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RFP Software Use Cases

RFP Software Use Cases

If you think RFP software is just for RFPs, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to clear the […]


Category: Tag: RFP Response

RFP Software Use Cases

RFP Software Use Cases

If you think RFP software is just for RFPs, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to clear the air and help you see just how many use cases your organization is missing out on.

The first step is understanding that RFP software is really an intelligent content management system. Capabilities of this kind of technology can reach far beyond responding to request for proposals.

You may have RFP software already, so what follows will help you uncover more ways to maximize the technology you invested in. You may be considering a solution, and this post will help you see the realm of possibilities.

Being that our name is RFPIO, a common misunderstanding we come across is that our solution is only for RFPs—when in fact our clients use the application for numerous projects across departments. Here are some real-world RFP software use case examples that have transformed organizations. Get ready to gain inspiration and efficiency!

RFP software for onboarding

Onboarding new hires is one of the most important first steps when an organization is building a strong team. From job descriptions to employee handbooks, from training materials to online courses…a lot of company information is needed throughout the HR process.

While basic company information may not change too often, it will still change. Roles within the company, and the necessary training to learn the nuances of that job, can change frequently—especially in a growing organization. Having access to the most current company information, and being able to revise HR-related content, are big time-savers for organizations.

RFP software like RFPIO was made to promote collaboration, so any number of users can access the solution. Since usage is not limited, we often see human resources teams using the platform directly for onboarding new-hires. It’s easy for them to learn, and they can quickly use or add content at will to support their hiring efforts.

RFP software for discovery calls

When it’s time to qualify a prospect, it’s up to an SDR (Sales Development Representative) or BDR (Business Development Representative) to pick up the phone and be ready for anything. A prospect will have any number of questions, many of them technical.

While sales should know a product or service inside and out, it’s impossible for them to know every detail. They turn to account executives or product teams for answers, or scour many Google docs and folders to locate information.

RFP software offers a single source of truth for teams within an answer library. Many sales teams we know keep RFPIO open on their computer screens during discovery calls, because they can rapidly search for any type of company or product information and instantly answer prospect questions.

RFP software for proactive proposals

To sell within a highly competitive industry, sales teams must be proactive. Even if a prospect hasn’t issued an RFP, if sales feels their organization is the perfect fit, they can take steps to stand out from the competition.

Creating a proactive proposal isn’t typically a priority for busy teams who are juggling opportunities with multiple prospects. Like any formality with a prospect…these things take time. At this stage in the sales process, it’s more about presenting your organization in a favorable light.

We love seeing how sales teams are assembling proactive proposals with minimal effort using RFPIO. Top content is one our client’s favorite features—they quickly identify the best and most current responses, filtering by star rating or review date. Since presentation is everything with a proactive proposal, they use customized templates to easily export the document with a beautifully branded finish.

“RFPIO can be utilized to manage both Q&A RFPs, as well as unsolicited proposals. Each project includes a ‘tasks’ page where all non-submission tasks can be tracked (e.g. intent to bid, follow-ups, etc.) It has already helped us cut the response/review workflow time in half. As a small team who ships a lot of projects, this is a game changer for us!”- Carah Counts, CareATC

RFP software for sales emails

Sales teams live in their inboxes more than they would like to admit. Whether they are describing features, answering questions, or following up after submitting an RFP…they compose and send hundreds of emails every day.

Even with numerous forms of communication like Slack or LinkedIn, email conversations will inevitably come into play. While there is no way to eliminate email, there are ways to use technology like RFP software to your advantage. Which is exactly what some of our smartest clients do to enable their sales teams.

RFPIO has a great feature that recommends email content. RFPIO Lookup helps sales manage answer library content across all web pages and applications when using a Google Chrome browser. Sales teams can leverage this feature to speed up email responses, and ensure they are presenting quality information that will inform and impress prospects and clients.

RFP software for marketing content

Modern marketing teams greatly depend on content for countless initiatives. Marketing owns: brand guidelines, blog content, email campaigns, testimonials, case studies, ad campaigns, social media content, public relations…and, the list goes on.

We’ll use our own example for this one. When submitting for software awards, repetitive questions kept coming up. Rather than copying and pasting from various documents or creating new answers for each submission, our marketing team used RFPIO to store responses to these questions…

  • Basic company / contact information
  • Product / service value proposition
  • Competitive advantages
  • Employment data
  • Financial data
  • Customer testimonials
  • Awards and achievements

With each award submission, marketing saved time by repurposing previous responses in minutes. Marketing teams are usually familiar with technology like RFP software, because they are involved in the messaging side of the RFP response process. It’s worth stopping to explore how a collaborative, content management platform like RFPIO can be utilized even more.

RFP software for SOWs

Although SOWs are specific to project scope, they don’t need to be created from scratch each time. This is a common trap teams fall into, but there are ways to use technology like RFP software to work smarter with SOWs.

Projects lean toward the complex side. In a recent report by Project Management Institute, only 22% said projects within their organizations had a low level of complexity. Figuring out how to convey the project scope with a highly complex project can be difficult, but it is not impossible when teams have a strong toolset to work with.

rfp project management

Source: Project Management Institute

When our clients use RFPIO to complete SOWs, they are spending much less time than before with documents and spreadsheets. Section templates consist of standard content that can be repurposed and used for different stakeholders. Reusing and assigning content within the application greatly improves workflow for SOWs, from content creation to the review process.

“Running our SOWs through RFPIO has helped us keep our documents better organized. The team can quickly review their assigned sections and they don’t have to scroll like they would do in a Google or Word doc. The time-savings has just been awesome.”- Hayli Hay, Metal Toad

RFP software for grants

Similar challenges and solutions discussed in the previous SOW section also apply to teams writing grants. At a nonprofit organization, resources are typically even more scarce. Grant writing can take a lot of time away from other priorities. The key here is to repurpose your content with the help of technology like RFP software.

Using a manual process will only hold a nonprofit team back from reaching their true potential. Funding is critical for the longevity of any nonprofit organization, so the grants they submit must be accurate and compelling. Grants must be submitted often to keep funding opportunities coming in.

We see nonprofits using RFPIO’s answer library to access powerful stats and current financials to strengthen their grant content—without searching endlessly for these numbers. A sequential review process is also helpful in case a team of one needs to get approval from other directors or a board before submitting.

RFP software for security questionnaires

While sales teams may live in their inboxes, team members who face security questionnaires reside primarily in spreadsheets. Security questionnaires are becoming more common as privacy and security concerns move top of mind for any organization beginning a partnership with another.

On average, a security questionnaire will consist of hundreds of questions—sometimes, thousands. These are the numerous types of security questionnaires…

  • Security Questionnaires and Security Questionnaires Lite – Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaires
  • VSAQ – Vendor Security Assessment Questionnaire
  • CAIQ – Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire
  • VSA – Vendor Security Alliance Questionnaire
  • NIST 800-171 – National Institute of Standards and Technology Questionnaire
  • CIS Controls – Center for Internet Security Questionnaire

….and any variety listed here can be completed efficiently in RFPIO.

Our clients depend on auto-response and bulk answering to cut completion time dramatically, since the solution does a majority of the responding upfront. At the end of the RFP security questionnaire, teams finish up with the source export, which allows them to export back into the original source with clean data.

“RFPIO not only has more flexible configuration for those compliance questions, it does store responses. As far as I can tell, RFPIO is the ONLY software you should be considering.”- Anthony Rossi, MasterControl

“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” Peter Drucker said those words, and we couldn’t agree more.

Every organization has complex projects, and every team is searching for ways to make processes more efficient. Your resources are valuable, and you want to ensure time is spent optimizing strategies rather than managing tasks.

RFP software is an unbeatable time-saver across organizations. We hope these real-world use cases inspire you to think outside the box, so you can utilize automated technology in new ways and achieve higher levels of success.

6 RFP response email samples to steal and send

6 RFP response email samples to steal and send

Every piece of communication during the RFP response process matters. Something that doesn’t get as much attention…the emails we write. Since an RFP response email will be sent to one of your potential clients, it should definitely be handled with care.

No matter what your role is during the RFP process, you likely partake in email communication with key contacts and decision-makers outside your organization at some point. You send repetitive emails for different scenarios—and half the time you don’t know whether you’re saying the right things when you land or lose a deal.

Normally we stand behind a less email approach around here at RFPIO, because we’re big fans of communication integrations we have within our platform. The reality is that writing emails is a core part of the RFP process—be it responding after receiving an RFP or sending an email for a proposal submission—regardless of how many integrations you have. Just like the RFP responses we work so hard to craft, the emails we send off should be just as concise and engaging.

To help you improve your communication in other parts of the RFP process, we’re showing you 6 request for proposal email samples that you are more than welcome to steal and send. Start saving time with prospects by copying and pasting—and, of course—making these emails your own.

“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” – Jim Rohn

Request for proposal email sample: Send after receiving RFP

Hi [first name] –

I am honored that [RFPIO] has been selected to respond for [Company]’s business through an RFP. We look forward to showing [Company] and the whole evaluation team why [RFPIO] would be a strategic solution to address the current and future challenges that [Company] is facing in their RFP process.

Based on the current status in the request, I will show how [RFPIO] will help to: create a more consistent process across international regions, save individuals time to focus on other initiatives, and provide insights into all RFP analytics across your organization.

I will follow up within the next week with any questions we have about the RFP.

Thanks again for the opportunity!
Konnor

ProTip: Provide three specific pain points you will solve to show you are the right partner.


Request for proposal email sample: Send to clarify RFP project

Hi [first name] –

It is apparent that [name(s)] spent a lot of time putting this request together. Thanks for sending us such an organized RFP outline…they aren’t always delivered this way!

At this time we are still reviewing, and the requirements are aligning well with [RFPIO]’s offerings. We have outlined a few comments and questions. We would like to schedule a one-hour review session with your team to cover everything.

Is your team available at [11:30 am PST] on [Friday] for this review session? Please confirm and I’ll send over a calendar invite.

Thanks and talk soon!
Konnor

ProTip: A positive tone is always key with clarification requests.


Request for proposal email sample: Use for proposal submission

Hi [first name] –

I trust you are well and busy as you receive and review multiple RFP responses. Attached, you will find the following files and folders to accompany the RFP response from [RFPIO]:

  • [Relevant File / Folder]
  • [Relevant File / Folder]
  • [Relevant File / Folder]
  • [Relevant File / Folder]

Our team would be honored to earn [Company]’s trust and business as a result of this RFP submission. The connection we have with [anecdotal personal point, story, business fact, mutual customers, relevant content identified in the sales process] makes the potential of our doing business together that much more exciting.

We look forward to the next steps to come as we continue this process together. I will be standing by for any follow-up questions from your review.

Thank you!
Konnor

ProTip: Bring in a personal touch to avoid a bland RFP submission.

 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


Request for proposal email sample: Send to follow-up on proposal submission

Follow-Up #1 – When you haven’t heard from the prospect, and the deadline has not passed.

Hi [first name] –

I trust this finds you well and in the throes of the RFP review. As we approach your review timeline of [August 1], I wanted to check in proactively on [RFPIO]’s submission.

Are there any follow-up questions or clarification points needed from [RFPIO]? I would be happy to hop on a quick call or share a sample of our work to clarify any other functional requirements you might have.

Speak to you soon,
Konnor

Follow-Up #2 – When you still haven’t heard from the prospect, and the deadline has passed.

Hi [first name] –

I’m reaching out to see if I can get an update on [RFPIO]’s recent RFP submission. We passed our deadline of [August 1], and I haven’t heard from anyone at [Company] yet.

Perhaps the project is hung up due to competing priorities, the project is taking a different direction, or another vendor has been decided? Whatever the case may be, any updates would be greatly appreciated.

Speak to you soon,
Konnor

ProTip: Keep your first follow-up message brief and polite. On the second follow-up, gently back away to see if that draws them in.


Request for proposal email sample: Send after winning proposal

Hi [first name]-

I was thrilled to learn that [RFPIO] moved forward in the selection process. I speak for the entire team when I say that we appreciate the opportunity to earn your business.

Per the outline of the RFP process, the next step is an onsite presentation for the last week of [August]. I am available [Mon-Wed] in the [afternoons]…do any of these times work for your team?

Very excited, thanks!
Konnor

ProTip: Show your enthusiasm and keep the momentum going to move the project forward.


Request for proposal email sample: Send after losing proposal

Hi [first name] –

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

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

Thank you very much,
Konnor

ProTip: Lose gracefully, but demonstrate complete confidence in your solution until the end. You never know…they may be back!

We know you’re busy, and now you have some request for proposal email samples to make your job a little easier. Depending on the situation, what you say in that email could be the final step in closing that deal.

Don’t dismiss the importance of your response to an RFP email and remember to take your time before you hit send.


Want to respond to 80% of an RFP in a few seconds?

RFPIO’s AI-enabled software makes it easy for proposal teams to consolidate knowledge, collaborate with team members, and create their best proposals. Schedule a demo to see how it works.

How to position financial services RFP responses for success

How to position financial services RFP responses for success

Do people believe their organization fully understands the value of project management? A substantial 42% said “no” in a recent report by Project Management Institute. A big reason why companies spend more time than they should on RFP responses often comes down to not valuing project management enough.

An inefficient RFP response process is a common link between modern organizations across a range of industries. But, for financial services, there are unique obstacles that keep teams from reaching their growth objectives. And since competition in the financial world is always intense, winning RFPs is a pretty important step in the sales cycle.

Better RFP response management for financial services organizations is possible. First you need to recognize your process roadblocks to find the best solution for your team. This is how you get started, so you can position your RFP projects for success.

The roadblock in a financial services RFP response process

Financial services companies usually have a different setup internally. Often there is no gigantic sales team or proposal management team handling RFPs. So, the main roadblock you will run into with your RFP response process is the workflow.

Typically someone who is working with a potential client is the one who receives the RFP and starts working on it. Then, they pull in other subject matter experts when necessary. Although this person has other primary responsibilities, they have to throw on their proposal manager hat to see the project through to completion.

Sound familiar? Though responding to RFPs isn’t your job, bringing in new business is. It is for everyone at an organization.

We get it. You feel your time is better served in front of clients. This is obviously important for the business as well. If you’re not doing so already, prioritizing technology will help you save time with your RFP response process. That way you can get back to focusing on your clients.

Prioritizing technology for managing RFP responses

40% revealed that investing in technology is a high priority for enabling project success. That leaves many others who don’t see the value in technology they are currently using or considering.

project management priorities

Source: Project Management Institute

Since it’s more “all hands on deck” with RFPs at a financial services company, everyone has to contribute in some way. You don’t have a dedicated proposal management team to steer the ship. And, your sales team is spread thin. Might technology be the answer?

RFP software can help you manage all of this, whether you are a team of few or many. Compared to a manual RFP response process, technology allows you to do more with less while organizing the everyday complexities of your unique workflow. Whether you’re repurposing content from past responses or collaborating with SMEs on current projects, you can get more done with RFP software.

Solve Inefficiencies with This Security Questionnaire Template

security questionnaire template

How financial services can benefit from RFP software

Look, we understand that you probably like spreadsheets more than the average professional. But, managing your RFP responses that way is far from efficient. Working after hours using Control+F to hunt down a past RFP response? We know you’ve done that right before a deadline.

RFPIO has quite a few features that will make proposal management easier for you. Here’s how…

Gain RFP project visibility

Dashboards allow you to track and manage your RFP projects, so you always know what’s going on. You can see who has been assigned to specific sections of an RFP or security questionnaire and track completion progress. It’s a lot easier to handle an RFP when you have this level of visibility and know where the entire project stands.

Automate RFP responses

Auto-response fills in the majority of questions from the beginning of each RFP project, defeating even the most massive security questionnaire. You can auto-respond to everything, review, then fill in the gaps by engaging the necessary SMEs. If you’re taking the lead, this does a lot of the work for you.

automate security questionnaires
Increase accuracy with RFPs

Manually copying and pasting from past responses might be the death of your RFP. Reusing content is fine until you call a client by the wrong name. Merge tag functionality saves you from a lot of anxiety, since the system replaces those fields automatically.

Store and filter RFP content

A content library allows you to keep RFP responses organized in one easily searchable place. You don’t have to sift through past RFPs, use CTL-F to find the response, then copy and paste into your document. RFP software does the heavy lifting for you—all you have to do is click a button.

Standardize the export process

A major timesaver happens during the export process. You have the ability to export into either the source document or a corporate template, so you have a uniform RFP deliverable. When 15 people contribute to an RFP, 15 different sized fonts usually happen along the way. What used to take a couple of hours can be done in a couple of seconds.

Investing in technology like RFP software will only help you do your job better. By spending less time responding to RFPs with a more efficient process, you’ll be able to turn more attention to your clients and priorities.

You’re doing the right thing by taking the lead with your company’s RFPs. Now you just need the technology to support your mission.

7 RFP response messaging rules for submitting impressive content

7 RFP response messaging rules for submitting impressive content

An RFP deliverable must always be dressed to impress. The whole branded package should be presentable, as well as engaging. The true wow factor comes through in the way we communicate with our prospects…through RFP responses.

There are a multitude of content resources that exist for sales and marketing purposes, but rarely do they include guidelines for RFP responders. Whether you are a proposal manager or a marketing manager overseeing content during the RFP response process, you likely turn to these content resources to cherry-pick semi-relevant best practices.

Ready to go beyond “better” to develop the best RFP responses? If so, here are some simple messaging rules you can follow on your next RFP to ensure your branded voice is consistent and compelling.

Yes…Content impacts your RFP win rate

The point of an RFP response is to win new business. We all know this when we’re spending countless hours as a team enduring the submission process for tens or hundreds of RFPs every year.

Did you know? 51% of organizations respond to more than 50 RFPs annually.

Landing the deal will only happen when your submission is better than your competitors. Shortcuts won’t produce quality responses. Yet cutting corners happens habitually for organizations who tend to rush through the RFP response process due to lack of time and resources.

Your RFP content must resonate with the issuer—and, also make sense. For technical questions, you will call upon your product or solution team members to contribute their expertise. It’s up to you to find ways to maintain the integrity of their content, while making it more accessible for the person reading these RFP responses.

The 7 rules for impressive RFP response content

While general content best practices will certainly help take your RFP deliverable across the finish line, they won’t necessarily help you medal. Winning just any medal isn’t good enough when you’re racing against similar companies.

If you’re prepared to go for the gold, consider these RFP response messaging guidelines as a way of training for your next submission.

1. Avoid overused words and phrases

Some things can’t be helped when they relate specifically to your product or service. Since we are an RFP software company, you can imagine the word “RFP” comes up plenty of times in our own RFP responses (guilty, we just used it three times in this sentence).

Repetitive words and phrases have a way of annoying the reader—which you obviously want to avoid with a potential client. So, it’s your job to find creative ways of spinning your messaging to keep the content experience fluid. Thesaurus.com and Related Words are trusty tools that will help you brainstorm alternatives for some of your favorite overused words and phrases.

2. Beware of jargon

Sometimes RFP responses contain language that is technical by nature, and can only be communicated a certain way. Other times we’re weaving blah-blah adjectives into our content that reek of jargon. The goal with RFP responses is to speak the language of business without sounding like a business book.

Opt for plain language over jargon whenever possible. Saying “use” instead of “leverage” sounds more human. Where you have to use jargons, use (don’t “leverage”) the most current versions of those words. Replace “intelligent” with “AI” or “machine learning.” Rather than claiming that your company is “innovative,” demonstrate how you innovate in your RFP responses.

plain language
Source: Professional Communication OER

3. Speak the RFP issuer’s language

“Know your audience” is one of the most relevant practices we can borrow from content marketing. With RFP responses, that audience is the issuer. What are their challenges and aspirations? Your RFP should address the issuer’s needs in words that speak directly to them.

Use language that is consistent with the requestor’s language and avoid your internal terminology wherever there is a conflict or difference. Repurposing historic RFP responses is an acceptable strategy, as long as you’re tailoring them for each prospect. Above all, follow the issuer’s requirements closely so you don’t disqualify your organization.

4. Don’t bury the numbers

While the words you choose for your RFP responses are critical to your organization’s win potential, so are the numbers. Sadly, oftentimes the most impactful data responders share is buried in the middle of wordy paragraphs.

Where numbers and quantities are expected, make sure they stand out. Bulleted lists are a great way to feature this data so the issuer can easily scan and consume. Visual graphics are another method for highlighting numbers and breaking up some of the monotony of RFP content.

Use This RFP Executive Summary Template for Stronger RFP Responses

How to write executive summary

 

5. Be informative and concise.

The best RFPs strike a winning balance by providing in-depth RFP responses that get right to the point. This is your organization’s opportunity to shine, so use all of the available content real estate to share your message. Rather than simply saying “yes, no, or N/A,” give more to bolster your RFP response.

…but, not too much more. Being concise is just as important. You don’t want to bore the issuer, you want to keep them entertained. If you come across a lengthy RFP response during the review process, find ways to chop without remorse. Repetition is probably the content culprit, so start there.

6. Use localization.

What is localization exactly? It’s a term that gets thrown around quite a bit, so here is a definition from the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA):

“Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. The aim of localization is to give a product the look and feel of having been created specifically for a target market, no matter their language, culture, or location.”

Let’s say your company is headquartered in California. Is your prospect on the East Coast? When answering a question about customer support hours, respond in Eastern Time. Is your prospect in Germany? When answering a question about pricing, respond in Euros. These details are yet another way to incorporate personalization into your RFP responses.

7. Review and revise.

This last rule is one that absolutely must be followed, dear RFP responder. It’s easy to skip over this important step when you’re trying to submit the deliverable before the deadline. Allow yourself some time during the RFP process to have a proper review cycle.

RFP responses are just like any other content. A fresh set of eyes or a different perspective will only strengthen your deliverable. Since so much is riding on the quality of your RFP responses, you want to submit the best version possible that is both grammatically sound and impactful.

RFP software helps you deliver high-quality RFP responses

You know just how important delivering high-quality RFP responses is for the ultimate success of your organization. As much as you would like to spend lots of time tweaking and polishing content until it’s perfect, that isn’t usually the reality when you have other priorities to tend to. With technology like RFP software, you have the power to automate much of the RFP response process.

A good RFP content management system like RFPIO allows you to draw from quality content that is curated and readily available. The quality of your RFP responses remains high—even when you have limited time, even when you’re under pressure to submit your RFP deliverable.

RFP software helps you…

  • Manage – A centralized RFP content library corrals historic responses in one platform, versus spreadsheets, Google folders, emails, email folders…and the list goes on.
  • Review – Assigning reviewers in the optimal order ensures that each response is positioned for accuracy from SMEs, then signed off quickly for final approval.
  • Audit – To keep the best RFP responses accessible for your team, automatic reminders alert you when it’s time to clean up the content library at your preferred cadence.
  • Finalize – The final deliverable is polished and consistent, with a smooth export process back into the original format or a branded custom template.

After your SMEs contribute their expertise, the magic truly happens during the buff and polish of your deliverable. The next time you’re reviewing an RFP, follow these RFP response messaging guidelines to increase chances of success with your future clients.

Software RFP responses: Practice what you preach to succeed

Software RFP responses: Practice what you preach to succeed

Perhaps the greatest irony of working for a software company is that we live and breathe technology, yet we aren’t always the best at practicing what we preach. This is even more apparent with RFP responses.

It’s crazy to think that the majority of companies—84% to be exact—are still responding to RFPs manually. Meaning, no software to promote efficiency and smooth out the ride. I wish I could say that SaaS companies were exempt from this technology averse group. In truth, they are just as guilty.

Software RFP responses are a different beast. Let’s get into some of the challenges SaaS organizations see daily, and how RFP software makes a definitive improvement on productivity.

3 common software RFP response challenges

In general, SaaS companies are unique. Oftentimes they consist of large sales teams that spend most of their time hunting for new business. These team members don’t necessarily have a lot of technical knowledge and they definitely don’t have a lot of time.

Teamwork is a huge part of RFP response success. As we get into three common challenges with software RFPs, you’ll see just how important teamwork is for your organization.

Challenge #1: Workflow

The very people that are working with a customer on the frontline of sales are the same team members that receive the RFP. Should sales respond to all of these questions in some dark corner of the office? Not if you’re planning on winning business—which is kind of the whole point of responding to RFPs.

Sales knows the product, and they have a good handle on what their company does. But they’re not able to take a deep dive into details on the same level as an SME (subject matter expert). With RFP response, there’s usually a pretty big disconnect between the frontline and the people doing the heavy lifting in the back.

The workflow has to be worked out. Some SaaS companies prefer to have Joe the sales rep take a shot at the first round of RFP responses before sending the document along to Hans in sales ops for the next round. Others don’t include sales reps in the RFP response process at all, because they have a dedicated proposal management team handling everything.

Figure out a workflow that makes sense for your organization. And make sure everyone understands their role in the RFP process. If Sue on the marketing ops team knows when she’ll be responding, and to which specific questions, she’ll be more willing to contribute to RFPs.

Challenge #2: Collaboration

Collaboration is key during the RFP response process. Streamlining communication efforts between departments and teams can be a substantial obstacle. It’s even more substantial for a SaaS company with remote teams in different cities, countries, and/or continents.

Remember…SaaS teams are largely sales teams. Sales is going to go where the easy money is. If they have other deals that are closer to closing, they’re going to focus their attention there rather than a stressful RFP situation they may win down the line in a few months.

Outside of sales, other team members will gladly pass up responding to RFPs in favor of the project they feel is more important. Again, everyone has a full-time job here. The reality is that you need engineers and product managers to weigh in to create quality RFP responses that land the deal.

Responders need to understand that an RFP is a breadwinner, not a waste of time. Getting everybody on the same page with this concept will move RFPs up higher on their priority lists. A stronger team commitment equals a stronger RFP.

Challenge #3: Security

These days companies have major security concerns, especially with products in the cloud. That means SaaS companies are required to respond to security questions and full-on security questionnaires often.

Security questionnaires can be a major setback for software companies. Hundreds or thousands of repetitive questions must be answered quickly. And, no pressure—how well you respond will either put the prospect at ease about your product or cause them to run off with one of your competitors.

Most team members won’t feel confident about answering highly technical questions. This responsibility falls upon the people who can respond, which ultimately exhausts your go-to SMEs.

Security is a part of life for software companies, so be prepared with the right team and a solid way to manage these responses. That’s not as easy as it sounds. But, just like any of the usual RFPs or RFIs, there are ways to take control of security questionnaires too.

Conquer software RFP response challenges and move on

Enough with the doom and gloom already, am I right? You don’t want to hear about RFP response challenges, because you see them every day. I bet you want to know how you can beat some of those challenges and move on with your life. So, here we go…

  • Have a clear and defined team – Your proposal management team doesn’t have to be big. Your team could be one or two people that manage the RFP response process, who call in technical reinforcements as needed.
  • Structure a communication system – Visibility needs to be there for all parties involved in your RFP process. Make communication easy between teams outside of email, so things don’t get lost in crowded inboxes.
  • Build a database of RFP responses – Repetition will happen, especially with responses to security questionnaires. A huge help is creating a centralized, searchable database of common questions and answers.
  • Yeah….Just use RFP software – This is really number one. To beat these software RFP challenges—and be more productive as an organization—you need technology to get the job done.

RFP software makes life easier for SaaS companies

Since you and I both work at SaaS companies, I’ll shoot straight with you. You don’t necessarily need RFP software. You can survive without it, but you’ll be surviving rather than succeeding when your answer library is a spreadsheet instead of a system.

You don’t need to drive your car to get to work. But you also don’t want to spend two hours on public transportation when you could get there in 25 minutes. This is how RFP software works. It makes life easier.

RFP software helps you define a positive workflow, where you spell out roles and responsibilities. You have one page of communication with chat tools inside the platform, along with integrations with crowd favorites like Slack and Salesforce. You give everybody visibility into the process with dashboards. You stop wasting your effort, typing the same thing or searching for responses, because you’re storing everything inside an intelligent answer library.

RFPIO’s features are likely in line with the goal of the product you stand behind at your company. We’re all building technology to make processes more efficient for people. For you, that means no more Control+F to find RFP responses. It’s time to practice what you preach and use software to make RFP response a successful endeavor for your team.

4 RFP response collaboration tactics for the savvy SME

4 RFP response collaboration tactics for the savvy SME

Enterprise collaboration continues to be a popular topic for businesses in constant pursuit of increased efficiencies. An RFP response process is only as good as the people behind it—of all the contributors, the subject matter expert (SME) plays one of the most important roles. Increasing efficiency is a dream every proposal management team would love to see come true.

It all comes down to focusing on the collaboration factor. In our recent Facebook survey, we were curious whether our audience of RFP responders thought collaboration or processes affected team productivity the most. Effective collaboration was the clear winner.

collaboration during rfp process
We know effective collaboration is ultimately the key to a successful RFP response process. But, how do we achieve that? As an SME, you’ve likely explored a fair amount of solutions to find the answer—and you’re on the right track.

RFPIO’s CEO, Ganesh Shankar, stopped by the Smartsheet blog to discuss enterprise collaboration software and shared these tips for selecting the right solution:“When choosing enterprise collaboration software, there are a few basic requirements that I look for—I think all of these use cases must be met in order for the app to be a useful EC tool…

  • Does the functionality allow for collaboration outside of standalone documents and email threads?
  • Does the licensing structure allow for a growing number of users?
  • How easy will it be to gain user adoption among disparate teams?”

RFP software arrived on the technology scene to offer a single solution for teams navigating the complexities of responding to RFPs. It’s the whole enchilada: enterprise collaboration software, project management software, AND content management software.

We are champions of better RFP response collaboration at RFPIO, because we believe this is the heart and soul of the best RFP response processes. Here are 4 RFPIO features that dramatically improve collaboration, so SMEs can happily contribute their expertise and move on with their day.

“EC software can only be successful if there are primary adopters who are evangelists of these technologies across the organization. Then, it should also scale to other users without any barriers. It is not an enterprise collaborative platform if the users do not adopt it.” – Ganesh Shankar, RFPIO on Smartsheet

RFP collaboration tactic #1: Reviewer workflow

A winning RFP response is one that has been crafted with care. This is why your expertise is called in at the front and back of the content creation process. The review workflow is a mess when teams are working with a manual process, since multiple people are involved in a single response.

“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,” according to Harvard Business Review.

Besides you, the SME, other players might be: a proposal writer, proposal manager, marketing manager, and the executive who gives final approval. Needless to say, it’s confusing to understand your place and timing when so many people are involved in the RFP response review workflow.

Within RFPIO, it’s easy to assign multiple reviewers. Even better…assigning sequential reviewers. This brings order to the chaos, since every contributor knows where they fit into the timeline of the review process with email alerts. The beauty here is that you can concentrate on other priorities and swoop in to finish the job.

SMEs face common challenges with RFP Response. Read our guide to overcome them.

RFP collaboration tactic #2: Team communication

Being that every RFP project is a team effort, communication must be consistent and easy. Your days are already filled with time-sensitive priorities and back-to-back meetings. Contributing to an RFP adds to this—you have to make time in your schedule to help your team. The quicker the communication, the better.

Relaying RFP project details by email is a dangerous game for organizations. Your inbox is full enough as it is, and communication will be lost or set aside for other priorities that win your attention. Status meetings are also a difficult option, since you have few hours to spare for quality facetime.

RFPIO brings a wealth of communication options to promote easier collaboration. Both at the section level and at the project level, team members can leave comments and @-mention the necessary contributors as needed. Slack integration offers yet another way for teams to work together. You enjoy direct communication on projects with less email and fewer meetings…cheers to that!

“RFPIO allows us to collaborate in real time, reduces our turn around time on these requests, and allows certain team members to take on more than they typically would with the response. Because we are responding faster with more consistent answers we are also winning deals at a higher rate than ever when an RFP is necessary.” – Ben Grimm Zapproved

RFP collaboration tactic #3: Project clarification

A lot is riding on these RFP responses—winning the RFP equates to winning business, after all. Every RFP is unique. Be crystal clear on the requirements instead of guessing or repurposing historical responses that are just “good enough.”

If a misstep happens, one of your competitors will pass you up and take the win. Since your time is so valuable as an SME, you want your RFP response contributions to count. So, you need the ability to clarify details and language both internally and externally.

For swift clarifications, RFPIO allows you to invite the issuer to collaborate within the solution. Quickly solve any uncertainties and track all of their comments to reference. Global chat is our newest internal communication feature. Much like Google Hangout chat, you work one-on-one with team members to raise questions and talk through details. Now you won’t get hung up on foggy areas of an RFP project, so you can respond like the wind.

RFP collaboration tactic #4: Content review

Content management keeps your knowledge repository up-to-date and ready for action. Every business evolves over time—some quicker than others. Your world of ever-changing responses might involve technical specs, medical compliance, or government requirements.

One thing even the busiest SME must make time for…content audits. Your expertise is a critical step in the content management process to ensure the most accurate version is on-hand. Finding the time to clean up RFP responses probably sounds like a pipe dream, which is why you need the occasional friendly reminder to help you stay on top of things.

Stale content, outdated content, duplicate content don’t stand a chance with RFPIO’s content audit support. Set up reminders to audit content. Quarterly is a great cadence—unless your responses change constantly, in which case monthly is better. Content will be flagged when it’s time for review. You work your updating magic, without keeping tabs on every last response in your answer library.

benefits of rfp software
Businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on teamwork to reach success. Successful proposal management teams are highly focused on collaboration—they are increasing connectivity and breaking down silos. And, they’re using RFP software’s collaboration features to do it all.

Your expertise is in high-demand as an SME already. To juggle RFP response contributions along with other high priorities, you need technology support. Otherwise, you will always feel buried under RFP deadlines instead of staying ahead of them.

RFP software is here to help you deliver the value-add efficiently. All you have to do is be the A-player that empowers your team’s success to win new opportunities.

Client spotlight: Routematch’s informed RFP vendor selection process

Client spotlight: Routematch’s informed RFP vendor selection process

Deciding you want to make a purchase and then actually executing on that purchase doesn’t always happen in quick succession. For example, we don’t often have much time to think about options when it comes to replacing a flat tire, but looking for a brand new car involves research and contemplation.

Vendor selection in the business to business world is no different. Sometimes you have to make decisions without much lead time, in order to solve a problem. But if you’re able to look ahead, the best practice is to go at it with a plan.

The team at Routematch took a proactive approach to optimizing their RFP process by looking for an automation solution. They came up with carefully thought-out requirements and embarked on a journey to find the RFP software that would most closely line up with those needs.

We sat down with their Communication and Learning Specialist, Alexei Budsan, to talk about the positive results of Routematch’s strategic vendor selection process.

“I’m glad that I knew what I was looking for in RFP software before I sought it out. When I looked at the available options, it was clear that RFPIO was ahead of the curve. It really was a no-brainer.” – Alexei Budsan

Looking for a better solution

What does Routematch do, and what is your role at the company?

Routematch is a software company based in Atlanta, Georgia that enables connectivity in modern transportation. We provide the backend services for logistics of fixed route and on-demand transportation services. Cities and other regions come to us looking for ways to optimize routes to be inclusive to all members of their communities.

I’ve worn many hats at Routematch. I started as an instructional designer, providing education and structure training for those that went on the road. Then I spent time developing software documentation and eventually moved into sales and marketing, where I am now. That’s where the RFPs come in.

What’s been your involvement in the RFP process?

We wanted to be creative about our approach to responding to RFPs, and that meant looking for an automation solution. A couple problems we faced were dated content and inconsistent formatting.

So we looked at a few RFP software companies. I came across RFPIO, which had a profound difference in the marketplace. It matched up with our needs—you can keep your content fresh and the easy import and templated export take care of the formatting issue.

I’m glad that I knew what I was looking for in RFP software before I sought it out. When I looked at the available options, it was clear that RFPIO was ahead of the curve. It really was a no-brainer.

manage rfps

Determining vendor requirements

What else were you looking for with RFP software?

We did a lot of research and put together an entire matrix of capabilities and features that were important to us. RFPIO’s automation software hit every mark.

It’s a pretty long list, but a few important things were an easy to update content library, the ability to send reminders to collaborators and track changes, and a dashboard view. The integration with Salesforce and single sign on were also critical to our choice.

And, of course, the price had to be reasonable. With every one of those specifications and more, RFPIO came ahead.

What’s your advice for someone who’s looking for an automated RFP response solution?

I’d suggest getting as much buy-in from the people who are part of the RFP response process. You need some early, enthusiastic adopters in your organization to evangelize the system’s benefits and teach others how to use it.

“We can literally take an RFP at the beginning of the day—I’ve done this before—and have it printed and shipped by the end of the day.” – Alexei Budsan

Improving processes and seeing results

How many RFPs do you think you’re answering in a month, and what are the kinds of organizations that you work with?

Typically we go through at least one or two RFPs a week, but it can be more depending on workflow or season. We serve cities, states, townships (like in Australia) and other regional areas.

Since you deployed RFPIO, how have things changed?

Just like anything else it takes some time for folks to get used to change. But everyone has really jumped on board.

We can literally take an RFP at the beginning of the day—I’ve done this before—and have it printed and shipped by the end of the day. And it looks polished. It’s not necessarily ideal, but it’s a benefit to the speed of the system.

It saves us time by streamlining the process. Now we have the right people on each project and they’re notified when necessary. The system almost runs itself.

It sounds like one of your main takeaways from the software is the focus on content?

Absolutely—it’s key to RFP success. We try to make sure that our content is always maintained, but it evolves, sometimes overnight. We are being more proactive now about tagging content appropriately too, so it’s easy to find and stays relevant. The auto-suggestion capabilities in the recommendation engine are a game-changer.

How has RFPIO made your job easier?

I worry a lot less about how the document will look once it’s gone through so many style changes and versions. With the template capability, I know that we’ll have consistency when it’s exported.

Did you know? People board public transportation 35 million times each weekday. – American Public Transportation Association   

Achieving the ultimate goal

Anything you’d want people to know about Routematch?

We want to champion mobility, and be inclusive of all riders in the communities we serve. We’re striving for equality in the ways of getting here and there, and we encourage the use of public transportation systems as much as possible.

Alexei Budsan Headshot

Alexei Budsan

Learning and Communications Specialist Routematch
Connect with Alexei on LinkedIn

Alexei is a native of St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. He’s lived Atlanta for several years, after graduating from the University of Phoenix with a Master’s in Technology Management. Before working for Routematch, a leader in Intelligent Transportation System software, Alexei worked for a shipping logistics provider as an instructional designer, and an internet service provider as a global trainer. Alexei joined Routematch 5 years ago and has coordinated training and software documentation. Most recently, he joined the sales department to manage proposals and coordinate sales conferences throughout the US.

10 of the most bizarre RFP questions for responders

10 of the most bizarre RFP questions for responders

You’ve probably seen thousands of questions as an RFP responder. Most of them are “the usual” and you respond without hesitation. But every now and then, something comes along that makes you question the sanity of both you and your prospect.

You blink repeatedly when you first see the question, thinking your eyes are playing tricks on you. It’s early—maybe you aren’t caffeinated enough for this RFP project. You go for a walk to clear your head and grab a cup of coffee. But when you come back, it still doesn’t make sense.

Next you ask Joe in sales if he’ll take a look. Joe’s a dependable guy and he has a knack for reading people. Alas, even Joe can’t solve this mystery. You both say aloud what you’ve been thinking all along: What in the world?

Then, you call an emergency proposal management team meeting. It’s due tomorrow, it’s mission critical at this point. But you know you must respond to every question on this RFP to have a chance at winning new business. It’s gonna be an all-nighter, but together, you’ll come up with something that will work in time for the deadline.

Sound familiar? It does to us too. We’ve seen it all over the years. Just when you think you have a solid RFP response process happening, life throws you a curveball.

Because we were curious about the bizarre questions other RFP responders have seen out in the world, we ran a survey for a few months. What follows are some of the strangest questions from survey participants, along with a few tips on what to do when the next RFP bafflement ensues.

Are you a proposal manager? This success guide was made for you. 

What is the strangest question you’ve ever seen on an RFP?

Truthfully, we weren’t sure if there were other RFP responders out there like us who had seen outlandish questions throughout their career. We launched the survey to see what would happen. It turns out, bizarre RFP questions are a thing.

Without further ado, here are some of the strange RFP question sightings from fellow responders across a multitude of industries. Prepare to scratch your head and/or chuckle with your team!

  1. When I was selling print advertising several years ago, I received an RFP that asked “If your magazine was a famous celebrity, which celebrity would it be and why?”
  2. Keep in mind, we are a technology software company responding to a technology software RFP. It wasn’t a question per se…but we had to supply an affidavit of compliance regarding profits derived from slavery if we were established during the slavery era.
  3. Does your solution have a feature that has been copied from your competitor? If “yes,” list out the features and explain how your solution has been designed differently.
  4. Do you charge to answer the questions?
  5. It’s the absence of the sustainability question that seems odd. In every business plan there should be the question: How does your service/product/business contribute to reduce internal combustion, fossil fuel usage, co2 emissions, generate energy, generate more clean water, reduce waste and contribute to sustainability?
  6. What is the profit size of your business?
  7. Do you make apps for the Blackberry?
  8. If you are shortlisted, would you be ready to have your product validated by one of your competitors?
  9. Please provide contact information for two clients who have fired your firm for breach of contract. (I mean, you have to give them credit for the temerity to expect a legit response.)
  10. No joke, in a dental benefits RFP for somewhere in Texas, the question was asked, “Who is your favorite college football team?” We went with a local Texas school just to be safe!

What to do when an oddball RFP question comes up

Run. We’re kidding. Don’t run. Stay and fight for that new business.

“63% of people requesting information on your company today will not purchase for at least three months—and 20% will take more than 12 months to buy.” – Marketing Donut

Remember, if you’re dealing with a crazy question, that means your competitors are too. Sometimes an organization will throw in the wild card to see what you can do with it. Leaving a question blank is never the way to go. No matter how strange it is, do your best to come up with a response.

Who knows? Maybe that question is all it takes to spook one of your competitors, so they skip it. Then, you’ll be the one that gave it your all—even if you felt ridiculous while answering it.

If you have time, you can have a little fun with your team using gamification. Offer an incentive to whoever can come up with the best answer. The winning answer might be with someone who doesn’t normally contribute to RFPs. So, this obstacle in your RFP project can actually be used to promote teamwork.

Having a solid RFP response process helps too

As always, efficiency is key. And when a question comes along that stumps you, it can eat up more of your time when you’re trying to figure out a clever or suitable way to respond.

Having a centralized answer library will make it easier to find a response that is close, then you can tailor from there. If the question is completely coming out of left field, it makes sense to pull in support from your team.

With RFP software, collaboration is easy when you need quick clarification. You can ping other team members with @-mentioning or on Slack. This is a better use of time for contributors, versus back-and-forth emails or random meetings. And if the question is especially challenging, you can quickly ask multiple team members for their thoughts.

Of course, it’s also important to make sure you are pursuing RFPs that are a good fit for your organization. Being able to identify those opportunities is a critical part of the sales cycle. If it’s not the right fit, you don’t need to spend time on strange questions that won’t result in revenue.

[PODCAST] How RFP Software Helps Viewpoint Elevate Their Strategy

Bizarre questions happen to all of us RFP responders. In a way, it’s part of the process. A mind-boggling—and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny—part, but part of the process nonetheless.

Agility is what makes us good at what we do. So, the next time a strange RFP question appears, take a moment to laugh, cry, or whatever you need to do. Then, come up with the best possible strategy for answering that question.

The good news is that you can take some comfort in knowing that others are having the same experience as you…including us. From one responder to another, we salute you!

Here’s a list of “normal” RFP questions to know, so you can respond more effectively.

Get sales enablement right with RFP response optimization

Get sales enablement right with RFP response optimization

Getting sales enablement right in your organization is a bit of a puzzle. There are many definitions of sales enablement, variability in terms of who is responsible for it (sales vs. marketing), and how exactly to do it.

The purpose of this post is not to go through all that complexity—but to single out a piece that, if done correctly, can deliver real revenue results along with improved operational performance.

That piece is optimizing the Request for Proposal (RFP) response process.

RFPs are about how a customer buys

You will care more about RFPs, the larger the percentage of your opportunities include them. But even if infrequent, optimizing around the response process can deliver impressive results.

RFPs are more about how a customer buys than how a company sells. Most companies focus on how to sell and deploy staff and resources to support that effort, with seller defined deal stages, presentations, and skill sets to create and close opportunities.

High performance companies focus on how their customer buys and they align staff and resources around that process. If you have long sales cycles that take 6-12 meetings and require decision-making by committee, then design for that—not for blunt force lead generation and quick close tactics. That’s just not how your customer buys.

Make the most of every RFP opportunity

An RFP is about the purest definition of how a customer wants to buy from you. So make the most of it.

They have detailed their needs, timeline, and decision-making criteria. Your ability to influence this pre-defined process is around how successfully you follow the request and consistently respond to win.

How do you know if you are responding to win? Most companies don’t.

Often an RFP will be received and someone (sales operations, product management, etc.) will review, assign questions to various people, then work to coordinate all those pieces into a cohesive, polished response. Unfortunately, with that many variables, the process is more focused on completing sections rather than crafting a compelling response.

“RFPs are more about how a customer buys than how a company sells.” – Robert Pease

Optimize the RFP response process to win more

So, how do you optimize the RFP response process and respond to win? To put it simply, focus on how your customer buys and remove any friction in that process. Do everything you can to accelerate the purchase decision, while positioning yourself as the only answer.

Doing that can be distilled down to three focus areas of your RFP response process:

1. Content

The core of any RFP response is the content produced to address requirements, answer questions, and demonstrate how your product or service is uniquely qualified to address the need.

A critical piece here is to coordinate and confirm that the content used is the most recent and most relevant. This requires coordination among marketing, engineering, sales—and just about any other group that has a say in how a product or service is represented externally.

Rather than “recreate the wheel” each time, invest in a content repository that can be managed, updated, and accessed. This ensures the most recent and relevant content is always available. With RFP software, an answer library works brilliantly for busy sales teams.

2. Consistency

An RFP response is designed to communicate why your product or service should be chosen by the customer. If your company depends on RFP response for even a small fraction of their revenue, consistency in approach—along with production and presentation—are essential.

Consistency will help you produce a quality response and gain the ability to compare wins and losses from the same baseline. If you use different people, copy, diagrams, or even response approach, you make it very difficult to compare the deals you win and lose on an equal basis.

Improving the RFP response process depends on a critical review of not only those deals that result in a win but also those that end in a loss.

3. Conversion

Often we are so focused on completing sections, meeting deadlines, and “shipping” the response that we lose sight of the main objective…to convert.

Is the goal to make a preliminary selection or a final selection? Is it a defined need with a defined timeline and allocated budget? Or is it more of a Request for Information (RFI)? An RFI is used much earlier in the information gathering phase of the sales process versus the actual buying phase.

Focus on the objective first and foremost. If an RFP has multiple response stages, then managing the process internally is even more critical.

Take a scorecard based approach and track conversion rates related to outcomes like: final consideration, invited to present, and actual purchase. Optimize around those responses that lead to conversions and critically evaluate those that don’t.

Knowing why you lost is more important than knowing why you won, so give yourself the highest probable successful outcome with each response.

Mastering the RFP response process is crucial to your sales enablement efforts. It’s also a defined need/process that can be optimized through both discipline and enabling technology.

Start with the process and know who is doing what. Then leverage enabling technology like RFP software to manage and create content, achieve consistency in response, and optimize around conversions.

Make the most of every RFP. It’s the most transparent way a customer will buy from you.

Start your next RFP response project with a stronger import

Start your next RFP response project with a stronger import

Why do RFP responses take so long to complete? The answer can be found in the beginning stages of your project…the import.

With importing, one question might have multiple responses. If you’ve seen a security questionnaire in a giant spreadsheet with tons of rows and columns and multiple tabs, you know how it feels when you’re trying to kick off a new RFP response project.

In a Gleanster survey of nearly 3,500 B2B companies, 100% of efficiency experts had invested in standardized workflow and approval technology, 73% had centralized assets and content, and 90% used automation tools.

When responders are working with a manual RFP process, they might spend up to 40 hours on a single response. Automating with RFP software like RFPIO can cut that time in half—as long as responders are using the solution effectively.

Here are some importing best practices, and why it’s time to jump on the bandwagon for a better RFP response process.

Importing is the foundation of a successful RFP project

Gut check time. Stop and ask yourself this: Are you kicking off RFP response projects effectively?

You might realize you’re constantly procrastinating your next RFP response project, because you don’t feel comfortable getting started with the process you have today. Or, you might be knocking out projects left and right, but you’re importing responses inconsistently and deep down you know you can do better.

When you’re using RFP software, it’s just like any other technology. The technology is most effective when it is used well. Importing is the first step of an RFP project and it serves as the foundation for your entire deliverable—one that will mean the difference between winning and losing new business (no pressure!).

Whether you’re importing from Excel or Word docs, there are several things to keep in mind to build a stronger foundation. Having an airtight RFP process from the beginning will lead to time-savings for you and your team.

Importing fundamentals for a better RFP process

As we onboard customers with RFPIO, we hear a lot of questions about how they can be more effective with their import process. Really, as an RFP responder, it comes down to knowing what you’re looking for in the source document and how to process that specific type of document.

Typically RFP responses will arrive in your inbox in the form of a Word or Excel doc. The occasional PDF might show up, and RFPIO is the only solution that imports from that source.

Still, your best bet is to work with Word or Excel docs whenever possible, for more control and flexibility. The goal is to create a fantastic deliverable that wins over your prospects. So, it needs to be top-notch.

Importing with Excel documents

Whether you’re using Excel or Word, the first thing you want to do is locate the section titles. Next look for questions, which you can identify easily in Excel by seeing that they all reside in column B. Once you have identified where your sections and questions live, move onto the answers.

Column C has responses. If there is a predefined dropdown in each response (yes, no, or N/A), you will need to configure each option as a separate value. Column D might be an open text field for additional comments, and you can set it up the same way.

rfp software excel import
You’ll repeat that process for additional tabs in your worksheet. Depending on your RFP management solution’s capabilities, the uploading process will differ. With RFPIO, you have two choices:

  • Standard Template – This is the industry standard. Download the template doc, copy and paste questions into the template, then upload it. Any response solution offers this type of configuration.
  • Advanced Configuration – This is unique to RFPIO. Advanced configuration allows you to process the raw source file you’re working with. You have multiple customization options here. RFPIO will also automatically detect predefined dropdowns within an Excel file and do all the work to configure these sections.

After every configuration, preview the document to make sure all answers are pre-populating correctly. Setting up your RFP response project properly before involving team members will save time and help things run smoothly.

Importing with Word documents

Excel is more mathematical, since you are working with rows and columns throughout the import. With Word docs, it’s a far more visual process. Often the issuer has a lot of content at the front of your RFP or security questionnaire—such as company overview and contact information—that you don’t need to worry about.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, this is the one question worth asking: What parts of this document do I need to respond to? Narrow it down to the content that serves you, so you can import the RFP right from the start.

rfp software word importing
When you’re going through the import process with RFPIO, the application reads the style guide within the doc. The system can auto-identify sections, questions, and answers after you manually select them once.

As with importing Excel files, a lot of the same rules apply:

  1. Identify sections, questions, and answers within your source document.
  2. Use advanced configuration to process the source document and customize as needed.
  3. Preview your document to ensure the right content is in the right place.

While tables and mixed document projects (part Excel, part Word) can be importing obstacles in other solutions, both are easy to work with in RFPIO. Tables undergo a similar configuration process as an Excel doc, and mixed documents will be exported into their original sources as a zip file.

Sounds easy? That’s because importing Word docs can be when you know what you’re looking for, and you have a solid tool to help you weed through the content.

After the Import…

You’re ready to rock! You can assign authors and reviewers and start responding to questions.

Time to become the best proposal manager. Read this success guide to step up your RFP response process.

Every RFP import is a time-saving opportunity

Imagine this: a world with less copying and pasting—and less time wrangling source documents when you’re trying to get the job done. RFP software makes that possible, so you can spend more time crafting quality responses to improve your winning potential.

Having a dependable import will save you time from the beginning of the RFP project. Equally important is to be able to import from any source—be it Word, Excel, or even PDF (which is a recent feature we implemented at RFPIO.)

As an RFP responder, you have the power to improve your process. Start at the foundation and build a lasting framework that will benefit your team and help you reach your objectives.

Ready to see how much you can save on your next import? Try our ROI calculator!

How to prevail over 4 common RFP response inefficiencies

How to prevail over 4 common RFP response inefficiencies

Any growing business wants and needs to gain new customers. RFP responses are an integral part of the sales process. To achieve growth, these proposals have to be managed effectively.

High-quality RFP responses are key, but the last-minute nature of these requests can make it difficult for organizations to put their best foot forward. Many even miss deadlines for important RFPs—and with that, they miss the chance to win business.

In our recent RFP response habits survey, 84% of proposal professionals revealed they are still using a manual process. Inefficiencies caused by this approach directly affect the potential of teams responding to RFPs.

rfp response organization
To identify the root cause of why organizations are missing new business opportunities, it’s good to understand what the underlying efficiencies really are. We’re investigating four common showstoppers in your RFP response process, so you can overcome them.

#1)  Lost historical RFP responses

Not being able to locate a key piece of content that’s relevant to the RFP at hand can disrupt your entire project workflow. This sends proposal managers and SMEs on an information hunt they truly don’t have time for: searching emails, folders, and spreadsheets. The effort to relocate the content is already high, but the effort to recreate an RFP response from scratch? Even higher.

RFP software gives responders an intelligent answer library that both decreases time spent finding answers while providing the most relevant option. You can browse various responses for a similar question in historical RFPs and use auto-response functionality to move even faster. This way you have the power to choose a hybrid of multiple responses to customize each response for a better chance of closing the deal.

#2)  Ineffective communication thread

Communication gaps happen—but with RFP response, the impact can mean the difference between winning and losing your next deal. If an SME overlooks an urgent request from a proposal manager by email or if a salesperson never steps out of their beloved CRM, valuable time will be lost when an RFP deadline is looming.

RFP software improves collaboration between teams with specialized integrations, like Slack and Salesforce. Busy SMEs will quickly respond when a clarification is needed on a response. Busy sales teams will view everything related to the RFP project in a Salesforce dashboard, with less distractions and logins. Less email and more focus helps teams keep their eyes forward on winning the RFP together.

RFPIO Customer Pro Tip: “Make sure you spend time—preferably in person—with each person that participates in your RFP response workflow. You will be pleasantly surprised by the details you can get over a cup of coffee, versus a conference call. It certainly helps me highlight areas in our workflow to target for improvement.” – Jim Tapscott, Director of Inside Sales at Continuity Logic

#3) Confusing review workflow

The review process is critical for your organization, since the new business you’re chasing greatly depends on your RFP deliverable. Multiple team members are involved across departments to meet the vendor’s request. SMEs can be difficult to track down, but their expertise is a must. Once they contribute, it’s up to the proposal manager and the marketing team to make the RFP response accessible to the vendor—without sacrificing the technical points.

RFP software gives complete access to the RFP’s progress and the ability to assign reviewers in the optimal order to finish the response well and on time. There is a lot less guesswork with this level of visibility, so the proposal manager can feel more confident about meeting the deadline with a quality deliverable. This eases concerns on all sides, because there is a method that systematizes the workflow.

#4)  Incorrect effort estimation

Many RFP responders discover that the time left to respond to a few queries in the RFP might take more time than what they have available. Procrastination plays a part, since responding to RFPs is typically not a primary job responsibility for the contributors. The aforementioned inefficiencies then add extra hours to the entire process.

RFP software makes the workflow easier on teams, so they don’t feel the same aversions they did before with a manual approach. The proposal manager can steer the ship by assigning tasks and deadlines. SMEs and sales teams can respond in half the time, because they aren’t hunting for responses or repeating unnecessary tasks. By avoiding the last-minute scramble, the RFP response will be more thoughtful for each opportunity—and will have a better chance at winning over the vendor.

RFPIO Customer Pro Tip: “With the stringent timelines to respond to RFXs, we are always racing against time. It’s important to thoroughly review the content and note the selection criteria, which is a key driving factor for writing a winning response. Craft the entire RFP response by paying careful attention and emphasizing the value of choosing you.” Abhinay Gajula, Sr. Executive – Business Development/Business Analyst at ProcessMAP

Like any business process, there are inevitable hiccups that contribute to missing RFP deadlines. All of these inefficiencies can be avoided with the right RFP software, but they can be amplified with a manual workflow.

When key RFP contributors work together effectively, these commons showstoppers will be resolved. Since RFP response requires an incredible amount of teamwork, there are no individuals moving toward the win. You need all hands on deck—and you need better tools to manage everything.

There is no magic bullet to help every organization overcome the many challenges they face with responding to RFPs. But, the value of a dedicated RFP management tool has immediate benefits for those who work closely together with a solid process.

5 pros reveal their time-savings tips for RFP response

5 pros reveal their time-savings tips for RFP response

Time is a commodity, a precious commodity when you’re an RFP responder. Every day we’re doing what we can to help our organizations reach their growth objectives by meeting tight deadlines with the highest quality responses we can dish out.

We know exactly how challenging it can be to lead the RFP process, but we also know there are countless ways to overcome those same challenges. But rather than us sharing our usual tips and tricks to enable your team’s success, we decided to bring in the pros who know RFP response best…five of our amazing clients.

These sales professionals in the field are just like you—RFP responders doing fantastic work. We asked them to share one epic RFP response tip, so we can all learn from each other and work more efficiently together.

Without further ado, here they are with five tips to help you save more time with your RFP response efforts.


Brad Bieber

Brad Bieber

Sales Operations Manager at EMS Software
Follow @EMS_Software

“Always be mindful of customers introducing contract terms and conditions into the RFP that they think may govern the actual purchase as well. Be prepared, with a comment that suggests: We are open to negotiating a good faith contract, but we will need to contract under our own paper and include required terms where possible.”


Abhinay Gajula

Abhinay Gajula

Sr. Executive – Business Development/Business Analyst at ProcessMAP
Follow @ProcessMAP

“With the stringent timelines to respond to RFXs, we are always racing against time. It’s important to thoroughly review the content and note the selection criteria, which is a key driving factor for writing a winning response. A best practice is to include an RFX compliance matrix and respond to each and every selection criteria. Craft the entire RFP response by paying careful attention and emphasizing the value of choosing you.”


Amy Cook

Amy Cook

Sales Operations Analyst at Evisions
Follow @EvisionsInc

“It’s all about organization and making sure each team member knows what’s expected of them—and when. Clear expectations lead to success!”

 


Jim Tapscott

Jim Tapscott

Director of Inside Sales at Continuity Logic
Follow @jim_tapscott
Follow @ContinuityLogic

“Make sure you spend time—preferably in person—with each person that participates in your RFP response workflow. You will be pleasantly surprised by the details you can get over a cup of coffee, versus a conference call. It certainly helps me highlight areas in our workflow to target for improvement.”


Lihod Rachmilevitch

Lihod Rachmilevitch

PreSales Manager at OwnBackup
Follow @Lihodr
Follow @OwnBackup

“Our technical sales team leverages RFPIO to manage all of our RFPs and InfoSec questionnaires. RFPIO has already shown so much value in a short amount of time, as it definitely helps to have workflow trails available for internal auditing and progress tracking. The best thing you can do for your RFP process is spend time optimizing your answer library. Creating a centralized place to store all of your organization’s questions and answers will make the knowledge much easier to share internally while saving your team time.”

 Special thanks to our awesome clients (Brad, Abhinay, Amy, Jim, and Lihod) for sharing their RFP wisdom with us all today!

Have a go-to RFP response tip you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below. 

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