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How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

Accruent is an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company dedicated to helping customers and clients with their physical space and asset management. In […]


Category: Tag: RFP software

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

Accruent is an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company dedicated to helping customers and clients with their physical space and asset management. In recent years, the company has seen notable growth as they’ve acquired other companies to increase their share in the space. They now have nine different products—all of them technical in nature.

Between all those products, the proposals team has a lot of RFPs (request for proposals) to manage and is regularly juggling several at once. According to Jack Pearce, Manager of the Proposal Team, the technical nature of Accruent’s products means the proposals team doesn’t have the knowledge required to answer all the questions themselves. But the company’s subject matter experts (SMEs) are busy people, and the team has to be cautious how much of their time they ask for.

Before Jack became the proposal manager at Accruent, he was a proposal writer. As such, he knew the company had access to RFPIO. But he never used it himself. “None of us did,” he explained. “It wasn’t really rolled out properly. No one was trained on it, everyone just thought it was another system they had to learn.”

They had some content stored in it, but none of it was organized. As a proposal writer, Jack hadn’t fully understood the value of RFPIO. But as a proposal manager, his view changed. Suddenly, he saw how much potential the tool had to make all their lives easier.

Making RFPIO’s potential a reality

In 2020, Jack embarked on a project to re-roll out RFPIO at Accruent. He worked with his colleague James May, at that time a Proposal Writer new to the organization, to better organize the content already contained in RFPIO’s Content Library. They reworked the collections the content was organized within, and created a better tagging structure. They now have nine content collections—one for each product—and another collection for security questions.

Beyond that initial project of getting the Content Library in good shape, they make a point of performing ongoing content maintenance. Whenever James—now considered the company’s resident RFPIO guru—isn’t busy working on an RFP, he devotes time to cleaning up the tags, makes sure the moderation queue is at zero (or close to it), and works with SMEs to keep all content up to date.

RFPIO is now central to Accruent’s RFP process

The proposals team now knows to start the RFP process in RFPIO, and to complete as much of it as they can using the content available. That creates a better relationship with the company’s SMEs, who now know that anytime the proposals team asks for their help, it means they’ve already done as much as they can on their own. Even better, they know each answer they provide will go in the Content Library, saving them that much more time on future RFPs.

In addition to the Content Library, the team also gets a lot of value from RFPIO’s collaboration features. Between everyone involved in the proposal process, they often have 3-8 SMEs working on RFPs at a time. Enabling efficient communication between the various people involved is important.

Before RFPIO, “Every time someone didn’t like an answer, we’d have to have a call about it,” explains Jack. “Now we just use the comments function in RFPIO to facilitate that conversation.” That makes for a more efficient process, and keeps all the correspondence in one place.

The proposals team aren’t the only ones who feel the difference. Chris Low, a Senior Account Director at Accruent, has also shared his feelings on the change: “RFPIO and the processes the team created around it make collaborating with our amazing proposals team even easier. From a simple intake form, to answering questions at a canter with the library, it’s been a huge help and certainly attestable to winning new business.”

The result: submitting more RFPs, with more confidence

With the help of the Content Library in RFPIO, the proposals team is now able to complete around 50% of all RFP questions on their own. That increases efficiency to the degree that they’ve gone from working on 5-6 live RFPs at a time to tackling 15-25 live projects at once. “That is simply because we can do more because of the platform,” Jack says.

Completing more RFPs has also made them better at determining which ones are worth their time. In practice, that has meant fewer no-gos than before. “It’s given us the confidence to take on more opportunities,” Jack shared.

They’ve also seen a big difference in how they handle security questionnaires. The responsibility for those has generally fallen to one person—and it was really too much work to put on him alone. Now, the proposals team is generally able to get 75% of the questionnaires completed on the first pass. That’s cut the response time from ten days to five.

Before RFPIO After RFPIO
Answering RFP questions meant asking busy SMEs to give up their time The proposals team is able to answer around 50% of all questions on their own, giving SMEs that time back
They juggled 5-6 live RFPs at a time They handle 15-25 live RFPs at a time
Security questionnaires were primarily the responsibility of one SME, and took around 10 days to complete The proposals team can answer 75% of the security questionnaire before they send it on to the SME, and they’re completed in half the time
They were limited in how many RFPs they felt comfortable responding to Replying to more RFPs has increased their confidence in which ones they believe they can win, meaning an increase in the number they submit

Jack and his team don’t mince words when they talk about the difference RFPIO has made. “A life without RFPIO would not be worth living,” he says. “It would be bloody difficult. And you can quote me on that.”

According to T.C. Kaiser, SVP – Global Solution Consulting at Accruent, “Our proposals team has a high volume of projects live and RFPIO enables them to deliver with speed while maintaining a high level of quality. Our team relies on the platform to deliver value to our organization and make the best impression with our customers.”

When it came time for Jack to make the case to superiors for renewal last year, he reports, “I said, ‘this is non-negotiable. If we don’t have RFPIO, we cannot do as much work as we do currently.’”

Not that anyone needed much convincing. The proposal process is so centered on RFPIO that people have taken to referring to the proposals team as the “RFPIO team.” According to Jack, “that is probably the biggest compliment we can give the system.”

RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

Every few years, it seems, economists warn of an impending economic slowdown. In circumstances where these predictions have merit—like now—should businesses cut back, or should they embrace change?

Indeed, as every surfer knows, it’s impossible to ride the crest of a wave forever, and the troughs are where they regroup and build momentum. Or, as the late Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

I recently sat down with RFPIO’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, Ganesh Shankar, to discuss the changing economy. We will discuss whether, like Churchill or the hypothetical surfer might, companies can leverage software like RFPIO to turn fiscal challenges into revenue-generating opportunities.

The economy

Wendy: Many economists predict a time of economic uncertainty. What is your opinion?

Ganesh: I am not an economist, but I see some macroeconomic challenges lurking. However, I see it as an opportunity. Stronger companies will have a chance to thrive.

Wendy: You have spent your career in the tech sector. In your experience, how do economic downturns generally affect tech?

Ganesh: In the grand scheme of things, this is a time when companies are looking for ways to be more efficient. Technologies tend to help companies become more efficient.

Better efficiency doesn’t mean that automation will take people’s jobs. I strongly feel that technology will allow companies to produce more and deliver better outputs with less infrastructure.

I believe this is the first time we are seeing a downturn in the SaaS ecosystem. Although, when I recently spoke with with two of our enterprise customers, they brought an incredible amount of energy to the meetings. They even flew people in from outside the country to speak with us. It’s evident that they see technology, and specifically our technology, as mission-critical.

Of course, not every technology can claim that, but I feel that RFPIO is fortunate in that it is seen as mission-critical software. Mission-critical technologies will be super important and help companies thrive during a changing economy.

RFPs in a changing economy

Wendy: RFPs are revenue-generating opportunities. During bullish economies, do you feel that companies tend to focus on the low-hanging fruit, such as MQLs and SQLs, rather than RFPs? If so, how does that change during a downturn?

Ganesh: I recently spoke to a CEO of a startup company. I asked why he was looking at a technology like RFPIO. Generally speaking, RFPs are relationship-based, and deals go to companies that are known to the purchaser.

For that reason, time- and resource-strapped small, mid-market, and startup companies often feel that responding to RFPs is a wasted effort.

The startup CEO looks at RFPs very differently. Instead of nurturing existing relationships, his company sees RFP response as an opportunity to put his brand in front of the customer. Even if they lose the deal, he said, RFP response improves brand awareness.

In the past, his company didn’t have the resources to respond to all the RFPs they received. With RFPIO, he told me, he can automate the response process, and it gives his company a chance to register his brand with buyers, whether they win the deal or not.

When the buyer is ready to look for a different company, and they are looking for a simple and economical solution rather than a giant brand, there’s a chance that they’ll remember his startup from the previous strong RFP response.

RFPIO helps his company respond to more RFPs and creates efficiencies in his organization’s response process. Now they have more time to respond, and now his team has the ability to participate in more bidding processes.

Wendy: Roughly ⅓ of revenue comes from RFPs. How might that change during a downturn?

Ganesh: I’m not sure of the metrics, but in changing economic times, companies will more thoroughly scrutinize and be more detail-oriented in evaluating options. In all industries, but especially in the SaaS economy, there are tons of options for customers.

Previously, perhaps due to a time or resource crunch, they made hurried decisions. In a challenging economy, buying decisions are more stringent and thorough. For that reason, I anticipate that organizations will see more RFPs.

Whether customers prioritize pricing, technology, etc., RFPs are a great way to objectively analyze each potential vendor’s offerings. I believe that RFPs will become even more common in the months to come.

Navigating changing times

Wendy: How should companies look at response teams if they need to restructure?

Ganesh: I don’t see technology as a vehicle for cutting people’s jobs. I see it as a way to make systems more efficient. I understand that companies sometimes have to take unwanted measures, but in challenging times, it’s important for companies to centralize their knowledge.

When employees leave an organization, and there is no centralized information repository, the company’s native knowledge walks out the door with them unless it’s documented and centralized.

You want your organization to speak the same language. The information that proposal and RFP managers curate for the company is client-facing. RFPs are often legally binding documents. Response managers must ensure they’re putting forth the right, most relevant information.

Wendy: Does RFPIO have a role beyond response management?

Ganesh: Companies spend time and energy creating their content, so why not optimize and repurpose it for use cases beyond RFPs? This would help other teams consume the content to be used for use cases. That is what I call the “democratization of content,” where organizations can use the same content over and over again. You can recycle and reuse content; you don’t have to reinvent it.

Especially in changing economies, it’s critical for companies to centralize and democratize content to help make informed business decisions. RFPIO’s industry-leading content management functionality provides a single source of truth for leadership, customer-facing teams, HR, finance, legal, etc.

Wendy: How do economic challenges affect the RFP go/no-go decision-making process?

Ganesh: Now is the time for companies to be more efficient and evaluate whether the opportunities are right for them. If it’s not the right opportunity, sometimes it’s okay to say “no-go” and move on to more fitting possibilities.

This is an excellent opportunity, however, for companies to loosen their criteria and do as the startup CEO I spoke to said. Now could be a great time to position themselves for future purchasing decisions by putting their brand in front of customers.

Wendy: A Forbes article suggests that government spending generally remains stable during a recession. What are your thoughts on that, and are there other recession-proof sectors?

Ganesh: Healthcare, education, utilities, education, and financial services are relatively stable.

Wendy: Do you have any advice for seeking out unsolicited opportunities?

Ganesh: This is the time for companies to step up their game and explain the value proposition they are offering. Sometimes customers may not think they are looking for a solution like yours, but then the onus goes on to you to educate and nurture the prospective customers and explain why yours is the right solution.

This is the time for value-based selling. You have to show the value and explain the ROI. Now is the time to become more serious in explaining to the customers.

Wendy: According to Gartner surveys, CIOs prioritize tech stack consolidation, centralized data management, and embracing emerging technologies as cost-cutting measures. How does RFPIO fit with those priorities?

Ganesh: I strongly believe that RFPIO fits into all those pockets. It helps companies be more efficient and reduce resource use. For CIOs, this is the time a platform like RFPIO is mission-critical. Regardless of the economy, companies tend to spend more on technologies that help them generate revenue.

That is why revenue-generating companies tend to be more successful during economic downturns. They are helping their customers earn revenue, which is one of the reasons RFPIO has one of the best-in-class customer retention numbers. We serve all three segments—small businesses, mid-market, and large enterprise companies.

Wendy: What about security spending?

Ganesh: Security spending will only increase, almost regardless of the economy. In the future, most large purchasing decisions will be preceded by security questionnaires to ensure that all vendors, and their vendors’ vendors, comply with buyers’ security protocols.

RFPIO® LookUp and Content Library saves hours on each security questionnaire by leveraging machine learning to answer up to 80% of a security questionnaire’s questions—with the documentation to back the answers up.

As for our platform, RFPIO is entirely scalable and secure enough for companies such as Microsoft, Salesforce, and Google.

Wendy: This has been an enlightening talk. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Ganesh: This is a good time for companies to think strategically. Most of the biggest deals involve at least an RFP. Sometimes they take a little longer to close, but the rewards are great. RFPIO can help companies thrive through changing economies by helping them win more of those bids.

Wendy: Thank you, Ganesh.

If you would like to learn more about how RFPIO can help your company navigate economic uncertainty, schedule a free demo.

RFP process recommendations

RFP process recommendations

Drawing a clear line between business activities and profits is often challenging. But two things that have a clear impact on the business bottom line are: the number of RFP (request for proposal) responses you complete, and the quality of the proposals you submit. 

Every time you fail to respond to an RFP by the deadline, that’s a sale you’ve lost. And any time you send a lackluster proposal because you were rushed and sloppy in getting it out (relatable though that may be), your chances of landing that sale don’t improve by much.  

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Even understanding the value of a competitive RFP response, many companies struggle to complete persuasive proposals in a timely manner. If every RFP at your business requires internal scrambling and stress, that means you lack a strong RFP process. And that lack is costing you. 

What is an RFP Process?

An RFP process consists of the steps your company takes each time you respond to an RFP, the tools you use to enable those steps, and the people who complete them. Establishing a clearly defined process for RFP responses is crucial for getting more proposals out on deadline and ensuring each one is high-quality. 

Designing a Great RFP Process

At companies that lack a clear RFP process entirely, the response to an RFP can tend toward disorganized chaos. But while any RFP process is better than no process at all, a weak one can still leave your team unorganized, unprepared, and overwhelmed. That won’t improve your results by much. 

A great RFP response process is one that’s clearly defined, efficient, and consistently produces strong proposals. You’ll know you’re on the right track when collaboration between team members starts to run more smoothly, you increase the number of RFP responses submitted, and the workload of completing each one decreases. Oh, and when you start to win more of those RFPs, of course. That’s the best part. 

7 RFP Process Recommendations

To create the kind of RFP process that achieves those results, you’ll want to follow a few main RFP process recommendations. 

1. Determine the right tools for the job

The tools you use impact what your RFP process will look like. Many companies default to using the basics:

  • 28% rely on spreadsheets to capture information
  • 54% use email for communication and shared folders like Google Drive to share information
  • 84% stick with a manual process for RFP responses 

In some cases, those tools do the job just as well as you need them to. 

But if you’re struggling to stay on top of RFPs using the tools you have now, this is a good opportunity to consider whether it’s time for an upgrade. As you develop a clear RFP process—or work on updating the one you have—consider what needs you have that a new product (or a couple) could address.

If the stakeholders involved in your RFP response process can’t seem to get on the same page, you may want to go beyond email and invest in better collaboration tools. If your SMEs (subject matter experts) bristle at having to answer the same questions over and over again with each new RFP, a good knowledge management tool will help them reuse the work they’ve already done.

And if your team is letting relevant RFPs slip by because you can’t get them done in time, RFP automation software can considerably cut down on the time and work each proposal requires. Companies that invest in RFP software manage to submit 43% more RFP responses than those without. 

Be careful here not to confuse picking a product with solving your RFP response issues. The right tool has to be matched to the right process to make a meaningful difference. But once you’ve identified the tools that best address the RFP process challenges you face now, you can develop a more effective process based on the features you gain.  

2. Evaluate RFPs strategically

Even with an awesome team and the right products, you won’t be able to respond to every single RFP that comes your way. Crafting a strong proposal takes time, and submitting a sloppy one isn’t worth the effort. To keep the work manageable, an important RFP management best practice is developing criteria to determine which RFPs are worth your time.

Some useful questions to consider at this stage are:

  • Is our product even a fit for this RFP? You’re not going to win an RFP if your product doesn’t meet their needs. And you wouldn’t want to—trying to make your product stretch to do something it’s not meant for would be a bad experience for both of you. If you’re not the right answer to what they’re looking for, skip the RFP.
  • Is this company in our target market? Some prospects are worth more to your business than others. If you haven’t yet, define your ideal customer. Then weigh RFPs against how closely the company matches your target market. You may find it worthwhile to respond to RFPs for companies that don’t exactly match your ideal customer profile, but any time you have to choose between RFPs based on your capacity, it will help you prioritize your options.
  • Can they afford us? Don’t go through the whole process of responding to their RFP and pitching your product, only to learn that their budget is far too small. Consider this question upfront, so you don’t waste your time.
  • Do we have a relationship with the company? Any good salesperson can tell you that who you know is a big part of how sales get made. If the company issuing the RFP already has a prior relationship with your company, then you’ve got a bit of a head start.
  • Can we realistically meet this deadline? There’s no point in devoting the hours and work to starting on an RFP that you don’t have time to finish. If you can’t realistically meet the deadline with the resources available to you, let that RFP go. 

One of the fastest ways to make your RFP process more efficient is to weed out the bad-fit RFPs early on. That frees up time and resources to focus on the ones you most want to win.

3. Design your process to prioritize speed

RFP responses require a lot of labor hours. But when deadlines loom, taking the care you need to get every part of the RFP response just right can feel out of reach. And since your salespeople and SMEs have other important obligations, you can’t ask too much of their time without it costing your organization in other ways.

A good RFP process has to find the balance between working fast and doing good work. If you can hire more people to help, that’s one easy solution. But it’s an expensive one that isn’t always an option. If you’re at one of the 63% of organizations with no plan to increase staff, you have to look for ways to make your process more efficient.

Some of the RFP process recommendations on this list will help with this part, but additional tips to consider for efficiency:

  • Commit to moving fast to get started once an RFP makes it through your evaluation process. 
  • Create standard answers for as many common parts of the RFP as possible, so part of the work is already done. Something like company information doesn’t need to be written from scratch every time, when it mostly stays consistent.
  • Establish the priority level for RFP responses throughout the organization, so everyone involved in a response knows not to let it sit on the desk for weeks. Establishing a service level agreement (SLA) between departments can help with this. 

Considering efficiency as you define your process will pay off in faster and easier responses as you enact it. 

4. Clarify roles and responsibilities

When it’s time to move forward with an RFP, if you have to stop and figure out who should be assigned to each part of the process, that’s time wasted. If you then have to spend time convincing them to do their part, you’re facing an unnecessary bottleneck to the whole process—one that will lead to missed deadlines.

Instead, do this part in advance. Clarify who will consistently take charge of each part of the process. Figure out who the right SMEs are for each RFP section, so you always know who to turn to. Then make sure everyone knows their role and understands the importance of the process.  

Once you have your team clearly defined, ask them to provide their input on the RFP process. What would make their job easier? How can you best enable collaboration and communication between the whole team? Letting the key stakeholders weigh in will help you create a process that works for all of them. 

5. Use the content you already have

A smart way to cut down on the work and time involved in a RFP response is to use the content you already have. Answering every question in an RFP from scratch every time is extremely time and labor intensive. Consulting a Content Library to see if a good answer already exists is much faster and easier.

In order for this to be a useful part of your RFP response process, you do need to create and maintain a Content Library. Establish a library that collects all the best answers to the common questions you encounter in one place. Then think about how best to organize it so those answers are easy to find the moment your team needs them. Employing features like tagging, custom fields, and collections can improve discoverability, which is especially valuable when your team is in a time crunch. 

Having a well managed content library only matters if people use it. Make it part of your established RFP response process to look for any answers that already exist. The team will often want to tweak existing content to make it more relevant to the specific RFP they’re working on, but that’s still a lot faster than writing up a new answer from scratch.

6. Agree on clear metrics to evaluate your RFP process

No matter how much thought you put into developing a strong RFP process now, there will be room for improvement. Think through what a successful RFP process means to you, then select the best metrics to evaluate your success. 

Tracking relevant metrics enables you to spot ways the RFP process falls short, so you can improve it over time. And it’s how you gain proof of improved results, which is key for keeping (or gaining) the support of your executives and SMEs. 

Some RFP process metrics to consider include:

  • Number of RFP responses
  • Average response rate
  • Average response time
  • Time spent per RFP
  • RFP win rate

You’ll want to include metrics that measure process efficiency, as well overall results. A faster process is only valuable if quality doesn’t suffer as a result. 

7. Evaluate and improve

Anytime you get complacent, you stop improving. Make evaluating your process a regular part of the process itself. Review your metrics to determine if you’re meeting your goals. Check in with all stakeholders to gain feedback on their experience. And update your RFP process as needed to incorporate what you learned. 

Continual RFP process improvement will lead to a number of benefits that go beyond the RFP process itself. You’ll strengthen your Content Library, improve the relationship between internal teams, and increase overall revenue for the company. But getting those results requires doing the work to analyze how well your process works and strengthen your approach over time. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

Does putting all of this work into creating a great RFP process really make a difference? A number of companies have put that question to the test and seen notable results.

RFP Process Example #1: 

Between entrenched silos and outdated software (that everyone involved in the process hated), a health insurance company realized their RFP process was an inefficient mess. Getting RFP responses out was too slow, and none of the stakeholders involved ever knew enough about what was going on. They decided to address the issue by reworking the process to make it more user friendly. They incorporated RFPIO AI-powered automation into the process to save stakeholders time on the more tedious tasks, and made collaboration easier between team members.

With a new, improved process powered with better tools, they:

  • Improved collaboration between team members and opened easier lines of communication, so that everyone involved could keep up-to-date on the status and results of each RFP
  • Created a content library that helped them create consistent messaging and re-use quality content that’s already been created
  • Reduced the time it took to complete the RFI (request for information) portion of the process from around five days to just a few hours

RFP Process Example #2:

Small teams often feel buried under the work RFPs require, but hiring more people isn’t always an option. A two-person team at a growing software company could never manage to keep their content library up-to-date, because the process of manual updates was slow, and chasing the next RFP kept them too busy. 

But responding to those RFPs without an up-to-date Content Library to pull from was a slow and tedious process. They were stuck. So they looked at their RFP process. 

They changed the system they used for updating their Content Library by introducing RFPIO response software that made adding new content much easier. And instead of asking SMEs to provide answers to RFP questions in color-coded spreadsheets—a system that caused a lot of confusion and wasted time—RFPIIO allowed the proposal team to assign questions to each SME that would show up for them in an email. Much easier for all involved.

As a result, they: 

  • Doubled the content in their library within a few months, ensuring future RFPs are easier to respond to
  • Enabled their tiny team to manage more RFP responses at a time, while keeping track of where they are in all of them
  • Managed to submit 16 RFPs on deadlines in the first year of using their new RFP process—not bad for a two-person team

Creating a more effective RFP process

Whatever your particular challenges and needs, better RFP results start with developing an improved process. Many aspects of that process will be easier, faster, and produce higher quality RFP responses if you choose the best tool for the job.

RFPIO offers features that help with several parts of the RFP process. Some highlights include:

  • Collaboration tools that allow stakeholders to communicate with each other, clearly understand their role in the process, and stay updated on each RFP’s status
  • Automation tools that do a portion of the work of each RFP for you, significantly cutting down on the time commitment
  • A Content Library that enables you to easily update and organize your knowledge base in ways that make reusing existing content and finding the best answer every time fast and easy
  • A system that automatically tracks the most important RFP process metrics, so you can evaluate and improve your process with minimal extra work

Creating the right RFP process for your organization will work a lot better if you have the right tool for the job. To get started on your new, improved RFP process, get in touch with RFPIO’s team

 

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

Organizations issue requests for proposals (RFPs) because they have a need that cannot be fixed internally—a big need—one that will cost lots of money. This isn’t calling a plumber to fix a clog. This is soliciting bids from multiple contractors for complete remodels, or to construct full-on additions.

Obstacles in the RFP response process

The scale of an RFP can be huge

RFPs contain up to thousands of questions and requests for specific content. If your company has a solution to the problem put forth by the issuer, then you respond with a proposal that includes all the answers and requested content. Depending on the size of the RFP, it can take you hours, days, or weeks to prepare a response. As long as you submit your completed RFP response by the deadline, your solution will be considered.

Competition is fierce

The issuer compares your RFP response with all of the other RFP responses received from your competitors. Sometimes, the lowest price wins. Other times, the best solution wins. Sometimes, it’s both…or neither.

Success requires more than paperwork

Much of the time, the winner results from the best pitch — an umbrella term that includes the RFP response, relationships built with sales and subject matter experts (SMEs) during the process, pricing, reputation, and a variety of other factors. Then there are the times when winners are selected based on prior or existing relationships between the two organizations.

No matter what the deciding factor between an RFP win or loss, the ultimate truth is that you have to compose an RFP response to have a chance. Why not put your best foot forward?

How to respond to an RFP

The RFP response process is cyclical, not linear. I’ll get into more of that in the best practices section. For the sake of getting a proposal out the door, you need to follow these eight steps after you first learn about the RFP.

1. Qualify the bid

Is this worth going after? As I mentioned earlier, RFP responses can take weeks to compose. Starting off with a go/no-go checkpoint gives you an opportunity to evaluate how your solution measures up, the financial viability of the project, availability of resources you’ll need to submit a response by the deadline, and any other factors that will impact your business during the response process. Essentially, building a proposal is like investing in your future. Every investment requires close scrutiny.

2. Understand requirements

What do you need to get it done? This ranges everywhere from the type of content, to who produces the content, to who is responsible for signing off on the final proposal. The list can be quite lengthy, but it must be comprehensive to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Answer commonly seen questions

Pull from your content library to fill in answers to commonly seen questions. If anything needs to be reviewed by a subject matter expert, be sure to get their eyes on it before submission.

4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators

Whose expertise do you need to get this done? After you determine requirements, you’ll identify all the milestones. There’ll be due dates for content, reviews, edits, and approvals for multiple collaborators. The trick is respecting everyone’s time while driving the process forward.

5. Assign questions for review and approval

Who needs to sign off on this content? Likely, this will not be a Caesar sitting in the stands giving thumbs up or down. You’ll have multiple approvers to sign-off on content related to sales, product, support, legal, branding, etc.

6. Polish

Make sure you’re telling the story you want to tell. Add visuals or other supporting content to tell your story better. This is where you can nail the competitive differentiation. If you have the good fortune to have a dedicated proposal team, this may fall on writing and design specialists within that team. It may also be someone from branding or marketing—someone who puts eyes on anything that your organization produces for external audiences. Ensure your proposal is in a clean, easy-to-read format. Or, even better, put it into a branded template.

7. Proofread

Don’t let poor grammar and typos be the reason you lose the bid.

8. Submit to issuer

Push send with no regrets (See? Proofreading is important!).

The Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

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

Read the report

Best practices for responding to an RFP

Whether you have a dedicated team of stakeholders from each department or you assign a new team for each project, what matters most is that everyone in the organization recognizes that they have skin in the game. 

RFP wins, proactive sales proposals, and fast turnaround on questionnaires equate to revenue and may determine whether the company grows, shrinks, or offers an extra percentage point in next year’s retirement fund match.

Build the right team

Proposal managers lead the proposal team. Proposal managers may think of themselves as the director of a motion picture. After that “Directed by” end title flashes, another three minutes of credits roll by.

The proposal team I’m referring to is made up of the individuals you rely on for a variety of roles:

  • Prospect and customer interaction – Customer-facing teams have their fingers on the pulse of competitors and customer needs.
  • Subject matter expertise – Many RFP questions require detailed answers, and for those you should turn to the people who know the most about their particular area of expertise.
  • Brand messaging – Consult with marketing before submitting your response to ensure that you are on brand.
  • IT support – Can your company support the issuer’s needs?

… and all of the others who are vital to creating a winning proposal.

Even a one-person proposal department needs input from internal or external SMEs to build a high-quality response. 

Only respond to RFPs you can win

As part of your bid-qualifying at the beginning of your RFP response process, add a go/no-go checkpoint to ensure that you only respond to RFPs you can win. Whether it’s a scheduled team meeting or a checklist, you need to answer:

  • Is the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses all of the challenges presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match the budget?
  • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

Basing the answers to these questions on data rather than anecdotal evidence will help validate the go/no-go step as well as your role as a proposal manager. RFPIO’s AI-powered analytics tools provide that data.

Respect contributors’ time

If you want SMEs and other stakeholders to feel a sense of ownership for their proposal responsibilities, then you have to respect their time. RFP responses will suffer if contributors end up working after hours and weekends, rushing to meet deadlines. Get their buy-in ahead of time on deadlines and time required for reviews and approvals.

Document your process

A documented RFP response process will anchor your team during the most chaotic times. It’s up to you to own the process, but RFP software will make it easier to automate, execute, and monitor processes from beginning to end on multiple projects running simultaneously.

Conduct a win/loss review

The win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. Internally evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

Did you win? Why? How can you repeat it for future proposals?

Did you lose? Why? How can you avoid it in future proposals?

Include the whole proposal team in a wrap-up summary, but make the extra effort to work hand-in-hand with sales enablement so they can bring in the customer perspective.

Let technology do the heavy lifting

Remember earlier when I said the RFP response process is cyclical? The win/loss review will inform your new go/no-go step, increasing your predictive accuracy of which RFPs you can actually win. It helps to have RFP software for a win-loss review because you have everything that went into the response—the planning, communication, content, and the actual response—in one place.

Software is the single most effective way to overcome lack of time, experience, and other resources. It’s the difference maker that will help you respond like a boss. With only 43% of organizations using RFP-specific technology, there’s a huge opportunity for you to get a leg up on competitors.

How RFPIO can help

RFPIO RFP software makes it easier to collaborate with an extended team and leverage the power of technology. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using our industry-leading Content Library, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without RFP software or with less advanced software solutions. 

You create more time to spend customizing the responses that really matter and focus on differentiating yourself from the competition. And that’s only the beginning! 

Using software at every step in the RFP response process

Here’s a quick overview of how RFPIO RFP software helps during each of the seven steps of RFP response:

  1. Qualify the bid — Check data from past similar RFPs. What took weeks without RFP software may only take hours with it. All things being equal, is this RFP winnable?
  2. Understand requirements — Let the tool create a checklist of open items based on what remains after the automated first pass conducted at intake by your Content Library.
  3. Answer commonly seen questions — RFPIO RFP technology consolidates all your previous Q&A pairs into an intelligent Content Library, so you can automatically respond to repeat questions in just a few clicks.
  4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators — Assign each RFP question or section as a task to individual collaborators from the project dashboard in RFPIO. They’ll then receive a notification from where they’re already working (e.g., email, Slack, or Teams).
  5. Assign questions for review and approval — Simplify the review and approval process with automated reminders and cues across multiple platforms.
  6. Polish — From intake, work within a branded template and support answers with approved content that’s always up-to-date according to the SME in charge of that content.
  7. Proofread — Still important, but working with already-approved content will decrease how much you have to proofread.
  8. Submit to issuer — Push send from RFPIO or your integrated CRM!

We recently created a Proposal Management Benchmark Report where we found that organizations using RFP software already managed 43% more RFPs than those who do not use RFP software. If you’re looking to speed ahead of the field in RFP response, then gain traction faster with RFP software.

I’ll just leave these other tidbits right here…

Recognize SMEs and salespeople at quarterly meetings. Salespeople are competitive and like to be recognized for winning.

Implement formal kickoff meetings for RFPs. Make them quick and include pre-reading materials in the invitation to hit the ground running. Some organizations combine this with a go/no-go checkpoint.

Hold 15-minute daily standup meetings or calls as you approach the RFP deadline. Focus on status reports and action items.

Commit to professional development time. Join this LinkedIn group, the response management Slack community, or connect with APMP. This is especially valuable for small shops, where it can be hard to build a network.

If this has inspired you to investigate RFP software, then schedule an RFPIO demo today!

How to choose the right RFP software

How to choose the right RFP software

According to Bill Gates, “Software innovation, like almost every other kind of innovation, requires the ability to collaborate and share ideas with other people, and to sit down and talk with customers and get their feedback and understand their needs.”

Software, as Bill Gates reminds us, is a tool. The best software breaks down silos and encourages collaboration. The best software is agile—it addresses its customers’ needs today and quickly adapts to tomorrow’s. 

The best software is built by humans. Machine learning technology adapts the software to its users’ needs. Great software companies go even further by using customer feedback to routinely improve their products. 

Great RFP software and software companies do all that but with the specific goal of encouraging efficiency in the RFP response process. The most successful responders see the best results by collaborating within a single response management platform…RFP software.

What is RFP software?

Request for proposal (RFP) software helps organizations respond to more RFPs in less time. Of course, that barely scratches the surface of advanced RFP software capabilities. Advanced RFP software helps optimize every step of the RFP process, from before the document is received to after the bid is made. 

Essential RFP software features

An efficient response management platform includes features that streamline your team’s workflow. At the very minimum, RFP software should feature: 

Import and export capabilities

Before the advent of RFP software, there were *gasp* manual processes. Of course, the challenge is that issuers send RFPs in a variety of formats, including Microsoft Word and Excel, Google Docs and Sheets, and sometimes PDFs. And—this will surprise no one—issuers weren’t (and still aren’t) consistent in their formatting inside their docs, spreadsheets, or PDFs. 

Have you ever searched a poorly organized spreadsheet? Where do you search docs or PDFs if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Manual importing is tedious and time-consuming. In fact, it can be the most time-consuming part of a manual RFP process. 

RFP response software should be able to recognize critical questions and information, regardless of the format, and import them into your RFP software.

There are two kinds of people in this world: people who say there are two kinds of people and people who don’t. There are also spreadsheet people and doc people, although some live on the wild side and do both. 

Spreadsheets are mathematical and formulaic, but that doesn’t mean the formulas are standard from RFP to RFP. RFP software imports spreadsheets in a couple of ways:

  • Standard template – Basic RFP software allows for standard template import, where you download the template spreadsheet, copy/paste the questions, and then upload it. 
  • RFPIO’s advanced configuration – Forget copy/pasting. Advanced configuration lets you process raw source files, customized how you want them. Beyond that, RFPIO automatically detects predefined dropdowns and automatically configures the sections.

Word and Google Docs, on the other hand, are more visual. The biggest challenge with Word and Google Docs is knowing what you need to reply to. Word and Google documents often have a lot of filler, such as company detail, at the beginning of an RFP. 

While most RFP software can import the text from Word, they have difficulty distinguishing between what’s useful and what isn’t. RFPIO reads the document’s style guide and can auto-identify sections and questions. 

Often, RFPs arrive in mixed formats. Many Word documents have Excel tables or charts inserted into the doc. Not a problem, at least when you’re using RFPIO. Many of the same rules apply to importing Word and mixed documents as to Excel sheets:

  • Identify the sections, questions, and answers in the original document.
  • Process the source document and customize it using RFPIO’s advanced configuration.
  • Preview to make sure everything is in the right place.

RFPIO’s advanced import and export capabilities can shave as much as half the response time. 

Content management

In the early 2000s, workers whose jobs required access to company knowledge spent about 2.5 hours a day searching for information. If you’re old enough to remember, those were the days of dial-up, AOL, and Ask Jeeves. Software as a service (SaaS) was unheard of. 

Twenty years later, nearly everyone has the internet. Need an answer to a question? Google it. And you’d be hard-pressed to find a business problem that can’t be addressed using a SaaS application. Surprisingly, the time spent searching for knowledge has increased from a bit over ¼ of the workday to nearly half.

Why would that be? There are probably a couple of reasons, including that businesses are a lot more siloed now than they were at the turn of the millennium—and of course, there’s a heck of a lot more knowledge to search. 

Not surprisingly, disjointed content is one of the top challenges of an RFP process. RFPIO’s Content Library not only simplifies the search but also does much of the work for you. 

RFPIO’s Content Library:

  • Stores marketing approved content in one place – Your company’s single source of truth.
  • Lets you stitch together high-quality content – Browse previous responses to create customized answers.
  • Create content – Once you answer a question, you can store the Q&A pair for future needs. As your company accumulates knowledge or documents, it’s simple to upload it into your Content Library.
  • Format content – Organize and format content however you like. 
  • Automatically answer the majority of questions – With just a few clicks, you can answer up to 80% of the questions on an RFP, regardless of the format. 
  • Encourages regular content audits – Keep your Content Library fresh and up to date with regular audits. RFPIO will remind you when it’s time to review specific content. 

Integrations

When it comes to breaking down silos, RFPIO walks the walk with industry-leading integrations. Users from across your company can access RFPIO through more than two dozen applications you already use, including:

  • CRMs – RFPIO is an ideal solution for all revenue-generating teams, not just response management. Access the Content Library and other RFPIO features through your company’s chosen CRM, including Salesforce, Pipedrive, Dynamics 365, PipelineDeals, and HubSpot.
  • Communication apps – RFPIO enables company-wide collaboration through your existing communication apps, including Slack, Google Hangouts, Jira, and Microsoft Teams.
  • Cloud storage apps – Worldwide, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every single day. Cloud storage enables companies to manage data without accumulating vast technical debt. RFPIO seamlessly integrates with Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive. 
  • SSO authentication apps – RFPIO works within your company’s security protocols through SSO authentication integrations with Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, OneLogin, and Okta.
  • Browser extensions – Access RFPIO’s Content Library through RFPIO® LookUp and Chrome.
  • Vendor assessment apps – Securely import directly from third-party platforms using Whistic. 
  • Productivity apps – Work faster using RFPIO with Microsoft Suites and Google Sheets.
  • Sales enablement apps – Revenue-generating employees can access RFPIO through Seismic or Highspot. 

AI assistance

RFP automation slashes time spent answering RFPs. RFPIO goes beyond simple automation. We use machine learning to intelligently assist you through every step of the RFP response process. Leverage RFPIO to:

  • Auto-identify response content – RFPIO’s advanced artificial intelligence automatically identifies response content.
  • Get automated answers – RFPIO’s AI-powered recommendation engine pulls from the Content Library to recommend answers based on previous similar questions.
  • Assign questions to pertinent subject matter experts – With RFPIO, there’s no more trying to figure out the best people to help with your RFP. AI technology identifies relevant and available SMEs.
  • Analyze win-loss opportunities – Not all RFPs are worth a response. Have you won similar bids in the past? Is this one worth it? RFPIO learns from previous wins and losses to help you decide whether to pursue the next one. 

The benefits of RFP response automation

Roughly 80% of a typical RFP consists of questions you’ve answered many, many times. Response automation lets you focus on the questions that matter most, the questions that will help you win the bid, by answering the routine queries with a click of a button. 

The benefits of leveraging RFP automation include: 

  • Streamlined workflow – RFPIO is not just a response management tool; it’s a project management platform. RFPIO uses automation to establish roles and ensure on-time deliverables.
  • Decreased response time – When a workplace tool does most of the work for you, it’s bound to increase productivity and reduce response time.
  • Improved response quality – Automated replies free you to craft winning responses to the essential questions.
  • Centralized content library – Automatically store and catalog responses in a single source of truth. 
  • Improved collaboration – RFPIO’s integrations enable company-wide collaboration.
  • Increased revenue growth – Responding to more of the right RFPs in less time means more opportunities to drive revenue.

Steps for choosing the right RFP management software

Choosing the right RFP management software shouldn’t be taken lightly. There are several factors to consider:

1. Assess your RFP response process

Before you commit to an annual RFP software subscription, schedule a meeting with your entire RFP response team (subject matter experts, executive stakeholders, bid writers, etc.). The goal is to discover gaps and opportunities in your current workflow, then make improvements through RFP automation.

2. Prioritize RFP software features

Now that you know what your RFP response team needs to thrive, it’s time to prioritize RFP software features. Divide features into two columns—”must-have” and “nice-to-have.” If having a holistic view of RFP projects is a top priority, project dashboards are a must-have. If communication is dialed in, then Slack or Microsoft Team integrations are a nice-to-have.

3. Explore RFP software comparison platforms

Third-party validation is a vital part of decision-making for any purchase, including RFP software. Think of G2 Crowd and Capterra as Yelp for software products. Use these RFP software comparison tools to compare and contrast features and check out customer feedback. Seeing use cases in the real RFP response management world will inspire ideas and validate decisions.

4. Make a data-driven value assessment

Have no idea how many hours your team spends on RFP responses? Demystify these costs by tracking everyone’s time. Use our ROI calculator to determine how much you will save on hours and resources with RFP response automation. Armed with data, you’ll rely on stats instead of emotions to make a strong case for additional funds to cover RFP software.

5. Understand the product and the service

Once you have narrowed down RFP software providers, schedule a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering working with. Bring your priority features list, along with questions that need to be addressed. Pay special attention to the user experience as the solution should be quick and easy for all RFP contributors to learn.

rfp repsonse software

Important questions to ask RFP software vendors

Adding to your existing tech stack can be a challenging sell for executives and your IT department, so it’s essential to ask the right questions of potential RFP software vendors. 

  • What is the average ROI customers report after using your product? – There’s no surer way to secure executive buy-in than demonstrating your return on investment. ROI will vary from company to company. RFPIO’s proven ROI is as high as 600%. Calculate your ROI here. 
  • How would you describe your training and onboarding process? – You have executive buy-in; what about user buy-in? The onboarding process is vital for training and creating buzz over new software. RFPIO’s onboarding process is incremental, easy to follow, and designed to set you up for success. 
  • How do you manage customer requests and feedback? –Because needs vary from company to company and change from day to day, there’s no such thing as perfect software. RFPIO recognizes the importance of a bespoke solution, which means listening to every customer and addressing their individual needs.
  • What integrations are available? – Toggling between multiple applications is a pain. RFPIO integrates with over two dozen of the most popular business tools.
  • How would your software solve problems x, y, and z? – Is the RFP software going to address your company’s needs? It’s hard to imagine a response management problem RFPIO can’t solve, but if we’re not the right solution for some reason, we will tell you.
  • What are your data import and export capabilities? – If all RFP issuers used the same format, RFP response platforms might not be such a critical tool for response teams. RFPIO imports and exports from Microsoft Word, Excel, and even PDFs. 
  • Do you offer lifetime updates and enhancements? – Technology changes, as do your needs. RFPIO provides regular updates and enhancements.
  • What are your competitive differentiators? – What makes one RFP solution better than others? As mentioned, RFPIO offers more integrations and import/export options than any other RFP response software. We lead the pack in AI-powered automation. Additionally, we have an unprecedented pricing model. Instead of charging per user license, RFPIO charges based on the number of projects going at any given time. 

Automate your RFP process with a management solution that’s right for you

If you’re ready to see how RFP software will help you craft higher-quality responses to more RFPs in less time, schedule a free demo

 

Why you need RFP software

Why you need RFP software

The response process should be scalable, repeatable, and consistent.

Perhaps you remember the childhood game of “telephone.” In the game, one person thinks of a sentence and then whispers it to the next person in line; that person then whispers it to the next in line, and so on. Once everyone has heard the sentence, the last person has to say it out loud. Almost invariably, the final sentence has very little in common with the original. 

An RFP might land in someone’s inbox in a variety of formats, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or even as a PDF. You might share the RFP, or parts of it, with dozens of stakeholders, each with their own area of expertise. 

You could even have multiple stakeholders working on a single question or a single subject matter expert (SME) working on multiple RFPs, which, without the right processes in place, leads to inconsistent responses—a giant red flag to procurement teams.

In other words, an RFP can be like a written game of telephone. Multiple hands without centralized processes can delay and distort the response, meaning the response manager might have to spend hours, days, or even weeks trying to craft a cohesive response out of an anything but cohesive array of answers.

The solution is RFP software that is advanced enough to frame a response process that is consistent, repeatable, and scalable, regardless of the number of stakeholders involved. Let’s explore how RFP software can smooth out the response process, enabling you to drive more revenue in less time.

What is RFP software?

Clothing sizes, sports referees, traffic, RFPs—is consistency too much to ask? To be fair, consistency can get a little boring, but consistency in the RFP response process leads to better responses and perhaps more time for you to enjoy more of the chaos we call life outside of work.

As much as we’d love it if all RFPs arrived in consistent formats, they don’t. An effective RFP response tool is the foundation of a fine-tuned RFP process, creating consistency, repeatability, and scalability—transforming any RFP format into a predictably easy-to-navigate response.

Intelligent RFP software is able to import documents into a single format that’s simple and easily accessible by each stakeholder. In turn, the stakeholders submit their answers via the online portal, so project managers, writers, SMEs, etc., know who said what, when it was said, and how to find it, every single time, regardless of the RFP’s original format.

Once answers are in the system, you can store the Q&A pairs in the Content Library, or as I like to call it, The Single Source of Truth, for future use. But SMEs don’t have to wait for an RFP to add vital information to the Content Library. As they accumulate knowledge, rather than storing it on paper or in their heads (surprisingly common), they can add it to the Content Library, where it will remain accessible to all who need it. 

Additionally, RFPIO’s advanced RFP software is a project management platform, with features such as assigning and tracking roles and responsibilities, scheduled review cycles, trend analytics, built-in collaboration tools, and seamless integration with the most popular CRMs and other sales tools. 

In short, RFPIO software is both a scalable content management system and a project management tool, allowing teams to respond to more of the right bids in less time. 

Perhaps less tangibly, but as importantly, it instills trust in SMEs and other stakeholders, as they know that their efforts won’t be duplicated or wasted and that there’s a single repository of consistent and repeatable company knowledge. This enables companies to build on things as opposed to just trying to keep afloat.

Fundamental features to look for in RFP software

The two main features to look for in RFP response technology are project and content management. While response teams might function with one or the other feature, it’s far more difficult. 

You can answer RFPs without an automated and intuitive content management system, but that would make them a lot more difficult. On the other hand, you could have just a content database, but you’d lose context, such as where the content is, where the gaps are, and where you have old information that’s being pulled in without actually doing the RFPs.

Still, organizations should look for what their specific needs are. What are the most significant pain points? How will the needs grow in the future? 

The most common pain points we hear are:

  • Too much time spent on responses – An up-to-date and easily accessible content library means the difference between tracking stakeholders down and clicking a few buttons.
  • Low response capacity – More often than not, low response capacity comes from trying to do too much. All too often, replying to each and every RFP is seen as the safer bet. Imagine if dating singles took the same approach. Instead of “swiping right” on every opportunity, choose those that fit. An automated response process can help you choose wisely and simplify those worth pursuing. More importantly, automation helps ensure that responses are accurate and on time, but also compelling and competitive, which helps propel your bid to the top of the stack.
  • Disjointed workflow – For proposal teams, a disjointed workflow is a confidence killer! When stakeholders cannot follow the process, they may find themselves wondering “why bother?” RFPIO’s project management features ensure up-to-the-minute statuses on each proposal. And when someone is stuck, others can see where they are stuck and help. 
  • Inconsistent deliverables – RFP software eliminates the differences between formats, makes questions easy to locate, and simplifies collaboration, even in siloed organizations. Perhaps more significantly, RFP software enforces rules and parameters, such as character limits.

Why you need RFP software

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, the growth of remote work opportunities has brought the term “distributed workforce” into the mainstream. However, with worldwide offices, multiple brands under single umbrellas, etc., distributed workforces have been around for a very long time.

It’s common for a response to require SMEs from multiple time zones or for a single SME to work on responses from half the world away, and even from different brands under their corporate umbrella. 

Response software such as RFPIO allows for different versions of questions and answers. So rather than responding to each RFP from scratch, RFPIO lets SMEs add to or change content to tailor each RFP, ensuring that there’s less of a risk of discrepancies. 

RFPIO features include:

  • Content management – Repeatable company information in a single source, ready to go at the click-of-a-button.
  • Integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the most popular CRMs, project management systems, communication apps, sales enablement tools, etc. 
  • Automation – RFPIO continually learns as you work and suggests answers as you go, providing repeatability. The platform also automatically transfers RFPs from multiple formats into a single, consistent, accessible, predictable one.
  • A unique, project-based pricing approach – User-based pricing limits response teams, creates bottlenecks and incentivizes teams to limit their use of SMEs. Instead, RFPIO includes unlimited users in all of the pricing levels. 
  • Scalability – RFPIO has no data or user limits. The software grows as the company grows and changes. Moreover, as the RFP industry evolves, so does RFPIO, without burdening existing tech stacks..

How RFP software can help

I will let you in on a little secret. RFP software, even cutting-edge RFP software such as RFPIO, is not a magic wand. It will never replace response teams, but advanced RFP technology will make their jobs more efficient and productive, ultimately making everyone, even CFOs, happy.

However, the only way RFP software can truly add value is if it works with response management teams rather than the other way around. That includes:

More productive collaboration

Improving collaboration is key to effective RFP management. Most organizations have distributed workforces, and even those that don’t might have off-premises response stakeholders and SMEs. 

Chasing people down for answers is a waste of time. RFPIO allows any stakeholder to log in at any time and see exactly what is being asked of them. 

Integrations

RFP software should work with tech stacks instead of adding to them. RFPIO does precisely that by seamlessly integrating with more than two dozen of the most popular workplace tools, including:

  • CRM – Break down the silos between sales and response teams with CRM integrations, including Salesforce, Dynamics 365, Pipedrive, PipelineDeals, and HubSpot
  • Communication apps – Stay in touch with stakeholders with Google Hangouts, Jira, Microsoft Teams, and Slack
  • Cloud storage – Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive
  • SSO authentication – Login through Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, OneLogin, and Okta
  • Browser extensions – Access RFPIO through Chromium Edge or Google Chrome
  • Vendor assessment – Streamline security questionnaires through Whistic
  • Productivity – Import RFPs from nearly any format, including Microsoft Suites, Google Sheets, and PDFs
  • Sales enablement – Import and export content using Seismic or Highspot

RFPIO’s project management features allow project managers to ensure efficiency, establish roles and deadlines, protect your RFP response content, and curate and cultivate your Content Library.

Automated import process

Manual imports are the most time-consuming part of the RFP response process. RFPIO’s advanced import tools turn RFPs from nearly any format into consistent and easily-collaborative content.

Content Library

As I’ve mentioned, consistency is key in response management. In fact, repeating yourself is perhaps the easiest way to streamline your response process, especially since most questions are repeats, or at least variations on questions you’ve seen before.

Keep all your content in one easily accessible place with RFPIO’s AI-empowered Content Library. When you encounter one of those repeated questions, the Content Library will automatically suggest a company-approved answer. All you have to do is click a button and tailor the answer if needed.

knowledge management tool decreases RFP response time by:

  • Providing a searchable information hub
  • Housing reusable content
  • Enabling customization using previous responses
  • Facilitating content accuracy

AI-powered recommendation engine

We like to think of RFPIO as a response team’s brilliant assistant. Stumped on a question or you don’t have time to scour the database? That’s what the AI-powered recommendation engine is for. It:

  • Answers common repetitive questions
  • Auto-identifies response content
  • Assigns questions to pertinent SMEs

Enhanced security

RFPIO’s multi-level security enhancements protect organizations’ most valuable assets, company knowledge, with RFPIO’s state-of-the-art security controls

  • SSO – Using Single Sign-On, you won’t have to memorize passwords. Simply login using your company credentials. 
  • Automate user management – Automatically delete users when they leave the company
  • 2-factor authentication – If your company doesn’t use SSO, RFPIO also supports 2-factor authentication.
  • Control access – Define what users can and can’t see.

Let’s talk about the bigger picture. The ultimate goal of more effective RFP management is to win more business! RFPIO gives response management teams more time to craft better answers to more RFPs. It sounds simple, right? Again, it’s all about scalability, repeatability, and consistency.

With RFPIO, you can increase your win potential by responding to the right opportunities in a consistent, repeatable voice, using consistent, scalable answers in a repeatable, easily collaborative, and searchable format.

Scale your team’s ability to answer RFPs

By optimizing the amount of time spent on repetitive manual processes, your team is freed up to dedicate their resources to pursuing new business.

Produce higher quality responses, consistently

In a highly competitive landscape, businesses cannot afford to gamble by underperforming at the proposal stage. RFP software enables consistency through dependable accuracy, helping ensure finely-tuned responses, and creating reliable deliverables through export functionality. 

Start winning more bids with RFPIO

RFPIO is the industry-leading response management platform, designed to securely increase RFP win rates and drive revenue.  Learn more by scheduling a Free Demo

Now, if only we could do something about clothing sizes. 

Next, we’ll discuss knowledge management best practices.

What is RFP software?

What is RFP software?

In many companies, proposal and sales teams are stretched to their limits. Even though high-revenue sales requests often arrive via RFP, it’s often easiest to grab those ready-to-close sales leads, even if it means less revenue.

Feature-rich advanced RFP software allows overstretched response management and sales departments to reach for the brass rings—those winnable and profitable RFPs—using significantly fewer employee hours and resources.

If your organization uses dated software or a manual RFP process, or if time constraints prohibit RFP responses altogether, read on to learn about RFP software and how it could benefit your organization.

What is an RFP?

A request for proposal (RFP) is a document that a buyer issues to suppliers that outlines the product or service requirements for procurement. RFPs come in a variety of different formats and narratives (similar to essay questions).

An RFP is the highest form of communication in the procurement process. Most deals are for more than $20,000—often significantly more, like with extra zeros and another comma. They are most common in government, software, insurance, business services, healthcare, and other complex, highly-regulated industries.

Security questionnaires determine whether a vendor (or even the vendor’s vendors) is compliant with the customer’s security requirements. They may include questions about security and privacy, business continuity management, supply chain management, business continuity management, etc. Not surprisingly, security questionnaires are lengthy and complicated, sometimes with hundreds of questions.

Additionally, there are requests for quotes (RFQ)—typically for purchasing goods rather than services—and requests for information (RFI). RFQs, as you might imagine, are about the bottom line, which makes sense when purchasing several gross of industrial screws, but not services that require a more bespoke approach. On the other hand, an RFI might be used to narrow potential suppliers down for future RFP solicitations.

Of course, RFPs often include RFQs, security questionnaires, and RFIs.

What are the objectives of an RFP?

The main objective of an RFP is for organizations to formally announce that they are opening a project for bids. RFPs are more formal and exacting than simple requests for pricing, and they’re typically for larger purchases.

An RFP will describe the needs and expectations of the issuer’s project and create the parameters to compare solutions.

RFPs generally require specific information about regulatory compliance, security, etc. In fact, it helps to think of an RFP response as the precursor to a sales contract and something that would even pass muster with legal departments—and quite often, legal has to approve responses before they’re sent to the customer.

RFPs ask for accurate, compliant, contract-ready answers to customer questions. Compare it to purchasing a house. You might want to know the current state of water or electrical systems, and as part of the presales contract process, the homeowner has to submit the answers in writing. The seller is then legally bound to the accuracy of their answers.

Common problems in the RFP response process

The RFP response is more complex than the uninitiated might think, which is why manual processes only allow for a couple of responses per year. There are a few notable challenges in the RFP response process, including:

The workload – Single RFPs often include hundreds of pages, requiring input from multiple stakeholders. Imagine answering dozens of RFPs per year when you use manual processes!

Content quality – You have one shot at answering an RFP correctly. Content should be centralized, current, and accurate, which requires advanced cataloging.

Collaboration – If an answer isn’t in your content library, the RFP will require collaboration, which means consulting with subject matter experts (SMEs). Having multiple people provide different answers is like herding cats, and extremely difficult without response management.

Detail – RFPs require impeccably detailed and accurate answers using existing knowledge and collaboration from SMEs.

Deadline – RFP deadlines are firm and many responses are time stamped. Missing a deadline by just a few seconds can rule your company out. Response management should keep you on track throughout the response process.

Consistency – An RFP response process should ensure consistent and on-time deliverables.

What are the three levels of RFP software?

There are three levels of RFP software. The first, manual processes, include some software, such as documents, spreadsheets, and a folder tree, but little else. Manual processes are generally acceptable for companies that only respond to a couple of RFPs a year.

I typically refer to the next level of RFP software as “the document suites.” This includes word-processing software composed of essential collaboration tools, content management, templates, and formatting. Document suites are suitable for companies that answer a handful of RFPs each year.

When RFP-based deals are an essential source of revenue, most organizations opt for the third level—a Response Management solution. These solutions help businesses with responses ranging from RFPs to security questionnaires, and offer the most advanced functionality for creating RFPs and managing their workflows. They save time, money, and costly errors through machine learning, robust integrations, and comprehensive and intuitive content management tools.

What are the benefits of RFP software?

RFP software solutions remove most of the above challenges by automating as much as 80% of the response process.

To a harried response manager, RFP software is a game-changer. To their employer, RFP software offers a demonstrably impressive return on investment.

Because RFPs are unique, even when they come from existing customers, and because businesses and regulatory requirements are in near-constant flux, most responses require additional input from SMEs. Through RFP software automation, but still at the response manager’s discretion, the SMEs’ answers will then go into the content library for future use.

Features of Response Management software

RFP solutions are capable solutions designed to help organizations engage with external stakeholders in an efficient, strategic, and consistent manner. They support the process of responding to customers and other stakeholders by leveraging new developments in machine learning and collaborative cloud technology to break down knowledge silos and automate repetitive tasks.

Responding to RFPs is one of the most popular response management use cases, and for this reason, most solutions have been designed to meet the specific needs of proposal managers.

So what are the key features?

Machine learning – With machine learning, you are the teacher. The system learns how you work and how you answer questions, enabling a click-of-a-button response the next time you encounter similar queries.

Scalability – A scalable solution that can grow and adapt to support your company as its operations grow and business needs change

Workflow Automation – Customizable automated workflows and dozens of integrations allow for easy collaboration.

Professional Document Production – Create professional high-fidelity response documents with the correct formatting in just a few keystrokes.

Data insights – Analyzing the efficiency of the RFP response process requires good reporting, including tracking the response team’s progress, the types of responses you’re issuing (and winning), win/loss analysis, etc. You shouldn’t be limited to the data the software designer thinks is important. RFPIO lets you create reports the way you want them. If you use reporting suites, we probably integrate with them too.

Advanced Content Management – RFP software solutions provide enterprise-grade content management to ensure content repositories are current and complete.

The benefits of using RFP software

Has this ever happened to you? The moment you begin reading a proposal request, you experience a sense of déjà vu. It’s not your imagination. You have answered most of these questions before…many times before.

Most of a typical RFP includes relatively standard questions. RFP software automates most of the response process, freeing you to consult with SMEs and coordinate the response process.

Optimized workflow

RFPIO optimizes workflow by smoothing out the content creation process, establishing workflow roles, providing selective collaboration, curating and cultivating your content library, and letting you spend more time on presentations instead of herding cats.

With RFPIO software, users can rename and customize fields and intake forms, and customize frameworks and business processes. RFPIO software is a tool that fits with your processes instead of the other way around. In fact, RFPIO integrates with more workflow tools than any other response management platform.

Unified collaboration

The response process can include dozens of stakeholders from multiple departments and time zones. Timely collaboration can be a challenge, but not with RFPIO. RFPIO integrates with most project management and messaging apps, and collaboration is built into RFPIO’s platform.

RFPIO’s collaborative tools allow you to:

  • Consolidate project-specific conversations – Never lose track of comment threads again.
  • Break down knowledge silos – Each stakeholder on a response has a singular goal…winning the bid! RFPIO allows you to share knowledge with stakeholders as needed, and vice versa.
  • Track progress of response completion – See whether the project is running on time and whether each stakeholder is doing their part.

Improved win rates

The average RFP win rate is 45%. Advanced response software uses AI to streamline the response process, which means you have more time to respond to more RFPs and win more bids. Additionally, RFPIO’s Content Library helps improve response quality by suggesting pre-approved answers to most queries, leading to an increased win rate.

Even if your win rate has only nominal gains, you will still produce more revenue because, as with many other things, RFP response is a numbers game. If you have the time to respond to more RFPs, you will have more victories and drive revenue.

“Since implementing RFPIO, we’ve been able to do so much more with the same headcount. We’ve increased efficiency by at least 30-35%. We’ve diverted the effort and time to more value-added activities, creating a win-win both for the organization and the team members”.
Shashi K, Assistant VP of Content at Genpact

RFPIO’s project management features help expedite response turnaround time, scale response capacity, and facilitate consistent deliverables.

The RFPIO approach

RFPIO is the most advanced RFP solution on the market

“RFPIO is perfect! 10 out of 10, a hundred percent 10 out of 10. RFPIO is a superb product. It is the best platform for RFP management out there.”
Jack Pierce, Proposal Team Manager, Accruent

Features include:

Proprietary import and export technology

Most RFPs show up in your inbox as Word or Excel docs. Some appear as PDFs, which less advanced RFP response platforms can’t read. RFPIO simplifies the import/export process, even with PDFs, thereby shortening the response time and delivering accurate, timely, and impressive bids. RFPIO’s industry-leading import/export features include:

  • Machine-learning-driven functionality that interprets questionnaires and parses them into components.
  • Specific functionality for the import of several standard questionnaire formats (CAIQ, CORL, ILPA, etc.)
  • Modern, intuitive UX for guiding our machine learning during import.

Adaptive knowledge library

The most time-consuming part of the response process isn’t strategizing. It isn’t even herding those metaphorical cats. Most of an RFP’s questions have probably been answered before, whether for that customer or others—sometimes several others. Answering those redundant questions is where the bulk of response time lies.

RFPIO’s AI-enhanced Content Library expedites the response process by automatically providing pre-approved answers to those tedious questions with just a few keystrokes. RFPIO’s web-based Content Library includes:

  • Auto-suggested answers
  • Auto-assigned content to relevant owners
  • Intelligent, easy search function
  • Cloud-based content storage

Built-in integrations

RFPIO is scalable and seamlessly integrates with over two dozen of the most popular sales enablement tools, productivity apps, CRMs, cloud storage providers, communication platforms, and SSO authentication software products.

  • CRMs – RFPIO integrates with the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) tools, including Salesforce, Hubspot, and several others. Users can start, monitor, and collaborate on projects within the CRM. For example, with the click of a couple of buttons, the RFP goes from Salesforce to RFPIO and puts compliant content at the finger of frontline teams.
  • Communication apps – Distributed workforces have made communication apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams a modern necessity. RFPIO functions within those apps to keep teams aligned and projects on track.
  • Cloud Storage – RFPIO integrates with Google Drive, Google Cloud, Sharepoint, OneDrive, etc., so all documents can be stored in the cloud.
  • SSO authentication – Users can log into RFPIO through Microsoft ADFS, Microsoft Azure, Okta, or OneLogin.
  • Vendor assessment – RFPIO teams with Whistic to seamlessly import third-party vendor security questionnaires.
  • Browser extensions – Stakeholders can access the company content library directly through Chromium Edge or Google Chrome.
  • Productivity – RFPIO users can search, import, and export using productivity tools such as Google Docs and Microsoft Suite applications.
  • Sales enablement – Two-way RFPIO integrations with Seismic and Highspot allow users to import and export collateral, spreadsheets, diagrams, etc. between apps, and improve collaboration between sales, presales, and executives.

Robust project management tools

RFPIO’s management solution alleviates common challenges in meeting deadlines with better workflow assessment, even with distributed workforces. RFPIO Project management capabilities include:

  • Trend analytics – Using insightful at-a-glance dashboards, built-in analytics allows users to analyze time and resources dedicated to an RFP, and track which questions are answered manually or through the content library.
  • Task management – RFPIO breaks projects into bite-sized pieces and helps project managers assign tasks to those who aren’t buried under other responsibilities, and track progress.
  • Review cycles – Multiple stakeholder RFPs should have multiple stakeholder review processes. RFPIO allows companies to set up review cycles on questions, sections, or the entire RFP.

Deliver better proposals with RFP software

If your team is reluctant to respond to even winnable RFPs because of a lack of time and resources, or if your RFP win rate is less than impressive, it’s worth a few minutes to learn more about RFPIO’s time-saving and bid-winning response management software.

RFP automation: What it is, how it works, and best practices

RFP automation: What it is, how it works, and best practices

If you’ve ever responded to a request for proposal (RFP), you know they tend to be about 80-85% boilerplate content. The remaining 15-20% is where you really have the freedom to adapt your proposal to a client’s specific needs.

This skewed structure means you might spend 80-85% of your time responding to repeat questions. Subject matter experts (SMEs) could spend up to 30% of time they didn’t have to spare responding to RFPs. Valuable time is spent on repetitive tasks. Information and departmental silos keep teams from reaching their fullest revenue-generating potential as a collaborative unit.

But with RFP automation, the story changes. Automating the RFP response process means less repetitive labor, more time for other high-priority tasks—and the chance to make each RFP you submit pack a bigger punch.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

What is RFP automation?

RFP automation is a cloud-based B2B sales technology that helps teams maximize resources and time being spent on RFPs. As a result of these time savings, team members are able to return to other high-priority tasks.

But let’s take a step back.

Billions of years ago (in the late 2000s), marketing automation caused an important shift in email marketing. Automation allowed marketers to achieve more as a team and make a bigger impact on revenue.

Over the past few years, the proposal management industry experienced the same transformative effect with RFP automation.

It’s a collective effort to respond to an RFP, with involvement from multiple departments—sales, marketing, legal, finance, product, compliance, IT—and the list goes on. Often (but not always) there is a dedicated proposal manager directing these projects to keep everyone moving toward the same target…a timely, quality RFP response.

In the olden days, an RFP would come in. The proposal manager would “shred” it and assign questions to an SME—the all too familiar questions the SME had answered many times before on other proposals.

The SME then would spend too much time looking through folders and documents to copy and paste previous responses. There would be little time to ensure quality control.

With RFP automation, an SME only has to answer a question once, and then it’s captured in a Content Library. The proposal manager can then reference the Content Library to populate the responses with relevant content. SME involvement consists only of oversight, making sure the content is accurate and optimized.

Automation helps teams maximize resources and time being spent on RFPs. Time savings allow team members to return to other high-priority tasks. Some of your most valuable and costly resources are involved in RFP responses. If you respond to 100 RFPs in a year, this really adds up. To calculate your RFP automation cost savings, check out our ROI calculator.

How do you automate an RFP response?

Automating an RFP response comes down to two main things: Artificial intelligence and content. AI-enabled RFP automation technology uses AI to match existing content with new incoming RFP questions. The more content you have, the more accurate the result.

When we set out to build a consolidated (and better) solution for RFP response management back in 2015, over and over we heard that responders wanted a platform that would help them improve collaboration and automate workflows.

A few RFP automation solutions existed, but they weren’t easy to use. And these solutions didn’t integrate with systems that teams were already using across an organization, including CRMs like Salesforce, communication tools like Slack, or cloud storage like Google Drive. With more than 8,000 solutions in the marketing technology landscape, the last thing an organization needs is a solution that doesn’t play nice with other technology its stack. 

marketing technology landscape

To make sure we built a solution for proper RFP automation, we focused on three aspects:

  • Artificial intelligence: (AI) is changing the way we all work, including how proposal management teams “shred” their RFPs. It’s easier to break up relevant sections, auto-identify response content, and assign questions to subject matter experts.
  • Integrations: Our integrations keep all team members working in their preferred tools. Salespeople don’t want to leave their CRM to respond to RFPs and they no longer have to. SMEs are unreachable by email, but they’ll engage through Slack.
  • Content management: The Content Library is the content management hub—not only for RFPs, but for all company information. Anyone has access to the latest and greatest content, which can be easily searched, selected, and inserted into a variety of business documents…even emails.

Benefits of RFP automation

Achieving more with RFP automation also means responding to more RFPs. Organizations that use RFP software respond to 43% more RFPs per year, on average. Because the time-savings realized from automation can be re-invested to maintain or improve response quality, imagine what this scenario, based on data from our research, would do to your revenue forecast:

  • Prior to RFP automation, let’s say you responded to an average of about 50 RFPs every year.
  • Each RFP win equals, on average, $1-3 million.
  • Add 43% more responses per year with RFP software.
  • At an industry average of 45% win rate, that equates to 22.5 more wins per year.

In this scenario, your revenue forecast from RFPs could increase upwards of $22.5 million to $67.5 million in a year!

Without automation, response management teams can only dream of increasing RFP responses, let alone revenue forecasts. They respond to RFPs in a reactive state, which, of course, is not the way to produce a quality deliverable for the prospect.

Saving time through efficient processes turns into extra hours to consider viable business opportunities—perhaps even breaking into new markets. RFP automation gives your team the space to establish a proactive process, where technology handles much of the heavy lifting. Team members are brought in to use their strengths to strengthen the content—and the chances of winning the deal.

RFP automation: Is it a good AI use case?

Someone has to say it. Doc Brown of Back to the Future fame wasn’t a scientist. He was a tinkerer who built Rube Goldberg machines. Everything from his dog Einstein’s automatic feeder to the Delorean’s lightning rod was an overly complex chain-reaction contraption. Until he invented the Flux Capacitor. That was the real science that made time travel possible.

How is Doc Brown’s evolution from tinkerer to scientist relevant to automation? In the case of responding to RFPs, you cannot simply automate all of the manual tasks that go into a response. If you do that, then you’ll end up with an RFP Rube Goldberg machine that may not be as reliable as the manual processes you’re trying to eliminate. But in situations where AI is appropriate? That’s the real science that makes automation possible.

As promising as AI is, it’s still just plain hard. Projects are costly, unwieldy, and difficult to complete. Only 53% of AI projects make it into production, and those that do are only profitable about 60% of the time.

RFP automation best practices

In the case of RFPIO’s Auto Respond functionality, AI-enabled automation:

Populates the “first pass” of responses of an entire project or section of a project References Content Library records in conjunction with a series of filters and the ranking of metadata Uses a recommendation algorithm to prioritize and rank the results Allows results previews so users can decide whether or not to use the answers

To do this, AI operations factor in, among other things:

  • Access to the Content Library content by user
  • Similar questions or alternate questions in the Content Library
  • Answer Type/Compatibility
  • Content-to-search match percentage
  • Star rating (content quality)
  • Used count (how often the content is used)
  • Last used date
  • Last updated date
  • Exact word/phrase match

When effectively executed, AI enables RFP automation because the solution has been built by qualified data scientists, extensively tested, based on accurate data models, and designed to scale. It’s also important to note that AI isn’t meant to be used to replace humans; it’s intended to enhance us.

The secret to RFP automation success: Organized content

Even artificial intelligence needs a brain. Don’t worry. This isn’t a Skynet scenario. For RFP automation, the brain is your content library. More specifically, in RFPIO this is known as the Content Library.

With a robust, well-maintained Content Library as a resource, your AI can grow in sophistication from machine learning. Users will be able to filter at higher levels, access the cleanest Q&A pairs, and move faster through the response process. Additionally, time saved from RFP automation can be re-invested into developing better content and curating existing content to improve its quality.

A long-term benefit of RFP automation is increased visibility into which content is most popular and where you have gaps. Data from these insights will be valuable in your content strategy moving forward.

So through RFP automation using a reliable Content Library you get to create better content and find time to continuously organize content, all while responding to more RFPs. That sounds like a profitable use case for AI.

Are you ready to see if RFP automation is right for you? Schedule a demo to find out.

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 Content 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 Content 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 Content 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, Content 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.

Integrating Salesforce is a simple way to add tons of value to RFP software

Integrating Salesforce is a simple way to add tons of value to RFP software

This is about as “meta” as it gets in RFP software sales: RFPIO client Salesforce is currently in the process of integrating Salesforce with its RFPIO response management solution. How can a CRM integrate with itself? As Cosmo Kramer once said, “I must be at the nexus of the universe!” 

More than 30% of RFPIO customers who use Salesforce have already integrated the solutions. The Salesforce integration is by far the most popular CRM integration at RFPIO — 20x more customers use it than our next most popular CRM. So why do customers love it so much? 

Visibility and efficiency to start, but there’s more to it than that. 

“RFPIO’s Salesforce integration is helping our business be more efficient and organized with RFPs and RFIs. We can easily view insights and progress with every RFP right from Salesforce.”

-Alison Moeller, Proposal Manager at Accolade (full case study here)

Why you need it: Integrating RFP software with your CRM makes everything easier

Integrating Salesforce and RFP software workflows gives proposal and sales teams bi-directional access to all response management functionality. In other words, whether they’re working in Salesforce or RFPIO, users can perform all response management functions—from launch to development to publishing—seamlessly, without any redundancy or confusion. Here’s one possible workflow of how it can work for you:

Step 1: Sales rep launches RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, or any other response project directly from Salesforce. Expedite project creation by launching with existing Salesforce data in a few button clicks.Sales teams can send intake requests to the proposal team right from their favorite CRM (Salesforce).

Step 2: Proposal manager receives automated trigger notification of new project launch, analyzes what’s needed at intake to determine if it qualifies as an active project, and either rejects it or begins proposal development in RFPIO.Track and monitor progress in real-time

Step 3: Sales rep and proposal manager can track and monitor project progress in real-time from either application.When a new project launches, proposal managers are automatically notified

Step 4: Response packets and related documents are automatically published back to Salesforce so sales rep can send them to the prospect or customer.Sales reps can automatically send response packets to their prospects after they're published back to Salesforce

Step 5: Fine-tune proposal operations for sales and proposal teams with in-depth analytics output through Salesforce Reports Builder.Sales and proposal teams can fine-tune operations with detailed ananlytics

“The Salesforce integration has helped us align sales and proposal teams. Now, sales has full visibility into project status. They can see how a current project is progressing, or check which future projects are in the queue, all from the RFPIO dashboard in Salesforce.”

-Lauren Joy, Proposal Team Manager at Hyland (full case study here)

How you get it

The Salesforce integration raises awareness of RFPIO with more people in your organization. It becomes recognized as more than just a tool for the proposal team. It becomes the platform for expanding opportunities with prospects and customers. For example, after an integration, you can use the Salesforce Proposal Builder to create personalized proactive selling documents based on the up-to-date, brand-approved RFPIO Content Library. 

CRM integration is usually a high priority for our customers. Especially one or two years into a subscription, after their proof of concept for response management has hit its goal. 

Compared to other applications available through the Salesforce AppExchange, integration with RFPIO is a light lift. It all starts with a demo. This can take anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the stakeholders you want in the “room” and what you want us to prepare for them.

After you decide to add the Salesforce integration, the process moves pretty quickly. The integration fully supports Salesforce Lightning as well as the classic Salesforce configuration. It works with either or both. A seasoned Salesforce admin can have it ready in 1-3 hours as long as there isn’t a lot of custom mapping. If there are a lot of custom fields, then the configuration can stretch into a few days–still on the lighter side of configuration. 

We often recommend a trial integration. Connect an RFPIO production environment with a Salesforce sandbox to test the integration in a safe space that won’t create disruptions in your Salesforce production environment. It’s simple to migrate this trial setup to a production environment.

If security is a concern, it shouldn’t be. We’re already published on the Salesforce AppExchange, which means we went through the Salesforce security review. Also, we are quite comfortable navigating any enterprise security review. So far, we’ve passed 100% of every one we’ve been through.

“We’re using the Salesforce integration to pull data in from an existing account or opportunity. This both ensures the data is matching and also means there are fewer fields to fill out–saving time and avoiding errors”

-Lisa McNeely, Proposal Services Team Manager at Hyland (full case study here)

What you can expect 

You’ll start seeing the value of real-time visibility and increased efficiency from the Salesforce integration almost immediately. Another huge value comes from the reporting capabilities, and this value grows over time. By creating associations between Salesforce objects and RFPIO projects, managers, directors, VPs of sales, and other teams can identify which projects were successful, which RFPs were won, and how that impacted the Salesforce opportunity outcome. You can find patterns that help identify more successful opportunities and the teams involved with those opportunities, which will ultimately lead to higher conversion rates and more revenue.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Salesforce integration with RFPIO, then contact us to set up a demo.

“The Salesforce integration for intake requests is a game changer. When I started the proposal process from the ground up at my company, sales people had no idea where to send RFPs—they were just throwing them to legal. Now there’s an easy way to request support right in Salesforce!”

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