THE RFPIO BLOG

Start Responding Like a Pro

The RFPIO blog is full of insights and best practices, giving you the tools you’ll need to streamline your process and respond with confidence.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.

Emphasize your messaging with RFP brand storytelling

Emphasize your messaging with RFP brand storytelling

Stats and facts are powerful in messaging. But stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone, which […]


Category: Author: Andrew Stone

As the Senior Channel and Alliances Manager at RFPIO, Andrew Stone is committed to helping RFPIO partners achieve their goals. Previously, Andrew worked with several marketing agencies to provide marketing strategy focused on elevating brand value, from non-profits to Fortune 500 Companies. Connect with Andrew on LinkedIn.
Emphasize your messaging with RFP brand storytelling

Emphasize your messaging with RFP brand storytelling

Stats and facts are powerful in messaging. But stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone, which makes a pretty strong case for developing a brand storytelling strategy for your RFPs.

When responding to RFPs, we marketers typically think about making the messaging professional and concise. We also work hard to ensure accuracy and compliance. Your competitors’ marketing teams are going through these motions as well.

As we’re ticking off the messaging requirements boxes, we’re missing something with our RFP content. That je ne sais quoi that hooks the reader and keeps them engaged until the end. We’re missing the brand story. This is how you make your RFP content more impactful.

Use brand storytelling to build a trusting relationship

81% of people say trust is a deciding factor in their purchasing decisions. When we feel connected to someone or a brand, we develop trust. We are more likely to call on that person or turn to that brand when we need help in their area of expertise.

“Doing business” is not just about what you do. It is about who you are. Brand storytelling is designed to build trusting relationships and deepen the personal connection with your prospects. Below are two examples of how organizations are using brand storytelling to develop trust and connect with their customers.

IBM

IBM launched a health care initiative “outthink melanoma,” which focused on the early detection of melanoma. They developed an AI-powered product called Watson that could detect cancer with 31% more accuracy than the naked eye. This technological advance can mean the difference between life and death for thousands of people.

Going after a passion project alongside IBM’s “business as usual” technology made a huge impact on their customers. IBM showed not only do they care about being at the forefront of technology, they also care about helping people.

The New York Public Library

The New York Public Library used brand storytelling to increase their Instagram following by 75% in 2019 with their “Insta Novels” campaign. The library literally brought storytelling into their branded content by sharing full-length classic novels like Alice In Wonderland as Instagram stories.

Using Instagram stories to bring the classics beyond their brick and mortar library building, people around the world were able to have a memorable experience with their brand. It goes to show that even more established brands can succeed with a modern brand storytelling strategy.

RFP response examples that use brand storytelling

When you receive a request for a proposal, much like IBM and The New York Public Library, you have a choice about how you are going to tell your brand’s story. Are you going to tick off all the basic requirements? Or, are you going to try your hand at brand storytelling with RFP responses?

You might be thinking…the RFP questions we receive from issuers are always a complete snooze. What is your organization’s approach? What are your competitive differentiators?

It’s true that you will need to work a bit harder to find the story when you’re responding to RFPs. But, the point is…you can still find it. Below are some RFP response examples that will inspire you to infuse more brand storytelling into your content.

Tell your why

Because you’re a marketer, you already know all about Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why.” You might be sick of it, but guess what? It’s a classic gut-check for almost any content you produce, even RFP responses.

What is your organization’s why? Why did your CEO/Founder/President start the company in the first place? Why does your product or service exist? Why are you here?

If we use ourselves as an example (because we too respond to RFPs), our RFP response may look like…

Before founding RFPIO, we were RFP responders too. We often worked overtime to meet deadlines and we spent 30% of our time responding to RFPs manually. We understand how inefficient the process can be. That led us on a mission to make life better for response management teams like yours.

Share a testimonial

Customer experience is a big part of your story. We all read online reviews before we make purchasing decisions and your prospects are no different. Testimonials are an easy way to bring brand storytelling (and customer validation) into your RFP responses. An RFPIO example may look like…

Here is the detailed outline of how RFPIO’s customer success team supports your proposal management team. Lori Coffae, a longtime customer and content writer with SHI, is proof of our commitment to your success. “The team at RFPIO has been tremendous in terms of helping me get other people on board, helping to push the tool forward so we are all using it in the same way…I feel like Andrew works just for me and everyone on the team feels eager and accessible to help.”

Show you’re human

What are you doing in your business that goes above and beyond? In what ways are you giving back to your community? Your team does many great things together, whether you are team-building outside the office or going above and beyond for your customers. Show the human side of your business with RFP response brand storytelling. Our RFP response may look like…

Each quarter RFPIO gives back. Most recently we donated to March of Dimes and supported an organization that believes every baby deserves the best possible start. By giving back, we receive so much more. We not only love to serve our customers but we love to serve our community.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek is right. Reach your prospects on a personal level and demonstrate why you are the obvious choice as a partner. Use brand storytelling to build trust from the moment they read your first RFP response.

RFPIO saves you time, allowing you to focus on bringing more brand storytelling into your RFP content. See how our solution helps you produce quality content.

3 RFP content management tips to help you dominate

3 RFP content management tips to help you dominate

What exactly does good content management look like in the RFP world? It’s a trifecta of resources, data, and process.

Good RFP content management means preparing the best version of your content alongside your internal process to accelerate success. RFP responses are groomed in such a way that the content is compelling and fresh. Content is organized, so your team responds quickly and accurately.

By properly maintaining RFP content, you can:

  • Build confidence in your response process.
  • Gain the advantage when you’re under a tight deadline.
  • Save time and get back to what you do best.

The ultimate result of good RFP content management? Winning new business. The trick is to continually improve internal processes. That starts with investigating the RFP content management efforts you have in place today.

1. Define your RFP team

A successful RFP content management strategy begins with allocating the right resources—and defining roles and responsibilities so everyone is crystal clear about their commitment.

Process

Misalignment is common within organizations. Responders tend to ramp up too quickly with a shiny solution like RFP software, diving right into the next project without a dedicated process.

Discuss the overarching RFP content strategy with your team. If you’re using an RFP management solution, several factors need to be taken into consideration. A tool, even an intelligent one, is only effective if the response team is maximizing its capabilities with a grounded RFP response process.

People

The common thread with good RFP content management involves ownership and accessibility. Identify owners early on in the process and divvy up responsibilities among a set of core admins.

An internal contact will be the first line of defense with questions, while another admin will handle moderation workflow to ensure content in the answer library is being cleaned, amended, and deduplicated. A common mistake for teams is assigning too many moderators—don’t overmanage, just manage the content well.

Your SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) are also owners of specific sections of an RFP response. With RFP software, an admin can assign content to the correct SMEs so they can avoid viewing parts of the proposal that don’t concern them. Managing content is a happier time for everyone if they have this level of accessibility.

RFP Response Process Steps

2. Organize your RFP content

Organizing your RFP responses and projects make collaboration better across teams and departments.

Many companies want to make sure that every Q&A pair is present, but you can end up with several thousand responses. Even with search functionality in RFP software, quality inevitably decreases when you have too many Q&A pairs living in the answer library—and accessibility is affected as well. So it’s important to strike the right balance between quality and quantity.

Project naming

Within your proposal management solution, a standardized naming convention for projects is very helpful for busy teams. A good way to go is “date_issuer_product name.” Whatever you decide, make sure it works well for your organization and that admins are consistent with the naming structure.

Tagging

Tags make searching easier for your team to access the right information. Like project naming, tagging content is also personal to each company. Tagging responses by industry is a favorite for sales teams, since they can find specific content for the targeted industry they are working with.

Rating

Last but not least, star rating is a great feature within RFP software that helps you manage your content effectively. This is your way to manually influence the recommendation engine within the answer library. Once you have culled your responses down to a more reasonable set of 200 Q&A pairs, rating allows you to further refine your answer library until you have the top 20 responses.

3. Future-proof your content

To future-proof your content, you need to keep content up-to-date and continually share knowledge within the organization. It’s time to dig into two of the most overlooked parts of an RFP response process—content audits and succession planning.

Content audits

Keep your content fresh and clean by performing regular content audits. Every organization is unique, but we recommend quarterly reviews of your answer library. If you experience frequent changes with pricing or product specifications, then you’ll audit your content bi-monthly, monthly, or even weekly.

For those with RFP software, enable answer library moderation and customize alerts to your preferred content audit cadence. You’ll receive a friendly email reminder when it’s time to clean house.

If you don’t have RFP software—and your answer library exists in a spreadsheet—you can still be diligent about content audits as long as you refer back to Tip #1. Make sure you have resources allocated to manage your content.

Succession planning

Succession planning is often overlooked by companies, but this is a big one. Do you know who is next in line to manage your RFP responses?

Find out now rather than later, in case your RFP content “gatekeeper” suddenly moves on. It happens, and you want to be in a position to keep your RFP process moving forward so you don’t miss out on opportunities.

Another process to standardize is training. Although RFP response software is intuitive and doesn’t require special training, there’s still something to be said about having everyone on the same page with content audits and tagging practices, etc. Comprehensive training safeguards your RFP response process as your organization evolves, and team members come and go.

82% of our customers said managing response content all in one place is the primary way RFPIO helps them achieve success. It’s your turn to dominate with RFPIO.

RFP response best practices for up-to-date and impactful content

RFP response best practices for up-to-date and impactful content

An RFP is so much more than a sales pitch—it’s an important opportunity to tell your organization’s story.

A quality RFP response tells that story with accurate, cohesive, engaging detail that demonstrates your competitive differentiators. But if your content is scattered, unorganized, or unpolished, telling this story raises unnecessary complications. The first step to creating this story is quick, easy access to high-quality RFP content.

Where do you turn? You need a well-maintained, dynamic RFP content library.

Follow these RFP response best practices so you know how to keep your content up-to-date and impactful. When the next RFP arrives, you’ll be ready to write a best-seller.

Curate quality narrative RFP responses

Congrats, marketer. You own the RFP content library, also known as the answer library.

Be proactive and ensure your answer library is filled with the most captivating RFP content possible. Use content that not only informs but also engages the reader, delivering your organization’s message clearly—and with finesse.

As a marketer, you know your message must resonate with your target audience. Content that reads like a bulleted FAQ list might be useful for technical information. But you’ll need more than that to capture your buyer’s attention and help win business.

Well-executed narrative content resonates with buyers the most. They see themselves in your organization’s story, which forges a connection. An issued RFP seeks that connection. Your prospect wants to know they need your product or service, so show them in your RFP responses.

Collect longer, narrative answers for your content library. As you go through more RFP responses, create a culture of training. Teach your team to recognize and create narrative content, capturing and organizing RFP responses proactively as a best practice.

Moderate and audit your RFP content library

High-impact RFP responses win deals. You must have current, marketing-approved content accessible to all contributors who are responding to RFPs.

You’ve been auditing brand and marketing content for years, so you’re already familiar with the value of content audits. The same value applies to your RFP responses. Regularly moderate your content to ensure accuracy and quality.

When auditing RFP content, ask the following questions:

  • Is this information current and accurate?
  • Does this convey the benefits of our services and/or products well?
  • Do the answers address business challenges others face?
  • How polished is the content?
  • How consistent is the tone?
  • Is the content easy to find?

Impactful RFP content is a team effort, and keeping it fresh and reusable is the name of the game. Schedule audits and delegate content to the relevant subject matter experts, so the most accurate content is always updated in your answer library.

We know regular content audits can be a big ask. 79% of marketers said they are focused on using automated technology to execute more with less resource strain.

Best-in-class RFP software like RFPIO helps you with scheduling and delegating audits to SMEs. You receive content audit reminders at a cadence of your choosing (monthly, quarterly, etc.) Built-in analytics, such as answer library reporting, shows you the overall health of your RFP content so you can audit content more effectively by knowing exactly where the opportunities lie.

Use a tagging strategy to organize RFP responses

Once you have a good RFP content library built up, you need a card catalog system…and that’s where tagging comes in. Tagging is complex, and it looks different for every organization. Without a plan, tagging will quickly spiral out of control. The key is to have an RFP content tagging strategy in place.

You might have a problem with people not tagging RFP responses at all—or they might over-tag, tag inconsistently or inaccurately. Get everyone on the same page to utilize this powerful mechanism and keep your content in ship-shape condition.

Reference these RFP response best practices for tagging, then tailor the strategy as needed for your organization:

  • Tag content based on organizational needs.
  • Confirm that tags make sense to everyone, so team members find the right content quickly.
  • Create a tagging guide for methodology and a list of frequently used tags.
  • To keep consistency, onboard new users with your tagging guide and relevant reference materials.
  • Use 2-4 tags per piece of content.
  • Continue training and enforcing the tagging strategy to keep it working long-term.

Avert chaos with an indexed, dynamic content library. Tags make auditing and finding the content a snap. Implement a solid tagging strategy as the nerve center of your RFP content management process.

Your organization is a vital, growing, changing organism…and so is your RFP content. Nurture your RFP answer library, and empower it to do more. When the next RFP comes along, your responses will be updated and ready to make an impact with your buyer. Discover how RFPIO streamlines content management and make a bigger impact this year.

13 techniques that will speed up your RFP response time

13 techniques that will speed up your RFP response time

I talk to subject matter experts every day, and they all want one thing: More time. Some SMEs even wish they had more hours in a day. The thing is…you have enough hours in your day for RFP responses, you just need to improve your time management techniques.

Ready to help your revenue team in an efficient way? Check out several techniques for speeding up your RFP response time, so you can fully support your organization’s revenue vision and move on with your day.

Speed up your RFP response time with these techniques

“Running away from a problem only increases the distance from the solution.” Though anonymous, this quote may have come from a seasoned RFP responder. Let’s take a step back to understand where time management opportunities are within your RFP response process.

1. Understand the scope of the project

Miss important details present in the scope and you will inevitably rewrite RFP responses. Knowing the scope upfront allows you to focus on creating informative, accurate content. The goal is to appease their evaluation team and show that your organization is the right partner.

2. Understand how to track clarifications back to the issuer

Is it appropriate for you to reach out to the issuer for clarification? Or, is your proposal manager or sales director running communications back-and-forth between you and the potential client? Figure this out. Questions will come up, and you want to get the content right during round one.

3. Understand your response time

Are you tracking and monitoring your response time? If not, start doing it. That way you can build a case for additional resources or technology to support you and your workload. There are plenty of time-tracking solutions out there. RFPIO even has one built into the platform.

4. Understand who is involved in the response management team

Teamwork is the name of the game. When everyone is clear on responsibilities—and who they are collaborating with—the RFP response process is more streamlined. If you don’t have a dedicated proposal manager, find out who owns the project in case you need help.

5. Understand if other departments need to get involved

From security to legal, there will be times when you call upon the subject matter expertise of people in other departments. Even when you know the questions and scope early on, unknowns appear as you craft RFP responses. Have your experts ready to be pulled in quickly.

6. Understand how everyone communicates

Email isn’t always the best channel since inboxes are crowded. Communication channel preferences should be agreed upon by everyone on the response management team, including you. Maybe that’s a monthly meeting or a Slack group, instead of lengthy email conversations.

7. Understand if there are any additional tasks

Responding to RFPs is an ongoing task, but occasionally other needs show up—like performing research or analyzing the market. When you are involved in a new RFP project, ask if your team requires additional information so you can get a headstart on these tasks.

8. Understand the questions

If you don’t understand the questions when you jump into the RFP project, you will end up in a longer review cycle later. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, either from your proposal manager—or sales, if you need more background about the organization you are responding to.

9. Understand what content is relevant

Content audits are really helpful here—and we recommend culling your library of RFP responses once per quarter. While a proposal manager will likely own content audits, you will update any content that falls under your area of expertise to ensure accuracy.

10. Understand that you can repurpose content

You want to have the best possible content, but it doesn’t have to be completely original. If you store common RFP responses in an answer library, you can easily grab that content and customize for the current RFP requirements and specifications.

11. Understand the review cycle process

The review cycle process can be confusing with RFP responses. Know the chain-of-command so you don’t duplicate work. Your proposal manager should assign questions accordingly. However, if you notice gaps in the process that are causing confusion, speak up.

12. Understand your content management strategy

Effectively managing content decreases your RFP response time. Most SMEs store responses in docs and spreadsheets, using Control+F to find the response, then copying and pasting. An answer library within RFP software is the quickest way to organize, manage, and execute.

13. Understand the impact of technology

Software quality has a major impact on employee happiness. 96% said they would be more satisfied at work with access to better software. But, as we know from our RFP Response Habits survey, only 16% use RFP software. Get a response management solution in place if you don’t have one. This is one of the best time-saving tips we can offer.


Providing expertise for RFP responses is a key part of your role. By contributing to the response management process, you’re showing that you care about your team, your work, and your organization.

RFPIO helps subject matter experts cut their response time down by 40%-50% on average. Schedule a demo and we’ll show you more ways to save time and do your best work.

Develop high-impact proposals by making this mindset switch

Develop high-impact proposals by making this mindset switch

The Proposal Support Function (PSF) is critical to the overall selling process. Yet, all too often the PSF is viewed and treated as an administrative function instead of a strategic partner. This is a common organizational misconception, one that inhibits the creation of high-impact proposals.

Recently we were fortunate to have B.J. Lownie—the Founder, Managing Director, and Principal Consultant of Strategic Proposals—as our guest presenter for a webinar called “The Proposal Support Function: From Stepchild to Strategic Partner.” Over the last 30 years, B.J. has trained thousands of proposal professionals. He has helped them to be viewed by their respective companies as professionals and as critical to capturing business.

If you missed this webinar, have no fear…the entire on-demand webinar is available on YouTube. Because this educational hour was jam-packed with so many great insights, today we’re sharing a few highlights right here on our blog.

Excited to learn some tips and techniques that will help your Proposal Support Function (PSF) succeed? Enjoy some of the most profound moments from our recent webinar with B.J.Lownie.

“Aim high, rather than aim for mediocrity.” – B.J. Lownie

Demonstrating your strategic value in the PSF

Proposals are a team operation and collaboration is a necessary part of your process. A typical proposal management team includes sales, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and the Proposal Support Function (PSF).

The PSF has five main areas:

  1. Business / Strategy
  2. Planning / Management
  3. Content Development
  4. Document Management / Production
  5. Knowledge Base Administration / Support

Often we see people in PSF roles working 12-14 hours, including nights and weekends, to manage these areas and submit proposals before the deadline. To change that trajectory requires a change in mindset, both from the PSF but also from sales, SMEs, and management.

Empowerment comes from within—it’s up to you to improve your role and demonstrate your strategic value to the organization.

That means making sure you have the resources you need to succeed with your proposals, even if you need to fight for them. It means finding technology that supports your process, even if you need to fight for budget. It also means knowing best practices for developing high-quality proposals inside and out.

“Without the foundation, the proposal falls apart.” – B.J. Lownie  

Best practices for developing high-quality proposals

The foundation is everything. Besides following requirements and crafting the best possible content, that also includes knowing why you’re creating the proposal in the first place. Most PSF team members would answer that the reason they work so hard to submit proposals is to win.

A poor quality proposal can cause a loss of an opportunity. It’s up to the PSF to do everything in their power not to lose an opportunity. To increase the chances of success with your proposals:

  • Adhere to instructions
  • Address all requirements
  • Answer all the questions
  • Provide the best possible responses
  • Provide the necessary evidence
  • Receive the highest score possible

And, what is “success?” Anytime your team is working on a proposal, it’s important to understand what that definition of success is.

It’s also a good idea to make sure the pursuit is worth the time, resources, and energy. Is there a relationship already with the prospect? Or, is this proposal a shot in the dark? The PSF and sales should align their efforts.

When developing responses, here are several top-down best practices to follow:

  • Carefully consider the question being asked (What does the customer really want?)
  • Determine the customer’s wish list answer
  • Determine the best possible answer you can provide
  • Draw from a knowledge base
  • Add appropriate supporting information
  • Review response (Sales, SME, PSF)

If we look at your proposal content as food, think about what your customer wants to eat and how you can serve them the best possible meal. You can serve them “leftovers” from your knowledge base or you can prepare a fresh meal with the right ingredients. It’s up to you.

  “Don’t just get something out the door. Get something out the door that’s compelling.” – B.J. Lownie

Think ahead to produce high-impact proposals

A key piece of the PSF is the facilitation of the strategy and key messages. The Proposal Support Function never owns the strategy, since that is owned by sales. The PSF completely owns the facilitation…and being proactive is paramount.

Herein lies the problem. This is a typical timeline for proposals that you and your team are likely very familiar with.

rushed proposal process

Source: Strategic Proposals Webinar

Rushing the proposal out the door means you don’t produce your best work. It leads to a bad habit of M.S.U. (Make Stuff Up), which is obviously not the right process for developing high-impact proposals. If you can’t get information from your SME before the deadline, then you are technically an enabler of an inefficient process too.

Rather than filling in the blanks with an M.S.U. approach, think ahead and work with your team. Get started on the proposal as early as possible and make sure your resources are lined up already. When you’re proactive, this is what your proposal timeline looks like…

proposal timeline

Source: Strategic Proposals Webinar

If you think ahead, you start producing high-impact proposals. You have more time for quality control to ensure accuracy, clarity, relevancy, and professionalism. This is the number one area of responsibility for the PSF. Now you just need technology to empower you even further.

How RFPIO empowers the proposal support function

The facilitation of the strategy and key messages belongs to the PSF—and a response management platform like RFPIO serves a very similar role. RFPIO is really a support function to the proposal support function. The answer library is the knowledge base for the entire organization, a content hub that can be used for proposals or any type of business query.

RFPIO gives you a way to access your highest quality content in one place. This saves you time as you don’t need to hunt through various documents, emails, and folders. You don’t stumble into the M.S.U. (Make Stuff Up) trap, because you have up-to-date, approved content ready to go in a searchable answer library.

Assembling your team is much easier as you can assign specific questions and sections, then track progress along the way. Collaboration is easier with SMEs and sales anytime you do need clarification, with the ability to message directly inside the platform or through Slack.

Overall, RFPIO allows you to be more proactive, develop high-impact proposals, and improve your chances of winning the business opportunity. By having this advanced technology at your fingertips, you can feel more confident in your role. You can also say goodbye to being seen as the “stepchild,” and establish yourself as a strategic partner in the proposal management process.

Prepared to make the mindset switch? Request a demo of RFPIO to take the next step.

Develop a user adoption strategy to find renewed success

Develop a user adoption strategy to find renewed success

As you’re wrapping up the year, you’re probably looking at next year’s budget and analyzing your organization’s technology stack. The 2018 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic revealed nearly 7,000 technology solutions, with response management platforms like RFPIO being one of them.

Next year the technology landscape will surely be even bigger. And organizations have to ask themselves: Do we want to continue to invest in this or that software?

Before you decide whether this or that software is on the budget chopping block, first you need to look inward at your internal user adoption efforts. See if you did everything humanly possible to maximize the features and benefits you and your team had all this time.

Every day we come across teams that aren’t using our own RFP software to its fullest extent. Along the way, we have found several software user adoption tips and processes to help organizations find renewed success with the technology they’ve had all along.

Need some ideas for improving user adoption? This is how you develop a user adoption strategy that protects your technology investment and renews success at your organization.

What to include in your user adoption strategy

Organizations are investing in thousands of software solutions, but often they don’t take a step back to develop a user adoption strategy. The goal of a user adoption strategy is to maximize the ROI of the technology you invested in so your team can achieve greater success.

Here are some points to consider including in your user adoption strategy:

1. Share what will stay the same in the process

Some team members will naturally resist change. List the elements of your process that will stay the same to get people more comfortable.

2. Discuss what will change in the process

You gave your team some familiarity to hang onto during the first step. Now it’s time to gently introduce the unfamiliar. List out process changes that will occur once the software application is in use.

“In overcoming resistance to change and building support for change, leaders need to communicate an appealing vision of change in combination with a vision of continuity.” – Harvard Business Review

3. Identify the owners

Ownership is incredibly important for the success of any software solution. Decide who will own different pieces of the process (i.e. content management strategy, project management, etc.).

4. Clarify authority levels

After you identify owners, spell out their level of authority to make decisions. This helps everyone be clear about who is handling various stages of the process.

5. Perform consistent data audits

Even though software solutions are cloud-based, data audits and clean-up are always necessary. With RFPIO’s answer library, we recommend that teams decide on a specific content audit cadence. RFP responses inevitably build up—this is the time to de-duplicate and update content.

Without a consistent content audit, the answer library loses some of its ability to make teams faster at responding to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, etc. Decide on a cadence, whether that is weekly, monthly, or quarterly. Audits will keep your solution running at optimal levels, keeping your users happy as a result.

6. Assign a dedicated auditor

You would think this one could be rolled into #3 above about identifying the owners. The reason we’re calling this out? Because organizations typically don’t assign specific team members to own data, content, or project audits.

To make sure audits happen, make sure someone owns this part of the process too.

7. Decide user roles

Your software will have different user roles within the application that limit or grant access to various features and actions. Decide user roles based on their role in the process. Adjust accordingly if the user needs less or more to do their jobs effectively within the solution.

user adoption
8. Figure out a rollout timeline

“All at once” isn’t a rollout plan. Instead, create a timeline and roll out the solution over time. Decide on a trial period, when it begins and when it ends. Also, have a drop-dead date when you want to be using the solution for all projects.

9. Have a back-up

Even the best stage actor has a back-up in case something happens. So should you. Figure out who will step in and take someone’s place if someone transitions out of a role or the organization entirely. Make sure the back-up is trained properly ahead of time so they can jump in when they are needed.

10. Improve user experience

Within the platform, there are numerous ways to improve the user experience for your team. Customizing your instance with your logo and brand colors bring a sense of familiarity. Managing integrations is also important. Make sure all technology is talking to each other to promote a seamless experience for your team.

11. Provide ongoing training

Training is never a one-and-done situation with long-term user adoption success. Know how often you will host a refresher training for existing or new colleagues (monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, etc).

Also, schedule time to make sure each person knows how to execute with different features, based on their role. In RFPIO, we might want to make sure someone knows how to search the answer library, how to edit a Q&A pair, and how to mark content as reviewed.

12. Share user best practices

Check in with your team regularly to find out how they’re using the solution, then share some of those best practices. Where software gets complex is the bells and whistles. Some team members will discover tips and tricks that others don’t. Share those stories to help everyone be more effective together.

13. Uncover information silos

Even with the best software, and with your best intention to improve user adoption, you might find people digress to old ways of doing things. Then, you end up with information silos—not to mention a lack of collaboration.

If you find team members storing content in other solutions or folders, encourage them to centralize that data back into the solution the organization is using. These team members likely need additional training to feel more comfortable with the process, but they also might not ask for help. Be proactive by offering to have one-on-one training with them.

14. Measure user adoption success

How do you know if your user adoption efforts are paying off? By establishing goals upfront that allow you to measure success. Perhaps you want to see X number or X percentage of projects or team members active within the solution. Figure out that metric and track your progress so you can adjust user adoption efforts as needed through the year until you reach that goal.

User adoption success depends on defining and implementing a strategy that ultimately helps people succeed in their roles. By developing a user adoption strategy, you’re taking the right steps to invest in your team for the software investment you already made.

RFP Answer Library: 10 Before and After RFP Software Stories

RFP Answer Library: 10 Before and After RFP Software Stories

What do buyers really think of bidding organizations? Well, er…some of the results from this survey weren’t so favorable for RFP responders. At the end of the day, nearly half of these buyers felt that bidders just didn’t do themselves justice in their proposals. However, there is light at the end of your RFP answer library.

With any organizational challenges, identifying the root cause of the issue is the best way to create a long-term solution. Buyers think RFP responses are not up to snuff because—let’s face it—they probably aren’t as amazing as they could be. RFP software gives your team more time to do a better job…your answer library is ultimately the key to your success.

Because you all love seeing real examples in the RFP response world, we combed through tons of RFPIO user reviews to gather and share authentic RFP content management solutions. What follows is a snapshot of RFP responders’ lives, before and after RFP software.

Customer-centric RFP responses increase win rate

Before RFP software

A proposal manager spent most of his time researching multiple documents and resources to eventually produce an “okay” answer. His SMEs were always short on time—they either provided rushed responses or ignored his emails when he needed input. They could never get ahead of the RFP deadline, no matter how many times they repeated the process.

After RFP software

An RFP answer library offered the gift of speed. Centralizing responses and organizing them with tags helped his team respond accurately in a client-focused manner. Instead of spending hours researching and gathering information, he used that extra time to focus on an RFP response strategy. In a short time frame, this organization improved its win rate with customer-centric responses that helped them stand out in a competitive market.

High organizational productivity to process more RFPs

Before RFP software

A director of presales support saw that her entire organization had room for improvement with their process for answering security questionnaires, RFPs, and RFIs. Since everyone was piecing content together in their own silos, her team produced less effective responses as a result. They didn’t accurately track the effort of their work, but they knew their RFP response time could be more efficient with a team solution.

After RFP software

All business units started contributing content to a centralized RFP answer library. She trained employees worldwide to use the application, integrating users from: IT, HR, Legal, Finance, Professional Services, and Education Services. RFx documents became consistent, and she was able to track progress. High productivity helped her team process more RFP projects than before.

Convenience improves RFP response completion time

Before RFP software

A senior solutions engineer typed the same RFP responses over and over again with every new business opportunity. The repetition should have made his job easier. Yet he still had to dig for historical responses to copy and paste them in the RFP. He used multiple computer monitors to find the information he needed as quickly as possible, using the Control+F function.

After RFP software

No more Control+F! With a searchable RFP answer library, he easily pulled information from a single source. Since he no longer depended on extra monitors to complete RFPs, he took advantage of working remotely— at home, or when he had downtime at the airport. This convenience made it easier for him to complete RFP responses on his preferred schedule to meet the deadline.

Time to tailor RFP responses for a stronger deliverable

Before RFP software

A business analyst identified key issues that could only be solved by an investment in an RFP content management solution. RFPs consumed too many resources and took too long. It finally got to a point where SMEs (subject matter experts) didn’t want to contribute, because they answered repetitive questions constantly.

After RFP software

An RFP answer library was the missing ingredient all along. Auto-response filled in repetitive questions with historic RFP responses for him upfront, lightening the workload for busy SMEs. Rather than starting from scratch each time, answer recommendations provided relevant content and SMEs only had to perform a quick review for accuracy. This saved hours for everyone, which they reallocated to tailor content for a stronger RFP deliverable.

An RFP answer library breaks down information silos

Before RFP software

A senior sales engineer saw that his team continually came up with workarounds to manage RFP and sales content. Information silos were prevalent across the organization, and it was slowing down their entire sales process.

After RFP software

His team quickly realized the functional opportunities with their new RFP answer library. IT team members loved how much time they saved just by looking up previous RFP responses. An added bonus they discovered was using the content library to store all internal FAQs, giving every team member one access point for company information whenever they needed it.

Approved content in an accessible RFP answer library

Before RFP software

A proposal manager felt that the quality of her organization’s RFP response content wasn’t up to par. She did her best to organize RFP responses in a series of Word docs and spreadsheets. She kept up with a spreadsheet of approved responses, but team members continued copying and pasting from various RFPs, resulting in copying and pasting errors and inconsistencies.

After RFP software

The RFP answer library and section templates allowed her team to save questions and blocks of boilerplate text. Managing and auditing RFP content was easier, so she was able to make approved content easily accessible for her team. Compared to copying and pasting, searching for the best response became a fast and intuitive practice for everyone.

Better RFP responses and better sleep patterns

Before RFP Software

A senior solutions executive realized tracking down past responses in his labyrinth of Google Drive folders took several hours for every RFP. He always questioned his selections, wondering if what he did find was the best possible response—or if the better option was buried deep in another folder. Unable to handle his workload during business hours, he worked late at night to submit RFPs at the eleventh hour.

After RFP Software

He fundamentally changed the way his team managed RFPs with an answer library. No longer did he burden valuable internal resources with repetitive questions. By leveraging the tagging and star system, his team felt more confident about their choices. He used search functionality to find answers in seconds instead of hours. Since he didn’t have to work late anymore on RFPs, overall he felt more rested and productive.

Cost savings on RFP response team resources

Before RFP software

A senior proposal manager recognized the rising internal resource costs of their RFP response process. On average, this organization responded to 2-4 RFPs per month and spent about 80-100 hours researching and answering highly technical questions. With employee hourly rates ranging from $25 to $50 per hour, resource budgets were out of control.

After RFP software

The cost savings on resource hours far outweighed the cost of the RFP software he purchased. When responding to imported RFP questions, answer recommendations automatically populated the best-fit response directly from the answer library. Typing in one or two keywords into the search bar produced accurate results. Resource costs decreased exponentially, freeing up the budget for his other business initiatives.

Complete control over the RFP response process

Before RFP software

A strategic sales support manager did not have a formal RFP response process or an RFP content management tool at her organization. She tried using other content management systems to organize their Q&A pairs but often ended up with duplicate answers. It was difficult to repurpose variations on the same RFP responses, so her team ended up customizing the answer every time.

After RFP software

A smarter approach to RFP content management brought immediate time-savings benefits to her RFP response team. She added alternate questions and answers with customized names (short response, excel response, division-specific response, etc.) She gained complete control over their RFP content and she felt new responses were stronger than in previous RFPs.

Winning more deals with quality RFP responses

Before RFP software

An enterprise account executive responded to many RFPs, RFIs, and VSQs. It was the nature of their business, and his team worked hard to meet short turnaround times in the hopes of gaining new business. Since numerous departments were involved in RFP responses, they couldn’t respond to as many opportunities and they weren’t reaching their sales goals.

After RFP software

A new ability to collaborate in real-time reduced turnaround on these RFP requests. The answer library stored typical Q&A pairs that could be added and customized in a few minutes. This improved process allowed his team to take on more RFPs than before. Responding faster—with more consistent RFP responses—helped them win more deals at a higher rate.

Rushing an RFP out the door doesn’t exactly leave much time for fine-tuning the deliverable with a strategic mindset. The good news is that we can positively shift the buyer’s perspective if we improve the way we manage our RFP content library. That means saying goodbye to your labyrinth of Google drive folders and being more methodical with RFP software.

Join thousands of other RFPIO users to become our next before and after RFP software success story. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to manage your RFP content like a pro.

Why listening is the key to a satisfying customer experience

Why listening is the key to a satisfying customer experience

In the age of snake oil salesmen and traveling doctors, a “quick close” was the best (and only) way to do business — gotta close the deal before anyone finds out it’s all a sham. 

For organizations today, closing the deal is only the first step. After a prospect becomes a customer, successful organizations work on forming real partnerships with their customers — rather than treating them as another tick up on their quarterly revenue quota.

In other words, organizations are putting more value on customer experience. And one of the tried and true ways for improving the customer experience is listening to your customers.

“Because customers today are so discerning and powerful, most organizations need to invest far more in customer experience” –PwC 

Encourage customer feedback

Many organizations are leery about encouraging their customers to leave reviews because they fear a bad review might come out in public on a third party site, like G2 Crowd or Capterra.

But in this day and age, reviews are the lifeblood of any organization. The more reviews you have, the more credibility you have — even bad reviews up your credibility as an organization. And the truth of the matter is that, unless you’re selling ice cream, you’re not going to make everyone happy.

90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends over advertising.” – Hubspot 

So why are reviews so important? A big reason is that we have all been trained to distrust advertising and marketing material. A 2017 Deloitte Global Study found that 75% of North Americans engage in at least one form of regular ad-blocking. 

Meanwhile, 75% of people mistrust advertising and only 8% of people agree that internet advertising is the best source of information, according to 2019 Hubspot data.

However, people trust people. According to the same Hubspot data, 90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends, while 70% believe other consumer opinions. 

When it comes to establishing credibility and trust, it’s smart to have a plan in place to focus on gathering support from your customers on these review platforms.

Ditto, for product feedback. You want to have your door wide open, so customers feel comfortable leaving suggestions. Whether that’s a user community, a customer success team, or any combination that works, your product and your organization should be equipped to accept requests easily and often.

Read and react to your customers’ reviews

Having your door open is one thing. To truly make the customer feel welcome, you have to be a good listener. Each review your organization receives should be read (not scanned), and whenever possible, shared with your team.

At RFPIO, our CEO Ganesh reads each review aloud to the marketing and sales team. Our development team in Coimbatore receives an email of each review. This ensures that the whole team is in the loop with both feedback to improve the tool—and customer success stories we can all celebrate together.

“The customer of 2020 will be more informed and in charge of the experience they receive. They will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalize the experience.” – Walker

After you read the review, it’s time to react. Internally, define your customer review strategy to keep responses consistent. Are you going to respond to all reviews, good or bad? Are you only going to address the negative reviews to let your customers know you’re taking their suggestions seriously?

Whichever response strategy you decide, once a review is posted, respond to your customer within 24 hours. Remember, they took time out of their busy schedules to leave a review for you. They deserve a prompt reply that expresses your gratitude and/or concern for their happiness.

Learn from your customers to improve your product

The same rule with reviews applies to product feedback. Listen to what your customer has to say, then take action as a team. Actively engaging with your customers and promoting a sense of community involvement will only make your product stronger.

Your customers are in the solution more than you are—well, with the exception of the development team. The big difference is that they are working in the tool, so there are real situations and deadlines at play.

We can learn a lot from our customers to improve our product. And, we certainly do here at RFPIO—over 90% of customer feedback has been implemented or is in development.

While the 24 hours review response rule is likely too challenging for product changes, timeliness is what can truly wow the customer. Establish ground rules for customer feedback implementation, along with a goal each month for how much feedback you want to implement. This is the action piece of your customer engagement strategy, and how you execute will demonstrate your organization’s commitment.

What happens to your organization when you listen well?

Good things. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when you’re a SaaS company…reviews are priceless. Your customer’s first-hand experience helps prospects understand what it’s like to use your tool. Even the best demo by your top salesperson can’t compete with a glowing user testimonial.

Traction will inevitably start to happen over time. Your product will start to gain recognition in your industry, recognition that’s powered by the people—your community of users.

When you take your customer’s feedback seriously, you’re fully engaging your customer through the lifecycle, well past the closing of the sale. You’re not treating any relationship as a transaction, because you know it’s a partnership.

This approach will support customer retention by creating advocates for your organization. By maximizing the opportunities your customers can bring—product development, long-term value, referrals, other partnerships—your listening will certainly pay off.

Many may assume that once the deal is done, it’s time to move on to the next one — but that couldn’t be further from the case. On the contrary, a closed deal is when the real work begins.

The opportunity to engage and listen is right there for your organization. If you take the time to show this level of commitment, your product will be better for it. Most importantly, your customers will reciprocate that commitment and help champion your brand.

RFP content library methods that make life better for all

RFP content library methods that make life better for all

By now we’ve all heard that old adage—content is king. In the context of RFPs, RFIs, and security questionnaires, the higher quality your content…the more efficient your responses will be.

Your RFP content library is really the heart and soul of your response process. Without one, your team lacks quick access to company information that fuels the chaotic operations of RFP projects.

While having an answer library to store responses is tremendously important, so is how your organization tends to that content.

Let’s make life better for your response team by exploring a few methods for fine-tuning the hub of your entire RFP process…the answer library.

Why clean up your RFP content library?

Think of your RFP content library as your bedroom closet. Seasons change, so you have to swap out shorts for sweaters—clothes go out of style or they wear out.

Thousands of Q&A pairs that aren’t culled periodically will affect your team in the long run. Instead of a hole in your favorite t-shirt, it’s a hole in your workflow. And folks, that’s a lot harder to fix.

It never fails that panic and excitement come with every RFP, where all questions need to be answered as efficiently and effectively as possible. The added pressure, of course, lies in the outcome you are aiming to achieve of winning new business.

When you’re under the gun, you want to have peace of mind and feel confident in the historical data resting in your content library. So, just like you clean out your closet at home…it’s time to take inventory of your RFP responses.

Treat RFP content with the same respect

Responding to RFPs involves a ton of content management. This is something many responders don’t realize, because they don’t relate the two.

Content is the culprit, but a necessary one across different stages and departments of every modern organization. Oddly enough, there are many shared challenges proposal teams face that marketers already know.

content management process

Source: ClearVoice

When 1,000 marketers were asked to reveal content challenges related to process, well over half said “time” was an issue. Yet, the remaining marketers were divided among management, planning, and communication with content.

Sound familiar? It does to us too. Because lack of time is the result of an inefficient process. Managing an RFP content library well can dramatically save your team hours when an RFP is due.

Ownership is worth noting here. Just as you would have someone owning all the content for marketing, the same rule applies to your RFP content. Make sure you identify the content manager for RFPs—whether that’s a proposal manager or someone in marketing.

Small organizations often have one person who drives the RFP response process and takes full ownership of the content. Larger teams typically require multiple people to handle content management variables.

Content audits for a slick RFP response process

Great. Now you know a bit about why you need to clean up your RFP content and who will run the show.

A key thing to remember is that quality RFP responses win deals. Even the most captivating content will collect dust in your library if it’s buried under a mess of stale, outdated information.

To avoid this all-too-common bottleneck in the RFP process, content audits are necessary for proposal management teams. At a minimum, audit your content annually. Better yet would be to perform an audit twice a year. Best of all, we recommend quarterly audits.

“84% of organizations still use a manual process to manage RFP responses.”

Really, it depends on bandwidth and how much content you have on-hand in your answer library. The point is…make sure you take the time to audit. We find the quarterly cadence works best for a lot of teams, because it’s not overkill for a busy team-of-one or a team of many.

Consistent content audits will keep quality front and center, so deciding on cadence is truly one of the most important steps in this process. From there, you can decide on the criteria for sorting through your RFP responses. (Helpful questions can be found right here to help guide you through an RFP content audit.)

Neat ways RFP software helps you manage content

While it’s possible to organize RFP content with a well orchestrated system of spreadsheets, technology wins by a longshot when it comes to boosting productivity. RFP software allows you to centralize content for a stronger process from start to finish.

It’s up to individual teams to maximize their success by leveraging features that work best with their process. Here are a few methods that make managing content easier in RFPIO:

Tagging responses accordingly

Tags make finding responses a breeze, and they might be named: Company, Benefits, Security, etc. If you’re the content owner, check that these tags make sense to everyone on your team so they can quickly find the right content.

Assigning cntent to owners

This feature clarifies ownership to ensure content stays in top condition, such as performing regular content audits. Avoid assigning 200 questions to one person to monitor by divvying up responsibility to relevant owners across the organization.

Viewing answer library report

This report shows you the health of your RFP content library. Seeing top owners is helpful in understanding your team’s workload—and when you need to call in support. A timeline allows you to review cadence from last year and know what’s coming up in your pipeline. That way when you’re scheduling those important content audits, you know what’s on your plate.

Your RFP content library deserves a little love from time to time. These are just a few ways to improve your RFP content library to have a successful year. As always, do what’s best at your organization.

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.

Start your next RFP response project with a stronger import

Start your next RFP response project with a stronger import

Why do RFP responses take so long to complete? The answer can be found in the beginning stages of your project…the import.

With importing, one question might have multiple responses. If you’ve seen a security questionnaire in a giant spreadsheet with tons of rows and columns and multiple tabs, you know how it feels when you’re trying to kick off a new RFP response project.

In a Gleanster survey of nearly 3,500 B2B companies, 100% of efficiency experts had invested in standardized workflow and approval technology, 73% had centralized assets and content, and 90% used automation tools.

When responders are working with a manual RFP process, they might spend up to 40 hours on a single response. Automating with RFP software like RFPIO can cut that time in half—as long as responders are using the solution effectively.

Here are some importing best practices, and why it’s time to jump on the bandwagon for a better RFP response process.

Importing is the foundation of a successful RFP project

Gut check time. Stop and ask yourself this: Are you kicking off RFP response projects effectively?

You might realize you’re constantly procrastinating your next RFP response project, because you don’t feel comfortable getting started with the process you have today. Or, you might be knocking out projects left and right, but you’re importing responses inconsistently and deep down you know you can do better.

When you’re using RFP software, it’s just like any other technology. The technology is most effective when it is used well. Importing is the first step of an RFP project and it serves as the foundation for your entire deliverable—one that will mean the difference between winning and losing new business (no pressure!).

Whether you’re importing from Excel or Word docs, there are several things to keep in mind to build a stronger foundation. Having an airtight RFP process from the beginning will lead to time-savings for you and your team.

Importing fundamentals for a better RFP process

As we onboard customers with RFPIO, we hear a lot of questions about how they can be more effective with their import process. Really, as an RFP responder, it comes down to knowing what you’re looking for in the source document and how to process that specific type of document.

Typically RFP responses will arrive in your inbox in the form of a Word or Excel doc. The occasional PDF might show up, and RFPIO is the only solution that imports from that source.

Still, your best bet is to work with Word or Excel docs whenever possible, for more control and flexibility. The goal is to create a fantastic deliverable that wins over your prospects. So, it needs to be top-notch.

Importing with Excel documents

Whether you’re using Excel or Word, the first thing you want to do is locate the section titles. Next look for questions, which you can identify easily in Excel by seeing that they all reside in column B. Once you have identified where your sections and questions live, move onto the answers.

Column C has responses. If there is a predefined dropdown in each response (yes, no, or N/A), you will need to configure each option as a separate value. Column D might be an open text field for additional comments, and you can set it up the same way.

rfp software excel import
You’ll repeat that process for additional tabs in your worksheet. Depending on your RFP management solution’s capabilities, the uploading process will differ. With RFPIO, you have two choices:

  • Standard Template – This is the industry standard. Download the template doc, copy and paste questions into the template, then upload it. Any response solution offers this type of configuration.
  • Advanced Configuration – This is unique to RFPIO. Advanced configuration allows you to process the raw source file you’re working with. You have multiple customization options here. RFPIO will also automatically detect predefined dropdowns within an Excel file and do all the work to configure these sections.

After every configuration, preview the document to make sure all answers are pre-populating correctly. Setting up your RFP response project properly before involving team members will save time and help things run smoothly.

Importing with Word documents

Excel is more mathematical, since you are working with rows and columns throughout the import. With Word docs, it’s a far more visual process. Often the issuer has a lot of content at the front of your RFP or security questionnaire—such as company overview and contact information—that you don’t need to worry about.

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, this is the one question worth asking: What parts of this document do I need to respond to? Narrow it down to the content that serves you, so you can import the RFP right from the start.

rfp software word importing
When you’re going through the import process with RFPIO, the application reads the style guide within the doc. The system can auto-identify sections, questions, and answers after you manually select them once.

As with importing Excel files, a lot of the same rules apply:

  1. Identify sections, questions, and answers within your source document.
  2. Use advanced configuration to process the source document and customize as needed.
  3. Preview your document to ensure the right content is in the right place.

While tables and mixed document projects (part Excel, part Word) can be importing obstacles in other solutions, both are easy to work with in RFPIO. Tables undergo a similar configuration process as an Excel doc, and mixed documents will be exported into their original sources as a zip file.

Sounds easy? That’s because importing Word docs can be when you know what you’re looking for, and you have a solid tool to help you weed through the content.

After the Import…

You’re ready to rock! You can assign authors and reviewers and start responding to questions.

Time to become the best proposal manager. Read this success guide to step up your RFP response process.

Every RFP import is a time-saving opportunity

Imagine this: a world with less copying and pasting—and less time wrangling source documents when you’re trying to get the job done. RFP software makes that possible, so you can spend more time crafting quality responses to improve your winning potential.

Having a dependable import will 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.)

As an RFP responder, you have the power to improve your process. Start at the foundation and build a lasting framework that will benefit your team and help you reach your objectives.

Ready to see how much you can save on your next import? Try our ROI calculator!

5 pros reveal their time-savings tips for RFP response

5 pros reveal their time-savings tips for RFP response

Time is a commodity, a precious commodity when you’re an RFP responder. Every day we’re doing what we can to help our organizations reach their growth objectives by meeting tight deadlines with the highest quality responses we can dish out.

We know exactly how challenging it can be to lead the RFP process, but we also know there are countless ways to overcome those same challenges. But rather than us sharing our usual tips and tricks to enable your team’s success, we decided to bring in the pros who know RFP response best…five of our amazing clients.

These sales professionals in the field are just like you—RFP responders doing fantastic work. We asked them to share one epic RFP response tip, so we can all learn from each other and work more efficiently together.

Without further ado, here they are with five tips to help you save more time with your RFP response efforts.


Brad Bieber

Brad Bieber

Sales Operations Manager at EMS Software
Follow @EMS_Software

“Always be mindful of customers introducing contract terms and conditions into the RFP that they think may govern the actual purchase as well. Be prepared, with a comment that suggests: We are open to negotiating a good faith contract, but we will need to contract under our own paper and include required terms where possible.”


Abhinay Gajula

Abhinay Gajula

Sr. Executive – Business Development/Business Analyst at ProcessMAP
Follow @ProcessMAP

“With the stringent timelines to respond to RFXs, we are always racing against time. It’s important to thoroughly review the content and note the selection criteria, which is a key driving factor for writing a winning response. A best practice is to include an RFX compliance matrix and respond to each and every selection criteria. Craft the entire RFP response by paying careful attention and emphasizing the value of choosing you.”


Amy Cook

Amy Cook

Sales Operations Analyst at Evisions
Follow @EvisionsInc

“It’s all about organization and making sure each team member knows what’s expected of them—and when. Clear expectations lead to success!”

 


Jim Tapscott

Jim Tapscott

Director of Inside Sales at Continuity Logic
Follow @jim_tapscott
Follow @ContinuityLogic

“Make sure you spend time—preferably in person—with each person that participates in your RFP response workflow. You will be pleasantly surprised by the details you can get over a cup of coffee, versus a conference call. It certainly helps me highlight areas in our workflow to target for improvement.”


Lihod Rachmilevitch

Lihod Rachmilevitch

PreSales Manager at OwnBackup
Follow @Lihodr
Follow @OwnBackup

“Our technical sales team leverages RFPIO to manage all of our RFPs and InfoSec questionnaires. RFPIO has already shown so much value in a short amount of time, as it definitely helps to have workflow trails available for internal auditing and progress tracking. The best thing you can do for your RFP process is spend time optimizing your answer library. Creating a centralized place to store all of your organization’s questions and answers will make the knowledge much easier to share internally while saving your team time.”

 Special thanks to our awesome clients (Brad, Abhinay, Amy, Jim, and Lihod) for sharing their RFP wisdom with us all today!

Have a go-to RFP response tip you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below. 

Get the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox

Subscribe to our blog and never miss an important insight again.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.