valuable corporation in the world for nothing. Time is every company’s most valuable asset. What you do with it determines your success. It just so happens that we control it.

User-friendly, low-risk interface

All animations, binary songs, and gravitation wave rhythms are maneuverable through our proprietary touchscreen interface. Unlike competitive solutions that rely on messages in bottles and subliminal messaging through high-frequency radio waves, our insights come through loud and clear. And no timeline corrections can be made without judgement from the World Time Panel.

Only provider with privacy promise

Paradocx searches across time with full encryption with no need to rely on disguises to avoid butterfly effect events. At no time will any customer know that you peeked back or forward at them. Deja vu was eliminated with our 2.0 upgrade in 2019.

What Paradocx’s Customers Are Saying…

Paradocx is consistently the highest-rated solution in the market. But don’t just take our word for it. Here are some soundbites provided by three Paradocx customers.

Daffy’s Duck & Cover

“My company never used to get the respect it deserved. Online sales almost cost us our business. Thanks to Paradocx, we’re now the biggest sporting good retailer in all of hill country.”
Daffy Duck, CEO, Duck & Cover

Birdswing Emporium

“Many of our customers were placed in dangerous areas, at risk of attack or illness from the elements. Paradocx helped us reset some timelines that were real life savers.”
Tweety, VP Product Development, Birdswing Emporium

A Small World

“We somehow ended up in the wrong universe! Paradocx reversed the mistakes made by one of its competitors and rescued me, our IP, and, ultimately, our business. Oh boy!”
M. Mouse, CTO, A Small World

ROI

Based on ACME’s expected outcomes, the unlimited user pricing model that is optimal for your business, and the fact that we will perform a timeline correction for any time required for onboarding, we created the following ROI estimates.

Day 30: 10% ROI

Day 90: 50% ROI

Year 2: 248% ROI

We came to these numbers using our ROI calculator, which includes the following factors:

  • Avg. price per Rube Goldberg device
  • Avg. margin for shipping and packaging costs
  • Estimated customer churn reduced to 3% by day 90
  • Year-over-year increase in subscription rate f 7.3%

Paradocx Overview

Why choose Paradocx to help you with this important business initiative? Founded so far in the future that you don’t need to worry about it, we brought this technology back to 21st century earth through an Einstein-Rosen bridge to make a difference in how humans work, live, and play. Our platform has been designed and built from the ground-up by an extremely experienced and talented team of individuals who understand firsthand the demands of conducting business in linear time.

We are a financially strong, vibrant business, backed by unlimited financial resources and control of time. As the market leader, we provide time travel services to more than half of the Fortune 100.

We are consistently the highest-rated vendor on independent review sites such as TARDIS. We are the only time travel software endorsed by MIT and NASA.

ACME Customers

Paradocx provides services to more than half of the Fortune 100, nearly two-thirds of the Comprend Global 100, more than three-quarters of Forbes Global 2000, and a fruit farm in southwest Idaho.

Conclusion: Sign off with a thank you

Conclusion

Once again, thank you for considering Paradocx as a partner for ACME relative to your time travel software needs.

In conclusion, everyone at Paradocx is excited at the prospect of working with ACME, and eagerly anticipating welcoming you to the fast-growing list of Paradocx customers. We will work extremely hard to build a strong, long-term partnership focused on helping you achieve your customer churn and subscription objectives and exceed your expectations at every point along the way.

Next Steps

Download the complete executive summary example here. These templates will be a huge time saver for you moving forward. It takes a little longer to write the first one, but you’ll be able to rattle off those that follow in no time.

To learn more about the value of templates in RFPIO’s workflow, schedule a demo now. You can also see how Genpact’s bid team uses RFPIO® LookUp to download templates directly from their Content Library in this article.

What is an RFP?

What is an RFP?

RFP stands for request for proposal, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a plea for help, a clue to problems that need solved, and an opportunity to build pipeline. This article will take you from asking, “What is an RFP?” to knowing how to use RFPs to drive revenue in less than 1,500 words. Buckle up.

First, an assumption: If you came here because you want to know what an RFP is, then I’m guessing that a high-value target has decided to issue an RFP to find a solution to a problem you feel strongly about solving. When that target finally understands that you’re the answer to their problem, then you’ll pick up a sizable chunk of business. Now you just have to play the RFP game.

(Just in case you’re here because you want to know how to issue an RFP, check out this article instead.)

What is an RFP opportunity?

There are essentially two types of RFP opportunities: solicited and unsolicited. Solicited means that you’re invited to play the game. Unsolicited means you have to crash the game. You have a better chance to win when you’re invited.

That reminds me. There’s a fair bit of jargon in the RFP world. Here’s a short glossary of some common terms you’ll encounter often, including in this article:

  • RFP issuer: The organization that sends out the RFP. They have a problem, and they’re willing to pay someone to solve it, within certain parameters.
  • RFP responder: You.
  • RFP response: How you answer the RFP.
  • RFP proposal: Your response to the RFP.
  • RFP Q&As: Most RFPs present a number of questions that responders must answer. This section makes up the lion’s share of your proposal.
  • RFP win: You were selected by the issuer to solve their problem.
  • RFP loss: Happens to the best of us.

Back to more on “What is an RFP opportunity?”…While you can still win an RFP if you submit an unsolicited response, the odds are against you and you need to take an honest look at whether or not it’s worth it to respond.

RFP responses are not easy, even when you’re invited to partake. If you’re lucky enough to be alerted to an RFP on the day it’s issued, then you’re likely looking at a 3-6 week window to compose your response. Rarely are you so lucky. Sometimes it’s brought in with notice of a week or less, putting you on a tight deadline. The number of hours you’ll have to commit to building a proposal during that time will be determined by, among other things, team participation, content relevance and access, and how much you have to rely on manual processes to complete the response.

Now that you understand what an RFP is and the opportunity it presents, you need to put yourself on a path to respond only to those RFPs that you can realistically win. If this is one of your first RFP responses, then it could be a rabbit hole of unknown depths. Insert a go/no-go milestone before you go ask Alice. It involves asking yourself the following five questions:

  1. What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued?
  2. Is your solution a fit (now, not at some squishy date in the future after you’ve had a chance to adapt it to what the problem calls for)?
  3. Does your price match the RFP issuer’s budget?
  4. Will winning the RFP be a strategic fit for your organization?
  5. Do you have bandwidth (to complete a competitive proposal, not to deliver your solution)?

As part of the RFP response process, you should have an opportunity to ask the questions necessary to fill in the gaps for your go/no-go milestone. Best-case scenario? Your sales team has already laid the groundwork for all of this with the issuer and it’s just a matter of taking their learnings and making them actionable.

It’s a “go.” Now what?

It’s a process deal. Doesn’t that take the pressure off?

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the RFP process here (you can do so here if you’re ready to start now), but I will touch on the value of efficiency. Even if this is your first RFP, you’ll want to go into it as prepared as possible to save you and your team some pain and give your organization its best shot at winning.

Break down your efficiency goals into three main categories: project management, content management, and proposal quality. Before you start checking boxes under these categories, you need a team. Part of that team has likely already formed. The salesperson at the tip of the spear will be your subject matter expert (SME) for issuer-related questions and perspectives. The rest of the team will come together based on your review of the RFP. What questions need answered? Who has the answers? Who has the design and technical chops to build the proposal?

After you identify potential team members, dig into their availability and try to build a schedule to complete the response by deadline, preferably before deadline to give yourself some buffer. Then schedule a kickoff meeting with all team members to get their buy-in to process details for the following:

  • Project management: You’ll be the lead for collaboration, assigning tasks, and driving the schedule.
  • Content management: You’ll need content creators, content reviewers, and a storage system for a content library (if you’re gathering all this valuable info for an RFP, you’ll want to save it for repurposing; even if this will be your only RFP response of the year, the info will be useful for business proposals, answering prospect and customer questions, and training new hires).
  • Proposal quality: Answering RFP Q&As won’t be enough. You need to personalize the proposal to make it stand out.

Remember, the issuer is using the RFP process to identify its optimal vendor. They’re inciting competition, so you need to play to win. Second prize doesn’t even get a set of steak knives.

Beef up your sales pipeline

Now that you’ve discovered RFPs and the opportunities they can offer, you may want to evaluate how they can help you achieve your sales goals. 69% of B2B salespeople do not have enough leads in their pipeline to meet quota. Pursuing RFPs can build up pipelines fast: Globally, $11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes (i.e., RFPs) every year.

Obviously, you’re not going to win every RFP. We found the average win rate to be 45%. However, RFP opportunities can cost as much as 5X more than traditional sales opportunities, which makes your process and your sales tech stack your best friends when it comes to response efficiency.

Automate to dominate

The optimized sales technology stack is a hot point of conversation these days. With so many software solutions, it’s easy for sales teams to overspend on solutions they barely use. A recent Harvard Business Review article cites a survey where 62% of B2B companies were not satisfied with their sales technology return on investment. It also found that:

“The winning companies in our analysis were 1.4 times more likely to fully deploy sales technology tools and 1.9 times more likely to fully integrate them…By taking the time to embed these technologies properly into its sales processes, the [SaaS] company was able to increase revenue growth by 200 basis points within a few weeks.”

RFP automation offers a massive competitive advantage for responders. It saves time, improves proposal quality, and helps companies create their best work by activating their company knowledge. Companies with RFP-specific technology responded to 43% more RFPs in 2020 than those without a designated RFP tool. “With RFPIO, I would say we have increased our win rate by 15%,” said Grégory Saive, IBA global director of sales support and tender management,

But it has to be the right RFP automation technology for your sales tech stack. It has to be able to manage your entire response process — from building proactive proposals to answering prospect and customer questions on the fly and responding to questionnaires — while integrating seamlessly with the other applications you rely on, such as your CRM, communication, and cloud storage solutions.

What’s next? Demo.

We started with “What is an RFP?” and made it all the way through to the value of RFP automation. Once you win one, you’re going to want to win more. Since I’m almost at my promised 1,500-word cap, I’ll wrap it up with a tip on your next step: Schedule a demo. It’s the fastest and easiest way to find out if RFP automation is right for you. Even if it’s not, you’ll get some valuable response tips from our process experts.

Data-driven strategies for increasing RFP win rate

Data-driven strategies for increasing RFP win rate

There are two primary reasons why you should aggressively pursue requests for proposals (RFPs). One, they’re a great way to build pipeline. Which is key for the 69% of B2B salespeople who do not have enough leads in their pipeline to meet quota. Two, they can be a major revenue driver. You just have to make sure you’re pursuing the right RFPs and doing so as efficiently as possible. Take my word for it. Just kidding. I actually have data to back it up. I also did an entire webinar on this topic, if you’re ready for a deep dive.

RFPs: Opportunity and Risk

Globally, $11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes (RFPs) every year. You may be asking, “What is a good proposal win rate?” RFPIO’s research puts the average RFP win rate at 45%. But that’s across all industries. It will vary according to your level of specialization. RFPs exist in multiple markets, including government, construction, supply chain, manufacturing, systems integration, healthcare, and technology.

$11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes (RFPs) every year.

As a salesperson, I always wanted to include RFPs to help grow my pipeline. A healthy sales pipeline is 4-5x the close rate, and RFPs can represent deal sizes large enough to keep my pipeline super healthy. Since working in sales, I’ve led proposal teams and now have my own company, Patri, that helps qualify sales opportunities, including RFPs. I’ve also learned that too many salespeople and leaders are avoiding RFPs.

RFPs are not easy, and they can be labor-intensive. I’ve known many salespeople who find them too restrictive. In other words, there’s too much red tape to navigate to put together a response.

The fact is that only a little over half of all salespeople are hitting their quotas. There’s a lot of desperation out there. If you’re already in desperation mode, then the notion of allocating resources to an RFP proposal is tantamount to putting all your eggs in one basket. Proposal opportunities are more than 5x more expensive than traditional sales opportunities. As a result, companies are spending an estimated $200+ billion per year on lost bid opportunities alone.

Companies are spending an estimated $200+ billion per year on lost bid opportunities alone.

So if you boil it all down, objections to pursuing RFPs come down to time and finding the right opportunities. I’m going to unleash my inner salesperson and help you overcome those objections. Let’s look at the data.

5 smart moves to increase your RFP win rate

5 smart moves to increase your RFP win rate

  1. Pursue RFPs you have the highest probability of winning: Qualifying RFP opportunities before you respond helps reduce your loss rate and increase your win rate. Patri clients have saved $26 million and 27,000 hours by focusing efforts only on opportunities they can realistically win.
  2. Increase RFP response volume: Teams with dedicated proposal professionals submitted 3.5x more responses in 2020.
  3. Increase sales efficiency: Teams using RFP software submit an average of 46% more responses every year.
  4. Improve RFP response quality: Medical device manufacturer IBA re-invested time saved from RFP software into improving response quality and increased win rate by 15% in the first year.
  5. Streamline collaboration: 38% of responders cite collaborating with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create and review content as their biggest headache.

So that gives you an idea of what you can do. Now, how can you win more RFPs? Qualify opportunities and implement RFP response software.

How to win more RFPs in 3 steps

Step 1: Qualify based on data

I remember early in my proposal response days, I was the salesperson and proposal manager. Wearing both hats, anything I wanted to pursue I had to make sure was winnable. Some of those early parameters were relationship status, incumbency, solution fit, and requirement fit. I grew this exercise in qualification into my company, Patri.

Patri sits between RFP identification and response, at that pivotal qualification point. We analyze data to provide clients a fit score and call out their strengths and weaknesses that will play into their pursuit of an opportunity. So far, we have helped qualify more than $40 billion of opportunities and helped win $84.6 million worth of business.

Step 2: Save and re-invest time

When clients agree that an opportunity is fit enough to pursue, we recommend that they use RFP software to craft the best response possible. Solutions such as RFPIO automate manual processes and improve collaboration, freeing up your time for other things. The more time you have to fine-tune your proposal, the better your proposal will be, and the higher your win rate.

RFP software helps proposal and sales teams save time (and achieve higher win rates) by:

  • Cutting response time by an average of 40%: Automatically respond to commonly-seen questions with Auto Respond, automation functionality powered by machine learning.
  • Managing and moderating content and projects: Organize RFP content, import projects, assign tasks, respond to questions, set up review cycles, and export into the source file or custom template.
  • Streamlining cross-functional collaboration: Easily collaborate across teams using in-app @mentioning and integration with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Jira.
  • Making data-driven decisions: Gain insight into time spent, deals won, and resources used with built-in business intelligence and analytics.
  • Integrating into your existing tech stack: RFPIO integrates with more platforms than anyone, including popular CRM, SSO, cloud storage, and communication platforms.

The primary indicator for RFP software, like any other automation software, is that it saves time. It’s what you do with that time that will determine your level of success with increasing RFP win rate.

Re-invest time into responding to more RFPs with higher quality proposals. Also, like a pure shooter who moves well off the ball (a la Craig Hodges for 90s-era Bulls fans or Klay Thompson for current Warriors fans), you can work on your process outside of active projects. In other words, re-invest time into improving your content. So when that next RFP comes in you not only have content that’s locked and loaded, it’s high quality, too, which will improve your odds of getting shortlisted.

Step 3: Designate an owner of the response process

While RFP software delivers efficiency, you will get more value out of it if you have a dedicated proposal manager administering the software and the processes around it. This de-facto leader of the proposal team will also be responsible for:

  • Building relationships with other company stakeholders, including sales, product, legal, and marketing teams.
  • Driving user adoption, knowledge management, and other essential functions associated with RFP software.
  • Enabling sales to have a streamlined, unfettered user experience to minimize objections and elevate the value of RFPs in pipeline management.

Finally, it’s important to note that you don’t have to make double-digit gains in your RFP win rate to realize impressive results. For example, if a company’s average RFP is worth $570,000 and they submit 415 RFPs annually, with a win rate of 32%, the business value of their RFP process is $75,696,000. Improving the win rate just 2% would represent a nearly $5 million dollar increase.

ROI of increasing your RFP win rate

Pursuing RFPs doesn’t have to be a black box experience. Be transparent within the company. Know your costs and win rate probability. Go and embrace them. By properly qualifying opportunities and using RFP software, you can improve your own odds.

To learn more about how Patri can help you qualify opportunities, schedule a demo. To see if your RFP management process is ready for automation by RFPIO, schedule a demo.

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.

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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.

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

Friction can be a good thing. With the right amount, sales and pre-sales teams share productive exchanges, respectful pushback during disagreements, and shared admiration for jobs well done on all sides.

Too much, and those relationships can quickly flare up with resentment or burn out in an unwinnable blame game (“It’s pre-sales fault for losing the RFP!”). Too little, and silos develop, making collaboration difficult and agility nearly impossible (“It’s sales’ fault for not not giving us what we need to create a winning proposal!”).

Sound familiar? It’s OK. Sometimes when the kids are bickering in the back seat you have to follow through with your threat to pull the car over right this instant. Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Namaste. Let’s move on.

How do you maintain that ideal level of friction? Glad you asked. I have five steps to help.

Before you skip ahead, remember that everyone in your organization is always working toward the same goal: Win conversions based on responses, whether they be reactive requests for proposals (RFPs) or proactive proposals designed to solve specific prospect or customer problems.

When your organization commits to the unified goal to win through proposals, then it’s just a matter of creating the best game plan to do so.

5 steps to improve collaboration between sales and presales

Step 1: Add transparency to RFP roles and responsibilities

Attempting to collaborate without transparency is a bit like playing the card game “Go Fish”: One person knows what they want, but they’re not sure where to get it. You can avoid this first by documenting all RFP processes. If you have a proposal manager or, better yet, a dedicated proposal team, then you can ask them for this information.

As soon as assignments are delegated to sales and pre-sales teams, then make sure each team is aware of the roles for both teams. You’ll also want to include responsibilities that don’t fall under either sales or pre-sales.

For example, if your responses consistently rely on polished product marketing documentation, then your resource is likely someone in the marketing department. Calling this information out will help avoid unnecessary blaming from either team when they know it’s neither of their faults.

If you use RFP software, then your platform can help promote transparency. I cannot speak for other solutions, but with RFPIO you can:

  • Give every sales rep and pre-sales person access to the project dashboard.
  • Assign deliverables to respective teams to avoid confusion over who is responsible for what.
  • Provide a project timeline so both teams can keep up with RFP progress.
  • Monitor all deliverables to help identify bottlenecks.
  • Gather and contain all communication related to the RFP, including emails, Slack, Salesforce/CRM communications, as well as any alerts or messages initiated from RFPIO.
  • Store all questions, answers, and RFP content for unified knowledge management across every team working the RFP.

Step 2: Write the executive summary

Sales must lead the way. There’s no avoiding it. Sales is responsible for the customer relationship. Without their unique insight, pre-sales is flying blind on the RFP. If sales wants to cross the finish line with a win, then it has to guide pre-sales in the right direction. Back at the starting line, that means writing the RFP’s executive summary.

Write the executive summary first to help set the tone for the RFP. Again, RFP software can help here. After you write the executive summary, your RFP software can make an automated first pass at answering all of the questions based on the content in your Content Library. From there, pre-sales will be able to review the answers under the direction that sales established in the executive summary. Sweet, fancy efficiency…

As the owner of the customer relationship, the salesperson should actually demand to write the executive summary. It explains the entirety of the RFP and sets up the narrative for the customer journey. If you have a proposal team, then sales can at the very least outline the executive summary so the proposal team can flesh it out and add polish.

“Sales owning the executive summary is extremely important, because it provides context and color into how the company will position itself throughout the RFP. From there, PreSales can bring insight into where the product or platform may fall short, and discuss a strategy on how to approach the response.”
James Kaikis, Co-Founder at PreSales Collective

Step 3: Schedule a kick-off call

If you have a proposal team and documented proposal processes, then a kick-off meeting for RFPs may already exist. If so, make sure sales and pre-sales are invited. If not, then take the initiative to include a kick-off meeting in your RFP response process.

Three of the main reasons you need this touchpoint are to:

  • Give all parties involved a chance to set expectations and clarify roles.
  • Exchange unique insights about the prospect, your relationship history, and how to differentiate your response from competitors.
  • Insert a Go/No-Go evaluation in your RFP response process to solidify team commitment to responding to a winnable RFP.

Step 4: Play an active role in responding to the RFP

Sales teams sometimes make the mistake of washing their hands of an RFP as soon as they hand it off to pre-sales or proposal teams. From the standpoint of the customer relationship and the reasoning behind the RFP, the sales team is the SME! Just as SMEs for product, SLAs, support, legal, pricing, etc. are expected to contribute their expertise to a response, so too should sales be expected to contribute their expertise about the customer.

Sales-related answers and content can also be managed in the Content Library of your RFP software. That way sales can focus on the review process and personalizing content after the automated first pass takes place.

Step 5: Reflect on the results, win or lose

When you hear back from the issuer, come together as a team to reflect on how the RFP landed — win or lose. If you lose, talk about what you could have done better. If you won, talk about what you did well.

This win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. It also gives you an opportunity to heap some well-deserved praise where it’s due. Sales knows that it cannot survive without pre-sales. Sometimes pre-sales likes to be reminded. There’s no better time to do so than after a win, when you can call out the outstanding job that pre-sales did in composing the response.

You can also use this opportunity to make sure what you learned in the finished RFP is carried over to the next RFP. Win or lose, factoring in what worked and what didn’t will make it easier to determine the next Go/No-Go decision.

Good collaboration = good content

Winning proposals resonate with good content. And behind every piece of good content is the collaboration that made it happen. The better the collaboration between sales and pre-sales, the better your proposal will be.

In our new proposal management Benchmark Report, we found that 75% of organizations plan on responding to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020. The only way that can happen is if sales and pre-sales are collaborating at a healthy rate of friction.

If your sales and pre-sales teams need a collaboration tool to kickstart that healthy friction, then schedule a demo today!

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