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How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

Burnout is just one of those icky feelings to experience as a professional. You feel stressed, tired, and irritable—you’re missing […]


How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

How to protect your RFP response team from burnout

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

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

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

The cause of burnout with RFP response teams

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

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

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

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

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

Prevent your RFP response team from burning out

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

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

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

Notice behavioral cues

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

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

Pay attention to workloads

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

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

Reward team players

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

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

Provide educational resources

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

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

benefits of rfp software
Define your RFP response process

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

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

Make collaboration easier

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

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

Save time with technology

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

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

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

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

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

Few people know this, but the working title for “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens was actually “A Tale of Two Teams.” The opening line was supposed to be: “It was the best of times (with RFPIO), it was the worst of times (without RFPIO), it was the age of wisdom (for sales teams supported by RFPIO-powered proposal teams)…” and so on. Alas, Dickens’ publisher suggested changing from “Teams” to “Cities” at the last minute. True story.

What I believe to be Dickens’ original intent was to point out that there’s a huge disconnect between what the optimal proposal team structure should be and the reality of resources available. The idea of having a team of dedicated capture specialists, writers, and SMEs that exist to support proposals is more myth than reality.

If you’re a proposal team of one or two—or none if proposal responsibilities fall under a duty bullet point in your sales or marketing leadership job description—then how can you do more with less?

More specifically, how can you support sales as if you had a roster full of star proposal free agents responsible for RFP capture, contract management, proposal production and management, subject matter expertise, pricing, and writing?

In “A Tale of Two Teams,” your team without RFPIO spends time:

  • Chasing down subject matter experts (SMEs) for responses
  • Badgering with constant reminders
  • Manually segmenting large RFP documents
  • Searching for previous content
  • Gathering RFP requirements
  • Tracking down supporting documentation

Your small team with RFPIO spends time:

  • Aligning with sales and marketing on positioning
  • Improving formatting and design templates
  • Developing persuasive language
  • Defining strategy
  • Gathering more information and context on clients, products, and previous conversations
  • Building graphics and visual aids
  • Personalizing messaging
  • Managing content

With RFPIO, your team focuses on developing more effective proposals while sales spends more time on revenue-generating activities. Using the features described below, I’ve worked with small proposal teams that can answer at least 40% of a proposal with auto-response capabilities, gain back 20% more time overall, and deliver proposals 1.4 days ahead of deadline, on average.

Set up your project dashboard immediately

When an RFP takes flight, you don’t want it flying blind into a fog bank with no instrument rating. Visualize early-stage projects with Analytics for better resource planning and forecasting. Light up your dashboard with insight into:

  • How many sections are there?
  • How many questions need answers?
  • How many authors will you need?
  • Answers to questions like these help make a project feel “real.” You can get a toehold and see what progress is going to look like.

Make an initial pass at the questions using a combination of auto-response and intelligent search. Then go back and refine content. Leave questions marked as unanswered so sales or SMEs can review and confirm, but start tracking sections you’ve started. Even if the proposal team is not running the show—because we all know that sales is—you can gain a sense of control by using the Analytics that RFPIO provides.

Keep the answer library fresh

I’ve said it before and I will probably never stop not-saying it, there’s never any real great time to organize content because we are all always busy. But to ensure that auto-responding and intelligent search zero in on only the most relevant targets, library management is a must. We don’t have a dedicated manager, so we lean heavily on Tags.

As you work on projects, start importing content. Start standardizing it, adding tags, and defining owners as it’s imported. We have a standard set of tags—we block users from adding tags to try to limit tag sprawl—that we use to classify content as it’s imported for each project. This makes it easier for me when I’m wearing my library manager hat to update content when I have the time (I aim for once a week). We also use Collections and Custom Fields capabilities to help with library management.

Let the system be your cat-herding ranch hand

I use the phrase “herding cats” too often, but it’s a shared feeling among proposal managers. System-generated notifications help with cat herding because you don’t have to be the one cracking the whip all the time. Let the system chase them down. In RFPIO, system-generated notifications chase sales, SMEs, or whomever down automatically without me having to do anything.

Often, the reason content hasn’t been submitted or reviewed is because the owner simply forgot to click the blue “Submit” button. In other words, they might not even know that they’re still on the hook for the content because they believe they already submitted it! System reminders from a non-judgmental AI help preserve my relationships with colleagues. I don’t want them thinking that they sent content and I lost it, doubling up their work. This way, the system says that if it’s not in RFPIO, then it didn’t happen!

@-mentions improve #collaboration

RFPIO isn’t social media, but it does incorporate a standard social media feature to streamline collaboration: @-mentions. @-mentions allow SMEs, sales, and senior management to be notified via their communication platform of choice (e.g., email, Slack, Microsoft Teams) and then reply in-line without having to log into RFPIO, saving time and making it more likely that you’ll get an answer.

This is especially valuable when you need input from multiple contributors. With @-mentions, you keep the conversation going without constantly having to reset for each contributor. The challenge here is to get non-RFP team members to use @-mention. They can be slow to adopt.

I love flags!

Color-coded flagging may sound simple, but it’s one of my favorite features of RFPIO. I customize flags to help visualize strategic content. They help us quickly identify key things that need to happen for an RFP, and then make it easier to navigate those items across sections. Perhaps the best part is that there’s a lot of satisfaction in watching those flags disappear as items are completed. One step closer to project completion!

4 ways small proposal teams can support sales

  1. Make a habit of getting every RFP/Security Questionnaire/RFI into RFPIO immediately (light up that dashboard!).
  2. Assign a team member to be the “first-pass” SME before assigning outside authors and reviewers (utilize auto-response and intelligent search).
  3. Assign an owner to each piece of content and enable regular reviews. The more you can organize at the outset, the less time you have to spend squeezing an SME for details on major changes to a new product you just learned about before they go on vacation.
  4. Dedicate someone (maybe it’s you, lucky!) who engages with sales and SMEs on a regular basis. The consistency will help build relationships and trust with go-to collaborators. Proper care and feeding of SMEs will keep your projects running smoothly.

Add more value to sales and the organization as a whole

RFPIO has converted our organization from reactive to proactive when it comes to sales support and RFP responses. A short anecdote…

During a week in which we had three RFPs in-flight, one of which was a three-day turnaround, two sales management team members and our two-member proposal team were able to spend an hour on the phone to discuss some critical changes to the way we wanted to communicate our overall organizational capabilities based on trends we were seeing in the marketplace. There is no way that conversation would have happened if we hadn’t already been ahead of schedule thanks to RFPIO.

If empowering your proposal team to do more with less is a priority, then check out my webinar below for more details on how we use RFPIO. Ready to add some girth to your small team with RFPIO? Schedule a demo today!

Why you need a growth mindset and more time to learn

Why you need a growth mindset and more time to learn

Whether your purview is proposals, products, relationships, or processes, business life cycles continue to accelerate at a breakneck pace. It’s extremely exciting. Heightened levels of technology, innovation and disruption create new markets and revenue opportunities seemingly out of nowhere. Alas, in all of our hustle and bustle to keep up, it’s all too easy to sideline time for personal growth. Unfortunately, if we continue to do so, we risk losing what makes us all so valuable as workers, executives and entrepreneurs: ourselves.

According to a survey conducted by Professor Boris Groysberg of Harvard Business School, many executives estimate that 20% of their skills become obsolete annually. That estimate is twice what it was ten years ago. Thanks a lot, technology. And email. And meetings. And Zoom. And ends of quarters. And my underlings. And my overlings. And my family. And Hugo (my dog). Work and life consume time faster than we think. Sometimes our drive to succeed can cause us to forget to pull over for gas. We need to make time for rest… and growth.

You grow some. You learn some.

I first heard of two types of mindsets by reading psychologist Carol Dweck. Permit me to oversimplify by saying that a fixed mindset is afraid of making mistakes, which results in shying away from challenges and new experiences. A growth mindset embraces mistakes and failure as the gateway to learning and discovery. It makes learning, not perfection, the goal.

Take the microsite of a marketing campaign, for example. A fixed mindset wants to build the site with X amount of pages, Y functionality, and Z videos, graphics, and interactivity. Until the site checks every item on the XYZ list–which was likely composed by disparate stakeholders concerned only with how their product is presented–then developers will continue to try to hit an unrealistic target. This binary thinking that seeks black and white answers in a grey world hampers growth, sabotages innovation, and stifles creativity.

A growth mindset goes live with an MVP: minimum viable product. Get the basic design up and running, then let marketing do its work. Analyze heat maps. See where people are clicking and where they’re getting stuck. Dig into site visits and behavior to find areas to optimize. Let sales work its magic. Invite customers to give their input. Keep what works. Rejigger what doesn’t, or rethink whether you need it at all. Build and learn and you’ll find that the website looks and performs much different than the original XYZ design. It also provides flexibility to solve those disparity challenges that submarined the fixed mindset XYZ approach.

Be afraid of fear

Step one: eliminate fear. Failure is nothing to be afraid of. Ask Michael Jordan. He said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

A great place to start is by asking why. Pause and ask questions before making a decision. Before leaping to a “yes/no,” “good/bad,” or “right/wrong” answer, seek more information. Ask why a lot. Why were decisions made? Why did we lose? Why did we win? Why are we at this juncture? Why is this relevant now? Why am I still giving you examples of “why” questions? (Just checking to see if you’re still reading.)

Your ultimate goal is to be eager to fail because that’s an opportunity to learn. To get there, you only need one thing: time. Not as easy as it sounds.

Time management is a huge part of inhabiting the growth mindset. Build time in your schedule for learning. If you can’t do it every day, then do it every week. Make sure every direct report does the same. Learning time is too easy to sacrifice. No, it’s not client facing. No, it’s not problem solving. No, it’s not filling out your TPS reports. It’s more important than all of those because of math (everything always boils down to math). If 20% of skills become obsolete every year, then in five years without learning, what skills are left? Failure doesn’t sound so scary now, right?

You cannot squeeze creativity out of people. Creativity needs space. Virtual environments can be tough because we’re cramming more into the day and not taking the time to walk with colleagues for coffee or lunch or…walks. You need rest and breathing space built into the day and its deadlines.

Fear’s gone. Now what?

Feed the mindset. If learning and growth are not encouraged, then they might as well be prohibited. Every organization needs to set its own growth mindset parameters. For some, it may involve formal accreditation and advancement. “We’ll pay for you to get your MBA so you can become a VP.” In others, it may involve encouragement by leadership to add DNB (do not block) into your schedule. Find conferences, courses, podcasts, and whatever and block off time to do it. Don’t do yourself the disservice of multi-tasking while doing it.

At RFPIO, we take the growth mindset to heart. RFPIO is a place to manage company knowledge, after all. Why not manage your growth mindset knowledge on it? It’s a place where you can learn about the company, the story, the product, the mission, and the solutions. It breaks down silos between individuals, teams, and departments, by democratizing knowledge across organizations—making it easy to sharpen your skills and expand your knowledge.

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to keep growing, then I also recommend joining our user conference this year. It’s January 27-28. It’s virtual. It’s your chance to Realize Imagine Scale Expand and Unlock Potential (RISE UP). And it’s going to be fantastic.

Unlocking your team’s potential is affording them the freedom to learn and fail. If we don’t fail, then we’re not trying hard enough. It takes trust and acceptance in learning. There’s more than one way to do things. Identify where you’re going and educate yourself how to get there. Most importantly, make time for what matters most.

Sometimes it’s work. Sometimes it’s family. Sometimes it’s peace. Right now it’s Hugo. Time for a walk.

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

Friction can be a good thing. With the right amount, sales and pre-sales teams share productive exchanges, respectful pushback during disagreements, and shared admiration for jobs well done on all sides.

Too much, and those relationships can quickly flare up with resentment or burn out in an unwinnable blame game (“It’s pre-sales fault for losing the RFP!”). Too little, and silos develop, making collaboration difficult and agility nearly impossible (“It’s sales’ fault for not not giving us what we need to create a winning proposal!”).

Sound familiar? It’s OK. Sometimes when the kids are bickering in the back seat you have to follow through with your threat to pull the car over right this instant. Breathe. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Namaste. Let’s move on.

How do you maintain that ideal level of friction? Glad you asked. I have five steps to help.

Before you skip ahead, remember that everyone in your organization is always working toward the same goal: Win conversions based on responses, whether they be reactive requests for proposals (RFPs) or proactive proposals designed to solve specific prospect or customer problems.

When your organization commits to the unified goal to win through proposals, then it’s just a matter of creating the best game plan to do so.

Step 1: Add transparency to RFP roles and responsibilities

Attempting to collaborate without transparency is a bit like playing the card game “Go Fish”: One person knows what they want, but they’re not sure where to get it. You can avoid this first by documenting all RFP processes. If you have a proposal manager or, better yet, a dedicated proposal team, then you can ask them for this information.

As soon as assignments are delegated to sales and pre-sales teams, then make sure each team is aware of the roles for both teams. You’ll also want to include responsibilities that don’t fall under either sales or pre-sales.

For example, if your responses consistently rely on polished product marketing documentation, then your resource is likely someone in the marketing department. Calling this information out will help avoid unnecessary blaming from either team when they know it’s neither of their faults.

If you use RFP software, then your platform can help promote transparency. I cannot speak for other solutions, but with RFPIO you can:

  • Give every sales rep and pre-sales person access to the project dashboard.
  • Assign deliverables to respective teams to avoid confusion over who is responsible for what.
  • Provide a project timeline so both teams can keep up with RFP progress.
  • Monitor all deliverables to help identify bottlenecks.
  • Gather and contain all communication related to the RFP, including emails, Slack, Salesforce/CRM communications, as well as any alerts or messages initiated from RFPIO.
  • Store all questions, answers, and RFP content for unified knowledge management across every team working the RFP.

Step 2: Write the executive summary

Sales must lead the way. There’s no avoiding it. Sales is responsible for the customer relationship. Without their unique insight, pre-sales is flying blind on the RFP. If sales wants to cross the finish line with a win, then it has to guide pre-sales in the right direction. Back at the starting line, that means writing the RFP’s executive summary.

Write the executive summary first to help set the tone for the RFP. Again, RFP software can help here. After you write the executive summary, your RFP software can make an automated first pass at answering all of the questions based on the content in your Answer Library. From there, pre-sales will be able to review the answers under the direction that sales established in the executive summary. Sweet, fancy efficiency…

As the owner of the customer relationship, the salesperson should actually demand to write the executive summary. It explains the entirety of the RFP and sets up the narrative for the customer journey. If you have a proposal team, then sales can at the very least outline the executive summary so the proposal team can flesh it out and add polish.

“Sales owning the executive summary is extremely important, because it provides context and color into how the company will position itself throughout the RFP. From there, PreSales can bring insight into where the product or platform may fall short, and discuss a strategy on how to approach the response.”
James Kaikis, Co-Founder at PreSales Collective

Step 3: Schedule a kick-off call

If you have a proposal team and documented proposal processes, then a kick-off meeting for RFPs may already exist. If so, make sure sales and pre-sales are invited. If not, then take the initiative to include a kick-off meeting in your RFP response process.

Three of the main reasons you need this touchpoint are to:

  • Give all parties involved a chance to set expectations and clarify roles.
  • Exchange unique insights about the prospect, your relationship history, and how to differentiate your response from competitors.
  • Insert a Go/No-Go evaluation in your RFP response process to solidify team commitment to responding to a winnable RFP.

Step 4: Play an active role in responding to the RFP

Sales teams sometimes make the mistake of washing their hands of an RFP as soon as they hand it off to pre-sales or proposal teams. From the standpoint of the customer relationship and the reasoning behind the RFP, the sales team is the SME! Just as SMEs for product, SLAs, support, legal, pricing, etc. are expected to contribute their expertise to a response, so too should sales be expected to contribute their expertise about the customer.

Sales-related answers and content can also be managed in the answer library of your RFP software. That way sales can focus on the review process and personalizing content after the automated first pass takes place.

Step 5: Reflect on the results, win or lose

When you hear back from the issuer, come together as a team to reflect on how the RFP landed — win or lose. If you lose, talk about what you could have done better. If you won, talk about what you did well.

This win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. It also gives you an opportunity to heap some well-deserved praise where it’s due. Sales knows that it cannot survive without pre-sales. Sometimes pre-sales likes to be reminded. There’s no better time to do so than after a win, when you can call out the outstanding job that pre-sales did in composing the response.

You can also use this opportunity to make sure what you learned in the finished RFP is carried over to the next RFP. Win or lose, factoring in what worked and what didn’t will make it easier to determine the next Go/No-Go decision.

Good collaboration = good content

Winning proposals resonate with good content. And behind every piece of good content is the collaboration that made it happen. The better the collaboration between sales and pre-sales, the better your proposal will be.

In our new proposal management Benchmark Report, we found that 75% of organizations plan on responding to more RFPs in 2021 than they did in 2020. The only way that can happen is if sales and pre-sales are collaborating at a healthy rate of friction.

If your sales and pre-sales teams need a collaboration tool to kickstart that healthy friction, then schedule a demo today!

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

Few people know this, but the working title for “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens was actually “A Tale of Two Teams.” The opening line was supposed to be: “It was the best of times (with RFPIO), it was the worst of times (without RFPIO), it was the age of wisdom (for sales teams supported by RFPIO-powered proposal teams)…” and so on. Alas, Dickens’ publisher suggested changing from “Teams” to “Cities” at the last minute. True story.

What I believe to be Dickens’ original intent was to point out that there’s a huge disconnect between what the optimal proposal team structure should be and the reality of resources available. The idea of having a team of dedicated capture specialists, writers, and SMEs that exist to support proposals is more myth than reality.

If you’re a proposal team of one or two—or none if proposal responsibilities fall under a duty bullet point in your sales or marketing leadership job description—then how can you do more with less?

More specifically, how can you support sales as if you had a roster full of star proposal free agents responsible for RFP capture, contract management, proposal production and management, subject matter expertise, pricing, and writing?

In “A Tale of Two Teams,” your team without RFPIO spends time:

  • Chasing down subject matter experts (SMEs) for responses
  • Badgering with constant reminders
  • Manually segmenting large RFP documents
  • Searching for previous content
  • Gathering RFP requirements
  • Tracking down supporting documentation

Your small team with RFPIO spends time:

  • Aligning with sales and marketing on positioning
  • Improving formatting and design templates
  • Developing persuasive language
  • Defining strategy
  • Gathering more information and context on clients, products, and previous conversations
  • Building graphics and visual aids
  • Personalizing messaging
  • Managing content

With RFPIO, your team focuses on developing more effective proposals while sales spends more time on revenue-generating activities. Using the features described below, I’ve worked with small proposal teams that can answer at least 40% of a proposal with auto-response capabilities, gain back 20% more time overall, and deliver proposals 1.4 days ahead of deadline, on average.

Set up your project dashboard immediately

When an RFP takes flight, you don’t want it flying blind into a fog bank with no instrument rating. Visualize early-stage projects with Analytics for better resource planning and forecasting. Light up your dashboard with insight into:

  • How many sections are there?
  • How many questions need answers?
  • How many authors will you need?
  • Answers to questions like these help make a project feel “real.” You can get a toehold and see what progress is going to look like.

Make an initial pass at the questions using a combination of auto-response and intelligent search. Then go back and refine content. Leave questions marked as unanswered so sales or SMEs can review and confirm, but start tracking sections you’ve started. Even if the proposal team is not running the show—because we all know that sales is—you can gain a sense of control by using the Analytics that RFPIO provides.

Keep the answer library fresh

I’ve said it before and I will probably never stop not-saying it, there’s never any real great time to organize content because we are all always busy. But to ensure that auto-responding and intelligent search zero in on only the most relevant targets, library management is a must. We don’t have a dedicated manager, so we lean heavily on Tags.

As you work on projects, start importing content. Start standardizing it, adding tags, and defining owners as it’s imported. We have a standard set of tags—we block users from adding tags to try to limit tag sprawl—that we use to classify content as it’s imported for each project. This makes it easier for me when I’m wearing my library manager hat to update content when I have the time (I aim for once a week). We also use Collections and Custom Fields capabilities to help with library management.

Let the system be your cat-herding ranch hand

I use the phrase “herding cats” too often, but it’s a shared feeling among proposal managers. System-generated notifications help with cat herding because you don’t have to be the one cracking the whip all the time. Let the system chase them down. In RFPIO, system-generated notifications chase sales, SMEs, or whomever down automatically without me having to do anything.

Often, the reason content hasn’t been submitted or reviewed is because the owner simply forgot to click the blue “Submit” button. In other words, they might not even know that they’re still on the hook for the content because they believe they already submitted it! System reminders from a non-judgmental AI help preserve my relationships with colleagues. I don’t want them thinking that they sent content and I lost it, doubling up their work. This way, the system says that if it’s not in RFPIO, then it didn’t happen!

@-mentions improve #collaboration

RFPIO isn’t social media, but it does incorporate a standard social media feature to streamline collaboration: @-mentions. @-mentions allow SMEs, sales, and senior management to be notified via their communication platform of choice (e.g., email, Slack, Microsoft Teams) and then reply in-line without having to log into RFPIO, saving time and making it more likely that you’ll get an answer.

This is especially valuable when you need input from multiple contributors. With @-mentions, you keep the conversation going without constantly having to reset for each contributor. The challenge here is to get non-RFP team members to use @-mention. They can be slow to adopt.

I love flags!

Color-coded flagging may sound simple, but it’s one of my favorite features of RFPIO. I customize flags to help visualize strategic content. They help us quickly identify key things that need to happen for an RFP, and then make it easier to navigate those items across sections. Perhaps the best part is that there’s a lot of satisfaction in watching those flags disappear as items are completed. One step closer to project completion!

4 ways small proposal teams can support sales

  1. Make a habit of getting every RFP/Security Questionnaire/RFI into RFPIO immediately (light up that dashboard!).
  2. Assign a team member to be the “first-pass” SME before assigning outside authors and reviewers (utilize auto-response and intelligent search).
  3. Assign an owner to each piece of content and enable regular reviews. The more you can organize at the outset, the less time you have to spend squeezing an SME for details on major changes to a new product you just learned about before they go on vacation.
  4. Dedicate someone (maybe it’s you, lucky!) who engages with sales and SMEs on a regular basis. The consistency will help build relationships and trust with go-to collaborators. Proper care and feeding of SMEs will keep your projects running smoothly.

Add more value to sales and the organization as a whole

RFPIO has converted our organization from reactive to proactive when it comes to sales support and RFP responses. A short anecdote…

During a week in which we had three RFPs in-flight, one of which was a three-day turnaround, two sales management team members and our two-member proposal team were able to spend an hour on the phone to discuss some critical changes to the way we wanted to communicate our overall organizational capabilities based on trends we were seeing in the marketplace. There is no way that conversation would have happened if we hadn’t already been ahead of schedule thanks to RFPIO.

If empowering your proposal team to do more with less is a priority, then check out my webinar below for more details on how we use RFPIO. Ready to add some girth to your small team with RFPIO? Schedule a demo today!

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

How small proposal teams can provide enterprise-level support to sales

Few people know this, but the working title for “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens was actually “A Tale of Two Teams.” The opening line was supposed to be: “It was the best of times (with RFPIO), it was the worst of times (without RFPIO), it was the age of wisdom (for sales teams supported by RFPIO-powered proposal teams)…” and so on. Alas, Dickens’ publisher suggested changing from “Teams” to “Cities” at the last minute. True story.

What I believe to be Dickens’ original intent was to point out that there’s a huge disconnect between what the optimal proposal team structure should be and the reality of resources available. The idea of having a team of dedicated capture specialists, writers, and SMEs that exist to support proposals is more myth than reality.

If you’re a proposal team of one or two—or none if proposal responsibilities fall under a duty bullet point in your sales or marketing leadership job description—then how can you do more with less?

More specifically, how can you support sales as if you had a roster full of star proposal free agents responsible for RFP capture, contract management, proposal production and management, subject matter expertise, pricing, and writing?

In “A Tale of Two Teams,” your team without RFPIO spends time:

  • Chasing down subject matter experts (SMEs) for responses
  • Badgering with constant reminders
  • Manually segmenting large RFP documents
  • Searching for previous content
  • Gathering RFP requirements
  • Tracking down supporting documentation

Your small team with RFPIO spends time:

  • Aligning with sales and marketing on positioning
  • Improving formatting and design templates
  • Developing persuasive language
  • Defining strategy
  • Gathering more information and context on clients, products, and previous conversations
  • Building graphics and visual aids
  • Personalizing messaging
  • Managing content

With RFPIO, your team focuses on developing more effective proposals while sales spends more time on revenue-generating activities. Using the features described below, I’ve worked with small proposal teams that can answer at least 40% of a proposal with auto-response capabilities, gain back 20% more time overall, and deliver proposals 1.4 days ahead of deadline, on average.

Set up your project dashboard immediately

When an RFP takes flight, you don’t want it flying blind into a fog bank with no instrument rating. Visualize early-stage projects with Analytics for better resource planning and forecasting. Light up your dashboard with insight into:

  • How many sections are there?
  • How many questions need answers?
  • How many authors will you need?
  • Answers to questions like these help make a project feel “real.” You can get a toehold and see what progress is going to look like.

Make an initial pass at the questions using a combination of auto-response and intelligent search. Then go back and refine content. Leave questions marked as unanswered so sales or SMEs can review and confirm, but start tracking sections you’ve started. Even if the proposal team is not running the show—because we all know that sales is—you can gain a sense of control by using the Analytics that RFPIO provides.

Keep the answer library fresh

I’ve said it before and I will probably never stop not-saying it, there’s never any real great time to organize content because we are all always busy. But to ensure that auto-responding and intelligent search zero in on only the most relevant targets, library management is a must. We don’t have a dedicated manager, so we lean heavily on Tags.

As you work on projects, start importing content. Start standardizing it, adding tags, and defining owners as it’s imported. We have a standard set of tags—we block users from adding tags to try to limit tag sprawl—that we use to classify content as it’s imported for each project. This makes it easier for me when I’m wearing my library manager hat to update content when I have the time (I aim for once a week). We also use Collections and Custom Fields capabilities to help with library management.

Let the system be your cat-herding ranch hand

I use the phrase “herding cats” too often, but it’s a shared feeling among proposal managers. System-generated notifications help with cat herding because you don’t have to be the one cracking the whip all the time. Let the system chase them down. In RFPIO, system-generated notifications chase sales, SMEs, or whomever down automatically without me having to do anything.

Often, the reason content hasn’t been submitted or reviewed is because the owner simply forgot to click the blue “Submit” button. In other words, they might not even know that they’re still on the hook for the content because they believe they already submitted it! System reminders from a non-judgmental AI help preserve my relationships with colleagues. I don’t want them thinking that they sent content and I lost it, doubling up their work. This way, the system says that if it’s not in RFPIO, then it didn’t happen!

@-mentions improve #collaboration

RFPIO isn’t social media, but it does incorporate a standard social media feature to streamline collaboration: @-mentions. @-mentions allow SMEs, sales, and senior management to be notified via their communication platform of choice (e.g., email, Slack, Microsoft Teams) and then reply in-line without having to log into RFPIO, saving time and making it more likely that you’ll get an answer.

This is especially valuable when you need input from multiple contributors. With @-mentions, you keep the conversation going without constantly having to reset for each contributor. The challenge here is to get non-RFP team members to use @-mention. They can be slow to adopt.

I love flags!

Color-coded flagging may sound simple, but it’s one of my favorite features of RFPIO. I customize flags to help visualize strategic content. They help us quickly identify key things that need to happen for an RFP, and then make it easier to navigate those items across sections. Perhaps the best part is that there’s a lot of satisfaction in watching those flags disappear as items are completed. One step closer to project completion!

4 ways small proposal teams can support sales

  1. Make a habit of getting every RFP/Security Questionnaire/RFI into RFPIO immediately (light up that dashboard!).
  2. Assign a team member to be the “first-pass” SME before assigning outside authors and reviewers (utilize auto-response and intelligent search).
  3. Assign an owner to each piece of content and enable regular reviews. The more you can organize at the outset, the less time you have to spend squeezing an SME for details on major changes to a new product you just learned about before they go on vacation.
  4. Dedicate someone (maybe it’s you, lucky!) who engages with sales and SMEs on a regular basis. The consistency will help build relationships and trust with go-to collaborators. Proper care and feeding of SMEs will keep your projects running smoothly.

Add more value to sales and the organization as a whole

RFPIO has converted our organization from reactive to proactive when it comes to sales support and RFP responses. A short anecdote…

During a week in which we had three RFPs in-flight, one of which was a three-day turnaround, two sales management team members and our two-member proposal team were able to spend an hour on the phone to discuss some critical changes to the way we wanted to communicate our overall organizational capabilities based on trends we were seeing in the marketplace. There is no way that conversation would have happened if we hadn’t already been ahead of schedule thanks to RFPIO.

If empowering your proposal team to do more with less is a priority, then check out my webinar below for more details on how we use RFPIO. Ready to add some girth to your small team with RFPIO? Schedule a demo today!

Excellent customer experience starts with collaboration

Excellent customer experience starts with collaboration

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, according to a study by Walker. Despite this, many organizations still aren’t entirely sure what customer experience is, let alone developed programs to optimize it.

Customer experience is the impression your customers have of your brand as a whole throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey. It touches everything: navigating the website, interacting with sales, working with customer service—and, of course, using your product.

Not only is customer experience complex and multifaceted, it’s also vital to your business. In their future of Customer Experience report, PwC surveyed 15,000 customers and found that one in three customers will leave a brand they love after just one bad experience, while 92% would completely abandon a company after two or three negative interactions.

Optimizing customer experience across platforms is complex. A good place to start is by keeping the promises you make to customers. When you commit to fulfilling customer demands, make sure you follow through. This starts by ensuring your sales, proposal, and product teams are in lock-step.

Make promises you can keep

Most of us don’t make promises with the intention of breaking them. Despite this, brand-customer relations often end with unfulfilled promises of features and functionalities that never appear.

The disconnect between customer expectations and reality can often be traced back to a disconnect between sales and product teams. This gives rise to the question: how do you re-connect sales and product teams?

Promises to fulfill customer demands start with the sales proposal. Complex questionnaires (i.e. RFPs, RFIs) are bound to ask about a feature or functionality that your solution currently doesn’t have.

Rather than simply saying “no”, and risking losing the bid, the proposal team might explain the feature is not available now, but will be added to the product roadmap. For example, if an RFP issuer is looking for a solution with an open API, being willing to make that available within six months could be the tipping point that wins you the deal.

But to follow through on this promise, and provide an outstanding customer experience, the product team needs to be involved in these kinds of conversations from the get-go.

That’s where RFPIO for Jira steps in. Rather than sending product feature requests into the abyss of email, proposal and product teams can collaborate on the platforms they’re already using. Deadlines, customer commitments, and feature requests are tracked in a single centralized location—and nothing slips through the cracks.

RFPIO for Jira keeps your teams aligned

A survey of over 2,000 knowledge workers found that 69% of workers waste up to 60 minutes a day navigating between apps. That’s 32 days a year.

When you integrate RFPIO with Jira, your proposal and product teams can collaborate on customer commitments, without leaving the app they’re already working in.

When product inspiration, customer demands, or commitments arise in an RFx response, presales teams can create Jira Issues or Tickets directly from RFPIO, relating that issue back to a specific question or section within the RFPIO project. RFPIO users can track the status of Jira requests against defined timelines, and engage in bi-directional conversations with product and project owners in Jira.

Start the conversation

When approached with questions regarding a feature or functionality your solution doesn’t have, the proposal team needs to know:

  • Are we already working on this?
  • Can we develop this feature?
  • If yes, what is the expected release date?

The proposal team can ask these questions by creating a new ticket in Jira, assigning owners, labels, deadlines, and priority levels. For questions that address features already being worked on, the proposal team can link to an existing ticket.

Figure out a solution

When customer requests require further discussion, team members can start those cross-functional conversations by @-mentioning users. RFPIO and Jira users can discuss a certain request, without leaving their preferred platform.

Stay on top of commitments

With RFPIO for Jira, all feature requests can be tracked in the ticket dashboard in RFPIO, giving ticket creators full visibility into the status of any tickets they’ve submitted—and can give status updates to other teams, as needed.

Additionally, ticket creators are notified anytime an associated ticket is updated or commented on.

Strengthen customer experience to stay ahead

According to research from PwC, there’s a 16% price premium on products and services that come with great experiences. Companies that connect their responses to product development are providing that outstanding customer experience, right out of the gate—and giving themselves an automatic edge over their competitors.

If you’re ready to take the first step in providing an outstanding experience, aligning your teams is a great place to start. Tealium, a software company that connects companies to data, is already seeing incredible results with RFPIO for Jira.

Armando Rosario, the VP of Strategic Programs, explained, “the integration between RFPIO and Jira is bridging the gap between subject-matter-experts, engineers, and proposal managers during the RFP response process—allowing us to better collaborate and build workflows between systems they’re already using.”

To watch RFPIO for Jira in action, check out our webinar below. If you’d like to see how RFPIO for Jira could work for your specific use case, go ahead and schedule a demo.

4 ways to set your sales development team up for success

4 ways to set your sales development team up for success

I knew RFPIO wanted results when I came aboard six months ago. I felt confident that I could deliver. But even I was surprised by a 281% increase in the number of demos my team scheduled over a 90-day period, a key metric to our lead-qualifying process. Especially during a global pandemic, when workforces around the world were thrown into chaos.

The good news is that my bosses don’t expect that level of growth to be repeated quarter over quarter. Even better news is that I still feel confident that we can improve on these lofty benchmarks. Our product is a no-brainer (spoken like a true sales evangelist, right?), but that’s not why I’m so confident. It’s the sales development representatives (SDRs) on my team that make me confident.

While watching my team crush our goals for the quarter, I was inspired to share a few of the things I learned along the way:

Piece together the best people

The best way to set your sales development team up for success is to think like an NBA GM. On a basketball team, not everyone is the go-to for offense. You need defenders, creators, passers, hustlers, shot blockers, ball handlers, coaches, and more to have a winning squad.

For a championship-level sales development team, curate a team of varying opinions and perspectives. This is especially true in sales development when you’re getting the bulk of prospect objections. Every SDR responds differently to objections. Some like the direct approach while others prefer storytelling to help a prospect understand why they have a problem that your solution will solve. I once had a former journalist on the team who excelled at telling stories to paint a bigger picture. Some SDRs rely on use cases to tell a story.

Accentuating these diverse approaches provides a rich tapestry for collaboration. Colleagues can say, “Hey, this worked for me…” One option may not be the right style fit, but when multiple options become available, SDRs can find what works best for them. When training new SDRs, they’ll feel more comfortable knowing that there’s more than one pathway to success.

This doesn’t just apply to phone conversations. Much of sales development takes place over email. While one SDR has a talent for writing subject lines, another SDR may be better at writing compelling call-to-action body copy.

A team composed of diverse backgrounds will make SDRs better together and provide unique solutions to otherwise challenging problems.

Equip your team with the knowledge they need

Now that you have your sales development team ready, it’s your responsibility as a sales manager to create the environment where they can be successful. That starts by implementing a knowledge management system that empowers SDRs to act quickly and decisively.

For example, CrownPeak, a Digital Experience Management software company, uses the RFPIO Answer Library to answer prospect questions. SDRs can answer their prospects questions as soon as they ask them—shortening the sales cycle and keeping prospects happy.

According to Paul Taylor, the Vice President of Solutions Engineering at CrownPeak, “When a sales development representative asks me a question, I’ll point them to the Answer Library. If they can’t find the answer there, I’ll write a really good answer and send it to them—and then add that answer to the Answer Library, so they won’t have to ask me next time.”

Another useful knowledge management tool is RFPIO Lookup, a Google Chrome extension that makes accessing your Answer Library even easier. With just a quick keyword search, SDRs have a robust library of pre-approved answers at their fingertips.

Many SDRs are still early in their careers and won’t have the same product knowledge as more senior sales members. Ensuring sure your team can quickly answer prospect questions is essential to any sales team that wants to work faster and smarter.

Define personal and team success

The third way to set up your sales development team for success is to define what that success looks like, and then communicate your plan so everyone on the team is heading in the same direction.

I hire people because I recognize talent that will be valuable to the organization. Whether they continue in sales or find a home in another department, I want to help grow that talent investment. Identifying a clear career path for SDRs will guide how you train them and show them that you want them to succeed.

Ensure everyone has the same view of what is expected of them and can see clearly the path to get to the next level. Avoid distraction of misalignment or missed expectation and focus the team’s energy in one unified way toward agreed upon objectives. I’ve found success in this area by creating plans for personal development for all SDRs.

I use these plans to document goals that each SDR needs to achieve so they can move up in the organization. Everyone learns and grows differently. One SDR may know the product extremely well but they don’t have presentation skills. Another may have great presentation skills but not know the product. It’s my job to find out how each SDR learns and that will determine how I train them.

Not everyone wants to be an account executive. Some want to be in operations or enablement or move out of sales altogether. With a written plan in place, when the SDR achieves their goals then—when a position is available—we’ll move them into their desired role, trained and ready to go.

A fully developed plan takes a while to build out because you have to work with the SDR a good 90 days to get to know them. It’s built with them; it’s never dictated to them. As trust grows, they’ll be more comfortable relaying their true goals. When that emerges, we can create a career pathway so they’ll be successful.

I share these plans for personal growth with my bosses as well as the SDR. This transparency keeps me and the company accountable to the promises we’ve written down. If you have a larger team, it’s more challenging, but the extra work developing each SDR’s growth plan at the outset will pay off in the long run.

Abandon conventional thinking about incentives

Finally, the fourth way to set your sales development team up for success is to nurture motivation, and create incentives that increase sales and promote personal fulfillment. What motivates one person may do little to excite another. Defining specific rewards for each individual allows you to tap into that SDR’s values and help them feel fulfilled in their role.

According to a report from Harvard Business Review, 9 out of 10 people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. They also found that employees who find meaning in work report higher job satisfaction and spend more time working, generating an estimated additional $9,078 per worker, per year.

Instead of assuming everyone in sales is motivated by money (they’re not), dig beneath the surface to discover what drives each individual on your team.

Who likes motivating their team members? Maybe they’d like to grow into a leadership role. Who enjoys the problem-solving aspect of matching the right customer with the right solution? Maybe you should assign them more complicated accounts.
Defining specific rewards for each individual allows you to tap into that SDR’s values, help them feel fulfilled in their role, and find meaning at work.

Where to start?

Sales development team success starts with your product and your people. After that, it’s up to you to curate an environment where that success can grow long-term. If you want to start using RFPIO as your knowledge management system, then schedule a demo today.

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

What’s harder? Changing, or not changing? In the 25-plus years I’ve worked with subject matter experts (SMEs) on proposals, I can attribute almost all initial pushback to resistance to change. Who wants more work if they don’t have time to complete what’s already on their plate? But the fact of the matter is that a proposal program powered by RFP process automation and a continuously updated Answer Library makes changing easier than not changing.

Before I launch into how to get internal and external SMEs excited about the RFP process, I want to call out a recurring theme that echoes through all of the tips: Respect their time. SMEs already have daily calendars chock full of responsibilities, such as solving engineering issues, dealing with clients, and creating demos. Requesting their help with responses to any RFx (RFP, RFI, RFQ, DDQ, security questionnaire, etc.) is you asking them to repurpose some of that valuable time. But you need their help to complete the RFP process. Your company needs the revenue. SMEs need the company. In the circle of your company’s success lifecycle, the greater the SME involvement and enthusiasm, the easier your job will be.

#1: Control comms chaos

SMEs already get too many emails that are easily lost or deleted. Overloading SMEs with multiple emails frustrates them because they don’t know which are the most current, especially if they’re trying to respond from an airplane, client site, or conference. RFP automation software that streamlines the RFP process provides a personalized dashboard of the most current action items. Most importantly, it gives SMEs a single source of truth to eliminate confusion, and they’ll thank you for protecting their inbox.

#2: Do the heavy lifting for them

A proposal team should be able to complete 70-80% of a response using an RFP answer library (see tips 3 and 5). Then set up SMEs as reviewers to save time and avoid having them answer the same question multiple times.

With the right RFP automation software, you can reduce the burden on SMEs with functionality such as robust search options, marketing-approved templates, and targeted action items. One important reminder: SMEs—like many of us—are resistant to change. Any change you make—even if it’s being done to simplify their lives—has to be quick to learn and to show value. Don’t hesitate to kick off the RFP process with a quick 30-minute training session and a one-page how-to guide for easy reference.

#3: Update the RFP answer library on a regular cadence

If you’re already using RFP automation software, then take full advantage of the RFP answer library. When you get an answer from an SME, add it to the database immediately. SMEs will remember that they have already answered a question. They see asking them to repeat an answer as a lack of respect for their time. It’s better to have them review the answer for accuracy than to start with a blank page.

#4: Point out how they control their own destiny

If you are downselected or win an RFP, then SMEs will be first onsite, which means if there were any mistakes in the RFP response, they have to answer for them. If the new client reads that your product or service will do “X”, then SMEs are onsite having to explain why that’s not the case. Help SMEs understand that their involvement ensures a smoother transition and more positive client interaction.

#5: Sell the benefits of content audits

The more up to date the answer library, the more your proposal team can complete automatically, and the easier SME lives will be during live proposals. Use this carrot often, but even when you’re updating existing content in the answer library on cyclical basis, remember tip #2 (do the heavy lifting). SMEs are not grammar gurus, and it will be easier for them to deliver content in their language. It’s up to you or your content/proposal team to wordsmith it.

When you start a content audit, it can be daunting. Prioritize what’s used most. Don’t force SMEs to review rarely used or unused content. Have a kickoff meeting with SMEs and their managers to document the process and illustrate how you’re making it as easy as possible for them. They need to see that you have as much skin in the game, or more, as they do.

#6: Be transparent with external SMEs

With internal SMEs, I can go to their manager if they refuse to participate. I don’t have that luxury with external SMEs. Provide the same courtesies of communication and heavy lifting that you offer internal SMEs. RFP automation software should include “guest” functionality to give them access.

When you’re working with guests, make sure to give them as much notice as possible. And, when you do need their help, make it as easy as possible. Send them a short, single-page (front and back) PDF of instructions on how to use your RFP automation solution of choice. And definitely leverage the comments function so they know exactly what they need to do.

The big thing you need to pay attention to is content audits. Communicate ahead of time that you’re going to keep their content in the RFP answer library. However, you won’t bother them to review it until their portion of the solution is proposed. They need to know that when you contact them, you’re doing so because there’s real business value potential at stake.

#7: Recognize the effort

Recognize SMEs for spending their valuable time on your RFP response! If your company doesn’t have a recognition system, then expense a $10 Starbucks card. They deserve it, and they appreciate it.

Give respect, earn respect

Remember, if your primary responsibility is to respond to a proposal, then SMEs are your most precious resource. Without them, you’re a quarterback without an offensive line…a pilot without landing gear…a tree with no roots…a musher with no dogs…you get the idea.

To learn more about streamlining your RFP process to make life easier on SMEs, schedule a demo.

Refine your RFP process to keep your multilingual team connected

Refine your RFP process to keep your multilingual team connected

This is the third post in our series #StayConnected, introducing tips, tricks, tools, and features that help teams complete proposals quickly and efficiently, even when they’re not sharing a physical space. Read part 1 here: Keep Your Proposal Team Focused With These 5 Project Management Features. And part 2 here: How an Effective Content Management System Keeps Your Remote Team Productive.

You just got promoted to lead your company’s international proposal team—congratulations!

Now that you’re managing an international team, you’re responsible for bridging gaps between time zones, languages, and cultures—while finding ways to bring your team closer together, despite the physical distance.

To help you take the first steps, we compiled everything we know about how leaders of successful international proposal teams use technology to submit compelling proposals across languages. Read on for insider tips and best practices for keeping international teams connected.

Maintain brand consistency across languages with proposal automation software

Your brand should build awareness and develop trust and loyalty with customers. This means every interaction customers have with your brand—including bids, tenders, and RFPs—should embody the brand promises and values dependably and understandably.

Many successful proposal managers rely on proposal automation software to ensure their bids, tenders, and RFPs are consistent. This is especially true for proposal managers that serve a multilingual customer base.

David Rynne, the Presales Global Content Specialist at Basware, uses RFPIO to manage and moderate his organization’s multilingual content. Each time a new question-and-answer pair comes in, David uses the built-in Google Translate tool to translate the content into English and check it for accuracy, before approving it to be added to the library. Anytime an answer doesn’t seem quite right, he can easily @-mention the pre-sales rep for clarification.

In doing so, David has full visibility into how Basware is being represented to the world and can make sure the messaging remains consistent—and accurate—across languages.

Break down language barriers with a multilingual content management system

When you’re working with multilingual sales teams who are interacting with non-English speaking prospects, you need to make sure your content management system has the capacity to store content in other languages.

Let’s say your sales rep in Germany receives an RFP from their prospect, with all the questions in German. If you only have content available in English, you’re creating an extra step for your sales reps, who will need to find the answers they need (in English) and translate those answers into German.

It stands to reason that the less time your team has to spend translating answers, the more time they’ll have to focus on revenue-generating activities.

That’s why successful international proposal teams have a content management system that can store content in multiple languages. With this in place, all your German sales rep would need to do is find the question (in German) and immediately use the provided German answer—giving them more time to spend refining their proposal or working on other projects.

“One of our pre-sales reps from Paris told us just recently that he received an RFP on a Monday night that needed to be submitted by that Wednesday morning. We helped him get up and running in RFPIO and he made the deadline.”

David Rynne, Presales Global Content Specialist
Basware

Simplify collaboration by bringing everyone on the same platform

According to a recent report from Slack, people around the world agreed that “ability to easily communicate with colleagues” was one of the most vital components of effective collaboration.

One of the best ways to enable your team to “easily communicate” is bringing them all together on the same platform.

Many proposal managers set their entire proposal team up in proposal automation software that’s equipped with both project management features and in-app collaboration tools.

In doing so, they can assign tasks to team members, gain visibility into project status and team bandwidth, and use @-mentioning to ask SMEs and other team members for help.

Bringing everyone into the same tool streamlines communication and brings clarity into roles and responsibilities—which work together to increase efficiency and even reduce stress.

“Shortly after implementing RFPIO, a sales engineer in Australia—who had recently started at the company—was able to collaborate with sales engineers in Bulgaria and product managers in the United States to complete an RFP in just a few days.”


Gary Clink, Head of Global Technical Enablement
Progress
Read full case study here.

Build camaraderie by giving your international team space to be themselves

“When interactions between co-workers are high, there is a greater ability to develop trust and shared vision among international co-workers,” wrote Tsedal Neely—author of the book The Language of Global Success—in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

When you’re managing an international team, you need to give members a chance to get to know each other as people.

Here at RFPIO, we take this advice to heart.

Our team is split between our headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and Coimbatore, India—and we’ve devised a number of ways to build relationships between team members that have never met another face-to-face.

For example, the international marketing team gets together for standups twice a week, where the team is free to talk about whatever comes to mind—be it movies and shows we’re watching, new recipes we’re trying, or weekend plans.

India- and US-based team members are also responsible for arranging 15-minute one-on-one video chats with another, giving team members a chance to get to know each other in a non-work capacity.

We’ve found that when we’re able to see each other as people, rather than faceless email addresses or Slack handles, working together isn’t just easier—it’s also more fun.


When you’re managing an international team, you are able to benefit from the diverse insights of individuals with different cultures, opinions, and backgrounds—the only trick is figuring out how to bring your team closer together.

At RFPIO, we’re helping international teams break down language barriers, simplify collaboration, and build camaraderie.

Click here to find out more about how RFPIO can help you optimize the opportunity of working with an international team—and find ways to keep your team connected.

Keep your proposal team focused with these 5 project management features

Keep your proposal team focused with these 5 project management features

This is the first post in our series #StayConnected, introducing tips, tricks, tools, and features that help teams complete proposals quickly and efficiently, even when they’re not sharing a physical space.

As any proposal manager is well aware, a single RFP may require input from dozens of stakeholders—and it’s up to the proposal manager to work their magic to pull all this disparate information into a compelling proposal.

While maintaining a high level of collaboration when your entire time is working at home may seem daunting at first, doing so successfully is just a matter of establishing effective systems.

To help you find the system that’s right for you, our team compiled everything we know about how our customers are using RFPIO to successfully manage proposal projects—beginning to end—with a remote team.

Read on to see how RFPIO’s project management capabilities create visibility into project status, clarify responsibilities, and facilitate communication—and learn how to apply these lessons to your process to keep your team focused and connected.

1. Make well-informed decisions with built-in trend analytics

A new RFP has landed in your inbox—it’s go-time.

But this isn’t your first rodeo. You know that before you can pick up your pen (uh… mouse), you need to decide whether the RFP is even worth the effort. In other words, you need to be sure this RFP is one you can win.

Responders using RFP software equipped with built-in analytics can answer that question right out of the gate.

When creating a new project (RFP, RFI, etc.) in RFPIO, for example, they can click open a “trend analysis” to understand how many resources and how much time was required to complete similar projects in the past.

They can also see how many questions were answered using auto-response/stored answers versus manual responses, providing valuable insights into ROI—since the more questions your team can respond to using content stored in your answer library, the less time they need to spend writing fresh answers.

2. Capture the opportunity in your CRM of choice

After deciding to respond, you need to make sure your sales team—and everyone at your organization, for that matter—has visibility into project status.

With RFPIO, you can associate your project with an existing opportunity in your preferred CRM, be it Salesforce, Dynamics, Pipedrive, Pipelinedeals, or Hubspot. With all relevant data in one place, your entire team can find information about deadlines, progress status, and author review summaries right in the platform they’re already using.

That means your sales team has access to all the information they need in just a few clicks—and your proposal team can stay focused on their assigned tasks.

3. Easily manage projects by clarifying responsibilities and assigning tasks

According to the 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey, 1 in 4 proposal managers said their biggest challenge is not being able to focus on priorities because they’re wearing too many hats.

An easy way to fix this is to clarify roles and responsibilities, starting with breaking projects into bite-sized pieces and assigning tasks to team members. Once you’ve set everything up in your CRM of choice, you’re ready to delegate tasks to the rest of your team.

Before inadvertently assigning tasks to a team member who is already neck-deep in another project, you can check the user report to see who on your response management team has the bandwidth to take on new responsibilities—helping reduce burnout on your team.

Once you’ve finished delegating tasks for your RFP project, collaborators automatically receive an email clearly outlining their responsibilities.

While your project is humming along, managers get real-time visibility into the status of all the individual components within a project, individual team members’ workloads, and overall proposal operations for better resource planning and uncovering roadblocks before they happen—ensuring your team stays ahead of deadlines.

4. Efficiently communicate with built-in collaboration tools

As your team is answering their assigned questions, they will likely need some help from your technical experts.

To do this, all they have to do is @-mention your resident SME in the comment section of the question they need help on. Your SME will then receive a notification in their inbox—and RFPIO will automatically send follow-up emails until they’ve answered the question.

After your SME is notified that their assistance is needed, they can directly respond to the question by simply replying to the message. Their response will then be automatically populated into the comment section of your project.

This helps your proposal team keep all relevant information together in one place—and allows your SMEs to offer their sage wisdom on the fly without leaving the platforms they’re already using.

Lauren Daitz, the Senior Manager of the Proposal Department at HALO Recognition, told us that the SMEs at her company have an RFPIO filter in their email, so they can easily respond to a few questions whenever they have a free moment (or when they find themselves sitting in a meeting they don’t necessarily need to be part of).

5. Submit proposals that your entire team can be proud of

The final—and possibly most satisfying—step of the proposal process is submitting your proposal to the issuer.

But before you can do that, you need to make sure your proposal tells a compelling story—and, of course, that each of the answers you’ve provided is accurate and on-brand.

This means you need to get leaders across departments involved. With RFPIO, you can set up review cycles on a question- or section-level. A single question can have as many reviewers as you’d like, enabling your management, technical, and legal teams to seamlessly provide their stamp of approval—all while empowering you to submit compelling proposals that will help your organization win more deals.

“RFPIO helped us win business by empowering us to make better use of our time. Instead of hunting down answers to pull together a proposal, we’re now able to spend our extra time creating compelling win messages.”

-Brian Trigg, Director of Sales Operations, FireEye

While the general perception of remote teams is that they are divided, disconnected, and fragmented, the reality is much more optimistic. All teams, remote or otherwise, are as strong as the systems and collaboration tools that hold them together. Click here to learn more about how RFPIO’s project management features can help your team stay connected and focused.

How to manage a sales team with a mindful approach

How to manage a sales team with a mindful approach

A lot of salespeople we talk to are moonlighting as RFP responders. These classically urgent tasks are thrown on top of everything else your sales team is already doing. Pretty soon you’re staring at a serious case of burnout.

After surveying 7,500 employees, Gallup uncovered the top five reasons for burnout in the workplace:

  1. Unfair treatment at work
  2. Unmanageable workload
  3. Lack of role clarity
  4. Lack of communication and support from their manager
  5. Unreasonable time pressure

Since your sales team is moonlighting as an RFP responder, you may have heard statements and questions that align with these burnout triggers.

  1. You didn’t tell me how to do this unmanageable workload.
  2. Hey, this is more than I can handle.
  3. I had no idea I would be responding to RFPs when I took this job.
  4. I’ve made suggestions to change our process, but nobody is listening to me.
  5. This RFP needs to be done in two weeks and I can’t get to it.

RFPs still need to get done on top of all of your sales team members’ responsibilities. So, how do you manage expectations and help your team succeed? By being more mindful as you change your sales leadership approach.

1. Manage expectations upfront

It starts before your salesperson even gets hired. This team candidate already has an impression of your organization, based on Glassdoor reviews or word-of-mouth. Their first impression of your organization is out of your control. But, the interview process is where you take control.

Interviews are an opportunity to manage expectations upfront, so the candidate knows exactly what you are hiring them to do. You will encounter people who are overqualified and underqualified for the position you are hiring for.

Be honest about that person’s qualifications during the interview. If they are overqualified, tell them that, and discuss how they will be better suited for another role when the right opportunity comes up. You will eliminate some of the churns and “burnouts” by making the conversation about the working relationship clear before they sign a contract and join your team.

2. Communicate and coach regularly

Burnout is influenced by your sales leadership style. There needs to be a certain amount of authentic interactions with each individual every day. Even if you have an open floor plan where everyone is in plain sight, give everyone a “touch” (i.e. a one-on-one check-in) on a daily basis. Otherwise, communication will slip through the cracks.

When you walk by one of your team member’s desks—assuming they are not on a call—stop and chat with them for a bit. We’re all busy, and it’s surprisingly easy to let simple communication opportunities pass us by. If you’re starting to lose someone, regular personal interactions might be the tipping point that wins them back.

Also establish a regular coaching rhythm, whether that’s once a week, every other week, or once a month. Having these coaching sessions will yield higher performance from your sales team, as long as you stay committed and consistent.

Your attention is undoubtedly being pulled in different directions…sometimes even polar opposites. If your team doesn’t receive the attention they expect from you, they will replace your influence with something or someone else.

Schedule regular one-on-ones and stick to that schedule. Avoid rescheduling these one-on-one meetings as your team will feel like you do not prioritize them. Plan on running through a list of five bullet points during each meeting. Prep beforehand, so your team member receives the undivided attention they deserve.

3. Equip your team with the best tools

When you step into your new leadership role at an organization, you inherit a set of sales enablement tools. You may like them, you may not. Your team will feel the exact same way.

The symbiotic relationship between you and your team starts with asking a question aloud: Which sales enablement tools do we really need? Follow that up with: And, why do we really need these tools?

Don’t fall into the “set it and forget it” mentality. Check in with your team to make sure the current tool/tech stack is getting the job done well.

Another thing to look at is technology consolidation. The software market continues to expand and evolve. Can you simplify your stack with a more robust solution?

Look at the sales initiatives you have planned for the year so you understand what your team needs. During this process, you will identify inefficiencies among your current tool stack and hear relevant feedback from your team.

Perhaps RFP responders are using 5-7 different tools (with most of them being workarounds). In this case, eliminate and consolidate into a data-driven RFP management solution that truly supports your team and your organization’s initiatives.

4. Work out your mission

We are all fortunate to live in a time of great abundance, but that abundance comes with drawbacks…like distractions.

As a sales leader, you face infinite distractions. There are many inputs fighting for your time, pulling you in different directions. If you’re struggling to stay focused on your goals, it’s worth listening to what Charles Wagner said in The Simple Life.

“By dint of action, and extracting from himself strict account of his deeds, man arrives at a better knowledge of life. Its law appears to him, and the law is this: Work out your mission.”

Keep in mind that Wagner published The Simple Life back in 1895, so when he talks about “man” he means “everyone.”

Working out your mission is about your personal mission…not your organization’s mission. What gets you out of bed each morning? What are you working toward? To become an effective sales leader who leads others to success, you have to know your why.

It all comes back to the expectations you set with your sales team upfront, before they ever join your team and step foot in the office. From there, it’s about supporting and equipping team members with consistent, personalized communication. Through it all, you need to work out your mission and stay true to it. Then, you will find success and so will your team.

Equip your sales team with the best RFP management solution. See how RFPIO aligns with your sales initiatives.

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