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Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Much like a human, every RFP is different. However, from an anatomical perspective, there are also similarities. Each RFP response […]


Category: Tag: RFP Response

Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Much like a human, every RFP is different. However, from an anatomical perspective, there are also similarities. Each RFP response your team creates will impact your organization’s win potential. Knowing how to respond to an RFP effectively can increase your chances of landing a deal.

By no means an extensive list of every question that you will encounter as an RFP responder, we picked a few RFP questions and themes to explore. The goal is to help you know what’s coming ahead of time, so you are more prepared with a stronger foundation.

By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll understand that:

  1. Timing is the main difference between an RFP, RFI, and RFQ
  2. There is an effective way and an ineffective way to respond to an RFP
  3. Understanding the anatomy of an RFP helps you create stronger responses
  4. Team success happens by combining process with technology

Once you’ve completed this “lesson,” you’ll have the necessary anatomical background to respond to RFP questions with precision. And, you’ll also understand why RFP software is the primary set of tools you need to operate.

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

It’s true…a lot of acronyms get thrown around during the sales cycle. You need to know how to respond well to each request, so you have a better chance of making it to the next part of the process—and eventually, that happy day when you close the deal.

The difference between an RFP (Request for Proposal), RFI (Request for Information), and RFQ (Request for Quote) involves timing during the sales process. An RFP is issued early on when Company A needs a diverse, in-depth set of information about Company B to aid their vendor selection process. An RFI or RFQ occurs later when Company A needs additional information or specific requirements beyond the RFP.

RFP (Request for Proposal)

While RFI and RFQ can be classified together, an RFP is really in a category of its own. This document is typically lengthier than an RFI or RFQ, because it stirs up anything you can possibly think of that relates to your organization. Pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators…phew! We’re barely scratching the surface here. And you as the RFP responder must tackle ALL of these questions.

RFI (Request for Information) and RFQ (Request for Quote)

An RFI and RFQ can be classified together in regards to sales process timing. They usually show up later when an organization is close to making a final decision. This might happen after you’ve completed an RFP. Or, if you skipped responding to an RFP because you already made it to the final stage of the selection process, you may see an RFI or RFQ at that point instead.

Still with us? It’s time for the bonus acronym round…

DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire)

Similar to an RFI, a DDQ arrives much later in the sales process. In fact, it might even come after they’ve selected you as a vendor when they haven’t signed agreements yet and they’re doing their final due diligence. This document inquires about a few hyper-specific points as part of their standard company protocol.

RFx (Request for…)

An RFx is a term for the entire “request for” family of documents. This is important to know if you’re looking for technology like RFP software to help you respond to multiple documents. When you need to handle the entire family of possible requests, a solution like RFPIO can help you with these variations.

How to respond to an RFP effectively

Now that you feel confident about the definition of these wonderful sales acronyms, you have a better idea about which document will be coming your way—and when. As you can tell, of the potential request documents that might be issued to your organization, the RFP will likely require the most effort.

So, the question is: Do you know how to respond to an RFP? There’s really an effective way and an ineffective way to respond to an RFP.

The effective way to respond to an RFP

  1. Exceptional teamwork happens with every RFP project.
  2. Communication is clear and easy for all contributors.
  3. A documented RFP process serves as the anchor for your team.
  4. Content is easily accessible in an answer library.
  5. The answer library is always relevant to ensure quality.
  6. There is plenty of time to spare before the deadline.
  7. Branding and messaging is on point every time.
  8. A healthy percentage of these RFPs result in business won.

The ineffective way to respond to an RFP

  1. Teams and departments work in distinct silos.
  2. SMEs feel frustrated to contribute because of inefficiencies.
  3. Nobody owns the RFP response process.
  4. Responders can’t find content when they need it.
  5. Spreadsheets, emails, and online folders “store” historic responses.
  6. RFP contributors work after hours and weekends to meet deadlines.
  7. Inconsistent fonts and language are compromising the deliverable.
  8. A high percentage of these RFPs result in business lost.

The effective way is made possible with both a great internal process and technology that offers continued support. The ineffective way is the result of a manual RFP response approach where a lack of direction, process, and accessibility cause great inefficiencies.

Teams using RFP software experience a much more streamlined process. They not only cut their response time down, they also improve the quality of the responses to win more deals. Yet, only 16% of organizations are using RFP software to support their efforts.

This is a disservice to busy teams, who can benefit from a tool that helps them manage a lengthy document like an RFP. As we dig into the anatomy of an RFP, it’s easy to see just how many sections there are to handle—and how technology is really the right move here.

Understand the anatomy of an RFP response

Ready for your RFP anatomy lesson? From “head to toe,” here are some questions you will likely come across in an RFP.

Your homework as a responder is to familiarize yourself with the nuances of an RFP, so you can pass your prospect’s test with flying colors. Analogies aside, understanding these different questions and themes will help you craft stronger responses to win the next opportunity.

Company Information

“27% rated project management flow during the content creation process as ‘fair,’ revealing that some projects moved along efficiently but they faced bottlenecks.” – Content Marketing Institute

Though it may seem like a basic part of an RFP response, company information can be tough for teams. This content includes all of the foundational pieces for your organization: company name, address, annual revenue, employee count, website URL, year founded, etc.

While HQ’s address is an easy one, the employee count is not. Depending on company growth the number of employees might change dramatically every year or even every quarter. RFP software automates this basic content in your answer library, ensuring the most accurate information is on-hand for team members.

Executive Summary

Responding to an executive summary is tricky in an RFP, but it’s also one of the factors that affects your organization’s chances of winning. Though usually an optional section, this particular content section allows you to stand out by adding some flavor to your deliverable.

All too often responders mix up the RFP executive summary with the cover letter—but they are two distinct sections. An executive summary is high-level content that covers the issuer’s challenges, and demonstrates how your solution will help. While a cover letter is more of a conversational introduction that mentions your reason for responding and what you are providing in your RFP response.

Need a cheat sheet for your next RFP executive summary? Enjoy…

Competitive Differentiators

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

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

Speaking of competitors…a generic RFP response to this particular question will only benefit your competitors dazzling the issuer with a great response. Instead of using jargon-y adjectives that everyone else uses, focus on demonstrating the value your solution provides.

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

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

Our Approach

The approach question is a seemingly straightforward inquiry. However, similar to competitive differentiators, this is another RFP response that teams struggle to execute well.

If someone were to ask who you are as a person, how would you answer them? You might go with a safe answer about your line of work and what you do. Or, you might share a little bit about what you value and believe in. There is no right or wrong way to answer this, because you are made up of all of these things.

When you respond to the approach question of an RFP, think about who your organization is along with what you do. Explain your methodology and how your solution benefits your customers. Also demonstrate why you do what you do to show your greater purpose behind offering the solution.

Branding

How does content impact an RFP response? Majorly. Which is why marketing teams often own this piece. Branding isn’t a specific question per say, but more about how the final RFP deliverable is presented. Messaging, font style, and any visual design must align with your brand.

Due to the collaborative nature of RFP responses, you end up with many voices and styles from SMEs who don’t always have their pulse on branding guidelines. Random fonts and bullet points combine with an ancient logo from eight years ago for a big design headache. Technical jargon makes sense to the expert, but isn’t engaging for the issuer reading the response.

To achieve a consistent look and feel when it’s time to wrap up the RFP project, manually fixing the branding bloopers can cost marketing a lot of time. RFP software helps teams save hours during the export process with templates that ensure consistency for a higher quality deliverable.

Learn How RFP Software Empowers the High-Performing Marketer

rfp response marketing

Security

Security is a concern for modern organizations and this topic is becoming more and more common in RFPs. You will either need to address your internal processes by responding to a specific section of the RFP or you may need to respond to a separate security questionnaire. It’s also quite possible that you will do all of the above.

A security questionnaire might arrive at the same time as an RFP, or along with the DDQ if you’re further along in the vendor selection process. Depending on your industry, a security questionnaire might have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand questions.

security questionnaire template

RFP software supports teams who are responding to these massive spreadsheets. Auto-response fills in the majority of questions from the start of the project. A template designed for even the largest Security Questionnaires imports the content in a single click. Technology makes a big difference in time-savings and providing the most accurate responses.

Pricing

To share pricing or to not share pricing…that is the question. As an RFP responder, you must answer this one way or another. There is a strategic decision to be made about pricing depending on many factors.

If you provide pricing in your RFP response upfront, you have less control over the conversation around pricing. Negotiation and discussion are replaced by numbers on a page. So, you might decide to hold off on providing pricing until you have advanced further in the RFP response process.

Like anything else, as long as you show the value of your product or service, the pricing should not disqualify you. In this case, you could get away with maneuvering around this question by sharing benefits of your pricing model without getting into exact numbers. It’s really up to your organization on this one, and you could test RFP responses over time to see if the price reveal is working for you or against you.

Support / Customer Service

Today’s buyer has many, many choices. When they choose your solution, they want to make sure they have a partner who will stick around to offer support long after the purchase. Your response is an opportunity to make your organization stand out as the obvious partner.

This is a great time to take advantage of subject matter experts from your appropriate service department to clearly explain these benefits. Do you have a help center where they are able to self-educate? Do you offer onboarding sessions and in-depth webinars to ensure they start and continue on the right path? When you respond to this question, you can highlight your service in a number of ways.

More powerful than your voice is the voice of your customer. So, another good move is to share validation from your happy customers. This could be a review or customer success story that covers the positive experience they had while working with you. Like this one…

“RFPIO’s customer service is amazing! Between weekly training and addressing questions with platform improvements in a matter of days, onboarding has been a pleasure rather than a chore.” – Lauren Daitz, Senior Manager at HALO Recognition

Including a great review can make a big impact with an issuer. All of your competitors are answering this same question—and they might be answering it the same boring way, with a generic rundown. Play to your strengths and to their emotions with a little storytelling.

Legal

With RFP responses, your legal team will be involved at some point. Specific wording must be used to stay in line with certain legalities. Legal might come in during the review process or to answer legal questions.

Collaboration with your legal team is much easier with RFP software. There is always a healthy amount of redlining in Google and Word docs when legal chimes in with feedback. This can all be handled within a solution to make communication and finalization easier on everyone.

Past responses that are “legal team approved” can be stored in your answer library as well to populate responses with correct information. That way legal only has to perform a quick review rather than repeating themselves every time a similar question arises.

General Requirements / Situational Requirements

Speaking of repetition, general requirements are the questions you have answered thousands of times on every other RFP for your product or service. They can be disqualifiers or “knock-out” questions you plow through quickly.

On the other hand, situational requirements are gaining popularity with RFPs. With these questions you respond to a scenario, rather than just saying “yes” or “we have this feature.” The issuer might spell out a problem and ask you the following:

  • How would your software handle this situation?
  • How would your solution solve this problem?
  • How would your approach alleviate this issue?

…no pressure, right?

Situational requirements require a thoughtful response that demonstrate how your solution is the right choice for them. As such, they take more time to craft and refine. These responses should reinforce some of the strongest parts from your competitive differentiators and approach.

Again, RFP software is highly useful for knocking both general requirements and situational requirements out of the park. All content is already stored in the answer library. Search functionality helps you select the most relevant response in seconds, versus endlessly digging through emails and folders—or rounding up a committee of SMEs and marketing to constantly create fresh content.

Combine a great RFP response process with technology

Nice work, RFP responder! You made it through your RFP response anatomy lesson. We hope you feel more confident about the next RFP that lands in your inbox.

By combining a great RFP response process with technology, your team will submit a quality deliverable that has a higher potential to land the deal. And, it will all happen in less time so you and your team can operate with greater precision and move on to other priorities.

Ready to improve RFP response operations? Reach out and we’ll show you how RFPIO can help you manage everything.

How intelligent RFP search saves valuable time for salespeople

How intelligent RFP search saves valuable time for salespeople

Sales enablement tools have become a household name. It’s no longer a question of whether or not your team needs these tools. It’s a question of how to use these tools effectively throughout every aspect of the sales cycle.

20% of lost deals are caused by internal complexity within sales organizations, according to Gartner. One of the biggest obstacles for sales teams to overcome involves their longtime manual process of responding to RFPs.

Searching for ways to protect the time of your sales team? Look no further than RFP software. This sales enablement solution offers intelligent RFP search so you can optimize your responses and your resources.

The high cost of searching manually for RFP responses

Finding response content is a top challenge for busy teams. Every day salespeople spend valuable time hunting around spreadsheets, docs, folders, and emails for response content. This manual RFP response process is costing organizations from both a time and resource perspective.

Let’s say your team responds to 50 RFPs annually. By bringing in a sales enablement tool like RFP software, you can automate many of the tasks your team completes manually today. Annual savings would amount to nearly $57,600 or 480 hours. Much of that effort is being spent searching for previous RFP response content.

If you put your own numbers into our ROI calculator, in seconds you will see how much your sales organization would save through RFP automation.

RFP software is a dedicated sales enablement tool for responders. The solution addresses the common challenge of content accessibility by delivering intelligent RFP search functionality. When you quickly find the content you need, your most valuable resources will save time and be able to focus on other priorities.

RFPIO search commands that save valuable time

An easy way to understand search capabilities within a solution like RFPIO is to think about the way you use Google to find information. The majority of Google searches involve a simple phrase or question. But, did you know there are handy search commands you can use to find specific information even faster?

Called search operators (aka search commands or advanced operators), these special characters and commands extend the capabilities of ordinary text searches. Typically, search operators are used by more advanced Google users—like SEO experts.

With RFP software, search commands are very often underutilized. Because we know just how valuable your time is, here are several RFPIO search commands that will help you better optimize your searches during the RFP response process.

1. Combination search

Combination search is the most commonly used search command by RFPIO users. This search allows you to find response content using a combination of terms—you can have either/or, both, or exclusions.

Let’s say you search for multiple keywords, such as “technical” and “architecture.” Use these all-caps search commands and RFPIO will serve up the most relevant responses from your RFP answer library:

  • OR – technical OR architecture
  • AND – technical AND architecture
  • NOT – technical NOT architecture

2. Phrase search

The second most commonly used search command is phrase search. This command is simply where you add quotations around a specific phrase you want to find in your answer library response content.

The search command would look like this:

  • “technical architecture”

“Technical” might be the first word and “architecture” might be the twentieth word. Phrase search automatically pulls these words together to find entire RFP response sections with these two words.

3. Proximity search

Now we get into search commands that are rarely used—with the exception of advanced RFPIO users. Proximity search is similar to phrase search, except that you get even more specific about the proximity or distance between words.

The search command would look like this:

  • “technical architecture”~5

In this search command example, the ~5 means that “technical” and “architecture” are no more than 5 words away from each other. If there are too many words in between the searched keywords, the response would not show up.

4. Stemming

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things in a Word or Google doc is not automatically finding different variations after searching for a root word. In RFPIO, stemming is a default search functionality that shows documents with variations on a root word.

If you search for “correspond,” you will find documents that also include word variations, such as “correspondence” and “corresponding.” Stemming search technology makes finding related words much easier.

The search command would look like this:

  • “correspond”

…and, that’s all you have to do. Since this is a default search setting, RFPIO will show documents that contain the root word and any word variations.

5. Faceted (or filter) search

Faceted (or filter) search is something you already use when you’re shopping on Amazon. For filtering, you might use the sidebar to filter by ratings of 4 stars and above. Faceting is similar to filtering. On Amazon, it asks you if you want to see products by brand (Apple, Sony, etc.)

The search command involves:

  • Check boxes to filter.

In RFPIO, a faceted/filter search will help you get the best RFP response based on your selected filters. As long as you properly organize your answer library responses by collections, tags, project names, owners, admins, and other customizable categories, simply drill down to find hyper-specific content.

6. Star ratings

Your star content is your team’s favorite RFP response content—these responses are rated manually by your team and/or chosen by the common usage of the content (i.e. responses used more than 5 times).

The search command involves:

  • Sort by star rating.

Sorting by star rating, such as 3 stars and above, means you can find the cream of the crop through a quick selection.

Internal complexity within your sales organization will only keep you from reaching annual objectives. Sales enablement tools like RFPIO support you and your team throughout the sales cycle. Modernize, automate, and simplify…then, nothing will stand in your way when a big opportunity comes along.

What a response management platform can do for your revenue team

What a response management platform can do for your revenue team

The beginning of the year is a time for new beginnings. You and your team have a clean slate, a whole year ahead to meet your revenue objectives. You’re evaluating your internal processes to find gaps and opportunities, so you can achieve those goals. Response management is likely one of those internal processes you’re investigating.

Since we started RFPIO four years ago, we have been on a mission to help RFP responders succeed. We have been a leader in this relatively new technological space, one of the first to bring efficiency to responders who had lived with a manual approach to everyday business.

As we move into a new year, we are redefining the way our solution supports everyone across the organization. Though our origins are rooted in helping teams respond to RFPs, what we began to notice along the way was the many use cases for our software.

To support you and your revenue team, let’s look at the vast potential of a response management platform like RFPIO. You’ll walk away with a more strategic approach to response management.

What is a response management platform?

A response management platform is cloud-based software that helps revenue teams respond to queries from clients and prospects with maximum efficiency. Teams experience higher levels of productivity and results by centralizing content and facilitating collaboration among stakeholders.

RFPIO is the leading solution in response management, having pioneered the most advanced technology for RFP responders over the past three years. With process and technology improvements, responders are able to create higher quality responses and additional revenue opportunities.

RFP software vs. response management platform

RFP software is fairly one dimensional in that responding to RFPs is the primary use case. With a response management platform, the technology supports many use cases. Content can be repurposed for responding to a multitude of business queries—RFx (RFP, RFI, etc.), statements of work (SOW), security questionnaires, CAIQ and grants.

In addition, organizations who think outside the box use the platform to store anything from sales follow-up email templates to onboarding materials. Content is engrained in all of our business processes. A response management platform helps you organize, store, and execute from a single source of truth.

A response management platform like RFPIO:

  • Is cloud-based, so you don’t have to navigate a maze of documents and folders—and find ways to store your content.
  • Uses patented import technology and exports back into templates and originals files to start and finish each project smoothly.
  • Includes a dynamic answer library, which serves as the hub for all of your organization’s content and company information.
  • Has an AI-powered content recommendation engine that makes finding your best responses easier.
  • Offers bi-directional integrations with your team’s favorite technologies, along with an open API, so everyone and everything is connected.
  • Allows you to search, select, and store answer library content across all web pages and applications through a Google Chrome extension called RFPIO Lookup.
  • Brings clear and instant visibility with reports and dashboards that help you track project status and progress and discover insights to make data-driven decisions.
  • Helps you respond to ANY type of query faster.

Let’s say you are a sales manager at an enterprise technology company with a high stakes deal on the table. The prospect you’ve been working with sends you a large security questionnaire, along with a DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire) that you must turn around by the end of the week.

Resources are spread very thin right now. You must complete the majority of the questionnaire on your own and engage subject matter experts (SMEs) sparingly. You have several new deals in the works that require your constant attention. You’re not sure how you’ll pull this DDQ and security questionnaire off before the deadline while keeping other opportunities on the right track.

A response management platform allows you to manage multiple queries at once. You can handle the entire family of possible requests during the sales process—the RFP (Request for Proposal), RFI (Request for Information), or DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire).

For the security questionnaire, use bulk answering to knock out sections at a time then call in your SME to fill in gaps and sign off. While all of this deal is in motion, you continue to nurture other prospects using RFPIO’s answer library to populate follow-up emails with relevant communication and high-performing sales content.

You submit everything with time to spare and keep moving other deals forward. That’s the difference between a response management platform and RFP software. This technology supports you throughout every stage of the deal. And, it’s there whenever you need support for other business queries that come up.

Strategic response management across revenue teams

Today’s revenue team isn’t the sales team alone. Revenue teams include sales, marketing, support, and customer success. To improve response management across revenue teams, it is equal parts process and technology.

Creating a great process is always step one. What we find is that even with the best technology, teams need to be united by a strategy in order to maximize the features and capabilities of the very technology their organization invests in. We recently created a user adoption strategy to help.

If you are leading the charge with user adoption, it’s important to know the benefits of the software and how one solution can be used in multiple scenarios and initiatives. Below we have outlined the many use cases of our response management solution.

This breakdown will help you understand the diverse capabilities of RFPIO. If you are an existing client, you will find new ways of using the solution. If you are searching for a comprehensive content management platform, you will see the many possibilities that will exceed your organization’s response and query needs.

RFx

RFPIO can be used for any RFx project. This includes an RFP (request for proposal), RFI (Request for Information), RFQ (Request for Quote), or a DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire). Some or all of these RFx documents come and go throughout the sales process.

Our response management platform allows you to respond to any of these documents in a collaborative ecosystem, making the process easier and efficient for your organization’s many contributors.

Security Questionnaires

A security questionnaire comes in many forms – Security Questionnaires Lite (Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaires), VSAQ (Vendor Security Assessment Questionnaire), CAIQ (Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire), and VSA (Vendor Security Alliance Questionnaire), NIST 800-171 (National Institute of Standards and Technology Questionnaire
CIS Controls).

One thing they all have in common? They are complex and time-consuming, without the right tools.

RFPIO greatly reduces completion time for buys teams, with auto-response and bulk answering doing the majority of the work upfront. This extra time allows teams to perform their due diligence with accurate responses that meet the issuer’s requirements.

After the responses are ready, teams export responses back into the original sources with clean data, eliminating the need to wrestle with editing and formatting.

Marketing Content

Often marketing teams think their involvement with a response management platform is limited to the RFx process. They come in at the end to perform a buff and polish, to prepare the deliverable.

Because RFPIO is a content management platform at its core, marketing teams can use the solution to store and create content, such as—brand guidelines, testimonials, press releases, and award submissions.

SOWs

To present the scope for a highly complex project, a response management platform is extremely useful for SOWs. Rather than using various documents and spreadsheets to piecemeal sections together, section templates offer standard content that can be reused and customized.

From content creation to the review process, the SOW workflow is easier when everyone has one tool to operate inside.

Grants

Time is money for any business, especially a non-profit who needs to stretch their budget and resources. With grant writing, teams strengthen their content by using the answer library to search and select the latest stats and financials.

Often sign-off from an executive or board of directors is needed with grants, and sequential reviewing clarifies the chain-of-command throughout this completion process.

Onboarding

RFPIO allows unlimited users within the platform, promoting wide-scale adoption throughout various departments, including human resources, support, and customer success teams. Because very little training is required, all teams can jump into the tool and customize it for their needs.

Organizations often use the solution to support their hiring efforts, as the content repository simplifies the constant need to add and update onboarding content. The same applies to support and customer success team members who need to be quickly brought up to speed.

Discovery Calls

Since RFPIO offers a single source of truth, sales teams lean on the power of the answer library every day for many other tasks outside of responding to RFx documents. An SDR can keep RFPIO open on his or her computer screen during discovery calls to find any company or product information immediately.

This ability makes sales teams nimble and confident during the discovery process. The prospect leaves the call informed and interested.

Proactive Proposals

To sell within a highly competitive industry, sales teams will sometimes turn to proactive proposals to beat their competition to the punch. Minimal effort is needed to pull together a proactive proposal within our response management platform.

Sales teams use the top content feature to select the best responses, then export everything into a branded, cleanly formatted template.

Sales Emails

The need for speed is perhaps the motto for any salesperson completing sales-related tasks. RFPIO Lookup recommends email content to help sales teams answer prospect questions.

When using a Google Chrome browser, this feature allows sales to access responses across web pages and applications. They grab the information they need and include it within the email, without losing time to hunt down the answer.

Knowledge Sharing

It would behoove us not to mention knowledge sharing as a whole. RFPIO’s answer library serves as the single source of truth for the entire revenue team: sales, marketing, support, and customer success.

Information silos disrupt your response workflow. Foundational company knowledge ends up in a variety of documents, from visual slide decks to data-heavy spreadsheets—stored on shared drives and folders. Rather than team members feeling they can’t access the information they need, RFPIO makes all necessary content available and ready so everyone can do their best work.

I always like to say: “Recycle, reuse, don’t reinvent.” A response management platform allows you to put this mantra into action, so your organization spends more time on refinement and less time on repetition. With this advancement in your response process, your team will produce quality content that results in opportunities, revenue, alignment, and teamwork.

Start your year off with a strategic approach to response management. Schedule a demo of RFPIO.

How to create a great RFP response process

How to create a great RFP response process

You’ve heard of RFPs and you’ve heard of responding to RFPs, but did you know there is a much better way to approach them? Life doesn’t have to be a fire drill for you as an RFP responder. All you need to do is create an RFP response process.

Look at the many types of processes you have at your organization today. Seems like we have a process for everything, right? Especially when it comes to sales, having a defined strategy is necessary for our survival. Yet for some reason, we don’t take the time and give RFPs the same level of attention. And, we end up feeling pretty lost without that process. An RFP arrives, and we are stuck in this reactive cycle when we could be more proactive.

At RFPIO, we hear this story all the time from customers who come to us looking for guidance. Today we’re helping you build your RFP response process, based on what we’ve seen working for other RFP responders. Ready to be more proactive with your RFP response process? Follow these RFP process steps to build a collaborative workflow with your team.

What is an RFP response process?

An RFP response process is an efficient workflow which clarifies roles, responsibilities, and timelines to help an organization meet the issuer’s deadline. A great RFP response process is practiced by the entire team. RFP contributors come together to build the process, and they follow it consistently.

The process covers who the key RFP contributors are and how they will respond to each question on time, with the goal of winning new business. An RFP response process doesn’t work without great people backing that process. The most successful organizations collaborate throughout the RFP project under a clear set of guidelines. Which is why—if you haven’t yet—it’s time to sit down with your team and hash out your RFP process steps.

RFP process steps for efficient RFP responses

For starters…get the RFP process steps down on paper. You have plenty of one-sheets for everything else—now it’s time to develop a strategy that covers your organization’s unique RFP response process. During this exercise, you will cover the internal workflow needed to respond to an RFP. Here is an example of RFP process steps you can follow:

  1. RFP Issued – Review RFP requirements, then assemble your response management team and schedule a kick-off meeting.
  2. Ready Forms – Fill out required forms (i.e. NDA), get approvals and signatures from stakeholders, and attach to the RFP.
  3. Respond to RFP – Repurpose past responses and tailor content—assign questions/sections to SMEs to ensure accuracy.
  4. Review / Revise RFP – Conduct internal reviews to produce a high-quality deliverable, engaging Marketing for final content approval.
  5. Submit RFP – Deliver RFP with supporting materials—follow up to confirm receipt and send a status report to internal stakeholders.
  6. Save / Audit RFP Responses – Save finalized responses in a centralized location (i.e. answer library) and commit to regular content audits.

Collaboration is the theme of any successful RFP response process. Even if you have a proposal manager running the show, you’ll walk away with a better strategy by bringing in more diversity from your team. Instead of one proposal manager typing this one-sheet up in a corner, call a meeting and have a focused brainstorming session. Invite a mixture of sales, marketing, customer success, executives, and subject matter experts (SMEs) to contribute to the process.

Who is involved in the RFP response process?

Since an RFP represents a significant dollar value in revenue for your business, RFP response should be approached with a collaborative strategy. Having the right team in place makes a huge difference. If you have a process laid out without clarifying these roles, confusion will follow and things will slip through the cracks.

Companies experience positive results when key individuals own RFP process steps. Responding to RFPs requires multiple people in different roles and departments who contribute diverse viewpoints and expertise.

High-performing RFPs typically includes expert contributions from SMEs, salespeople, finance, legal, and IT. RFP responses are then reviewed and polished by bid writers, proposal managers, and marketing team members. Finally, approval comes from executive stakeholders. The idea is to produce compelling RFP responses that beat your competition. It truly takes a village working together to respond to RFPs effectively.

Strengthen your RFP response process with RFP software

RFP software is a stand-alone solution that helps RFP responders dramatically improve the way they manage and process RFPs. Responding to RFPs takes time and resources. On average, we’ve seen responders cut their response time in half with RFPIO.

The happiest teams we know practice a consistent RFP response process and maximize RFPIO features. For example, assigning reviewers sequentially ensure the deliverable is polished with the highest quality responses for each section. A proposal manager simply assigns users within the solution, so the timing of each task is clear for everyone.

Try reviewing an RFP with thousands of questions by email. Yeah…it requires a ton of back-and-forth which takes extra time your team doesn’t have in the first place. You can certainly respond to RFPs without software, assuming you have a rock-solid approach that is humming along without inefficiencies. However, when you combine a strong process with RFP response software, progress will come.

Transform your Finserv role with an improved RFP response process

Transform your Finserv role with an improved RFP response process

Unlike tech-savvy software organizations who have been around for a decade or two, many financial services companies have existed for a century—well before planes flew in the sky. And some processes are as old as the company.

Thankfully, World Wide Technology reported that 2019 is the year when we will see a push towards massive workload migration to the cloud, with figures from 20% to 50% advertised by various banks. This push will trigger significant investment in automation, security, and cloud management.

Whether a financial services organization focuses on the B2C or the B2B space, challenges are synonymous in both sectors for a subject matter expert. By staying dedicated to your RFP response process, you’ll start to see transformational growth.

Challenges B2C and B2B financial services experience

Lester Leong is the VP of Data Science & Strategic Planning at Wells Fargo. As a subject matter expert, his field blends data science and corporate finance. The top 3 challenges Lester sees SMEs face at financial services organizations are:

  1. Digital transformation – The process of breaking data silos and combining data from all parts of the company is a strategic endeavor that takes anywhere from a few months to a few years to accomplish.
  2. Organizational buy-in – Change comes from the top-down. Leaders of the organization must be committed to sharing data in fostering further insight and innovation.
  3. Putting the user first – In the cutting edge of data science, teams must always keep the user needs in mind—and how their products help the top or bottom line.

Dan Salva is the Co-Founder of Will & Grail and a subject matter expert who has written for financial services companies for over three decades. The top 3 challenges Dan sees SMEs face at financial services organizations are:

  1. Complicated products and services – Having expertise on the subject is just half the battle. A valuable SME knows how to make content easy to understand and relatable.
  2. Inward-focused organization – The Finserv industry is a laggard in customer experience. A valuable SME focuses on customer experience and knows how to present the organization’s offering in a customer-focused manner.
  3. Navigating compliance – A valuable SME knows how to navigate the tricky waters of compliance, sometimes even collaborating with compliance teams to reach an optimal solution.

Transformation through your RFP response process

Although B2C and B2B organizational challenges are typically separate schools of thoughts, the SME challenges Lester and Dan shared are synonymous for most financial services RFPs. Transformation can occur through multiple facets of the organization, including your RFP response process.

Digital transformation

Part of digital transformation is using technology to meet customer expectations and stay ahead of your competition. Another part is being able to disseminate and share information, which is a common uphill battle with RFP responses. You and your team need to find and source that content, then manage and execute it effectively.

Organizational buy-in

Subject matter experts are the frontline RFP responders. Every day you’re digging into the trenches and fighting to find new solutions. Organizational buy-in starts with the team on the frontline. Then, you turn to the leaders in your organization to get them to sponsor your ideas, whether that’s a better process or new technology, like RFP software.

Putting the user first

Revenue earnings of the company depend on putting the customer first in your process. As the subject matter expert, your focus is always to put the user first. Your end goal is the satisfaction of the user, because that’s what drives revenue. The person who is happy is the person who is buying.

15 RFP responders explain how to craft a winning RFP response

15 RFP responders explain how to craft a winning RFP response

RFP responders and issuers spend a lot of time in a world of documents that determine important business outcomes. Rarely do these professionals speak candidly with one another about the RFP response process—which is why we brought both parties together here on The RFPIO Blog.

Recently 10 RFP issuers revealed their definition of a standout RFP response. This time we asked RFP responders to chime in with what it takes to craft a winning response. Enjoy this insightful content advice from 15 RFP responders in the trenches.

Content advice from RFP responders in the trenches

Brian Fleming, General Counsel and Proposal Management Specialist at CaseWorthy

It starts with an excellent executive summary. Know exactly what the client is struggling with (current state) and what they seek to accomplish with the procurement (future state). The executive summary should have a simple structure that addresses how the vendor’s solution will not only accomplish the future state but exceed even the loftiest of future state aspirations.

The rest of the proposal should use the executive summary as a jumping off point for explaining how the vendor’s solution will be the best choice, all the while erring on the side of brevity and responsiveness with the supplemental strategies needed to win the deal.


Hope Sutton, Marketing Communication Coordinator at Alera Group

Excellent RFPs are driven by personalization. From the cover page to the content inside, the entire RFP needs to be prospect/client centric. Going the extra mile to show the company that you are tailoring your approach to their needs is a must in today’s competitive market.


David Rynne, Presales Global Content Specialist at Basware

A well-executed executive summary is like a good subject headline. Your executive summary must be personalized for your buyer personas with solutions to their unique challenges, or else it doesn’t give the prospect a reason to read further.

The executive summary is there to position your company as a problem solver that offers multiple benefits and value. The rest of the RFP is structured the same—and reiterates the bullet points of the executive summary, but in more detail.


Erica Taylor, Co-Founding Partner at TINSEL Experiential Design

  • Provide a working project timeline to the clients, which demonstrates the feasibility of your team’s involvement and insight into your team’s process, systems, and action steps.
  • Re-articulate KPIs and success metrics—if applicable, include other measurable data points that might be valuable and prove the ROI of the project.
  • Whether it’s requested or not, share other projects and case studies with proof points that share the same aesthetic style or scope. This helps clients feel secure in the fact that you have the experience and expertise needed to get the job done.
  • Include a section to reflect open questions, which demonstrates that you are thinking deeply and analytically about the project proposed in the RFP.

Tyler Sweatt, Managing Partner at Future Tense

Context and clarity will set your RFP responses apart. Too many organizations respond to RFPs with canned marketing language and limited substance, making evaluation and differentiation extremely difficult.

Contextualize your response to the actual challenges the organization you’re responding to is facing. Show them you understand how your solution must fit into their environment. Make it clear that your solution or approach is credible and relevant through cases studies or supporting data.


Frank Oelschlager, Partner/Managing Director at Ten Mile Square Technologies

To make an RFP response truly stand out, it must not only meet the bar for completeness, content quality, and qualifications—it must also provide detail into both “the what” and “the how.”

The best way to offer this detail is by directly connecting the proposed solution to the various parts of the problem statement and requirements laid out in the RFP. Create a narrative that allows the buyer to visualize their success as a result of your partnership.


Greg Githens, Author at Catalyst & Cadre

The strategic thinking micro skill of empathy is critical to a good response. Make your potential client the hero of the story. Show that you have an adequate understanding of the client and their business environment. Imagine the RFP issuer reading your proposal with a compliance matrix next to them, where they first evaluate whether you understand their needs then how well your offer fits.


Walter Wise, CEO at The BPI Strategy Group

Respond to every requirement, providing the exact information requested, using the format that was requested. Write in layman’s terms, typically 10th to 11th grade level, as that is easy to understand by the evaluators. I don’t use fancy covers, but I do use Johnson Boxes and specific proposal graphics when practical.


Ingrid Christensen, President at INGCO International

  • Give yourself enough time. It usually takes double the amount of time to prepare a quality response than you estimated.
  • Research who is on the decision-making panel and figure out their pain points. Customize your proposal to hit all the details requested in the RFP and tailor your communication to address all pain points.
  • Take time to read, reread, and reread again. Make sure you have several team members review the entire document.
  • Deliver at least a day early. You don’t want all of your hard work to go down the drain because your RFP didn’t arrive on time.

Rafe Gomez, Co-owner at VC Inc. Marketing

Don’t feature verbose, unnecessary, or extraneous components that make absolutely no sense from a selling perspective. You don’t need to tell the whole story—just tell enough to hook your prospect. By describing the exclusive benefits your organization can deliver as quickly, concisely, and convincingly as possible…you’ll have greater potential to win the deal.


Diane Callihan, President at Callihan Content Creation

I always feel a bit sorry for the person who has to wade through a number of RFP responses, because they are typically so dry and boring. To stand out, I make my RFP responses fun to read—not being afraid to include some personality, attitude, and humor. My agency was awarded a large project, and the client said it had a lot to do with the fact that my proposal made them laugh.


Joe Marchelewski, Sr. Account Manager at Juris Productions PR

Being meticulous with the response is absolutely necessary. Do your homework on the company. What exactly are they asking? Who has represented them in the past? What kinds of clues can you find from their prior representation? RFP responses need context. Context only comes from understanding…which only comes from research.


Ken Gaul, Director at Source One

Understand that there is a certain amount of “checking the box” that needs to be done. Answer the face value question concisely, then springboard into your solution to the question(s) behind the question. Beyond what your prospective customer is asking you for, what should they be thinking about?

To rise to the top of the scorecard, you need to be competitively priced but you also need the prospect to feel that you understand their challenges innately, and that you can guide them to the ideal solution. The premise is that your solution is the ideal one, and they just don’t know it yet.

This is, of course, assuming that you’ve already done your due diligence and qualified the opportunity. Is the person running the RFP going to properly represent your solution to the true decision makers? If not, maybe pass on it. Your time is better spent on prospects with whom you can develop a relationship.


Tamara Van Meter, Firm Principal and Head of Interior Design at SMBW

  • Follow their lead. Use the client’s RFP format, including the order and terminology, to make it easy for them to read and evaluate.
  • Incorporate performance results from past projects to demonstrate the value you bring to the table.
  • Avoid oversaturating each page with text. A good practice with proposal formatting is to use photographs or graphics with no more than three supporting points for a clear and succinct message.

Lisa Rehurek, Founder and CEO at The RFP Success™ Company

Give prompts to your technical writers for each question. Make it easy for them to give you what you need, and help them in the process. Prompt them with how to answer the question with more detailed questions, or provide them with a table that outlines exactly what information you want them to provide. This keeps them focused, it gives you more consistency across multiple technical writers, and it makes the process simpler on them.


Looking for ways to improve team collaboration for stronger RFP responses? Start using RFPIO to craft winning content with your team.

Healthcare RFPs: Build trust through authentic storytelling

Healthcare RFPs: Build trust through authentic storytelling

“96% of top-performing marketers agree their organizations have built credibility and trust with their audience.” So, why should healthcare RFPs be any different?

A written document like a request for proposal may not appear to have the same pizzazz. However, an RFP response holds just as many creative possibilities as other types of content you produce. Additionally, healthcare RFPs are a revenue-generating opportunity with the potential to make a positive impact.

Healthcare continues to evolve rapidly while newer, more advanced organizations rise up to take hold of the industry. With that acceleration and competition, there is more pressure for your marketing team to perform.

RFP responses provide an opportunity to stand out in your evolving, competitive industry. With a focus on authentic storytelling in your healthcare RFPs, you’ll build more trust and increase your win potential.

“When you’re in the healthcare industry, you’ll be competing against other firms that have a lot of the same experience and knowledge that you have. You can all do the job and meet the requirements of the RFP. But how are you going to really stand out? One word: Trust.” – Lisa Rehurek,  Founder of The RFP Success™ Company

Healthcare marketing complexity with content creation

Healthcare marketers experience similar challenges to peers in other industries. The major difference is an added layer of complexity, thanks to strict compliance and heavy regulations. This has a direct impact on the content you create, including RFP responses.

Marketing Manager of TheraSpecs, Greg Bullock said his top content challenges are:

1. Communicating medical information in an authoritative way…with a user-friendly approach.

Medical content can be cumbersome, confusing and ultimately frustrating for the end user, which requires brands to communicate information in an approachable way. If you simplify too much, you lose the authority and expertise that is critical to establishing a strong reputation.

2. Keeping information medically up-to-date and accurate.

Generally, it is always a challenge to regularly update content and ensure that the information is still accurate. However, healthcare organizations have particularly unique issues given the wealth of new medical studies and anecdotal expertise that emerges regularly.

When responding to RFPs, you likely see similar content challenges arise. You need to make sure content is current and correct. You must strike the right balance between competence and conversation. You need to have branding that is clear and consistent.

Hit all of these marks and you are on your way to demonstrating why you are the partner they can trust. 95% say that if they trust a company, they’re more likely to be loyal patrons.

Building trust and credibility in healthcare RFPs

“When you’re in a highly technical industry like healthcare, there’s more to what you can bring to the table than just the specifications and requirements of the RFP. Healthcare companies and entities are under a lot of stress to keep up with regulations, compliance issues, stakeholder involvement, political ramifications, the list goes on.”

Lisa Rehurek, founder of The RFP Success™ Company and host of The RFP Success Show, has experienced the complexities of healthcare RFPs firsthand. She has long been a champion of responding to RFPs. Lisa continually encourages any organization bidding on RFPs to excel at building trust over and above their competitors.

“Yes, they’re looking for specific knowledge and expertise, but they also want a lifeline. Weaving in stories, writing in a more conversational tone, being authentic in your response to really get to the emotion of it, will help them visualize that you will be that lifeline. And with that, they can exhale. Trust is built.”

RFPs in healthcare: Bring your authentic voice forward

As a marketer, you’re creative by nature. If you look at your other marketing campaigns, you unearthed stories to communicate more authentically with your audience. You can achieve the same with your RFP content.

Ready to bring your brand’s authentic voice forward? Give these RFP components your full attention to build trust with your prospect and make their buying decision easier.

  • Cover Letter – Reveal key benefits they will experience while working with you and show your excitement for this future partnership. Use the client and company name often to personalize.
  • Executive Summary – Hook them with an opening statement about your solutions and explore the backstory of your company: mission, history, and purpose. (Once again, use the client and company name often.)
  • Our Approach – Explain your methodology and how your solution benefits your customers. Include relevant customer stories or testimonials for validation, focusing on the process and results.
  • Competitive Differentiators – Call out why they should work with you instead of one of your competitors, using comparison data and visual aids. It’s not a time to bad-mouth your competitor—just show you are the best choice.
  • Support / Customer Service – Highlight customer support offerings (help center, ongoing training, or educational webinars, etc). Insert customer story or testimonial that talks about their experience working with your team.
  • Brand Consistency – Not a section per se…brand consistency must be strong throughout. From messaging to design language, “on brand” content helps you earn trust.

Working in healthcare marketing is not a pass to create content without a pulse. Yes, you need to meet specifications and requirements. And sometimes, messaging might seem a little flat compared to more provocative industries.

At the end of the day, the goal is to show the human side of your brand and build a high level of trust with your prospect. Challenge yourself to make your healthcare RFPs better—more relatable, more relevant. Every RFP response is your chance to have a genuine conversation and to tell a story.

A response management platform ensures you have your best storytelling moments readily available. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to make a bigger impact on your next healthcare RFP.

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.

13 techniques that will speed up your RFP response time

13 techniques that will speed up your RFP response time

I talk to subject matter experts every day, and they all want one thing: More time. Some SMEs even wish they had more hours in a day. The thing is…you have enough hours in your day for RFP responses, you just need to improve your time management techniques.

Ready to help your revenue team in an efficient way? Check out several techniques for speeding up your RFP response time, so you can fully support your organization’s revenue vision and move on with your day.

Speed up your RFP response time with these techniques

“Running away from a problem only increases the distance from the solution.” Though anonymous, this quote may have come from a seasoned RFP responder. Let’s take a step back to understand where time management opportunities are within your RFP response process.

1. Understand the scope of the project

Miss important details present in the scope and you will inevitably rewrite RFP responses. Knowing the scope upfront allows you to focus on creating informative, accurate content. The goal is to appease their evaluation team and show that your organization is the right partner.

2. Understand how to track clarifications back to the issuer

Is it appropriate for you to reach out to the issuer for clarification? Or, is your proposal manager or sales director running communications back-and-forth between you and the potential client? Figure this out. Questions will come up, and you want to get the content right during round one.

3. Understand your response time

Are you tracking and monitoring your response time? If not, start doing it. That way you can build a case for additional resources or technology to support you and your workload. There are plenty of time-tracking solutions out there. RFPIO even has one built into the platform.

4. Understand who is involved in the response management team

Teamwork is the name of the game. When everyone is clear on responsibilities—and who they are collaborating with—the RFP response process is more streamlined. If you don’t have a dedicated proposal manager, find out who owns the project in case you need help.

5. Understand if other departments need to get involved

From security to legal, there will be times when you call upon the subject matter expertise of people in other departments. Even when you know the questions and scope early on, unknowns appear as you craft RFP responses. Have your experts ready to be pulled in quickly.

6. Understand how everyone communicates

Email isn’t always the best channel since inboxes are crowded. Communication channel preferences should be agreed upon by everyone on the response management team, including you. Maybe that’s a monthly meeting or a Slack group, instead of lengthy email conversations.

7. Understand if there are any additional tasks

Responding to RFPs is an ongoing task, but occasionally other needs show up—like performing research or analyzing the market. When you are involved in a new RFP project, ask if your team requires additional information so you can get a headstart on these tasks.

8. Understand the questions

If you don’t understand the questions when you jump into the RFP project, you will end up in a longer review cycle later. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, either from your proposal manager—or sales, if you need more background about the organization you are responding to.

9. Understand what content is relevant

Content audits are really helpful here—and we recommend culling your library of RFP responses once per quarter. While a proposal manager will likely own content audits, you will update any content that falls under your area of expertise to ensure accuracy.

10. Understand that you can repurpose content

You want to have the best possible content, but it doesn’t have to be completely original. If you store common RFP responses in an answer library, you can easily grab that content and customize for the current RFP requirements and specifications.

11. Understand the review cycle process

The review cycle process can be confusing with RFP responses. Know the chain-of-command so you don’t duplicate work. Your proposal manager should assign questions accordingly. However, if you notice gaps in the process that are causing confusion, speak up.

12. Understand your content management strategy

Effectively managing content decreases your RFP response time. Most SMEs store responses in docs and spreadsheets, using Control+F to find the response, then copying and pasting. An answer library within RFP software is the quickest way to organize, manage, and execute.

13. Understand the impact of technology

Software quality has a major impact on employee happiness. 96% said they would be more satisfied at work with access to better software. But, as we know from our RFP Response Habits survey, only 16% use RFP software. Get a response management solution in place if you don’t have one. This is one of the best time-saving tips we can offer.


Providing expertise for RFP responses is a key part of your role. By contributing to the response management process, you’re showing that you care about your team, your work, and your organization.

RFPIO helps subject matter experts cut their response time down by 40%-50% on average. Schedule a demo and we’ll show you more ways to save time and do your best work.

RFP cover letter vs. executive summary: Here’s the difference

RFP cover letter vs. executive summary: Here’s the difference

Responding to a request for proposal (RFP) is a standard step in the buying process. With RFP responses, there are always opportunities to improve the quality of your content and improve your conversion rates as a result.

90% of successful marketers at B2B companies prioritize the audience’s informational needs over a sales/promotional message. The introduction of an RFP response involves a cover letter and an executive summary—these sections offer golden opportunities to develop content that is laser-focused on your prospect’s needs.

RFP responders commonly use cover letters and executive summaries interchangeably, when they are, in fact, two different sections. Confused about the difference between an RFP cover letter and an executive summary? Not sure if you need both sections? Not sure which section comes first?

Let’s help you fully understand the nuances of the RFP cover letter and the executive summary, so you can get a strong start with your RFP response and improve your organization’s chance of landing the deal.

What is an RFP cover letter?

First up is the RFP cover letter. For positioning on your RFP response, this section should come before your executive summary. A cover letter should be no more than one page in length.

An RFP cover letter is a conversational introduction at the beginning of your RFP response. Similar to a cover letter you submit for a job opportunity, this letter is your chance to tell a little bit about yourself and why you’re the best candidate. It is almost always a requirement of an RFP, even if the issuer does not include a specific section.

The RFP cover letter:

  • States that you are bidding for their business by responding to the RFP.
  • Reiterates details from their RFP (i.e. company name, service/product requested).
  • Explains why your organization is qualified to respond to the RFP.
  • Reveals key benefits they will experience while working with you.
  • Lists anything you are providing in your RFP response.
  • Demonstrates your excitement for the potential partnership.

The RFP cover letter is not:

  • An excuse to jump into a sales-y spiel about your product or service.
  • Formatted with images or headers…it’s a letter with a greeting and sign-off.
  • The time to go into great detail about your strategy or execution.

An RFP cover letter example you can replicate

The goal of your RFP cover letter is to eloquently introduce your organization as the right partner. By the time the issuer reaches the last sentence, they should feel confident about spending their time reading the rest of your RFP responses.

RFP cover letter example:

Hello [first name of RFP issuer]:

I speak on behalf of the entire [RFPIO] team in saying how thrilled we are to have been selected to respond to an RFP to become [Company]’s preferred partner for [Company – service or product need].

We look forward to showing the [Company] team why [RFPIO] is a strategic solution that will address the current and future challenges that [Company] is facing in their [response process]. With [RFPIO] as your partner, we will help:

[Create a more consistent process across international regions.]
[Save your team time to focus on other initiatives.]
[Provide insights into all RFP analytics across your organization.]

Included in this RFP, you will find responses that meet and exceed your requirements along with the [Company – additional materials] you requested. Should you need any other information to move this process forward and further validate your decision, please let us know.

We are grateful for this opportunity with [Company].

Thank you for your time,
Kylie

What is an RFP executive summary?

Next is the RFP executive summary. For positioning on your RFP response, this section should come right after your cover letter. Like a cover letter, an executive summary should be no more than one page in length.

An RFP executive summary is a high-level statement after the cover letter section in an RFP response. This statement is your offer to the decision-makers, a chance to address your buyer’s needs and goals directly. The executive summary is optional, and not a requirement of an RFP.

Providing an executive summary can put your organization at a competitive advantage, giving you more room to explain the benefits of working with you.

The RFP executive summary:

  • Hooks the buyer with an opening statement about your solutions.
  • Explains how your solution benefits the market as a whole.
  • Uses storytelling to convey your company’s mission, history, and purpose.
  • Demonstrates the impact of your solution, including expected results.
  • Includes optional images that support the content.

The RFP executive summary is not:

  • The cliff notes of your entire proposal.
  • Formatted like a letter…it’s a statement.
  • Several pages of client testimonials or stories—stay focused on this prospect.

An RFP executive summary example to follow

Why should this prospect select you as their partner? By the time the RFP issuer is finished reading your executive summary, they should strongly consider the partnership possibilities already before reading the rest of the RFP.

A cover letter tends to be more straightforward, while executive summaries are more complex. Because there was such a demand for executive summary resources for response teams, we created an RFP executive summary template that gives you the building blocks for writing more effective content.

If we take this template and create a real executive summary example, it would look a little something like this…

Executive summary example:

Content is engrained in all of our business processes. RFPIO enhances collaboration and fosters a truly efficient and effective response process with a response management platform that is built to encourage collaboration and create winning responses.

Even in today’s highly technical business environment, 84% of responders are still using a manual process to manage business queries across the organization, which directly impacts resources and the ability to achieve revenue goals. To ensure your organization’s success, our cloud-based software platform is suited for efficiently responding to all types of business proposal documents—RFx (RFP, RFI, etc.), statements of work (SOW), security questionnaires, CAIQ, grants, along with marketing and sales content.

Before founding RFPIO, we were RFP responders that worked overtime to meet deadlines too. This experience led us on a mission to create RFPIO, which is now the leading solution in response management—helping companies streamline their proposal efforts, provide high-quality responses, and create additional revenue opportunities.

We know that for [Company] it’s paramount to improve process consistency and team efficiency, while gaining more insights and visibility into RFP response activities across your organization. With RFPIO as your team’s response management platform, we feel confident that you will be able to achieve your goals within a secure and scalable solution.

We hope this breakdown of the differences between the RFP cover letter and the RFP executive summary helps you create a more compelling intro. When in doubt, think about the RFP issuer’s informational needs…and keep the content short and impactful.

Creating high-quality RFP cover letters and executive summaries is easier with RFPIO. Sign up for a demo to see how it works.

Unify your revenue team with a response management platform

Unify your revenue team with a response management platform

The rise of the revenue team continues and mid-size organizations are leading the charge. When it comes to revenue responsibilities, the lines have become blurred between marketing and sales departments. Now, the rest of the organization is responsible for contributing to revenue as well.

The response management process is a key revenue-generating initiative for growing companies. To succeed, all of these teams need to work effectively together. A response management platform is here to unify your revenue team and position your organization for growth.

Response management opportunities for mid-size companies

Responders at mid-size companies are team members who respond to business queries like RFPs (Requests for Proposal), security questionnaires, and DDQs (Due Diligence Questionnaires). They both contribute and manage this process, often in addition to their primary job responsibilities.

With response management at mid-size organizations, roadblocks fall into two distinct buckets…

1. They lack X – Commitment, knowledge, an internal champion, support outside the organization

2. The cost of X – Services, resources, operations

Knowledge is a powerful asset for any organization, especially a mid-size organization where you have a combination of specialists and generalists with a multitude of experiences and backgrounds. These resources are valuable and cost the organization.

If a subject matter expert (SME) moves on from your organization, they take a wealth of company knowledge with them. This leaves your response team at a great disadvantage as they lose an important resource that contributed to the process.

Once these internal roadblocks are recognized, they become opportunities for improvement. A response management solution like RFPIO offers a collaborative atmosphere, turning teams into tribes.

Mid-size revenue teams keep the ship afloat

Revenue teams operating under a CRO (Chief Revenue Officer) are becoming increasingly common within B2B organizations. Rapidly growing mid-size companies have set the standard for modern revenue teams. All other companies, from startups to enterprise, are playing by the rules set by revenue teams at mid-sized organizations.

A revenue team involves anybody who is contributing to the revenue of the company. This seems like a broad definition, because it is. It doesn’t go as granular as negative revenue, even revenue, or positive revenue—it’s revenue in general.

Revenue teams might include managers in customer success or accounts working side-by-side with executives like a CFO or CRO. In mid-size organizations, marketing teams and sales teams (including sales ops and sales enablement) are considered part of the revenue team as well.

Similar to keeping a ship afloat in the sea, revenue takes contributions and effort from everyone. To bring in revenue and maintain revenue, it’s essentially an “all hands on deck” situation. Being that responding to RFPs and security questionnaires is a predictable step in the sales cycle, this process needs to be rock-solid for mid-size companies to achieve their revenue goals.

How a response management platform offers support

Let’s reinforce the two challenge buckets for responders at mid-size companies for a second. You’re experiencing a lack of commitment, knowledge, an internal champion, and/or support outside the organization. On top of that, you’re dealing with the cost of services, resources, and/or operations.

Other revenue teams have been in your shoes too. But, they saw those challenges in their response management process as opportunities and made that process easier with RFPIO.

Uniformity and accuracy

RFPIO’s answer library is the bread and butter for response teams. This knowledge repository brings uniformity and accuracy to how a company represents itself in any business query response.

Teams across the organization will benefit from a centralized access point to company information. It goes beyond sales enablement, enabling anyone who needs to efficiently find up-to-date content to get the job done. The use cases are pretty endless.

Edit and enhance

RFPIO Lookup takes the strength and capabilities of the answer library a step further. Rather than being inside the platform, you quickly search for the response with a Chrome extension.

Let’s say you call in a field person to answer a security questionnaire, who doesn’t work inside the response management platform. They use RFPIO Lookup to access the knowledge repository from their browser to select accurate, technical responses. Instead of creating content from scratch or hunting down previous responses, now that person has extra time to edit and enhance the response.

Ease and visibility

RFPIO’s integrations are well-loved by revenue teams. Store all of your content inside the response management platform, using cloud storage integrations with your favorite cloud storage solutions (Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, Box, and Sharepoint). Collaboration is necessary for any response management team—Slack and Microsoft Teams integrations simplify communication.

Salespeople operate business as usual with RFPIO’s CRM integrations (Salesforce, Hubspot, Microsoft Dynamics, Pipedrive, PipelineDeals). If you’re a sales operations manager, you need to provide visibility into how you’re winning RFPs and DDQs to the C-level team from time to time. Within Salesforce, you can easily run these reports.

Alexandra Maddux

“At Smarsh, we believe our proposals set the stage for an ongoing partnership and raise the bar on what it means for a vendor to exceed expectations. In 2018, the sales enablement team submitted nearly 30 more RFPs/RFIs compared to 2017 and is expecting the same trajectory for 2019. RFPIO allows our team to juggle upwards of 10 projects at a time, in tandem with maintaining the required level of organization to be successful and quality we demand, all while collaborating within the platform across 5 different time zones.”- Alexandra Maddux, RFP/Sales Support Coordinator

When you have a group of responders working together to achieve the same revenue vision, not only is this less stressful, this positive mentality impacts the company’s overall success. Your revenue team will become more unified in achieving that vision with a response management platform. It’s a win-win for everyone.

So…what are you waiting for? Book a demo of RFPIO to unify your revenue team.

5 tactics for developing brand consistency in response management

5 tactics for developing brand consistency in response management

Today’s buyer is very selective when the time comes to purchase a product or service. Buyers not only expect more from brands, they also like to know what to expect. Why is every Target store set up the same? Why does McDonald’s feel familiar no matter what country you’re in? Because those well-known companies have mastered brand consistency.

Organizations that get this know that creating a consistent user experience helps customers and clients easily find what they need. Brand consistency is the foundation for a positive user experience because it delivers a sense of comfort and familiarity. This concept applies to B2C and B2B organizations—small, mid-sized, and enterprise.

Brand consistency is a key factor in the ultimate success of your response management process, whether you are submitting an RFP (request for proposal), SOW (statement of work), security questionnaires or other form of proposals. Let’s dig into several ideas that will help you create a more consistent brand experience throughout the sales process.

Brand consistency techniques for better response management

The average revenue increase attributed to always presenting the brand consistently is 23%. Establishing brand consistency within the response management process allows companies to scale faster.

To build a cohesive brand experience in your response management process, everyone involved in responding to business queries should be aligned by a strategy. Brand consistency is a technique. And like any technique, it takes dedication to master it.

1. Create a messaging framework.

You have a messaging framework for all other marketing content. Your response management process should be treated with the same approach. Often this is not the case, as marketing teams fly into the process much later during review and finalization of the deliverable.

Every marketer should be prepared to put out fires, but that means being prepared well before the fire begins. Proactively create a one-page messaging strategy for each type of business query your team responds to. To serve as a reminder, be sure to include the goal of what your content hopes to achieve at the very top.

2. Optimize your most repetitive responses.

RFP issuers typically ask similar sets of questions, with perhaps a few variations or wild cards along the way. There is no need to create content from scratch every time you respond to a business query. In fact, reinventing the wheel with responses leads to brand consistency challenges.

Repurposing content is perfectly acceptable, assuming you go the extra mile by tailoring the response to address each prospect’s goals and needs. You know the repetitive questions already. Spend time perfecting these responses, so they are optimized and ready to go. And audit this content quarterly, versus setting and forgetting.

“Successful branding yields benefits such as increased customer loyalty, an improved image, and a relatable identity.” – TSL Marketing

3. Standardize information with brand guidelines.

Brand guidelines act as the North Star in standardizing all of your organization’s communication efforts. Yet, typically the response management process tends to go rogue and operate outside these guidelines your marketing team has painstakingly developed.

Contributors from multiple departments respond to questions in an RFP, using their favorite fonts. Headers and lists are mismatched—and you end up with a huge formatting mess. Keep your cool and remember that responders like SMEs and salespeople aren’t nearly as connected to the brand as you are. Make sure responders have a copy of brand guidelines and that they understand how to implement them in everyday situations.

4. Store all content in an accessible location.

Knowledge sharing in our content-driven world is becoming an increasing challenge for organizations. Cloud storage solutions can only do so much. Everyone has their own way of organizing folders and files, leaving a maze of content to navigate.

The best way to create a “grab and go” option with company information is to keep it accessible in one location—preferably an answer library in a response management platform. An answer library stores brand-approved content, allowing responders to quickly hunt down information through searches or filters. And, you get to have a much better handle on brand consistency.

5. Automate your response management process.

Responding to business queries is a notoriously time-consuming activity for you and other contributors. Automating with strong technology really opens the door to a repeatable and scalable process.

A response management platform like RFPIO automates everything, helping teams cut their response time by 40%-50% on average. Even if responders get wildly creative with formatting, you can export into a custom branded template in seconds then perform a quick sweep of the document. Automation frees up your time to produce the highest quality deliverable possible—and, of course—move on to other priorities on your to-do list.

Brand consistency holds a ton of value in steering your approach to response management. How you present these sales documents to a prospect influences whether a potential client becomes your future client…or your competitor’s client.

You already know that people who love your brand then become advocates for your brand. Creating a positive feeling through content that is “on brand” has the power to build relationships and earn trust. It’s time to cultivate a positive brand experience with your response management process too.

Achieving brand consistency is a cinch with RFPIO. Schedule a demo right here and we’ll get you all set up for success.

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