Do you feel like security questionnaires and RFPs have taken over your life? This is common feedback we hear from subject matter experts (SMEs) involved in the proposal process.
You receive a request from your proposal manager at the last-minute and you drop everything to jump in and lend support. From there, it’s a mad dash to the finish line. To “catch up,” you end up working late into the workweek evenings—or even Saturday mornings—to contribute your response content.
So, how do you adjust your SME role in the proposal process to work in your favor? Let’s help you achieve work-life balance and get your weekends back.
1. Find the root cause of your work stress
Something is taking up all of your time…what is driving that? Maybe you feel generally overwhelmed, because you wear multiple hats in your SME role. You’re pulled in a million different directions and you don’t know which way to go first. Everything is a priority.
This feeling is very common for SMEs who respond to RFPs. There is no simple cure for overwhelm, but you can find the root cause of your work stress. Start by looking at how you and your response management team might improve your proposal process to save time.
Maybe you’re a really slow writer or you can’t stand writing. Creating content isn’t quick and easy for anyone, but it’s definitely easier for professional writers. If you don’t have internal proposal writers on-hand, maybe it’s time to outsource writers who gather informational bullet points from you then bring the response content together.
Once you understand what is taking up your time, the next step is getting support. Many subject matter experts are afraid to ask for help and they are worried they will not seem proficient. If you ask for help now, you will be less likely to say “no” later when you are overwhelmed by tasks.
You and your team are better off with an honest conversation about workloads, especially when everyone is dealing with the pressure of tight deadlines and burnout in the proposal process.
2. Play to your strengths to succeed
We all have strengths and weaknesses…that’s human nature. Figure you how to play to your strengths so you’re in a position to be as successful as possible. Who else should you get involved in the response process?
One person can’t possibly know everything there is to know about the organization. When providing the most relevant and accurate responses, it’s best for you to stay in your lane—and for other SMEs to provide responses to the other areas of the business you are not an expert in.
It’s better to be proactive with solutions, so you’re not saying to your proposal manager: “I’m too busy, so I can’t do that.” Instead say: “You know what? That’s not my area of expertise, but I know that X, Y, and Z can fill those roles and fill them well based on my interactions with them on previous proposals we completed together.”
Your organization will be better served and more efficient if the appropriate team members respond to the appropriate questions and sections. Stick with what you know and help your proposal manager find right-fit resource alternatives so you don’t leave anyone hanging.
3. Have the right people and processes in place
You and your proposal management team will work better and faster when you have the right people and processes in place. Get more people involved and be sure that each contributor knows which part of the process they step into.
Technology like proposal software supports you and your proposal process. Proposal software unifies your entire proposal management team. Because there are unlimited user licenses, everyone works more efficiently within a dedicated response management platform.
Integrations with Slack and Microsoft Teams eliminate back-and-forth emails and unnecessary meetings. The searchable answer library stores and organizes all of your existing responses, so you select relevant content, customize at will, then move onto the next task on your list of priorities.
Again, responding to security questionnaires and RFPs should never fall on one person…you or any other team member. Response management is absolutely a team effort. To win a deal, you must submit high-quality content. The only way winning content will happen is with a team of specialists banding together, owning specific sections that relate directly to their subject matter expertise.
4. Unplug, recharge, and do your best work
Achieving work-life balance is something we all want—but, it’s also something we all need. We live in a hyper-connected world, where it’s all too easy to “stay on” even when we’re supposed to be off. To do your best work, you need downtime to unplug and recharge.
If you’re responding to RFPs on the weekends, that takes you away from family time and personal time. I know that in my personal life, I need to have an outlet to reenergize. For me, that means playing golf. For you, that could be a completely different hobby, sport, getaway, or even blissfully binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix.
Unplugging can also mean taking 10-15 minutes on a weekday afternoon to take a walk. Even if you’re in the middle of working on a complex security questionnaire with your team, it’s okay to give yourself a timeout or shift something to the next morning so you can get back into the project when you’re fresh.
Communicate with your proposal manager to keep them in the loop. Reassure them that you will do your best work if you have a little more time to develop high-quality responses. Let them know exactly when you will deliver the responses, so they know you’re handling the assigned task.
Security questionnaires and RFPs aren’t going anywhere. Today’s organizations are seeing an increasing number of these documents during the sales cycle.
The goal with any response submission is to put your organization’s best foot forward. Take a breather and spend some time thinking about what support mechanisms you need in your SME role.
Working through this actionable plan will help you add more value to your organization. And you’ll finally achieve what you thought was unreachable before…work-life balance.