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13 top blogs for response professionals

13 top blogs for response professionals

I like to think of RFP response managers as the unsung heroes of their organizations. In a typical company, around […]


Category: Tag: RFP tools

13 top blogs for response professionals

13 top blogs for response professionals

I like to think of RFP response managers as the unsung heroes of their organizations. In a typical company, around fourty-five percent of revenue begins with an RFP, and response is becoming more and more competitive every day.

In addition to having a range of titles — proposal manager, bid manager, capture manager, or RFP manager — response managers wear a lot of hats. They’re part researcher, part writer, part salesperson, and part ringleader, although they may claim that they’re more than part ringleader. Keeping up with that evolving skill set can be exhausting!

You could go back to school, I suppose, or you can hone your skills through blogs. Every morning, I read a handful of curated blog posts to help up my game. They’re quick, convenient, and easy to come back to when interrupted, and the great ones make me feel a little bit smarter.

In this post, I will share some of my favorite blogs. Some are about RFPs and response management and others dust off and refine all those other hats you wear.

  1. Gartner
  2. McKinsey
  3. Learning Hub from G2
  4. Insight Partners Blog
  5. Hubspot
  6. Seth’s Blog
  7. Martech Blog
  8. Proposal Pro
  9. Presentation Zen
  10. RFPIO
  11. Winning the Business from APMP
  12. Grammarly
  13. Business Writing

Best blogs for general business trends

1. Gartner

Gartner is a fantastic resource for all things tech. They offer business consulting and some of the most thorough statistical research out there. The blog contextualizes their research and offers invaluable actionable insights to increase revenue and navigate a dynamic business environment.

Post you should start with: Is now the time to stand up or invest in sales enablement?

Generating revenue is the single most important business goal. As a writer, I like to feel as though I am part of the revenue generation process, although not directly. My colleagues in the marketing department and I are responsible for creating brand awareness and helping our sales department sell. Does that make marketing “sales enablement?” Is RFPIO a sales enablement platform? Doug Bushée with Gartner thinks so.

“(Sales enablement is) an opportunity to help your sales force be more effective, not just through technology or training but with a complete package that includes content, technology, communications, sales process, and training to enable your sales teams to drive revenue.” – Doug Bushée

 

2. McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company is an OG in the management consulting world. While their blog isn’t specifically geared toward RFP response, they offer insights and best practices for all verticals and organizational structures. Many in the response industry look to McKinsey for inspiration or statistics for their own blogs. McKinsey’s blog covers a wide range of topics including mergers and acquisitions, analytics, risk management, sales operations, and more.

Post you should start with: Better forecasting for large capital projects

You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry with more variables, at least when it comes to proposals, than construction. The larger the project, the more difficult the bidding process. Most (we hope) companies don’t want to underbid, but all too often, it happens. This blog post explores the psychological factors behind underbidding.

“Why do project planners, on average, fail to forecast their effect on the costs of complex projects? We’ve covered this territory before but continue to see companies making strategic decisions based on inaccurate data. Deliberately or not, costs are systematically underestimated and benefits are overestimated during project preparation—because of delusions or honest mistakes on one hand and deceptions or strategic manipulation of information or processes on the other.” – McKinsey & Company

3. Learning Hub from G2

I am sort of obsessed with reviews. I refuse to try a new hair stylist, dog groomer, or restaurant without first checking their online reviews. I’m that annoying person who scans QR codes in the aisles of Costco or Target to make sure I’m making the best buying decisions.

Before accepting my job with RFPIO, I made sure it was a cultural fit for me and I checked G2 to see what their customers had to say about the platform. G2 is more than a software review site. Its blog is a phenomenal source of information for nearly every vertical and every skill set.

Post you should start with: What is accountability in the workplace? 12 ways to foster it

Most RFP responses require several stakeholders, which is where that unofficial role of ringmaster comes in. Guest blogger Susmita Sarma has several very helpful tips to create accountability in the workplace, which is sure to help you spend less time chasing stakeholders down and more time doing the rest of your jobs.

“In reality, accountability at work is all of the above, which runs like a machine. But if the employees keep no accountability mechanism in place, things quickly fall apart. To avoid this, every employee should be accountable for their own actions at work. It builds confidence within teams and organizations because people know they can depend on one another.” – Susmita Sarma

4. Insight Partners Blog

Do you follow economic or industry news? If not, I completely get it. Sometimes our plates are so full that it’s difficult to see the world outside. Few know more about business trends than venture capitalists, which is why my go-to blog for all things business is Insight Partners.

Post you should start with: SaaS pricing tactics for a high-inflation environment

Pricing is one of the key components of an RFP, and the ultimate component of an RFQ (request for quote). Should you offer the same pricing structure today as a quarter ago? Should you raise prices to cover inflation or lower them to gain a competitive advantage?

“Properly setting prices is an untapped opportunity for SaaS providers to squeeze more value out of what they offer. We often see companies who haven’t touched their pricing for three years or more — which might explain the lack of inflationary growth in the sector. Usually this means companies have built up a significant amount of pricing power through market growth and product improvement which they haven’t yet monetized. While this was also the case well before the current inflationary environment, now the opportunities are even greater — while the risks of not adapting your pricing are more severe.” – James Wood

Best marketing blogs

5. Hubspot Blog

Hubspot is one of the top CRM platforms and it has a strong focus on marketing. Their blog could have gone under the “general trends” category, but I read Hubspot for their marketing tips. In their blog, industry experts discuss everything from a product’s life cycle to how to be more productive.

Post you should start with: 12 free personality tests you can take online today

Aren’t online personality tests so early 2000s? In most cases, I’d agree, but there is value in learning how you tick. By understanding your personality and triggers, you can help establish a more harmonious and productive work environment. And because more data is almost always better, have your teammates take the tests.

These tests are great conversation starters, especially among groups of people who don’t know each other very well. They can help create connections and establish common ground at work. Learning about your colleagues’ personality traits can reveal how each team member prefers to receive feedback and criticism. This can help your team avoid unnecessary miscommunication down the road, as well as lead to more productive projects and meetings.” – Caroline Forsey

6. Seth’s Blog

I guess you could call Seth Godin a marketing guru. He’s a Stanford Business grad, a published author, and a dot com alumnus. Now he blogs. Some of his posts read like streams of consciousness and others like social media posts. I call them bursts of marketing wisdom.

Post you should start with: Contracts and Power

Proposals aren’t technically contracts but many contain the same terms. Who has the power? Would it surprise you to know that the power shifts depending on where you are in the sales cycle? Can you control the shifts?

“In the moment before a contract is signed, the lower-powered party momentarily has more power. That’s because the other entity wants what you have. But as soon as they have it, it’s only the contract that offers concrete protection against future events.” — Seth Godin

7. Martech Blog

The content-rich Martech blog is the leading resource for tech marketers. Their team of marketing professionals blogs about diverse topics such as content strategy, World Cup marketing, and how to survive the death of cookies. They have a robust search engine, so if you have a marketing, or marketing-adjacent, question, just plug your query in to get expert tips. Check the site often as they typically post three or more blogs per day.

Post you should start with: Only 28% of B2B content marketers report having the technology they need

This post caught my attention because it’s one of the many areas where marketers and proposal professionals share common ground. Twenty-eight percent of B2B marketers have the technology they need. Proposal management is somewhat better; 43% say they have the technology they need to perform their jobs.

“The technology issues are likely the results of two things. First, too many B2B companies are letting features and functions determine what’s in their stacks, when it should be determined by their own strategy. Second, they may not understand the level of complexity and amount of resources needed to manage and maintain their martech tools.”

Best proposal blogs

8. Proposal PRO

I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t spend as much time talking about nonprofit grant proposals as we should. Even when taking profit out of the equation, as with any for-profit company, nonprofits still need to create a compelling case for organizations to untie their purse strings. Competing for an organization’s budgeted grant money is challenging. Because you have to demonstrate that your nonprofit meets a donor’s values, a captivating and clear narrative is perhaps even more important than with for-profit industries.

Jodie Eisenberg, the founder of Proposal PRO, specializes in government grants and has more than $500 million in federal grants and contracts under her belt. In her blogs, she shares the tips and tricks to win those super-competitive federal grants.

Post you should start with: 4 ways that grant-writing can ruin your personality

Confession time: one of my closest friends is a grant writer. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard more polite variations on #4, “Don’t talk to me—I’m on a deadline!” Proposal writers of all kinds are arguably some of the busiest in their organizations. Jodie empathizes and offers advice that might help save grant writers from themselves.

“Let’s face it, deadline pressure is a thing, and if you’re still waiting for people to sign documents, provide a final budget item, or just call you back with an OK to submit, things can get tense.” – Jodie Eisenberg

9. Presentation Zen

The first thing that caught my eye with Presentation Zen was, well, the name. I’m willing to bet that your job, like mine, is fast-paced and requires you to turn on a dime. Presentations, where perfection is expected, only add to the stress. Presentation Zen is all about bringing confidence to your presentations by featuring the best advice from presentation experts.

Post you should start with: Pixar Studios *still* offers free storytelling lessons online

You may wonder why I recommended a post about the largest animation studio in the world. I’m not suggesting you include cartoon characters and fantasy in your responses, but proposal writing, like most writing, should offer strong narratives and follow a similar arc to your favorite Pixar movies.

Pixar may be the best at the technical side of animation, but what really made them successful is their understanding of story and storytelling. In an old interview regarding Pixar’s success, Steve Jobs said this: “Even though Pixar is the most technologically advanced studio in the world, John Lasseter has a saying which has really stuck: No amount of technology will turn a bad story into a good story.”

10. RFPIO Blog

I know how it sounds to recommend our own blog, but we’re truly passionate about improving the full-circle RFP process with response management software. That means that within our blog we cover procurement in addition to proposal themes. This broad range of topics helps deepen understanding and collaboration between buyers and sellers. Not only that, but many of the posts in our blog are inspired directly by recent conversations with our customers.

Post you should start with: RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

This post from Ganesh Shankar, CEO at RFPIO, offers a vision of how response teams can help their companies navigate economic uncertainty. Currently, for many, RFPs are manual, time-consuming, painful, and downright annoying — but they don’t have to be. In addition to identifying challenges faced by organizations, the post explores how technology, transparency, and collaboration can drive significant revenue.

“In the grand scheme of things, this is a time when companies are looking for ways to be more efficient. Technologies tend to help companies become more efficient.
Better efficiency doesn’t mean that automation will take people’s jobs. I strongly feel that technology will allow companies to produce more and deliver better outputs with less infrastructure.” – Ganesh Shankar

11. Winning the business

APMP (the Association of Proposal Management Professionals) is the resource for proposal managers and stakeholders. Their blog, not surprisingly, is a wealth of information. Some of it is serious and some is rather tongue-in-cheek although most posts focus on best practices and industry news.

Post you should start with: Is a business proposal different from a marriage proposal?

If you google “proposal,” you’ll find that most dictionaries offer two definitions. One is a written proposal and the other involves a ring and a knee. Is it a reach to compare the two? Winning the Business makes the case that the two types of proposals have a lot more in common than we think.

“This article considers the logical progression of the capture methodology by comparing it with (the) universal experience of personal courtship. Couples go through a multi-stepped process that is remarkably like the four-step capture methodology. Both scenarios have several similarities including a common means to prompt a positive response during the proposal stage.” – Alan L. Lewis, CP APMP

Best writing blogs

12. Grammarly

What do proposal managers and college students have in common? In a word, writing. And in both cases, grammar matters. sixty-two percent of procurement departments say that they regularly receive error-riddled RFP responses. Sadly, grammatical and spelling errors can take a bidder right out of the running, which is understandable since most customers want to see attention to detail throughout an RFP response.

There are several writing and grammar tools online, but I love Grammarly because it covers many of the confusing basics like when to use accept vs. except.

Post you should start with: How to write a great business proposal

Grammarly is far more than just an online grammar checker. Its blog offers real-world advice and business writing tips. Grammarly can help boost your win rate by showcasing your company in its best light. Rachel Meltzer offers guidelines for creating a business proposal, whether solicited through an RFP or unsolicited.

“A business proposal is a document that presents one company’s products or services to another company in detail. Business proposals are often customized for the potential client. It’s a way for the company to market its product and get on the same page as its potential client before they agree to work together.” – Rachel Meltzer

13. Business Writing

While I love Grammarly, its reach is broad. There are tips and tools for students, fiction writers, and writing hobbyists. If you’re looking for something that’s specifically focused on business writing, there’s the Business Writing blog. Like Grammarly, they write entire blog posts covering confusing words like “council vs. counsel,” but their posts all have business angles.

Post you should start with: Is “data” singular or plural? Does it matter?

A tech copywriter, technical writer, and data scientist walked into a bar to ponder the word “data.” Okay, I’m open to suggestions as to a punchline, but a debate over whether “data” is singular or plural could get a little raucous, especially if one of the writers is, shall we say, traditional. Business Writing’s Ryan Fisher tackles that surprisingly controversial issue just to conclude that we’re all right.

“A look at Google’s Ngram graph shows that in American English, while the plural form (the data are) has been predominantly more common, the singular form (the data is) has been rising and is now on par with the plural form.” – Ryan Fisher

 

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

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

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

Obstacles in the RFP response process

The scale of an RFP can be huge

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

Competition is fierce

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

Success requires more than paperwork

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

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

How to respond to an RFP

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

1. Qualify the bid

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

2. Understand requirements

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

3. Answer commonly seen questions

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

4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators

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

5. Assign questions for review and approval

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

6. Polish

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

7. Proofread

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

8. Submit to issuer

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

The Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

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

Read the report

Best practices for responding to an RFP

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

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

Build the right team

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

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

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

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

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

Only respond to RFPs you can win

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

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

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

Respect contributors’ time

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

Document your process

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

Conduct a win/loss review

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

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

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

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

Let technology do the heavy lifting

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

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

How RFPIO can help

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

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

Using software at every step in the RFP response process

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

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

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

I’ll just leave these other tidbits right here…

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

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

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

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

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

Why you need RFP software

Why you need RFP software

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is RFP software?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundamental features to look for in RFP software

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

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

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

The most common pain points we hear are:

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

Why you need RFP software

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

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

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

RFPIO features include:

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

How RFP software can help

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

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

More productive collaboration

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

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

Integrations

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

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

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

Automated import process

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

Content Library

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

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

knowledge management tool decreases RFP response time by:

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

AI-powered recommendation engine

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

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

Enhanced security

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

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

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

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

Scale your team’s ability to answer RFPs

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

Produce higher quality responses, consistently

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

Start winning more bids with RFPIO

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

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

Next, we’ll discuss knowledge management best practices.

What is RFP software?

What is RFP software?

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

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

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

What is an RFP?

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

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

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

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

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

What are the objectives of an RFP?

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

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

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

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

Common problems in the RFP response process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are the three levels of RFP software?

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

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

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

What are the benefits of RFP software?

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

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

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

Features of Response Management software

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

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

So what are the key features?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The benefits of using RFP software

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

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

Optimized workflow

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

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

Unified collaboration

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

RFPIO’s collaborative tools allow you to:

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

Improved win rates

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

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

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

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

The RFPIO approach

RFPIO is the most advanced RFP solution on the market

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

Features include:

Proprietary import and export technology

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

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

Adaptive knowledge library

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

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

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

Built-in integrations

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

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

Robust project management tools

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

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

Deliver better proposals with RFP software

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

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