THE RFPIO BLOG

Response management best practices & perspectives

Where proposal, sales, presales, and other response professionals look for answers to improve outcomes and accelerate growth.

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How RFP software helps responders thrive [new research]

How RFP software helps responders thrive [new research]

Modern response management teams enjoy the unique time-savings benefits of dedicated technology like RFP software. However, only a fraction (16%) […]


How RFP software helps responders thrive [new research]

How RFP software helps responders thrive [new research]

Modern response management teams enjoy the unique time-savings benefits of dedicated technology like RFP software. However, only a fraction (16%) use RFP software to streamline their processes.

Chances are that your organization is grouped with 84% of responders who still rely on a manual approach, even with all of this great technology. Let’s be honest…nobody loves spreadsheets THAT much. Which is why RFP software is the preferred solution for today’s most successful teams.

Rather than spending the next hour hunting down old RFP responses, check out the 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey takeaways below to learn from 125 response management pros who are thriving with RFP software.

Top goals for proposal management professionals

RFPIO customers continually seek out ways to improve their internal processes, whether they are responding to RFPs or security questionnaires—or collaborating to better manage content or win bigger deals. If you’re on a self-improvement quest, you’ll relate to these different responders who manage proposals on a daily basis.

Proposal managers
57% of proposal managers said their primary goal is to improve the proposal management process to save time.
11% strive to demonstrate more value by helping achieve sales KPIs.
11% are continually searching for new ways to make project management easier.
11% want to improve collaboration between departments.

Salespeople
86% of salespeople are looking for opportunities to shorten the sales cycle to close more deals.
7% want to keep their eyes on predictable revenue to achieve their sales goals.

Marketers
79% of marketers are focused on using automated technology to execute more with less resource strain.
7% would like more visibility into their content management efforts.

Subject matter experts
65% of subject matter experts aspire to increase efficiency through better processes.
22% own their supporting role, helping their organization win deals by providing expertise.

Top challenges for proposal management professionals

It’s rare when a job description only has two words…proposal management. Salespeople, marketers, and subject matter experts squeeze RFP responses into their jam-packed calendars, while proposal managers juggle multiple projects and people to submit proposals before the deadline. Even still, the challenges shared below are further opportunities for improvement.

Proposal Managers
50% of proposal managers said keeping response content up-to-date and accurate is their biggest challenge.
25% are not able to focus on priorities, because they are wearing too many hats.
7% think getting people to adopt new business technology is difficult.

Salespeople
68% of salespeople struggle with managing their time to focus on sales-related activities.
15% said having sales content easily accessible for prospect questions and RFPs is an obstacle.
10% are challenged with being asked to respond to RFPs—and they don’t consider sales proposals a priority.

Marketers
43% of marketers mentioned their top hurdle was wearing too many hats and not having time for extra projects, like RFPs.
29% think controlling content quality is difficult, especially with RFPs.
14% felt challenged with managing brand consistency and positioning.

Subject Matter Experts
43% of subject matter experts revealed their top challenge was spending too much time on RFP responses.
35% are not able to keep the company content accurate.
17% are challenged by improving the proposal management process.

How RFPIO empowers response management teams

Now that we’ve covered goals and challenges, the question remains: How? How can response management teams reach their objectives? How can they overcome their obstacles? RFPIO was built by RFP responders so we know all about aspirations and hurdles. Here’s how our customers are seeing positive results with RFPIO.

Proposal Managers
82% of proposal managers said RFPIO helps them manage response content all in one place.
7% felt collaborating was much easier with subject matter experts and contributors, while using RFPIO.
7% are saving time, since RFPIO’s export templates make formatting a non-issue.

Salespeople
63% of salespeople said RFPIO enables them to automate their process, so they can make time to pursue new business with RFPs.
17% felt RFPIO’s Salesforce integration made managing RFPs easier.
12% are receiving fewer emails, because RFP communication happens within the RFPIO platform.

Marketers
71% of marketers said RFPIO helps them centralize company content for easy access.
21% are experiencing easier collaboration during the RFP review process, thanks to RFPIO.

Subject Matter Experts
48% of subject matter experts said RFPIO helps them review content for accuracy and quality, instead of writing repetitive responses.
39% gained hours back in their day with RFPIO to focus on other priorities.
9% are showing executives more value, since executives have visibility into their RFP contributions with RFPIO dashboards.

RFP content audits, opportunities, and roles

It’s tough to know whether or not your RFP response process is rock-solid or full of holes—and whether or not your response management team is where it needs to be. RFPIO customers offer an inside look into their internal processes, sharing practices for auditing RFP content, sources for opportunities, and players involved in response management.

RFP content audit frequency
31% of responders audit their RFP content library once a quarter.
16% audit their RFP responses once a year.
14% never audit their RFP content.
12% prefer to audit their answer library once a month.

Main source for RFP opportunities
85% of responders receive RFP opportunities directly from prospects.
5% win RFP opportunities via proactive proposals.
5% see RFP opportunities come from government contracts.

Roles for response management teams
32% of responders serve as Project Managers/Facilitators.
19% are System Administrators.
16% are Executive/Decision Makers.
14% are Content/Knowledge Contributors.
6% are Reviewers/Editors.

Favorite time-saving RFPIO features

RFPIO was ultimately built with efficiency in mind. Every RFPIO feature is focused on saving responders time, so they can do their best work together and win meaningful deals as a result.

Answer Library
89% love the answer library for the ability to store, organize, and access responses in a centralized content hub.

Import / Export
49% feel the import and export functionality speeds up the RFP response time and helps them submit a beautifully branded deliverable.

Document Library
24% like the document library for keeping all supporting attachments and collateral streamlined and accessible.

Dashboards
23% leverage dashboards for gaining full visibility into RFP projects, including insights into contributors, workloads, and progress.

RFPIO Lookup
21% lean on RFPIO Lookup to tap into the answer library content straight from their Chrome browser.

Reporting
20% enjoy reporting features, analytics which help responders see the health of their answer library and opportunities for process improvements.

Integrations
7% save time with their preferred software integrations: cloud storage (Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, Box, Sharepoint), communication (Slack, Microsoft Teams) CRMs (Salesforce, Hubspot, Microsoft Dynamics, Pipedrive, PipelineDeals).

Response management, before and after RFPIO

RFPIO is so much more than RFP software—it’s a response management platform for managing all business inquiries in one place. Before implementing RFPIO, responders relied on documents and spreadsheets, workaround content management solutions, or even other RFP software providers. Now, with RFPIO, teams are responding to more opportunities in less time.

Responders use RFPIO for all business queries…
97% RFP (Request for Proposal)
88% RFI (Request for Information)
56% Security Questionnaire
40% Managing Company Knowledge
32% RFQ (Request for Quote)
26% DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire)
15% Proactive Proposal
10% SOW (Statement of Work)

Before RFPIO implementation…
49% of response management teams spent several weeks completing RFPs.
26% had a 1 week RFP response completion turnaround.
7% spent more than 5 hours on RFP responses without RFPIO.

After RFPIO implementation…
33% of response management teams now spend 1 week completing RFPs.
14% have a 1 day RFP response completion turnaround.
13% only spend 2-5 hours on RFP responses with RFPIO.

It’s your turn to thrive. RFPIO is ready to help your team.

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Improve user adoption in 7 steps

Give a person a fish, they’ll eat for a day. Teach a person to fish, and they’ll eat for a lifetime. Surprise all the end users of your new software purchase with a fishing trip and they’ll wonder, “Do I have to do this, and how do I get off this boat?”

As a proposal manager with a shiny new RFPIO lure guaranteed to attract every big fish you can reach with a cast, sometimes it feels like you’re stranded on dry land with a map to the fishing hole but no way to get there.

Introducing new software into your sales enablement tech stack and workflow is no joke. Change management is a sophisticated discipline that examines the processes behind organizational transformation. It’s way too deep a rabbit hole to fall into here, other than to say that 99 out of 100 proposal managers I work with during RFPIO onboarding don’t have any specific experience in change management or software deployment. Which can make the prospect of convincing end users that their jobs and lives will improve with RFPIO somewhat daunting.

As soon as I get my chance to work with the person or team in charge of deploying RFPIO — whether it’s a proposal manager, sales manager, or IT specialist — I recommend inhabiting the following mindset: “How do I set myself up for success?” Now we have a bite-sized challenge we can overcome, rather than an amorphous source of anxiety such as “change management.”

My response to the question, “How do I set myself up for success?” is “Follow 7 steps to improve user adoption.” Let’s roll through them.

#1: Get executive buy-in

Trying to implement any change without executive buy-in is akin to growing a garden without any seeds. The need and desire may be there, but you just don’t have anything to get started. So take that need and desire and use it to build a business case for adding RFPIO to your sales technology stack.

This all has to happen before deployment even appears on the horizon. Gaining and maintaining buy-in from managers and executive sponsors will be critical to making end users more receptive to your excitement and the possible benefits. According to Steve Silver at Forrester, a leading global research and advisory firm, “Every business case must have an executive to champion the investment.”

To build the business case, Silver advises to call out timing of adding RFPIO (i.e., answer, “Why now?”), identify risks and dependencies (key to which he includes this nugget, “Tie the consequences of not using the technology to failure to meet specific goals that a sales organization has committed to attaining”), and clarify budget allocation and source of funding.

After you secure executive buy-in for the purchase, you’ll need to keep them engaged with monthly or quarterly status updates on implementation and RFPIO benefits. It’s important to obtain and maintain their endorsement so that they continue to encourage their teams to use RFPIO.

Here’s an email template of what one of the initial updates might look like.

SUBJECT: RFPIO has already accelerated response time by 40%

Hi [EXECUTIVE NAME],

We’re off and running with RFPIO, and I wanted to give you a quick update on how it’s going:

    • [X#] of end users are now using RFPIO
    • We have used it to respond to [X#] of RFPs this month
    • Compared to the same month last year, we responded 40% faster to RFPs
    • Of the RFPs submitted this month, we know we won [X#] at a valuation of [$X]

End users are picking it up quickly: “It takes about 10-30 minutes to train the client-facing teams on how to search for information in RFPIO.”

As we continue to add content to the Answer Library, we expect to see an even greater leap in proposal quality, greater usage of Auto Respond functionality, and more efficient workflows.

I’ll send another update next month, but feel free to reach out if you have any questions!

Thanks,
[YOUR NAME]

#2: Make sure you have bandwidth

Before you kick off your RFPIO implementation, make sure you have an accurate expectation of the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to the project. It will require some extra bandwidth. On average, expect to spend about five hours per week for the first three to six months.

Some RFPIO admins prefer to assign their regular duties to another team member so they can “cram” on RFPIO. They’ll spend 15-25 hours per week to focus solely on the rollout and learn RFPIO as quickly as possible. Then they’re able to pare back to a few hours a week. You’ll need to determine which method works best for your team and goals.

As far as what you’ll be doing with that time, here’s an overview of what to expect:

  • Deployment processes: From generating excitement to coordinating with IT, and from amassing content to scheduling training, you need to balance your daily workflow and responsibilities with what’s expected of you during deployment. This will be a short-term issue. While we’ll be there to lend you support, you need to make sure your bandwidth can handle being the point person on this project.
  • Ongoing “office hours”: End users will have questions, especially at the outset. And every time there’s a new hire in sales or pre-sales or proposals or customer support you’ll need to make sure they’re trained and able to thrive in RFPIO. Plus, you’ll want to encourage feedback, negative and positive, to adapt your usage, increase functionality, or add integrations in the future.
  • Driving response management processes: Any tool is only as good as the processes behind using it. Even a hammer has to be swung accurately to hit the head of a nail. A huge benefit to AI-enabled tools like RFPIO is that it will be able to automate most of your existing manual processes. You will still need to work behind the scenes to execute schedules, push collaboration buttons, and drive deadline management. In other words, the robot can swing the hammer as long as you put the hammer in its robotic appendage.
  • Auditing content: Do a full content audit to make sure you are starting off with a cohesive, succinct Answer Library. Watch this webinar to learn more about completing a content audit in RFPIO, or follow these four steps to set your Answer Library up for success:

#3: Admin team, assemble!

Make sure to recruit admin team members from each department that needs to be involved, and has the bandwidth to help with implementation, rollout, and RFPIO day-to-day operations. Sometimes admin teams are made up of only one or two people, and that’s okay, too. Whatever the makeup, they will in turn be responsible for evangelizing RFPIO, reinforcing the value message from executive sponsorship, and liaising with you to provide team-specific training for end users in their department.

For larger, global organizations, the admin team will also be responsible for figuring out a rollout plan. They’ll determine which departments get onboarded first, taking into consideration metrics such as proposal volume, knowledge sprawl or content silos, and collaboration challenges. They’ll also develop a repeatable onboarding process that can be turnkey for new hires or other new end users.

This team will continue to exist beyond the initial deployment of RFPIO. Their meeting cadence will likely be weekly at first, but that cadence will slow down to monthly as you meet a critical mass of end users.

The admin team will also create and monitor milestones that mark success and check in regularly with leadership to report on the milestones. It will be responsible for communicating RFPIO’s value to leadership and end users, promoting transparency for feedback and user expectations, and overseeing the strategy for #4…

#4: Generate excitement through an “awareness campaign”

Start generating excitement, even if you’re still finalizing the purchase. Involving your power users during the early stages of launch will increase the likelihood that they’ll use new software by 55%.

You can do this by setting up an internal email campaign. In addition to informing end users what’s coming, this will also get the organization used to hearing from you about RFPIO training and product updates. Ultimately, you want to provide clear concise answers to the following questions that are common to end users:

  1. Why do we have RFPIO? (e.g., “To automate manual response processes, streamline content management and access, and create higher quality proposals.”)
  2. Why is RFPIO exciting for me? (e.g., for a sales end-user, “Locate answers to prospect questions in near real-time based on updated content that’s searchable from the application you’re already working in.”)
  3. How will it help me do my job better? (e.g., for pre-sales end-user, “Spend more time creating innovative solutions instead of answering the same questions over and over.”)
  4. When will I be trained on RFPIO? (e.g., “Go-live for RFPIO is XX/XX/20XX. Your department is scheduled to be trained the week prior to that go-live date.”

One of the first couple of emails should come from the executive sponsor (some proposal managers like to send a short teaser about an impending big announcement about changing the game for sales enablement). It will validate the addition of RFPIO to your sales tech stack while communicating a high-level value proposition of improvements in productivity, efficiency, and outcomes. It will also set the expectation of cooperation and collaboration among end users to plow the road for your deployment.

Make each email short and informative. Respect your readers’ time. Include links for more information for end users who choose to learn more. Set up the next step in the process. Here’s an example of an announcement email to get you started.

SUBJECT: Announcement: Help with sales response and content is on the way!

Hi everyone,
I’m excited to announce that we are adding RFPIO — one of the best AI-powered sales enablement solutions available today — to your toolbox in the next few weeks. RFPIO will save us a bunch of time, allow us to focus on improving response and proposal quality, unify all sales content, and improve how we collaborate.

You’ll receive more information about RFPIO from me or your manager as we finalize the rollout plan. I’ll also schedule you for a quick training so you can hit the ground running (no worries, RFPIO is super intuitive and will integrate with other apps you’re already using!).

Meanwhile, learn more about how RFPIO will make life easier and more productive:

Let me know if you have any questions. You’ll be hearing from me again soon!

Thanks,
[YOUR NAME]

#5: Train yourself

You’re the tip of the spear on this project. No matter how much help you have from your admin team, executive sponsor, IT, or evangelized end-user base, you’re going to be the person handling initial questions. Even when you tell everyone that they’re free to create a help ticket of their own with RFPIO, they’re going to ask you first.

Best to be prepared.

During onboarding, we’ll take you through extensive training until you feel comfortable with the tool. We’ll also be available when something arises that stumps you. But you can also refer to the following for help, too:

  • RFPIO Help Center (RFPIO customers only): Access an RFPIO self-guided tour and New User Training Checklist as well as expert insight into importing your first documents, organizing your Answer Library, and more.
  • New User Training Checklist: Follow this checklist to get the most out of your RFPIO experience. Each step includes links to Help Center articles to set you up for success.
  • RFPIO University (RFPIO customers only): Watch video training modules on project management, content management, and other powerful capabilities such as user management and Auto Respond.
  • Customer webinars: Sign up for the next live webinar or dig into the on-demand archive of recent webinars for further instruction, product updates, and response management best practices.

#6: Schedule training by role

RFPIO is an intuitive tool. Even so, we have your back when it comes to user adoption. Institutionally, we have prioritized it. You’ll recognize our efforts in user experience upgrades, the new learning management system (LMS) RFPIO University mentioned above, and certification events designed to help you train end users.

Learning how to use RFPIO is relatively simple. Eric Fink, Dynamics & Business Applications Specialist at Microsoft, said, “The first time I logged into RFPIO, it took me about 10 minutes to get comfortable with the platform. After that, I quickly found responses to all of my open questions — seeing 100% value from the very beginning.”

Sales users are savvy. They can pick it up in an hour-long training. You should follow up with shorter, recurring training sessions to make sure they’re really using it, understand its benefits, and feel comfortable asking for help, if necessary. Respect end users’ time by training them only on what they need to know.

Again, manager buy-in is crucial here. Work closely with sales managers to make sure they fully comprehend the opportunity offered by RFPIO. They will help you overcome any pushback from sales end users, who may hesitate at the request to disrupt their workflow for a training, no matter how short and helpful it may be. They will also help ensure their team is using the tool consistently.

#7: Monitor, collect feedback, adapt

The push for greater user adoption is never complete, but it can most certainly be less painful and onerous. The good news is that user-adoption pushback fades as win rates increase.

After the rush of your initial rollout, you’ll be re-investing some of the time you used to waste on all the manual tasks of building proposals and chasing down content and subject matter experts into RFPIO administration. Beyond driving your underlying processes of project, content, and user management, you’ll also be communicating regularly with your admin team and executive sponsor.

RFPIO makes it easy to report on usage because every action is captured within the tool and spun into insight for your desired output. However, you’ll want to gather anecdotal input as well. Speaking to end users and their managers about what’s working and what’s still a struggle with regard to RFPIO or your response management strategy will help you adapt to future needs.

Depending on the size of your organization, you can expect to see value from using RFPIO 90 days to six months after implementation. You may see value in as few as 35 days if you push it, but be wary of setting unrealistic expectations that can circle back around to sabotage the overall adoption.

Want to hear from someone other than RFPIO? See how Hyland Software managed user adoption: “By making sure RFPIO is something everyone can use… everyone is using it. User adoption has been outstanding.”

The best business proposal software for small business

The best business proposal software for small business

If you’re a small business that creates proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and requests for bids/tenders, it’s time to take a serious look at business proposal software.

Why should you invest in AI-enabled proposal software? Because proposals are mission-critical revenue generators for companies who prioritize them and optimize their response process.

Compared to enterprise organizations, smaller teams have several advantages when responding to RFPs:

  • Your team is closer to the proposal content, so you really understand what the ask is
  • With fewer cooks in the kitchen, you have a more consistent voice
  • Collaboration is close, and you are in tune with what each team member brings to the table

Add technology to the mix, and you’ll be unstoppable. Business proposal software provides quick access to proposal content, simple ways to collaborate, and built-in project management features that make it easy to keep proposals on track.

If you’re ready to automate your RFP response process to save valuable time and increase revenue, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out how business proposal software gives small businesses like yours a competitive edge.

In this blog, we’ll cover:

What is business proposal software?

Business proposal software is a cloud-based program designed to help businesses develop proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and bids/tenders. It can also be used to respond to security questionnaires (e.g. VSAs, CAIQ, SIG), create proactive proposals, write SOWs, and manage company knowledge.

The key to business proposal software is that it simplifies the proposal creation process with a few core functionalities:

  1. Storing and organizing internal knowledge

Just like the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, a content library is essential to any good business proposal software.

The content library consolidates subject matter expertise in one place. Then, the next time a new RFP opportunity pops up in your inbox, you’ll be able to tackle commonly seen questions in one fell swoop.

The more efficiently you can respond to RFPs, the more time you and your team have to work on other projects—be it building relationships with customers, creating sales collateral, or responding to more RFPs.

Consolidate RFP content using rich text editing

2. Keeping projects on track

RFPs and other business proposals are often the most collaborative activity an organization undertakes. When you’re working at a small company, it’s possible that everyone at your organization will be involved, in part, in a response to an RFP.

When your team adopts business proposal software, it means you’ll no longer be managing proposals via email, Teams, Slack, or spreadsheets.

Most business proposal software comes with built-in project management features, including:

  • Importing RFPs onto the platform in Word, Excel, or pdf format
  • Assigning questions and/or sections to key collaborators
  • Automated reminders
  • Sequential review cycles
  • Exporting to source file
  • E-Signature

3. Seamless collaboration

In addition to project management features, business proposal software also streamlines collaboration with in-app commenting and @mentioning.

When all proposal-related conversations are in one place, you can make sure your organization stays aligned on proposals (and declutter your inbox in the process).

seamlessly collaborate by assigning tasks to collaborators in-app

When you’re ready to evaluate vendors, be sure to demo the various platforms. You’ll want to find something that’s powerful enough to suit your needs, but intuitive enough to make sure your small team can get ramped up in no time.

4. Make data-driven decisions

Top-notch business proposal software comes with built-in dashboards and analytics, giving you the insights you need to minimize risk and enhance efficiency.

If you do it right, data-driven management helps sales teams sell smarter. It can also provide insights into how proposal teams can identify—then either avoid or plan around—process challenges, such as resource management challenges, reduced ROI, missing deadlines, and inefficient content development.

Make data-driven decisions

5. Integrate into your existing tech stack

The final component of business proposal software is the ability to integrate into your sales tech ecosystem.

Since responding to RFPs is a key part of the sales process, it’s critical that the business proposal software you choose is able to smoothly integrate into your tech stack.

This is especially important when working on a small team that doesn’t have the bandwidth to manually update your business proposal software to work in-sync with your CRM, like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, or Hubspot.

Benefits of business proposal software for small businesses

When you’re working on a small team, business proposal software can be an absolute game-changer. Instead of spending your time on menial tasks—like tracking down RFP answers in emails and old drafts—business proposal software makes it easy to respond to commonly-seen questions.

“Auto Respond is absolutely brilliant. We click on it and RFPIO answers about 80% of an RFP in a few seconds.”
-Paul Taylor, Vice President of Solutions Engineering at Crownpeak

Read the full story —>

Here are real results we’ve seen from customers after automating their response process with business proposal software:

Calculate your ROI here to see how much time and money your team could save with business proposal software.

calculate your roi to see how much you could save with RFP software

Calculate your ROI

Making the case for business proposal software to your boss

Maybe you know that you need business proposal software—you just need to convince your boss.

A good way to start is by finding a way to align business proposal software to a stated business imperative. Anything related to revenue or margin impact is a good thing, like the following:

Proposal value isn’t always obvious to an organization’s stakeholders. When you align it with your business imperatives they can more clearly see the value.

How to select the best business proposal software

Here’s a secret. There is no “best” business proposal software. It all depends on your specific needs.

This being said, the decision to implement business proposal software shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ll want to make sure the software you choose helps you and your team achieve your goals and save time.

As you’re making your decision, here are some software selection steps you can follow:

1. Meet with your team

Before you commit to an annual subscription to business proposal software, schedule a meeting with any stakeholders in the proposal process. This includes subject matter experts, sales reps, and bid writers.

Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the main goals you hope to achieve.

Your final list could simply be a bullet list, like:

  • Improve collaboration on business proposals without relying on color-coded Word docs
  • Consolidate answers to common RFP questions in one place, so SMEs aren’t answering the same question over and over again
  • Create visibility, so leadership can easily check on proposal status

2. Do your research

Once you determine key goals for your proposal program, you need to prioritize business proposal software features. Divide features into two columns—”must-have” and “nice-to-have”.

If you want to make it easy for everyone to get up-and-running in the tool, an intuitive user interface might be a “must-have”. If your sales team lives in your CRM, an integration with Salesforce or Dynamics might be “nice-to-have”.

3. Read customer reviews

Just like you might check Yelp before you head to an unfamiliar restaurant, reading through reviews from verified customers on platforms like G2 should absolutely factor into your decision making process.

On G2, you can also sort reviews by company size, user role, industries, and region—so you can find reviews from users just like you.

Here is a screenshot of comparing four of the most popular business proposal software solutions:

Select the best business proposal software

Check on the full comparison on G2.

4. Understand the product and services

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of business proposal software providers, schedule a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering partnering with. Bring your priority feature list, along with a list of questions you want answered.

Answers to frequently asked questions about business proposal software

We hear common questions from proposal teams at small businesses every day. Below we’ve answered these questions to help you feel more at ease with RFP software implementation and learn a few ways to improve your RFP response process along the way.

What should my proposal team look like?

If you’re a small organization, you might have 1- or 2-member proposal team, or sales reps could be responsible for creating their own sales proposals. Either your proposal team or your sales rep should own the proposal process, and reach out to subject matter experts on other teams (e.g. product, engineering, security, marketing, legal, etc.) for help on specific questions.

How do you write a good business proposal with software?

Writing a good business proposal starts with a strong process. Business proposal software simplifies that process, making it easier to collaborate with an extended team. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using answer libraries, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without software.

Here’s a quick overview of how you can write a good business proposal with software:

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

How does business proposal software support my process?

Business proposal software supports your proposal process and makes it easier to manage your RFP project and review everything in one place. With the right software in place, you’re able to assign tasks to authors and reviewers, assign content owners, and keep content organized and up-to-date.

If you’re a 1- or 2-person proposal team, software helps you provide enterprise-level support to your sales team. If you’re a sales rep responsible for managing your own RFPs, software helps you automatically respond to commonly seen questions—so you can focus on building customer relationships and closing deals.

How does business proposal software provide efficient collaboration?

Since fewer people are involved in the response process at smaller organizations, each person’s time is extremely valuable. Proposal software gives you the ability to share information across various platforms. Content and assignments are seamlessly integrated into one platform, without the need for cumbersome reformatting, converting, and importing/exporting tasks.

How do I get started with business proposal software?

Joan Dolence, Proposal Architect at Finastra, recommends that proposal teams plan for RFP software implementation, just as you would with any new technology you bring into your business. Do the prep work and housekeeping before jumping in. Then, teach everyone how to use the proposal software by managing each proposal like a project.

How long does it take to implement business proposal software?

The answer everyone hates: It depends. If you’re a small team with a lot of bandwidth to upload and organize your content, you could be up-and-running in less than a month.

But the more bells and whistles you add on—things like integrations with Salesforce, Slack, or SSO—the longer it takes. The more users you have, the longer it takes. The more complicated your process is, the longer it takes. The less bandwidth your team has to upload and organize your content, the longer it takes.

Is business proposal software really worth it?

In our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, we learned that organizations leveraging RFP-specific technology respond to 43% more RFPs than those who don’t. We also discovered that organizations not using RFP software instead used, on average, nine solutions to compose their RFPs, compared to only five for those with a dedicated RFP tool.

One study found that workers estimate switching between apps wastes up to 60 minutes of each day. By consolidating proposal management efforts into one place, you and your team can stay focused, aligned, and on track.

Strengthen your business proposals with the right software

The only thing missing between you and your next winning proposal is the right software. If you’re ready to uplevel your business proposal process, schedule a demo of RFPIO today.

7 RFP response messaging rules for submitting impressive content

7 RFP response messaging rules for submitting impressive content

An RFP deliverable must always be dressed to impress. The whole branded package should be presentable, as well as engaging. The true wow factor comes through in the way we communicate with our prospects…through RFP responses.

There are a multitude of content resources that exist for sales and marketing purposes, but rarely do they include guidelines for RFP responders. Whether you are a proposal manager or a marketing manager overseeing content during the RFP response process, you likely turn to these content resources to cherry-pick semi-relevant best practices.

Ready to go beyond “better” to develop the best RFP responses? If so, here are some simple messaging rules you can follow on your next RFP to ensure your branded voice is consistent and compelling.

Yes…Content impacts your RFP win rate

The point of an RFP response is to win new business. We all know this when we’re spending countless hours as a team enduring the submission process for tens or hundreds of RFPs every year.

Did you know? 51% of organizations respond to more than 50 RFPs annually.

Landing the deal will only happen when your submission is better than your competitors. Shortcuts won’t produce quality responses. Yet cutting corners happens habitually for organizations who tend to rush through the RFP response process due to lack of time and resources.

Your RFP content must resonate with the issuer—and, also make sense. For technical questions, you will call upon your product or solution team members to contribute their expertise. It’s up to you to find ways to maintain the integrity of their content, while making it more accessible for the person reading these RFP responses.

The 7 rules for impressive RFP response content

While general content best practices will certainly help take your RFP deliverable across the finish line, they won’t necessarily help you medal. Winning just any medal isn’t good enough when you’re racing against similar companies.

If you’re prepared to go for the gold, consider these RFP response messaging guidelines as a way of training for your next submission.

1. Avoid overused words and phrases

Some things can’t be helped when they relate specifically to your product or service. Since we are an RFP software company, you can imagine the word “RFP” comes up plenty of times in our own RFP responses (guilty, we just used it three times in this sentence).

Repetitive words and phrases have a way of annoying the reader—which you obviously want to avoid with a potential client. So, it’s your job to find creative ways of spinning your messaging to keep the content experience fluid. Thesaurus.com and Related Words are trusty tools that will help you brainstorm alternatives for some of your favorite overused words and phrases.

2. Beware of jargon

Sometimes RFP responses contain language that is technical by nature, and can only be communicated a certain way. Other times we’re weaving blah-blah adjectives into our content that reek of jargon. The goal with RFP responses is to speak the language of business without sounding like a business book.

Opt for plain language over jargon whenever possible. Saying “use” instead of “leverage” sounds more human. Where you have to use jargons, use (don’t “leverage”) the most current versions of those words. Replace “intelligent” with “AI” or “machine learning.” Rather than claiming that your company is “innovative,” demonstrate how you innovate in your RFP responses.

plain language
Source: Professional Communication OER

3. Speak the RFP issuer’s language

“Know your audience” is one of the most relevant practices we can borrow from content marketing. With RFP responses, that audience is the issuer. What are their challenges and aspirations? Your RFP should address the issuer’s needs in words that speak directly to them.

Use language that is consistent with the requestor’s language and avoid your internal terminology wherever there is a conflict or difference. Repurposing historic RFP responses is an acceptable strategy, as long as you’re tailoring them for each prospect. Above all, follow the issuer’s requirements closely so you don’t disqualify your organization.

4. Don’t bury the numbers

While the words you choose for your RFP responses are critical to your organization’s win potential, so are the numbers. Sadly, oftentimes the most impactful data responders share is buried in the middle of wordy paragraphs.

Where numbers and quantities are expected, make sure they stand out. Bulleted lists are a great way to feature this data so the issuer can easily scan and consume. Visual graphics are another method for highlighting numbers and breaking up some of the monotony of RFP content.

Use This RFP Executive Summary Template for Stronger RFP Responses

How to write executive summary

 

5. Be informative and concise.

The best RFPs strike a winning balance by providing in-depth RFP responses that get right to the point. This is your organization’s opportunity to shine, so use all of the available content real estate to share your message. Rather than simply saying “yes, no, or N/A,” give more to bolster your RFP response.

…but, not too much more. Being concise is just as important. You don’t want to bore the issuer, you want to keep them entertained. If you come across a lengthy RFP response during the review process, find ways to chop without remorse. Repetition is probably the content culprit, so start there.

6. Use localization.

What is localization exactly? It’s a term that gets thrown around quite a bit, so here is a definition from the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA):

“Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. The aim of localization is to give a product the look and feel of having been created specifically for a target market, no matter their language, culture, or location.”

Let’s say your company is headquartered in California. Is your prospect on the East Coast? When answering a question about customer support hours, respond in Eastern Time. Is your prospect in Germany? When answering a question about pricing, respond in Euros. These details are yet another way to incorporate personalization into your RFP responses.

7. Review and revise.

This last rule is one that absolutely must be followed, dear RFP responder. It’s easy to skip over this important step when you’re trying to submit the deliverable before the deadline. Allow yourself some time during the RFP process to have a proper review cycle.

RFP responses are just like any other content. A fresh set of eyes or a different perspective will only strengthen your deliverable. Since so much is riding on the quality of your RFP responses, you want to submit the best version possible that is both grammatically sound and impactful.

RFP software helps you deliver high-quality RFP responses

You know just how important delivering high-quality RFP responses is for the ultimate success of your organization. As much as you would like to spend lots of time tweaking and polishing content until it’s perfect, that isn’t usually the reality when you have other priorities to tend to. With technology like RFP software, you have the power to automate much of the RFP response process.

A good RFP content management system like RFPIO allows you to draw from quality content that is curated and readily available. The quality of your RFP responses remains high—even when you have limited time, even when you’re under pressure to submit your RFP deliverable.

RFP software helps you…

  • Manage – A centralized RFP content library corrals historic responses in one platform, versus spreadsheets, Google folders, emails, email folders…and the list goes on.
  • Review – Assigning reviewers in the optimal order ensures that each response is positioned for accuracy from SMEs, then signed off quickly for final approval.
  • Audit – To keep the best RFP responses accessible for your team, automatic reminders alert you when it’s time to clean up the content library at your preferred cadence.
  • Finalize – The final deliverable is polished and consistent, with a smooth export process back into the original format or a branded custom template.

After your SMEs contribute their expertise, the magic truly happens during the buff and polish of your deliverable. The next time you’re reviewing an RFP, follow these RFP response messaging guidelines to increase chances of success with your future clients.

How to clean up your RFP answer library with a 3-step content audit

How to clean up your RFP answer library with a 3-step content audit

Hello, 2021! A new year means a fresh calendar, a new set of New Year’s Resolutions to break, and, of course, re-learning how to write the date. And, I don’t know about you, but this year I’ll be scratching out “2020” with particular relish.

Saying good-bye to 2020 also means putting your disorganized, cluttered content library behind you. It’s time to show your RFP content who’s boss. And, yes, a healthy content library does more than just keep you sane. It also streamlines your RFP response process. Note that I say “RFP”, but I really mean any kind of complex questionnaire… RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs, VSAs, you name it.

If you’re already working with RFP automation software like RFPIO, a healthy answer library means answering 70-80% of your RFP with one click (hello, Auto Respond!).

Even if you haven’t upgraded to RFP automation software yet, refreshing your content library means you can bring relevant content to your fingertips and respond to a vast majority of RFP questions at the drop of a hat.

The good news is that an RFP content audit isn’t nearly as scary as it sounds. Read on to learn how to conduct your content audit in just three steps—and kick 2021 off with your fastest RFP response yet.

RFP content audit step 1: Complete an ROT analysis

ROT stands for “Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial”. A smooth-running live RFP answer library only contains the most recent, relevant, and accurate information. That means your job is moving redundant, outdated, and trivial content into an archived folder.

Redundant Content: Duplicate and/or similar content. If you’re using RFPIO, run a duplicate report on questions and answers, and click on “View Similar Content” to find comparable responses.

Outdated Content: Expired or sunset content. Isolate any content not used in the last year (let’s call that “expired content”) using the Advanced Search function in RFPIO. Then, identify content from products, services, and solutions that are no longer relevant (we can call that “sunset content”) using tags and/or product names.

Trivial Content: Deal- or client-specific content. Identity trivial content by searching for specific client names.A step-by-step guide to completing a content audit in RFPIO

RFP Content Audit Step 2: Move content out of your active RFP answer library

Once you do your analysis, you’ll want to move that content out of your active RFP answer library.

You have two options:

Option 1: Delete it (scary)

Only delete content that you’re sure you’ll never, ever need again. There’s no turning back from deleted content.

Option 2: Warehouse it (less scary, and my preferred method)

Isolate your content and store it in an RFPIO Archived collection. If you’re not using RFPIO, make sure warehoused content is stored in its own location so it doesn’t get confused with your live content.

You can still access warehoused content. You’re still able to bring it into a live project, update it, and push it back into the active RFP answer library. If you ever find out you need a piece of content that you’ve archived, you don’t have to start with a blank page.

RFP Content Audit Step 3: Set up owners and review cycles

All content in your RFP answer library should have an assigned owner. The content owner should be the Subject Matter Expert (SME) who is responsible for the accuracy of the answer.

You should also add a moderator, who is responsible for giving the final “white glove” review. The moderator should apply editorial standards to each answer that comes through, ensuring everything that is pushed to the live RFP answer library is polished.

How often should you conduct a review cycle?

Well… that depends on the content.

For corporate content, I recommend conducting a review cycle every 90 days. Corporate content refers to any content relating to the company as a whole, like number of employees, revenue, mission statements, etc.

For product content, conduct a review cycle every 6-12 months, or anytime a product release occurs. Product content refers to anything related to specific product features or functionalities that change over time.

As far as evergreen content… you might be surprised to learn it isn’t quite as evergreen as you would imagine. Evergreen content is the core content you use to complete most of your RFPs, and you should still review it once every 12-24 months.How often should you conduct a review cycle? It depends on the content.

A healthy RFP answer library creates benefits across your entire organization

As you’d expect, a healthy RFP answer library enables your proposal team to quickly complete RFP responses—answer 70-80% of a proposal with a quick click using “Auto Respond”.

When you can automatically respond to those commonly-seen questions, that means that your team has more time to focus on tailoring each response to your customers’ specific needs.

A healthy RFP answer library also makes life easier for your SMEs—as I explained in a previous blog, the number one rule of working with SMEs is respecting their time.

When you keep your answer library impeccably clean, your SMEs don’t need to verify content outside of scheduled review cycles. They’ll have more time to focus on their other job functions, and you’ll have an answer library full of the most accurate, up-to-date content. Everybody wins

You may think that auditing your RFP content is just a luxury of enterprise companies. I’m here to tell you that anyone and everyone can (and should) regularly audit their content, regardless of whether your team has one person, or 100.

If you’re working with a one- or two-person team, follow the steps above to keep your content fresh. Make sure your SMEs understand which content they’re responsible for, and get in the habit of updating content at the appropriate time.

If you’re a larger team, hire a dedicated content manager whose sole focus is keeping your RFP answer library healthy.

Show your RFP content (and your RFP response process) who’s in charge

You have the tools to complete a successful RFP content audit. It’s time to put your newfound skills to the test!

If you get stuck along the way, check out my webinar below. I’ve demonstrated my step-by-step process for conducting a content audit in RFPIO.

For those of you not using RFPIO to automate your RFP response process, but want to learn more, schedule a demo! Someone on our team would be more than happy to show you the ins and outs of the platform, and see if RFPIO makes sense for your process.

How Microsoft saved an estimated $2.4 million with RFP software

How Microsoft saved an estimated $2.4 million with RFP software

Microsoft is a company dedicated to empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. True to its mission, Microsoft is committed to helping customers modernize processes and achieve digital transformations at scale. This commitment applies internally, as well: Microsoft encourages all employees to use a growth mindset across all efforts and requires everyone to ask questions and continually improve their processes, tools, and workflows.

In 2019, proposal professionals at Microsoft saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of proposal response management with AI-based tools and enhanced collaboration across teams. By augmenting Microsoft’s proposal response process with the right solution, it was clear they could save their salesforce valuable time that could be otherwise spent with customers — and propel their proposals to a new level of excellence.

Microsoft needed a scalable and flexible response management platform that supported multiple teams, languages, and content types, while smoothly integrating into its tech stack. And it needed the right solution partner to help. With RFPIO’s partnership, Microsoft reimagined its proposal process — significantly improving efficiency and productivity with 5 key principles:

Unleash the power of knowledge

According to a McKinsey report, employees spend nearly 20% of their time looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

RFPIO believes that democratizing knowledge is essential to working effectively. That’s why it offers an unlimited user licensing model, enabling customers to give everyone access to the answers they need. No hidden fees, and no strings attached.

Similarly, Microsoft believes in giving its teams the tools they need to thrive. For sales teams, that means spending less time searching for answers, and more time listening to customers, creating solutions, and managing pipelines.

RFPIO made giving access easy, thanks to its integration with Azure Active Directory (AAD). With a simple email, thousands of users across the company have securely activated their accounts using their existing Microsoft corporate credentials.

The response from the field has been overwhelmingly positive. Eric Fink, Dynamics & Business Applications Specialist, said, “The first time I logged into RFPIO, it took me about 10 minutes to get comfortable with the platform. After that, I quickly found responses to all of my open questions — seeing 100% value from the very beginning.”

Today, a year and a half after implementing RFPIO, over 7,000 Microsoft users already have access to the platform. In the 18 months since deployment, Microsoft users have pulled over 36,200 ready-to-go RFx responses from the managed RFPIO Answer Library. With a conservative estimate of 20 minutes saved per response, Microsoft estimates $2.4M in savings.

After implementing RFP software, Microsoft saved an estimated $2.4 million

Stay secure and connected

Strong privacy and security practices are critical to Microsoft’s mission and essential to customer trust. The standards captured in its Supplier Security and Privacy Assurance (SSPA) reflect company values and extend to suppliers who handle Microsoft data on their behalf.

RFPIO’s proposal automation solution meets the privacy and security policies and integrates nicely into Microsoft’s existing tech stack. Microsoft’s RFPIO platform is hosted securely on Azure with AAD authentication and integrates with Microsoft Translator to support its multi-lingual customer base. In addition to the standard browser experience, RFPIO fosters adaptation by meeting employees right where they are, including:

  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Microsoft Office, and
  • Microsoft Outlook

By giving everyone access in familiar platforms, RFPIO has improved collaboration and enables proposal managers, contributors, and Field users to search faster — and find the information they need to work effectively.

“We were able to retire a Business Applications chatbot we built for the Field. RFPIO is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”
~Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector

Simplify content curation

According to 2019 research from Richardson Sales Performance, the top two biggest challenges when pursuing new opportunities are demonstrating competitive differentiation and creating a case for change.

When sales and proposal teams have ready access to pre-approved content, they’re able to spend more time showing how their solution addresses their customers’ specific problems.

That’s where content curation steps in. At Microsoft, content curation goes beyond organizing and presenting online content. It’s a craft. Content managers shape compliant, compelling, and customer-focused information by proactively seeking out information from subject matter experts, harvesting answers from proposals, and storing content in a shared database for future users.

RFPIO simplifies this process. Advanced content organization, moderation, and review features mean content managers are able to keep content relevant, fresh, and working in harmony with RFPIO’s AI engine.

As a result, proposal professionals can use the AI engine to automatically respond to commonly-seen questions — SIG questionnaires (documents many corporations use to understand risk from potential bidders) that used to take several days to complete, now take just a few hours.

With trusted content at their fingertips, Microsoft’s proposal professionals have time to focus on crafting compelling win messaging tailored to each customer’s needs. With more time to spend polishing each proposal, the stronger their proposals are — and the more likely they are to win.

“At a fast-paced company that is agile at anticipating and responding to the ongoing evolution of technology, Microsoft’s Content Managers have relied on RFPIO to efficiently deploy the best competitive positioning to win business”
-Lisa Duplessie, Business Program Manager at Microsoft

Enhance communication and collaboration

A 2019 study from Forrester found that teams save an average of 4 hours per week from improved collaboration and information sharing. Teams stay collaborative and aligned when all members are working in sync and communicating constantly to accomplish a common goal.

When communication is dispersed across email, chat, and in-person meetings, keeping track of moving parts is complicated and time-consuming, and it’s easy for teams to fall out of alignment.

Microsoft focused its attention on keeping everyone connected and communicating by rethinking their proposal processes. With RFPIO, all communication happens within the application in a single place, using in-app commenting and @-mentioning. Proposal contributors and proposal managers use in-app collaboration features for their projects. SMEs, proposal managers and content owners all communicate within each question-answer pairing, which helps keep content fresh and improves deadline commitments.

Communication around project status has also been simplified to a few clicks. Rather than reaching out to proposal managers for a status update, anyone can check RFPIO project status right from the dashboard in Microsoft Teams. By tracking status in real time, project teams are able to prevent roadblocks before they happen.

“RFPIO’s enterprise-level capabilities enable multiple business units, including partners, to collaborate on a single platform. It also reduces communication channels during the proposal development process.”
-Page Snider, Director of Business Program Management, Microsoft Consulting Services

Stay flexible and keep evolving

According to the Adobe State of Create Report, 78% of respondents agreed organizations that invest in creativity increase employee productivity. When each problem or inefficiency becomes an opportunity to think creatively about finding a solution, the lines defining limitations become blurred.

When the team at Microsoft set off to reimagine the proposal process, they knew it would be a continual journey, a persistent state of questioning the status quo — constantly making tweaks, adjustments, and changes as they go along.
That’s why a solution that was flexible enough to grow alongside their process was a necessity.

“RFPIO has unmatched flexibility in completing a wide variety of Excel templates, making my job easier and faster. Not only that, I appreciate that RFPIO approaches our relationship as a partnership, listening to and implementing our suggestions.”
-Lisa Puckrin, Shipley Certified Proposal Manager at Microsoft

The customer success team at RFPIO has worked closely with Microsoft to continuously evolve to meet its changing needs. Diane Holt, business program manager at Microsoft, added, “RFPIO is a rare gem in that the company delivers a mature product with the agility of a startup. This tool continually improves with capability and usability.”

RFPIO and Microsoft are working together to find new ways to improve efficiency and advance productivity. Rather than staying ensconced in familiar workflows, Microsoft is a company that welcomes the hard work and creative thinking required to push the status quo.

In the end, both Microsoft and RFPIO believe that when teams are willing and encouraged to think outside the box, processes become more efficient, nimble, and agile… and that’s when results start snowballing.


Ready to achieve your own cost savings with the leading AI-enabled RFP response management solution? Schedule a demo to get started.

How to turn proposals into a revenue-driving engine

How to turn proposals into a revenue-driving engine

Can the best proposal in the world win a sale on its own? Honestly, probably not. Proposals are just one element of a lengthy and involved sales process.

Flip the question on its head and ask, “Can a poor proposal torpedo a sale on its own?” Absolutely. As can a bad demo, negative reference, or a disagreeable price.

My point is that while the proposal cannot win you the sale on its own, it still plays a pivotal role. Whether it’s reactive (RFP, RFI, Security Questionnaire, etc.) or proactive (sales-generated to show product solution or value), a proposal’s job is to advance the sale. How do you propel something forward? Build an engine.

Build your revenue-driving proposal engine

A revenue-generating response engine can change how your organization feels about proposals, turning it from a necessary evil to a strategic advantage in the sales lifecycle. I’ve broken the engine down into four key components, the first of which is people. Based on my experience, with respect to the way proposals are handled, organizations fall into one of these categories :

  • Ad hoc: 20% of organizations have no dedicated proposal team, instead relying on sales to take it on. This is a reactive approach that typically produces low-quality proposals and poor win rates.
  • Tactical: By far the most common, 60% of organizations have a proposal support team. It’s more efficient than an Ad-hoc approach, but still reactive, not highly prioritized in the organizational structure, and results in a win rate that makes stakeholders hem and haw over whether it’s all worthwhile every year.
  • Strategic: This dedicated proposal function with defined processes and staffed by capture planning specialists, bid and proposal managers, proposal writers, and content managers—in place at only 20% of organizations—produces the highest quality proposals that result in the highest win rates.

People need processes—the second engine component—to optimize their efficiency, enable visibility, and forecast accurately. A well-documented process will help with qualifying opportunities, deciding on win themes, building the response team, assigning roles, tracking and reviewing proposals, assembling the final proposals for publishing, etc.

The third engine component is no surprise: content. Obviously, you need to illustrate how your product or solution solves the problem that has necessitated the response. The differentiator here is in content quality, access, re-use, and personalization.

All three of the components mentioned above will be highly influenced by the fourth engine component: the technology tools you invest in for your response management engine. These will include your CRM, collaboration and web conferencing tools, and, of course, proposal software solutions.

When the engine is firing on all cylinders

After you build the engine, you can expect improvements in the following:

Repeatability

This refers to whether you have a streamlined process that you can apply any time a response is required. Once you’ve established your process, it can be triggered by intaking a project in your proposal software or CRM.

Whether or not your process is easily repeatable depends on content. Do you define service level agreements that can be adhered to time and again? Are you capitalizing on the wealth of information that already exists in your proposal software’s Content Library? If you’re finding ways to reuse existing content, you’re already well on your way to repeatability.

Visibility

Gain macro clarity of your proposal team’s performance. Are there any patterns where win rates vary? This will help identify key characteristics of your most winnable deals. Which content is most popular? Most effective?

This will help identify where to invest subject matter expert (SME) time in content development.

Efficiency

Make everything easier and faster—from finding content and assembling documents, to working with collaborators. Teams that do so are often able to increase efficiency by 40%. Sometimes it’s even more.

There’s no question that proposal software saves time, no matter how many people you have responding to proposals. Friend and peer BJ Lownie, managing director and principal consultant at Strategic Proposals believes that, “Situations exist for one-man shows and full-blown proposal departments.” Having proposal software on hand will help produce higher quality proposals faster, filled with brand-approved content and output according to your style guides.

Quality

Give everyone back time to reinvest in improving the quality of their work. Salespeople can spend more time on revenue-generating operations. The proposal team can spend more time on creating high-quality responses. SMEs can focus their efforts on their primary job functions and other equally important operational activities.

The purchasing decision is a consensus activity these days. Emotional and political factors are also at play. On balance, you always want to put your best foot forward. Proposal quality matters. It can positively influence deals.

Revenue

Link 1-4 together and you discover that proposal software fuels your revenue-generating response engine!

Ultimately, you want your revenue-generating response engine to guide your organization to the point where you’re only responding to winnable deals. Data output from the engine will help you answer questions like:

  • What is your relationship to the organization you’re responding to?
  • Have you had any prior engagement with that organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why that organization is soliciting responses?

Time is finite in the response world. The response due date is a deadline not a guideline. To paraphrase a quote I recently read on LinkedIn, proposals are never done; they’re just due. This engine will help you be more discerning with how, when, and where you invest your time and energy.

Proven value of proposal software

At RFPIO, our mission is to provide technology that streamlines the proposal process. No question that a library of pre-written content is a backbone to increased productivity. As are collaborations with sales and SMEs. We want to reduce the friction of hunting for content and herding SME cats. With proposal software, RFPIO customers are able to:

  • Submit 25% more responses with 100% accuracy while staffing is down 50%.
  • Increase win rate by finding more time to craft compelling win messages.
  • Triple proposal capacity and create efficiencies across all teams.

We deliver time back. How would you like a week back in your typical three-week proposal
process? How that time is reinvested will determine your win rate success. With a response team firing on all automated cylinders, you can unleash proposal development best practices while protecting sales and SMEs from the inefficiency rampage of a frenzied response process.

Start building your revenue-generating response engine by scheduling a demo to see how much time you can free up to reinvest.

How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

Burnout is just one of those icky feelings to experience as a professional. You feel stressed, tired, and irritable—you’re missing that energizing spark to seize the workday. RFP response teams work hard to win business together, and burnout has a natural way of creeping in. It’s a fairly common organizational challenge that hasn’t been discussed much in the proposal management industry…until now.

Eight out of 10 of those surveyed in the APMP Ethics Survey reported some sort of overwork, burnout, or emotional distress. Of the 1,250 APMP members surveyed across 40 countries, 57% were proposal managers. That means organizations are at great risk of diminishing productivity when it comes to RFP responses.

Now that APMP has pulled back the curtain on our industry, we can all see where we have room to improve. This is why burnout happens with RFP response teams, and how your organization can prevent it.

The cause of burnout with RFP response teams

A typical work week for someone responding to RFPs looks quite different than many other professions, as it involves high stakes. The work you do as an RFP responder has a direct impact on your organization’s growth.

Winning and losing business through RFP responses means there is a constant feeling of high highs and low lows. Balancing this emotional rollercoaster is obviously challenging for anyone, whether they are a seasoned RFP responder or new to the role. It’s no surprise that 72% of APMP members revealed that emotional exhaustion was an issue for them.

The proposal management industry is known for its long work hours and demanding schedule, which is precisely why 82% of APMP members said they felt overworked and burnt out. In our own survey at RFPIO, we discovered that 19% of RFP responders worked evenings and weekends to submit RFPs before deadlines. Why is this happening?

Well, another unique thing about professionals who respond to RFPs is this…it’s not their primary job responsibility. Subject matter experts (SMEs) are called away from other priorities to provide their expertise. On a single RFP, it’s common to have people band together from marketing, sales, product, IT, and even human resources.

That doesn’t mean a proposal manager has it any easier with RFP response being their primary job responsibility. Because they have to manage both the people and the process. Many don’t have a defined RFP response process to align their team. And despite advances in technology within the proposal management industry, 84% of organizations work with a manual process instead of RFP software.

Prevent your RFP response team from burning out

Burnout is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy. You can imagine the impact on your organization when burnout strikes an RFP responder. Productivity diminishes and negativity spreads—until one day you lose this team member altogether when they decide to pursue other career opportunities.

“Burnout is a prolonged response to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job, and is defined by the three dimensions of exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy.” – Annual Review of Psychology

Preventing your RFP response team from burnout means being more aware of work behaviors, but also taking initiatives to improve the workplace. Here are a several ideas to consider to promote a positive work environment and keep your RFP response process humming along.

Notice behavioral cues

It’s very easy to get lost in the everyday chaos and miss important behavioral cues. Are they constantly missing deadlines? Are their RFP responses missing the mark? Are they resistant to contributing to RFPs? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to sit down with this team member and figure out a solution.

Their actions are signs of burnout. By having an open discussion with this person, you might be able to turn things around. Find out why they are struggling. You might discover it’s a personal issue affecting their work, but likely you will find an internal situation that needs to be addressed.

Pay attention to workloads

The opposite of the person saying “no” is the one who always says “yes” and takes on too much. This happens often with RFP responses. That dependable and knowledgeable SME is called upon for support more than the person who looks the other way when the RFP project assignment lands in their inbox.

You certainly don’t want to exhaust your experts. RFPIO has several dashboards that help you see RFP contributors at a glance so you can reallocate work. These dashboards also shed light on your process so you understand when and where you need to hire additional resources.

Reward team players

For team members who contribute consistently to RFP responses, giving a quick shout-out or small thank you gift at an all-hands meeting will go a long way. All too often this doesn’t happen. A lack of recognition creates less of an incentive for SMEs, who already have plenty to do beyond responding to RFPs.

You can use the previously mentioned dashboards in RFPIO to spot your top contributors and reward them. Positive reinforcement is not only good for the person receiving it. Other team members will feel more inspired to contribute to RFPs if they know their efforts might result in recognition or potential career advancement.

Provide educational resources

Education doesn’t have to stop at training someone to do a job upfront—it should continue so they can do their job well for the long haul. Resources for RFP responders tend to be difficult to hunt down as many times content is focused more on issuers of RFPs.

APMP is one of the best resources, with webinars, guides—and one of our personal favorites—the APMP Body of Knowledge. You can always count on us at RFPIO to deliver educational content as well. Our blog is here to fill that resource gap and elevate you in your role as an RFP responder.

benefits of rfp software
Define your RFP response process

Role conflict is tough for RFP response teams. When roles and responsibilities are not clearly spelled out, RFP responses get deprioritized and ignored. Although organizations have a one-sheet strategy for just about everything, RFP response somehow gets overlooked. This is a little nuts considering how complex this process is for teams.

Defining your workflow keeps the order of operations running smoothly. When an RFP is issued in step one, you know who is handling each task. The same clarity can be applied to the review and submission steps. Here’s an RFP response process example you can easily follow, customize, and implement.

Make collaboration easier

Collaboration is necessary for the success of RFP responses. However, the people on your RFP response team might be on different sides of a building or even different sides of the planet if you have multiple or remote offices. Having an RFP project meeting isn’t realistic, and it’s not a good use of everyone’s time. Uh-oh…here come the emails.

Crowding inboxes with RFP project requests will only cause additional burnout. RFP software like RFPIO integrates with popular communication tools like Slack, and also has chat options within the platform. Less email = happy people.

Save time with technology

You saw this coming a mile away, didn’t you? A manual RFP response process is crazy inefficient, causing team members to work after hours to get the job done. They will rush, and the job won’t be done well. Their heart won’t be in it. This will lead to burnout, and it can harm the business opportunity.

If you’re using spreadsheets and docs to respond to RFPs, this method isn’t properly supporting your team. Searching for historic RFP responses in random folders can be eliminated with a centralized answer library. That’s just one benefit, and there are many that make life easier for RFP responders so they can be more effective and feel happier about what they do.

It’s clear from APMP’s survey that there is work to be done. There are positive things happening in the proposal management industry, with 88% feeling a strong sense of accomplishment on the job and 87% saying they “believe their companies are ethical”.

The overwhelming evidence of overwork and burnout are certainly an ethics concern we need to address in the bid and proposal industry. Let’s all do our part to notice signs of burnout among our team and take action. We’re in this together.

IBA increased win rate by 15% by improving response and bid quality

IBA increased win rate by 15% by improving response and bid quality

There are niche markets. Then there are niches of niche markets. IBA, a medical device manufacturer based in Belgium, is in one of those niches. That’s why they face such tough competition for every one of their 30, on average, annual request for proposal (RFP) responses or tender bids.

IBA global director of sales support and tender management, Grégory Saive, and his team review every document released in relation to IBA’s proton therapy technology. Due to the sensitive nature of the technology—it’s at the forefront of cancer treatment innovation—and the level of investment required to build and furnish a proton therapy suite, RFPs and tenders are understandably complex. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages of technical, legal, and medical information are included in responses and bids. Multiple subject matter experts must weigh in to ensure accuracy and mitigate risk.

Three years ago, Grégory took over a team of regional product managers and tender specialists participating in the business development of Proteus® proton therapy technology. At the time, the team faced multiple challenges:

  • Even though team members carried the title of “specialist,” the monotony of repetitive bid and response tasks relegated them to feeling more like “assistants”
  • Manual processes took up too much time and had to be repeated for every bid or response
  • Bids and responses did not accurately represent the quality the company or the team wanted to portray when representing such a high-end brand in competitive evaluation processes
  • Content was scattered, siloed, and difficult to keep current

When Grégory took over, he committed to transforming the team’s response processes while promising not to increase headcount. In order to fulfill his commitment, Grégory and his team knew that they needed a tool that could be the foundation for the team’s transformation. Given the nature of his work, he began the process by running a tender. “We are tender specialists, so I found it strange that my team would select a tool based on a whim. So we created a full tender for RFPIO and some of its competitors,” Grégory said.

First impressions

IBA offered the tender to four pre-selected solution providers. During the demo process, RFPIO’s search functionality stood out as a definitive competitive differentiator. Grégory said, “I was impressed by how easy it was to tag answers with associated keywords, search for those keyword tags, and view search results with a score index to see the questions that are the most recent and most used at the top.”

In the past, when Grégory wanted to find the proper wording for an answer—wording that he knew existed but he could not precisely recall its location—he had to search through multiple documents line by line until he found it. With the search functionality he witnessed in the demo, he realized that he wouldn’t have to conduct those manual searches ever again.

For Grégory, response management software was a tool. Alone, it could not transform his team or response processes. Using response management software as the foundation, he sought to achieve three goals that he believed would result in a successful transformation.

Goal #1: Improve Quality

From the day Grégory took over his team, his goal was not primarily to increase efficiency. His goal was to improve bid and response quality. “We do not win a deal with a tender, but we can definitely lose a deal because of a tender,” he said.

With such a highly specialized solution, the market and opportunities are extremely limited. His team responds to an average 30 tenders or RFPs every year because there are only that many real opportunities that become available on a global scale.

Increasing efficiency so his team could produce more responses or bids would do nothing for IBA’s bottom line. They had to improve the quality of their bids and responses to increase the win percentage of existing opportunities. And IBA is not alone in its desire to re-invest time saved into improving bids. In fact, 84% of companies with designated RFP software agree that they have more time to personalize proposals for specific use cases.*

After a year of using RFPIO, IBA increased their win rate for Grégory’s business unit to 80%.

“With RFPIO, I would say we have increased our win rate by 15%.”

He’s quick to point out that RFPIO isn’t the only reason for this uptick. It’s also due to how he’s spent the time saved by using the tool. By reducing time spent on searching documents and copy and pasting answers, the team has more time to strategize about how to compose the best answers.

“RFPIO allows the team to spend more time on meaningful tasks…either training, reviewing answers, or improving quality. That’s where I’ve spent most of my time saved since the beginning.”

Goal #2: Improve Content Management

Prior to implementing RFPIO, Grégory and tender specialists had to browse hundreds of documents during the bid process. When they found something that was remotely close, then they copy and pasted it. They could not spend the time necessary to fully think it through and make sure it was a contextually sound answer because they had to move on.

That presented a problem for answers that had not been used in awhile. According to a Deloitte article called The new knowledge management, “If searching is difficult and the results are not highly valued, workers lose trust in knowledge systems.”

With RFPIO, the team now searches the Answer Library for the most relevant answer and trusts the results based on the content score. When they find an answer, they can also see when and how often that answer was used. If the answer is two years old, for example, then it is likely out of date because the product has evolved. The team knows that the answer needs to be reviewed by a product manager or other specialist, depending on the context, and can assign and track that review through RFPIO.

But even that process will continue to improve. Because Grégory’s team focuses only on proton therapy business, they can work in a single Answer Library. They are implementing processes to proactively review answers—especially long answers that are used regularly—with experts every six months. So in future searches, fewer Q & A pairs will be out of date and require detailed review during a bid in-flight.

In the case of content that needs updating more often, Grégory hopes to focus the review process even more. “Content relating to financing options—stuff that we don’t use often or that’s really specific to a country or prospect—usually needs 50% or more changes. Maybe in five years, we tag that content with special comments saying that it needs to be automatically reviewed by financial experts at IBA.”

While content management has already improved, IBA continues to identify new ways to streamline their review processes to identify more time that can be spent on improving bid quality.

Goal #3: Enable Better Training

Grégory promised management that in exchange for investing in a response management tool such as RFPIO, he would not add headcount. One of the primary reasons he’s been able to keep his promise is because of the training advantages offered by RFPIO.

IBA is not alone in its focus on training and maintaining headcount. 63% of proposal teams plan to increase team training on RFP response, while only 37% plan to hire more staff.*

Again, it’s not just the tool. As Grégory said, “It’s a great tool, but it’s not a magical tool.” While the RFPIO Answer Library helps streamline the answer process, it also gives time to Grégory and his team members to think and customize their answers.

For Grégory, he can take the time to train team members on how to answer, or what makes a good answer to a particular question. For his team, it’s the difference between plowing through the bid process feeling like an “assistant” or “generalist” and approaching each question as a “specialist” who can deliberate on differentiating IBA from competitors.

Although he is not adding headcount, transition on Grégory’s team does occur due to rotations some employees take from one department to another. In such cases, onboarding is much faster with RFPIO in place. “Again, the ease with which we are able to search the Answer Library has improved the onboarding process.” When new recruits don’t have to take the time to familiarize themselves with what the content is and where answers might be located, they can jump right into identifying the right answers through search.

IBA improved proposal quality and increased win rate by 15% with RFPIO

Next steps

So far, IBA has used RFPIO only for Proteus®. In the future, they hope to expand their Answer Library and Collections to include partner software and hardware that can make a solution even better. This will require a culture change around collaboration, but it’s all part of Grégory’s long-term plan to transform the team. IBA is also in the process of bringing its OneDrive integration online, which will expand their Answer Library with marketing videos, documents, and other content.

As for advice on how to get the most out of RFPIO, Grégory recommends having someone in charge of response management who can drive processes and establish goals. Setting ground rules and expectations for management as well as team members is essential to success.

The tool may not be magical, but it gives Grégory and his team time and opportunity to insert magic into their answers to improve the quality of their bids and responses.

“I cannot really measure the increase in quality in terms of answers, but I can certainly measure the increase of quality in my team.”

Ready to start increasing your win rate?

See how automating your RFP responses can help your team improve proposal quality, increase win rate, and generate revenue. Schedule a demo to get started.

How to build an effective & scalable proposal program

How to build an effective & scalable proposal program

All B2B organizations have a proposal program. How do you differentiate yours to stay competitive?

Many companies want to respond to more proposals faster. Many are using proposal automation software like RFPIO as the platform to accelerate their RFP process. The competitive differentiator is how your company builds and manages the program around the proposal automation software.

Overall, you want to build a program that gives you the flexibility to complete what you need now but can also grow with your business in the future. Build for nimbleness. Make it moldable. Fit it around the people and programs that are already in your organization. Build an open architecture so you’re able to accomplish future goals that you’re not even going to be aware of at your initial launch. You also want to make sure your program addresses these seven considerations to optimize your chances of success.

#1 Crafting a mission statement

The mission statement is your proposal team’s anchor. Without it, your program is unmoored. The mission statement gives you the lens you need to see how your program is progressing.

It describes your areas of focus to your team and your customers (the rest of the company). Think of the results you want to realize. How will you impact sales productivity, mitigate bid risk, and minimize subject matter expert (SME) disengagement, for example?

For reference as you compose yours, here’s a sample proposal team mission statement:

Increase sales productivity and empower SMEs by providing the people, processes, and technology to efficiently manage proposal content services while delivering high-quality professional support to the field and partner ecosystem via solicited and unsolicited bids.

  • Create a centrally managed and continually validated repository
  • Become a one-stop shop for proposal content.
  • Scale the delivery of our proposal services globally and efficiently.
  • Develop a reputation for first-class proposal services.

#2 Building the proposal team

Who you decide to put on a team is critical. If you’re trying to improve proposal quality, then you have to have quality people on your team. You need people that can do something with the time savings that the technology platform produces. These are people that can synthesize information, that can build a comprehensive win theme, that understand how to write and edit. They’re learners because they need to understand your business and put it together in a cohesive package. They also need to partner with the sales team. In a way, this is a sales support role, but it’s much more than copy and pasting sales presentations into proposals.

As far as experience, recruit experienced writers and editors who know how to put together a story. If they already work for the organization then all the better—you have “bench depth” that you can turn to for help. These are people that already know your products and services well. If you don’t have existing bench depth, then you need to recruit writers and editors with proposal experience. It’s important to establish credibility and show immediate value across the organization. If team members have done it before, then they’ll be fast learners who can synthesize information into a story.

Your goals for a team culture are collaboration and ownership. For example, if yours is a global company, set up team leads in each region. Provide the collaboration tools, time, and opportunities so leads can meet and work together as mutual resources for troubleshooting issues.

#3 Staying flexible with the right tools

Whether you’re considering RFPIO or another platform, there’s one major consideration you have to address, according to FireEye proposal manager Brian Trigg: “Technology can either lock you in or open you up…the value of proposal technology really is in its ability to aggregate all of this information together, quickly access that knowledge, provide it across all the people that need to know or have input on this information…If you can’t do it openly and easily, then your technology is locking you up.”

#4 Building procedures based on mission

Consider your mission statement when defining your procedural objectives. Policies and procedures need to be set up to help you accomplish your mission. For example, if your mission statement includes emphasis on SME engagement, then you may want to consider implementing procedures that allow SMEs to define their own review cycles. Not only does this check off a key procedural step, it also engenders ownership of the overall program among SMEs.

#5 Showing value through metrics & reporting

Measure your engagement, open pipeline, impact to organization, won deals in number and dollars, content items under management, completed reviews, etc. Set up reporting for these and any other metrics where you can show your value back to the organization.

#6 Flushing out your content library

How do you get new content and fill up your Answer Library? One, create it from scratch (always awesome, but it can be time and labor intensive). Two, use old content, but be careful that it’s not outdated. Three, reverse engineer questions and answers based on message source documents, value discovery guides, data sheets, service descriptions, white papers, and any other marketing materials your company provides.

If your company doesn’t have these, then developing your proposal program gives you the leverage you need to drive their creation. Pitch it as a way that other departments in the company can contribute to consistency of message.

#7 Getting your booster rockets ready: Launch!

Hopefully, you’ve already put in in motion whichever mechanisms you need to solicit executive buy-in on your proposal program. At launch, executive support is essential to establishing company-wide credibility (aka, the booster rockets you need to get your program off the ground). Identify key stakeholders and communicate the benefit of the proposal program. Sell your mission statement through the perspective of how it will help them as executives as well as the company as a whole.

Bend, don’t break

Remember to iterate your program. It’s not going to be a perfect launch. Set up a program that you can flex into, something that you can change easily as you grow.

FireEye’s Trigg sums it up nicely: “Creating a flexible model, providing opportunities for ownership, driving engagement, and designing your content capture strategy properly are going to enable you to scale and synthesize your proposal team from more than a knowledge bank to a strategic part of your approach to market.”

If you would like to consult on how to build your proposal program for long-term success, schedule a demo today.

How to master your SaaS sales process and close more deals

How to master your SaaS sales process and close more deals

As a member of your SaaS organization’s sales team, you will likely be asked to contribute to software RFP responses—and, you will probably be asked a lot.

Because you prioritize the relentless pursuit of the sale, your time is a rare commodity. By improving your software RFP process, you’ll save time and contribute the best possible RFP responses for your organization. The best possible content is obviously important, being that sales proposals are critical selling documents that impact revenue.

Your job is both a science and an art…selling is a science, and closing is an art. Learn how to master this balance in your SaaS sales process, overcome common obstacles, and close more deals for your organization.

“Today, the sale is won by the salesperson who communicates a story that gets a buyer to imagine new possibilities.” – John Livesay

SaaS sales: Relationships, price wars, and time

We reached out to SaaS salespeople and asked them to describe their top industry challenges. Casey Hill, Sales Executive at Bonjoro, shared his top three hurdles and we shared some ideas for overcoming these sales hurdles to help you succeed.

1. Not hearing back after an initial meeting.

Your follow-up is absolutely critical. You must demonstrate value, and personalize and tailor messaging for your individual prospect. To establish this relationship, you need to demonstrate precisely why they need your solution to solve their problems.

2. Getting involved in a price war.

You are put on the defensive here, but you don’t need to be. Casey says “know the value of your product, and stick to your guns.” Your prospect may be putting you under a lot of pressure, but in the end, the cheapest solution is not always the winner. Show them how your software will directly benefit their bottom line.

3. Knowing where to allocate time when it comes to your pipeline.

Time is money, and nowhere is this truer than sales. Know your statistics, manage your pipeline, and stay organized and proactive. Casey advises using your organization’s top salespeople as a blueprint for success. Learn how they break down their processes. The most successful sales teams know how to balance time management and limit distractions.

Overcoming each of these challenges is a learning experience. Apply these takeaways to your next sales proposal to hone in on the value-add and show ROI potential. With better time management, you’ll have the headspace to make these improvements in your SaaS sales process.

SaaS sales: Listen, be inquisitive, and sell benefits

There’s an old adage you likely already know by heart if you’re in SaaS sales. If the customer says “I’m buying—stop talking,” you’re in big trouble.

We need to let the customer do the talking. This is how we learn what they are looking for in a SaaS solution. The best salespeople are inquisitive. You listen and respond. You want to find out what problem you can solve. Sell them the benefit, not the feature.

How will a given feature of your software increase the customer’s revenue, lower their costs, and save them time? Talk to your potential client about end-users. Target their needs in the conversation.

In the 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey, we asked busy salespeople what their favorite RFPIO feature was. A resounding 93% said the answer library. It’s a great feature, definitely—but how do you sell that? You could point out what the answer library does in mechanics and specifics. However, the real win lies in selling it as “an efficiency.”

RFP response automation is a winning solution. When you save a salesperson’s time, they can focus more on selling, thus also affecting the bottom line. Now you’ve sold them on saving time and increasing revenue.

Apply these principles to your next RFP response. If you allow your prospect to do the talking and find out their greatest need, you’ll walk in their shoes and know which benefits will best appeal to them.

Take the next step in mastering your SaaS sales process. Find out how RFPIO can help.

Expand sales intelligence and personalize sales documents with RFP automation software

Expand sales intelligence and personalize sales documents with RFP automation software

When customers start using RFPIO’s RFP automation capabilities, most of them quickly expand response management to their overall sales intelligence program. They enable sales teams to generate personalized sales documents and proposals on a self-service basis. With easy access to a robust content library, sales representatives can (relatively) easily piece together pre-approved, pre-vetted content to create proactive selling documents.

In the spirit of transparency, we happened upon these added benefits somewhat by accident. We actually learned about them from our first enterprise customers, who had thousands of projects running in RFPIO. Upon evaluation of all the content they had accumulated in their Answer Libraries, they asked a seemingly simple question: With all this great content in RFPIO, how else can we use it?

Ever since, we’ve been fine-tuning features so that RFP automation software adds more value to the greater sales intelligence program for customers of all sizes.

How your sales representatives respond matters. For more conversions at higher price points, they need to respond quickly, with a personalized touch, and they need to do it efficiently so they spend more time on revenue-generating activities.

According to Forrester, there are three key elements to sales intelligence.

  1. Operational Intelligence: “What is happening and what has happened.” In other words, these are the KPIs that guide day-to-day activities (e.g., number of calls, proposals delivered, pipeline-to-quota coverage ratios, average deal size, etc.).
  2. Diagnostic Intelligence: Analyze the KPIs established in operational intelligence to gain a meaningful view of data and identify trends that may determine future performance.
  3. Interpretive Sales Intelligence: Use operational and diagnostic intelligence to guide and support revenue generation throughout the organization, from optimizing responses to prospects and customers to structuring compensation plans.

Based on this definition, RFP automation software can have a significant impact on sales intelligence. Here’s why.

Without data, nothing is driving your sales intelligence

Sales intelligence is all about identifying buyer signals and nailing the timing. Sounds simple, right? It’s not. Depending on your product or service and your market, the amount of analysis that goes into signal identification could range from hours to months, or even years.

Sales is like the rest of the intelligences that are all the rage right now. Artificial, business, military… you name it, if it’s intelligent, then it depends on data. Similarly, sales intelligence relies heavily on data collection, management, and insight.

Your CRM is the central nervous system of your sales intelligence. Let me throw some borrowed knowledge at you (source).

  • CRM is among the top three tools and technologies for creating personalized interactions with customers to foster loyalty and better marketing ROI. (Salesforce, 2017)
  • 73% of marketers with a CRM system use it for a shared customer view between their service and sales teams. (Salesforce, 2017)
  • High performers are happier with the level of collaboration between their marketing team and other departments and they’re also three times more likely than underperformers to extensively use CRM tools. (Salesforce, 2017)

Much of the client, opportunity, and product data that can be leveraged to personalize proposals already exists in CRMs. By integrating RFPIO and CRMs like Salesforce, sales reps can now generate personalized selling materials without leaving their CRM. RFPIO can link CRM data from client, industry, job title, product information, and opportunity fields to dynamic proposal templates that allow sales reps to hyper-efficiently generate proactive proposals.

A real-world use case is:

  1. Sales rep Alpha finishes their first phone call with a prospect. They enter what they’ve learned about the prospect, such as product interests or points of contact. These fields will be used to swap out the dynamic templates when the proposal is generated.
  2. The prospect has asked Alpha to send a solutions brochure to learn more about Alpha’s company and solutions. The sales rep will click on “create proposal” to get started.
  3. Alpha navigates their CRM (e.g., Salesforce) interface to select “Create Proposal in RFPIO” from a list of available document templates (NOTE: You’ll need to set up the document templates ahead of time, but once you do so, it’s just a matter of plug-and-play content!).
  4. Alpha completes the proposal builder without leaving the CRM to add content relevant to this particular prospect and include personalization variables. These can include contact fields such as name and title, relevant quotes and testimonials from companies in their industry, the specific solutions and prices that the prospect needs, implementation team, timeline, etc.
  5. Alpha clicks the “Generate” button.
  6. Voila! Alpha has a personalized, on-demand proposal to share, which will be much more effective than a boilerplate email or generic brochure. The generated proposal is then automatically published to the Salesforce page from which it was created. Now, it’s ready for the sales rep to download or share as needed.

Sales intelligence with RFP software integrated into your CRM enables more informed selling, allowing you to take advantage of the personas you’ve been developing and the hard-fought information you’ve been gathering on your prospects and customers.

5 sales intelligence advantages of RFP automation software

Let’s say you’ve integrated RFP software into your CRM. What benefits can you expect?

  1. Keep sales reps focused on selling: Are your salespeople spending less than 36% of their time selling? Sales VPs and directors want reps living in the CRM, focused on revenue-generating activities. By providing access to RFP content and automating its generation from the CRM, reps spend less time chasing down content or composing proposals.
  2. Gain leverage from content analytics: Track the content that’s being consumed, by whom, and how it’s being shared. Identify the most common and popular content to help inform future content development. Analyze trending queries, both internally and externally.
  3. Strengthen your account-based selling strategy: Make it easier for your sales team to collaborate on developing multiple contacts and relationships within a single account. Content analytics helps you track the buying signals throughout different levels of your most complex accounts.
  4. Personalize every response: With the data stored in your CRM combined with the high-quality content stored in RFPIO, proposal managers, marketing teams, or sales teams can create pre-approved content blocks that sales teams can piece together to create proactive selling documents. What would it mean to your team to send professional, personalized proposals with every response?
  5. Take a big lift off of proposal and marketing teams: No more one-off requests for content or proposal support from sales reps because they’ll be able to do it themselves. For example, Microsoft estimates that its RFPIO Answer Library saves up to 5,000 hours per year.

A rising tide lifts all boats

Advanced sales intelligence will also contribute to greater success with RFP responses. For proposal managers, customer data points from the CRM will help automate the completion of a proposal and inform bid decisions.

Natural language processing and analytics will help decipher what kinds of questions will be asked in an RFP. RFPIO can estimate what type of proposal to expect, compare it to past RFP responses from similar client profiles, and analyze how you performed in the past to determine your likelihood of success and how long it will take to complete. The proposal manager can also estimate resources and identify contributors that will need to be allocated in order to win the RFP and determine if it’s worth it to the organization to proceed.

What’s it gonna take?

We’ll need to connect the systems, so there is some administrative setup. However, we’ve already synced up with multiple CRMs, so we know what to expect.

Schedule a demo today, and we can discuss whether it makes sense for you to integrate your CRM with RFPIO RFP automation software.

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