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How RFP automation helped Alera Group achieve brand consistency

How RFP automation helped Alera Group achieve brand consistency

Your brand is your business. It’s how you grab attention and distinguish your company from the competition. Which is why […]

Category: Tag: RFP management

How RFP automation helped Alera Group achieve brand consistency

How RFP automation helped Alera Group achieve brand consistency

Your brand is your business. It’s how you grab attention and distinguish your company from the competition. Which is why brand consistency is so key in RFP response management.

Hope Henderson is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Alera Group, “an independent, national insurance and financial services firm created through the merger of like-minded, high performing entrepreneurial firms across the United States.” Their mission is to provide their clients with national resources and local service.

Since forming in 2017, Alera Group has grown to include over 75 firms across the country. However, the RFP response process is maintained through the corporate marketing team.

As Alera Group added new companies, the RFP response process began to take up more and more resources. Hope went looking for a solution that would alleviate some of the burden on the marketing team and streamline some of their challenges: sharing content and enabling collaboration across brands, while still letting the individual brands maintain their identity.

After coming upon a blog about RFP automation, a concept she was not familiar with before, Hope reached out to the company behind that guidance—RFPIO.

Content effort prior to RFP automation

Hope and her team were spending a lot of time and effort on RFPs, cobbling together content from past documents, emailing back and forth, and scrambling to format them into beautifully branded submissions. “Basically they were Frankenstein RFPs.”

It was difficult to brand each RFP for the corresponding company. “Much of the content can be shared across our firms, but they each have a distinct identity. We wanted every RFP to reflect those distinctive brands,” Hope said.

And, as is often lamented, it was hard to communicate in a simple way, which frustrated the stakeholders. “So I started doing some independent research on ways that we could improve that process and came across an article from RFPIO on RFP automation and what it entails.” She scheduled a demo with the RFPIO team and was impressed with the platform.

hope henderson

“We looked at a competitor but their solution didn’t have the full functionality that RFPIO had. I think we’d all made up our minds from the start.”

RFPIO brings brand consistency in a team environment


What really sold Hope and her team at Alera Group was RFPIO’s customizable export templates, a unique offering in the space.

“RFPIO gives people the ability to easily find shared content, tailor it to their specific firm offerings and then export it in a format that adheres to their company’s brand guidelines,” Hope said. “They can also use the Alera Group branding if they’re going after a bigger client for example. It really opens up a lot of possibilities.”


Alera Group has firms throughout the United States. With RFPIO, they are able to collaborate within the parent company and among the subsidiary firms in a unified platform.

“Through the system, we can make comments and chat, which eliminates a lot of communication breakdown. As we all know, emails can get lost and once documents are on their 20th version it just becomes unmanageable. So, the ability to collaborate in a single spot is really helpful for our team as we continue to grow.”

Knowledge Sharing

RFPIO’s content repository, called the Content Library, gives Alera Group a centralized place for content that they can categorize by firms, owners, and line-of-business, etc.

“The Content Library has become a portal for all of our latest and greatest content, that anyone who is client-facing can use, even if it’s not for an RFP.”

RFP automation exponentially increases opportunity

Hope says their process for responding to RFPs has been streamlined and they can share ideas and thought leadership while also letting each brand put their best foot forward.

“We’ve had a 20-hour turnaround for some RFPs, or even less. In fact, I can think of one that we received in the morning and sent it out by that afternoon. Before RFPIO, each RFP would take at least two or three weeks to complete, and through the library, we are able to control for consistency and quality.”

The number of RFPs they can respond to has increased exponentially as well.

“One of our firms has gone from submitting 10 RFPs last year to submitting 10 RFPs already in the first quarter of this year, and they’re looking to grow that number,” Hope said.

Alera Group is committed to making it easy for new users to get trained up on using RFPIO. Adopting new tools can be challenging, so they schedule quarterly internal webinars to train new collaborators on how to use RFP automation and give them a chance to ask questions in real-time.

“RFP automation has been invaluable to our process for answering RFPs, it’s strengthened the quality of the finished documents, and has created insane efficiency measures for firms throughout our company.”

It’s your turn to achieve brand consistency with RFP responses. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to transform the way your team works together.

4 ways RFP software positively impacts your response process

4 ways RFP software positively impacts your response process

“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” Paul J. Meyer shows us the power of having a dedicated system.

For subject matter experts (SMEs) involved in the RFP response process, the need for a dedicated system continues to be a moving target. In a recent RFPIO survey, 68% of subject matter experts revealed that increasing efficiency through better processes was their primary goal.

RFP software positively impacts the response process for teams every day. By staying committed to a plan, responders are experiencing more focus in achieving revenue objectives together.

The positive impact of RFP software on process

A recent APMP U.S. Benchmarks Report revealed promising insights. The majority (90%) of these organizations have a dedicated proposal management team, 70% have established best practices, and two-thirds have a documented proposal process.

Having an RFP response process is definitely a step in the right direction. But, is that process working well?

23% of APMP members said their process was working “very well” and 59% said “somewhat well.” RFPIO clients continually find opportunities to improve their RFP response process—and they combine their systematic approach with RFP software to achieve success.

1. RFP software allows you to respond to even more RFPs

In 2020 the Accruent team only managed 5-6 RFPs at a time. Two years later that number increased to 15-25 live projects at once, because RFPIO is a highly collaborative work environment that makes it possible for multiple RFP projects to happen simultaneously.

SMEs are called in to review content for accuracy, rather than spending time shelling out repetitive answers. This ability to multi-task means your team has ample time to pull together quality responses, increasing your win potential while moving forward with other revenue opportunities, like RFPs.

2. RFP software speeds up your completion turnaround time

When an RFP came through as a spreadsheet with 4,000 questions, the Illuminate Education team did not have a proper system in place. They had RFPIO up and running in ten minutes and they began submitting RFPs with tight turnarounds well before the deadline.

SMEs no longer need to stay up late to scramble with content contributions, since the RFP project starts and ends smoothly. Your team imports the file (spreadsheet, document, or PDF) then begin divvying up RFP responses. Export functionality makes the finished deliverable cohesive, without the need to fiddle endlessly with formatting.

3. RFP software helps you overcome large RFPs with small teams

The Tantalus team received an RFP from a company that was new to this step in the vendor selection process. The RFP issuer sent an enormous, complex spreadsheet and their team of two was suddenly tasked with 20,000 responses. They made it happen with RFPIO.

Although organizations have dedicated proposal management teams, SMEs still respond to RFPs and security questionnaires as an additional function of their primary job. Easy collaboration is key. Since our RFP software integrates with Slack and Microsoft teams, you receive clarifications and details from other team members with less email to keep up with.

4. RFP software saves you time through savvy content management

“Exact same question, exact same answer” became an anthem for the Finastra proposal management team. Repetition did not make their response management process any easier, as they had a disorganized content management system. Once they started using the RFPIO Content Library, it was a game-changer.

Your Content Library is a database. When cared for, from deduplicating to refreshing, you grab the most up-to-date RFP content and tailor as necessary. In this case, repetitive content is a good thing as RFP software recognizes the questions and matches the best responses, doing most of the work before you step in with your expertise.

Follow in the footsteps of your peers, who are seeing the positive impact of RFP software. Schedule a demo of RFPIO.

10 RFP issuers reveal what they’re looking for in an RFP response

10 RFP issuers reveal what they’re looking for in an RFP response

“Think of the RFP issuer” is a piece of advice we have always given to RFP responders. Although responders put a lot of effort into their work, so do the teams evaluating RFP responses.

Both parties are spending hours and resources submitting and evaluating RFPs. In the spirit of saving everyone time and energy, we decided to step in and break down the barriers between RFP issuers and RFP responders.

We asked issuers to speak up about what they’re looking for in an RFP response. Listen to what they had to say, so you can impress your next RFP issuer with a standout RFP response.

What RFP issuers expect from your RFP responses

Maurice Harary, CEO at The Bid Lab

Don’t reinvent the wheel each time you receive an RFP—you should always store your responses in a database after you submit each bid. That way, you can build on existing content while tailoring responses to your individual bid.

Yaniv Masjedi, CMO at Nextiva

When I put out an RFP for an audit, I absolutely need impeccable formatting in your proposal. If I’m going to trust someone with the keys to our company’s backend, they better be able to tiptoe in, execute, then extract themselves without a single bit of data knocked out of place.

If you are sending in a proposal that is improperly punctuated or formatted, how can I possibly trust you with this job? It might seem strict, but I cannot spare the time to monitor your every movement. I need a firm which demonstrates flawless work.

Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa, Behavioral & Marketing Psychologist at Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa and Associates

As a behavioral and marketing psychologist, allow me to first say that most of your providers will tell you how painful your RFPs are if you are brave and self-confident enough to ask. Respond using conversational language rather than talking at the reader. Use no more than two subjects and predicates in each sentence. Most responders emulate William Faulkner.

Brian Sheehan, Marketing and Sales Manager at Hollingsworth

Winning RFPs are clear and concise—and backed with storytelling data. We look for both anecdotal and quantitative data to determine the success of the grantee. If the RFP is clear and concise, this saves us time in reviewing the stacks of RFPs that we receive. Also…

  1. Make your RFP responses easy to understand, straightforward, and impactful. For quality control, multiple reviewers should check responses before you submit. People want to make sure they’re working with the best organizations to further their mission.
  2. Have a clear budget and timeline. Ensure that your budget matches your deliverables. Create a timeline for the project and what to expect every week, month, etc.
  3. Adhere to RFP formatting requirements. Many RFP issuers will have specific formatting requirements, which may include: printing front to back, single sheet only, certain font size, number of words, forms that must be used, etc. A simple formatting mistake might disqualify you.

Chris Ciligot, Marketing Assistant at Clearbridge Mobile

An effective RFP should provide a high-level overview of your company. This includes answering: what products/services your company provides, who key stakeholders are, what industry or market you operate in, and most importantly—why your company exists and what problem you are trying to solve.

Reuben Yonatan, Founder and CEO at GetVOIP

Relevant recent work is important. Because everything about the internet is always in flux, we need to know that you understand best practices today…not best practices from five years ago. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors impact our decision. First impressions matter, so we make sure that every respondent to our RFPs can work to our quality standards.

Chris Stasiuk, Founder + Creative Director at Signature Video Group

The perfect proposal aims to satisfy every personality type at the decision-making table: trust and a clear definition of solutions for leadership, storytelling for the creatives, timelines for the process-driven folks, numbers for the accountants, and careful formatting for the procurement people. Do this and you will consistently win more RFPs.

Caitlyn Helsen, Project Manager at Watchdog Real Estate Project Management

Graphics really help! We understand there is a lot of information to report, but long narratives can be cumbersome and make the RFP response feel daunting. RFPs that convey information in a creative way are more dynamic, and therefore, the reader is more engaged in the actual content.

Ryan Glick, Co-Founder at Pixelayn Innovations

The majority of vendors I’ve interacted with over the past 15 years have used cookie-cutter RFP responses that they send to all inquiring businesses. Sure, it’s understandable to use standard responses for some RFP questions, but this shouldn’t be the strategy used for everything. Rarely do I see vendors take the time to research my business and adjust their responses to be more specific and meaningful. When a vendor provides responses that appear like they were written specifically for my company, this catches my attention.

John Hrivnak, President at Hrivnak Associates, Ltd.

The strategy worked in a very competitive marketing effort for a $220M project…

  1. Out-homework your competition.
  2. Use information from your homework to hit “their target” not “your target.”
  3. Confirm “their targets” with your account managers.
  4. In the cover letter, relay that you have heard them loud and clear regarding their needs.
  5. Put the name of each recipient on the cover letter to personalize. If you’ve talked with the RFP evaluator, add a hand-written note on the cover letter.
  6. In the executive summary, repeat “their targets” again and include a sense of urgency. (i.e. If they act now, you can prioritize their project in the queue.)
  7. Within the body of your RFP responses, always reiterate their questions followed by your responses.
  8. Judiciously weave in how you will manage the project to hit “their targets” throughout your RFP responses.
  9. Try to make time to edit your RFP responses.

Ready to impress your next RFP issuer? Schedule a demo of RFPIO to find out how our response management platform makes it easier for your content to stand out.

Using the RFP process to improve content effectiveness

Using the RFP process to improve content effectiveness

Our latest for The Marketing Scope, by: Ganesh Shankar (RFPIO) and Lori Coffae (SHI, International)

Do you develop content once and then walk away forever? Are your customer needs exactly the same from year to year? In your dreams maybe, but in reality, we all know those are ridiculous questions to even ask. As a marketer, you know your company’s content is never static. It gets developed, reworked, and revised constantly. Content requires attention, consideration and testing. It’s no simple task to stay on top of steady change and making sure that you are improving your content effectiveness as well as keeping sales teams up to date.

For many companies, the intersection where marketing content meets the field organization is the request for proposal, or the RFP. If you work in a company that responds to a large number of RFPs, one surprisingly effective way to curate, manage and share content – one that is often overlooked – is through this very process: the RFP response.

The RFP response process can give marketers a chance to gain valuable feedback from your most important audience – your potential customers – on the impact of the company’s content. Sound like a stretch? Today, proposal managers (professionals who own the RFP response process for a company) gain deep insight into the content that leads someone to action compared with content that doesn’t initiate any type of result. Put simply, marketers can use the RFP process to improve content effectiveness.

Taking advantage

The RFP process can help create cohesion to your content across a variety of elements like voice, message development, and tone. When content is moved to a centralized Content Library, you can start to compare and assess content effectiveness based on what really matters – win rates. This assessment is enabled through the use of response management software with an intelligent, centralized Content Library. With such a system in place, marketing and sales teams can begin to learn the effectiveness of various messages with different types of customers, helping shape future responses in unexpected ways.

Marketers can use the RFP process to ensure that sales teams are armed with the latest answers – even technical content – reducing the need to call a scarce resource like a technical expert every time.

When integrated into sales tools like Slack or Salesforce, an Content Library becomes a single source of truth for responses to customers. Having a repository of content to address specific questions becomes an increasingly valuable asset over time. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time your company responds to an RFP or launches a new email marketing campaign, they can go into the content repository to tap into the strength of your most powerful content.

In addition, marketing leaders can cultivate accountability, ownership and responsibility for teams owning the content. Marketers can assign someone on the team to be a reviewer of a particular piece of the content. This way, the rest of the team has visibility into who added or edited the content, changes that were made and when. With a good content library, you’ll see who is working on what content, and you can assign a moderator to ensure facts are facts and company branding is on point.

Take measure

A good first step is to set aside a few hours to review all of the materials in your content library. Why? Because identifying and using your best content will improve your chances of winning RFPs. But for marketers, the key is understanding the nuances of how content resonates with target audiences. A good rule of thumb is to do a content audit at least once a year to keep your content fresh and increase content effectiveness.

Marketing owns a company’s brand and the key messages that can be delivered through a variety of channels including the website, social media, white papers, case studies, YouTube, public relations and email campaigns. Once you have a better idea of which content is valuable, you’ll be in a much better position to update your content library so that everyone in the company is able to provide consistent messages to your audiences.

When you review your content, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the content address your customer’s business challenges?
  • Is the value that your company’s products or services offer coming across clearly?
  • Does the content read well? Does it tell a cohesive story?
  • Is the tone of the content consistent throughout all of your marketing materials?
  • Has the content performed well in RFPs over the past year? How much interest has there been?

Final thoughts: It’s like gardening

As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, content is never static. It requires attention, consideration, and cultivation. It’s like being a gardener where your content Content Library acts as your greenhouse, housing your content, keeping it protected from the elements, and providing it a fertile environment in which to grow. By thinking about your precious content like a garden, you’re being sensitive to its environment – what grows in Florida doesn’t work in upstate New York.

While the RFP team may reach out to the leaders of the marketing department to participate in an RFP, marketing executives should also see the opportunity that an RFP presents to fine-tune marketing content and messaging and increase content effectiveness.

12 RFP response automation stats to rev up your sales engine

12 RFP response automation stats to rev up your sales engine

Q4 is flying by, isn’t it? Your sales team likely needs a wee bit of motivation this time of year to meet their revenue objectives. If you’re looking for clever ways to rev up your sales engine, look no further than your RFP response process. To improve your win rate and meet your sales goals efficiently, RFP response automation is where it’s at.

As a salesperson who does double-duty as an RFP responder, time is a commodity. On average companies invest up to 40 hours into every RFP response and the RFP close rate is around 5%.

Understandably, you start thinking about greener pastures. The thing is, RFPs can be that revenue generator you’re looking for if you refocus your strategy.

According to Salesforce and McKinsey Global Institute, 40% of tasks within the traditional sales function can now be automated. With RFP software, you can automate the following strategies to help you respond faster to business opportunities, beat the competition, and achieve your sales goals.

Sounds amazing, right? That’s because it is.

RFP response automation for faster submission

When RFPs are coming at you from every direction, you have to prioritize to meet tight deadlines. You already know about the time investment that will be involved. Focusing on proposals with higher chances of winning is a smart approach.

According to the Standish group, small projects have a 70% higher chance of performing better than large projects. RFPs from that ungettable enterprise company is enchanting, of course, but stiff competition accompanies that enchantment. Mid-sized business RFPs might be a better fit for your organization, and they too can have a positive impact on your sales numbers.

Collaboration cannot be undermined in RFP response—it’s necessary every time. Considering the fact that an average professional receives about 100 emails each day, using emails alone as a collaboration tool won’t cut it. Something is bound to get missed since only 24% of sales emails get opened anyway. It’s time to automate.

How RFP response automation helps you submit faster…

Speed and accuracy are the weapons needed for winning RFPs. As soon as you receive an RFP, RFPIO makes it easy to get started with project collaboration.

  • The import function brings in any document format from the issuer, be it a spreadsheet, document, or PDF.
  • You or your proposal manager quickly assign questions and sections to SMEs.
  • Communication happens with alerts through a dedicated Slack channel, through the platform, or through Salesforce—less email means fewer tasks slip through the cracks.
  • The review cycle runs smoothly with sequential reviewing, ensuring the best possible deliverable is pulled together in an orderly fashion.
  • The beautiful finale happens when you export back into the source document or a branded template of your choosing, without a bunch of reformatting and sleepless nights.
  • You deliver a quality RFP on time…and you’re off to the next one.

“With RFPIO, all the content is in one place that the entire team can access (proposal writers and sales reps). This not only saves time and reduces errors, but also increases collaboration within the team. RFPIO is a huge time saver, and makes it easy to access and update our content as needed.” 

RFP response automation for beating the competition

Gartner points out that most clients spend 45% of their time searching for possible alternatives, both offline and online, before reaching out to sales. Personalization is the secret to success with any content. Personalizing your RFP responses helps you one-up your competition, who is probably over there recycling the same old boilerplates as they rush to meet the deadline.

Coaching your sales representatives on how to leverage technology to create personalized RFP responses can really help here. Sales teams that undergo at least three hours of training or coaching every month surpass their targets by 7% and increase their win rate by 70%. A strong team, personalized messaging, and technology powers equals winning at RFPs.

How RFP response automation helps you beat the competition…

RFP software automates the entire content creation process, freeing up your time to keep the focus on personalization. With RFP response automation, your team spends more time customizing and polishing RFP responses. Since most of the legwork is already taken care of, quality improvement is the main focus.

  • Auto-response fills in the majority of the questions up front with the help of AI, which grows smarter the more you use the application.
  • Search is another way to find content quickly, without the need for a Google Drive folder expedition.
  • Rating and tagging make top content accessible for anyone to grab and include in their RFP responses.
  • Content audit reminders can be set up at a cadence of your choosing, reminding proposal leads to refresh outdated information and rid the Content Library of unnecessary duplicates.

There is little training needed for a solution like RFPIO, which is incredibly user-friendly. Team members across departments can start using the solution for an RFP project right after onboarding. This ease promotes a collaborative environment since multiple users can work together in a centralized platform, regardless if they are in the same office or on a different continent.

You just lost a huge request for proposal…now what? Read this.

rfp response example

RFP response automation for sales achievements

Demand Gen revealed that you gain a 20% increase in sales opportunities from cultivated leads. Only 2% of deals are successful during the first meeting. Also, 84% of customers start their RFP process with a referral and peer recommendations influence about 90% of buying decisions.

Sales is a bit of a battlefield, isn’t it? You’re not alone in feeling this way. What it really comes down to is maximizing the hours you have in a day to get the most results. Though RFPs might not seem like the easiest avenue for achieving sales, every RFP is, in fact, a business opportunity.

It turns out that 45% of sales teams report excessive administration duties like manual data entry as one of their main challenges. When you have a manual RFP response process, it’s like you’re on that battlefield with a blindfold AND your hands tied behind your back. So, a good look at your process is worth it.

How RFP software helps you achieve sales…

Repetition is part of the RFP cycle, whether you’re responding to an RFI or a security questionnaire. RFPIO’s features help in multiple use cases, including security questionnaires where bulk answering and the same import/export functionality are available.

  • The project overview dashboard gives insight into the progress, status, and contributors.
  • You can feel good about where everything’s at without spending time tracking people down for updates.
  • With the time you gain from automating these processes, you can respond to more RFPs.
  • By responding to more RFPs, you increase your win potential and achieve your sales goals.

Automating repetitive tasks allows you to focus more on other sales generating activities. Automation also means you can really fine-tune the RFP for your prospect as you’ll have more time to pay attention to the requirements, versus whizzing through various questions and missing important details.

A motivated and productive sales team plays a big role in bringing in new business through RFPs. Successful RFP management is all about using technology to automate processes for efficiency. RFP response automation will empower your team to reach their sales goals.

Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

Losing an RFP: Motivational ways to move forward

We won’t sugarcoat this…losing a request for proposal is never a fun time. You and your team, many who work in multiple departments at your organization, put a lot of time and energy into crafting your RFP responses. You lose an important account in Q4 that could have helped you make your year.

At the end of the day, losing an RFP is kind of a bummer. However, as we experience in life, lessons can always be learned.
Jeffrey Davis, writing in Psychology Today, has these words of wisdom to share: “What matters is being able to delineate the reasons we’ve failed, and instead of taking the rejection personally, making it useful. If it isn’t useful, then it has to be left behind.”

On that note, let’s learn a few lessons after losing a request for proposal—along with some motivation to help you move forward and increase your win rate potential next time.

You just lost a huge RFP…Now what?

Step one: Breathe before you do anything else. You need to compose yourself, then proceed with sharing the news with other team members or responding to the prospect. For moral support, gain quick inspiration from famous “failures” who never quit:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Michael Jordan
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Thomas Edison
  • Vincent Van Gogh
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Steve Jobs
  • Etc., etc., etc.

The one question you’re probably saying over and over again is: Why? Why didn’t we win? Why did they pick those [insert competitor nickname] over us?

Quite often it isn’t clear why your proposal didn’t succeed. Your product or service might be above and beyond your competitors. Yet somehow they’re celebrating the deal they just landed while you’re crying in the corner of the parking lot, wondering where it all went wrong.

A discreet call to your key contact at the organization may give some clarity as to why they chose your competitor over you. Use caution with this tactic, as they will likely give some rehearsed speech riddled with vague generalities that don’t help you at all. Then, you just end up spending time on an awkward phone call together. No good, right?

Which is why a classy email is your best move. We created several RFP response specific email templates for you to copy and send. Because we know responding to RFPs isn’t always about winning, you can use this email template the next time you need to have that tough conversation with a prospect…

RFP response email: Send after losing RFP

Hi [first name] –

Thank you for the update. I am surprised by this result as I remember specifically how well the demo went with your team, and the excellent fit between [Company] and [RFPIO].

I absolutely respect your decision, and I only ask for some additional feedback so I can understand how [RFPIO] can continue to improve. Let’s schedule a few minutes to chat, so I can better understand the specifics you were looking for. Any feedback I can glean in this scenario is very valuable.

Thank you very much,

The goal is to lose gracefully. Equally important is to demonstrate complete confidence in your solution until the bitter end. You never know—this deal may come back around one day.

Hold a post-mortem to analyze your RFP loss

A “post-mortem” sounds dreary, but having a dedicated pow-wow after losing a request for proposal allows your team some time to work together for the sake of improvement. The idea here is that you will find some gaps and opportunities in your process—or within the RFP response content itself.

In a post-mortem session, use constructive criticism and don’t turn against each other. “Where can we improve?” is a better mindset than “Whose fault is it?”

A post-mortem certainly doesn’t need to happen after every single RFP. To stay consistent, schedule these meetings ahead of time at a cadence that makes sense for your organization. If you send over 100 RFPs annually like 28% of organizations, analyze your RFP response process once a month. A quarterly post-mortem might be more reasonable if you respond to 50 RFPs a year.

annual number of RFPs
Another option is to hold a post-mortem after losing a key business opportunity. This strategy is more reactive and should be held in addition to your regularly scheduled post-mortems. Everyone is busy, so don’t spring post-mortems on your team too much or they will lose their effectiveness. Your team will not be as engaged, or they may find ways to skip attending in favor of other priorities.

Once your team is together, identify the stage where the proposal was rejected. If your RFP made it to the last two or three stages, that’s considered a good performance as most proposals don’t reach the final pitching stage. You probably only need to tweak your RFP responses slightly to get more wins in the future.

Let’s look at the main reasons why RFPs don’t make the cut, so you can leave your post-mortem with an action plan.

Ways to improve your RFPs to land your next deal

1. Always sell the benefits

Consider the benefits (not the features) that you are offering to your client. Most organizations look at their product through rose-colored glasses. It’s great to be proud of your product, but we always have to go back to our favorite saying…What’s In It For Them (WIIFT).

You may have the coolest software on the market. Well, friend, the client only cares that the software saves them time and money. If they can earn money on top of that? Even better. Exhibit A…

At RFPIO, we get a taste of our own medicine and regularly respond to RFPs. Rather than saying “RFPIO is the best RFP software,” we say “Our clients report an average time savings of 40% while using RFPIO, allowing them to focus on creating effective proposal content that creates additional revenue.”

“Actually talk to your customers. Use the language that they use. Talk about the things they talk about. Never feed salad to a lion.” – Jay Acunzo

2. No pain, no gain

Prospects are looking for RFP responses which understand their problems and provide a solution. If your proposal doesn’t foreground this, then it won’t stand out among the sea of RFPs your competitors submitted.

Be crystal clear about what your organization’s remedy is for the pain point. Include testimonials for customer validation, along with other tangible content, like results in the form of percentages or dollars that increased or decreased because of your solution.

3. Too technical

Many RFPs, particularly ones that are rejected, barrage the receiver with technical detail. This can be a monumental mistake. Some of the decision-makers are technical engineer types, but many are business-minded.

That means they don’t want volumes of details and specs, they want to know exactly how your solution will help their organization. And, they don’t want to have their technical team translate everything so they can figure that out. Make it easy on your prospect by simplifying your RFP responses.

4. Less is more

If your RFP needs a fork-lift to bring it into the office, it is probably too detailed. Most RFP responses are long, because responders think they need to cram it all in. They worry they won’t meet requirements and end up over-achieving in a way that is disadvantageous for them.

Being concise is a factor in winning the deal. Look at it this way—if someone liked your proposal, but felt they needed some more information in a particular area, they can ask for an additional submission. This happens and it’s perfectly acceptable.

Winning companies continuously upgrade their content and RFP response process, so that they can provide a streamlined delivery system for responses. We’re big fans of content audits. If you’re unfamiliar with content audits for RFPs, check out this resource.

5. Tell stories

An RFP is yet another opportunity to tell our brand’s story—in this case, it must be powerful to convince the prospect that you are the partner they need. Like a classic narrative, your RFP response should have a beginning, middle, and an end.

The RFP should be structured and have built-in “success factors” by drawing parallels with various projects your organization has completed and success stories from satisfied customers.

In the RFP response process, we’ll turn to Vince Lombardi for some inspiration: “Winners never quit, and quitters never win.” Losing an RFP is a process we all have to go through. It’s up to you and your team to move forward strategically to make your next RFP response a winner.

Win your next healthcare RFP by mastering these 3 key practices

Win your next healthcare RFP by mastering these 3 key practices

Healthcare professionals are in the business of helping people, but they are simultaneously running a business. Responding to RFPs is a routine process. Due to heavy regulations, a healthcare RFP is much more involved than an average RFP.

Government RFPs are perhaps the closest comparison when you look at the high level of demands and requirements that come into play. Healthcare RFPs have compliance requirements in the structure of the RFP as well as pertaining to services rendered. Responses to compliance questions can get fairly complicated, since we’re talking about another person’s life potentially being on the line.

Common challenges you’ll face when writing healthcare RFP responses are staying compliant, finding content, and meeting deadlines. When you master these key practices, you’ll be on your way to winning your next healthcare RFP.

Healthcare RFP response practice #1: Compliance

Compliance is something you will run into on many levels when submitting a proposal in the healthcare industry. Each healthcare RFP issuer has their own rules about how the proposal should be organized. The healthcare industry is also riddled with numerous regulations.

“Next to hands-on patient care, no part of healthcare carries as much importance as protecting a patient’s personal information from a breach of privacy.” – AAPC

Even though it’s a given in your industry, it’s all too easy to forget an important statement about being compliant with current regulations on both federal and state levels. Although healthcare RFPs typically have a checklist of items to be delivered in a proposal, RFP responders often rush and they overlook asking for licensure and proof of regulatory compliance.

Let’s say a pharmacy is looking for a new telemedicine vendor. The pharmacy may be in multiple states, but they need a telemedicine vendor for one location. The RFP responder is located at headquarters in a different location and forgets to add a request for proof of compliance to HIPAA laws at that particular location.

Organizations that address this compliance need are likely to be considered over others that miss the requirement. Due to privacy laws, the privacy and security of data are extremely important in healthcare and should be handled with care when you’re submitting an RFP. Internal regulations also tend to be strict in the healthcare industry. So, know the standards of the organization you are responding to.

Compliance with the specific RFP will vary depending on who is requesting services. Governmental agencies tend to be very formal, as do larger healthcare operations. Smaller businesses may be a bit laxer and request less information. Either way, always follow guidelines to a T or you risk losing the opportunity.

Inevitably you will repurpose historic responses, but you need to use caution with the information you choose to reuse. When it comes to checking on location-specific regulations, be sure that all of the laws followed in previous RFPs are still valid before adding them into your new healthcare RFP.

How RFP software helps you stay compliant

RFP software helps you stay on top of compliance requirements. Within your Content Library, you can store all of your most updated responses. Search functionality, along with tagging and starring systems, help you quickly select the response, update as needed, and include into the response. Besides being a huge time-saver, RFP software helps you check all of the compliance boxes when you submit an RFP for healthcare.

Healthcare RFP response practice #2: Content

Your RFP responses must be in line with the expectations outlined by the issuer. Content is usually stated in a neutral tone for healthcare RFPs. Your content should enlighten the reader about how your organization will do the job better than another organization.

As we mentioned in the compliance section moments ago, It is perfectly acceptable to use information from earlier RFPs. But…cookie-cutter entries are easily spotted and frowned upon, which is why customizing your RFP responses is a must. When you’re tailoring content, reference the rules and regulations—and internal standards—of the issuer.

Everything you need to tailor a proposal should be in the RFP guidelines. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out and contact someone at that organization. Missing information will put you out of the competition for the bid. So, remember the phrase “it doesn’t hurt to ask” when you need clarification from the issuer. If you’re still unsure if you are missing something from your healthcare RFP response, this handy checklist on is a great resource.

How RFP software helps you find content

At its core, RFP software is a content management system, helping you locate relevant documents and information. One major complaint in the healthcare RFP response process is that subject matter experts (SMEs) are frequently called upon to answer the same questions over and over again. An Content Library makes this information easily accessible, so SMEs can step in during the review cycle to swiftly revise and approve RFP responses.

Healthcare RFP response practice #3: Deadlines

Deadlines on any front can be hard to fulfill, especially when you are in such a fast-paced industry like healthcare. RFP responses usually have hard deadlines that cannot be extended, and they must be prioritized.

An upset Reddit user posted this quote about missing a deadline: “Bid writer missed RFP deadline. I’m potentially out $20K in commission over 3 years.” Responding to RFPs should never come down to the blame game. The better move is to be proactive and develop an RFP response process.

Healthcare RFPs are often lengthy and require much detail, because of the many fun regulations we already discussed. All the more reason to come up with an RFP strategy well before you receive one in your inbox.

Having a dedicated RFP response process brings everything together in time. By defining the steps and roles, you clearly allocate work to specialized people on your RFP response team. Requesting the first draft long before the proposal is due allows you time to revise, revise, and revise some more.

Unsurprisingly, a proper review cycle is often a missed step in any RFP submission because of time constraints. When you’re responding to a healthcare RFP, there are too many industry-related regulations involved to skip this important step. Go through everything with a fine-toothed comb to be sure you hit all of the talking points.

How RFP software helps you meet deadlines

RFP software helps you get a handle on the RFP deadline. You are able to map out a timeline—when to start response drafts and when to have reviews completed and approved—all viewed easily within a project overview dashboard. By speeding up the information gathering process, you actually have time to polish your RFP deliverable to increase your chances of winning the bid.

Healthcare RFP responses require extra care when it comes to addressing the regulatory environment around the industry. Whether you are new to submitting proposals in the healthcare realm or a longtime vet who has responded to hundreds of healthcare RFPs, establishing an RFP response process and seeking out the right-fit RFP software will help you along the way.

Compliance, content, and deadlines are easy to handle with RFPIO. Let’s work together on improving your RFP response process, shall we?

How solutions engineers met growing RFP demand with RFPIO

How solutions engineers met growing RFP demand with RFPIO

If you’ve ever logged into a website with a traditional email or through social login, it’s likely you’ve used Janrain in the process. Founded in 2002, the company was a pioneer in the area of Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM). They work with many global enterprises and high profile consumer brands to help manage the login process for their web and mobile properties.

Information about a user’s login behavior has become a foundational element of many companies’ marketing strategy. According to Manuel Cruz, Janrain’s Director of Solutions Engineering, for those organizations, “the notion of a single identity across multiple brands or multiple divisions is like the Holy Grail.”

The demand for Janrain’s turn-key CIAM solution and GDPR readiness resources has increased as marketing strategy evolves to require more personalized and secure user experiences across web and mobile. From 2016 to 2017, the number of RFPs they received more than doubled, and that number was on trend to keep pace in the current year.

As the volume of RFPs increased, it became apparent that Janrain would need to bring in a response automation solution like RFPIO. Without a more efficient process, Manuel and his team of solutions engineers were beginning to feel stretched beyond their means.

It was important for Manuel’s team to find an RFP solution that would support these 3 things:
1. Collaboration among multiple users and departments
2. Quick implementation of their historic question and answer pairs
3. Functionality to store multiple answers for similar questions

With RFPIO, they were able to refine their RFP strategy in these 3 ways:
1. Have all their RFP content in one place, accessible to all contributors
2. Provide some relief for the increasingly busy solutions engineering team
3. Form a relationship with RFPIO’s customer success team for ongoing support

The subject matter experts

With 15 years experience as a solutions engineer, Manuel Cruz has seen his fair share of RFPs.

It is a solutions engineer’s job to assist in the technology sales process by offering technical knowledge of the product or service, and to deliver that information in a way that translates to the potential buyer. This often makes them the subject matter expert on technical questions that accompany an RFP.

In the past, Manuel’s experiences responding to RFPs were varied. He’d save questions and answers in spreadsheets or shared documents and go on elaborate quests to find the right content.

At times, he’d worked for companies that had a dedicated “RFP guy” who would independently manage the process. Since he’s been at Janrain, he has experimented with RFP automation software, but it wasn’t until RFPIO came along that the future started to look brighter.

A solution for the solutions engineers

To get ahead of their expanding number of RFPs, the team at Janrain decided to align people and processes. They started with a content exercise that would bring together representatives from all the departments that contribute to any given RFP.

They collected and combined all the question and answer pairs they could come up with. Because they work with buyers of all levels of technical prowess, it was necessary for them to store different answers for similar questions.

Manuel and team needed the right solution for storing all this content, and managing the collaborative process of responding to their growing number of RFPs. They decided on RFPIO’s response automation software, and once they were up and running, the first project was to upload the Q&A so they could get to work.

“Getting started with RFPIO was really easy. The team helped us with the initial seeding of the answer repository and a quick tutorial, which got us up to speed,” Manuel said. “The tool itself is very intuitive.”

A true customer success

Since deployment, Manuel and team have been able to meet their increasing RFP demand with time to spare and a newfound sense of relief. “I’m still not crazy about RFPs, but you guys definitely make it a more satisfying experience.”

That doesn’t mean that they went without challenges, though. Because the Janrain team was so eager to use RFPIO when they secured it, they realized after a few months that they hadn’t fully embraced the tool’s complete functionality.

So Manuel invited RFPIO customer success manager, Andrew Stone, to their office to help them manage roadblocks and take advantage of features that would address their particular needs.

“It was incredibly helpful to have that health check with Andrew,” Manuel said. “Now we know more about how to use the tool, and we have the resources to train people internally as the need arises.”

Ready for easier RFP response? Schedule a Demo with our team.


“RFPIO has absolutely been able to provide efficiencies that have allowed us to answer more RFPs with the same number of people, in less time.” – Manuel Cruz, Janrain

Manuel Cruz is the Director of Global Solutions Engineering at Janrain, a Portland-based pioneer in Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM). He has been a Solutions Engineer and Product Manager within the Financial Services, CRM, and Telecommunications industries over the past fifteen years, and has extensive experience selling and deploying web- and telephony-based solutions within large companies like AT&T, Walmart, Banamex, Telcel, and Mondeléz. As a Solutions Engineer with Janrain, Manuel has worked closely with global enterprise customers across the US, South America, Europe, and Asia helping deliver technical and digital strategy to Qantas, Electrolux, the NBA, and Coca-Cola. He received his B.S. from Yale and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

This is what it takes to win an RFP from start to finish

This is what it takes to win an RFP from start to finish

Winning an RFP is always the goal. But often we aren’t sure what it really takes to win—no matter how many hundreds of RFPs we’ve responded to.

There are many moving parts involved with every RFP response. Collaboration and efficiency are absolutely critical, but so is the writing. The quality of your response will determine whether the prospect chooses your organization or one of your competitors.

One of the most memorable deals I landed in my sales career happened with an RFP response. It was a big name company, and a highly competitive RFP. But I knew our product was the right fit, so I did everything in my power to win the deal. And, it worked.

This is what that winning RFP process looked like from start to finish, and some tips on how you can replicate this successful response strategy with your team.

What happened before the RFP

Copying and pasting responses as usual into the RFP wouldn’t cut it this time. Because I knew our product was the right fit—and we had a great chance at winning the account—I spent a lot of time getting to know the company. That way I felt comfortable speaking their language when I wrote the content.

I was a sales rep and the RFP lead, so my intentions were completely focused on winning with the energy I put into the project. It was hard work that was not in the scope of my day-to-day sales activities.

There were over 100 pages when I was done, with tons of tables and narrative answers. What made it easier was the homework I did beforehand, like building relationships with the individuals I knew were going to be involved in the review.

Responding to RFPs is part of the sales cycle, and it’s important to remember that selling is an important part of these beginning stages—not only in the final closing stages. By taking the time to understand the company and team members, you’re setting up your RFP response project for success.

What happened during the RFP

When it comes down to it…what is an RFP?

An RFP is trying to make an apples to apples comparison with multiple vendors. In a competitive space, everybody is trying to get that edge. The RFP response has to illustrate why you’re better than other organizations with a similar offering.

“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.” -Zig Ziglar

With this winning RFP, the deadline was tight and it was during the holidays. Needless to say, it was stressful to get the project done well and on time. In fact, we ended up being late with our submission—which is the kiss of death in the RFP world. However, because I had this existing relationship that I worked so hard to cultivate, they accepted anyway.

I didn’t use amazing language, but because I did the legwork before the RFP project started, I knew the qualifications they were looking for. I repurposed answers from historical RFPs, but I made them more relevant. I took the time to show how much we wanted to win them as a customer. And despite being late with our submission, we still won.

You have to find your edge when you’re responding to RFPs. Going into an RFP, know that five other vendors are probably answering the same way you are. If you answer “yes, we have this function” or “yes, we have this feature” that won’t differentiate your organization at all.

Answer to what they want, rather than just answering correctly. This process takes longer. And when you have a high volume of RFPs, you may not want to do it. So make sure this prospect is the best fit, a customer that you want, then go the extra mile.

What happened after the RFP

Because the foundation was so strong before the RFP, this company remained a happy customer that stuck around with no contract. They hadn’t switched their software in over 20 years, so it was a monumental change for them.

As they always do with large-scale implementations, things went wrong. And as you recall, we missed the RFP deadline and still closed the deal.

When you take your time and think through an RFP strategy, it pays off. It doesn’t mean you should take the same approach with every RFP that comes your way. But when it’s the right prospect, and you want to win that business, then it’s worth the extra effort when it has the potential to become a lasting partnership long after the close.

Your turn…replicate a winning RFP process

I’ve won and lost plenty of RFPs throughout my career. This was a strategy that worked well, and you may find it’s something worth trying at your organization.

Before the next RFP lands in your inbox, consider your entire process as having three stages.

  1. Before the RFP – Do the homework. Collaborate with sales to cultivate the relationship and uncover customer intelligence that will make your RFP response stronger. (In your CRM, you can have direct visibility into these activities.)
  2. During the RFP – Tailor the responses. Use the relationship and intelligence to level up your company. Sales should continue nurturing the prospect, rather than going radio silent once the RFP is in progress.
  3. After the RFP – Maintain the satisfaction. Know that the great effort you put in won over your customer. This isn’t a free pass when things inevitably go wrong, so continue deepening relationships months or years after the initial RFP.

A lot of RFPs are formalities. And RFP responders don’t want to take the time, because they know that. This level of care works when the partnership is an ideal match with your organization. If you really want to win, you need to recognize the best opportunities and do everything you can to win them.

Building the relationship and tailoring your content will help your organization rise above the competition. Whether you’re a team of one (like I was) or you have multiple departments involved in RFP responses, collaborate with sales to align your efforts through every stage of the process.

The average completion time for an RFP deadline is typically 2-3 weeks, faster for those who have RFP software. Think of what you and your team can do during that amount of time, and work together to create your best possible RFP responses so you can find your edge and win.

Why it’s time to embrace the RFP sharing economy

Why it’s time to embrace the RFP sharing economy

When we think of the sharing economy, we might think of companies who have popularized that concept, like Uber and AirBnB. But it also means the sharing of information, the knowledge that is passed along for the greater benefit of a community or organization.

We don’t live in a time where one person holds the keys to the castle, nor should we. In fact, with RFP response…one person holding the keys to the castle can be a point of weakness for companies. Information silos will only cause inefficiencies that spread through your organization, while greater accessibility to information promotes unity and growth.

Ready to improve your approach to RFP response? Here’s how you can overcome information silos by embracing the sharing economy with your RFP process.

Information silos disrupt your RFP response flow

Productivity for any RFP response team is strongly linked to having access to the organization’s collective knowledge base. Since RFP response requires strong collaboration between team members, the information passes through many people in various fashions.

RFP response is a cross-departmental effort. Information can flow well within certain departments but not be shared openly with others. When a restriction of information disrupts the flow for RFP collaboration, these silos will hold your team back from achieving their best work together.

“Sales reps average about 43 hours a month searching for information or content.” – Aberdeen

In addition, the expertise necessary to respond to an RFP often lives not in a shared folder but inside the mind of an SME (Subject Matter Expert). An SME can have technical prowess that nobody else in your company can begin to understand. And, it’s the job of the proposal manager to capture that information accurately, then translate it into a compelling response for the decision-maker who will eventually read it.

But, what if that SME leaves? So, does their expertise.

This is where having a centralized repository for RFP responses comes in handy. No matter what changes at an organization—be it an important role or product overhaul—the information will be safe and sound…and easily accessible when the next RFP arrives.

Wrangling your RFP responses into an Content Library

Foundational knowledge about an organization’s products and services will end up in a variety of documents, from visual slide decks to data-heavy spreadsheets. They will be stored on shared drives and folders. Some can find these fairly easily, while other team members feel they are on a quest to find this information.

On top of that, information between people is naturally exchanged through conversations, like chats and emails. This knowledge is the most elusive, as it’s not even accessible to others in the organization when it’s stored in individual chat and email history.

Having a centralized knowledge repository like an Content Library will help tremendously. This way the proposal manager doesn’t become a full-time RFP response wrangler on top of their other responsibilities. This also promotes the idea of a sharing economy with your RFP process, allowing your entire organization to have access to important company information.

The information hunt is tough for any busy team. Whether it’s information needed for an important sales call or RFP response, this type of knowledge base will save your team time so they can focus on performance and growth.

RFP software takes knowledge sharing a big step further

It’s a step in the right direction to have a dedicated knowledge repository. But the ongoing maintenance and quality control when a manual effort is involved comes with challenges.

Busy teams simply won’t have time to keep up with spreadsheets, so the content in the repository won’t be the most current information. Unfortunately, stale content will not do you any favors when you’re trying to land new business with a shining RFP response.

Here are a few questions you used to ask that you won’t have to worry about with RFP software:

  1. Repetitive requests to SMEs? That’s no longer necessary when you have an intelligent way to store your RFP responses. You can easily search to find the best response from your existing library, then you can assign the SME to review the content for accuracy.
  2. Lacking effective communication? Having the ability to @-mention users and using communication integrations like Slack keep the conversations tied directly to the RFP response project. And this is much quicker than email.
  3. Missing the most updated information? You won’t have to rely on your team to constantly update the Content Library. Even better, you can schedule content audits, which send reminders to help you keep your knowledge base in great shape.

When you’re using RFP software, your Content Library is on a whole other level. It serves as a gathering point for all of the content in your organization, so it’s both easy and quick to access for any team member.

It’s time to embrace the sharing economy with our RFP response process. That starts with taking a good look at the manual ways we are practicing today to collaborate on RFPs.

There’s no need for anyone to feel like a bottleneck when it’s time to meet a tight RFP deadline. And, there’s no need for anyone to feel left in the dark by not having access to company information.

With a renewed commitment to our approach, we can overcome information silos to work more effectively and reach greater heights.

How to work with SMEs for a smooth sailing RFP process

How to work with SMEs for a smooth sailing RFP process

There are many ways to improve team collaboration in the workplace. Setting clear business objectives is a great place to start with the why of your organization’s vision. Then, it’s time to move your team toward that goal with the how—using tools and technology that will help them succeed.

Healthy collaboration during the RFP response process is important for any organization working together with a unified vision. When an RFP is due in two days and it’s 100 pages long, it may feel like a feat of mythic proportions for you as the proposal manager.

“86% of executives identify ineffective collaboration and communication as a major cause of failure in business.” – Salesforce

But if the experience is positive and seamless from the minute the RFP arrives, the team is already set up for success. If not, the opposite will happen.

You want to see your team work well together, and you definitely want the RFP response to go out the door on time. We drummed up a few strategies to keep in mind to help you optimize SME collaboration for smooth sailing.

SMEs have unique personalities

When interacting with technical experts and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), it’s common for sales and marketing teams to forget they are working with people who have completely different personality types. There might seem like a disconnect with business priorities with these experts, because they are so engrossed in the very work they offer expertise in.

When your SME does find the time to contribute to the RFP, the response can be difficult to understand when it’s blanketed with technical details. These SMEs are passionate about what they do, but they don’t always realize the best way to frame the content to engage buyers.

rfp success

Source: Wrike

The language and tone will inevitably need to be tweaked to make your RFP response compelling. However, you will still need help from your SME during the review process to ensure the technical details are correct. You don’t want to sacrifice accuracy for the sake of a more enjoyable reading experience.

The answer to improved team collaboration resides in your Content Library. How you organize your content and solidify the review process will help protect the time of everyone involved in RFP responses at your company. Spend time setting up a good Content Library and keep your content fresh with regular content audits.

Overcoming different business priorities

Reluctance for SMEs to take on more work within a tight deadline is understandable given their busy schedules. When it’s time to respond to an RFP, they will deprioritize the task in favor of more important tasks on their plate.

“Just 42% of organizations report having high alignment of projects to organizational strategy.”      – Project Management Institute

Though responding to RFPs may seem like a lower priority to SMEs, the reality is that they help drive revenue for an organization. And so RFPs matter for everyone, regardless of their role, because winning an RFP equates to new business.

As the RFP lead, your job is to be clear about deadlines and expectations, and also to drive enthusiasm for the opportunity. Using RFP software can greatly reduce completion time and workflow constraints as it is a tool built to alleviate the complexities associated with a very complex process.

As always, the people behind the tool are what make it work. Teams need to be aligned—with the big picture business priorities front and center, and excellent technology that increases collaboration and efficiency.

Strategies to make the RFP effort easier

Now that you’re rethinking your collaborative mindset, it’s time to jump into some useful strategies that will help you get the RFP done effectively. Here are several simple ways to minimize the effort needed by the SME, so they can contribute their expertise willingly and on time:

  1. In your RFP solution, immediately assign tasks and deadlines to SMEs for the response. Give yourself wiggle room with the drop-dead RFP deadline, so you have plenty of time for revisions. If using a spreadsheet, highlight specific sections which need input and follow-up with a spirited communication cadence.
  2. Simple and concise instructions will make your SMEs life a heck of a lot easier, which will make them more likely to prioritize the task. Avoid overwhelming them with the entire RFP, by allowing them to focus on their assigned question only. This is easiest to organize in RFP software, but you can get creative with spreadsheets as well.
  3. Include guidelines to set expectations with the RFP response, including character limitations and branding preferences. This will save time during the review process in case your SMEs go overboard with techy content. In your RFP solution, you can export responses into a branded template to clean up the formatting so you can spend less time polishing the final deliverable…at midnight, on Friday.
  4. Avoid inbox clutter by replacing emails with communication tools, like Slack, and use groups to organize and track conversations. This will ensure your request doesn’t get missed or trashed, and it will minimize the back and forth. RFP software will have @-mentioning and even integrate with Slack to smooth out the process.

project alignment

Source: Wrike

Teamwork truly does make the dream work when it comes to the RFP response process. You need your SMEs to buy into the importance of RFPs, but you also need to fine-tune your approach to make things easier on them.

Take a good look at your existing RFP workflow with your SMEs and see how you can improve it. Organizations aligned around a common vision—with technology that supports collaboration—will ultimately save teams time and help them reach success together.

Your personal guide to writing a winning executive summary

Your personal guide to writing a winning executive summary

Your executive summary is the most important part your RFP response. That’s right, it’s not the technical sections or competitor differentiators. It’s the executive summary.

Think about it. Your executive summary is the first company info anyone reads after they skim the cover letter—and it might be the last. It’s like the book cover of your RFP, and like a book, it will be judged.

Recently the RFPIO team checked out APMP’s on-demand webinar, Making it Count: The Effective Executive Summary. It was an eye-opening presentation by Dick Eassom, Vice President at SM&A and past APMP CEO, which made us rethink our own strategy with RFP response.

Today we’re going to share a few takeaways from the APMP webinar. Whether you’ve been around RFP response for a while—or you’re just taking the proposal reins at your organization—this is a rundown on what you need to know about executive summaries to win more opportunities.

What is an executive summary?

An executive summary is a short section that gives a quick overview of important information. In the context of an RFP, an executive summary addresses the prospect’s problem, the prospect’s desired business outcomes, and the vendor’s recommendation for solving the problem and achieving the outcome.

The executive summary is designed to help a prospect decide whether or not to move forward with the proposal—and so it’s critical you get it right.

Why spend time writing an executive summary?

To pull together an RFP response, we know it takes a grand effort by any sized team. The turnaround for RFPs is typically a quick one, so it’s common for businesses to cut corners to save time…especially when that deadline is Friday and you can’t bear to work another weekend.

Dick Eassom shared a great analogy in the APMP webinar that can help us relate to the importance of the executive summary in our RFPs. He said this:

“If you’re buying something, like a service for your house, you’re not necessarily going to pick by price. You’re going to pick the contractor that has the lowest risk—that will get the job done well and on time.”

The executive summary is an opportunity to show our organization in the best light, to demonstrate that we understand our customer’s problems and that we can solve them. It is also a way to highlight how we are better than our competitors, which is not normally something we would discuss in public or social media.

good executive summary

To summarize an executive summary, it’s our offer to the decision makers. The best executive summaries get to the point without the fluff, while speaking effectively to the buyer’s needs.

Which team members write the executive summary?

There is a “should” and a “will” when it comes to RFP response management. Meaning, there are certain team members who should handle the executive summary, but the reality is that the proposal manager will probably end up leading it.

Ideally business development and sales teams should own the executive summary and be supported by SMEs, proposal teams, and senior executives. Due to the hectic schedules of sales—and the deprioritization of RFPs—this task will often be pushed off until the last minute or skipped altogether.

executive summary tips
Fortunately, all is not lost if you are the spirited proposal manager that ends up taking ownership of the executive summary. If you manage your proposals with an RFP software solution, you can easily assign the sections to your team in the order you need them completed.

rfp review process
Your process for the RFP executive summary will look similar to other sections of your RFP response:

  1. Proposal Manager – provides project clarification and involves necessary team members
  2. Sales/Business Development – writes the first draft after understanding the project needs
  3. Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) – offers expertise and adds value to the response
  4. Marketing – polishes content and ensures messaging is aligned with the organization
  5. Senior Executives – gives final review and sign off

When is the best time to write the executive summary?

Commonly the executive summary falls victim to the rushed deadline that comes into play with RFP response. Many organizations will put off the summary until the very end, either because they prioritized other sections or it slipped through the cracks when nobody took ownership.

However, in the APMP webinar, Dick Eassom had a different timing strategy for completing the executive summary. It shouldn’t be the last thing you’re writing, it should be the first—right after you have developed a win strategy as a team.

request for proposal content

The biggest issue with tacking on the executive summary long after completing the other RFP sections is that you will lose a lot of the impact. An executive summary should be the guiding light for your proposal that shapes other sections in your RFP response—not the other way around.

It deserves time and attention, rather than being an afterthought. By prioritizing the executive summary in your process, you’ll build a foundation than anchors the rest of your RFP and makes it stronger.

How long should an executive summary be?

Summary is the key word here. The executive summary needs to be concise and engaging, something that resonates with your audience without being lengthy or repetitive. This is another reason why rushing this part of your RFP response just won’t do.

How do you write a winning executive summary?

You’re trying to win the hearts of your prospects to win a new business. They will notice when something is thrown together, and they will walk away. Spend time developing a win strategy to align your team, then you can define a win theme that answers the question they’re really asking: What’s in it for me?

win themes rfps

Here are some important things to keep in mind to optimize your executive summary:

  • Be relevant to your audience: Personalized messaging is more impactful than a boilerplate version you reuse with every RFP.
  • Know your differentiators: Specify benefits that are appealing to that company alone, versus a features checklist that can be found on your website.
  • Back up your claims: Answer the “so what?” with data that proves the benefits, and skip blanket statements and fabricated metrics that will discredit you.
  • Use simple language: Speak with a clear, relatable tone in your responses that is free from overused jargon or techy lingo that nobody understands.
  • Follow instructions: Give only what is asked of you—no more, no less—to show that you cared enough to listen, and that you’ll be a better long-term partner because of that.

The executive summary has many moving parts. With improved team collaboration, you have the power to rise above the inefficiencies at your company. As with any RFP response, having a solid process in place will save your team time and help you create a higher quality response with more winning potential.

Hit the pause button and rethink your executive summary approach as something that deserves to be prioritized. Try completing it first and see if treating it as the guiding light makes your entire RFP more effective.

Pssst…here’s an RFP executive summary example to help you land your next deal.

How to write executive summary

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