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Guide to a great RFP response process

Guide to a great RFP response process

If you’re reading this, then you’ve already contemplated why you need a request for proposal (RFP) response process. Something hasn’t […]


Category: Tag: RFP Response

Guide to a great RFP response process

Guide to a great RFP response process

If you’re reading this, then you’ve already contemplated why you need a request for proposal (RFP) response process. Something hasn’t been going right. Too much time being spent on responding? Poor quality proposals? Lack of wins? Or maybe you’re a new proposal manager, or you’re trying to provide proposal manager-level leadership as a sales or marketing manager. The point is that now you know why you need an RFP response process, so where do you get started?

I’m going to lay it all out for you, but first…

How do you respond to an RFP?

Depending on your industry, an RFP may contain several hundred questions and ask you to gather dozens of documents, certificates, and other content that validates your product as a solution to the issuer’s problem. You’ll have to compose a response that addresses all the questions and content requirements, which may require you to reach out to multiple people in your organization for help. Oh, and of course there’s a deadline. And it’s never far enough in the future for you to feel comfortable about hitting it.

Your response will be reviewed and compared to responses from your competitors. The quality of your response will determine whether or not your organization moves forward in the sales process. As many an RFP pro can attest, you can’t win a deal solely on the basis of an RFP, but you can certainly lose one.

RFPs can be painful without a process. Evaluating what’s required, searching for content, tracking down subject matter experts (SMEs) to help, and composing a high-quality proposal takes time, most of which will be wasted if you take an ad-hoc approach. Your process does not have to be extensive, but it does have to exist.

What is an RFP response process?

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

When to create an RFP response process

I touched on some scenarios in the opening paragraph, but here are a few more red flags that might indicate you need to create an RFP response process:

  1. A new proposal manager is taking over the process. Whether they are taking over an existing process or implementing one for the first time, this is an excellent opportunity for a proposal manager to make an early impact.
  2. The current “process” just isn’t working. This can range from being tired of responding to RFPs in an ad-hoc fashion, to recognizing the current proposal process is broken or cannot scale, to realizing that AI-enabled software help is out there and it’s time to implement.
  3. Merging organizations with separate RFP response processes. Rare is the occasion when two companies come together and proceed in lockstep through their first RFP as a merged entity. If you’re going to try to cherry pick the best of both processes, then you might as well scrape the lot and build anew. The good news is that your combined experience will accelerate decision-making.
  4. New markets or new products. What may have worked in the past with familiar markets and established products may fall flat with audiences that don’t recognize your company or product. This is a prime opportunity to get back to basics and modernize a process that may have grown stale anyway.

Set goals for your RFP response process

Start by identifying what you want to achieve. Only then can you draw a blueprint that you can follow to get there. I recommend including these three objectives in your initial goal-setting:

  1. Decrease response time: The pain of too much time spent on responding is likely what got you here in the first place. Drop this metric in as one of your primary markers for success. If you do it right, you can decrease response time by up to 40% or more. The right process will make you more nimble.
  2. Improve response quality: Some, if not all, of that time you save with a new RFP response process can be re-invested in your responses. Instead of scrambling to find answers or begging for reviews, you’re spending the time customizing a proposal to better position your solution for the win.
  3. Increase shortlist rate: This will take a few responses before you see any results. More shortlists means that you’re receiving greater consideration. Eventually, an uptick in this metric will correlate to an uptick in win rates, too.

Further out, you can look at goals for win rate, content development, and increasing the number of RFPs you respond to every year.

12 RFP process steps for efficient RFP responses

Start with this RFP process checklist. Plan on at least a month of work to get the process going. The status and volume of your existing content will be the major determining factor in how quickly you’ll see results.

  1. Identify key stakeholders: Who are they? What is their contribution? What is their role (e.g. proposal development/management, subject matter expertise, strategy, review, etc.)?
  2. Figure out the average timeline. Government RFPs tend to have longer lead times but more requirements. Private sector RFPs are generally quicker but may not be as complex. Knowing this will help you construct your response calendar. For example, if you have an average of two weeks then reviews won’t be extensive, or you may have to respond with a generic proposal instead of a custom version.
  3. Identify other metrics that will determine whether or not you pursue the opportunity.
  4. ROI: Is it worth committing resources to the effort?
  5. Strategic positioning: Is your solution truly the right fit for the issuer’s problem?
  6. Pricing: Does the estimated budget align with your pricing?
  7. Existing relationships: If you’re an unknown entity, then you have a steeper hill to climb to get shortlisted.
  8. Locate content and evaluate how easy or difficult it will be to access it. Dollars to donuts that this will be your biggest headache.
  9. Select the optimal channels for collaboration. Email? Slack? Teams? You’ll need to include all of your identified stakeholders. Then you’ll need to create a strategy of how to collaborate. Include everyone in everything (and risk early onset of project fatigue)? Customize communications for every action item (and add a hefty amount of work to the project lead while risking losing touch with some stakeholders)? Quick tip: Break away from a linear process; people can work on multiple pieces simultaneously.
  10. Get buy-in from everyone. For a process to be effective, it needs to be followed. Bring in executive sponsors from the get-go, and start selling efficiency benefits to SMEs pronto. Relationship building within your organization will be just as important as the business development relationships your salespeople are cultivating.
  11. Consider whether software can help. Software helps you have a clearly defined process. Software itself enforces the process, with the help of the administrator. It also centralizes content, makes it searchable, and automates part of the response process, all of which will simplify creating the process in the first place.
  12. Should you hire a proposal manager? This is a professional role that brings value to the RFP process. It’s a combination of project management, proposal development, and relationship-building expertise earned from extensive response experience. Otherwise, someone is going to have to multi-task with their other responsibilities to lead the RFP response.
 benchmark-blog-report

The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

A template: The ideal RFP response process flowchart

As soon as you have your ducks in a row, you can go about building your proposal process in the flowchart below.

RFP Response Process and Steps

8 key RFP process steps:

  1. Qualify RFP: Insert a go/no-go evaluation at the beginning of the RFP response process. Sales will be the loudest voice, but proposal teams, SMEs, and executive sponsors will need to weigh in to evaluate risk, timing, and strategic fit.
  2. Kick-off project: Provide clarity and accountability to the full response management team, including strategic objectives that everyone can work toward.
  3. 1st response: Make an initial response pass based on reusable content. This step is much faster with RFP software.
  4. 2nd response: Tap into resources for new questions, and assign segments that require customization to respective SMEs.
  5. Review & revise: Conduct internal reviews to ensure a high-quality proposal. Link review requests to specific purposes (i.e., Are strategic objectives met? Are responses accurate and high quality? Did we fully answer the question?)
  6. Submit: Deliver polished RFP with reviewed supporting materials. Follow up to confirm receipt. Keep internal stakeholders abreast of progress.
  7. Save & audit: Save finalized responses in a centralized location and commit to regular content audits.
  8. Post-mortem: Winning doesn’t always mean content was perfect. Losing doesn’t mean it was a bad response. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

Strengthen your RFP response process with RFP software

I touched on some of the benefits in the above checklist. But there is a lot more than management of process and content. Integration with other applications in your sales tech stack, the ability to work from custom response templates, Auto Respond functionality, and streamlined collaboration are just some of the highlights.

The happiest teams we know find that RFPIO features make it easier to stick to a consistent RFP response process. Imagine being able to assign reviewers sequentially to ensure the proposal is polished with the highest quality responses for each section. You can do it from a single interface, communicate with responsible SMEs, and establish clear timing of every task for everyone to see.

You can certainly respond to RFPs without software, assuming you have a rock-solid approach that hums along without any inefficiencies. But if you want to go from moving the needle to burying it, then combine a strong process with RFP response software.

Still not sure where to start? Demos are always great launching pads. Schedule one for you and your RFP response stakeholders today!

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

How to improve your RFP response process in 5 simple steps

Let’s start with the good news: You have an RFP response process. You’d be surprised to know how many companies don’t even have that. If you don’t have a process yet, then I recommend reading How to create an RFP response process as well.

Now the bad news: It needs work. I can help. Let’s look at how to improve your RFP response process.

First, take inventory: How are RFPs viewed within your organization?

Before you improve, take a look at what you have and why. Does your organization view RFPs as a strategic revenue stream or a box to be checked? If the latter, are executive sponsors in place to help you lead the process change?

Change management is real. If past attempts to prioritize RFPs in the sales process were mishandled, then you may still be feeling the pain. If this will be your first sales process change as it pertains to RFPs, then how it’s managed will be just as important as what is implemented.

One advantage of improving your RFP response process now is that salespeople and customers are more open to change than they may have been prior to the pandemic. As people quickly adapted to a “new normal,” Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said, “We saw two years of digital transformation in two months.”

However, if you’re like most organizations, the change will need to take place while maintaining current staff levels. According to our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, 75% of organizations plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021, but only 37% of organizations plan to hire more RFP response staff.

5 steps to improving your RFP response process

  1. Only chase RFPs you can win
  2. Focus on content
  3. Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities
  4. Get to know your resources
  5. Rinse & repeat

Perfection is unattainable. There’s always room for improvement. I’ve seen organizations improve their RFP response process and see big gains within a year. One 2-person team successfully responded to 16 RFPs that were stacked on top of each other a year after having to push back on the same expectation. Hopefully these tips will help you attain the same kind of results.

Step 1: Only chase RFPs you can win

One of the best ways to make your RFP response process more effective is to stop wasting time on unqualified RFPs. Do this by setting up a qualification step or a go/no-go decision. Consider the following during this step:

  • What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued? RFPs are not the optimal time for cold calls. Odds are definitely better when you’ve been invited to respond to an RFP because sales or presales has developed a relationship with the prospect or you already responded to a request for information (RFI) or the prospect has done extensive research on you and your competitors.
  • Is your solution a fit? At minimum, it needs to meet the mandatory requirements. Everyone’s agile. Everyone’s flexible. Issuers already know that. You need to be able to prove that you have a battle-tested solution. If proof isn’t required in the RFP, then it will be at onboarding or implementation. RFPs fall into the category of “under promise, over deliver”; doing the opposite will sabotage future support, renewal, and upgrade efforts.
  • Does your price match the prospect’s budget? Of course there’s give and take when considering the opportunity and what it means to your business now and in the future. Nevertheless, the issuer will expect your solution to come with everything promised in your response. Whatever the cost to deliver on expectations, make sure you’re being fair to your prospect, your product, and your team responsible for supporting those expectations.
  • Is it a strategic fit? RFPs take a lot of time and effort, but not nearly as much time and effort as onboarding and supporting a customer that doesn’t fit your business or product development strategy. There are few things more frustrating than submitting and winning an RFP only to find out that you cannot follow through because it’s not a strategic fit for you or the issuer.
  • Do you have bandwidth? Too often, this consideration gets pushed to the side. It’s especially important if you’re responding to unqualified bids! It’s completely understandable to want to respond to more RFPs (we found that 72% of companies plan to respond to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020). But don’t do it at the expense of response quality or your proposal team’s, sales team’s, and subject matter experts’ valuable time.

Step 2: Focus on content

Are you working from a content library, or are you still chasing down content ad-hoc? If you have a content library, make sure it’s up to date and that content is clean and reusable. Develop content so that it has the flexibility to either be easily customized or used in its generic form. It should all have a consistent voice to reduce editing and review time on the back end.

Your content library also needs to have an organizational structure that helps with searching. With RFP software such as RFPIO, you can use tags, collections, and custom fields. It might help to organize content to match the structure of the RFPs you receive. What sections do you always see? Sections common in many RFPs are:

  • Company overview
  • Training & implementation
  • Security
  • Software/Functional/Technical
  • Biographies
  • Case Studies

If you’re not using RFP software, organizing your files and documents this way will help reduce the need to chase down content for every new RFP.

Step 3: Set clear definitions of roles and responsibilities

Have a project plan that emphasizes expectations. Someone has to own it and drive it to hold team members accountable to deadlines. If you don’t have a full-time proposal manager in place, then you’d be hard-pressed to find a better reason to hire one than to improve and own your RFP response process.

Initiate a kickoff meeting for every response to discuss strategy and expectations with the entire response team. Surface scheduling conflicts, content gap concerns, or issues with deadlines to avoid surprises. Find a way to get visibility over the whole process.

Step 4: Get to know your resources

The better you know your resources, the better you are at going to the right person at the right time. Establish their preferred communication channel and respect it. RFPIO has integrations with several channels to make it easier, including email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Jira. Maybe you have an SME who hates writing. Call him up and have him talk out the answer, then you write it out. Putting in the legwork to build relationships with your resources will pay off at crunch time.

Step 5: Rinse & repeat

Any improvements need to be repeatable. For example, if you bring in a contract proposal manager for a response, then be prepared to do so every time. This is a process you will cycle through for every RFP. If it works as well as it should, then you may want to carry the process over to other responses, such as security questionnaires or due diligence questionnaires (DDQs).

 benchmark-blog-report

The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

8-step RFP response process

  • Qualify RFP: Insert a go/no-go evaluation at the beginning of the RFP response process. Sales will be the loudest voice, but proposal teams, SMEs, and executive sponsors will need to weigh in to evaluate risk, timing, and strategic fit.
  • Kick-off project: Provide clarity and accountability to the full response management team, including strategic objectives that everyone can work toward.
  • 1st response: Make an initial response pass based on reusable content. This step is much faster with RFP software.
  • 2nd response: Tap into resources for new questions, and assign segments that require customization to respective SMEs.
  • Review & revise: Conduct internal reviews to ensure a high-quality proposal. Link review requests to specific purposes (i.e., Are strategic objectives met? Are responses accurate and high quality? Did we fully answer the question?)
  • Submit: Deliver polished RFP with reviewed supporting materials. Follow up to confirm receipt. Keep internal stakeholders abreast of progress.
  • Save & audit: Save finalized responses in a centralized location and commit to regular content audits.
  • Post-mortem: Winning doesn’t always mean content was perfect. Losing doesn’t mean it was a bad response. Evaluate what worked and what didn’t.
    Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFP process and steps

Bonus step: Get a good set of tools

RFPs are becoming more complex. As technology has evolved, expectations have risen. With the capacity to answer more questions, issuers want to ask more questions.

In the past, RFPs were issued with the issuer not knowing if a solution even existed, let alone the company that could provide it. Now there’s a lot of research done online. Typically, there are multiple touchpoints with a prospective solution provider before an RFP is even issued.

In 2021, companies that use RFP-specific software responded to 43% more RFPs than those who use other solutions or techniques. They were also 25% more likely to agree that their processes are streamlined enough to make time to tailor their proposals to the issuers’ specific use-cases.

RFP software can contain and drive your response process. In RFPIO’s case, AI-enabled automation and collaboration begin at intake and carry all the way through to your postmortem.

For those increasingly popular but sometimes maddening online response portals, RFPIO® LookUp can help. The theory behind online portals is that they make RFPs easier. For the issuers, maybe. But not for responders. Even though you can have as many proposal team members respond as you want, there’s no visibility. If multiple responders are updating and changing answers then version and quality control are at risk. RFPIO® LookUp lets you work directly from your Answer Library to fill out the online portal without having to leave your browser.

I hope this helps you formulate your next steps for improving your RFP response process. Eventually, you’ll be able to respond to more RFPs or improve the quality of your proposals, or both! You’ll also have a transparent, repeatable process that your proposal team and organization as a whole can rely on to push RFPs as a strategic revenue stream. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to see if it’s the process improvement driver you’ve been looking for.

9 key RFP metrics for minimizing risk and enhancing efficiency

9 key RFP metrics for minimizing risk and enhancing efficiency

When I first started responding to RFPs, few people were paying attention to RFP metrics. Sure, there were definitely some trailblazers who were measuring performance, analyzing wins and losses, and optimizing efficiency… but I certainly wasn’t one of them. For me, responding to RFPs was less of a process than a mad scramble to the deadline.

Since then, my approach to RFP response has evolved. Admittedly, this is likely aided by co-founding a company that streamlines the response process via automation and analytics. This article will focus on the latter.

If you do it right, data-driven management can help sales teams sell smarter. But it can also provide insights into how proposal teams can identify—then either avoid or plan around—process challenges, such as resource management challenges, reduced ROI, missing deadlines, and inefficient content development.

By the end of this article, you will understand which RFP metrics you should be tracking—and how to use these metrics to minimize risk and enhance efficiency.

RFP metrics overview

Responding to RFPs can be an expensive undertaking. When you’re working with limited time and resources, you need to be strategic about which projects you take on. Improving your odds of a win starts by determining whether you’re a good fit, and identifying risk factors early so you can avoid surprises and plan for success.

Don’t let dollar signs, commas, and zeros distract you from what’s possible. Go for that big deal, but don’t do it just because of the logo or the dollar value. Do it because the data tells you, “You have a great shot at winning!”

For answers about your future, look to the past. Use data from past wins, losses, and incompletes to determine whether a project is worth pursuing. When you capture an RFx and upload it as a new project to RFPIO, the system will evaluate past projects for comparison and provide a dashboard that gives you an idea of what to expect.

Here’s a small taste of some of the data points that will help you enhance efficiency and gain new insights throughout your response process:

Project Type: Segment your RFP data according to project type. If you respond to RFPs, Security Questionnaires, and DDQs, then you can set each of those as a project type so you’ll be able to compare apples to apples. You can also segment based on industry, size, geo, and more.

Segment your RFP data according to project type
Focus on Wins: How many similar past projects have you won? Lost? Understanding what kinds of projects have been submitted and won helps you focus your efforts only on projects you’re most likely to win moving forward.

Focus on RFPs you're likely to win
Project Scope: Identity total volume of work required to complete the project.

Identify project scope before starting any RFP
Time to Completion: See the shortest, longest, and average times for similar past projects. In a recent survey, we found that 57% of proposal managers said their primary goal is to improve the proposal management process to save time.

Understand the shortest, longest, and average times for similar past RFPs.
Resource Needs: Examine content that may need to be created or moderated. Identify primary authors and moderators from past projects.

Identify primary authors from past RFPs.
Content Needed: Understand what kinds of questions are being asked, and whether you have that information on hand.

Clearly understand the content available in the library
Taken in isolation, each of those data points means very little. Homing in on a single datapoint is just like trying to ride a bike with just the wheels—you can’t get anywhere without the pedal, seat, and handlebar.

Instead, it’s best to approach RFP metrics in context of the greater RFP response process. The trick is learning how to apply insights from each individual data point in a way that enhances efficiency and reduces risk.

To make this easier on you, this blog breaks down the RFP metrics you should be paying attention to according to how they fit into the RFP response process:

  • RFP metrics to inform bid/no-bid decisions
  • RFP metrics for planning, implementation, and finalization
  • RFP metrics for ongoing optimization

By the time you finish reading, you’ll understand which RFP metrics you should be tracking and how to track them.

RFP metrics to inform bid/no-bid decisions

The first step of the RFP response process is figuring out whether an RFP is a good fit. Is this RFP worth the time and resources it’s going to take to complete?

In making your fit analysis, you need to be selective. You don’t want to waste time and resources on an RFP you’re probably not going to win. But you also don’t want to walk away from a potential opportunity, and leave money on the table.

RFP metric #1: Determining whether you’re a fit

While this isn’t *technically* a metric, decomposing the RFP to determine whether you’re a fit is extremely important to the bid/no-bid decision making process, and worth mentioning here.

Before you spend anytime answering a single question, the first thing you’re going to want to do is determine whether your solution is in line with the key requirements. Do a quick scan to see if anything pops out at you.

What problem is the issuer looking to solve? What are the features and functionalities on their “must-have” and “should-have” list?

This is also a great way to determine whether you’re dealing with a wired RFP, where an incumbent exists and the issuer is just going through the motions. If there are a considerable number of requirements that seem irrelevant or very far off base, that’s a good sign the issuer isn’t interested and the RFP might not be a good use of your time.

If your solution isn’t in-line with the issuer’s needs… go ahead and throw it on the “thanks, but no thanks” pile.

Remember: Your time is valuable. Don’t spend it on proposals you’re not likely to win.

Even if you are a good fit, you may still decide it’s a no-go due to other priorities, deadlines, and resource commitments.

If you do find you’re regularly passing up potential opportunities due to bandwidth, you might consider a proposal automation solution. According to a recent survey, organizations using RFP-specific technology submit nearly 50% more RFPs than those who don’t.

RFP metric #2: Do your homework on the RFP issuer

Yes, okay, we’re two for two for metrics that aren’t technically metrics. But you’re going to want to do a background check on the RFP issuer before you do a single iota of work. Nothing is worse than putting the final touches on an RFP, only to discover you already submitted a near-identical RFP two years ago.

Once you’ve determined the decomposition of data is a fit, there are a few questions you’ll need to answer:

  • Has this company previously issued RFPs?
  • If yes, did you win? Were you short-listed?

If you did submit an RFP for this particular company before—and you lost—it might not be worth your time. But if you were short-listed, and the company ended up going with another vendor, it could indicate that they weren’t happy with the other vendor’s solution… and this might be your chance to shine.

If you have submitted an RFP for this particular company before, pull that old RFP from the archives, and examine it with a critical eye. What did you do well? What can be improved? You don’t always get a second chance to demonstrate your competitive advantage—don’t let this opportunity slip you by.

RFP metric #3: Analyzing past wins based on company profiles

Compare company size, project value, and vertical to your typical customer profile. If you usually work with enterprise companies, and the RFP you’ve just received is from a startup, your solution might not be a good fit.

Save yourself some time in the future by tracking these data points as you go along. Each time you receive a new RFP, make a note of the parameters you want to track. As a starting point, I would suggest tracking*:

  • Vertical
  • Company Size
  • Product Line
  • Project Type*
  • Project Stage*
  • Number of Questions*
  • Project Value*

*RFPIO tracks project type, stage, number of questions, and project value by default. You can track vertical, company size, and product link by creating a custom field.

Be diligent about tracking each parameter whenever you receive a new RFP. Over time, you’ll see how well you perform for each of your chosen parameters.

If you’re using RFPIO, you’ll get a performance snapshot each time you import a new project, including project status (e.g. won, lost), time spent, and answer library usage (i.e. how many of the questions were answered using Auto Respond).

With RFPIO, you'll see a performance snapshot each time you import a new project.

RFP metric #4: Tracking your average RFP response rate

Your average RFP response rate is a function of the number of outgoing RFPs divided by the number of incoming RFPs.

Average RFP Response Rate = # Outgoing RFPs / # Incoming RFPs

There is no rule of thumb for what your average RFP response rate should be. For some companies, an 80% response rate is too low; for others, a 30% response rate is too high.

One thing that can be said for certain is that if every RFP that comes in is being responded to, something is off. It means you’re not qualifying what’s coming in. By going after everything, you end up wasting time and effort on deals you’re probably not going to win.

You can adjust your average RFP response rate as you go along. If your win rate is astronomical, it could be a sign that you want to start responding to more RFPs (and vice versa).

On the flip side, if you’re responding to 50% of RFPs, and your win rate is abysmal, it could be a sign you need to better qualify the deals you’re going after.

RFP metrics for planning, implementation, and finalization

Once you’ve decided this RFP is a go, it’s time to get to work. That means building out your team, keeping your project on track, and submitting a polished final product.

RFP metric #5: Determining Workload

Before you do anything, check the project size (i.e. number of questions) and the due date. This will give you a general idea of how much work you’ll have to do based on past performance.

After that, you can start assigning work out to your team. As you’re choosing SMEs, the most important metric to track is current assigned workload. If one of your SMEs has four projects due by the end of next week and you’re adding another one, you’re just asking for trouble. That’s the time you proactively find an alternate SME.

If you’re using RFPIO, you can check current SME workload right in the application. The system will tell you how much work is assigned to which SMEs, what the workload looks like, and if there is any overload.

If you’re not using proposal management software, you can also keep track of SME workload using spreadsheets; you’ll just have to make time to keep your spreadsheet up to date.

RFP metric #6: Readability Score

If a proposal is difficult to understand, it increases the cost for bidders during the procurement process. Confusion leads to delays. Delays drive up costs. And everyone loses.

Most people read at a 10th grade level. Make life easy for your buyers by writing at that same level. Avoid delays by calculating readability as content is being added, using an editing tool like the Hemingway App or the Flesch reading ease test.

RFP metric #7: Probability of Win Score (PWIN)

Here’s where you take an honest look at your work so far and ask yourself: How can I increase my odds of winning?

A PWIN (Probably of Win) score is calculated based on the answers to a variety of questions designed to best determine how well the company’s team, experience, and contacts match those required for the opportunity. The higher the score, the better chances of winning the contract will be.

Ask questions like:

  • How does the language compare to previous projects? Is it accurate, positive? Does it align with winning RFPs from the past?
  • Have you answered all the questions? Have you met all the required conditions?
  • How often do you answer in the affirmative vs. negative?

Be honest with yourself. Have you said “no” to a certain percentage of must-have or should-have requirements? Are you qualifying too much, or agreeing to build too many features? It might not be worth the final proofing and polishing to primp your proposal to perfection.

Just because you’ve spent a lot of time getting your proposal this far, it doesn’t mean you need to spend even more time getting it over the finish line. Your time is valuable. It’s okay to throw in the towel.

Regardless of whether you decide to submit the proposal, make note of the requirements you’re missing, and coordinate with your product management team to get them into the roadmap.

RFP metrics for improving win rate and optimizing efficiency

You should constantly be looking for opportunities to optimize efficiency and improve win rate. Tracking metrics and analyzing the data can help you do that.

RFP metric #8: Identify Content Gaps

Auditing your Answer Library is an art unto itself. From an RFP metrics perspective, RFPIO includes an insights tool that helps you identify content gaps, content that needs to be updated, and content that needs to be created.

What terms are being used in search? What’s being found? What’s not being found? Let’s say a security product company is seeing a lot of requests for “zero trust” but no content exists because it’s new terminology that has quickly become industry norm.

The insight tool alerts content owners that content needs to include “zero trust” in order to stay relevant—and could provide insight to leadership and product teams on where the market is headed.

Sometimes you just need new content in your library. For example, if a lot of people are looking for information about “outages” (i.e., what has been your longest outage?), but turning up empty-handed, it might be a good idea to reach out to your product team to let them know new content is needed.

RFP metric #9: Determine content library health

To determine how healthy your content library is, see what percentage of RFPs can be completed with auto-respond, as opposed to manually creating answers from scratch. With a well-curated Answer Library, 40-80% auto-response is realistic. 30-40% of content exists but needs editing. 20-30% needs to be brand new.

If your auto-respond is hovering below 40-50%, that’s a good sign you’re in need of a content audit. If this sounds like you, check out our guide on how to conduct a content audit in 3 steps.

4-Step RFP Content Audit

Future impact

There’s more to discover after delivering a project. Before you even know if you won or lost, you can start mitigating future risk based on what you learned during this project.

How long did it take (longer/shorter than average)? How many deadlines were missed? How much content was re-used? How much content was missing? Set up a feedback mechanism to share these findings with content owners and SMEs so you can continue to improve knowledge management and the response process.

Time matters

Our success metric is not to have users spend more time in our platform. This is not social media. We want users to be able to work responses faster and more effectively than they’ve ever thought possible. Which brings me to the last RFP metric I want to mention here: how well you’re using your team’s time.

Generate an Application Usage Report to gain insight into which modules (Project, Answer Library, etc.) your users spent their time. Compare that time spent against past similar projects. Did you save the team time? Did it take longer than average? From here, you can dig into why and start minimizing risk for the next proposal.

Gain insight into which modules your users spend their time
Schedule a demo today to see how to use some of the RFP metrics mentioned in this article to improve proposal management.

20 stats proposal managers need before making that next big decision (new data)

20 stats proposal managers need before making that next big decision (new data)

The legendary Ted Lasso once said, “Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.” Proposal managers can relate, especially staring down the end of a pandemic-induced paradigm shift in collaboration, automation, and workflow.

Digital transformation in response management has replaced proposal managers’ old challenges with new ones. Gone are the days of stalking cubicles of salespeople and subject matter experts (SMEs) to keep a proposal on track, manually completing questionnaires, and storing content in file cabinets or on shared drives. Enter the challenges of working remotely, videoconferencing fatigue, and high expectations for personalized proposal content.

What can you as a proposal manager do to stay on top of a dynamic response management industry? Before you consider your next automation solution, team addition or subtraction, or learning opportunity, make a decision based on some facts. We took the liberty of gathering 20 of them for you here.

RFP project management

  • “Only 43% of respondents report using RFP-specific technology today.” Organizations not using RFP-specific technology rely more on email, spreadsheets, content storage, and e-signature tools” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “57% of proposal managers said their primary goal is to improve the proposal management process over time.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “44% of project managers use no software, even though PWC found that the use of commercially available PM software increases performance and satisfaction.” – PricewaterhouseCoopers
  • “75% of senior executives said investing in technology to better enable project success was a high priority in their organization.” – Project Management Institute

As we see it, the trend for proposal teams is to break even on headcount while relying on automation and collaboration to increase productivity. Doing more with less is nothing new to proposal managers, and RFP software can help accelerate response time, centralize content management, and unify collaboration. In one case, it helped to triple RFP volume and reduce turnaround time by 40%.

RFP project collaboration

  • “Distribution of collaborative work is often extremely lopsided. In most cases, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.” – Harvard Business Review
  • “78% of survey respondents expect the amount of remote work to increase post-pandemic from its pre-pandemic levels.” – Verizon
  • “Organizations with dedicated proposal professionals submitted 3.5X more responses in 2020.” – Salesforce
  • “Today’s average proposal management team consists of: 1 person (6%), 2-5 people (33%), 6-10 people (24%), 11-20 people (16.5%), 21-50 people (12%), more than 50 people (8.5%).” – APMP

The way we work is changed forever. Whether you’re back in an office or embedded as a remote worker, you’ll be designating responsibilities that team members can accomplish onsite, on the road, or at home. We’ve all grown more familiar with remote work tools and have our respective cheers (e.g., accessibility) and jeers (e.g., too accessible). The upside is that your team will be able to adapt quickly to RFPIO’s @-mentioning functionality and its integrations with Slack, Salesforce, and more.

RFP response knowledge sharing

  • “The latest edition of Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends study ranks ‘knowledge management’ as one of the top three issues influencing company success, yet only 9 percent of surveyed organizations feel ready to address it.” – Deloitte
  • “40% of survey responders use RFPIO to manage company knowledge.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “44% of employees are ‘poor or very poor’ at transferring knowledge.” – Ernst & Young
  • “Workers spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.” – Mckinsey Global Institute

Whether the proposal is being proactively generated by sales to get their foot in the door or reactively created for an RFP, you want the brand, expectation-setting, and peace-of-mind benefits of knowledge sharing from the RFPIO Answer Library. Make this dynamic warehouse of Q&A pairs and content available to everyone in the organization through our unlimited license model. Even as a small team, you can respond to multiple RFPs simultaneously, scaling with the personalization necessary to merit serious consideration.

RFP content management

  • “Companies with a designated RFP solution are 32% more likely to have strong content moderation procedures in place, with 90% reporting this being a priority for them.” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “The most frequently cited typical approach taken by content creators in their business (43%) was project-focused – content is created in response to internal requests.” – Content Marketing Institute
  • “If searching is difficult and the results are not highly valued, workers lose trust in the knowledge systems. This, in turn, makes them less willing to share personal knowledge in those systems, which reduces the quality of the content.” – Deloitte
  • “50% of proposal managers said keeping response content up-to-date and accurate is their biggest challenge.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey

Second only to win rate, content carries the most weight when judging whether a proposal manager is a hero or a villain. How it’s created, maintained, stored, and accessed has a direct or indirect impact on almost everyone in the organization. Sales wants accurate, innovative content yesterday. Support wants content that accurately reflects service level agreements. Marketing wants content to be on-brand.

If you’re using RFP software, then you’ve gone to great lengths to curate the content library used to automatically populate proposals. Why not make that content available to the whole organization? With RFPIO Lookup, you can add a portal into your RFPIO Answer Library from everywhere your users work.

82% of our customers said managing response content all in one place is the primary way RFPIO helps them achieve success. Global organizations can take further advantage of separate content collections relevant to their region, which is especially beneficial for multilingual content.

RFP response efficiency

  • “On average, organizations with a designated RFP technology submit 306 proposals a year, while those without submit only 210 — a difference of nearly 43%.” – 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management
  • “86% of salespeople are looking for opportunities to shorten the sales cycle to close more deals. 79% of marketers are focused on using automated technology to execute more with less resource strain. 65% of subject matter experts aspire to increase efficiency through better processes.” – 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey
  • “85% of proposal managers work over 40 hours a week, with 11% working over 50.” – APMP
  • “Solutions based on natural language processing/generation and robotic process automation can help reduce the time it takes to draft requests for proposals (RFPs) by up to two-thirds and eliminate human error.”- McKinsey & Company

Efficiency is the numero uno KPI for RFP software. The benefit you realize depends on how you re-invest time saved through efficiencies achieved by state-of-the-art automation, knowledge management, and collaboration capabilities. For example, Lauren Daitz, Senior Manager of the Proposal Department at HALO Recognition, said about RFPIO, “We’re up 25% over our average volume for the last six years and our staffing is down 50% at the same time. And we were still able to deliver every RFP on time or early and with 100% accuracy.”

Proposal managers can never be satisfied with the status quo. Always look for new opportunities for learning and growth. As competition increases and digital transformation continues, it’s either move forward or fall behind.

Like Ted Lasso says, the happiest animal in the world is a goldfish because it only has a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish. His wit and wisdom know no bounds.

If you’re ready to learn how RFPIO can help make you a more effective proposal manager, schedule a demo today.

9 of the best RFP resources we’ve seen this year

9 of the best RFP resources we’ve seen this year

At RFPIO, it’s our goal to give you all the tools you need to do your best work. But that doesn’t just mean developing software to streamline the response process… it also means providing educational resources that make you a better proposal manager.

We’re always surprised at how tricky it is to find fantastic RFP response resources. There are countless how-to articles circling the internet for everything under the sun — from “How to Cook Asparagus” to “How to High Five” (I couldn’t believe that last one was a real article, either).

With that in mind, we thought we’d do the heavy lifting of scouring the internet for great content and pull together a beautifully curated list of quality resources about RFP response 

Whether you’re just kicking off your career in RFP response, or are an RFP response old-timer, there’s bound to be something in this list that tickles your fancy.

9 of the best RFP response resources for proposal teams

#1

The Ultimate Guide to RFPs

By Jami Oettig

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Hubspot’s Ultimate Guide to RFPs on a list of RFP response resources. It answers questions like, “What is an RFP”, “What is an RFP Process?”, and “What’s the difference between an RFP and RFQ”? 

Whether you have no idea what an RFP is, or haven’t written one for a while, their guide can help you out.

#2

Simple Words, Easy Fixes

Laura Yribia

I love this list of simple but easy-to-miss editing issues to look for before producing a final proposal document! Be sure to keep this open in your browser as you do the final check of your RFP.

“These words may seem small or insignificant, but when your readers see them again and again in a proposal, they can make an enormous difference in their willingness to read.”

#3

How Starting Earlier Will Improve Your Win Rate

Ashley Kayes, CP APMP

If you want to improve your overall win rates, Ashley Kayes has several tactics that can help you succeed. Check out this article to dive into one of the most important tactics: starting earlier. 

“There simply isn’t enough time to develop a winning strategy and winning proposal when you’re short on time.”

#4

The Case for Empathetic Proposals 

Kevin Switaj

If you’re someone who already knows you’re way around an RFP response, check out this article for a different perspective on how you should be approaching your writing.

“To be truly successful… we need to make a deeper emotional connection with our evaluators. This goes beyond the client-centered approach to develop empathetic proposals.”

#5 

If Necessity is the Mother of Invention, Consistency is the Father of Success

Tony Birch

In this article, Tony Birch — founder and Chairman of Shipley Limited in the UK — shares tips and best practices for maintaining consistency in your RFP responses. starts this article with a punch: 

“Having worked with a large number of organizations (both ones that are successful and ones that are not), I have become convinced that consistency is one of the key attributes of successful business writing organizations.”

#6

How to Get a Customer Excited

Geoffrey James

While not this article doesn’t talk about RFP responses specifically, it’s chock full of nuggets of wisdom useful for anyone trying to sell a product.

“For a sales claim to be effective, the customer must believe it, remember it, and want to take action based on it.”

#7

Make Your Mark as a New Proposal Manager

Miriam Ganem-Rosem

Just starting out in the world of RFP Response? This article is for you. In it, Miriam shares five actionable tips new proposal managers can use to make their mark.

My favorite tip? Ask good questions. 

“The questions you pose to your team can strengthen their proposal and make it more likely to win. In addition to checking for compliance, you should be asking ‘so what?’ and ‘says who?’ New proposal managers are perfectly placed to play devil’s advocate and ask these questions, because they themselves may not know the answers.”

#8 

Five Tips for Clearer Writing

Ashely Kayes, CP APMP

As a writer myself, I loved this piece. Full of great tips (and reminders) about how to be a better writer. Everyone — both veterans and newbies — has something to learn from this one. 

“In proposals, clear writing is critical to ensuring the evaluators understand the message you are trying to communicate. Even if you have the most valuable solution, if you can’t clearly articulate the features and benefits, you won’t have a high chance of winning.”

#9

A Complete Guide to Making Smart Bid/No-Bid Decisions

Emily Arnold, CF APMP

The title doesn’t lie. This really is a comprehensive guide for making smart bid/no-bid decisions — and an excellent resource for RFP responders everywhere.

“The proposal development process draws heavily on a company’s resources, so it is best to focus on opportunities that you have a good chance of winning.”

Did we miss an RFP resource from 2020? Let us know and we’ll add it to the list! 

You need RFP software. Here’s how to convince your boss.

You need RFP software. Here’s how to convince your boss.

The first question will be, “Why do we need it?”

Tell your boss, “Because we can’t afford to gamble our relationships, and our contacts cannot afford to gamble on us.”

Now let’s crack open this fortune cookie and unpack its meaning.

In sales, relationships are everything. Many companies won’t even respond to an RFP if they don’t have relationships established with the RFP-issuing group. Sales professionals protect these relationships like they’re hoards of treasure. Much time and effort is put into cultivating them.

However, the art of the deal has changed over the many years I’ve been in the proposal game. The deal that used to be made via handshake with a high-powered decision-maker now has to be vetted by multiple stakeholders. A single decision-maker won’t gamble their career on selecting a vendor anymore—no matter how strong a relationship exists.

In a highly competitive RFP, multiple prospective vendors will have strong relationships within the RFP-issuing organization. You as a sales organization don’t want to gamble your hard-earned relationship by underperforming at the proposal stage and losing the deal.

In the modern sales landscape, your relationships plus a high-quality proposal will give you the best chance to win the deal. RFP software helps you create proposals that eliminate your contacts’ need to “gamble.”

Now that you’ve explained why you need RFP software, answer these three questions to close the RFP software deal with your boss:

  1. Which of our corporate initiatives does this investment support?
  2. What is the ROI and over what time period?
  3. Why do it now?

Build on these 4 initiatives

Find a way to align RFP software to a stated business imperative. Anything relating to revenue or margin impact is good thing, like the following:

Proposal value isn’t always obvious to an organization’s stakeholders. Aligning it with your business imperatives makes it harder for stakeholders to ignore the fact that response management is an essential cog in your sales lifecycle.

Cut to the chase: ROI in less than 2 months*

One of our more impressive recent data points is that Crownpeak saw a 5-6x ROI after using RFPIO for just a few months. If your bosses hang their hats on ROI, then don’t hold back. Calculate your ROI here to include an estimate in your pitch to your bosses.

Efficiency is going to be your primary ROI metric. With RFPIO, organizations increase response management efficiency by 40%, on average. Broken down by role, we are currently seeing the following:

  • 63% of salespeople said RFPIO enables them to automate their process, so they can make time to pursue new business with RFPs.
  • 71% of marketers said RFPIO helps them centralize company content for easy access.
  • Subject Matter Experts (SME) gained back 39% of their daily hours with RFPIO.

RFPIO doubles as a knowledge management tool, which will increase proposal production for sales and reduce the burden on SMEs from legal, IT, security, procurement, contracts and other departments that typically contribute to responses. It’s a cost-effective method to give everyone at your organization access to your answer library, while also empowering your proposal team to do more.

*On average, based on verified customer reviews collected on G2.

ROI calculator

See How Much You Can Save With RFPIO

Why do we need RFP software now?

For you, it’s about leveling the playing field. Harking back to my earlier reference of an RFP where five proposals are delivered and three of them likely have relationships with the RFP issuer…In this case, at least one of the vendors that responds will be using RFP software. They will have completed up to 70% of the RFP using automated features, which means they can put 100% effort on the remaining 30%. How likely are you to win any race when you give your competitors a 70% head start? (Flipside bonus you’ll want to call out to your bosses: On the off chance that you’re the only one using RFP software, then you will have a 70% head start!)

For your bosses, it’s about showing accountability to their commitment to success. If sales is the lifeblood of your business, then a fine-tuned RFP process will be as valuable as a multifunctional CRM, an integrated marketing strategy, a highly responsive customer service system, or any other support system that is already included in your budget.

But are proposals really that important?

YES!

The most common pushback you may need to address is that a proposal is just one part of a complex and lengthy sales process. That is true, and the best proposal in the world will not win you the deal on the spot. But a poor proposal will likely cause doubt in the issuer’s mind. At best, this will extend the sales cycle. At worst, you lose the deal.

A good proposal provides the opportunity to encapsulate everything you have learned during the sales process. RFP issuers never say they’re hemorrhaging clients or cash or taking a beating from their competitors, even though you understand that’s probably why they’re issuing the RFP.

The proposal is your opportunity to document how well you understand the issuer’s underlying needs or pains. You can do it passively (“We help with client retention by…” or “We’ve helped X clients increase revenue by X%…” or “3 out of 4 industry leaders rely on us to….”), but stating your solution to an unspoken problem validates your expertise. Ultimately, that’s exactly why they should choose to work with you.

And the only way to communicate that information to all stakeholders involved in the decision is through your response to the RFP.

Ready your pitch for RFP software

Twenty years ago, I expected RFPs to go the way of the dodo. Because of the Internet, you see. I thought that any generic information an issuer would need about a company could be found on the Internet. I was wrong. RFPs didn’t go away.

The way companies select vendors based on RFP responses is what changed. Out went the single decision maker, in came the decision by committee. The proposal management market is booming ($3.1B by 2024) and RFPIO has more than 1,000 customers only three years after signing its first.

RFPs have grown in complexity and require more customized responses. Part of a response is cookie cutter (another reason you need response management software), but the part of the response that requires more customization to explain your value—the part that shows you an issuer wants to deal rather than just kick the tires—is the part that you need to spend the most time on.

If you see any variation of this question, then you know the issuer is serious and in need of innovation: “What can your company offer that others cannot?

Want help prepping your RFP software pitch to your boss? We can help. Schedule a demo to get started.

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.

This is by no means an extensive list of every question that you will encounter (or email you’ll have to send). Instead, 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. There is an effective way and an ineffective way to respond to an RFP
  2. Understanding the anatomy of an RFP helps you create stronger responses
  3. Team success happens by combining processes 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.

How to respond to an RFP effectively

RFP stands for “request for proposal”, and is one of the many “requests for” that your company may respond to. RFP is part of a broader category known as RFx, which also includes RFIs and RFQs. Between an RFI, RFP, and RFQ an RFP will likely require the most effort to respond to.

As you’re preparing to respond to your RFP… you need to know how to respond to an RFP. There really is a right way and a wrong 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…

How to write executive summary
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 response management software can do for your revenue team

What response management software can do for your revenue team

Since we started RFPIO, 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 response management software like RFPIO. You’ll walk away with a more strategic approach to response management.

What is response management software (RMS)?

Response Management Software (RMS), helps companies create, manage, and automate responses to both long-form and short-form business inquiries at any stage of the sales cycle. These inquiries can range from formal business requests issued by buyers such as RFPs and Security Questionnaires, to informal questions submitted by prospects through chatbots or from customers through support tickets.

Response Management Software serves as an internal knowledgebase, integrating with CRMs, Content Management Systems (CMS), and Collaboration tools to capture and democratize subject-matter-expertise and content across multiple teams, business units, or companies.

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

RFP software vs. response management software

RFP software is fairly one dimensional in that responding to RFPs is the primary use case. With response management software, 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 our solution to store anything from sales follow-up email templates to onboarding materials. Content is engrained in all of our business processes. Response management software helps you organize, store, and execute from a single source of truth.

A response management software 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.

Response management software 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 response management software 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 solution 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 response management software 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, response management software 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, 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 solution.

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.” Response management software 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.

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.

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