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How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

“I don’t get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield At RFPIO, we often say that proposal managers are the unsung heroes […]

Category: Tag: Sales enablement process

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

How proposal teams can drive sales productivity and improve outcomes (with a free email template)

“I don’t get no respect.” – Rodney Dangerfield

At RFPIO, we often say that proposal managers are the unsung heroes of their organizations. Proposal teams spend hours, weeks, and even months crafting perfect responses, yet who gets credit for the wins?

In siloed organizations, both proposal and sales teams have vital roles to play in the response process, but it’s often the sales team that gets credit for sealing the deal. Why is that? How can proposal managers prove their worth in a siloed organization? Can sales and proposal teams set their rivalries aside and recognize that their goals are not just aligned, but identical?

Don’t get me wrong; I would never throw shade at sales teams. They’re critical to any business, including ours. However, if an organization regularly receives RFPs, RFIs, RFQs, or RFTs, a dedicated proposal team with a professional proposal manager frees sales teams to make more contacts and close more deals. In other words, everybody wins.

Still, like the late, great, Rodney Dangerfield, proposal managers often don’t get a lot of respect. Oftentimes, their ideas are dismissed as uninformed or out of touch, if they even get a seat at the table – after all, it’s sales who has their collective ear to the ground. 

Maybe, but a good proposal manager is a fountain of knowledge. In many cases, they know more about their company than the founders. Additionally, the RFPs themselves offer essential insights into customers’ priorities and pain points that sales may not be aware of.

So, now that you know how valuable you are, how can you convince the rest of your company? What role does a proposal manager play in their organization?

In my upcoming May 19th webinar, I will talk about the steps you can take to prove your worth. In this blog post, I’ll outline some of the challenges the proposal managers we work with face, and I will give you an email template with the information your boss needs to see to validate your position.

Are proposal managers part of the sales team?

The short answer to whether proposal managers are part of the sales team is, maybe. The longer answer is that it typically depends on the size and structure of their company. In most small and medium-sized organizations, proposal managers answer directly to the director of sales, business development, or marketing. 

In larger organizations or enterprise companies, the proposal manager could be part of revenue management or finance. 

Do you feel like you’re pushing boulders by yourself?

We’ve all heard the story of Sisyphus, the ancient Greek king, who, as the legend goes, was punished by Zeus for cheating death. The punishment was to push an immense boulder up a hill, only each time, the boulder rolled back down the hill right before Sisyphus reached the top.

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to Sisyphus. While your boulder is metaphorical, it’s every bit as frustrating when you’re trying to do the heavy lifting but you aren’t getting the support you need.

When sales hands the RFP off to proposal management, all too often, they wash their hands of it. Sales, however, should remain part of the process. Perhaps a salesperson or pre-salesperson was the catalyst for the RFP – in that case, they’re a subject matter expert on the customer. 

Sales should also help craft the proposal, and ensure that all the customers’ priorities are met before submitting the final bid. 

How to bring sales and proposal management together

In too many cases, sales teams forget about RFPs the second they are handed off to their proposal management team. But isn’t sales as vested in the outcome as anyone? A win for the proposal team is a win for the sales team, and vice versa. 

I will get into more detail in the webinar, but fostering communication and de-siloing the sales and proposal management teams will help create more wins for the teams and the company as a whole. 

How to convince leadership to keep you in the loop

Communication is the cornerstone of response management processes. As a repository for a company’s past and current content, RFPIO’s Content Library can automatically generate answers for up to 80% of an RFP’s queries. 

But what about the future? Perhaps there’s an exciting new acquisition that would make your company more appealing to the customer, or maybe the company is downsizing and can’t deliver on the requirements. 

Perhaps there is something that is a bit less newsworthy but still impacts the response to an RFP. For example, the company might have switched vendors, affecting the costs. Let’s go with an example that isn’t so hypothetical: The worldwide supply chain crisis could potentially affect every aspect of an RFP, yet if a response manager doesn’t know how the company is addressing supply chain issues, it’s nearly impossible to formulate an accurate response. 

And it’s tough to imagine that the sales team wouldn’t want to be part of the pricing discussion. Additionally, proposal managers need reports on their teams’ efforts as much as sales managers do. 

If you aren’t quite sure how to convince the sales manager to invite you to sales meetings, here is an email template that has worked for several of our customers:

Hi {boss name},

I’m writing to request an invitation to the sales team’s weekly sales huddles and pipeline meetings. 

As the proposal manager, I’m responsible for crafting a compelling proposal that solves our clients’ problems. The sooner I’m clued into the status of open opportunities, the sooner I can start researching our client—and the more compelling proposal I can write. 

To put a number on this:

      • Total dollar value of proposals won in [last year]:
      • Total dollar value of proposals lost in [last year]:

By joining sales conversations early on, I’m confident I can increase our proposal win rate—and help push deals deeper into the sales cycle.

Looking forward to seeing you in the first meeting!


Your Name

If you are feeling left out of the conversation, join me on May 19, 2022, as we discuss challenges and methods for bringing the proposal team back into the fold. 

Positive data to guide your sales enablement efforts now

Positive data to guide your sales enablement efforts now

How can we support sales so they can focus on what they do best? Organizations, both small and large, are asking this question year after year. This is the very core of sales enablement, and the dominant reason for the rise in countless technologies.

No matter the size of an organization, sales complexities exist. Sure, small teams are operating on different budgets than enterprise, but the goals they are trying to achieve are just as critical. And everyone is trying to figure out a way to align efforts, because there is evidence that the strongest teams are working together to meet company objectives.

Industry expert Matt Heinz recently conducted the 2017 State of Sales Enablement study with Highspot. This in-depth report features results from a mixture of nearly 600 sales and marketing professionals to paint a data-driven picture of the sales enablement landscape.

Here are a few interesting insights worth considering as you guide your company’s sales enablement initiatives, and of course, to know where you stand in a very complex sales world.

Sales enablement focus is improving sales complexity

When it comes to the level of complexity organizations are facing today, 65% of organizations agree the sales process is becoming even more complex. The data below shows the different perspectives between organizations with a dedicated sales team versus those without one.

sales process

Source: 2017 State of Sales Enablement Study

Companies using sales enablement technology are able to actually lessen the complex activities they face every day. An overwhelming majority of the respondents (87%) agreed that one of the main obstacles is the increasing number of internal stakeholders.

Also a factor, tied at second and third for around 80% of respondents, were a lengthier sales cycle and the increasing complexity of internal processes to close deals.

complex sales cycle

With RFP response, organizations are working hard to overcome the challenges of a manual process. This typically involves hunting for answers through spreadsheets and email when a deadline requires a quick turnaround, with a project lead trying to collaborate with multiple SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) who are difficult to track down for input.

This outdated approach greatly impacts a company’s ability to close deals and ultimately affects the bottom line. RFP software is still a newer player in the sales enablement technology space, but an important one that is helping teams address their internal processes so they can win more business.

Sales enablement adoption is having a positive impact on teams

Businesses with a dedicated sales enablement team rated higher across the board for every key driver of sales success.

Making sure teams can find the necessary content to support the sales cycle is a huge opportunity for companies. If the content is located in multiple places and only accessible to a few team members, then there are unnecessary hoops to jump through.

And when time is of the essence to close a deal, spending time on the information hunt can potentially disrupt a deal.

sales enablement benefits

Source: 2017 State of Sales Enablement Study

RFP responses are no different. They are an opportunity to win new business that can frazzle teams racing against deadlines—not to mention competing against other vendors who might win the business instead.

Having a centralized Content Library is a great way to alleviate this disorganization for teams. Beyond RFPs, having this company information collected in one place—polished and ready to go—means that a repository can serve as a hub for sales content as well.

Many of the same questions in the sales cycle are asked for RFPs. An Content Library can benefit busy teams who are experiencing an internal disconnect, especially when communication is challenging cross-departmentally.

Teams using a solution to manage their RFP responses also have the added workflow benefit of being able to assign content owners within the Content Library, along with automatic reminders for content review. This overcomes the risk of content going stale or being outdated, especially in organizations where information changes constantly, which is a common struggle with tech companies.

sales productivity

The results from the sales enablement study align with our own that we have seen firsthand, with teams cutting their RFP response time in half after automating their RFP process with technology.

Productivity is impacted positively by a joint effort by a company to enable their sales team. And increasing sales productivity goes hand-in-hand with wasting less time.

For example, when responding to RFPs, sales teams are spending too much time fiddling with document formatting: copying and pasting, aligning bullet points, making the font consistent. Solutions that automate the import and export of documents can greatly reduce that time.

Though something as commonplace as document formatting may seem like part of the job, administrative tasks like this take sales away from their primary job responsibility…selling. Fewer manual tasks is always better for everyone.

Sales enablement technology is increasing revenue potential

The good news for teams is that sales enablement budgets continue to rise, with 47% of the survey respondents sharing that they saw increased budgets in 2016.

Technology options continue to expand, as do sales stacks. But the right mix of tools, with a focus on sales enablement, is proving the case for additional technology to smooth out the noticeable complexities a majority of organizations are experiencing.

sales enablement technology

Source: 2017 State of Sales Enablement Study

In the end, revenue growth benefits outweigh the initial cost of the investment in sales enablement tools. Over 75% of the respondents who adopted these tools at their organization reported an increase in sales over the past year.

sales enablement revenue

As long as sales enablement technologies are easy to use, teams can adopt quickly and see an immediate impact on their overall effectiveness. Productive teams are happier and they drive better results because of that.

It’s exciting to see how sales enablement is becoming more widely adopted, and how data is showing the positives of the investment.

As with any technology, it’s important for teams to work together to find the right solutions for their business. With the increase in sales complexity, it’s safe to say that sales enablement is a solid idea.

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