In many companies, proposal and sales teams are stretched to their limits. Even though high-revenue sales requests often arrive via RFP, it’s often easiest to grab those ready-to-close sales leads, even if it means less revenue.
Feature-rich advanced RFP software allows overstretched response management and sales departments to reach for the brass rings—those winnable and profitable RFPs—using significantly fewer employee hours and resources.
If your organization uses dated software or a manual RFP process, or if time constraints prohibit RFP responses altogether, read on to learn about RFP software and how it could benefit your organization.
What is an RFP?
A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that a buyer issues to suppliers that outlines the product or service requirements for procurement. RFPs come in a variety of different formats and narratives (similar to essay questions).
An RFP is the highest form of communication in the procurement process. Most deals are for more than $20,000—often significantly more, like with extra zeros and another comma. They are most common in government, software, insurance, business services, healthcare, and other complex, highly-regulated industries.
Security questionnaires determine whether a vendor (or even the vendor’s vendors) is compliant with the customer’s security requirements. They may include questions about security and privacy, business continuity management, supply chain management, business continuity management, etc. Not surprisingly, security questionnaires are lengthy and complicated, sometimes with hundreds of questions.
Additionally, there are requests for quotes (RFQ)—typically for purchasing goods rather than services—and requests for information (RFI). RFQs, as you might imagine, are about the bottom line, which makes sense when purchasing several gross of industrial screws, but not services that require a more bespoke approach. On the other hand, an RFI might be used to narrow potential suppliers down for future RFP solicitations.
Of course, RFPs often include RFQs, security questionnaires, and RFIs.
What are the objectives of an RFP?
The main objective of an RFP is for organizations to formally announce that they are opening a project for bids. RFPs are more formal and exacting than simple requests for pricing, and they’re typically for larger purchases.
An RFP will describe the needs and expectations of the issuer’s project and create the parameters to compare solutions.
RFPs generally require specific information about regulatory compliance, security, etc. In fact, it helps to think of an RFP response as the precursor to a sales contract and something that would even pass muster with legal departments—and quite often, legal has to approve responses before they’re sent to the customer.
RFPs ask for accurate, compliant, contract-ready answers to customer questions. Compare it to purchasing a house. You might want to know the current state of water or electrical systems, and as part of the presales contract process, the homeowner has to submit the answers in writing. The seller is then legally bound to the accuracy of their answers.
Common problems in the RFP response process
The RFP response is more complex than the uninitiated might think, which is why manual processes only allow for a couple of responses per year. There are a few notable challenges in the RFP response process, including:
The workload – Single RFPs often include hundreds of pages, requiring input from multiple stakeholders. Imagine answering dozens of RFPs per year when you use manual processes!
Content quality – You have one shot at answering an RFP correctly. Content should be centralized, current, and accurate, which requires advanced cataloging.
Collaboration – If an answer isn’t in your content library, the RFP will require collaboration, which means consulting with subject matter experts (SMEs). Having multiple people provide different answers is like herding cats, and extremely difficult without response management.
Detail – RFPs require impeccably detailed and accurate answers using existing knowledge and collaboration from SMEs.
Deadline – RFP deadlines are firm and many responses are time stamped. Missing a deadline by just a few seconds can rule your company out. Response management should keep you on track throughout the response process.
Consistency – An RFP response process should ensure consistent and on-time deliverables.
What are the three levels of RFP software?
There are three levels of RFP software. The first, manual processes, include some software, such as documents, spreadsheets, and a folder tree, but little else. Manual processes are generally acceptable for companies that only respond to a couple of RFPs a year.
I typically refer to the next level of RFP software as “the document suites.” This includes word-processing software composed of essential collaboration tools, content management, templates, and formatting. Document suites are suitable for companies that answer a handful of RFPs each year.
When RFP-based deals are an essential source of revenue, most organizations opt for the third level—a Response Management solution. These solutions help businesses with responses ranging from RFPs to security questionnaires, and offer the most advanced functionality for creating RFPs and managing their workflows. They save time, money, and costly errors through machine learning, robust integrations, and comprehensive and intuitive content management tools.
What are the benefits of RFP software?
RFP software solutions remove most of the above challenges by automating as much as 80% of the response process.
To a harried response manager, RFP software is a game-changer. To their employer, RFP software offers a demonstrably impressive return on investment.
Because RFPs are unique, even when they come from existing customers, and because businesses and regulatory requirements are in near-constant flux, most responses require additional input from SMEs. Through RFP software automation, but still at the response manager’s discretion, the SMEs’ answers will then go into the content library for future use.
Features of Response Management software
RFP solutions are capable solutions designed to help organizations engage with external stakeholders in an efficient, strategic, and consistent manner. They support the process of responding to customers and other stakeholders by leveraging new developments in machine learning and collaborative cloud technology to break down knowledge silos and automate repetitive tasks.
Responding to RFPs is one of the most popular response management use cases, and for this reason, most solutions have been designed to meet the specific needs of proposal managers.
So what are the key features?
Machine learning – With machine learning, you are the teacher. The system learns how you work and how you answer questions, enabling a click-of-a-button response the next time you encounter similar queries.
Scalability – A scalable solution that can grow and adapt to support your company as its operations grow and business needs change
Workflow Automation – Customizable automated workflows and dozens of integrations allow for easy collaboration.
Professional Document Production – Create professional high-fidelity response documents with the correct formatting in just a few keystrokes.
Data insights – Analyzing the efficiency of the RFP response process requires good reporting, including tracking the response team’s progress, the types of responses you’re issuing (and winning), win/loss analysis, etc. You shouldn’t be limited to the data the software designer thinks is important. RFPIO lets you create reports the way you want them. If you use reporting suites, we probably integrate with them too.
Advanced Content Management – RFP software solutions provide enterprise-grade content management to ensure content repositories are current and complete.
The benefits of using RFP software
Has this ever happened to you? The moment you begin reading a proposal request, you experience a sense of déjà vu. It’s not your imagination. You have answered most of these questions before…many times before.
Most of a typical RFP includes relatively standard questions. RFP software automates most of the response process, freeing you to consult with SMEs and coordinate the response process.
RFPIO optimizes workflow by smoothing out the content creation process, establishing workflow roles, providing selective collaboration, curating and cultivating your content library, and letting you spend more time on presentations instead of herding cats.
With RFPIO software, users can rename and customize fields and intake forms, and customize frameworks and business processes. RFPIO software is a tool that fits with your processes instead of the other way around. In fact, RFPIO integrates with more workflow tools than any other response management platform.
The response process can include dozens of stakeholders from multiple departments and time zones. Timely collaboration can be a challenge, but not with RFPIO. RFPIO integrates with most project management and messaging apps, and collaboration is built into RFPIO’s platform.
RFPIO’s collaborative tools allow you to:
- Consolidate project-specific conversations – Never lose track of comment threads again.
- Break down knowledge silos – Each stakeholder on a response has a singular goal…winning the bid! RFPIO allows you to share knowledge with stakeholders as needed, and vice versa.
- Track progress of response completion – See whether the project is running on time and whether each stakeholder is doing their part.
Improved win rates
The average RFP win rate is 45%. Advanced response software uses AI to streamline the response process, which means you have more time to respond to more RFPs and win more bids. Additionally, RFPIO’s Content Library helps improve response quality by suggesting pre-approved answers to most queries, leading to an increased win rate.
Even if your win rate has only nominal gains, you will still produce more revenue because, as with many other things, RFP response is a numbers game. If you have the time to respond to more RFPs, you will have more victories and drive revenue.
“Since implementing RFPIO, we’ve been able to do so much more with the same headcount. We’ve increased efficiency by at least 30-35%. We’ve diverted the effort and time to more value-added activities, creating a win-win both for the organization and the team members”.
–Shashi K, Assistant VP of Content at Genpact
RFPIO’s project management features help expedite response turnaround time, scale response capacity, and facilitate consistent deliverables.
The RFPIO approach
RFPIO is the most advanced RFP solution on the market
Proprietary import and export technology
Most RFPs show up in your inbox as Word or Excel docs. Some appear as PDFs, which less advanced RFP response platforms can’t read. RFPIO simplifies the import/export process, even with PDFs, thereby shortening the response time and delivering accurate, timely, and impressive bids. RFPIO’s industry-leading import/export features include:
- Machine-learning-driven functionality that interprets questionnaires and parses them into components.
- Specific functionality for the import of several standard questionnaire formats (CAIQ, CORL, ILPA, etc.)
- Modern, intuitive UX for guiding our machine learning during import.
Adaptive knowledge library
The most time-consuming part of the response process isn’t strategizing. It isn’t even herding those metaphorical cats. Most of an RFP’s questions have probably been answered before, whether for that customer or others—sometimes several others. Answering those redundant questions is where the bulk of response time lies.
RFPIO’s AI-enhanced Content Library expedites the response process by automatically providing pre-approved answers to those tedious questions with just a few keystrokes. RFPIO’s web-based Content Library includes:
- Auto-suggested answers
- Auto-assigned content to relevant owners
- Intelligent, easy search function
- Cloud-based content storage
RFPIO is scalable and seamlessly integrates with over two dozen of the most popular sales enablement tools, productivity apps, CRMs, cloud storage providers, communication platforms, and SSO authentication software products.
- CRMs – RFPIO integrates with the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) tools, including Salesforce, Hubspot, and several others. Users can start, monitor, and collaborate on projects within the CRM. For example, with the click of a couple of buttons, the RFP goes from Salesforce to RFPIO and puts compliant content at the finger of frontline teams.
- Communication apps – Distributed workforces have made communication apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams a modern necessity. RFPIO functions within those apps to keep teams aligned and projects on track.
- Cloud Storage – RFPIO integrates with Google Drive, Google Cloud, Sharepoint, OneDrive, etc., so all documents can be stored in the cloud.
- SSO authentication – Users can log into RFPIO through Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, Okta, or OneLogin.
- Vendor assessment – RFPIO teams with Whistic to seamlessly import third-party vendor security questionnaires.
- Browser extensions – Stakeholders can access the company content library directly through Chromium Edge or Google Chrome.
- Productivity – RFPIO users can search, import, and export using productivity tools such as Google Docs and Microsoft Suite applications.
- Sales enablement – Two-way RFPIO integrations with Seismic and Highspot allow users to import and export collateral, spreadsheets, diagrams, etc. between apps, and improve collaboration between sales, presales, and executives.
Robust project management tools
RFPIO’s management solution alleviates common challenges in meeting deadlines with better workflow assessment, even with distributed workforces. RFPIO Project management capabilities include:
- Trend analytics – Using insightful at-a-glance dashboards, built-in analytics allows users to analyze time and resources dedicated to an RFP, and track which questions are answered manually or through the content library.
- Task management – RFPIO breaks projects into bite-sized pieces and helps project managers assign tasks to those who aren’t buried under other responsibilities, and track progress.
- Review cycles – Multiple stakeholder RFPs should have multiple stakeholder review processes. RFPIO allows companies to set up review cycles on questions, sections, or the entire RFP.
Deliver better proposals with RFP software
If your team is reluctant to respond to even winnable RFPs because of a lack of time and resources, or if your RFP win rate is less than impressive, it’s worth a few minutes to learn more about RFPIO’s time-saving and bid-winning response management software.