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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. […]


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 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.

RFP answer library: 10 before and after RFP software stories

RFP answer library: 10 before and after RFP software stories

RFP answer library: 10 before and after RFP software storiesWhat do buyers really think of bidding organizations? Well, er…some of the results from this survey weren’t so favorable for RFP responders. At the end of the day, nearly half of these buyers felt that bidders just didn’t do themselves justice in their proposals. However, there is light at the end of your RFP answer library.

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

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

Customer-centric RFP responses increase win rate

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

High organizational productivity to process more RFPs

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

Convenience improves RFP response completion time

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

Time to tailor RFP responses for a stronger deliverable

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

An RFP answer library breaks down information silos

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

Approved content in an accessible RFP answer library

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

Better RFP responses and better sleep patterns

Before RFP Software

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

After RFP Software

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

Cost savings on RFP response team resources

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

Complete control over the RFP response process

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

Winning more deals with quality RFP responses

Before RFP software

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

After RFP software

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

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

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

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.

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?

Wikipedia is the primary resource hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes, and Will Arnett cite in their podcast, Smartless, when interviewing a veritable who’s who in entertainment, sports, and journalism. It’s a must-listen podcast, IMHO, but not because the hosts actually rely on Wikipedia as their source. The use of Wikipedia is an inside joke because one or more of them usually knows their “surprise” guest quite well. As a result, the interviews are funny, insightful, and loaded with personal anecdotes and nostalgia.

What would happen to Smartless if Jason Bateman decided to forego podcasting for more directing opportunities? Could Sean and Will fall back on a wiki or internal knowledge base where Jason had the opportunity to upload his insight into interviews with Erin Gray, Ricky Schroeder, or Alfonso Ribeiro? (Try a reference that’s timelier than “Silver Spoons,” RD.) How about interviews with Laura Linney, Jason Sudeikis, or Rachel McAdams? Comparatively, they’d fall flat without Bateman’s personal knowledge and relationship with those guests.

In the real world, where we all do business with people who haven’t starred in a movie, sitcom, or Netflix series in the past 40 years, falling flat due to ineffective knowledge sharing means not meeting customer expectations, not having answers to prospect questions fast enough, or giving wrong or outdated answers in proposals. It’s costly and embarrassing. It’s also avoidable.

Businesses looking for knowledge sharing tools often end up deciding between two options: corporate wikis or internal knowledge base software. While they may seem similar, they’re actually quite different. In this blog, we’ll break down the differences between company wikis and internal knowledge base software to determine which is the best for your business.

What is a corporate wiki?

A corporate wiki is developed using an open source model. This means that anyone can submit edits or gain access. Although touted for being “collaborative,” they are not always reliable because anyone can make changes and include inaccurate information. Democracy works in politics and when making decisions with your fellow lifeboat occupants. Crowdsourcing worked for Tom Sawyer and tells you if police are ahead on Waze. Neither are good fits for business content.

As far as knowledge sharing is concerned, corporate wikis follow the rules of the jungle. While they certainly encourage greater employee involvement, power users tend to elbow out the specialists. They also get out of control fast. It’s an environment where content seeds are planted and then vines grow depending on what’s most popular or controversial. Without any strategy or rules in place, old vines don’t get pruned, some seedlings get overshadowed, and Barry from engineering starts every edit with, “Whoever wrote this is an idiot. The correct answer is…” Not the sort of collaborative vibe you were hoping for.

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base exists in a self-contained solution designed to streamline access, creation, and review of your business content. Unlike corporate wikis, internal knowledge bases have verified writers, so that all team members using the knowledge base can feel confident that the answers they are finding are accurate. Whereas wikis are open to any user creating or editing content, internal knowledge bases are read-only. If the corporate wiki is the jungle, then the internal knowledge base is a curated nursery.

Structure and strategy are the two biggest differentiators between corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases. Within an overarching content strategy developed for the internal knowledge base, writers create and edit content based on a schedule, which is informed by data-driven insight. Tags, collections, and custom fields define its information hierarchy, making it more user-friendly and efficient to search.

Depending on how you set up your internal knowledge base, you can also gather data to derive intelligence on how it’s being used, what it’s missing, and what it doesn’t need. For example, through RFPIO, users can output an Answer Library Insights Report to see which content gets used most often as well as which search terms receive very few or zero results. In the latter example, content managers can build content production plans around zero-result search terms so users will be able to find answers they need during their next search.

Creating an internal knowledge base is a 6-step process:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge: Import your most recent sales proposals, DDQs, security questionnaires, and RFPs.
  2. Grow as you go: Add new content as products come and go, markets change, audience triggers evolve, and new departments come on board based on your initial tag, collection, and custom field structure.
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date: Curate content to keep it fresh (corporate content every 90 days, product content every 6-12 months, and evergreen content that doesn’t change much every 12-24 months).
  4. Provide open access: Make sure everyone who needs to use the content has access to the content. Don’t get restrained by user licenses.
  5. Train your team: Even if the tool is intuitive and easy to use, set up time to train new users or else risk them never even trying it.
  6. Conduct regular audits: Don’t let the internal knowledge base turn into the wiki jungle. Keep it clean.

Learn more about these six steps here.

Why is knowledge sharing so important?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list. And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks. Time equals money, and IDC estimates that an enterprise of 1,000 knowledge workers wastes $5.7 million annually searching for information that is never found.

One more bit of bad news (I’ll end on a high note. Promise.): Knowledge workers are quitting. They are not immune to “The Great Resignation” of the pandemic. According to the New Yorker, “Many well-compensated but burnt-out knowledge workers have long felt that their internal ledger books were out of balance: they worked long hours, they made good money, they had lots of stuff, they were exhausted, and, above all, they saw no easy options for changing their circumstances.” Well, the pandemic gave them the opportunity they were looking for to simplify their life. With knowledge workers departing, organizations need to up the ante on knowledge sharing to make sure they’re expertise doesn’t go out the door with them.

Speaking of doors, knowledge sharing is also a boon for onboarding new employees coming in the door. Giving them the freedom to access company knowledge at will and in context gets them up to speed faster while making custom face-to-face training more efficient and effective (i.e., trainees can find answers to common questions in the wiki or knowledge base on their own time). A majority of HR professionals cite improved onboarding as beneficial to overall employee engagement.

As promised, a high note: Knowledge sharing encourages and rewards greater employee involvement, especially when the sharing mechanism is easy, intuitive, and trustworthy. Organizations with highly engaged employees earn about 150% more than their less engaged counterparts. So they have that going for them, which is good.

What’s better: a corporate wiki or an internal knowledge base?

Guessing I probably showed my hand too early with that wisecrack about Barry from engineering. You got it: The internal knowledge base takes the checkered flag when it comes to organizational knowledge sharing.

Its structure and the processes that support it make it a more trustworthy single source of truth, which reduces knowledge hoarding and shadow development of content that may exist in individual hard drives. And just because content is created and edited by designated writers doesn’t mean that all expertise hasn’t been tapped. Systems such as RFPIO enable content owners to automate collaboration with subject matter experts so that knowledge is captured accurately and efficiently, while maintaining consistency in message, voice, and tone throughout.

Besides, it also offers much more functionality compared to a corporate wiki. Instead of opening a new browser window or tab and navigating to the Intranet wiki, users can search content from almost anywhere. RFPIO® LookUp is a portal into the Answer Library, which can be searched from Chrome like you’re searching the Internet. According to Hope Henderson at Alera Group, “We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Answer Library will be the first place they’ll go.”

“We market RFPIO as our internal content Google. If anyone that’s client-facing has a question about a specific product, the RFPIO Answer Library will be the first place they’ll go.”
-Hope Henderson, Marketing Coordinator at Alera Group

RFPIO also integrates with CRM, communication, cloud, and other applications so users don’t have to toggle back and forth to find content. Vicki Griesinger, Director of Business Strategy, Worldwide Public Sector at Microsoft, said, “RFPIO® LookUp is available right from Microsoft Teams and surfaces content from all of our content collections without the maintenance overhead.”

With fewer writers and more controls, you might think content ends up sounding too institutional, with too few opportunities to personalize it. On the contrary. With a finely tuned internal knowledge base, prospect- and client-facing workers can find accurate content faster and easier so they’ll have more time to spend on personalizing the interaction.

Plan for unknown knowledge

In your pursuit of the ultimate knowledge repository, remember one thing: It’s going to have to change. In five years, you may need the knowledge you have now or you may not. You’ll definitely need some of the new knowledge you’re going to gain on the way.

Both corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases are updateable, but five years hence do you want to be hacking through a jungle to see what you can update? Or would you rather have the new knowledge curated and grafted onto the existing content for you so that all you have to do is harvest the fruit?

To learn more about using RFPIO to build your internal knowledge base, schedule a demo today.

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

Internal Knowledge Base: What it is, how to use it, and how to create one

“Of course banana trees are trees, that’s why there’s ‘tree’ in the name.”

That’s how a heated debate with my family started a few weeks ago. Or, rather, that’s how a heated debate would have started if Google had not ended it immediately. (In case you’re curious, banana trees are actually herbaceous plants).

At risk of outing myself as a millennial, I feel like life before search engines was basically the wild, wild west. Before we carried around the answers to basically everything in our pockets, we’d either be content with not knowing, settle on an incorrect answer, or consult books or experts. (Madeleine’s father-in-law grows banana trees, he might be a good person to ask…)

In the future, I think this is what knowledge workers will think about the time before internal knowledge bases: How did everyone function before we consolidated all company knowledge into a single, easily accessible location?

In 2020, Forrester asked more than 3,000 sales reps about their main roadblocks to productivity. Finding content or information was at the top of the list.

And a McKinsey study found that knowledge workers spend 20% of their time searching for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specific tasks.

Knowledge is a company’s most valuable asset, and being able to access it quickly and easily is essential to enhancing productivity and achieving goals. To make that a reality, you need to create and maintain an internal knowledge base, also known as a company knowledge base. Here’s a guide to make that happen.

What is an internal knowledge base?

An internal knowledge base is a library of knowledge created by an organization for strict employee usage to easily (and securely) access confidential knowledge. The goal of a company knowledge base is to make everyone’s job easier by making company knowledge available on-demand.

A company knowledge base can hold answers to basically anything. This includes information about products, services, compliance, company history, and more. It can also contain the most up-to-date documents from all departments, including things like sales contracts, product roadmap, HR policies, and brand guidelines.

How to use an internal knowledge base

Think about an internal knowledge base as the place to store the answers to everything. Any question that people would usually go to subject matter experts for answers to should be readily available—and easily searchable—in your internal knowledge base.

That way, instead of your employees pinging HR for health care policy information or asking marketing for links to case studies, they can find what they need in your internal knowledge base.

Here are some examples of how you can use an internal knowledge base:

  • Answer customer questions

According to Hubspot research, salespeople spend 21% of their day writing emails. Many of those emails include following up to prospects with resources, or answering questions about the product or solution. With an internal knowledge base available from their email, salespeople can find answers to customer questions more efficiently—and get back to selling.

  • Respond to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs, etc.

Consolidating company knowledge streamlines responses to RFPs, RFIs, Security Questionnaires, DDQs—especially when you consolidate knowledge in an AI-enabled RFP automation solution. We’ve found that organizations cut time responding to RFPs by 40% (on average) after implementing RFP automation technology like RFPIO.

  • Improve onboarding

New employees often ask the same questions. Rather than relying on tenured employees to answer that question time and time again, you can store that answer in your internal knowledge base and make it available on-demand to new employees.

  • Stay on-brand

Store marketing-approved content in your internal knowledge base, including things like branded slide decks, letterhead, and templates, as well as brand guidelines and boilerplates.

  • Get technical help

Use your internal knowledge base as a go-to spot for up-to-date IT information. Use your internal knowledge base to streamline common problems and communications.

  • Answer support tickets

Store answers to support tickets in your internal knowledge base. That way your support team can learn from each other’s experiences. Whenever a tricky support question comes up, your team has a rich database to find the answer.

  • Empower everyone to create their best content

When your company’s best answers are only a few clicks away, you can create better content. This includes things like blogs, slide decks, sales proposals, and more.

How to create an internal knowledge base in 6 steps

If you need real-time knowledge sharing, a knowledge base is what your business needs. Knowledge bases can easily share information in real-time with verified employees.

There are plenty of best practices to take into consideration when building a company knowledge library. Here are the steps to consider when creating an internal knowledge base:

  1. Consolidate existing knowledge
  2. Grow as you go
  3. Stay accurate and up-to-date
  4. Open the floodgates
  5. Train your team
  6. Conduct regular audits

Consolidate existing knowledge

I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you: A quick way to consolidate company knowledge starts with your sales proposals, DDQs, and security questionnaires.

When you write a sales proposal — be it a proactive proposal, SOW, or response to a request for proposal, bid, or tender — or respond to other complex questionnaires (e.g. security questionnaires, DDQs) you’re compiling relevant, accurate, up-to-date information about your company, products, services, security standards, and compliance status.

If your organization responds to RFPs, writes sales proposals, and/or fills out security questionnaires and DDQs, you already have the foundation upon which you can build your internal knowledge base.

Many teams choose to consolidate knowledge using a shareable spreadsheet (e.g. Google Sheets) or platforms like Sharepoint. While this is a perfectly respectable first step for smaller teams, it can be very labor-intensive, difficult to scale, and can easily get out of control.

For a more long-term and scalable solution, you might consider using an AI-enabled RFP automation solution (e.g. RFPIO). With RFPIO, you can import old responses (e.g. to RFPs, RFIs, security questionnaires, DDQs, etc) into the platform, and RFPIO’s patented import functionality will break your lengthy questionnaires into question-answer pairs.

Step 2: Grow as you go

After you’ve consolidated content from your sales proposals and security questionnaires, start consolidating question-and-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) from other departments. If you’re using a spreadsheet, create a tab for each department. Within the tab, designate a column for “questions” and a column for “answers”. If a question needs multiple answers, you can create an additional column.

If you use an RFP automation platform, growing as you go is much more straightforward. Tags, collections, and custom fields keep your internal knowledge base organized. And the more questionnaires you respond to, the richer your Answer Library grows.

You can also easily build your internal knowledge base beyond proposals and questionnaires by adding question-answer pairs (Q&A pairs) not associated with any proposal.

As a Content Marketing Manager, I use RFPIO as a hub for sales enablement documents, including case studies, data sheets, one-pagers, blogs, and email templates. Because of RFPIO’s advanced search functionality, the sales team can easily find the information they need with a simple keyword search.

Step 3: Stay accurate and up-to-date

The key to an internal knowledge base is that it’s been approved and pre-vetted by the right people.

Before you add any new Q&A pair to your internal knowledge base, make sure it’s been reviewed and approved. If you’re using RFPIO, you can set up content moderation, so any new Q&A pair needs to go through an internal knowledge base “gatekeeper” before it can be added to the library.

The second part is staying accurate and up-to-date. If you’re using a non-automated solution like Google Sheets or Sharepoint, you can use your calendar or email scheduling tool to remind yourself to review and verify information.

With RFPIO, you can set custom review cycles on each Q&A pair. For example, if you set the review cycle for 6 months, the content owner will be sent an email reminder every 6 months, asking them to review the answer and verify it’s still up-to-date.

How often you should conduct reviews depends on the type of content. As a standard rule of thumb:

  • Corporate content should be reviewed once every 90 days
  • Product content should be reviewed every 6-12 months
  • Evergreen content should be reviewed every 12-24 monthshow often should you conduct a review cycle

Step 4: Open the floodgates

Once you’ve created your internal knowledge base, it’s time to give your team access.

If you’re using an AI-enabled internal knowledge base solution like RFPIO, you have a lot more control over user permissions, so you can feel confident your people only have access to the content with need.

And you can also make sure that knowledge is accessible from where people are already working. With RFPIO® LookUp, you can access your company knowledge from:

  • Slack,
  • Google Chrome,
  • Microsoft Teams,
  • Microsoft Outlook,
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint), and
  • Chromium Edge

Step 5: Train your team

People hate change. This axiom never rings truer when you’re trying to get people to adopt a new system that will make their lives easier.

Even if you’re simply sharing a link to a cloud-based spreadsheet or storage system, you still need to train your team on how to use it.

Here are a few best practices to get your team up and running with your internal knowledge base:

  • Schedule training. More training than you think necessary. Once to show people how to use the system. And then again after 3 days, 3 weeks, and 3 months.
  • Share information. Create how-to guides for using the platform and share them with your team. And then share them again. And again.
  • Learn from your peers. Luckily, you’re not the first person to ever implement an internal knowledge base. Learn from how other high-performing teams about how they set up their internal knowledge base:
    • Read how the Microsoft team uses Microsoft Teams to make company knowledge widely available
    • Read or Watch how Illuminate Education made their internal knowledge base available from Slack
    • See how Genpact made company knowledge available from Microsoft PowerPoint

Step 6: Conduct Regular Audits

A healthy knowledge base needs regular updates.

For content audit best practices, head over to our blog: Clean up your RFP answer library in 3 steps.

Get started building your internal knowledge base

Internal knowledge bases are perfect for companies looking to easily locate resources efficiently and securely. Learn more about how RFPIO® LookUp can help you create an internal knowledge base.

Or, if you’re ready to see LookUp in action, schedule a customized demo.

Knowledge management best practices

Knowledge management best practices

Albert Einstein said, “The pursuit of knowledge is more valuable than its possession.” With all due respect to Einstein, phooey. At least in terms of knowledge management as we know it today. To capture data and information, impart it with knowledge, and derive wisdom is the “quantum theory” of doing business these days: It’s the fabric of systems and processes behind every data-driven decision, from sales to content strategy to product development.

Underlying the somewhat mystical element of how it all comes together to make every company unique is a knowledge management system, the development and implementation of which can be overwhelming. Where do you start? What’s the best fit for your company? How do you manage change? How will end users react? And, of course, the Big Bang whopper: Will it work?

I’ll answer the last one first: Yes. As far as the other concerns, these knowledge management best practices will help. It’s important to always remember that the reason you need effective knowledge management is to develop your organization’s single source of truth. It’s the only way to be sure that everyone in the organization is always presenting the right information and telling the same story.

Knowledge management best practices

1. Determine the right fit for your company

There are two popular solutions common to knowledge management: corporate wikis and internal knowledge bases.

Corporate wikis are a bit like the wild west. Anyone can add, delete, or edit content. They’re dynamite for increasing employee engagement but lacking in reliability and measurement. If you just want to build a searchable warehouse and have confidence in all your contributors, then corporate wikis may be all that you need.

Internal knowledge bases are dynamic content repositories built on software with knowledge management processes, collaboration tools, and a user experience baked in. They’re designed to capture, curate, and share knowledge efficiently and effectively. One of the biggest differences between them and wikis is that content creation and editing is reserved for specialists who can be trusted. They also function within the parameters of a content strategy, which can be as fluid as necessary for organizations to remain agile and nimble.

To learn more about both options and why we recommend internal knowledge bases, check out “Corporate wiki vs internal knowledge base: Which is better?”

2. Basic is better

One of the reasons we recommend internal knowledge bases is because the user experience should be built to streamline the complexities that tend to result in failed knowledge management initiatives. Application developers should be automating processes of capturing, curating, and sharing knowledge while adding features that actually improve the daily workflow for end users. In other words, the application helps them be more productive or more effective or more efficient. Or, best of all, all three!

Keep the “basic is better” mantra in mind while rolling out a knowledge management system too. Prioritize departments in need and introduce the system to one department at a time. Gradually expand as you dial in training, word of mouth circulates about how great the system is, and you have success stories to share with new departments and executive sponsors.

3. Measure improvements

The functional value of knowledge management will rapidly become apparent to end users in how they’re able to execute their responsibilities. They’ll be able to build better proposals faster, respond to prospects and customers with greater accuracy in near real time, and gain contextual insight into all the content relevant to their role.

The strategic value of knowledge management is that you’re able to show the value of the system to your leadership team in such a way that they can trust your reporting accuracy. Numbers don’t lie, but you need measurement capabilities to get the numbers. Plus, it makes it easier to measure ROI. You have to communicate the value of your single source of truth.

Internal knowledge base software easily allows you to measure success post-implementation. I’ll call out three of my favorite RFPIO reports that help illustrate its strategic value:

  • Answer Library Insights Report: This dashboard connects you to insights on your Answer Library, including content moderation and usage, content owners, and content moderators.
  • Answer Library Timeline: More of a tool than a report, this allows you to proactively set SME schedules so content auditing responsibilities are parsed out manageably instead of piling on hundreds of questions at the end of the year. From a reporting standpoint, it shows leadership how SME time is being used more efficiently.
  • Answer Library Search Terms Report: Which terms are end users searching but receiving zero results for? This report delivers instant insight into which content you need to develop to meet user—and ultimately prospect and customer—needs.

Schedule monthly Answer Library health reports with team leaders. Roll those up into quarterly reports to show the value of your knowledge management solution to your c-suite.

4. Make the knowledge diverse

If knowledge is not accessible and usable at scale, then it’s probably not worth managing. Sales teams need content to answer tough prospect questions in near real time and build personalized presentations. Proposal teams need on-demand knowledge to answer questionnaires and build engaging proposals. Support teams need access to knowledge from wherever they’re working without toggling between applications to improve the customer experience.

All of this can only happen with open access to the knowledge management system. That’s why RFPIO provides unlimited user licenses, so everyone who can benefit from knowledge can also access knowledge. Technical, product development, sales, marketing, legal, security…all of this content has value and will strengthen your knowledge management. The right system will help you restrict access to sensitive content that may include private, confidential, or proprietary information.

Sorry, Albert, I meant no offense

Back to Einstein. In all fairness, knowledge management systems didn’t exist in his day. We can do a lot more with knowledge than what was possible 80 years ago (we can actually do a lot more with knowledge than we could one year ago), so I meant no disrespect by my opening “phooey.” Perhaps another Einstein quote suits knowledge management best practices more aptly: “Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

To learn more about how to apply knowledge management best practices in your organization with the help of RFPIO, schedule a demo today! Check out my on-demand webinar for tips on Building a Solid Content Foundation.

How to build a business case for a full-time RFP content manager

How to build a business case for a full-time RFP content manager

Like trying to navigate the Suez Canal in high winds and poor visibility, you can manage a proposal program without an RFP content manager, but is it really worth the risk? Without one, eventually your response management process–and revenue stream–will get clogged by subpar content.

An RFP content manager owns the comprehensive content management strategy for your organization’s proposal development. The person in this role will interface with subject matter experts (SMEs) and other key response stakeholders (e.g., proposal managers, sales managers, support managers, etc.), remove redundancy in your Answer Library, ensure all content is clean and proposal-ready, and report monthly to the executive team to help demonstrate their value.

Even though it’s fairly obvious that there’s so much an RFP content manager can do for an organization, it can still be frustratingly difficult to justify the need for one with upper management. Hopefully, some of the information in this article will help you change mindsets from a “nice-to-have” approach to a “have-to-have” business imperative.

The Biggest Benefit

Your proposal team can stop splitting their time—already a scarce resource—between trying to respond to proposals AND managing content. When this shared-responsibility approach is attempted, everyone’s attention is fractured, and as soon a new proposal comes in the door, content management screeches to a halt. Proposal always takes precedence over content in a shared-responsibility scenario. Eventually, trust in content will be lost (as well as the bid), leading to resentment between teams. Imagine the finger-pointing if the Ever Given had two captains at the wheel when it went sideways.

Content is a pain point for everyone involved in a proposal. Managing the tag structure alone is a full-time job. With a full-time RFP content manager in place, you have a designated individual whose primary responsibility is to convert content from a pain point to a competitive differentiator. It also frees up the proposal team to respond to proposals as they come through the door. It will be the RFP content manager’s responsibility to interface with the proposal team in real-time to prioritize incoming Q&A pairs.

Business Case: The Numbers

The reason that RFP content managers are surrounded by a “nice-to-have” aura is because upper management doesn’t have a clear picture of the opportunity. There are many ways to surface the value that an RFP content manager will bring to your organization.

Numbers are hard to argue, even for the most budget-conscious CFO. A successful RFP content manager will enable all teams that develop client-facing proposals with “clean content,” which saved Microsoft an estimated $2.4 million. Then there’s the company that doubled its RFP win rate after hiring a full-time RFP content manager and discovered that, “When the entire team has access to the best content available, everyone is better off.”

Also, dig into your RFP win rate and percentage of revenue numbers to estimate how many more RFPs can be completed with an RFP content manager on board. Something to consider…we found that organizations with dedicated proposal professionals–which you’ll have when your new RFP content manager relieves the proposal manager of content management duties—submitted almost 3.5x more responses in 2020 than those without. Other numbers from our study that are relevant to your business case include:

  • Companies with a designated RFP solution are 32% more likely to have strong content moderation procedures in place (i.e., they have the tools and time for content management).
  • 90% of companies with designated RFP software prioritize content moderation to build trust among proposal stakeholders.
  • The average RFP win rate in 2020 was 45% at an average deal size between US $1-3M (i.e. increase how many RFPs you respond to, increase your revenue).

Another key number is that a dedicated RFP content manager can reduce Q&A pairs in your Answer Library by as much as 40-50% by removing duplicates and combining similar responses. I once had a Q&A pair with 43 versions of the answer. Each had its own flavor and no one could decide which was correct. Eventually, I trimmed it down to six. This was part of a 9-month undertaking to pare down the whole Answer Library from 5,600 to 2,200 Q&A pairs! No way that happens on a part-time basis.

Ensuring Answer Library purity will help your proposal team complete RFx’s more quickly and more accurately. I have a client who refers to this as “productivity density”, meaning you can complete more proposals, more accurately, in the same amount of time. It will provide the same benefits to those teams building proactive proposals, such as sales and customer support.

Business Case: Being Respectful of Time

An essential value offered by RFP content managers is their ability to protect SMEs’ time. Your content manager won’t just work with your SMEs, they’ll build relationships with them and truly partner with them. They’re invested in content just as much as the SME is, and they will want to work together to accomplish content updates and cyclical reviews.

Say an SME takes 10 minutes to review a Q&A pair. If you send them the same question in 14 ways, then you’re asking for 140 minutes of their time. Trim that down to 2 or 3, and you’ll develop trust with SMEs in the content and in the proposal process.

There’s a numbers play here, too. It starts with identifying how much your SME’s time is worth down to the minute.

For example, say the average annual salary for an SME is $100K. That breaks down to about $0.38 per minute, or $3.80 per review of a Q&A pair (assuming it takes them 10 minutes to review). By reducing their review from 14 pairs to 3 pairs, you’re saving $41.80.

Now let’s extrapolate that savings out to annual production. After a content manager has trimmed redundant, outdated, and trivial content, you may well be left with 3,500 Q&A pairs instead of 6,200. That’s a 45% reduction. If you have six SMEs, they now only need to review about 600 Q&A pairs each, which means they can spend lots more time bringing value to your customers in their role.

This is also generating roughly $10,000 in savings for your company that can help you build a case for funding the content manager position.

Your numbers will vary, of course, depending on SME salary, average time reviewing Q&A pairs, and how many pairs an SME reviews annually. But this shows how you can hang tangible cost savings on a prospective full-time RFP content manager. Perform similar exercises to calculate cost savings for proposal managers, salespeople, customer support specialists, and any other personnel involved in generating proposals.

Business Case: Improve Content, Improve Proposals

Of course, we cannot forget the main reason you want an RFP content manager: content. They’ll be responsible for its proposal readiness 24/7/365. That includes:

  • Making sure tagging is accurate and redundancy eliminated.
  • Ensuring you don’t have client names or details in your content that could be submitted to a different client (a huge benefit to the entire organization when it comes to things like corporate and financial content).
  • Performing white-glove reviews for all content so that the proposal builders who use it (e.g., proposal, sales, and support teams) can do so in a self-service environment without hesitation.
  • Meet monthly with the proposal team to identify gaps and edits.
  • Identify content used most frequently to prioritize it for updates and reviews.

The positive byproducts of their content focus will spread across your organization. Onboarding will be easier because the right content will always be located where it’s supposed to be. Brand management will be easier to monitor and update. Upper management will have greater visibility into content and proposal management thanks to the monthly reports delivered by the RFP content manager. By the way, you don’t need one for every line of business, especially if you have a response management platform like RFPIO. The RFP content manager can do upfront legwork with multiple lines of business and then manage the processes of content development and auditing for all of them!

Remember, any proposal is only as good as its content. All the polish in the world cannot cover up inaccurate, poorly written, out-of-date, or irrelevant content. Respond to more RFPs, win more RFPs, earn more revenue. The fastest way to respond to more RFPs is by adding a full-time RFP content manager to keep the machine humming. Otherwise, your proposal development pipeline might end up being backed up into the Red Sea.

To learn more about how to build your case, check out my full webinar (below).

LevelUp interview series: The evolving role of content in the sales process

LevelUp interview series: The evolving role of content in the sales process

Is content important to your business?

If you asked a business leader this question just 10 years ago, their answer would likely be quite different than it is now.

In 2019, 41% of marketing budgets were spent on content alone, compared to just 23% in 2018, according to Hubspot’s State of Content Marketing 2020.

Bottom line: The role of content for B2B business has changed dramatically. And these changes have monumental implications for the sales process and beyond.

To dig deeper into what those changes mean, we invited sales and marketing leaders to share their experiences navigating the changing nature of content. During these conversations, we discussed what organizations can do to better leverage company knowledge and what we predict the future of content will bring.

Watch our video series below!

Asher Matthew, VP of Revenue at Demand Matrix


Tune into this 15-minute conversation to hear Asher’s take on all things content, including:

  • Why relevancy is so important to content creation,
  • How content can bridge the gap between sales and marketing teams, and
  • How content creators can make sure their content is buyer-centric

Connect with Asher on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Eric Wittlake, Senior Director of Category and Product Marketing at 6sense


Tune into this 15-minute conversation to hear Eric’s take on the role content plays in the sales process, including:

  • The importance of involving buyers in the selling process,
  • What personalization means for content (and what it doesn’t mean), and
  • How to enable sellers to better leverage content.

Connect with Eric on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Stephen Diorio, Executive Director at The Revenue Enablement Institute


Learn about the new “21st century commercial model” and why content is even more critical to the sales cycle than ever. During this 15-minute conversation, Stephen touches on:

  • Why lack of content is the #1 impediment to selling, and what to do about it,
  • The increasing importance of personalized content, and
  • How to get the most mileage out of your content and increase your “Return on Asset”

Connect with Stephen on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Matthew Volm, CEO and Co-Founder of Funnel IQ


Hear Matthew’s thoughts on good content creation in this 15-minute fireside chat, where he touches on:

  • How organizations can prepare themselves for content creation,
  • Finding the “why” of content, and
  • The three tenets of good ops

Connect with Matt on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

Scott Olsen and Gary Brashear of Olsen Group


Listen to Scott and Gary talk about how content can empower your sales teams. In this 15-minute conversation, they discuss:

  • How to improve sales-marketing alignment,
  • Why storytelling is important for sales, and
  • The role exclusivity plays in sales content

Connect with Scott and Gary on LinkedIn.

Read the full transcript here.

How to format a proposal

How to format a proposal

In today’s climate of information overload, it’s more important than ever to ensure your message gets across to your reader.

Proposals, and especially RFP responses, are selling documents that are intended to move the customer towards a decision in your favor. You need to use every available technique to ensure your proposal is read and understood, so that the document achieves its mission.

This post does not focus on actual proposal writing techniques. But, it does cover proposal writing formatting, which can significantly contribute to the impact your document makes. Here are some key proposal format techniques you should consider to gain the upper hand over your competitors, win over your reader…and capture more business as a result.

People don’t actually read proposal documents

In 2005, I commissioned a research study with a grad student from the University of Portsmouth in the UK to research and validate proposal document formatting techniques. The goal of the study was to find out what formatting techniques worked and which didn’t when people read and evaluated documents.

One main outcome of the research proved this: People don’t actually read documents in detail…they tend to skim them. So the key points must quite literally catch their eyes as they fly past.

When you realize that skimming is how people will consume your content, you will understand why following these proposal formatting do’s and don’ts can make a big difference.

14 proposal format do’s

Let’s get into some of the do’s of proposal document formatting, so you can make your messaging easier to grasp.

1. DO use serif fonts for paper-based communication.

While you may favor other font styles, consider switching to serif fonts which have been tested and proven as the easiest to read.

2. DO use sans-serif fonts for online communication.

The winner for on-screen readability, sans serif fonts is the best choice for digital content.

3. DO use a double-space between sentences.

Double-spacing makes your proposal document much easier to skim.

4. DO insert paragraphs every 3-5 sentences.

Always break up monolithic blocks of text, since lengthy paragraphs can overwhelm your reader.

5. DO use graphics/images with discretion.

Too many graphics or images make proposal documents look like picture books, and divert emphasis from the text. If you do use images, make sure they have relevance.

6. DO use graphical timelines to illustrate processes.

To bring your process to life within a proposal document, a graphical timeline can really help. Rather than talking about an implementation flow, show it instead.

7. DO use plenty of clear headings.

Use headings and subheadings in fonts of different sizes and colors to demarcate text and paragraphs.

8. DO use a clear table of contents.

A table of contents permits the user to understand the structure of the document and quickly locate the information they need.

9. DO use the client’s name in a 3:1 ratio.

Your client wants to feel that the proposal document is about them, written for them, and focused on their situation. Overuse of your company’s name makes the document appear self-centric. Especially in the executive summary, use the client’s name in a 3:1 ratio vs. your organization’s name.

10. DO learn how to use punctuation correctly.

If you aren’t the best at punctuation, find a reviewer that has a good grasp of grammar rules—especially commas and semicolons. When so used, they serve to insert “mini-pauses” in the document, increasing readability and reading velocity.

11. DO consider using a one-third/two-thirds layout.

Compelling testimonials and key metrics deserve the spotlight. Use a one-third margin layout for important text call-outs (aka “vignettes”) to draw the reader in.

12. DO use consistent formatting.

Many documents, especially those with multiple contributors like RFPs (request for proposals) and SOWs (statements of work), can suffer from abrupt font size or style changes. This is known as the “patchwork quilt” effect, and it does not give a favorable impression.

13. DO use your client’s logo.

Using your client’s logo in headers and footers is a great way to leverage design elements for personalization. A word of caution…use your client’s logo:

  • Only if you have permission to do so.
  • Only if you have ensured you are using the client’s current logo, in accordance with their corporate branding standards.
  • Only if you can have a crisp, non-pixelated high-resolution version.

14. DO use plenty of white space.

A dense, information-packed document can put off your reader. When in doubt, space your content out.

 benchmark-blog-report

The 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful in 2021

Read the report

12 proposal format don’ts

Now it’s time to explore the don’ts of proposal document formatting. Break these bad habits and you’ll increase the effectiveness of future proposals.

1. DON’T use fully-justified text.

Use justified left, ragged right. Irregular spacing between words slows down reading speed. This isn’t a novel—it’s a skimmable document.

2. DON’T use landscape orientation for text.

The human eye has to sweep too far, again, slowing down reading speed and reducing comprehension.

3. DON’T over-fancify the presentation.

Think very hard about using PowerPoint as a vehicle for written proposals or RFP responses. (This is prolific in consulting and creative agencies). Your stunning document may inadvertently make the evaluator’s job harder.

4. DON’T use twin or multiple columns.

Leave multiple columns to the NY Times. The eye has to perform too many sweeps, resulting in fatigue and loss of concentration.

5. DON’T write long sentences.

Comprehension of text rapidly decreases after 17-20 words, requiring your reader to re-read sentences to understand them. More often than not, they don’t bother to re-read and the information is not fully conveyed.

6. DON’T overuse bullet points.

This is a big one. The ideal number of rows in a bulleted list is three, with a maximum of five on any one page. When you get up to ten or more bullet points, the content tends to be scanned and skipped.

Your reader’s brain considers the list to be unimportant and moves on—exactly the reverse of the intended behavior!

7. DON’T overuse bold, underlining, and italics.

As with bullet points, font altering should happen sparingly to attract the reader’s eye to essential points. When font styles are overused, the reader’s brain dismisses them.

8. DON’T use intermingled red and green text.

In consideration of readers that may have color blindness, avoid getting creative with red and green text. Approximately 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women in the world are color blind, so it’s more common than you think.

9. DON’T use acronyms without defining them.

You may define an acronym early in the document, and consider that to be sufficient. But people often don’t read the whole document. To be safe, define the acronym during the first instance on every page where the acronym is used.

10. DON’T use hyperlinks in paper-based documents.

While hyperlinks can be effective within electronic proposal documents, links spelled out in paper documents only adds to user workload and removes immediacy of information transfer.

11. DON’T use internal references in documents too frequently.

This is where you say “See answer to question #5” when the user is on question #312. Using this technique may seem easier for you when you’re responding to hundreds of RFP questions, but you’re only increasing your reader’s workload and reducing the speed of evaluation.

12. DON’T use low-contrast font colors.

Light grey is the perfect “what not to use” example with fonts. Low-contrast font colors are harder to process, especially for older readers. Also, these fonts do not print or copy well.

When you format for a proposal, remember the goal—the proposal is intended for your prospect, not you. Make your reader’s job as easy as possible by using document formatting techniques that create a skimmable—and pleasant—reading experience.
When you execute well, your reader will pause and hear what you have to say. Then you’re that much closer to gaining the competitive edge you need to win new business.

Formatting any type of business query is easier with our response management platform. Schedule a demo to get started with RFPIO.

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

I recently hosted a webinar called Building a Solid Content Foundation about how to set up a content review workflow. Since then, it has occurred to me that there can be no content review without content governance.

This short article will provide some brief background on content governance, why it’s important, and how proposal automation and knowledge management software can help.

What is content governance?

Content governance is the framework and processes you use to create, store, and maintain your content. But before we dive too deep, let’s start with a bad joke and a Top Gun analogy…

What do you call it when an entire population is satisfied with its gubernatorial leadership? Content governance. Ha! I know, it’s terrible.

How is content governance different from content management and content strategy? I could just tell you, but that would be boring. You can find all sorts of places on the Internet that can give you the glossary version. We’re going into the Danger Zone.

We’ve been in a Top Gun mood around here. Anticipation around the release of Top Gun: Maverick is ramping up faster than that titular character’s need for speed. In a Top Gun analogy, content governance would actually be the U.S. Navy. Content strategy is “Top Gun,” or the Navy Fighter Weapons School (I hear it’s frowned upon to use Top Gun terminology while at the school). Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Content governance = U.S. Navy. This is the universe in which all organizational content exists, from its creation, storage, and access, to its moderation, and, ultimately, to its archival. All content is subject to the laws of the content governance universe.
  • Content strategy = Top Gun. There has to be a framework in place to create world-class content. Everything from rules of engagement to battle tactics to overcoming pushback must be taken into consideration when determining what to create when and for which targeted audience.
  • Content creators = Pilots. In case you’re wondering who the best is…well, it doesn’t really matter. Like the real Navy Fighter Weapons School, there is no room for ego. Within the parameters established under content governance in your content strategy and style guide (see below), content creators are free to do what’s necessary to connect with their audience.
  • Content management system (CMS) = Aircraft carrier and crew. It’s a team effort, and effective content cannot exist in a vacuum. Any successful content endeavor needs technology and subject matter expertise in its earpiece. You can think of the CMS as the execution phase of content governance, where theory is put into practice when buyer-facing content is created, reviewed, stored, and accessed
  • Style guide = F/A-18C/D Hornet (aka, the jet). Content governance only works when creators have guidelines to follow. They need a cockpit from where they can work their magic, otherwise they end up in a flat spin out to sea with content that is off-brand, off-message, and possibly off-putting to the buyer.

Why do you need content governance?

While content governance is often associated with marketing content, it’s time to think bigger, like sales content bigger. According to the April 26, 2021, Forrester blog, From Monolithic to Modular: Kicking Your Sales Content Engine into High Gear, “Because marketers produce more monolithic than modular content, 70% of sales reps spend between one and 14 hours every week customizing content for their buyers.”

Sales reps understand that their competitive advantage comes from personalizing content to customize a solution around buyers’ specific pain points. Releasing these content creators into the wild without any content governance is a recipe for disaster, in accuracy and efficiency.

4 benefits of content governance

I’m still adding to the list. Seriously, content governance is a huge benefit to all of my clients. Here are the top four:

  1. Better content: It’s always created with accurate information and undergoes peer review (none of us are adept at proofing our own work).
  2. Efficient workflows: When everyone knows their roles and content governance is being driven by technology, then the content runs through its lifecycle with less friction.
  3. Greater productivity: Automation, accurate content building blocks, and the democratization of content creation makes it easier for creators and reviewers to move faster.
  4. Improved outcomes: Breaking down monolithic content into buyer-focused customized content improves the overall buying and customer experiences.

How to create a content governance workflow

As is the case with most new process implementations, the pain is frontloaded. Trust me, the long-term payoff for proposal managers, sales representatives, content editors, subject matter experts, and all content creators is well worth it.

Conduct a content audit
You need to rein in out-of-bounds content first. Get your house in order by ditching redundant, outdated, trivial (deal- or client-specific), and off-brand content.

Identify content gaps
Now that the content bin has been cleaned out, you should have full visibility into what you need. Break it down by buyer need, not product need. According to the December 16, 2020, Forrester blog, Happy B2B “Contentukkah”: Spinning the Editorial Dreidel, “We encourage content creators to join forces and push back on the company’s tendency to sing the praises of its portfolio when it should be waxing poetic about its audiences’ challenges.”

Create a style guide
Specify the writing and graphic standards for content. You can go high level and just cover fonts and color palettes, or you can get down to a level of detail where you provide standards for individual content types (e.g., videos, presentations, data sheets, blog articles, etc.). Also, consider creating templates to make it easier to create that content that always has to be personalized according to your style guide.

Implement a CMS
Unless you want to go the manual route of spreadsheets and checklists, you’ll need a CMS for automation, auditing, and reporting.

How can proposal automation and knowledge management help with content governance?

Creating content on the fly—which is the preferred method for sales representatives creating content—can be challenging in a content governance environment rife with bottleneck risk. Manual processes are the biggest culprit, but an ill-fitting CMS can be just as dangerous.

Proposal automation and knowledge management software such as RFPIO presents a huge advantage to sales teams and other content creators because it breaks content down to its lowest common denominator: questions and answers. These are the building blocks of all content. When these accurate, curated questions and answers are accessible from anywhere, then content can be created from anywhere.

Beyond the advantage of creating content within your content governance model, proposal automation and knowledge management helps in three primary areas:

  1. Let the system drive your workflow. Assign content owners, establish content moderation teams, and set up content review cycles from an intuitive dashboard.
  2. Govern from a single, closed-loop system. Ditch the spreadsheets, checklists, and risk of human error. Once the workflow is established, you have an audit trail for every entry in your Answer Library. You can also keep all collaboration in the system so that even emails to external collaborators can be monitored within a project.
  3. Robust reporting out of the box. Being able to monitor the health and hygiene of your Answer Library is essential to adhering to content governance. Monthly and quarterly reporting to leadership gives them a window into the value of content governance, its efficiencies, and its ability to guide content creators to better sales outcomes.

Ultimately, content governance gets you that single source of truth. RFPIO makes sure you can provide the right content (sales, marketing, corporate, financial, solutions, etc.) to the entire organization.

If you’re interested in having RFPIO as your wingman, schedule a demo today!

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