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Looking forward after securing $25 million in series A funding

Looking forward after securing $25 million in series A funding

Closing Series A funding is a big deal for any company. Which is why I am proud and happy to […]


Category: Tag: RFP Software

Looking forward after securing $25 million in series A funding

Looking forward after securing $25 million in series A funding

Closing Series A funding is a big deal for any company. Which is why I am proud and happy to announce that RFPIO is beginning a thrilling new chapter. We have secured $25 million from K1 Investment Management (K1), so that we can further revolutionize the proposal management industry.

Did I ever think RFPIO would grow to this point? The answer is yes.

Even when I was running demos by myself in our first office, an 84-square-foot closet, I had no doubt that we would become such a compelling force. I recognized the growth potential in every team member who drove our mission forward and every client who was positively impacted by our dedication.

As I look back at the mere 18 months of our company’s existence, I am very grateful. As I look at the road ahead, I’m excited to see RFPIO’s growth story truly unfold.

Growth highlights from an unforgettable first 18 months

It’s hard to believe that this great journey with RFPIO began 18 months ago, with only four of us: AJ Sunder as CIO, Sankar Lagudu as COO, Manish Bafna as VP of Technology, and myself as CEO.

Every workweek was a learning experience for us, and there were many memorable “firsts” that got us to where we are today…

The first paying customer

After running a successful beta program for six months, we won our first paying customer, Stephen Marsh from Smarsh. Stephen was so impressed by RFPIO’s ease of use and intelligent capabilities that he decided to sign on and invest in our company through Archivist Capital. It was the best validation we could have asked for. Today we have hundreds of happy customers.

The first employees

It gave us immense pride when we hired Mitchell Hipp as Senior Account Executive at our Beaverton headquarters, and Emmanuel Rajayah as Senior UI Developer at our Coimbatore office in India. This was the first time people put their trust in our leadership team. We have not lost a single employee since we started RFPIO.

rfpio team's funding celebration

The first Fortune 500 company

Signing a Fortune 500 company made our team feel like we could conquer the world. LinkedIn was the first enterprise company to use RFPIO, and many others have followed: Google, Adobe, Atlassian, Change Healthcare, ServiceNow, Siemens, Tenable, Zoom Video.

The first 1,000 users

The day we realized RFPIO had 1,000 users was just cause for celebration. Our users feedback has helped shape and strengthen RFPIO’s platform and that will carry on as we reach unexplored heights. Now we have more than 12,000 users.

Series A funding: The ingredient we needed to scale

While the Seed round of funding through Elevate Capital was primarily focused on building a strong foundation, this Series A round will be more of a strategic partnership for our organization’s next big leap.

Our new investor, K1 Investment Management, is completely dedicated to funding and supporting SaaS companies. The K1 team uses RFPIO for managing their own RFP responses—early on, they believed in RFPIO’s mission and wanted to help us succeed. We were drawn to their expertise in the software industry, so it was a natural partnership. This Series A funding will allows us to make an even bigger impact.

We are looking at scaling the entire business, to include not just revenue and customer base growth but company expansion as well. As the India and Beaverton teams grow, our focus will be on establishing a solid middle management team. Global expansion is happening as well, and we are looking at options for another RFPIO office where our second largest customer base is located in Europe.

RFPIO is already the first artificial intelligence (AI) enabled solution in our industry, and we have dramatically improved the way organizations respond to RFPs. Being able to invest heavily on the product side will allow us to enhance our technology, then move into offerings in adjacent areas of proposal management. This funding gives our product more horsepower to fuel our customer’s goals and aspirations.

We’re just getting started

As we enter this new world of growth and expansion, we remain loyal to our people. The key to RFPIO’s success is the team standing proudly behind us. Every one of us is driven by passion for our product and our clients. The positive vibes we have in our office speak through our technology and service.

We are an intrepid team. Everyone here is invested in RFPIO’s success.

Read more about RFPIO’s $25 million funding announcement on:

The Wall Street Journal

The Oregonian

Fortune

Portland Business Journal

GeekWire

Software RFP responses: Practice what you preach to succeed

Software RFP responses: Practice what you preach to succeed

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

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

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

3 common software RFP response challenges

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

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

Challenge #1: Workflow

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

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

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

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

Challenge #2: Collaboration

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

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

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

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

Challenge #3: Security

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

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

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

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

Conquer software RFP response challenges and move on

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

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

RFP software makes life easier for SaaS companies

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

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

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

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

Take control of your next security questionnaire with RFP software

Take control of your next security questionnaire with RFP software

Lucky you. A security questionnaire with 467 questions just landed in your inbox and it’s due in two weeks.

But you don’t use RFP software, so you’re looking at about a week and a half of completion time. Since responding to security questionnaires isn’t your primary job responsibility, you will have to make time in between other high priority tasks. You stay after hours or work weekends to meet the looming deadline.

You meet the deadline, just barely—but you don’t feel confident that you answered the questions as effectively as you could have with more time. You wonder: Are we going to lose this deal now?

If you had RFP software to support your process? Hate to be the one to break it to you, friend, but that menacing security questionnaire probably would have taken you a few hours instead.

Understandably, many brave responders take a negative mental turn with security questionnaires—and even dread them. We won’t make outlandish claims, like comparing responding to vendor assessments to a leisurely stroll on a summer day. What we can do is steer you in the right direction, so you gain the upperhand and take control.

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

  1. RFP security questionnaires are complex, but manageable
  2. Various security questionnaires benefit from an RFP response solution
  3. Each completed security questionnaire will throw the deal or land it
  4. RFP software alleviates time and team friction
  5. The majority of a security questionnaire can be completed for you
  6. A specific RFP response solution feature set will help you take control
  7. Time is on your side with RFP software

It starts now, with understanding how technology like RFP software can help you navigate the nuances of security questionnaires. And, rest assured…the next time you’re responding to hundreds or thousands of questions will be better.

The nuances of RFP security questionnaires

As complex as security questionnaires can be, there is a bright side too. Yes, there are gigantic spreadsheets involved. But, it’s a pretty standard set of questions you’re working with.

Sure, you might see variations of the questions or see subsets of a question. You might be facing a Security Questionnaires with what seems like a million questions. Still, the questions are pretty much the same old song and dance. Security questionnaires generally deal with privacy. Compliance, infrastructure security, and data protection fall under that privacy umbrella.

“Only a third of organizations believe they have adequate resources to manage security effectively.” – Ponemon Institute

A team of security subject matter experts (SMEs) sprinkled across multiple teams and departments is often required to respond to these security questionnaires. Answering the same questions repeatedly can become tedious for anyone, no matter how dedicated they are to the organization.

For example, if a proposal manager assigns the same hundred questions to a security architect ten times, friction will inevitably follow. Presumably, that security architect will stop answering them and choose to fulfill other high priorities on his or her plate. He or she may become unresponsive whenever their support is needed for security questionnaire ever after.

To top it all off, there is the compliance aspect of security questionnaires. Teams must answer accurately and honestly—and be able to backup their response should an issuer decide to audit. An RFP software solution is the kind of technology that can handle the nuances of security questionnaires. A great solution will help you solve inefficiencies within your process.

Various security questionnaires you will encounter

“61% say their organizations evaluate the security capabilities of cloud providers prior to engagement or deployment, according to Gemalto’s 2018 Global Cloud Data Security Study. Although these security evaluations are increasingly relying on contractual negotiations and legal reviews, 34% of organizations still require the formality of security and compliance questionnaires. That means you need to prepared (not surprised) when a security assessment arrives.

cloud provider security evaluation

Source: Gemalto

Being prepared isn’t as easy as it sounds. We can write an entire blog—scratch that—a novel about the different types of RFP security questionnaires you might stumble upon. While a security questionnaire has many names, it also has many types.

Here are various security questionnaires you will encounter:

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

No matter the type of security questionnaire, the need for a complete RFP response solution along with a reliable internal process can’t be stressed enough. Without this dynamic duo, you run the risk of losing valuable hours with an inefficient approach—but, you also risk losing potential business if the responses are not executed accurately and well.

Why you should take each security questionnaire seriously

The short version? Because you don’t want to be the one that throws the deal. You want to be the one that helps land it.

Whether you’re a cloud provider or an on-premise provider, security questionnaires are a key requirement in this leg of the sales process. Organizations care a great deal about data security and they scrutinize vendors like you to make sure you are the partner they can trust long-term.

Cloud Providers

As a cloud service provider, your customers entrust their organization’s most sensitive data with you. There’s a very strong chance that the solution you provide is a mission critical application for them. That’s why they want to hire your services in the first place.

Since you make everything available in a publicly shared infrastructure, the controls need to be that much more airtight. There are plenty of control frameworks that govern cloud security. However, lack of visibility leads by a wider margin in SaaS than IaaS, with almost one third of organizations having difficulty getting a clear picture of what data is in their cloud applications.

cloud security concerns

Source: McAfee

It’s important for your customers and prospects to feel confident that you have the proper control in place, so their data isn’t compromised. Proper controls protect a data leak from happening, regardless if it happens accidentally or through malicious attacks.

On-Premise Providers

At one time on-premise solutions used to be less of a concern. People used to believe that security within an infrastructure behind firewalls was more secure. In the last decade, things have changed dramatically.

In some ways, on-premise solutions are more vulnerable than cloud solutions. When customers use a cloud-based solution, their data is likely hosted with a reputable, secure cloud hosting service provider like Amazon or Google or Microsoft or IBM.

With on-premise, frequently the compromise comes from within—through social engineering, through employees making mistakes. So, on-premise security is something buyers are aware of and really paying attention to.

EU GDPR Requirements

On May 25th, 2018 the EU is rolling out GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the penalties are pretty severe, with the potential to cripple organizations who do not take these requirements seriously.

In McAfee’s 2017 study, Beyond the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), more than 80% of organizations said they expected help from their cloud service providers to achieve regulatory compliance. Yet only half of the respondents stated that all of their cloud providers had a plan in place for GDPR compliance.

GDPR cloud investments

Source: McAfee

How will GDPR affect cloud investments? Fewer than 10% anticipate decreasing their cloud investments as a result of GDPR. Even still, take the right measures and demonstrate that you have made every effort you possibly can to keep your customer’s data secure. Starting with how you respond to security questionnaires.

Security questionnaires: The culprit of time and team friction

Organizations understand that data security is highly valued by their customers, so they respond to security questionnaires to build confidence in their solution. The complicated part for you and/or the team completing these vendor assessments…the time factor.

When responding to RFP security questionnaires, security experts are brought into the process to ensure accuracy. Since security encompasses many different aspects of an organization, multiple team members must work together to answer their respective questions and sections.

Typically these SMEs work in understaffed conditions, where time is truly limited for additional responsibilities outside high priority tasks. If this is all hitting close to home, then you know exactly how challenging it is to respond to hundreds and hundreds of security questionnaires under a tight deadline.

RFP software like RFPIO helps you do the job right the first time. Technology allows you to reuse historical content and customize as needed, while encouraging stronger collaboration for a more efficient process.

ProTip: “Be self-aware of both your strengths and your limitations in your responses. If you don’t have something, don’t lie, but don’t over-emphasize your own deficiencies. Devote your time to addressing the issues the customer will be most concerned with.” – Ken Stasiak, SecureState’s Guide to Responding to 3rd Party Questionnaires

How RFP software increases efficiency levels

A security questionnaire is basically a massive spreadsheet with hundreds of questions on the lower end and thousands on the higher end. You need to be able to answer volumes of questions quickly, but with incredible accuracy. Such is the beauty of RFP software.

Recently our CIO, Sunder, had a lengthy security questionnaire to complete on his own. (Yep, we have to respond to these just like any other cloud solution provider.)

RFPIO’s auto-response feature filled in 74% of the questions for Sunder. About 11% of the questions needed to be tweaked, because some of the controls had changed. The remaining questions didn’t need to be touched at all, and he had very few questions to respond to manually. Something that would have taken our CIO about a day or two to complete was done within an hour.

A team of one can benefit from RFP software as can a mid-sized or enterprise organization. A larger organization will require several review cycles, but still the time-savings is noticeable for all contributors. This technology, in combination with close collaboration and an established RFP response process, is a game-changer for anyone completing security questionnaires.

When you’re searching for an RFP response solution to help you streamline the security questionnaire process, having a few key features will make a difference in productivity improvements.

“Our immediate instinct with Security Questionnaires was that the Excels were too macro-heavy. It was going to be a huge challenge for us to solve. But, like so many of our clients, we’ve gone through this pain enough and we figured we might as well solve it. RFPIO’s advanced security questionnaire functionality makes the response process much easier for teams.” – A.J. Sunder, CIO at RFPIO

Security questionnaire features to look for in RFP software

As with any solution you add to your growing technology stack, you want to make sure the investment is worth it. What are your pain points? What are your aspirations and objectives? The needs of your organization always come first, which is good to remember when you’re hunting for a solution.

If you’re answering security questionnaires regularly, you need RFP software with built-in features to support that effort. These are specific RFPIO features that help you take control…

Security Questionnaire Import

An RFP security questionnaire project can start off on the right foot…or the wrong one. With RFP software, the import should be painless for your team—it doesn’t matter if it’s a macro-heavy Excel with 799 security questions.

Even some of the most sizable Standardized Information Gathering (Security Questionnaires) can be imported into RFPIO with a single click. You upload the right template for the job (CAIQ, Security Questionnaires– Core, Full, or Lite) and import directly from your local computer or cloud storage provider.

Read How RFPIO’s Security Questionnaire Template Helps You Win Back Time

security questionnaire template
Answer Library

Have a wealth of historical responses from previous security questionnaires? Rather than being lost in a maze of online folders, all of your content is centralized in an answer library. Easily accessible content means a proposal manager or proposal management team can take the vendor assessment to a certain level of completion before calling in the security SMEs.

This way SMEs can focus on reviewing and revising specific questions or sections, versus answering hundreds of repetitive questions they’ve seen before. Over time, as your team responds to more security questionnaires within the solution, the answer library will continue to expand. If cared for properly, this knowledge repository will flourish.

Being that your answer library is the heart and soul of your RFP response solution, managing this content well is a must. From encryption technology to infrastructure, security controls and standards change often. As long as that information is current, security SMEs will not need to do as much heavy lifting with responding. Content audits should be routine at your organization.

Auto-Response

From this expansive knowledge base, an auto-response feature brings up relevant responses to answer the majority of the questions for you. Proper algorithms find the best match, so your auto-response needs to be reliable.

Auto-response cuts down completion time dramatically from the first RFP security questionnaire project—and efficiency levels increase with consistent use. Essentially, the solution does a majority of the responding for you.

automate security questionnaires
Communication Tools

Strong collaboration is behind every great RFP response process. Your RFP response solution must have communication features that promote a collaborative environment. Proposal managers should be able to reach out to security SMEs in a low-touch manner, and vice versa.

Team members should be able to easily leave comments and @-mention for clarification as needed. Built-in chat features and Slack integration are additional ways to help teams work together easily, with less emails and fewer meetings.

Source Export

At the end of the RFP security questionnaire, every team wants to finish up and move on with their lives. However, like the import, the export can really be a time-consuming challenge with large spreadsheets. Being able to easily export back into the original source with clean data is a necessary feature of RFP software, especially with security questionnaires.

“We appreciate the lengths RFPIO has taken to accommodate the Standardized Information Gathering (Security Questionnaires) tool. They have been incredible in their help addressing the Security Questionnaires’s imbedded scoping and automation abilities within the spreadsheet to preserve the purpose of the document. RFPIO’s efforts to research and develop a new upload specific to the Security Questionnaireshas been invaluable to MGIC.” – Vickie Kusch, Vendor Due Diligence Liaison at Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation

Bulk Answering

Repetitive questions are the name of the game with security and compliance questionnaires. Bulk answering does exactly what you think it does…answers in bulk! (Didn’t see that coming, did you?)

As you respond to a Security Questionnaires, a solution like RFPIO understands how the macro is programmed and aligns with your selection process. If you answer “yes,” it knows the dependencies and presents those 300ish questions to you. If you answer “no,” it knows not to show irrelevant questions.

Audit History

Sometimes security questions aren’t black and white. Teams must use their best judgement and answer only what they can backup. An audit history shows who answered the question, so they can “backup” or explain their response if a situation should arise with the issuer.

Sometimes an issuer will add a clause in the contract that mentions their right to audit in fine print. You want to be ready for this, and an audit trail will help you tremendously.

Time is on your side now, responder

The dark days of losing hours and sleep are all over. The next security questionnaire that lands in your inbox will be a piece of cake—er—okay, it will certainly be easier than before when you didn’t have your trusty automated technology friend.

So, there you have it. RFP software isn’t just for RFPs. Take control of your next security questionnaire with RFPIO.

How RFP software empowers the high-performing marketer

How RFP software empowers the high-performing marketer

Marketing is the pulse of an organization. From the CMO to the marketing manager, everything is done for the brand. Decisions and actions born in this department influence people’s perception of the entire company and impact the bottom line. As technology has evolved, so has marketing’s role.

The budget that used to belong to the VP of Sales has transferred to the VP of Marketing. Ownership over sales-driven initiatives now rests on the marketer’s full plate.

“93% of organizations reveal that multiple team members are needed to complete RFP responses, with nearly half requiring at least a team of 6.”

Organizations succeeding at RFP response have a great process backed by technology and teamwork. With RFPs, marketing is like the border of a puzzle, corralling the many pieces and holding them together until the puzzle is beautifully finished.

That’s a tall order when it comes to RFP responses, being that a winning submission equates to revenue. If anyone can handle that responsibility, it’s marketing.

They not only have the gumption, they also embrace technology to navigate complexities like the RFP response process. Since it takes an army to complete a single submission, RFP software is the weapon of choice for today’s high-performing marketing departments.

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

  1. CMOs have the power to improve the RFP response process with technology
  2. RFP software fosters collaboration with marketing departments
  3. Marketing’s involvement at critical points in the timeline of RFP responses
  4. RFP management is content management that needs technology support
  5. An intelligent content library holds an RFP response process together
  6. Quality content is always behind winning RFP responses
  7. Marketing teams influence the ultimate success of RFPs

Let’s dive into the inner workings of a great RFP response process, where marketing teams fit in—and how you, as a marketer, can bolster your valiant efforts with beneficial technology like RFP software to feel more empowered in your role.

Ownership of the RFP response process belongs to marketing

Today’s marketing department is responsible for much more than the brand—they are responsible for the business. CMOs own the budget and technology, and they are often the decision-makers buying solutions to improve the welfare of their organization.

With RFP response, marketing is deeply involved beyond the buff and polish of the deliverable. In many ways, they own the process.

“RFP software is a critical part of your technology stack if you are engaging with RFPs. If marketing plays a role in your RFP response process—and they should—then it behooves your organization to use a solution for improving that process.” Read the interview with Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing >>

Budget and technology

Once upon a time marketing was considered a cost center. Over the last decade, things changed dramatically.

Mature organizations are run by aligned marketing and sales teams focused on one goal: revenue generation. More and more, marketing owns a greater portion of opportunity creation. A shift in budget occurs to generate new business, and suddenly the head of marketing (not sales) has the dollars and the decision power.

“Martech spending accounts for 22% of the marketing budget and almost one-quarter of CMOs (23%) now have fixed annual innovation budgets,” according to the 2017-2018 Gartner CMO Spend Survey. Among the thousands of martech solutions—alongside CRMs, marketing automation, and project management platforms—is RFP software.

Budgets are invested into these solutions to help the organization keep a steady, growing stream of revenue. When RFPs are executed well, it pays off. But to be effective, a manual approach can’t compete with the benefits of RFP software.

RFP response process

Technology alone is not the easy button that will solve every organization’s problems. When RFP software is paired with a great process, that’s a different story.

Like most processes, RFP response involves a fine orchestration of stakeholders across the organization. Proposal managers, SMEs (Subject Matter Experts), and sales and marketing teams are often the key players. Proposal writers and executives also come in for creation and strategy, review and approval.

However, many organizations do not create a process for RFPs even though they have a standardized one-sheet for nearly everything else. And, only 16% of teams are leveraging RFP software to improve their process.

As the gatekeepers of budget and technology, you as the marketer have a choice to make with your RFP response strategy…How can you make it stronger?

The answer lies in RFP software solutions like RFPIO, which prove ROI through increased efficiency and productivity that allows teams to focus on the next big deal.

“On average, a company responding to 2-4 RFPs per month can expect to save, at minimum, 80-100 man hours in time spent researching and answering technical questions. With employee hourly rates ranging anywhere from $25 to $50 per hour (or higher), the cost savings on man-hours far outweighs the cost of RFPIO.” – Brian Zielinski, Wolters Kluwer ELMaSolutions

RFP response always requires collaboration with marketing

Companies on a growth trajectory understand responding to RFPs is a necessary step in propelling their vision forward. To reach revenue objectives, they must rise together as a team.

RFP responses require expertise from various groups inside an organization, be it: IT, product management, customer success, sales—and, of course—marketing. These contributors might sit in the same office, or they might live on different continents.

To submit RFPs consistently and brilliantly, organizational shifts occurred to broaden marketing’s involvement. Being natural contributors, marketing does much more than respond to the occasional section of an RFP.

They step in early on to help guide the submission process and see the final deliverable through. As a result, top teams who collaborate are happier.

marketing collaboration rfps

Source: Salesforce

Marketing teams using a manual approach frequently struggle to keep up with the many moving parts of RFP responses. Those teams depending on emails or meetings to work on RFP responses together experience unnecessary frustrations. Emails get missed, and meetings cost time.

Since communication is truly the backbone of a sound RFP strategy, it needs to be easy and consistent.

How RFP software makes collaboration better…

It’s understandable why 83% of professionals depend on technology to collaborate. As a marketer, you’re busy enough as it is. Being a key contributor in the RFP process adds another layer—a crucial, time-sensitive layer.

RFPIO integrates with Salesforce and Slack to make communication simple for teams across different stages of the RFP process, no matter where they are. Having all communication tracked to specific RFP projects also means you have a helpful history to reference.

When you need input from sales, you can use their preferred tool, the CRM, to flag them down. Rather than cluttering an SMEs already crowded inbox for clarification, ping them quickly on a dedicated Slack channel.

team communication rfps
The project overview dashboard gives you the status at a glance, so you know exactly where everything stands. Your team members are busy, and like you, they have plenty of priorities outside RFP responses.The last thing they want is another meeting on their calendars, multiple follow-ups, or a surprise desk visit the day before the RFP deadline.

Email as a tool for simple communication serves its purpose with business as usual, but it doesn’t serve marketing teams responding to RFPs. The clearest communication will happen in a solution that is built for the big goals your team is trying to accomplish.

How marketing fits into the timeline of RFP responses

As with any business pursuit, competition can be intense—when you’re submitting an RFP, you can bet you’re not the only runner in the race. Outshining your competitors is possible with a quality submission. It’s marketing’s duty to ensure that level of quality.

This is your moment. Your control over budget and technology can dramatically increase your chances of success.

RFP software helps you:

  1. Review RFPs – A sequential review process and clear workflow allow you to give your stamp of approval, without the stress factor.
  2. Audit Content – Automatic reminders encourage you to maintain your answer library consistently to keep the best responses queued up.
  3. Finalize Deliverables – Customized templates empower you to quickly align the look and feel of your brand for a powerful deliverable.

The goal with every RFP is to make your organization stand out as the obvious choice, the solution and partner.

65% of B2B buyers report that the winning vendor’s content had a “significant impact” on their buying decision.” – DemandGen Report

Boilerplate content may seem like a quick fix when an RFP is due on a Friday afternoon, but it won’t win your prospects over. From the executive summary to key differentiators, everything should be carefully constructed and customized to serve your prospect’s needs.

Quality can mean the difference between beating your competitors or losing to them. RFP software gives you the gift of time, so you can work over the responses for readability, brand alignment, and engagement—and still submit before the deadline—to increase your chances of winning new business.

annual number of RFPs

The many content considerations of RFP management

RFP management could be called “content management,” something you are very familiar with as a marketer. Improving internal processes continually is a smart practice for any response team. That starts with marketing using their content proficiency to finesse RFP content management efforts.

Good RFP content management means having the best version of responses on-hand to accelerate the success of your RFP. Responses are carefully groomed, so the content is compelling and fresh. Content is also organized and centralized to help team members respond to an RFP or RFI quickly and accurately.

content creation workflow

Source: Content Marketing Institute

To meet a vendor’s request, multiple team members respond to their sections of the RFP. Then, it’s up to marketing to make those responses engaging without sacrificing the technical points. The review process is a critical step in the RFP response process. After all, the new business you’re pursuing greatly depends on the end-product you deliver.

How RFP software makes reviewing RFPs better…

Too many cooks in the kitchen is a common pain point for most marketers with content. That’s amplified when you’re working with multiple contributors on an RFP (often not writing enthusiasts who are rushing through responses).

RFPIO allows the proposal manager to assign reviewers in the optimal order to finish the response thoughtfully and on time. Marketing has clarity about when they come in to work their magic, and executives are clear about when it’s time for final approval.

RFP management
Complete access to the RFP’s progress in the project overview dashboard brings visibility to the project, so you can step in confidently to rework the content without chasing down SMEs for their contribution. A method to the madness helps systematize the workflow for the entire RFP response team, allowing marketing to have plenty of time to polish the final deliverable.

Your content library is the glue holding everything together

Silos inevitably happen with information, especially during the RFP process. Teams still using a manual approach will store historical responses in emails, online folders, and spreadsheets. These information silos become a bottleneck in the process, continually with every submission until technology is introduced as the remedy.

“Most sales reps spend more than 50 full days away from core selling activities each year.” – Domo

Whether you have a team of 100 or 100,000, company information is bound to change. A product company releases new features, technical specs, and updates, while a government organization maintains security and compliance standards. Sometimes company changes are so constant that teams don’t know the right information and / or where to find it.

A content library that is centralized and maintained is a key piece of a smooth-operating RFP response process. A spreadsheet can only do so much when you’re responding to thousands of questions fifty times a year, right?

How RFP software makes auditing content better…

As a marketer, you understand the importance of content audits from your experience performing them regularly on marketing content. Q&A pairs need the same level of care, with regular culling and fine-tuning of historical RFP responses.

RFPIO empowers you to keep the best content accessible for your team. Automatic reminders alert you quarterly (or a cadence of your choosing) to overhaul your content library, cleaning out duplicates and outdated or weaker responses.

answer library review
Already, the solution offers an intelligent answer library that decreases time spent finding answers while providing the most relevant option. Even with RFPIO’s search functionality, tagging, and star ratings…quality decreases over time. Staying on top of content audits now makes the submission process much easier later when the RFP is due.

How does content impact an RFP response?

Your brand and messaging mean everything to you, but they are equally important to the prospect reading the RFP you submit. Even an RFP response has a story to tell. A consistent look and feel is part of that, and engaging content is the other.

“Quality content means content that is packed with clear utility and is brimming with inspiration, and it has relentless empathy for the audience.” – Ann Handley, MarketingProfs

Arguably more than any other type of content the marketing department creates, an RFP response directly wins business. This is it—the final stage of the buyer’s decision process—and the responses they read will either sway them your direction or another’s.

At the very end of an RFP project, it’s time to export responses into the branded deliverable. This is the part of the process often dreaded most by marketing teams under the gun. When five SMEs with five different font preferences contribute, you’ll have a mess on your hands and a long night ahead of you.

How RFP software makes finalizing deliverables better…

When you can see the light at the end of the tunnel of an RFP project, with just cause you want the export process to happen uneventfully. When you’re wrangling responses in Word docs, it’s an event alright…to create a cohesive document.

RFPIO supports your branding cause by aligning everything: the right high-res logo, the right color schemes, the right fonts and bullet points. Instead of spending hours putting the final touches on the deliverable, it takes minutes, freeing up your time to move on to your priority list.

import RFP responses
You have a couple of choices. You can export to the source when you have a specific format to follow (i.e. spreadsheet from the issuer). Or, you can export into a customized template with your brand’s stamp on it.

RFPIO supports unlimited templates, allowing you to have a template for unsolicited proposals and a completely different one for SOWs. Consistency is key with exporting, and RFP software alleviates the concerns you used to have so you can sleep at night.

The marketing team ultimately impacts the RFP win

Marketing plays a much bigger role in RFP response than many realize.

Experienced in crafting messaging and ensuring brand consistency, marketing is the natural choice to oversee such an important deliverable. But, marketing also steers the process and purchases technology that moves the organization closer to the RFP win.

Marketers will continue to broaden their reach and increasingly do more to support the sales process beyond the buff and polish of content.

“63% of SCS (Sales Cycle Shortening) sales teams report having complete or strong alignment with marketing. Shortening sales cycles is a representation of overall efficiency and effectiveness in the customer acquisition process.” – Aberdeen

RFP software empowers you to step into an even bigger role as a marketer, so you can own a great RFP response process powered by innovative technology. Along the way, you’ll find increasingly effective ways to respond to RFPs to win more deals.

Ready to take control of your RFP process and win more business? Schedule a demo with us to explore the possibilities with RFPIO.

Interview with Matt Heinz: MarTech expert talks RFP software

Interview with Matt Heinz: MarTech expert talks RFP software

John F. Kennedy once said, “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.” Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic when we’re talking about RFP responding, but the logic applies.

We sometimes hear that RFPs get a bad rap. The process of responding to them can take people out of their normal workday and use up precious time, and they aren’t guaranteed to deliver.

Except—bear with me here—isn’t any chance to gain business a risk of your time and efforts? And shouldn’t calculated risk-taking be a part of your strategy? If you consider the amount of potential revenue left on the table when you don’t prioritize those opportunities, it should be.

RFPs, RFIs, RFQs, security questionnaires—any document for potential new business—are sales enablement tools, pieces of quality marketing content, and revenue generators, too. They just don’t always get the credit they deserve.

Matt Heinz is the founder of Heinz Marketing and an expert on bridging the B2B sales and marketing funnels. We sat down with Matt to talk about how RFPs are an integral part of marketing and sales strategies, and a risk worth taking.

marketing technology landscape

The Technology

RFPIO: We’ve seen the use of MarTech improve transparency and ROI in marketing and sales. How do you think that applies to RFP response software?

Matt: An RFP is a ready-made, qualified opportunity. There are a couple challenges that come along with them, though. People can get frustrated about the amount of time they take to complete, and the conversion rate seems unpredictable.

Those challenges are ripe for process improvement through technology when it comes to the quality, consistency, and efficiency of RFP responding. By addressing those areas, you should ultimately see a higher win rate and an improved ROI moving forward.

Ready to elevate your role in the RFP response process? Read our guide for marketers.

RFPIO: How does RFP response software fit into the MarTech landscape as a whole?

Matt: It’s a critical part of your technology stack if you are engaging with RFPs. If marketing plays a role in your RFP response process—and they should—then it behooves your organization to use a solution for improving that process.

RFPIO: Do you think automating the response process would help with marketing spend?

Matt: Absolutely. It can be difficult to figure out the best way to respond to proposals manually. But if you’re able to automate and streamline the process, and focus on content, it could be very lucrative and the technology cost pays for itself.

“With RFPs, there’s a higher overall conversion per engagement percentage, versus just managing from leads to closed deals.” – Matt Heinz

The Impact

RFPIO: What is the funnel impact of RFP responses?

Matt: There’s a huge benefit in bypassing the lead part of the funnel—which itself involves a lot of resources and strategy. You’ve got the cost of seeking out prospects and then doing the work to qualify them. With RFPs, there’s a higher overall conversion per engagement percentage, versus just managing from leads to closed deals.

Many companies have goals for the number of leads they must acquire to convert into a specific amount of qualified opportunities that will then become closed deals. We often see about one and a quarter percent of marketing-generated leads that ultimately convert into closed deals.

Even if you’re seeing a ten percent conversion of RFPs, depending on the cost that goes into creating those, it could be a far more efficient funnel than traditional outbound/inbound demand generation.

RFPIO: How can marketing and sales departments contribute to a successful proposal response process?

Matt: Marketing can help with content creation. RFPs generally ask for a comprehensive overview of capabilities, and why a company would be the best option for them. That is a great opportunity to build your narrative. Sales may answer some questions and facilitate the submission of the RFP, but it really benefits most companies to have marketing integrally involved in creating relevant content for RFPs.

It’s also helpful to develop a process for responding to RFPs, and that starts by assigning roles to people. Sales can be the facilitators, and marketing executes on crafting responses.

“An RFP is a ready-made, qualified opportunity.” -Matt Heinz

sales and marketing funnel - Hubspot

Source: Hubspot

The Buy-In

RFPIO: Many RFP responders work after hours to complete responses by deadline. How can marketing teams help prioritize the RFP response process?

Matt: If RFPs are a consistent, predictable source of your sales pipeline, then that should mitigate the requirement of generating leads and opportunities through marketing.

Additionally, if you can reduce the cost and time associated with RFPs through automation, that might actually solve the problem on its own.

RFPIO: What advice do you have on gaining adoption?

Matt: Let people know why! Companies will buy new technology and train people on how to use it, but they don’t tell them why it’s important to the business.

You also want to make sure everyone understands how it integrates with your other technologies, and with your other online and offline processes.

Know that whatever you roll out is likely to adapt over time as people actually start to use it within your unique environment and culture. Make sure you’re managing those adjustments, reinforcing the behavior you want, and evaluating the solution based on the success metrics and objectives you had to start with.

RFPIO: Anything you’d like to add?

Matt: Just a reminder that you shouldn’t be afraid to approach past opportunities anew. Maybe RFPs weren’t a priority in your sales strategy before. But with response automation, it may be the competitive advantage you need to win more of those deals.


Matt Heinz Head Shot

Matt Heinz

President, Heinz Marketing Inc.

Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.

Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty. He has helped organizations such as Amazon, Seagate, Morgan Stanley, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many others create predictable, repeatable sales & marketing engines to fuel growth.

Matt is a repeat winner of Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers. He is living through the renovation of a 105 year old historic farmhouse in Kirkland, Washington with his wife, Beth, three young children, dog, two rabbits, and seven chickens.

You can read more from Matt on his blog, follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn, or look for his books on Amazon.com.

How RFP software helps Viewpoint elevate their strategy

How RFP software helps Viewpoint elevate their strategy

If you could respond to RFPs in half the time, would you jump on the opportunity? Viewpoint’s Manager of Sales Engineering, Mark Vignolo, took a chance and went for it. After trying a number of strategies to make their RFP response process work, he discovered a better way with RFP software.

Recently we met up with Mark to hear his perspective. In this podcast interview, Mark talks about his experience—and how the Viewpoint team overcame the many challenges of a manual process to improve daily life as an RFP responder.


Listen to the podcast…


Read the interview…

Mark, the RFPIO team knows all about Viewpoint since we are lucky to partner with you. Can you share some info about Viewpoint, so our audience can get to know you as well?

Sure, happy to! Viewpoint is a provider of construction software solutions to the global market. We work primarily around construction, but we also handle capital projects.

Viewpoint creates tools that help customers increase project profitability and visibility, and also manage risk. We offer solutions that connect the back office to the field personnel, as well as the entire team for project management.

Viewpoint implemented RFPIO about four months ago and already you guys are seeing some great benefits. How is RFP software making your team more effective?

RFPIO allows us to react much quicker. As RFPs come in, we are able to get them out faster.

It’s actually kind of interesting to take an RFP in now and align it to team members so easily. Before it would take us time, and we would procrastinate, because it wasn’t fun to bring anyone on board for a new RFP project.

What’s really interesting about Viewpoint is that your company encompasses both construction and tech. How is your experience responding to RFPs unique from other organizations?

I’m not entirely sure that we are unique, but I can tell you that we definitely see our share of RFPs. One of the things I’ve mentioned during the sales process is, when somebody gets a 1000-question RFP, nobody’s happy to receive that.

But when an RFP comes in, you can’t say no. Really, it’s the gateway to getting involved in the sales process. We would always prefer to do on-site, working directly with people. But having the ability to respond to RFPs easier makes a huge difference.

team collaboration with rfp response
RFPs can range from a dozen what I like to call “essay” questions to thousands of multiple choice questions. Our customers often produce these questions themselves, or they utilize consultants. So the questions are typically going to be different—and that was one of the challenges we had.

When we first started looking at RFPIO, I wanted to make it very clear. RFPs are not always the same questions worded the same way from the same people. And that’s where the solution really helped us with our process.

Your team was responding to the majority of RFPs manually. Before using RFPIO, what kind of challenges did you run into regularly?

We tried a number of strategies to make our RFP response process work. We tried utilizing Excel and made these long lists, then used Outlook for communication.

When I found that wasn’t working, I got more creative. We used SharePoint to store documents that people could edit. It helped a little bit but never solved the overall problem.

Our problems often revolved around assignments that were constantly changing. We really could not track progress. I gave fifty questions to a person. Then the day they were due, I may get fifty answers back—and I may get nothing. I couldn’t track if anybody was actually working on the RFP project, because they were technically all working offline.

One of the big things that’s really helped us with RFPIO is the ability to put a team of people on a specific question. Just because someone knows the answer doesn’t mean they can form the answer.

Again, the RFP deliverable is going to our customers. We want to make sure these are presentable answers, not highly technical answers.

What are your top 3 RFPIO features and how are they making life easier at Viewpoint?

I had to think about this one, because there’s a few more than three that I really like. But I’d have to say the one that really got our attention—and has already paid off—is being able to import from a Word or Excel document.

As I said before, everybody’s a little bit different. If responses are all coming in different formats, we needed to be able to edit them. I was amazed by how quickly we could change that information and get it into RFPIO. None of the imports have taken me longer than 5-10 minutes tops, even while first learning the tool.

rfp management dashboard
Our second top feature is being able to track the progress of an RFP response project. Now I can see when an SME has answered half of the 80 questions they were assigned. It’s great being able to remind people, because these things have deadlines. And since this is often our first impression with a customer, the deliverable must be there on time.

Now that I can see the progress, I know when we’re getting close. I can also get notified about items that need extra help. Even the people reviewing the responses can reach out for extra help for a better workflow.

Lastly, integrating multiple questions and answers together back into the formatted document is extremely helpful. Our customers are sending their own formats, and they expect to receive it the same way. They need that Excel spreadsheet, with all the answers in the right columns, or the Word document with answers written within it.

Before using RFPIO, we might have seven people collaborating on an RFP. When I got the information back, it was filled out seven different ways, and I had go through and clean them all up…different fonts, uppercase X to answer something lowercase X…it was challenging to make the RFP responses look consistent.

RFPIO pulls the content back in perfectly—and I was amazed by how quickly I was able to do that. I even had time to send drafts to the salespeople, just to double-check everything was on the right track.

On average, with a manual process companies spend anywhere between 20 and 40 hours on a single RFP response. With a tool like RFPIO, they can cut that time in half. What kind of productivity gain has the Viewpoint team experienced after implementing RFPIO?

I’d say those numbers are about accurate from what I’ve seen so far, and we’re still learning RFPIO.

Mark’s Pro Tip: “The RFP deliverable is going to your customers. Make sure these are presentable answers, not highly technical answers.”

I was concerned at the beginning, because common RFPs we received had 200-300 questions, all listed in Excel. Issues really started to show up when we had to split those questions out to different people. We tended to lose a lot of time just handing it off and bringing the information back.

We said if we saw a savings of 20% to 30% of the response time, then RFPIO would pay for itself. We’ve already achieved that. Before having the solution, I don’t know how I would have figured things out if we received three RFPs in one week. About a month after we went live with RFPIO, that happened. Thankfully we had the solution there to help.

Anything you want to say to RFP responders who are on the fence about using RFP software?

Take a look at how many RFPs you normally get within a year. If you’re a growing business, expect that number to grow a little bit, even if you receive half the benefits of RFP software.

In addition, don’t just think about what the responding time is. Think about who collects all the information, puts it together into a format, and needs to present that to a customer.

Away from the time and money, also think about how RFP software improves daily life. Your team gets stressed when they receive these projects. Before RFPIO, I didn’t have any visibility into the project. I just had to hope these questions would come back.

As we all know, hope isn’t a great strategy. We need something better, and this solution has really helped us.

Listen to Viewpoint’s insights on the go…


mark vignolo viewpoint

Mark Vignolo

Manager of Sales Engineering at Viewpoint
Follow @viewpointcs

Mark Vignolo is a highly experienced sales engineer at Viewpoint, a leading provider of software solutions for the construction industry.

5 ways to enhance your user experience in RFP software

5 ways to enhance your user experience in RFP software

When your organization invests in new technology, you want to make sure the investment is worth it. One of the best ways to get the most out of RFP software is by focusing on a better user experience for your team.

From branding your instance to managing integrations, as with any software, great features become underutilized when times are busy for RFP responders. Since you’re already working in a powerful solution every day, why not look at how you can take full advantage of that technology?

Today we’re taking a shotgun approach to some of the most robust features that we commonly see collecting dust—when they definitely shouldn’t be.

If you don’t have RFP software, it’s good to know how certain features will elevate your current response process so you can make a case for this technology at your organization. If you’re new to RFP software—whether RFPIO or another platform—we’ll show you the possibilities your team can start pursuing quickly through improved user experience.

Why focus on user experience with RFP response?

During a meeting the other day, the RFPIO team was talking candidly about why RFP responders should care about engaging in this deeper level of functionality. The crux of the matter is: By truly understanding the features in your solution, your team can achieve maximum benefits.

On the surface, you might be thinking about user experience in the traditional sense. Good user experience involves less friction and encourages efficiency. These points are absolutely valid, but here are a few other side benefits worth mentioning.

First off, focusing on user experience in your RFP software brings user adoption to the next level. Unearthing an underutilized feature or two will spark conversation internally for you to step up your existing RFP response process.

It also increases adoption. The more familiar and comfortable you can make the solution, the more team members will be inclined to accept new technology and adopt it. Most importantly, taking the time to improve the user experience in your solution sets you up for future success. Using the technology the way it was meant to be increases your effectiveness companywide.

5 ways to enhance your user experience in RFP software

Once your team has officially on-boarded with your proposal management solution, it’s time to look at the many ways you can make it your own. The best RFP platforms hold a wealth of customization options already.

By expanding your knowledge, you can take advantage of features you may have wondered about—and others you may not have even noticed.

1. Brand your instance

Familiarity increases user adoption, which is why customizing your instance with your logo and branded colors do matter. It seems like a simple tweak, but when you brand your solution appropriately, your team will feel more comfortable.

Another way to make the solution your own is by color coding project type and stage. At a quick glance, you can view your pipeline and stages by color categories. Carrying your brand through the exported templates is also important. The look and feel of the deliverable should align with your brand before submission to the issuer. These are simple things that can make a big impact.

2. Manage integrations

We live in the age of integrations. All technology needs to talk to each other, to cut down duplicated efforts and promote a seamless experience from start to finish. A good discussion to have with your team is what kind of integrations will be most beneficial during the RFP response process.

The integrations we have chosen for RFPIO are entirely based on feedback from our clients, in addition to our firsthand experience with RFPs. But our integrations are always evolving to keep up with the requirements of responders in the field.

  • CRMs – Salesforce is the most common CRM platform, but not everyone uses it. We support these organizations by offering PipelineDeals and Pipedrive. CRM integrations allow you to enter information in the tool your sales team works in daily, so nobody has to re-enter data and slow down the response process.
  • Single Sign-On – This is a great way to have a set of specific users and manage your rolodex of internal employees. It even helps with succession planning in case employees leave, so you don’t have to create and remove credentials constantly.
  • Cloud Storage – There are no file upload limitations when you’re bringing in content from the cloud. For example, commonly in healthcare RFP responses will be 50+ pages and contain lots of images. With cloud storage integration, you don’t have to worry about file size restrictions, making the import far easier.
  • Language Pack – Obviously, not everyone’s native language is English. We have many clients in Europe, and a single office might speak multiple languages. Our language pack allows you to change the specific UI at the user level for five languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.
  • Microsoft Teams – With Salesforce integration, you can only start a project there and kick it off. However, you can use the entire power of RFPIO within Microsoft Teams.
  • Sharepoint Online – We recognized that so many clients love Sharepoint and have historical data living there. Within RFPIO, you can easily search for your Sharepoint content without moving the data over.

3. Adjust security settings

At the system level, session timeouts are great if you walk away from your computer, at a coffee shop or in the office. IP restrictions offer an extra layer of security as well, since you provide a specific range of IP addresses that are approved.

Sign-in restrictions guide how you want users to sign in, through passwords, Salesforce, Google. Sign-up restrictions work with a specific email alias for invitations within the platform. If you only want @rfpio.com as an email alias, the system will only send to those addresses. That way emails don’t go out to personal emails by mistake.

At the content level, we would really like to see more RFP responders take advantage of these security features. So many folks throw 500 or 3,000 questions into their answer library, and don’t set restrictions with viewing or editing rights.

Adjusting security settings here gives you the ability to restrict sensitive content and section templates by role type (team members, team managers, and admins). Think about the content you’re working with today, and whether more security measures should be in place.

4. Develop merge tags and custom fields

Merge tags are the best. Project metadata might include: type, stage, due date, client name, etc. Depending on the focus at your organization, you can update generic tags by defining merge tags (i.e. city or product1) so your instance is customized to fit your organizational needs.

Custom fields are helpful for teams as well. Whether you want to track a project ID number or several subsidiaries, create fields to organize those details. For Salesforce users, you can map custom fields at the opportunity level.

5. Leverage collections

Collections are a neat way for you to create siloed walls within your answer library. Assign certain pieces of content to a collection, so approved users have access to it.

Let’s say you have several locations set up globally, with different RFP responses specified for each in your answer library. With collections, the European office won’t have access to the content specific to the Asia office. Pretty cool, right?

As you can see, there are so many ways to customize your RFP software solution. Proposal management teams who are more vested in the overall user experience will find better user adoption and reap more benefits as a whole.

Think about how you can go deeper to get the most out of your RFP software. Your team will be stronger in the long run if you maximize the technology you already have in your hands.

Team Spotlight: Meet RFPIO’s Senior Sales Director

Team Spotlight: Meet RFPIO’s Senior Sales Director

It seems like just yesterday was my first day at RFPIO. (It practically was—I only started a few weeks ago.) But in that short time we’ve hit some major growth milestones. We celebrated a significant sales goal, won an award, and added three new members to our team.

One of those additions was David Blume, our new Senior Sales Director. When he first came to meet with the team, he ended up unexpectedly spending the whole day with us. By the time I met him that afternoon, he showed no signs of “all day meeting with new people” fatigue.

senior sales director rfpio

It was immediately clear that David knew the proposal management space and was invested in making it easier and more strategic for companies to respond to proposals and increase revenue.

In a surprise to pretty much no one, sometimes sales and marketing departments can be at odds. But when I asked what kind of advice he’d give to the marketing department, he didn’t skip a beat. David offered valuable ideas that we’ve already incorporated into our strategy.

Once he officially joined the team, we sat down to talk more about his experience, and the time he almost met Tom Cruise. (We’ll save that story for another day.)


What attracted you to RFPIO as a company?

I have over ten years of experience in proposal management, and I’m passionate about the space. I was looking to work with a company that had a fresh perspective on solving traditional problems, and that’s what I saw in RFPIO. I really like the team and I think we offer something very unique in the space.

What are some of your planned initiatives for the sales department? How do you plan to take the RFPIO sales team into new markets?

I want to focus on communicating the strategic value of proposals. I think it’s fair to say that the RFP response process is not always considered to be a strategic way to win business.

In terms of the market, many B2B companies that include RFPs as part of their sales process are using manually intensive methods to complete them. Which means the market for an easy to use Cloud-based solution is underserved.

So, at a high level, my plan is to identify organizations that are not using response automation solutions, and then work with those companies to demonstrate to the sales department the true value that they can deliver.

hakeem and david

You have a lot of experience in the proposal management space. What are some things that you’ve seen change over the years?

In some segments of the market, there’s a trend towards shorter and shorter response times for RFPs, and a move away from organizations requesting a detailed narrative around the value and benefits their prospective vendors can bring.

Today they often lean more toward a checklist-based spreadsheet response which can take some of the value out of it because they’re just weighted and scored. This means greater focus on price and not value.

You previously worked in the proposal management industry in the UK. How does that market differ from other regions, in your experience?

There are more similarities than differences when you look at the people and process aspects. But spelling is another issue!

How has technology changed the space?

You still need to qualify opportunities and agree that these RFPs are worth responding to, and that it’s business you want to win.

The role of RFP automation adds something to the equation to buy you more of the most precious commodity: time.

Automation has historically focused on a few areas. One is around the management and organization of content, which is used as the basis for answers in a response. The other is an effort to improve the workflow of communicating internally with your contributors.

And the latter, in my experience, is one of the most challenging parts of the problem, because most RFP responses depend on the expertise of people in the business. But asking them to commit sometimes substantial amounts of time on a regular basis is a big ask. So automation has evolved (and specifically RFPIO’s!) to improve not just communication and collaboration but also making the management and progress of those submissions more transparent.

konnor and david

You’ve been involved with sales enablement for some time. How can RFPIO’s solution enable sales teams in the RFP process?

Many sales leaders acknowledge that RFPs are part of doing business. Some regard it as a necessary evil, and some see it as critically important to the process.

But the one thing that I’ve found is that few sales leaders know, from a dollar standpoint, the value of business that is influenced by RFPs or proposals in general. When they find out that number, win or lose, it often shocks them.

I think those companies that have recognized the importance of this function, understand that a well-articulated proposal is necessary to encapsulate all of the reasons to do business with you.

What’s the weirdest RFP question you’ve been asked?

It’s sometimes the questions that aren’t asked that reveal the most about your chances of winning. Here’s a useful tip: always check the File properties of a Word or Excel-based RFP. We once received an RFP that was authored by the other shortlisted vendor!

What’s something people may not know about you?

I really enjoy riding motorbikes and owned a couple of Triumphs in the UK. Now I have a US motorcycle license and I plan to buy another Triumph early next year. In my head, I see myself as Tom Cruise in ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’, but my wife thinks I’m more like Wallace and Gromit riding their bike and sidecar.

david blume rfpio

Connect with David on LinkedIn

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

3 RFP software features that make your work life way easier

A proposal has many faces—whether it looks like an RFP or a security questionnaire. When it’s time for a business to respond to a proposal, there isn’t a lot of time to get acquainted with a proposal. It’s go-time the second it greets you in your inbox.

One look at the stats Capterra rounded up in this article reveals how truly necessary project management is, with: “97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.”

The days of manual, repetitive tasks are behind us in many ways but still tend to be a common occurrence for companies of all sizes responding to RFPs. This is where RFP software comes in to alleviate project management stress for teams to make them more productive.

“Competently responding to RFPs is just the lowest bar to clear when looking to grow your business. Anyone can read the requirements and submit a bid. To really grow your business, you need to focus on how the solution you provide solves the problems laid out in the request. By automating and streamlining your responses with RFP software, you can spend more time crafting a solution and less time fiddling around with layouts and basic information.” – Andrew Marder, Capterra

Just like any other technology, there are a lot of options to choose from—especially with SaaS solutions. According to The Access Group, “Reliability, ease of use, and ease of integration are the top three requirements project managers look for when shopping for software.”

So, how do you know which is the right RFP software for your team? How do you know which features will provide lasting benefits?

Here are our picks for the top three RFP software features that will help make your work life easier.

Import and export

Ask any proposal manager and they will tell you…this is the part of the RFP process they spend the majority of their time on. Our client, Josh Itzoe from Greenspring, realized that a typical RFP required anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of manual work, so he made it his personal mission to make their process more scalable and effective.

By using RFP software, he was able to cut completion time down to 5 hours. The ability to import and export with ease made a big difference for Josh.

Import

One question can have multiple responses. If you work with security questionnaires, you’re very familiar with the Excel document that has rows and columns that seem to go on forever.

Although there are technologies that allows you to import questions and requirements, very few can support multiple answers for the same question. For example, do you support XYZ feature? Column 1 – Yes/No. Column 2 – Additional Comments.

import rfp

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

Export

When you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you want the export process to go smoothly. However this is another task that can delay teams that think they are finished with an RFP then realize the formatting is all wrong.

With RFP software, there are two ways to export an RFP:

  1. Export to the source: This exporting option is critical when you have a specific format to follow and you don’t want to modify the source document. Typically we see this in spreadsheet-based RFPs.
  2. Export in a template: You want to be able to customize templates at will, with the flexibility to have one template for an unsolicited proposal and another for an SOW. You should even have the ability to send the final proposal in your own corporate template. (Yes, RFPIO supports unlimited templates!)

The key with exporting is consistency.

SMEs spanning departments will come together to respond to an RFP—and often everyone has different fonts they prefer. If you have a great template, it doesn’t matter if you used Arial 10, Susan used Calibri 12, and Jim used Comic Sans 18 because he has a weird sense of humor.

Your deliverable will have a consistent look and feel because the system will align font, colors, bullet points, etc. Then, marketing doesn’t need to spend as much time manually polishing the deliverable—and your team is much happier and productive as a result.

Curious about how much RFP software can save you?

ROI calculator

Use our ROI calculator to find out!

Integrations

RFP software on its own will increase your organizational effectiveness by eliminating the manual labor of spreadsheets and documents. A solution that integrates with other applications you’re already using will further boost your team’s productivity.

CRM

Salespeople typically accept one tool, the CRM—and they will rebel against learning new technology that might steal them away from selling time. Having a true Salesforce integration means your sales team can remain in the tool they already use daily, without being distracted by a technology learning curve.

Long term, a CRM integration will require much less effort with team collaboration while keeping sales focused on revenue generating priorities.

rfpio salesforce appexchange

View RFPIO on Salesforce AppExchange

Collaboration

Less email is a good thing, not only for our inboxes but also for better RFP collaboration. Integration with popular communication tools, like Slack, can greatly reduce friction between a proposal manager and an SME when an RFP deadline is looming and input is needed.

With email, it’s inevitable that something will slip through the cracks. Slack is a nice complement to RFP software, because team members can communicate more effectively.

Cloud Storage

Support documents need to be centralized and accessible, and companies want a centralized drive that meets their storage needs. RFP software integrating with cloud storage solutions kills two birds with one stone, allowing teams to manage all responses in the cloud with quick access to the latest and greatest content.

Answer Library

A strong answer library helps speed up the RFP process tenfold, but the majority of companies are still storing their responses in a disorganized fashion: some are in emails, others are in spreadsheets, the rest are in forgotten folders. This is where RFP software truly helps organize existing content—and even autosuggest answers—to save teams time.

answer library review
When you’re on the hunt for a good RFP management solution, make sure your answer library can do these three things:

  1. Be able to assign owners periodically and have an established review workflow, so your content never goes stale.
  2. Be able to identify duplicate content and have the flexibility to override what stays and what goes during a content audit.
  3. Be able to change responses into different languages to seamlessly communicate internationally, when applicable.

rfp software multiple languages

With your answer library, the right setup and consistent maintenance will set the tone for success at your organization. A disorganized or nonexistent answer library will only slow your team down.

“With RFPIO, one other marginally technical person and I were able to respond to a 70-question RFP in less than 2 hours. Before, this would have been an all-night session for me.” – Jonathan Reed, Progress

Read the full Progress story

With the time and resource constraints companies are often working with, it is absolutely necessary to have a sound RFP process in place before the proposal shows its face. This not only helps teams collaborate easier to meet a quick deadline, it allows teams to focus on delivering a high-quality response with a greater win potential.

When you’re on the hunt for RFP software, these three features are a non-negotiable for the ultimate success of your organization. Take your time and find the right fit.

How RFP software helps Metal Toad be more effective

How RFP software helps Metal Toad be more effective

Recently we had the pleasure of meeting up with Metal Toad’s Director of Client Services, Hayli Hay to chat about RFP response. Since using RFPIO, Hayli’s team has enjoyed many benefits that have streamlined their approach to RFPs and greatly improved productivity.

In this podcast interview, Hayli shares how her company is using RFP software to respond with greater efficiency and effectiveness. She also offers some great tips to help our fellow RFP responders be better at what they do!


Listen to the podcast…

 


Read the interview…

 

Hayli, the RFPIO team knows Metal Toad well, since you are wonderful clients of ours. Can you tell the audience a bit about Metal Toad?

Metal Toad is a digital agency located in Portland, Oregon. We engineer enterprise class web, mobile, and cloud solutions throughout the full project lifecycle of software development.

Metal Toad has been using RFPIO for a few months now. How is RFP software helping out your company?

Prior to coming to Metal Toad, I spent seven years responding to government and utility RFPs. We had a manual process in place and eventually it got the job done. But once I joined Metal Toad, I really saw how different software procurement was.

Metal Toad didn’t have a manual process in place. Every time an RFP came through, it was done differently—there wasn’t a dedicated team of people or a proposal manager. We’re a small company of about 50 people, so RFPIO has really helped us solidify our process and unify our voice as a company. Most importantly, it has saved us a ton of time.

Metal Toad was responding to a lot of SOWs and security questionnaires manually. Can you share what challenges you experienced before using RFP automation?

All of our scopes of work and contracts were done using Google docs. We would end up with a lot of different versions in our drive. Sometimes it was hard to track down the original document that matched the signature.

We have a stage gating process internally, where various members of our leadership team need to review an SOW before it gets sent out. That was done through a paper process. At the end, nobody really knew what to do with the paper because we are largely a paperless company.

Running our SOWs through RFPIO—and establishing that what is in there is a source of truth—has helped us keep our documents better organized. The reviewer feature is being used for contracting stage gates, which gives us a digital record. We have done away with the whole paper stage gating process. The team can quickly review their assigned sections and they don’t have to scroll to get where they need, like they would do in a Google or Word doc.

Again, the time-savings has just been awesome.

rfp response effective
Do you have any tips for busy teams out there who are facing similar challenges?

As we were evaluating the product, I met with Ganesh, the CEO of RFPIO, and I congratulated him for solving the RFP response and library maintenance problem. He laughed about it, but it’s 100% true.

I was looking for somebody to solve this problem for a long time and he did it. After the initial setup of the library and the templates, we started saving a ton of time just having those responses available.

It’s important to set the RFP response schedule and create a culture where that schedule is sacred. There’s nothing worse than being blocked on moving forward by an SME who hasn’t finished writing their content.

For Metal Toad, that’s something that needed to be established because there wasn’t any process in place. RFPIO has helped Metal Toad culturally establish: what needs to be done, by who, and when an RFP comes out that we decide to bid on.

In your opinion, what kind of trends are you seeing with approaches to questionnaires and SOWs?

We have a lot of clients in the entertainment industry. I’m seeing more rigor being put into place on the master services agreement, security, and procurement side. Getting contract signatures out is taking longer, which is interesting since it used to be a little more wild west.

People are starting to get that they need to lock it down a bit more. On the RFP side, our clients don’t really know how to write RFPs that are easy for a vendor to respond to—or that truly get to the heart of what they want to procure.

A lot of our contacts are forced to go through an RFP process by their corporate overlords or parent organizations, but the person making the procurement is inexperienced in the RFP process.

I can’t say that it’s a positive trend, but there isn’t much training offered in the world of writing and responding to RFPs. It seems to be a skill that gets passed around a company through oral tradition and training your peers. There is a lot that can be done to teach people the skill-set, especially with writing RFPs that vendors can respond to.

What are your top 3 RFPIO features and how do they benefit your team?

Our #1 feature is the reviewer feature. It’s our digital record for stage gating an SOW before it gets sent to a client. It’s important for us to know that various people in a company have bought into what we’re saying we’re going to do for a client.

Our second favorite feature is the answer library. I cannot even tell you how many hours I’ve spent in my entire life digging through documents for that one brilliant paragraph that somebody wrote (who knows how long ago) that simply explained a really technical topic. Like, literally hours—days, weeks, probably.

Within the answer library, I pretty much never have to do that again because I can search by keyword and all of the potential matches pop up. And, that’s great.

The third one is the feedback feature, where RFPIO clients can give direct feedback. I’ve never once in my career suggested a software improvement to a tool I was using and have the company actually implement the solution within a two-week period. Internally we were blown away by that level of service.

I love how RFPIO is taking suggestions from users seriously, implementing them, then sending me a personal email telling me to go check it out. Major props to your guys’ software development iterations—and your customer service is super cool.

For other people who are making the switch from a manual process to RFP software, what insights do you have for them?

Like any new tool implementation, you need to plan for it. You need to get organized prior to pulling the trigger.

  • What responses do you want to load into your answer library?
  • Where are your top ten answers located?
  • What kind of templates do you need to create?

You really need to do prep work and housekeeping before you start building your instance of RFPIO. Companies should consider this an internal project with a clear owner and clear leader.

Once you have it set up, you need to teach people in your organization. We trained our project managers, product owners, and some of our software architects and developers about: what RFPIO is, why we are using it, how they are going to get pinged, and what we need from them.

We used to use comments on Google docs and they never knew when we needed their input—or I couldn’t track what they were doing. They would have to scroll around to find what they needed and provide context.

Now that they’ve done it a few times, everybody loves it. Have a clear owner and make sure you teach people about it.


hayli hay

Hayli Hay

Director of Client Services at Metal Toad
Follow @MetalToad

Hayli Hay is a driven executive with a high emphasis for getting things done. Her experience pitching big ideas, building consensus across diverse cross-functional teams and driving those initiatives across the finish line has been the keystone to her success as a leader in tech. She has 15 years of program and project management experience supporting multiple clients—from large international to small local teams across a wide range of industries. Hayli thrives on developing departments, helping teams come together, decisions being made, and goals getting achieved. Each day she focuses on what is best for the clients, what is best for the team, and what is best for the company.

How RFP software helped DTI submit winning RFPs in less time

How RFP software helped DTI submit winning RFPs in less time

Jonathan Gudger, the Solutions Architect at DTI, used to spend anywhere from 20-30 hours responding to a single RFP.

This was in spite of the fact that Jonathon and his team had a documented RFP response procedure, and they had even implemented software that was allegedly designed to help them manage content. 

Jonathan knew that had to be a better way to respond to RFPs. So he set out in search of a better solution.

Better quality responses in less time 

After implementing RFPIO, all past question-and-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) and relevant documents were consolidated in a single answer library. Even better, the DTI team could use the auto-respond feature to automatically populate answers for up to 75% of questions. This meant his team had more time to finesse the final content and submit high-quality (read: winning) responses.

This early success with RFPIO prompted DTI to create a solutions desk to form support technologies that would further advance and enable their sales team.

Within the first two weeks, we were able to show upper management 1,000 questions and answers already populated in the tool. It was a huge selling point!”

Responding to RFPs in half the time 

With a consolidated answer library and the ability to assign certain questions or sections to individuals—adding much-needed visibility and accountability to the RFP process—DTI can now respond to RFPs in half the time.

3 steps to help you complete your RFP on time (every time)

3 steps to help you complete your RFP on time (every time)

Admit it, you’ve missed out on RFP deadlines once or twice in your life. Sometimes the RFP preparation itself is so overwhelming that we have no clue where to begin. Other times trying to gather answers from our team to complete the RFP becomes the hang-up.

No matter the size of your team or company, the RFP process is never easy. It requires hours of work, reading through countless documents, and coming up with an effective response strategy that will win attention and business.

 

inefficient sales processSource: Salesforce

But, what is the point of that valiant effort if it isn’t done on time? When you’ve spent hours and resources creating an RFP response, you want to do everything in your power to submit before the deadline—to have a chance at winning.

Here are 3 steps to take well before the RFP lands in your inbox, so you can meet your deadlines every time.

Step 1: Bridge the communication gap between RFP leads and SMEs

Because the RFP process is such a huge undertaking, usually a dedicated proposal manager or lead is the point person. SMEs also play a key role in defining RFP responses by offering their expertise.

Problems arise when the lead is not clear on what the requirement is, making the SME more likely to ignore the request. Open and transparent communication among stakeholders is key for keeping the RFP process on track.

sales process

Source: Salesforce

The RFP lead needs to be clear on expertise needs from SMEs by asking clear questions and keeping SMEs informed about open items. Scheduling frequent review cycles and assigning specific areas of the RFP will ensure a smooth and faster completion of the RFP response to help bridge the communication gap.

Step 2: Work smarter within SME time constraints

SMEs offer valuable input for RFP responses, however spending time on RFPs is a low-priority task on their full plate. An often overlooked solution is scheduling time with SMEs to work on the proposal collaboratively —a 10-minute face-to-face discussion is a lot more efficient than an email request that is pushed aside for days or weeks on end.

An SME’s assigned section of a sales proposal is often technical, and the jargon comes with that territory, making it difficult to write and to consume. Requesting a high level outline of the response is helpful in creating an efficient response, rather than depending on the SMEs for the whole write-up.

Whether it’s a proposal writer, marketing team member, or the RFP lead, having a savvy writer polishing SME responses is the better way to go for the sake of a deadline. Your team will be happier if you leave the writing to the writers!

sales admin tasks

Source: Salesforce

Step 3: Use visual data to encourage the pursuit of new opportunities

Most organizations have multiple projects happening simultaneously, with resources being utilized across tasks. Responding to RFPs almost always takes a backseat, because the team doesn’t understand the purpose of spending long hours on a proposal that has slim chances of winning.

It is the responsibility of the RFP lead to drive communication about deadlines, but also to promote enthusiasm for the opportunity. Responding to relevant proposals that your company has a greater chance of winning is critical to your win rate success, but also in building trust with your internal team.

Show them why you are pursuing this business, and how that can be reflected in potential revenue. An RFP management solution will help you track and measure these efforts, but without a tool, you can share the data from your CRM’s pipeline dashboard or create a quick chart in a spreadsheet with historical data and predictions. Hard data in a visual dashboard is an easy way to align a busy team to aim for the right objectives.

Responding to RFPs differs greatly from one organization to another, but aligning efforts is a non-negotiable to complete an RFP response on time. Stop and look around—see how you can take steps that will not only improve your process but also create employee advocates who understand why RFPs are golden opportunities worth pursuing.

Do you have any tips or tricks that work with your team? We’d like to hear what’s working at your organization to submit your RFPs on time!

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