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Proposal management resource guide

Proposal management resource guide

What do nearly all large sales have in common? OK, if you read this blog’s headline, it’s hardly a trick […]


Proposal management resource guide

Proposal management resource guide

What do nearly all large sales have in common? OK, if you read this blog’s headline, it’s hardly a trick question.

Whether a sale began through outbound sales or marketing efforts, inbound customer queries, or requests for proposals (RFPs), nearly all customers require written proposals before making a large purchase.

Proposal management 101

Proposal management is the process of completing a sales proposal or RFP response accurately, completely, engagingly, and on time. The process typically involves multiple parties, including subject matter experts (SMEs), writers, editors, and of course, a project (or proposal) manager.

What does a proposal manager do?

If you ask a proposal manager what they do, there’s a good chance they’ll respond with something like, “What don’t I do?”

They wouldn’t be wrong. A proposal manager is part salesperson, part writer, part editor, and mostly the ringleader of a many-ringed circus. They are in charge of crafting winning proposals and creating and maintaining processes for today’s proposals, tomorrow’s, and next year’s.

Create new RFP response processes

At RFPIO, we gathered our current and past proposal managers to design a response process that’s logical, agile, and repeatable. The 8-step process builds on past wins and losses, perfection and errors, to help set you up for an increased win rate and higher profits.

  • Go/no-go – Not all requests for proposals (RFPs) are worthwhile. Can you meet the customer’s needs? Do their needs align with your company’s goals and objectives? Is the deal winnable?
  • Hold a kickoff meeting – Gather your response team to assign roles, responsibilities, and deadlines.
  • Pen the first draft – Most of an RFP’s questions are relatively standard. You can respond to as many as 80 percent of the queries with answers you’ve used before. Note that doing as much of the work as possible, without calling on SMEs’ valuable time, will go a long way toward fostering goodwill.
  • Pen the second draft – The second draft is where real collaboration comes in. Call upon your SMEs to help answer the last 20 percent or so of your document’s questions.
  • Review and revise – Check and recheck your proposal for accuracy, response quality, and spelling and grammatical errors. Make sure you’ve attached all relevant documents.
  • Submit your response – Submit your complete and polished reply on time, if not early.
  • Save and audit your response – Continue the goodwill you’ve established with your SMEs by saving their answers for future use.
  • Conduct a postmortem – Win or lose, gather your team to discuss what went well and what didn’t. Apply your newfound wisdom to future responses.

Improve old RFP processes

Congratulations on establishing a response process. You’d be surprised at how many companies play it by ear. Still, even the best RFP response needs some tweaking now and again.

  • Only go after what’s winnable – Even the best-defined go/no-go process is subject to human excitement. It might be tempting to go after that big sale, but if it’s a bad fit, the wasted work can deplete morale, and having to read through a response that doesn’t fit might cause resentment on the part of the customer.
  • Focus on content – Do you have a content library to store previous answers? Do you regularly audit your content library for use and accuracy?
  • Define roles and responsibilities – While you can’t predict which SMEs you might need to consult for your next RFP, you can establish your core response team. Then, when it’s time to call your team to action, you can involve the SMEs and further hone roles and responsibilities.
  • Get to know your key stakeholders – People’s work styles vary. Respect stakeholders’ preferred communication (RFPIO integrates with the most popular communication applications) and work styles.
  • Repeat – Make sure all your improvements are repeatable. For example, if you assign a designated editor to one response, assign one to all.

Manage projects seamlessly

A response manager is, first and foremost, a project manager. It’s their job to decide whether to pursue the sale and who should be part of the response, ensure everyone has their marching orders and meets their deliverables, and record each question-and-answer pair for future use.

Project management software, especially that which is specifically designed for proposals, will help the proposal manager through each step of the project.

Set the response team up for success

One of the biggest challenges facing a proposal manager is coordinating groups of individuals who might work remotely, from different offices, and even in different time zones. Here’s how some of our customers bring out the best in their distributed response teams.

  • Focus on productivity – Some people thrive on 9-5 while others work best from 7-3 or even some time in the middle of the night. Naturally, team meetings should involve everyone, and deadlines might not comply with personal work styles, but when you let people work when they’re most productive, they’ll be…well…more productive.
  • Ask for help – Managing distributed workforces is nearly impossible without assistance from project management software. Strategic response management software such as RFPIO integrates with all of the most popular communication and productivity applications, enables project managers to set up tasks and checklists, and optionally enables access from anywhere there’s an internet connection.
  • Build connections – Teams are built from diverse personalities and work styles. Step away from work mode once a week or so and hold team-building meetings with fun themes to help bring out people’s personalities and create bonds.

How to manage winning proposals

While proposal managers are pulled in multiple directions, the primary goal is always to create winning proposals. Here’s how our proposal managers do it.

Optimize the proposal management plan

Many, if not most, proposal managers don’t have the luxury of designated proposal teams. In fact, their roles and responsibilities might vary. Many are part of a sales team, and a salesperson is often expected to oversee an RFP’s completion.

Still, small companies without designated response teams or response managers can compete with enterprise companies by following a well-designed process.

  • Learn to say “no” – Small and medium-sized businesses (and even enterprise organizations) need to conserve resources, which means saying “no” to RFPs that are either unwinnable or unfulfillable.
  • Call for help – Most proposals require input from multiple parties. In other words, it’s more than OK to admit you can’t do everything alone. Call on your sales team and other SMEs to help you complete your proposal. Sales teams may not like responding to RFPs, but they should remember that they have tremendous revenue potential.

Define team roles and responsibilities

A response process should begin well before you receive your first request. You should have a regular team with backups in case someone is unavailable. Additionally, you should know your SMEs, their expertise, and, hopefully, their schedules.

Once you receive an RFP, hold a kickoff meeting to clearly define every stakeholder’s role and responsibilities.

Establish the building blocks of your proposals

Response managers aren’t rewarded for originality. Their job is to win bids, and the most efficient way to do that is to reuse and recycle past content, or at least some of it.

Establish proposal building blocks by utilizing and customizing resources such as white papers, internal training, boilerplate libraries, and so on. You can also pull content from previous proposals.

Your recycled content is not generic and boilerplate, such as with a press release. Edit or add to it to suit your customer and the specific project.

Once you’ve identified building blocks, store them in a shared folder, collaboration tool, local drive, or response management software.

Organize knowledge systems

Not long ago, companies stored their documents and much of their knowledge in metal boxes called file cabinets. Okay, yes, we all still know what file cabinets are, but we also know that they are highly inefficient for distributed and siloed workforces.

A well-organized knowledge system enhances collaboration, breaks down silos, and boosts productivity. It also makes RFP response much faster and more efficient.

Record your question-and-answer pairs after you submit each response, and regularly audit your content to ensure it’s valuable, current, and accurate.

Format your deliverable correctly

Your prospect won’t read your proposal.

The last thing you want to hear, especially after spending hours, days, or even weeks crafting a beautifully written proposal, is that the customer won’t even read it.

That doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time—far from it. A well-formatted proposal makes it easy for customers to find what they need quickly. Here are some tips:

  • Use the right font – Serif is the easiest to read.
  • Justify left – Justify on the left and use ragged formatting on the right.
  • Use portrait orientation – People are used to reading documents in portrait orientation.
  • Double space – Double spaces between sentences are easier to skim.
  • Limit paragraph and sentence length – More than 3-5 sentences per paragraph is overwhelming, as is more than 20 words per sentence.
  • Use graphics and images – Pictures break up dense text and make it much easier to follow.
  • Avoid reds, greens, and grays – Many people are color blind and can’t distinguish between reds and greens. Grays and other low-contrast colors are difficult to read.
  • Use headings – Headings and subheadings let readers know where to find the necessary information.
  • Define acronyms – You can use acronyms, but you should first define them. Request for proposal (RFP) is one example.
  • Avoid internal references – Don’t make your reader search with statements like “See question #18.” At the very least, summarize the answer and direct the reader to one that’s more detailed.
  • Include a table of contents – Many proposals are 100s of pages long. Prevent frustration by directing customers to what they are looking for.
  • Follow the 3:1 rule – Avoid the hard sell by referring to the prospective customer’s company about three times for every time you mention your company. This is especially important in executive summaries.
  • Proofread – Run your copy through a grammar checker to ensure correct punctuation and grammar.
  • Use a one-third/two-thirds layout – Use one-third of the page as a sidebar for relevant information, such as key metrics.
  • Standardize your formatting – Your stakeholders might have their own ways of working, which is fine, but be sure to bring their content into your standard formatting to create a cohesive style instead of a jarring “patchwork quilt” effect.
  • Use your customer’s logo (maybe) – If you have permission and a non pixelated, high-resolution logo that meets their branding guidelines, attach it to your proposal.
  • Include white space – Space your content so the pages aren’t too dense.

Deliver an organized RFP response

Your proposal should be skimmable, but it should also invite the reader to evaluate whether you can fulfill their needs. Write your proposal to draw the reader in and keep them with you.

  • Reassure the reader – As my grandmother often said, the devil is in the details. But if you want the reader to get to the details, you’ll have to reassure them that you know what they’re asking. Summarize the customer’s requirements very early in the document.
  • Detail each step – Lay the proposal out so the customer can follow the buyer and customer journey. Tell a story and avoid jargon.
  • Build your content library – Each proposal is an opportunity to add to your content library. In turn, your content library should hold a wealth of reusable information and documentation for future responses.
  • Use proposal management software – Your proposal management tools should help you manage the project, find relevant content, and standardize the proposal’s format.

How to improve the proposal management process

Now that you know what an excellent proposal management process looks like, the next step is implementation. Advanced RFP response software is designed to enhance, refine, and simplify your process, freeing you to produce more bids using fewer resources.

Upgrade your content management

RFP software helps you organize your ever-evolving content management system by letting you manage content by tagging it and assigning it to projects. With RFPIO, you can assign star ratings so your best content can rise to the top.

You should also regularly audit your content for relevance, use, and accuracy.

Leverage RFP management dashboards

Track your project’s progress with an RFP response management dashboard that provides insights at a glance.

Scale your response management process

Some weeks you have one project on your plate, and others, three or more. RFPIO lets you scale to your needs by allowing unlimited user access with each project.

Integrate AI into your proposal management solution

Think of artificial intelligence (AI) as a team member that never tires and always has a great attitude. Leverage it to help you answer up to 80 percent of an RFP. It can also analyze the RFP to help you with the go/no-go process, analyze win-loss opportunities, and help perfect your formatting.

Using proposal management software

RFPs are becoming much more common than they were in the past, and mere humans have a tough time keeping up. Proposal management tools help organizations respond to more bids in less time.

The advantages of bid proposal tools

The best bid proposal tools are designed by proposal managers to help manage each of the eight steps in the response process. Streamline your process with the following:

  • Project management – Track each team member and workflow through project management.
  • Content management – A great content management system is more than a repository. It should leverage AI to point you to the most appropriate content and help keep the content library current.
  • Collaboration – It’s almost impossible to go it alone when creating a proposal, and there’s a good chance you don’t share office space with some of your teammates. Today’s bid proposal software should include powerful collaboration tools.
  • Integrations – Most organizations use customer relationship management software, communication software, project management software, and others. Advanced bid proposal tools integrate with most of the tools you already use.
  • Business intelligence and analytics – Use insights to help determine what you can do differently in the future.

Selecting proposal management software

We consider a few features essential when looking for software to help with proposal management.

  • Import/export capabilities – You might receive an RFP in a Word document, Excel spreadsheet, or even a PDF. Look for software that lets you import the document into a standardized platform that your team knows and then exports it into the customer’s preferred format.
  • Content management – Look for an intuitive single source of truth for all of your company knowledge and documents.
  • Integrations – Your proposal management platform should enhance your existing tech stack, not weigh it down. Look for software that integrates with the tools you already use.
  • AI assistance – Intelligent software points you to the best content, does much of the work for you, assigns questions to SMEs, and analyzes past responses and future opportunities.

Streamlined proposal management with RFPIO

RFPIO is mission-critical software for companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, Zoom, Visa, and many, many more. Its advanced proposal management features include:

  • Import/export capabilities – Import each document from your customer’s preferred format onto your desired working template. From there, export the finished document back to the customer’s format before submitting the proposal.
  • Content management – RFPIO offers the industry’s most advanced AI-based content management system. It will answer as much as 80 percent of your document and help you keep your library free from ROT (redundant, outdated, and trivial content).
  • Integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the most popular business applications.
  • AI assistance – RFPIO’s continually-learning AI tool helps you maintain and utilize your content library and generate analytics to help you win more bids and demonstrate value to executives.

Case study

TeamDynamix, a cloud-based IT Service Management and Project Portfolio Management platform, has seen a 300 percent increase in RFP volume over the last three years. When shopping for software to address the rise in volume, they looked for scalability and efficiency.

With RFPIO, TeamDynamix met the 3x increase and reduced turnaround time by about 40 percent, allowing them time to perfect each response and maintain consistency.

Hop on a free demo to see how RFPIO can help you win more bids and boost revenue with fewer resources.

 

RFP response management resource

RFP response management resource

You may have heard the adage that 80 percent of a company’s business comes from 20 percent of its customers. Many call these big customers “whales.”

Whether or not that number holds true for your company, big-ticket sales are the holy grail for any business. While sales teams would love their whale customers to click “buy” on their website and call it a deal, large purchases require time and due diligence on the buyer’s part and at least an equal amount of effort on the seller’s part.

Requests for proposals (RFPs) precede most large purchases and they specifically outline the customers’ requirements and goals and define the bidding process and desired contract terms. A typical RFP could have 100s to 1,000s of questions.

If that sounds like a lot, I’m not going to lie; it is. Strategic RFP response management requires expertise from multiple stakeholders across the organization, a tightly coordinated set of deliverables, and an excellent wordsmith or two.

Now for the good news.

The right RFP response management processes help make short work of creating winning proposals.

This blog post will show you how to create timely, accurate, and compelling proposals by establishing systematic response processes and hopefully land more whales.

Understanding RFP management

RFP management, at least from the vendor side, is the process of organizing and responding to requests for proposals. Of course, that definition is simplistic. RFP response management is about choosing whether an RFP is worth a response and coordinating subject matter experts (SMEs), stakeholders, deadlines and deliverables, and a postmortem.

A typical RFP response includes:

  • A cover letter – Much like when you apply for a job, and perhaps even more so, a cover letter is an opportunity to shine beyond the document’s limitations. It may include information that shows you know what they need, how your company can address those needs, and maybe a little flattery, or at least a statement demonstrating that you’d like to work with them.
  • An executive summary – An executive summary dives deeper than a cover letter. It might show how you plan to address the customer’s needs, competitive differentiators, and why your company is an expert.
  • An implementation plan – This is usually part of the questionnaire. The implementation plan is about how you will meet customer needs, including timelines, onboarding and customer service team members, and so on.
  • Terms of the deal – This section details the costs, postimplementation support, and a contract. Note that the customer may not sign that particular contract, but it will show them the terms and conditions.
  • References – Potential customers want to know that you have a track record of meeting similar needs to theirs. Include at least a couple of references from a similar industry, size, or type of product or service.

The Response management process

Do you want to know my favorite part of a great RFP response management process? Cheating. As a matter of fact, cheating is encouraged, if not the only way, to respond effectively.

Below is the RFP process created by our response experts. You’ll get to the cheating part in step three, but please don’t skip steps one and two.

Step one – Should you bid or should you (no-)go?

Not all RFPs align with your business’s goals or capabilities. It’s okay to choose not to respond to an RFP that you probably won’t or might not want to win.

Step two – Hold a kickoff meeting

The most critical part of an RFP process comes before you ever receive an RFP. You should know your stakeholders and have a list of subject matter experts (SMEs) with their areas of expertise and availability.

Once you do receive the RFP, call a meeting with your SMEs, writers, editors, and others involved in the project. Fill them in on their roles, responsibilities, and deliverable deadlines.

Step three – First draft

Step three is almost fun, at least it should be if you have an up-to-date content and document library. Let the library do much of the work for you by responding to the questions you’ve seen before with its stored question-and-answer pairs.

Step four – Second draft

Depending on the age and health of your content library, you might arrive at step four with 80 percent of the work already done. Now is the time to roll up your sleeves and answer the rest of the questions. You will probably need to involve your SMEs.

Step five – Review and revise

When attempting to convey that your product or service is the best for the buyer’s needs, your RFP response should be perfect. Are your answers, including those from the content library, accurate and well-written? Are there any typos or grammatical errors?

Step six – Submit the response

Your response is polished and perfect and hopefully on time, if not early. Submit it as soon as it’s ready and wait for a receipt.

Step seven – Save and audit the responses

Your RFP response contains valuable information that is certain to be useful for future RFPs. Set yourself up for success by auditing your new responses and storing those with value in your content library.

Step eight – Postmortem

Even if you’ve answered every question with relevant and beautifully worded responses, your company’s product or service is a perfect match for the buyer, and even if you won the bid, you should always take a moment to assess what went right and what went wrong.

Perhaps you find a bottleneck in your process or rely too heavily on a particularly busy SME who’s understandably slow to respond. Addressing those or other problems before the next project will help you prevent those issues from undermining your subsequent response.

The challenges of response management

Response management is challenging. Even the best response teams need help. Heck, even our response management teams need help. Here are some roadblocks you might encounter:

  • Lack of time – It can take days or even weeks to respond to an RFP. RFP software can cut that time in half or better.
  • Strict deadlines – An RFP deadline is pretty much set in stone. A slow internet connection can mean the difference between winning and losing a deal. Try to submit your proposal early to avoid unforeseen delays.
  • Disorganized content library – A well-maintained knowledge base will save you days on a typical response. A poorly maintained knowledge repository will force stakeholders to search for answers and annoy SMEs, who might have to repeat themselves.
  • Siloed and distributed workforces – RFP response is collaborative by definition. When stakeholders are spread throughout the organization and even the world, let’s just say that herding cats seems like a comparative breeze. A great RFP response platform should have its own collaboration tools and work with your existing ones.
  • Security risks – When a company suffers a data breach, it affects customer confidence and the bottom line. Be sure your RFP response platform has strict security protocols.

How to manage RFP responses

Perhaps repeatability is the ultimate sign of a great process—or is it agility?

Imagine attempting to scale Mount Everest without a guide. An experienced guide knows all the well-worn trails and how to respond to changing conditions. Responding to an RFP is far less perilous than climbing Everest, but the principles are the same.

Optimize time management with automation

Your SMEs are some of the busiest people in your organization. Respect your stakeholders’ time by letting your process do most of the work. RFPIO leverages artificial intelligence to guide you to the correct answers to an RFP’s questions.

Scale your response management process

Response resource needs are tough to predict. One response might need dozens of stakeholders, while another might only need a few. You might have one RFP on your plate this week, but next week three more will appear.

Too few user licenses might force you to ignore some RFPs, while too many are a waste. RFPIO doesn’t have user licenses. Our scalable platform enables you to assign the exact personnel you need for each response without it affecting your team’s budget.

Upgrade your content management approach

A well-maintained content management system allows you to access company history, documents, hiring procedures, financial information, and much more. It also protects your SMEs’ time by ensuring they won’t have to repeat past answers.

Regularly audit your content management system to ensure that everything is accurate and up to date.

Facilitate collaboration

RFP response management is a team effort. If your company is anything like RFPIO, you have SMEs and other stakeholders distributed worldwide. Even if not, pinning people down for in-person meetings is a challenge.

RFPIO enhances collaboration either directly through the project management platform or any of its third-party integration partners, such as Slack, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and so on.

Employ branded response templates

Add the final sheen to your polished and perfected response with branded response templates tailored to your organization.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management is about capturing, storing, organizing, maintaining, and generally managing all of the information that is valuable enough for a company to keep. That might include incorporation papers, financial statements, hiring policies, product information, customer details, and so on.

Effective knowledge management also includes regular audits to ensure all the information is current and relevant. It should also flag records for disposal according to “shred by” regulations. Ideally, all knowledge should be easily accessible to those who need it.

Improving RFP knowledge management

Organizations and their employees lose a lot of time to improper knowledge management. An IDC study found that employees spend an average of 14 hours a week trying to locate data. A McKinsey survey found that searchable knowledge bases can reduce that time spent by as much as 35 percent.

RFPIO’s Content Library helps organizations improve their RFP (and companywide) knowledge management by providing a repository for all their company content and documentation in an easily accessible and highly-searchable, thanks to machine learning, single source of truth.

Scale organizational content

I like to shop. Perhaps you do too. As we both know, if we keep bringing new items into our homes without clearing out the old, we’ll soon overflow and might have trouble locating our favorite comfy sweaters.

Just as we occasionally need to clean out our drawers and closets, a well-organized knowledge management approach needs regular content auditing to ensure accuracy, relevancy, and timeliness. RFPIO helps you make data-driven decisions when streamlining and scaling your content library.

Conduct regular review cycles by turning to RFPIO to identify the content you use and the content you don’t. Additional reporting metrics include answer accuracy and who is using the content.

Remember, RFPIO’s unlimited user model lets you engage maintenance help from any team member.

Centralize your content library

You might have a distributed and siloed workforce, but a centralized content library consolidates and democratizes your organization’s knowledge base.

Future-proof your knowledge base

Your needs today look very different from your needs tomorrow. You can help future-proof your knowledge base by performing regular audits.

RFPIO gently reminds you when it’s time for your scheduled Content Library audit, ensuring that your content is accurate and current. The more often you issue new product features or releases, the more you should audit your content.

Another often overlooked component of future-proofing is creating a succession plan. Sure, you might plan on staying with your company until retirement, but perhaps you’ll receive a job offer you can’t refuse or simply choose to take a vacation.

Make sure you have a plan in place in your absence, which includes training others on the content library, including familiarizing them with tagging practices, and so on.

Choosing response management software

Maximizing your response output without adding employees will likely require help from a response management software. What are the key components of advanced response management software?

RFP management software: essential features

When assessing available software, look for the following:

  • Import/export capabilities – RFPs arrive in multiple formats, including Microsoft Word, Excel, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and sometimes even PDFs. Advanced response software lets you import from any of the most commonly used formats, work within your familiar platform, and export into the buyer’s format.
  • Content management – Access all your stored question-and-answer pairs with a few clicks. Better yet, advanced response software leverages machine learning to help you find the correct answers fast and do most of the work for you.
  • Integrations – Response software should work within your existing applications to foster ultimate productivity and collaboration.
  • Artificial intelligence – Access automated answers, track progress, and generate reports using advanced AI.

How a response management platform can support your revenue team

The same features that facilitate response management help enable sales. Most large sales include proposals and documents such as due diligence and security questionnaires. RFPIO seamlessly integrates with sales enablement, CRM, and vendor assessment tools.

Increase your win rate with RFPIO

Respond to more RFPs, and boost your win rate without adding personnel by leveraging RFPIO’s advanced response software.

Case study

RFPIO helped a human resources organization double its win rate thanks to the Content Library. Before RFPIO, their teams spent most of their time searching for answers to questions they’d answered before.

For those answers they did have stored, they’d often find themselves correcting errors directly in the proposal rather than in the system, meaning the mistakes were being passed down to future responses. RFPIO made it easy to store, find, and correct answers within the system, saving hours on each response, while the professional responses helped significantly boost the win rate.

See how RFPIO can help you build better bids and increase your win rate by taking us for a test drive.

Response management software FAQs

  • What is an RFP? – Businesses, nonprofits, and governmental agencies issue requests for proposals when seeking bids for large purchases.
  • Who owns the response management process? – Response management ownership depends on a company’s organizational structure. Some have dedicated response management teams, and in others, sales personnel might own the process.
  • Do manual response processes work? – Manual response processes do work. However, they are inefficient and have trouble keeping up with growing needs.
  • What kind of organizations issue RFPs? – Any type of organization can issue RFPs.
  • How does artificial intelligence help the response process? – I will let data scientists and software developers debate whether AI is actually more intelligent than human brains (I’m team human, at least for now), but it is undeniably faster. It can find relevant responses within seconds, while humans might take minutes or more.
  • How many users can RFPIO support at one time? – RFPIO is a project-based platform rather than user-based. Go ahead and assign as many users as you need.
  • Does RFPIO integrate with other business applications? – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the most popular business applications.
  • Is RFPIO secure? – RFPIO offers best-in-class security protocols and is trusted by highly secure tech companies such as Microsoft, Google, Visa, Facebook, and far more.
RFP response resource guide

RFP response resource guide

If you ask any salesperson about their ideal lead, you’ll likely hear that the perfect prospect is a confirmed buyer with clearly identified needs and pain points.

Hmmm, that sounds an awful lot like companies that issue RFPs.

An RFP, or Request for Proposal, is a document issued by buyers seeking bids for products or services. Every RFP includes a detailed description of the customer’s needs, and unless someone pulls a plug somewhere, the ultimate goal is to buy.

Confirmed buyer ✅
Needs and pain points clearly identified ✅

If that’s not enough to demonstrate the value of RFPs, here are a few statistics:

Still, most companies see RFPs as nuisances, which shows in their work. More than half of customers say the RFP responses they receive are sloppy and riddled with grammatical and spelling errors.

So, when did these enormous revenue-generating opportunities become the business equivalent of pop quizzes that no one studied for?

What is an RFP response?

RFPs and proposals are often confused. An RFP is a request from a potential customer that goes to multiple vendors. Depending on the request, an RFP generally asks for a proposal, which includes pricing, product or project details, information about the bidders’ companies, deliverables, and so on.

RFX is the parent category of several types of response request. Some examples include RFQs, or requests for quotes, which means the customer wants to see the pricing and little else.

Another is the RFI, which is a more formal way of collecting information. Often, companies use RFIs to create preferred vendor shortlists and may pair them with RFPs.

An RFP asks for things found in both RFQs (pricing) and RFIs (information). So the RFP is like a combo of the RFQ and the RFI. Many people use RFP as a more general term instead of RFX.

Components of an RFP response

The components of an RFP vary. However, first and foremost, it starts with what the customer wants. The document may ask for the following:

  • Answers to the questions asked
  • Sample contracts
  • Financials
  • Quotes or a cost estimate

RFP response examples

RFP proposals are sales documents, but that doesn’t mean you can send a customer a bunch of sales collateral with a price quote and call it a proposal.

If you’ve ever had a conversation with someone who endlessly talks about themselves, you know how annoying that can be. It’s the same with RFP response. Instead of responding with boilerplate answers about what you can do for the customer, take the effort to learn about them and how you can best partner with them.

And while you’re thinking about your prospect, the response should be organized and readable. You don’t want a customer to have to work to find answers. Instead, they want to be able to easily compare competing proposals from bidders.

Even though it might be more laborious on your part to put the response in the format they request, they’re asking that format for a reason, and not complying could take you out of the running.

The ideal proposal tells a compelling and engaging story for the reader. It’s informative and inclusive of the customer’s needs. A well-written response will stand out, as will a disorganized one that lacks thought and effort.

An RFP response typically should include the following:

  • Cover letter – Explain the type of information that is included in the proposal
  • Executive summary – Summarize the proposal and why the customer should choose your company
  • The response – Answer the RFP’s questions
  • Additional information – Include applicable case studies, company history, your recommendations, etc.
  • Attachments – Include exhibits, documents, samples, reports, contracts

For more specific examples, read here.

How to respond to a request for proposal

An effective RFP response is never haphazard. Like any project, it should be organized with clear deliverables and stakeholder assignments. Strategic response management software such as RFPIO takes much of the work off the response manager’s shoulders by documenting and clarifying responsibilities and integrating with existing tools such as Salesforce, Slack, and dozens more.

Of course, project management software is a time- and resource-saving tool, but it can’t replace human beings. A systematic and organized response management system should include these human-managed steps:

Step 1 – Determine whether you are the right fit

It might be tempting to respond to every RFP, regardless of whether your company’s solution is the best fit. For example, the prospect may need a product or service only a large enterprise company can provide. In that case, why waste your resources and risk the chance of wasting your prospect’s time?

This isn’t necessarily a hard and fast rule. RFPIO’s CEO and co-founder, Ganesh Shankar, recently spoke with another CEO whose company strategically responded to RFPs they knew they wouldn’t win as a way to get their brand in front of the customer for future needs and to strengthen existing relationships. The keyword here is “strategic.” Perhaps coordinate with your marketing department to determine the best approach to brand awareness.

Step 2 – Set up your process

Your subject matter experts (SMEs) are vital to your RFP response process. However, if you have yet to choose your SMEs before the RFP is in your hand, you will use up time finding the person in your company that holds the answer. Remember that the clock begins ticking the moment you receive the document.

According to many of the RFPIO customers I speak to on a regular basis, timelines are getting shorter and shorter each year. Companies expect faster turnaround times. You should know your process before receiving your RFP.

While RFPs vary, there are certain elements you will almost always see. For example, you will likely see questions about your company’s overview, history, product or service features, and so on. Know who you can rely on to answer your standard questions, or better yet, have the answers to these questions in your Content Library, so your SMEs will only have to review existing information.

Step 3 – Break down the components

In school we were told that “on time is late and early is better.” It’s the same with RFP response. A late response will almost always be discounted, but beyond that, it could sour the customer to your company for future opportunities.

A late response might cause a customer to question whether you value them and wonder whether you can meet your promises if you win the bid.

An RFP may be hundreds or even thousands of pages long. You must have a complete picture of what is requested and how you should approach it. You should first determine your timeline and work backward from there. Assign team roles, responsibilities, and timelines by breaking down the components.

Step 4 – Determine what you’ll need to include

Once you have determined your timeline, it’s time to determine what the customer is asking for.

  • How do they want the response to be formatted?
  • What questions do they need answered?
  • What exhibits or attachments do they need?
  • What additional information, such as financial statements or contracts, do they want to see?

How to improve the RFP response process

Workplace processes have never been more advanced. Messaging apps have all but replaced, or at least minimized, the use of email and phones. Customer relationship management (CRM) platforms track customer interactions from initial lead through their entire lifecycle. Project management software turns distributed and siloed workforces into collaborative teams.

Why? Well, automation works.

  • 89% of companies report that their businesses grew last year, thanks to automation.
  • 92% say that automation frees employees to focus on more critical and complex tasks.
  • About one-third of businesses report achieving a 100% or more ROI in the very first year after investing in automation.

Unfortunately, companies still need to prioritize automating their response processes.

  • 84% of companies use inefficient RFP processes.
  • 44% of proposal managers use no response software.

That’s not to say software is required for an efficient response process, but it certainly helps–a lot. Nor does RFP software replace jobs; it simply enables employees to focus on generating revenue.

Automate manual tasks

As I said, RFP software isn’t out to steal anyone’s job, but you know those annoying manual tasks like chasing people down for their deliverables or trying to keep track of which documents and question and answer pairs need reviewing? Automation takes care of that for you.

If you are a response manager or oversee a response department, you have a lot of control over what’s automated and what’s not. In a moment, we’ll discuss the sorts of tasks you might consider automating. But first, what are the goals of an efficient response process?

The goals of an efficient process include the following:

  • Automating manual tasks
  • Keeping content up to date and accurate
  • Optimizing time management
  • Collaboration

To reach those efficiency goals, consider automating:

  • Processes involving multiple stakeholders
  • Time-consuming tasks that don’t add value
  • Anything that might help with compliance
  • Anything you feel you are reinventing each time
  • Tools and templates
  • Answers to frequently asked questions

Up-to-date content

Let’s drill down a bit and talk about one of my favorite features of advanced response automation, the Content Library.

Depending on how long your company has been in business and how often you audit your content, you could have hundreds of thousands or more records–many, if not most, of which are never used.

I get it. Reviewing content isn’t much fun. Fortunately, as with your home, once you do that deep clean most of the rest is just maintenance.

So, where do you start? A regular review of content. My colleague and friend Monica Patterson recently published a super informative blog post on this topic, but in a nutshell:

  • Review the content you use the most – This step is relatively easy because most used content is generally up to date. However, you still want to run it by your SMEs, including every regularly reviewed Q&A pair, document, attachment, or exhibit.
  • Review the content you don’t use — Don’t automatically archive never used content. First, ensure it’s no longer relevant and doesn’t have customer-specific or periodic use.
  • Schedule regular maintenance reviews – Establish a regular cadence of looking at content, so you don’t have things that are so out of date that you have to find a new answer.

Having the cadence that works best for your subject matter experts is essential, which means having a relationship with your SMEs to establish a mutually agreed-upon time. If not, it will cause them more work in the future.

Optimize time management

When you receive a massive RFP, it’s intimidating unless you optimize your time management plan in advance. RFP response time management tactics include:

  • Understanding the scope and timeline of the project
  • Determining who to ask for clarifications
  • Defining roles within your team and engaging SMEs
  • Repurposing and reusing content where applicable
  • Tracking and monitoring deliverables and time spent

Better collaboration

Response teams and sales teams have a whole lot in common. Every employee in your company should have the same goal: to make the company more profitable.

But for revenue-generating departments, such as sales and RFX response, it’s all about winning business. Unfortunately, in many companies, the two departments are siloed. When responding to an RFP, it becomes even more challenging when the response team is siloed from the SMEs they need to consult.

While collaboration is possible using email and communication tools, response project management is hardly their forte. Response software that contains collaboration tools allows response managers to track and review progress and content across multiple channels, ensuring accurate and timely responses.

Key performance indicators for the RFP process

Boards of directors, C-suites, and everyone else in leadership positions want to see quantifiable results. As for the RFP response process, they want to see:

  • The types of projects you work on
  • Time and resources spent
  • Time to completion
  • On-time and late submissions
  • Win rate

Some KPIs don’t boil down to just numbers. To best measure the efficiency of your process, survey your team and implement a project post-mortem to identify areas where you can make improvements.

How to choose RFP response software

Before choosing software, take time to understand your process. If you don’t understand what you need, even the most advanced tool will not fulfill every requirement, and you could choose the wrong vendor. Look for agile, scalable software that seamlessly integrates with your existing sales enablement and communication tools.

Make sure that the software company is flexible, listens to customer feedback, and does things with it.

Why you need RFP software

A shared Google or Word document doesn’t exactly lend itself to group collaboration. First, the document could have many pages, and a multiparty editing process is sloppy and difficult to track at best.

In a siloed, distributed workforce, RFP software is a single place to go—a single source of truth. It enables you to gather answers to questions, exhibits, and documents. The software is a place where everyone sees the one correct answer. It’s also a place where everyone can work together without causing the RFP coordinator to pull their hair out.

Essential features

An advanced RFP response platform is a partner. It shares your goal of quantifiable and qualifiable results with the resources and bandwidth to manage multiple users and projects. Look for several features, including:

  • A content management system that serves as a single repository for all company knowledge and documents
  • End-to-end project management, including in-depth tracking capability/activity log
  • Response recommendation engine
  • Customizable analytics
  • Tech stack integrations
  • Scalability
  • Ability to import different formats
  • Ability to customize parameters

RFPIO is your partner in proposal management. To accomplish what RFPIO does would require a full-time assistant 100% of the time, and that’s for just one RFP. Teams rarely have just one.

Building response functionality onto sales enablement software would be very expensive and include features you probably won’t use. You want software for response teams and response management. RFPIO offers:

  • A best-in-class Content Library – A single company repository for Q&A pairs, company knowledge, documents, exhibits, and other attachments.
  • Advanced project management – Built-in analytics, advanced in-app collaboration tools, project tracking, role assignment, and clarification.
  • AI-powered Recommendation Engine– RFPIO leverages machine learning to recommend answers.
  • Integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with more than two dozen of the most popular business applications, including Salesforce, Slack, Microsoft Office, Hubspot, and more.
  • Scalability – RFPIO’s unique project-based pricing model fosters collaboration by providing access to unlimited stakeholders on each response. The system grows with your needs and scales back during slower times.
  • Ability to import different formats – With RFPIO, you can import from Word, Excel, other documents, and even PDFs.
  • Customizable parameters – Track project metrics in a way that makes sense to you, including by vertical, company size, product line, project type, project stage, number of questions, project value, and so on.

Common challenges of the RFP response process

RFP response involves a lot of moving pieces. RFP response is a collaborative process that requires input from multiple and diverse experts across the organization. Yet, more than half of companies work in silos.

Additionally, not every company has dedicated SMEs, so you could be fighting competing priorities. And then there’s the good old problem of time. Timelines are getting shorter. Things pop up–like PTO, life in general, and, unfortunately, pandemics.

You should also set aside time to update the content library; otherwise, you’ll spend more time in the RFP process, as it’s faster to validate content is accurate than to track down the SME and have them update content you know isn’t up-to-date.

Then, of course, departments compete for their part of the annual budget, and sadly, some companies don’t want to, or can’t, invest in software for small teams, even though response teams pack powerful revenue-generating punches.

Case study

In my dealings, I’ve found that RFPIO is mission-critical software, but the proof is in the pudding. Celtra, a creative management platform organization, had a broken RFP response process. Their content was siloed, and workflow and collaboration needed optimization.

The result was rushed responses and a poor success rate. After researching the response management industry, they chose to work with RFPIO. They found:

  • They value the support and educational content, especially around best practices.
  • They appreciate the industry-leading integrations and clean user interface.
  • Now they’re responding to twice as many RFPs in less than one-fourth the time with fewer than half the people.

RFP FAQs

If you have questions about RFPIO or the general response process, you can contact us anytime. Here are some of our most frequently asked questions:

  • What is an RFP? – Organizations issue requests for proposals (RFPs) to enlist bids for specific products or services from multiple vendors.
  • What is included in an RFP? – RFPs are highly detailed and contain in-depth project descriptions, background information, specific requirements, deadlines, and so on.
  • Why do organizations issue RFPs? – Organizations issue RFPs to obtain detailed bids to compare and contrast before purchasing.
  • Who responds to an RFP? – Responding to RFPs requires input from multiple stakeholders throughout an organization. Many organizations have dedicated response teams, while in others, sales teams steer the process.
  • How does RFP software help the process? – Advanced RFP software helps ensure quality and on-time response with time management capabilities, collaborative tools, tech stack integration, scalability, a flexible pricing structure, and a robust content library.
  • Does RFPIO work with our existing processes? – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with the most popular business applications, and our import/export capabilities ensure that both response teams and customers receive the format that works best for them.
  • Do we need to purchase multiple licenses? – RFPIO has a pricing structure that is rare among SaaS companies. Instead of a fixed number of licenses, RFPIO charges by active concurrent project, enabling access to unlimited users.
  • How secure is RFPIO? – I could bore you listing our security certifications and protocols, but let’s just say that our platform is secure enough for Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Adobe, and VISA.

Optimize your RFP responses the RFPIO way

Learn more about how your company can break down silos, effectively and efficiently manage time, and create a single source of truth in a platform that scales to your specific requirements without burdening your tech stack.

Response management made simple

Response management made simple

When an organization seeks you out, it’s flattering. Your product or service is getting noticed. While everyone in your organization deserves tremendous kudos for the recognition, receiving an RFX is just the beginning.

Responding to a request for proposal (RFP), request for information (RFI), request for quotation (RFQ), due diligence questionnaire (DDQ), security questionnaire, or more generically, an RFX, requires a well-honed process that highlights your organization’s professionalism.

Please excuse the hodgepodge of metaphors, but brush off your lapels, sharpen your pencils, and put your best foot forward. It’s time to respond.

What is response management?

While RFXs are as individual as their issuers, they all have one common element: a deadline. An RFX might have hundreds or thousands of pages. In addition to pricing and product-specific questions, you might see questions about company history, culture, finances, the onboarding process, and so on.

The final proposal will require detailed and accurate answers, a clear and engaging narrative, and (usually) multiple stakeholders from throughout the organization.

Response management is the process of making that happen. Or more technically, it’s about understanding, defining, and publishing a full process. As with other projects within your organization, it includes establishing workflow, roles and responsibilities.

Who is responsible for response management?

Often, RFXs arrive through an organization’s CRM. From there, it might go to a response or proposal team, a single response manager, or a salesperson. Enterprise organizations are more likely to have dedicated RFX response teams than small businesses.

However, even full-time response teams will need help from subject matter experts (SMEs) throughout their organizations. As a response manager, it’s your responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to the project as a whole, or at least their part. Each stakeholder must understand their expectations.

Owning the response management process

A response manager might not be part of the C-suite. They might not head up a department, or even have a dedicated supervisory role. When they receive an RFX, however, the buck stops with them.

Before delving further, we should back up a bit. The response manager’s role begins long before an RFX arrives and ends long after it’s out the door. Truth be told, the process is most efficient when it’s ongoing, regardless of whether the response manager is facing a deadline or not.

Evaluate processes

If you’re a runner, you might stretch before your daily five-mile run. During your run, you may track your heart rate, pace, and distance on a smartwatch. Afterwards, you might enjoy a deeper stretch and eat a healthy meal.

Or, if you’re like most people, you start your work day awakened by an alarm. Then, in no particular order, you might brush your teeth, workout, shower, dress, perhaps put on makeup and style your hair, maybe drink a cup of coffee, and have some breakfast. You might also commute to your office.

Once you get to work, you probably turn your computer on, check your email, agenda, Slack channel, and so on. Maybe you queue up some favorite work playlists and see where you stand on your goals. At the end of the day, you shut everything down and head home. Once every week, month, quarter, or however your company sees fit, you might see productivity reports.

If you notice in my two examples, the primary activities, running and working, are really only implied. The rest are processes. None of the processes mentioned above offer quantifiable productivity, although the smartwatch certainly tracks productivity. In both cases, the hypothetical people could argue that without their processes, they would be far less productive.

In each case, the processes are :

  • Repeatable – On an individual level, we call the processes “routines” or “regimens,” which are by definition repeatable.
  • Scalable – Planning a longer marathon training run or working from home for the day? Both processes can easily adapt.
  • Specific – Run five miles every day, wake up at the same time, arrive at work on time, and so on. All of these are specific milestones.
  • Measurable – Both processes include quantifiable goals.

Without processes, a company’s accounts payable (AP) department could wreak fiscal havoc. A poorly defined onboarding process could lead to confusion and employee dissatisfaction. Insufficient RFP response processes will result in a poor win rate, diminished morale, SME frustration, and threaten company buy-in.

So, let’s talk about establishing response management processes.

Establish an accurate organizational knowledge base

The best way to get an SME on your side is to do as much of the work as possible before calling them into the process. The best way to alienate an SME is to ask them to constantly repeat themselves. That’s where a well-maintained and accurate organizational knowledge base comes in.

If your company is like most, it’s siloed. Perhaps you have two knowledge bases, an internal one (such as company wikis, products, services, marketing collateral, archives, and so on) and an external one (sales-based content). It’s not even unheard of for a response department to have its own knowledge base built from previous proposals.

For efficiency’s sake, one knowledge base is certainly better than two or more. However, you need to be sure that proprietary information doesn’t end up in a customer proposal or private HR records in a company email.

As with the overall process, the knowledge base should be:

  • Repeatable – If you record answers to commonly-seen questions, SMEs will only have to double-check accuracy.
  • Scalable – Your knowledge base should have the ability to grow with your company.
  • Specific – Are you able to provide access only as needed? Does your system help you find relevant information?
  • Measurable – Who uses it? What goes in it? The better you can measure its worth, the more likely you will have company buy-in.

Eliminate repetition

Repetition isn’t always bad. Knowledge base repeatability helps prevent SMEs from having to repeat themselves, but you also want to eliminate repetition–which can lead to confusion and dated or inaccurate responses–within your knowledge base.

To help avoid repetition, define and document your layout. Use collections, response headers, and how you classify and organize your content to define your knowledge base’s layout. Make sure everyone is on the same page by documenting everything.

When you spend hours staring at a screen, you might lose objectivity in defining and documenting. There’s a term in IT called “rubber ducking.” Essentially the concept is that if you’re stuck on something, explain it to the duck. Expressing the problem out loud helps take you out of your head for a moment.

If you walk through it from an outside perspective, it makes it easier to see. Lay out the process and walk through it. For example, “I get this from sales, and then send it on to someone who does their part.” So, if you’re stuck, rubber duck it.

Additionally, it’s much easier to see when it’s visual. Identify redundancies and where things might fall through the cracks. Don’t be afraid to go analog at first, such as arranging index cards on the floor.

Automate responses

At RFPIO, we believe in reusing and recycling content as a step toward saving the environment and hours of a response team’s time. Odds are, the RFXs sitting in your inbox right now contain multiple repeat, or near repeat, questions.

Leveraging artificial intelligence to find past responses to similar questions will show your team, especially your subject matter experts (SMEs), that their time matters.

Define roles, responsibilities, and the process, by starting with intelligence that is already in your knowledge base. Ask what you can do in your process that isn’t necessarily affected by other people.

Improve SME collaboration

Often, SME relationships feel one-way, at least to them. Put yourself in their shoes when you’re looking at your process. What are their touch points? When do they hear from you—is it only when you need something? If so, they’ll feel used.

Understand what’s on their plate. Get their feedback and use it when you can. Talk about and offer help with tight deadlines. Ask for things like customer success stories that you can use now or in the future. They might know about the roadmap in their department to help tell the company story. They are also invested in the process. Keep them updated.

Be specific

It’s human nature to make assumptions about what an RFX is asking. If, for example, a prospect is looking for a specific product or service that you don’t have, don’t respond with another one. Not only do you risk alienating the potential customer, it will skew your data.

For example, let’s say you sell a cloud computing platform and many of the RFXs you receive ask for an application security product you don’t sell. If instead of responding that you don’t have the product, you respond with your application’s security protocol, the data could be misconstrued within your company to show that there’s a sudden interest in your application’s security protocol when in reality no one asked about it.

Scale response capacity

If your company is like many, the demands on your response team might be light at the beginning of the year, but by the time Q4 rolls around, you barely have time to grab a cup of coffee.

You can free up at least enough time to get a cup of coffee, and maybe even lunch, by standardizing and automating what you can.

Response software that tracks activity can quantify how long things are taking and help you determine when you might need additional resources. It’s also worth noting that RFPIO’s pricing structure automatically scales by charging by the project rather than being locked into a specific number of users.

Measure growth and continuously improve

Help maintain company buy-in by quantifying your system’s value. Feed innovation with concealable and actionable data such as tracking sales and product lifecycles. You should also periodically review the overall process as a company to see where you stand on your maturity roadmap.

  • Were your responses submitted on time?
  • Were your responses accurate?
  • Did you lose anything in a competitive or compelling space?
  • What else can you do to improve your process?

Once you have armed yourselves with data, enact incremental changes as you discover them. However, too many changes at once lend themselves to risks and red flags.

With RFPs, you’re dealing with direct customer and market requests. Share with the company, specifically marketing and product. Go through RFPs and RFIs yearly to see what else you might offer customers and market trends. Have those conversations before the next year’s roadmap is created. Respond to the question at hand and pay attention to the questions when creating a roadmap instead of the answers.

RFPIO can help you drive revenue growth with a smarter response management solution

When the focus is on responding to an RFX, it’s easy to forget that the ultimate goal is to drive revenue growth, not just fill in the blanks. Fuel your revenue-generating engines with:

Repeatability

RFPIO saves time and work at every stage of the response process.

  • Intake – Receive RFXs through your CRM or directly through RFPIO.
  • Content Library – A typical RFX contains very few original questions. RFPIO’s Content Library leverages machine learning to help you automatically fill in up to 80 percent of the document, freeing your key stakeholders to focus on unique content and other revenue-generating opportunities.
  • Export – Export your response to a customized template or the customer’s preferred format

Scalability

Today’s workload is going to look very different from tomorrow’s, next month’s, next quarter’s, or next year’s. RFPIO scales with you and provides actionable insights to help your company intelligently respond to changing demands.

Tracking – Track how long projects are taking to help determine when you need to rev up or cut back on resources.
Pricing – Licensed-based pricing models limit you during busy times and are a waste when things slow down. RFPIO allows for unlimited users on each project and only charges for the number of projects you have going at any given time.

Reporting

Response teams are at the forefront of market trends and advanced analytics helps companies address competitive weaknesses and make informed decisions to shape the future. RFPIO provides annual, quarterly, monthly, and project-level reporting with just a few keystrokes. Built-in reporting metrics include:

  • Project type – How many of your projects are RFPs? How about DDQs?
  • Project stage – How many requests have you received? Where are you on each one?
  • Time to completion – How long is it taking you to complete projects?
  • Content Library usage – How often is your Content Library being used? How is it being used?
  • Auto respond usage – How many total questions? How many did the Content Library identify and how many were automatically responded to?
  • Win/loss analysis – How many and what kinds of bids do you win? What areas need improvement?
  • Near limitless customization options – Create your own reports in your desired layout.

*Next Action*

You’ll respond to more RFXs in less time and improve your win rate with RFPIO. However, RFPIO is more than a response project management tool; it’s a sales enablement platform, a company knowledge repository, a virtual librarian that points any user to relevant content, and a 24/7 on- and off-site statistician and data analyst.

Talk to one of our specialists. Take a free ride to show you how RFPIO is a turbo-charged revenue-generating machine.

13 top blogs for response professionals

13 top blogs for response professionals

I like to think of RFP response managers as the unsung heroes of their organizations. In a typical company, around fourty-five percent of revenue begins with an RFP, and response is becoming more and more competitive every day.

In addition to having a range of titles — proposal manager, bid manager, capture manager, or RFP manager — response managers wear a lot of hats. They’re part researcher, part writer, part salesperson, and part ringleader, although they may claim that they’re more than part ringleader. Keeping up with that evolving skill set can be exhausting!

You could go back to school, I suppose, or you can hone your skills through blogs. Every morning, I read a handful of curated blog posts to help up my game. They’re quick, convenient, and easy to come back to when interrupted, and the great ones make me feel a little bit smarter.

In this post, I will share some of my favorite blogs. Some are about RFPs and response management and others dust off and refine all those other hats you wear.

  1. Gartner
  2. McKinsey
  3. Learning Hub from G2
  4. Insight Partners Blog
  5. Hubspot
  6. Seth’s Blog
  7. Martech Blog
  8. Proposal Pro
  9. Presentation Zen
  10. RFPIO
  11. Winning the Business from APMP
  12. Grammarly
  13. Business Writing

Best blogs for general business trends

1. Gartner

Gartner is a fantastic resource for all things tech. They offer business consulting and some of the most thorough statistical research out there. The blog contextualizes their research and offers invaluable actionable insights to increase revenue and navigate a dynamic business environment.

Post you should start with: Is now the time to stand up or invest in sales enablement?

Generating revenue is the single most important business goal. As a writer, I like to feel as though I am part of the revenue generation process, although not directly. My colleagues in the marketing department and I are responsible for creating brand awareness and helping our sales department sell. Does that make marketing “sales enablement?” Is RFPIO a sales enablement platform? Doug Bushée with Gartner thinks so.

“(Sales enablement is) an opportunity to help your sales force be more effective, not just through technology or training but with a complete package that includes content, technology, communications, sales process, and training to enable your sales teams to drive revenue.” – Doug Bushée

 

2. McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company is an OG in the management consulting world. While their blog isn’t specifically geared toward RFP response, they offer insights and best practices for all verticals and organizational structures. Many in the response industry look to McKinsey for inspiration or statistics for their own blogs. McKinsey’s blog covers a wide range of topics including mergers and acquisitions, analytics, risk management, sales operations, and more.

Post you should start with: Better forecasting for large capital projects

You’d be hard-pressed to find an industry with more variables, at least when it comes to proposals, than construction. The larger the project, the more difficult the bidding process. Most (we hope) companies don’t want to underbid, but all too often, it happens. This blog post explores the psychological factors behind underbidding.

“Why do project planners, on average, fail to forecast their effect on the costs of complex projects? We’ve covered this territory before but continue to see companies making strategic decisions based on inaccurate data. Deliberately or not, costs are systematically underestimated and benefits are overestimated during project preparation—because of delusions or honest mistakes on one hand and deceptions or strategic manipulation of information or processes on the other.” – McKinsey & Company

3. Learning Hub from G2

I am sort of obsessed with reviews. I refuse to try a new hair stylist, dog groomer, or restaurant without first checking their online reviews. I’m that annoying person who scans QR codes in the aisles of Costco or Target to make sure I’m making the best buying decisions.

Before accepting my job with RFPIO, I made sure it was a cultural fit for me and I checked G2 to see what their customers had to say about the platform. G2 is more than a software review site. Its blog is a phenomenal source of information for nearly every vertical and every skill set.

Post you should start with: What is accountability in the workplace? 12 ways to foster it

Most RFP responses require several stakeholders, which is where that unofficial role of ringmaster comes in. Guest blogger Susmita Sarma has several very helpful tips to create accountability in the workplace, which is sure to help you spend less time chasing stakeholders down and more time doing the rest of your jobs.

“In reality, accountability at work is all of the above, which runs like a machine. But if the employees keep no accountability mechanism in place, things quickly fall apart. To avoid this, every employee should be accountable for their own actions at work. It builds confidence within teams and organizations because people know they can depend on one another.” – Susmita Sarma

4. Insight Partners Blog

Do you follow economic or industry news? If not, I completely get it. Sometimes our plates are so full that it’s difficult to see the world outside. Few know more about business trends than venture capitalists, which is why my go-to blog for all things business is Insight Partners.

Post you should start with: SaaS pricing tactics for a high-inflation environment

Pricing is one of the key components of an RFP, and the ultimate component of an RFQ (request for quote). Should you offer the same pricing structure today as a quarter ago? Should you raise prices to cover inflation or lower them to gain a competitive advantage?

“Properly setting prices is an untapped opportunity for SaaS providers to squeeze more value out of what they offer. We often see companies who haven’t touched their pricing for three years or more — which might explain the lack of inflationary growth in the sector. Usually this means companies have built up a significant amount of pricing power through market growth and product improvement which they haven’t yet monetized. While this was also the case well before the current inflationary environment, now the opportunities are even greater — while the risks of not adapting your pricing are more severe.” – James Wood

Best marketing blogs

5. Hubspot Blog

Hubspot is one of the top CRM platforms and it has a strong focus on marketing. Their blog could have gone under the “general trends” category, but I read Hubspot for their marketing tips. In their blog, industry experts discuss everything from a product’s life cycle to how to be more productive.

Post you should start with: 12 free personality tests you can take online today

Aren’t online personality tests so early 2000s? In most cases, I’d agree, but there is value in learning how you tick. By understanding your personality and triggers, you can help establish a more harmonious and productive work environment. And because more data is almost always better, have your teammates take the tests.

These tests are great conversation starters, especially among groups of people who don’t know each other very well. They can help create connections and establish common ground at work. Learning about your colleagues’ personality traits can reveal how each team member prefers to receive feedback and criticism. This can help your team avoid unnecessary miscommunication down the road, as well as lead to more productive projects and meetings.” – Caroline Forsey

6. Seth’s Blog

I guess you could call Seth Godin a marketing guru. He’s a Stanford Business grad, a published author, and a dot com alumnus. Now he blogs. Some of his posts read like streams of consciousness and others like social media posts. I call them bursts of marketing wisdom.

Post you should start with: Contracts and Power

Proposals aren’t technically contracts but many contain the same terms. Who has the power? Would it surprise you to know that the power shifts depending on where you are in the sales cycle? Can you control the shifts?

“In the moment before a contract is signed, the lower-powered party momentarily has more power. That’s because the other entity wants what you have. But as soon as they have it, it’s only the contract that offers concrete protection against future events.” — Seth Godin

7. Martech Blog

The content-rich Martech blog is the leading resource for tech marketers. Their team of marketing professionals blogs about diverse topics such as content strategy, World Cup marketing, and how to survive the death of cookies. They have a robust search engine, so if you have a marketing, or marketing-adjacent, question, just plug your query in to get expert tips. Check the site often as they typically post three or more blogs per day.

Post you should start with: Only 28% of B2B content marketers report having the technology they need

This post caught my attention because it’s one of the many areas where marketers and proposal professionals share common ground. Twenty-eight percent of B2B marketers have the technology they need. Proposal management is somewhat better; 43% say they have the technology they need to perform their jobs.

“The technology issues are likely the results of two things. First, too many B2B companies are letting features and functions determine what’s in their stacks, when it should be determined by their own strategy. Second, they may not understand the level of complexity and amount of resources needed to manage and maintain their martech tools.”

Best proposal blogs

8. Proposal PRO

I’ll be the first to admit that we don’t spend as much time talking about nonprofit grant proposals as we should. Even when taking profit out of the equation, as with any for-profit company, nonprofits still need to create a compelling case for organizations to untie their purse strings. Competing for an organization’s budgeted grant money is challenging. Because you have to demonstrate that your nonprofit meets a donor’s values, a captivating and clear narrative is perhaps even more important than with for-profit industries.

Jodie Eisenberg, the founder of Proposal PRO, specializes in government grants and has more than $500 million in federal grants and contracts under her belt. In her blogs, she shares the tips and tricks to win those super-competitive federal grants.

Post you should start with: 4 ways that grant-writing can ruin your personality

Confession time: one of my closest friends is a grant writer. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard more polite variations on #4, “Don’t talk to me—I’m on a deadline!” Proposal writers of all kinds are arguably some of the busiest in their organizations. Jodie empathizes and offers advice that might help save grant writers from themselves.

“Let’s face it, deadline pressure is a thing, and if you’re still waiting for people to sign documents, provide a final budget item, or just call you back with an OK to submit, things can get tense.” – Jodie Eisenberg

9. Presentation Zen

The first thing that caught my eye with Presentation Zen was, well, the name. I’m willing to bet that your job, like mine, is fast-paced and requires you to turn on a dime. Presentations, where perfection is expected, only add to the stress. Presentation Zen is all about bringing confidence to your presentations by featuring the best advice from presentation experts.

Post you should start with: Pixar Studios *still* offers free storytelling lessons online

You may wonder why I recommended a post about the largest animation studio in the world. I’m not suggesting you include cartoon characters and fantasy in your responses, but proposal writing, like most writing, should offer strong narratives and follow a similar arc to your favorite Pixar movies.

Pixar may be the best at the technical side of animation, but what really made them successful is their understanding of story and storytelling. In an old interview regarding Pixar’s success, Steve Jobs said this: “Even though Pixar is the most technologically advanced studio in the world, John Lasseter has a saying which has really stuck: No amount of technology will turn a bad story into a good story.”

10. RFPIO Blog

I know how it sounds to recommend our own blog, but we’re truly passionate about improving the full-circle RFP process with response management software. That means that within our blog we cover procurement in addition to proposal themes. This broad range of topics helps deepen understanding and collaboration between buyers and sellers. Not only that, but many of the posts in our blog are inspired directly by recent conversations with our customers.

Post you should start with: RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

This post from Ganesh Shankar, CEO at RFPIO, offers a vision of how response teams can help their companies navigate economic uncertainty. Currently, for many, RFPs are manual, time-consuming, painful, and downright annoying — but they don’t have to be. In addition to identifying challenges faced by organizations, the post explores how technology, transparency, and collaboration can drive significant revenue.

“In the grand scheme of things, this is a time when companies are looking for ways to be more efficient. Technologies tend to help companies become more efficient.
Better efficiency doesn’t mean that automation will take people’s jobs. I strongly feel that technology will allow companies to produce more and deliver better outputs with less infrastructure.” – Ganesh Shankar

11. Winning the business

APMP (the Association of Proposal Management Professionals) is the resource for proposal managers and stakeholders. Their blog, not surprisingly, is a wealth of information. Some of it is serious and some is rather tongue-in-cheek although most posts focus on best practices and industry news.

Post you should start with: Is a business proposal different from a marriage proposal?

If you google “proposal,” you’ll find that most dictionaries offer two definitions. One is a written proposal and the other involves a ring and a knee. Is it a reach to compare the two? Winning the Business makes the case that the two types of proposals have a lot more in common than we think.

“This article considers the logical progression of the capture methodology by comparing it with (the) universal experience of personal courtship. Couples go through a multi-stepped process that is remarkably like the four-step capture methodology. Both scenarios have several similarities including a common means to prompt a positive response during the proposal stage.” – Alan L. Lewis, CP APMP

Best writing blogs

12. Grammarly

What do proposal managers and college students have in common? In a word, writing. And in both cases, grammar matters. sixty-two percent of procurement departments say that they regularly receive error-riddled RFP responses. Sadly, grammatical and spelling errors can take a bidder right out of the running, which is understandable since most customers want to see attention to detail throughout an RFP response.

There are several writing and grammar tools online, but I love Grammarly because it covers many of the confusing basics like when to use accept vs. except.

Post you should start with: How to write a great business proposal

Grammarly is far more than just an online grammar checker. Its blog offers real-world advice and business writing tips. Grammarly can help boost your win rate by showcasing your company in its best light. Rachel Meltzer offers guidelines for creating a business proposal, whether solicited through an RFP or unsolicited.

“A business proposal is a document that presents one company’s products or services to another company in detail. Business proposals are often customized for the potential client. It’s a way for the company to market its product and get on the same page as its potential client before they agree to work together.” – Rachel Meltzer

13. Business Writing

While I love Grammarly, its reach is broad. There are tips and tools for students, fiction writers, and writing hobbyists. If you’re looking for something that’s specifically focused on business writing, there’s the Business Writing blog. Like Grammarly, they write entire blog posts covering confusing words like “council vs. counsel,” but their posts all have business angles.

Post you should start with: Is “data” singular or plural? Does it matter?

A tech copywriter, technical writer, and data scientist walked into a bar to ponder the word “data.” Okay, I’m open to suggestions as to a punchline, but a debate over whether “data” is singular or plural could get a little raucous, especially if one of the writers is, shall we say, traditional. Business Writing’s Ryan Fisher tackles that surprisingly controversial issue just to conclude that we’re all right.

“A look at Google’s Ngram graph shows that in American English, while the plural form (the data are) has been predominantly more common, the singular form (the data is) has been rising and is now on par with the plural form.” – Ryan Fisher

 

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

Knowledge management best practices: Out with the old, in with the new

A few years ago, Netflix debuted a show called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It was an overnight hit. Why? It might not surprise you to hear that Americans, Europeans, and presumably much of the world, sit on a lot of clutter.

Clutter in the home can lead to stress and anxiety. Clutter in the workplace isn’t any better. But what happens when what you need is hidden away in a basement or crawlspace—or inside a subject matter expert’s head?

When your household clutter is hidden and you can’t find the vinyl record you’re looking for, it’s annoying. When employees can’t find necessary information, the ramifications extend far beyond their immediate departments.

While Marie Kondo is not (at least that I know of) a content management expert, a well-curated and maintained knowledge management system breaks through the clutter to ensure that the right information gets into the right hands at the right time.

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management, as defined by Slack, has four objectives:

  • Capture knowledge
  • Improve access to knowledge
  • Enhance the knowledge environment
  • Treat knowledge as an asset

Are organizations achieving their objectives?

  • Employees spend an average of 19% of their time searching and gathering information
  • Data professionals spend about 20% of their time rebuilding existing information assets
  • 87% of employees want transparency in the workplace, yet only 18% feel their workplace is transparent
  • Only about ⅓ of organizations leverage AI as part of their knowledge management strategy

A centralized knowledge management system is vital to an organization’s operations. A single source of truth, as opposed to scattered knowledge, provides:

  • Organizational resilience and agility
  • Faster and better-informed strategizing and decision making
  • A greater ability to confront challenges and solve problems
  • Faster and improved innovation
  • Improved employee engagement, productivity, and morale
  • Better sharing of subject matter expertise
  • Enhanced collaboration
  • De-siloed business processes
  • Competitive benchmarks
  • Improved security
  • Increased revenue and profits
  • A better customer experience

Creating and maintaining a content library

A content library is not a dumping ground for documents and data. Each entry into the content library should align with business goals and processes and help maintain legal and security compliance. All content should be up-to-date and relevant—a.k.a., used or at least usable.

Doing the content management heavy lifting

In the first of our two-part series, we discussed respecting your subject matter experts (SMEs), which means doing as much heavy lifting as possible.

With the end of the quarter approaching, this is a great time to audit existing content. Here’s how:

Be organized and keep track of your own work

I keep track of my work using an Excel spreadsheet. I list all the categories of content I will review, who my subject matter experts are, and how much content I have.

I also indicate how often to review the content. For example, a publicly traded company’s content requires quarterly review. The content might be owned by a content manager, someone in investor relations, or corporate communications.

If a company is privately-held, it might have some high-level information it provides on a quarterly basis, although many privately-held companies provide that information annually. If you don’t know how often to review your content, rely on your SMEs. They know the content the best.

Once the SME has provided a review schedule, you can track it on a spreadsheet or on a content management platform to establish review cycles.

Once you’ve established your review cycles, there are a few metrics you want to consider to show SMEs and leadership that your content is in the best possible condition, including:

  • Usage
  • Recency
  • Completeness

You should do a few things to show SMEs that you are organized and ready for them. Build out a plan, including:

  • Showing that you’ve removed unused content
  • Showing that you’re focused on the most-used content
  • Showing that you are organized
  • Showing that you know how to distribute the content to be reviewed
  • Testing your proposal automation and content management platform in multiple environments (office, home office, client’s site, hotel and airline wifi, etc.) to ensure stability
  • If you are using a content management platform, leverage the review and reporting functionality
  • Strategic tagging, especially if an SME has a lot of content to review (consult with your customer success manager before going into that level of detail)
  • Engaging leadership at both the proposal and SME sides, so they know what you’re doing, what the SMEs are doing, how much work there is, and when it’s expected to be completed
  • Recognizing contributors once the reviews are completed

Review most-used content first

The first step to an efficient content management system is pretty simple. However, you will need a lot of help from your subject matter experts to ensure accuracy. The key to maintaining a collaborative relationship with SMEs is to honor their time. Rather than hand them a mile-high virtual stack of content, sort by that which is used the most.

As a proposal manager, you know that RFxs aren’t exactly creative documents. Most questions are near duplicates of those you’ve seen 100s of times before.

So, if your organization doesn’t have content management software and you use SharePoint or Excel to track your content, you can still review the most-used content by seeing the Q&A pairs used on your last 2 or 3 proposals, or perhaps the previous 3-6 months.

You could even take your very first 2023 proposal, review every piece of content that goes into it, and call that your 2023 gold standard.

Review zero-times-used content

The next step is to approach content management from the other end of the spectrum—look at never-used content. It might be tempting to automatically archive or delete (I’m not a fan of deleting) all your never-used content, but that could be a mistake.

As with your most-used content, look at the last 3-6 months. Ask yourself this:

  • Is some of the content relevant, but you haven’t had the time or an opportunity to use it?
  • Is some of the content deal- or client-specific?
  • Is some of the content product- or service-specific and something you might only need to use every 2-3 years?
  • Was the content updated in the last year?

If any of your never-used content meets the above criteria, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on it during the upcoming year to see if it proves its value.

Keep your review/moderation queue current

Once you’ve completed your initial review, keep your review/moderation queue current by setting aside time each week and each month to work through your new and existing content.

Make sure you get content out the door and into the content library in its most accurate state as it is reviewed and updated through projects and SMEs.

Break down your content to achieve success

Now that you know which content is relevant or which might be relevant in the future, it’s time to think strategically about content and how to organize it. It might seem daunting, but it’s very manageable if you approach it in bite-sized pieces.

High-level groups of content

High-level groups of content might carry different names depending on your content management system. If you use RFPIO, those groups fall under “collections.” Others may refer to them as “folders.”

Regardless of names, collections or folders are great ways to begin to attack the content and look at its health as you enter a new quarter or year. You can organize the folders by solution, geography, language, product, etc.

If you added the information to your folders in the last 6 months, keep it. If the content was not used during that time, you can archive it. If you aren’t comfortable creating a periodical archive, you can create a holding tank (or parking lot) for content you want to make available to a limited number of people.

The holding tank will contain content that’s still relatively current but not locked down. Then you’ll be able to access that content and pull it back into the content library if used. If you haven’t used content in your holding tank or parking lot in 3, 6, or 9 months, depending on your review cycle, you can archive it.

Using the holding tank is a great way to strategically add content back without muddying your current content library.

If you have a way to export the content from a SharePoint site or existing non-RFPIO platform to an Excel spreadsheet, you can begin to run some pivot tables. Look for:

  • Number of Q&A pairs in each collection or folder
  • Number of times used
  • Date it was last used

You can also run a pivot table on the zero times used content to see what was added and not used over the last 6 months vs. what should be archived because it’s more than 6 months old.

Report, report, report

Most leaders aren’t particularly interested in the minutiae of a content management review cycle. Still, they want to see results and a demonstration of continuing value, beyond just time savings, in your proposal automation system. That’s where reporting comes in.

Most proposal management systems contain built-in reporting features. Look for them if you are about to deploy a new proposal management solution.

The goal is to show that you have demonstrable time savings and that you are getting into the strategic benefit of the platform by showing that you can keep your content current, accurate, and fresh.

Reporting metrics should include the following:

  • Time saved
  • Accuracy of answers
  • The number of people successfully using the system
  • The number of people who can successfully access content that they may not have had access to before

Let leadership determine reporting frequency

Reports are how you substantiate the strategic benefit you’re getting out of your content management platform, so let leadership determine the frequency.

Most likely, they’ll say quarterly, although it could be monthly at the beginning and then quarterly after your first review cycle. Think of these reports in much the same way you think of the reports your proposal team has to create.

Be consistent and strategic

Stick to your reporting schedule, metrics, and format. Show leadership usage, review schedules, and recently updated content reviewed by your SME and polished by your proposal team and content manager.

Show these for each group of content, line of business, collection, geography, language, or however you organize your content. Be consistent in your format by nailing down your template at the beginning of the year.

Get feedback from the proposal leadership, SME leadership, sales enablement leadership, or, if your company is small to mid-market, from your C-suite.

Ensure that you’re reporting in a way that is valuable to them. Use that format every time you report. Executives and leaders like consistency; they also like graphics. Instead of a lot of Excel spreadsheets, use graphics such as charts or screenshots.

If, for example, you’re an RFPIO user, show leaders used vs. unused content for the annum and then quarterly going forward. You can also show them content that has owners, no owners, has been reviewed, hasn’t been reviewed, etc.

Explain to them why these things matter, and make sure all your content managers, SMEs, and leadership teams are involved in the reporting conversations.

If you use RFPIO or another platform that includes reporting functionality, you can take screenshots of your system reports and include them in your slide decks. Having that consistent graphic will be helpful for leadership, and it will show you the incremental and cumulative progress you’re making.

Also, it will show you when you need to start archiving content and maybe gaps where you need to add new content. RFPIO users can take screenshots of your content library insights report at the beginning of the year, then monthly and quarterly.

At the end of the year, the screenshots will tell a powerful story. Halfway through the year, you might start seeing gaps and areas you may need to improve upon, so by the end of the year, you can show where you spotted that and where you can make adjustments.

Monetize the value of time spent

Leadership likes to see that you’re flexible, nimble, and always thinking about best practices. Additionally, as you save SMEs’ time by reducing the number of Q&A pairs they have to review, etc., leadership will be able to put a dollar value on time saved.

For example, it takes around 3-5 minutes to review a Q&A pair. 10 of those at 5-minutes-a-piece saves 50 minutes of an SME’s valuable time—time they can spend with clients, prospects, doing demos, or other vital aspects of their day job.

If your company has some newer SMEs, content review is a great way to engage the new SMEs and make the time they spend learning the new system and products valuable to the organization.

Think about the next thing coming

As you know, content evolves. As you acquire new knowledge and content, be strategic. Don’t just start loading content to your newly reviewed content management system. Spend time with the content before you load it. Make sure it’s the right content for your content library—it will be used again…it has been reviewed…and it’s current, accurate, and comprehensive.

When you import the new content, identify who owns it, whether you work from a content management platform, a spreadsheet, SharePoint, etc. You also want to set the content up for success.

Tag the content, organize it, and put it in collections, folders, or however your system works. Additionally, you want to work with your SMEs to identify when that content needs to be reviewed—quarterly, annually, every 18-24 months, or when there’s a new product release.

Then use the sweet spot of 10-12 Q&A pair reviews per week to spread the content out in a way that’s easily manageable for your SMEs. Be mindful of the review work they already have assigned to them.

Technology-enabled content review

Keep your content current, accurate, and fresh, and set your SMEs and content review process up for success with RFPIO’s review cycle reminders, advanced reporting, and project management features.

If you would like to learn more about how RFPIO, with the help of machine learning, helps ensure best practices throughout your content review processes, schedule a free demo.

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

Accruent is an SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) company dedicated to helping customers and clients with their physical space and asset management. In recent years, the company has seen notable growth as they’ve acquired other companies to increase their share in the space. They now have nine different products—all of them technical in nature.

Between all those products, the proposals team has a lot of RFPs (request for proposals) to manage and is regularly juggling several at once. According to Jack Pearce, Manager of the Proposal Team, the technical nature of Accruent’s products means the proposals team doesn’t have the knowledge required to answer all the questions themselves. But the company’s subject matter experts (SMEs) are busy people, and the team has to be cautious how much of their time they ask for.

Before Jack became the proposal manager at Accruent, he was a proposal writer. As such, he knew the company had access to RFPIO. But he never used it himself. “None of us did,” he explained. “It wasn’t really rolled out properly. No one was trained on it, everyone just thought it was another system they had to learn.”

They had some content stored in it, but none of it was organized. As a proposal writer, Jack hadn’t fully understood the value of RFPIO. But as a proposal manager, his view changed. Suddenly, he saw how much potential the tool had to make all their lives easier.

Making RFPIO’s potential a reality

In 2020, Jack embarked on a project to re-roll out RFPIO at Accruent. He worked with his colleague James May, at that time a Proposal Writer new to the organization, to better organize the content already contained in RFPIO’s Content Library. They reworked the collections the content was organized within, and created a better tagging structure. They now have nine content collections—one for each product—and another collection for security questions.

Beyond that initial project of getting the Content Library in good shape, they make a point of performing ongoing content maintenance. Whenever James—now considered the company’s resident RFPIO guru—isn’t busy working on an RFP, he devotes time to cleaning up the tags, makes sure the moderation queue is at zero (or close to it), and works with SMEs to keep all content up to date.

RFPIO is now central to Accruent’s RFP process

The proposals team now knows to start the RFP process in RFPIO, and to complete as much of it as they can using the content available. That creates a better relationship with the company’s SMEs, who now know that anytime the proposals team asks for their help, it means they’ve already done as much as they can on their own. Even better, they know each answer they provide will go in the Content Library, saving them that much more time on future RFPs.

In addition to the Content Library, the team also gets a lot of value from RFPIO’s collaboration features. Between everyone involved in the proposal process, they often have 3-8 SMEs working on RFPs at a time. Enabling efficient communication between the various people involved is important.

Before RFPIO, “Every time someone didn’t like an answer, we’d have to have a call about it,” explains Jack. “Now we just use the comments function in RFPIO to facilitate that conversation.” That makes for a more efficient process, and keeps all the correspondence in one place.

The proposals team aren’t the only ones who feel the difference. Chris Low, a Senior Account Director at Accruent, has also shared his feelings on the change: “RFPIO and the processes the team created around it make collaborating with our amazing proposals team even easier. From a simple intake form, to answering questions at a canter with the library, it’s been a huge help and certainly attestable to winning new business.”

The result: submitting more RFPs, with more confidence

With the help of the Content Library in RFPIO, the proposals team is now able to complete around 50% of all RFP questions on their own. That increases efficiency to the degree that they’ve gone from working on 5-6 live RFPs at a time to tackling 15-25 live projects at once. “That is simply because we can do more because of the platform,” Jack says.

Completing more RFPs has also made them better at determining which ones are worth their time. In practice, that has meant fewer no-gos than before. “It’s given us the confidence to take on more opportunities,” Jack shared.

They’ve also seen a big difference in how they handle security questionnaires. The responsibility for those has generally fallen to one person—and it was really too much work to put on him alone. Now, the proposals team is generally able to get 75% of the questionnaires completed on the first pass. That’s cut the response time from ten days to five.

Before RFPIO After RFPIO
Answering RFP questions meant asking busy SMEs to give up their time The proposals team is able to answer around 50% of all questions on their own, giving SMEs that time back
They juggled 5-6 live RFPs at a time They handle 15-25 live RFPs at a time
Security questionnaires were primarily the responsibility of one SME, and took around 10 days to complete The proposals team can answer 75% of the security questionnaire before they send it on to the SME, and they’re completed in half the time
They were limited in how many RFPs they felt comfortable responding to Replying to more RFPs has increased their confidence in which ones they believe they can win, meaning an increase in the number they submit

Jack and his team don’t mince words when they talk about the difference RFPIO has made. “A life without RFPIO would not be worth living,” he says. “It would be bloody difficult. And you can quote me on that.”

According to T.C. Kaiser, SVP – Global Solution Consulting at Accruent, “Our proposals team has a high volume of projects live and RFPIO enables them to deliver with speed while maintaining a high level of quality. Our team relies on the platform to deliver value to our organization and make the best impression with our customers.”

When it came time for Jack to make the case to superiors for renewal last year, he reports, “I said, ‘this is non-negotiable. If we don’t have RFPIO, we cannot do as much work as we do currently.’”

Not that anyone needed much convincing. The proposal process is so centered on RFPIO that people have taken to referring to the proposals team as the “RFPIO team.” According to Jack, “that is probably the biggest compliment we can give the system.”

RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

Every few years, it seems, economists warn of an impending economic slowdown. In circumstances where these predictions have merit—like now—should businesses cut back, or should they embrace change?

Indeed, as every surfer knows, it’s impossible to ride the crest of a wave forever, and the troughs are where they regroup and build momentum. Or, as the late Winston Churchill once said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

I recently sat down with RFPIO’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, Ganesh Shankar, to discuss the changing economy. We will discuss whether, like Churchill or the hypothetical surfer might, companies can leverage software like RFPIO to turn fiscal challenges into revenue-generating opportunities.

The economy

Wendy: Many economists predict a time of economic uncertainty. What is your opinion?

Ganesh: I am not an economist, but I see some macroeconomic challenges lurking. However, I see it as an opportunity. Stronger companies will have a chance to thrive.

Wendy: You have spent your career in the tech sector. In your experience, how do economic downturns generally affect tech?

Ganesh: In the grand scheme of things, this is a time when companies are looking for ways to be more efficient. Technologies tend to help companies become more efficient.

Better efficiency doesn’t mean that automation will take people’s jobs. I strongly feel that technology will allow companies to produce more and deliver better outputs with less infrastructure.

I believe this is the first time we are seeing a downturn in the SaaS ecosystem. Although, when I recently spoke with with two of our enterprise customers, they brought an incredible amount of energy to the meetings. They even flew people in from outside the country to speak with us. It’s evident that they see technology, and specifically our technology, as mission-critical.

Of course, not every technology can claim that, but I feel that RFPIO is fortunate in that it is seen as mission-critical software. Mission-critical technologies will be super important and help companies thrive during a changing economy.

RFPs in a changing economy

Wendy: RFPs are revenue-generating opportunities. During bullish economies, do you feel that companies tend to focus on the low-hanging fruit, such as MQLs and SQLs, rather than RFPs? If so, how does that change during a downturn?

Ganesh: I recently spoke to a CEO of a startup company. I asked why he was looking at a technology like RFPIO. Generally speaking, RFPs are relationship-based, and deals go to companies that are known to the purchaser.

For that reason, time- and resource-strapped small, mid-market, and startup companies often feel that responding to RFPs is a wasted effort.

The startup CEO looks at RFPs very differently. Instead of nurturing existing relationships, his company sees RFP response as an opportunity to put his brand in front of the customer. Even if they lose the deal, he said, RFP response improves brand awareness.

In the past, his company didn’t have the resources to respond to all the RFPs they received. With RFPIO, he told me, he can automate the response process, and it gives his company a chance to register his brand with buyers, whether they win the deal or not.

When the buyer is ready to look for a different company, and they are looking for a simple and economical solution rather than a giant brand, there’s a chance that they’ll remember his startup from the previous strong RFP response.

RFPIO helps his company respond to more RFPs and creates efficiencies in his organization’s response process. Now they have more time to respond, and now his team has the ability to participate in more bidding processes.

Wendy: Roughly ⅓ of revenue comes from RFPs. How might that change during a downturn?

Ganesh: I’m not sure of the metrics, but in changing economic times, companies will more thoroughly scrutinize and be more detail-oriented in evaluating options. In all industries, but especially in the SaaS economy, there are tons of options for customers.

Previously, perhaps due to a time or resource crunch, they made hurried decisions. In a challenging economy, buying decisions are more stringent and thorough. For that reason, I anticipate that organizations will see more RFPs.

Whether customers prioritize pricing, technology, etc., RFPs are a great way to objectively analyze each potential vendor’s offerings. I believe that RFPs will become even more common in the months to come.

Navigating changing times

Wendy: How should companies look at response teams if they need to restructure?

Ganesh: I don’t see technology as a vehicle for cutting people’s jobs. I see it as a way to make systems more efficient. I understand that companies sometimes have to take unwanted measures, but in challenging times, it’s important for companies to centralize their knowledge.

When employees leave an organization, and there is no centralized information repository, the company’s native knowledge walks out the door with them unless it’s documented and centralized.

You want your organization to speak the same language. The information that proposal and RFP managers curate for the company is client-facing. RFPs are often legally binding documents. Response managers must ensure they’re putting forth the right, most relevant information.

Wendy: Does RFPIO have a role beyond response management?

Ganesh: Companies spend time and energy creating their content, so why not optimize and repurpose it for use cases beyond RFPs? This would help other teams consume the content to be used for use cases. That is what I call the “democratization of content,” where organizations can use the same content over and over again. You can recycle and reuse content; you don’t have to reinvent it.

Especially in changing economies, it’s critical for companies to centralize and democratize content to help make informed business decisions. RFPIO’s industry-leading content management functionality provides a single source of truth for leadership, customer-facing teams, HR, finance, legal, etc.

Wendy: How do economic challenges affect the RFP go/no-go decision-making process?

Ganesh: Now is the time for companies to be more efficient and evaluate whether the opportunities are right for them. If it’s not the right opportunity, sometimes it’s okay to say “no-go” and move on to more fitting possibilities.

This is an excellent opportunity, however, for companies to loosen their criteria and do as the startup CEO I spoke to said. Now could be a great time to position themselves for future purchasing decisions by putting their brand in front of customers.

Wendy: A Forbes article suggests that government spending generally remains stable during a recession. What are your thoughts on that, and are there other recession-proof sectors?

Ganesh: Healthcare, education, utilities, education, and financial services are relatively stable.

Wendy: Do you have any advice for seeking out unsolicited opportunities?

Ganesh: This is the time for companies to step up their game and explain the value proposition they are offering. Sometimes customers may not think they are looking for a solution like yours, but then the onus goes on to you to educate and nurture the prospective customers and explain why yours is the right solution.

This is the time for value-based selling. You have to show the value and explain the ROI. Now is the time to become more serious in explaining to the customers.

Wendy: According to Gartner surveys, CIOs prioritize tech stack consolidation, centralized data management, and embracing emerging technologies as cost-cutting measures. How does RFPIO fit with those priorities?

Ganesh: I strongly believe that RFPIO fits into all those pockets. It helps companies be more efficient and reduce resource use. For CIOs, this is the time a platform like RFPIO is mission-critical. Regardless of the economy, companies tend to spend more on technologies that help them generate revenue.

That is why revenue-generating companies tend to be more successful during economic downturns. They are helping their customers earn revenue, which is one of the reasons RFPIO has one of the best-in-class customer retention numbers. We serve all three segments—small businesses, mid-market, and large enterprise companies.

Wendy: What about security spending?

Ganesh: Security spending will only increase, almost regardless of the economy. In the future, most large purchasing decisions will be preceded by security questionnaires to ensure that all vendors, and their vendors’ vendors, comply with buyers’ security protocols.

RFPIO® LookUp and Content Library saves hours on each security questionnaire by leveraging machine learning to answer up to 80% of a security questionnaire’s questions—with the documentation to back the answers up.

As for our platform, RFPIO is entirely scalable and secure enough for companies such as Microsoft, Visa, and Google.

Wendy: This has been an enlightening talk. Is there anything you’d like to add?

Ganesh: This is a good time for companies to think strategically. Most of the biggest deals involve at least an RFP. Sometimes they take a little longer to close, but the rewards are great. RFPIO can help companies thrive through changing economies by helping them win more of those bids.

Wendy: Thank you, Ganesh.

If you would like to learn more about how RFPIO can help your company navigate economic uncertainty, schedule a free demo.

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

At RFPIO, one of the first questions potential customers ask is whether our platform is scalable. The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” but we can ask the same about most other organizational content management systems.

Is your content management system scalable? Do you know how much content you have? How much of it is redundant? How much of it is outdated? How much of it is trivial? Do you have systems in place for new content?

According to Deloitte, 75% of organizations recognize the importance of creating and preserving knowledge, but only 9% of companies are ready to make that commitment. There are a few reasons for this, but 4 of the top 6 reasons cited are easily overcome by creating top-down buy-in through adhering to content management best practices.

  • 55% report organizational silos
  • 37% specify a lack of incentives
  • 35% say there’s a lack of organizational mandate
  • 35% point to shifting roles

Perhaps yours is one of the 75% of companies that appreciates the need for a compliant, organized, accurate, and up-to-date knowledge library. However, with most obstacles coming from within, leadership might see sprucing up your knowledge base as too high a hill to climb, at least right now.

You aren’t alone. In this blog, we’ll discuss achieving organizational, and most importantly, subject matter expert buy-in.

The importance of information governance

Information governance, as defined by Gartner, is the “specification of decision rights and an accountability framework to ensure appropriate behavior in the valuation, creation, storage, use, archiving, and deletion of information.”

Your company’s information management system is everything—and I mean that literally. A well-developed and maintained content management system prioritizes and categorizes all the key documents and pieces of information your company has collected since its founding.

It also includes retiring information that is inaccurate, no longer relevant, redundant, and past a document’s “shred by” date.

Information may be called upon to facilitate major decisions, create proposals, close sales, reassure customers, prove regulatory compliance, help resolve legal matters, etc.

It’s not just decision makers who benefit from a content management system, so do employees. A disorganized system brings about higher labor costs, reduced productivity, and lower morale.

  • Employees value information that is easily accessible
  • Most employees perceive the information in their company’s knowledge base as average or below
  • Over 70% of companies believe that effective knowledge management will increase productivity by at least 20%
  • People spend more than half their days on “busy work,” which includes searching for information
  • 42% of company knowledge lies with individuals, and when they’re unavailable, coworkers lose 42% in productivity
  • Enterprise businesses lose $47 million per year in productivity due to poor knowledge sharing
  • 81% of employees feel frustrated when relevant information for their jobs is withheld
  • SMEs are extraordinarily busy and, like everyone, resent when they think you’re wasting their time

Benefits of good information governance include:

  • Informed decision making – Decision-makers need accurate and current information
  • Breaking down silos – Good governance helps break down information silos by democratizing knowledge
  • Regulatory risk management – Document lifecycle management helps ensure regulatory compliance
  • Legal risk management – Proper digitization and tagging simplify the legal discovery process.

Proving value to leadership beyond just cost

When you initially implement a content management system, the time savings will be impressive—often 40% or more in the first year. But once you begin to reach peak efficiency, demonstrable time savings drops.

That’s when you need to think strategically to show lasting value in your content management platform. Your goal is to prove that value to leadership and keep your content in gold-standard shape.

Unfortunately, many content management strategies don’t provide the types of reporting that include the metrics decision-makers expect, which may include the number of Q&A pairs, those that are regularly used, those that are never used, the amount of redundant information, and how much time is spent searching for information, etc.

Done right, regular content auditing and reporting will provide the data leadership demands as well as help improve morale and boost productivity.

Who are your key decision-makers?

Every organization is different. You may need to get buy-in from one or more members of your C-suite. You may also need to engage sales, sales enablement, and of course, your SMEs (subject matter experts).

Working with your content teams

Subject matter experts are not octopuses—or is that octopi? At most, they have two arms, and if you tug too hard at one, it will never grow back. All of this is my roundabout way of saying, “respect your SMEs!” and do as much of the heavy lifting as you can.

Monetize the value of time spent and time saved

SMEs are typically either consultants or high-ranking members of your organization. Either way, their time is worth a considerable amount of money.

If you can demonstrate to leadership that you’ve reduced the number of Q&A pairs SMEs need to review, you will have shown significant cost savings.

Typically, reviewing a piece of existing content will take about 3-5 minutes. Removing 10 unused Q&A pairs could save your SME as much as 50 minutes. That’s time that could be spent with prospects, doing demos, or performing other tasks.

How to make friends with your SMEs

SMEs may not be official content team members, but they are vital participants in the content creation process.

SMEs are almost, by definition, some of the busiest people in most companies. Odds are, they’ve already invested a considerable amount and expertise in your Content Library. They may have answered many questions multiple times, so you might understand their frustration with the process.

Keep your SMEs engaged by:

  • Forming a partnership – Assure your SMEs that once the Content Library is clean, duplicate efforts will be unnecessary.
  • Involving management to drive SME participation – You’ve proven value to decision-makers. Let them use their influence to encourage SME participation.
  • Soliciting feedback from the SMEs and incorporating it into your process – They will likely have insight into content management and development.
  • Respecting their efforts by spreading content reviews over time – As I like to joke, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Not that we’d advocate actually eating an elephant, but the point is, break the project up into smaller, easier-to-manage pieces.

Your SMEs have ownership over all of their content. Respect their time, but also respect the thought and effort they’ve given each answer. Show them that you value the integrity of their content while taking on as much of the work as possible.

You will be working long-term with your SMEs, so build a rapport by showing that you have a plan. Let them know that you’ll do as much of the project as possible before calling for their assistance.

If you can show that you have carried the baton as far as you can, they’ll realize that you respect them and that their time matters to you.

Communicate with leadership

You’ll want to keep leadership informed regarding both your proposal team and SMEs so they know what you’re doing and what the SMEs are doing, how much work there is, and when you expect it to be complete. When the work is complete, show leadership who was invaluable to the process.

The best way to do this is to identify the leaders and then ask your leadership to coordinate a meeting for all those leaders. Create a PowerPoint deck to show that you are invested, prepared, and ready to partner.

The deck should show that you are ready to own the process, communicate with all parties as often as needed, and you will be a partner with the SMEs. Show how it will not be incumbent on the SMEs to complete the review.

Earn and maintain leadership buy-in with regular reporting. Early on, you might issue weekly reports. Once you get going, you can move to monthly reports.

The goal is to show the impact you’re having, the amount of updated content, the SMEs who are involved and have done good work for you, and time saved.

Get user buy-in: Understand how different people use the Content Library

Content management is not a one-size-fits-all approach. User input is critical for managing a Content Library. Adjust your approach depending on the type of person who owns the content.

Content hoarders

Like those who don’t regularly clean out their email, content hoarders won’t generally archive their content.

If the hoarders are rolling along just fine because they’re familiar with all their content, that’s great, but perhaps not for others who need it.

You should build a strategy for hoarders and get creative using their own tags, star ratings, or keywords instead of archiving their specific content. Then, gently guide them toward warehousing content.

This incremental approach will encourage content hoarders to trust that you aren’t out to get rid of all their content while preventing negative feedback from other users.

People who know the answers

Some authors are so familiar with the content that they might know the answers cold, or at least to the point where they can simply check the boxes on an RFx, add any comments, and go on from there.

The problem for other users is that the authors aren’t using content in one of the identified ways to capture content usage. They aren’t applying or copy/pasting the answer as they would with RFPIO.

Authors are probably highlighting what they need, copying it, and plopping that right into the answer field if they’re using it at all.

The best approach to get them on board is to ask them to strategically go through the content and review and mark their best content.

With RFPIO, they can use a star rating system, where the author can mark only their frequently-used content with 5 stars. The rest of their content should have no rating, at least for now.

People reluctant to change

Generally, people who are reluctant to change have all their Q&A pairs conveniently stored on a spreadsheet. Show those who are change-averse that a content management system will save them time and keep them from having to repeat themselves.

It will take them a little time to get used to the system, and they’ll need to see trust from others. One way to do that is to team them up with someone already using the system successfully.

RFPIO helps you identify those who are reluctant through usage reporting. For example, those who spend very little time in the system might be reluctant. This could also be true of people who spend more time in the system than their productivity indicates. In both cases, additional training sessions could help.

Another way to identify reluctant users, or perhaps just those who need additional training, is to survey them. I suggest using a Likert scale, where for each statement, such as, “Using RFPIO is simple,” there are 6 possible responses, from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

If a few people choose answers in the bottom 3, individual training might be in order. If more than a few are uncomfortable using the system, it’s time for general training sessions. I recommend about 6-8 questions per survey. You can issue further surveys on a quarterly basis or what works best for you.

The knowledge management platform that instills trust

RFPIO is the industry-leading response and content management platform. decision-makers undoubtedly know about the cost and time-saving benefits of RFPIO’s proposal response features. Even the most reluctant users will recognize the benefits and soon become expert content librarians.

And what about RFPIO’s role in information governance, turning your knowledge library into a sales enablement tool and a true repository of company knowledge instead of simply a response management tool?

Schedule a free demo to see how RFPIO can help turn your knowledge library into a business asset, remove some of the burden from SMEs’ shoulders, and provide leadership with the reporting and results they need.

How GEODIS is reducing SME review effort by 80% using response management software

How GEODIS is reducing SME review effort by 80% using response management software

GEODIS is a leading global supply chain company, providing third-party logistics services to more than 150,000 clients in 168 countries around the world. Responding to Requests for Proposal (RFPs) is central to GEODIS business development, and is the main channel through which it attracts new clients, expands service offerings, and increases revenue.

GEODIS Americas maintains an in-depth RFPIO Content Library consisting of more than 2,000 Q&A pairs that proposal professionals use to respond to RFPs. In 2022, GEODIS Americas began an update project to refresh and consolidate information within the Content Library. The aim of this Content Library refresh project is to:

  • Reduce the effort required from GEODIS Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to review and update Q&A pairs.
  • Ensure that the information contained in Q&A pairs is consistent, accurate, and up-to-date.
  • Win GEODIS more business through responding to RFPs with high-quality, comprehensive answers.

GEODIS Americas maintains its Content Library within the RFPIO response management tool. RFPIO has been central to the Content Library refresh project, and provides essential features and capabilities for finding information, updating answers, interacting with SMEs, and strengthening Q&A quality.

GEODIS has managed the Content Library refresh through six key steps.

1. Understand the need for a Content Library refresh

The GEODIS Content Library has become unwieldy over time. This is a natural result of incorporating information from diverse sources into a central repository. As multiple GEODIS SMEs write and respond to RFPs, their answers are copied into the Content Library to preserve their work and provide information for future responses.

This creates duplication in Q&A pairs. As SMEs create multiple responses on similar topics over a period of time, the Content Library captures each response as a separate Q&A pair, even if the answers are similar or identical. SMEs must regularly review every answer as part of an ongoing update process, including duplicates. Reducing duplication within the Content Library significantly reduces the associated SME’s time and effort.

The duplicate question overhead also exists for GEODIS proposal preparers who must decide on which of a number of possible Q&A responses is the “best” answer.

Multiple authors cause issues with the consistency and clarity of information in GEODIS Q&A pairs. Variations in writing style, depth of content, and other areas create differences in the style and tone of answers, which could be distracting when combined together into an RFP response document. This generates more rework to finesse final response documents before sending them to prospective clients.

These factors drove the need for the GEODIS Content Library refresh. GEODIS and RFPIO believe this is an excellent opportunity to use RFPIO features to find duplicates, engage with SMEs, rewrite content, and ensure consistency.

2. Use a strategic approach for a Content Library refresh

GEODIS decided to tackle the Content Library refresh as a self-contained, separate initiative to its operational proposal response work. The marketing team hired a consultant copywriter and project manager who could dedicate time and effort to lead the refresh project and work alongside the operational team.

The consultant reviewed the Content Library, using several RFPIO tool features to understand the scope and structure of GEODIS Q&A pairs:

  • The Answer Library Report for information on total questions, Q&A pair owners, review timelines, keywords, and other details.
  • Other RFPIO reports, including duplicate content, content search terms, and content usage reports.
  • Q&A tags for details of how each Q&A pair was categorized and to understand how tags could be rationalized for better future Q&A management.
  • Advanced and saved searches for filtering and drilling down into specific Q&A pairs.

This analysis led to a phased approach for the Content Library refresh, updating and consolidating individual Q&A pairs depending on how they were tagged in RFPIO. The consultant developed a project plan, style guide, SME communications, and a standard operating process for updating the Content Library.

“The GEODIS Content Library refresh would have been much more difficult and time-consuming without the RFPIO tool. RFPIO features have made it much faster and easier for us to identify duplicate content and develop a strong approach to enhance the Content Library.”

—Paul Maplesden, Consultant and Project Lead, GEODIS Content Library Refresh

3. Get SMEs and stakeholders on board

Refreshing the GEODIS Content library requires buy-in and support from SMEs and other stakeholders, as clear and effective communications are essential to a successful project. GEODIS decided on a multi-step approach to managing communications:

  • Sending out communications about the project scope and aims to manage expectations and prepare all SMEs and stakeholders within GEODIS Americas.
  • Targeting individual SMEs related to specific Q&A pair refreshes.
  • Using built-in RFPIO communication tools to provide updates, direction, and ownership for individual Q&A pairs.

GEODIS developed communications explaining the aims of the Content Library refresh, particularly reducing the time and effort required from SMEs through removing duplicate questions. In addition to emailing these communications, GEODIS took advantage of several RFPIO SME engagement features, including:

  • Investigating each Q&A pair impacted by that phase of the refresh, and emailing the owners and moderators of that pair as captured in RFPIO.
  • Using RFPIO comment and mention functions for each pair to keep everyone updated on its status.
  • Analyzing SME review cycles for each updated Q&A pair to ensure it meets company and SME needs.

This approach ensured that all SMEs knew when their Q&A pairs were being consolidated and rewritten, and let them know exactly what actions they needed to take. The consultant leading the project also provided regular weekly updates to the proposal team and marketing director to keep them informed on project progress.

4. Establish a repeatable process for updating Q&A pairs

GEODIS developed a step-by-step, repeatable process to ensure a consistent approach to consolidating and rewriting each Q&A pair. The key steps of this process are:

  1. Establish which areas of the Content Library refresh this phase should focus on. Prioritize key lines of business during a proof of concept to validate the process and secure stakeholder buy-in.
  2. Identify duplicate Q&A pairs for this phase, together with the relevant SMEs.
  3. Consolidate and rewrite information from multiple duplicate answers into a master answer.
  4. Archive old, duplicated questions out of the active Content Library.
  5. Promote and link together master answers.

GEODIS found the following RFPIO features particularly useful in developing a standard process:

  • Running duplicate content reports for an overview of identical questions and answers.
  • Reviewing content usage statistics to identify the most popular content and possible master answers.
  • Adding Q&A tags to mark and identify specific Q&A pairs for archival or promotion to master answers.
  • Carrying out phrase, advanced, and saved search queries to search and filter by multiple criteria.
  • Establishing URL links for each Q&A pair for definitive identification and tracking.

During the development of this repeatable process, GEODIS worked with RFPIO Customer Success to ensure that the process was following best practices. RFPIO offered multiple suggestions to enhance the process and to take full advantage of the platform’s tools.

“Responding to RFPs in a consistent, accurate, and comprehensive way is central to winning more business. The RFPIO tool, coupled with the Content Library refresh project, supports our growth ambitions.”

—Michelle Johnson, VP of Growth Marketing, GEODIS Americas

5. Carry out the Content Library refresh

The refresh project uses several techniques and approaches to review and then remove, update, or consolidate each Q&A pair within the library as part of a phased approach.

Identify all Q&A pairs related to the specific topics in each phase

Q&A pairs were reviewed and updated by area, as captured in RFPIO. These pairs were identified and analyzed through:

  • Tags assigned to each Q&A pair within RFPIO.
  • Advanced searches, filtering, and sorting within RFPIO.
  • Titles and content of each question and answer.
  • Owners and SMEs for each Q&A pair.

Update communications were sent to all relevant SMEs and stakeholders through this process.

Decide on removal, update, or consolidation of each Q&A pair

Once all Q&A pairs were identified for a specific topic, the project management lead consolidated answer information from each Q&A pair into a master document. This master document was updated based on several best practices:

  • Consolidates information from several duplicated or substantially similar Q&A pairs into one “master” Q&A pair.
  • Rewrites answers to ensure a consistent approach, style, and tone both within and across Q&A pairs.
  • Ensures that master answers comprehensively capture all of the relevant information from the original Q&A pairs.
  • Updates information back into RFPIO and marks that Q&A pair as a “master answer,” using tagging and titles.
  • Removes any related Q&A pairs so that only the master Q&A pair remains.

Use RFPIO tools to manage the consolidation, archival, and promotion of Q&A pairs

GEODIS used several RFPIO tools to manage Q&A updates:

  • Tagging Q&A pairs for promotion to master answers or for removal and to ensure correct and consistent tag usage for master Q&A pairs.
  • Archiving of duplicate or similar Q&A pairs into an archive collection to remove Q&A pairs from the active library while preserving them for historic reference purposes.
  • Updating the “Alert Text” associated with each Q&A pair to notify SMEs of its status as an archived or master answer.
  • Adding in alternate questions for better searchability for proposal preparers.
  • Including URL links within each answer for cross-references between related Q&A pairs within the RFPIO tool.
  • Linking related answers together through the RFPIO “Related Answers” function.
  • Reviewing content owners and moderators for the master Q&A pairs.

Complete the Q&A pair rewrite for that phase of the Content Library refresh

Following the update of Q&A pairs in each phase, GEODIS closed out that part of the Content Library refresh through some final steps:

  • Updating the SME review cycle for the new, master Q&A pairs.
  • Mentioning SMEs within the RFPIO comments for each master Q&A pair and requesting they carry out an initial review for the updated and rewritten content.
  • Understanding any lessons learned from that part of the project.
  • Finalizing any communications with SMEs and stakeholders.
  • Moving on to the next phase of the Content Library refresh.

6. Show the value of the Content Library refresh

GEODIS has primarily tracked the effectiveness of the Content Library refresh through the reduction in the number of Q&A pairs that SMEs need to review. Due to the number of duplicate Q&A pairs, SME review cycles, and the content in each answer, reducing the number of pairs directly correlates with reducing the time, effort, and cost of SMEs reviewing those pairs.

To date, GEODIS has reduced the number of Q&A pairs in RFPIO by almost 80%.

Subjects with the Highest Percentage of Q&A Pair Reduction
55% 80% 82% 85%
Safety and materials handling CSR and sustainability Employee training and inclusion Business continuity

GEODIS expects to maintain a Q&A pair reduction rate of between 70% and 80% over the life of the Content Library refresh project. At the lower end of this estimate, this means it’s likely that the current Q&A library would be reduced from 2,000+ pairs to around 600. On average, it’s common for RFPIO customers to reduce Q&A pairs by 50-70% after their initial review of all Q&A pairs in their libraries.

Anecdotal feedback from SMEs and proposal preparers has also been very positive, with comments on the quality and comprehensiveness of the master Q&A answers within the RFPIO tool.

“Our team of 200 subject matter experts has a full-time job on top of supporting content in our answer library of 2,000 question/answer pairs. Both of these jobs are important to maintain and grow our business. Minimizing the content assigned to them for review is a top priority. The library refresh project, supported by the RFPIO tool,  minimizes their content reviews, enabling them to spend that time creating quality updates. Its’ a ‘win’ for them and GEODIS.”

—Penny Lane, Senior Proposal Manager, GEODIS Americas

On track for a best-in-class Content Library

GEODIS originally selected RFPIO as its RFP response tool for several reasons:

  • Ease of use and administration, particularly for SMEs across multiple business areas.
  • Robust integration with existing tools, operations, collaboration, and review processes.
  • Quality and range of features, documentation, and support.
  • Content management, search, and reporting capabilities.

These same qualities and features have proven central to the Content Library refresh, as shown in the table below.

Before RFPIO and Content Library Refresh After RFPIO and Content Library Refresh
Difficult to administer and prepare RFP responses due to inconsistent information and variations in tone and content of RFP answers. RFP answers have a consistent approach and style, with each containing comprehensive information on specific areas.
Duplicate or similar answers to questions make it challenging to choose a “best” answer for an RFP response. Consolidation of duplicate answers creates a single master answer for each area that reduces the effort required to prepare RFP responses.
SMEs must spend considerable time and effort reviewing substantially similar content across multiple, duplicated RFP answers. Reduction in the number of answers on specific topics has radically reduced the time and effort required as part of the SME review cycle.
The quality of RFP responses was based on substantially varying input from multiple sources and authors RFP response quality has improved due to stronger tagging, searching, filtering, and other RFPIO features.

GEODIS continues to work alongside the RFPIO business to continue building its Content Library into a best-in-class resource.

To learn more about how RFPIO can power content governance for your sales processes through intuitive collaboration and intelligent deduplications features, schedule a demo at www.RFPIO.com.

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

When you’re invited to respond to an RFQ that aligns with your business goals, it can be an enticing prospect. RFQs are typically for large projects, which drive more revenue and often a better bottom line.

While the opportunity might be tempting, one thing stands in the way: how do you create a winning RFQ response?

Before exploring the “how to,” let’s talk about how RFQs are used. To put them into perspective, automotive purchases are probably the closest most consumers get to knowing how business procurement departments make their large purchases.

Like when you set out on your car buying journey, an organization knows what kind of product they need to purchase, but first, they need to do their research. Let’s continue with our car analogy:

  • They send due diligence questionnaires (DDQs) to determine potential vendors’ compliance and long-term viability, much like you research manufacturers and individual dealerships.
  • They send security questionnaires to assess security compliance, like a car’s safety rating.
  • They send requests for proposals (RFPs) to get more detailed information, such as whether the car is in stock, how long it will take to get it, why you should do business with that particular dealership—and yes, the price.
  • At some point, it is time to sit down at the negotiating table and get straight to the bottom line without all that other information to distract us. That’s when a company sends requests for quotes (RFQs)

Naturally, this is an oversimplification, and large business purchases are far more complex. In this blog, we will get into the surprising nuances of those straight-to-the-bottom-line RFQs.

What is an RFQ?

An RFQ, also known as an invitation for bid (IFB), is a document of trade inviting vendors to offer their best prices and terms of payment. It is issued by an entity or company inviting suppliers or vendors to submit their offers to provide a particular product or service.

In many cases, the issuer has chosen their preferred vendor, but they need assurance that the vendor can meet their business and project needs. When completed, the quote will include the vendor’s costs, terms of payment, and specifications or details about the product(s).

But let’s back up a bit, beginning with when the RFQ arrives at the vendor’s doorstep.

An RFQ generally arrives via email or in a company’s CRM. It could be in the form of a Word or Excel document. From there, the vendor’s response or sales department gathers a team that includes a project manager, subject matter experts (SMEs) to address the issuer’s questions, and response writers and editors to draft the perfect proposal.

Typically, the issuing company would customize the RFQ that they sent to get specific details needed to finalize a purchasing decision.

A comprehensive response includes complete project or product details, product quantity, availability, delivery times, and price.

RFQ vs. RFP

While an RFP is broad, and can cover just about any element of the procurement decision-making process, an RFQ is much more specific. Organizations send RFQs when they know the precise deliverables and simply want price quotes.

RFQs are structured, and content is generally technical, financial, and legal. RFPs and RFQs share some similarities. Both are usually sent after the needs are well defined.

The procurement process involves companies and vendors sending out either an RFP or an RFQ to assess and compare products, prices, and services.

After receiving the proposals, the purchasing organizations compare quotes and attempt to obtain the best price (either through negotiations or through an electronic or reverse auction).

Responding to an RFQ is far simpler than an RFP. The document should be thorough enough to indicate that you have a firm understanding of the specifications and quantity of the required product or service. In contrast, RFP responses, with their be-all, end-all list of questions, stir up everything you can possibly imagine about your company.

RFPs could include questions about pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, case studies, references, implementation, and SLAs.

Benefits of using an RFQ

Comparison

When RFQ formats are consistent, sourcing firms can easily compare by having a solid understanding of the specifications and quantity for their required product or service. The process enables buyers to save money and get the best value.

The ability to compare prices and quotes from a myriad of suppliers makes the selection process simpler by aiding buyers in making the most informed decision because vendors have a better understanding of their needs.

Requests then become shorter and more specific, meaning less time wasted looking for the right supplier. By making it easier to differentiate between suppliers, the buyers will be able to find the best vendor for their needs much more quickly and easily.

Consistency

RFQ responses should use consistent language, standard formatting, and generally standardized templates that allow for easy understanding. This makes both issuing and responding consistent and allows for quicker processing.

Streamlining

The RFQ process streamlines the purchasing process for both the buyer and vendor or supplier.

A well-written, thorough RFQ can help vendors send competitive quotes that help meet the needs of their business and projects.

When you might receive an RFQ

RFQs are not appropriate for all purchases. You may receive an RFQ if:

  • You are a prequalified vendor
  • The customer is looking for an out-of-the-box product or service that needs no customization
  • The issuer won’t need vendor support after delivery
  • Pricing is the key determinant

If, for example, the customer is looking for a bespoke software solution, pricing is only one of many considerations. In that case, you’re more likely to receive a more comprehensive document, such as an RFP.

Features of an RFQ

A request for proposal includes general bidding company information, specifications for a required product or service, terms for payment, a due date for bids, and other necessary details to successfully place a bid.

A request for quote, on the other hand, is used to obtain price and payment information about a vendor’s products and services.

How to respond to an RFQ

Winning RFQs becomes more likely when you understand the parameters, utilize templates to respond, and automate the process.

Submission instructions

Almost every RFQ includes the following:

  • The submittal deadline for submitting a bid
  • How the response or proposal should be formatted
    • Vendors submit their entire RFQ response in a form to expedite the bid-reviewing process.
  • Contact information

Responses should demonstrate that you understand the buyer’s strategic goals and can build a relationship for future projects.

How to determine whether you should respond

Understandably, buyers feel that they run the show when they’re ready to invest in a product or service. But that doesn’t mean that you have to respond to every RFQ in your inbox. If you can’t meet their needs, you may choose not to respond at all, and that’s okay.

Here are the essential facets to consider when responding to an RFQ:

  • Specifically address everything in the RFQ in precise detail. Leave nothing unresolved.
    • Is the RFQ the right fit for your organization and solution?
    • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses each of the challenges presented in the request?
    • Does your pricing match the budget?
    • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
    • Do you have any insight into why the organization issued the RFQ?
  • Research the buyer’s business.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to respond but DO NOT miss the deadline, which is an absolute must in proving you can meet the requirements not just of the RFQ but of the proposed project.

The goal of any RFQ response is to win the bid. Here are some tips:

  • Deliver the response on time.
  • Be flexible if the requirements change.
  • Mention experience or history of meeting similar buyers’ needs.
  • Provide added value to the buyer.

Even if you do not win the bid, an RFQ response could lead to future opportunities.

Include an executive summary

Once you’ve determined that you can meet the customer’s needs, provide an executive summary of your company which should demonstrate your understanding of the parameters.

Despite being the very first thing on a quote template, the introduction is usually populated last. Other things to include in this executive summary could include broader business goals, essentially anything the issuers need to understand the bid.

RFPIO saves you from having to manually recreate the introduction for each RFQ—or RFx—by using machine learning to auto-populate, with your approval, of course, each element of your executive summary.

Templatize your pricing

If you use a pricing template, the issuer can compare quotes easily. A pricing template provides uniformity, so the issuer will know exactly where to find pricing and product or service details.

An RFQ template should provide an offered price column. Other fields should include specifications and the quantity of products or services.

While templates will vary from product to product and RFQ to RFQ, the goal is to have all the information for a specific product in the same format so the purchaser can compare the bids quickly, easily, and accurately.

RFPIO includes both built-in customizable branded templates and provides the option to create your own.

Specifications

RFQ responses need to be specific. If one is not detailed enough, it could lead to misunderstandings, potentially jeopardize the deal, and even land you in legal hot water for misrepresentation. Templates help ensure you don’t miss anything.

Contract and fees

Vendors should know that most organizations require bid fees with each response. The assumption is that having skin in the game on the part of vendors helps ensure that the process is open and transparent. The money is typically held in escrow during the RFQ process.

If the vendor earns the contract, the payment schedule will reflect the fee. The remaining money in escrow is returned to the vendors that did not win the contract.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve provided your best price and terms, the customer is ready to make their decision. With any luck, they’ll soon drive away with a shiny new (metaphorical) car and you’ve made a profitable sale!

RFPIO is an end-to-end response management platform that helps you sell more cars (yes, RFQs are sometimes used for literal cars, especially fleet vehicles), widgets, services, etc.

We provide RFQ software with customized templates for automated response tools to help you win more business. To learn more about how RFPIO can streamline your process and help ensure quality responses, let’s chat!

How to respond to a security questionnaire

How to respond to a security questionnaire

If you’re like me, you regularly receive emails advising you to change your passwords because one company or another has suffered a security breach. Unfortunately, data breaches are all too common.

In 2021, there were over 1,800 reported data breaches. That is a significant uptick from prior years. 83% of those breaches involved sensitive customer information, such as Social Security and credit card numbers.

The average data breach costs $4.4 million, and much of that is passed on to customers—the same customers who had their sensitive data compromised.

No wonder many businesses now consider cybersecurity their number one concern. Not only does a data breach cost money, it also runs the risk of damaging credibility and eroding trust. Some companies, especially small companies, never recover.

More than half of organizations have experienced third-party data breaches, often despite having what they think is a rigorous security protocol.

The average tech stack might contain dozens of different applications and tools. Sometimes, bad actors sneak in through one of those third-party applications, so it’s critical to properly vet each vendor’s security protocols as you would your own.

The most common way to vet vendors is through security questionnaires. But what are security questionnaires, and how do you respond to them in a way that you, as a vendor, will instill trust?

What is a security questionnaire?

After reading this far, you probably have a good idea of what a security questionnaire is. Still, to boil it down, it’s a questionnaire designed to determine whether a vendor or potential vendor is compliant with your security and legal requirements.

Not surprisingly, security questionnaires are complex and highly technical. The good news is that most questions have “yes” or “no” answers.

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

Many people confuse security questionnaires and DDQs (due diligence questionnaires). It’s easy to see why, as both are issued to assess a company’s compliance with the issuer’s regulations and security requirements.

Neither DDQs nor security questionnaires are specifically part of a sales cycle, although they may be issued before entering into a contract. They might also be issued before an organization is even buying to weed out non-compliant companies before and if the buying process begins.

There are significant differences between the two types of documents, however. You’re most likely to see DDQs if you’re in the financial segment. They are broader in scope than security questionnaires and may ask about business plans, profits and losses, revenue, etc. They might also ask about cybersecurity policies.

A security questionnaire is more straightforward and can be issued from any segment to any organization, although primarily to tech companies. While DDQs ask broad questions about processes, often in narrative form, a security questionnaire forces you to pony up your proof of compliance.

You might see both a DDQ and security questionnaire before receiving an RFP. Generally, the DDQ will come first. Once the issuer is satisfied that you meet their requirements, they might send a security questionnaire to gather certificates and other forms of proof.

In some cases, a security questionnaire follows an RFP and could be the last step before finalizing a deal.

Preparing for a security questionnaire response

Security questionnaires usually arrive via the response manager or perhaps through a CRM. Since most questions center around cybersecurity, SMEs can be from IT, risk management, sales engineering, accounting, information security, operations, and even HR.

The response turnaround time is typically shorter with a security questionnaire than with an RFx. The issuer might want it within days.

Components of a security questionnaire

There are many, many types of security questionnaires, and it would be impossible to list them in this blog post, but here are some examples of what a security questionnaire might assess:

  • Network security
  • Information security
  • Datacenter and physical security
  • Web application security
  • Infrastructure security
  • Business continuity
  • Security audits and penetration testing
  • Personnel policies, hiring practices, and training programs
  • Security certifications
  • SLAs and uptime vs. downtime

Types of security questionnaires

There are several types of security questionnaires, but primarily, you will see these:

Security Questionnaires and Security Questionnaires Lite – Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaires

  • VSAQ – Vendor Security Assessment Questionnaire
  • CAIQ – Consensus Assessments Initiative Questionnaire
  • VSA – Vendor Security Alliance Questionnaire
  • NIST 800-171 – National Institute of Standards and Technology Questionnaire
  • CIS Controls – Center for Internet Security Questionnaire

How to respond to security questionnaires – and how RFPIO will help

If you are a response manager, you’re likely very comfortable responding to an RFx or even a DDQ. Both allow for a bit of creativity, in that, along with answering questions, you’re constructing a narrative to show how your company is the right fit for the issuer.

Security questionnaires aren’t about narratives. They are straightforward and stringent, and accuracy is a legal requirement. Clearly, there’s no room for error. If you’re ready, let’s grab a cup of coffee, or your favorite motivational elixir, and dive right in.

Step 1 – Search for all available materials

While security questionnaires are undeniably bulky and complex, there’s a lot of redundancy. You have probably answered many similar questions before. Search your existing database for those answers.

Often, issuers send a boilerplate questionnaire rather than customize it to each product. Eliminate the questions that don’t apply to your product. Don’t be afraid to ask the issuer to clarify questions that seem confusing or unnecessary.

Step 1 with RFPIO – Prebuilt centralized Content Library

RFPIO features the industry-leading AI-powered prebuilt Content Library. Every previous security questionnaire and all your documentation are housed in one place, accessible to any authorized user.

Step 2 – Answer only the pre-existing matching responses

Response management isn’t like school. In fact, copying other people’s work is encouraged. Search your existing database for pre-existing matching responses and use them when you can.

Step 2 with RFPIO – System-driven identification of sections and questions

RFPIO’s import capabilities, which include Lightning import through Salesforce, leverages machine learning to automatically find matching responses, without you having to initiate the process. This feature alone can do up to 80% of the work for you.

Step 3 – Group all unanswered questions and collaborate with SMEs

Once you’ve found all the applicable existing content, you’ll need to collaborate with SMEs to finish the process. Group all your unanswered questions, broken up by SME, and inform them of their timelines.

Step 3 with RFPIO – Automate through AI

RFPIO’s auto-respond feature and recommendation engine find existing documents and similar, although not specifically matching, content for SMEs’ review. As a side benefit, once SMEs recognize the time-saving capabilities of RFPIO, they’ll be far more likely to help you in the future.

Step 4 – Follow up and track the status of responses

Make sure every team member is completing their portion in a timely manner.

Step 4 with RFPIO – Streamline collaboration through project management capabilities

RFPIO’s Project Module offers up-to-the-minute reporting and reminders to ensure that the questionnaire will be ready on time.

Step 5 – Manually collate and complete the questionnaire

Whew! You’ve answered all the questions and all you have to do is collate the answers and export them back to the original document. Unfortunately, for many companies, that’s a manual process which could take hours—and sometimes days.

Step 5 with RFPIO – Export to the source file

RFPIO eliminates all of the cumbersome manual work with automatic exporting to the response file, all within seconds.

Security questionnaire response obstacles

There’s no direct line from a security questionnaire to revenue generation, which is why they’re sometimes left on the back burner. But that’s not the only reason there might be reluctance on the part of your response team. Other obstacles include:

  • Length – A security questionnaire can have hundreds to thousands of questions. That’s more than a little intimidating if the answers aren’t ready to go.
  • You’re time-bound – Sometimes the questionnaire gets stuck in an internal limbo, and sometimes the issuer sends it expecting an almost immediate turnaround. Having most of the answers ready will cut your response time to a fraction of what it could have been.
  • SME cooperation – SMEs are busy people, so understandably, they might not put the security questionnaire at the top of their “to-do” list. Assure them that you value their time by completing as much of the questionnaire as possible.
  • You don’t have all the certifications and protocol – Most companies won’t be able to answer every question in the affirmative. Submit what you have and perhaps see this as an opportunity to reevaluate where your company might be lacking.
  • Too much jargon – Security questionnaires tend to be jargon-heavy, and if you aren’t familiar with what they’re asking, you might not provide an accurate answer. SMEs can help but so can a well-organized, searchable even by jargon, Content Library.
  • Scattered knowledge (identifying and locating the right content) – If you have a siloed knowledge base, tracking everything down is challenging and time-consuming. Upload all of your certificates, documents, and Q&A pairs to a single source of truth accessible to any authorized stakeholder.
  • Non-compliant content management software – If your content management software isn’t compliant with your company’s requirements, SMEs, especially those in security, won’t use it. RFPIO is even secure enough for Microsoft.

Priorities and tips for the response process

As you’re staring down a seemingly infinite inbox and a calendar filled with back-to-back meetings, speed might be your top priority. However, security questionnaires are legal documents, so accuracy is the most crucial consideration. Fortunately, response software with built-in content management helps ensure both.

Streamlining workflow

RFPIO has several tools to help streamline your workflow, including:

  • Import/Export capabilities – Avoid disorganized, inconsistent, illogical formatting by importing security questionnaires right into your customized template for uniformity, making each stakeholder’s job much more manageable. Once you’ve completed the questionnaire, upload it onto your branded response template or straight to the source document.
  • Project management – If your workforce is like ours, you have people working from home, on other floors, in other buildings, and across the world. RFPIO helps you virtually gather your scattered stakeholders and track progress without chasing people down.
  • Content management – If I, for some reason, were forced to choose my favorite RFPIO feature, it would be the AI-powered Content Library. It:
    • Busts down silos – RFPIO’s Content Library is a single source of truth, with all of your company’s knowledge and documents in one repository.
    • Does most of the work for you – Once you upload the questionnaire, the Content Library’s magical gnomes—we call them the recommendation engine—comb through past responses to make suggestions. All you have to do is accept, edit, or reject. Since security questionnaires ask yes/no questions, there’s little to no editing.
    • Stores content – As the company creates more knowledge and documents, the Content Library will store them for future use.
    • Organizes content – Format, tag, and generally organize the content how you want.
    • Helps keep you compliant – Since we’re talking about security questionnaires, your security team will love this! RFPIO reminds you of expiration and “shred by” dates. It also reminds you when to review specific content and when to audit.
  • Integrations – RFPIO seamlessly integrates with nearly all the communication apps, CRMs, and productivity apps your company uses every day.
  • RFPIO® LookUp – Access the Content Library from anywhere in the world.
  • Autograph – With RFPIO’s Autograph, there’s no need to hunt signatories down. They can sign right from their computers.

Improving Content Library

Keep your Content Library clean, up to date, and organized by consulting with sales engineers and others involved in answering security questionnaires. Ask for their input in categorizing and tagging.

Keeping information up-to-date

Because security questionnaires are legal documents, accurate and up-to-date information is vital. RFPIO reminds you to clean out all the ROT (redundant, outdated, and trivial) information and documents. It even helps you locate all the ROT.

Software for security questionnaire responses

Many companies still rely on manual responses, which are time-consuming and inefficient.One way to differentiate your company from your competitors is to use advanced response software for security questionnaires.

Response software, such as RFPIO, gives each security questionnaire the thoroughness and scrutiny required while saving your team’s time, keeping SMEs on your good side, and helps keep you compliant.

Automation

If you use a CRM or project management software, you probably already know the benefits of automation. Most users do. In fact, IT professionals, such as those helping answer security questionnaires, save up to 20 hours a week using automated processes.

Automation is a morale booster! 45% of knowledge workers report feeling less burned out when they use automation tools, and 29% say automation lets them leave their jobs at the end of the official workday.

RFPIO’s automated response processes automatically fill in most of your answers to a security questionnaire and pull corresponding documents. One customer reports that after RFPIO security questionnaire automation, they can answer 100 questions in just 2 hours!

Templated responses

Most security questionnaires arrive in Excel, which, as you know, is about as standardized as the snowflakes covering Mount Everest. Excel isn’t to blame. Microsoft designed the OG of spreadsheets to track everything from kids’ activities to trips to space.

RFPIO imports the hundreds to thousands of lines on a security questionnaire spreadsheet onto your customized template, ensuring that everyone knows exactly how to find what they need. Additionally, since many questions are redundant, RFPIO answers those duplicate questions for you.

RFPIO’s approach to security questionnaire responses

Breathe a little easier next time you receive a security questionnaire, knowing that RFPIO has your back. You will save loads of time, create accurate, complete responses, and stay on your SMEs’ good sides.

If you don’t already use RFPIO, try a free demo.

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