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
- Make a habit of getting every RFP/Security Questionnaire/RFI into RFPIO immediately (light up that dashboard!).
- Assign a team member to be the “first-pass” SME before assigning outside authors and reviewers (utilize auto-response and intelligent search).
- 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.
- 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!