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What is sales enablement? Why is it trending?

What is sales enablement? Why is it trending?

I’ll be honest. When I transitioned from my frontline sales career to sales enablement operations, I didn’t know sales enablement […]


What is sales enablement? Why is it trending?

What is sales enablement? Why is it trending?

I’ll be honest. When I transitioned from my frontline sales career to sales enablement operations, I didn’t know sales enablement was going to explode like it has. I was just intensely curious about the tools in our tech stack that helped me stay on top of customer engagement. So much so that RFPIO noticed and asked if I’d like to take ownership of it. “Don’t mind if I do!” I replied, and it’s been a rush ever since.

A recent Smart Selling Tools survey revealed that use of sales enablement tools grew by 567% in a one year period. Why? Well, there are many gears that have to sync before achieving a successful sale. Even the deals that close because you feel like you were in the right place at the right time are a product of a lot of work that has gone on behind the scenes. What’s the Richard Branson quote? “There are no quick wins in business—it takes years to become an overnight success.”

How can you make the sales process smoother? The answer to that question is sales enablement. The value prop for sales enablement is to make sure those gears behind the scenes are fully lubricated and precisely machined, no matter how unpredictable your product, market, or customer may be.

What is sales enablement?

Sales enablement is the ongoing, strategic process of equipping sales teams with the right resources in order to effectively close more deals. We complement the sales cycle and help reps do what they do best: Sell. There are myriad ways companies can provide these resources, like through knowledge management software, training programs, and other types of support.

Mind you, sales enablement isn’t just for the rookies. Sales enablement adds a layer of support for reps of all levels, from senior leaders to new hires.

Without enablement, there’s a lack of alignment between process and training. Sales professionals are hard chargers who want to succeed. If their organization doesn’t enable them, then salespeople will go rogue to find ways to succeed on their own. While this is admirable in a proactive sense, it can result in long-term issues with team dynamics, inconsistent messaging, and loss of native expertise when your strongest sales people leave the company. Because along with a penchant for seeking successful outcomes, great sales reps want to be in environments where there are as few barriers to success as possible. If they can be enabled elsewhere to greater success, they’ll leave.

With sales enablement, you can have an open line of communication between all stakeholders—from sales development reps to account executives to account managers. Only then are you able to develop a list of goals that can link the sales team’s needs with business objectives. Of course, goals will vary depending on roles within the sales team. For example, account executives want to rely less on others and have more control over meeting their quota, but other members of the sales team may be looking for ways to share resources faster so that everyone can succeed and better manage revenue streams.

Why is sales enablement important?

Sales enablement can scale the work of sales teams and can also improve collaboration across sales and presales. With these areas of the business communicating to each other, you’re able to formulate a sales enablement strategy that can improve business goals more efficiently.

I don’t believe that every deal is just another number. As the owner of sales enablement at RFPIO, I strive to make every customer journey an experience in partnership with RFPIO. I want to create a sense of community. The support we offer the sales cycle will provide dividends in the customer experience as a whole. If we can drive competency levels with demos, strengthen the sales team culture, and simplify knowledge management, then deals close faster and customers are more satisfied. Reps always want to sell better, they’re always looking to improve, and we’re their biggest cheerleaders.

As sales enablement matures, it can help with so much more behind the scenes, from prospecting to demos and deeper dives, including:

  • Reinforcing knowledge through training and coaching
  • Breaking down silos for sales team roles
  • Documenting best practices for the sales tech stack
  • Delivering the right content at the right time
  • Keeping communication open so sales teams know what they need to know to close deals smarter and more effectively

What is sales enablement strategy?

A sales enablement strategy is the business approach put in place to provide sales with the resources that they need to effectively sell. Not all sales enablement strategies will be the same, as it is unique to your business and its needs. The sales enablement strategy should include data on how to improve sales and an analysis on current sales tools to determine where improvements can be made.

Sales enablement strategy is what bridges the gap between sales leadership and sales operations. Sales leadership sets revenue goals. Sales operations has to meet those goals. Sales enablement strategy determines the technology, content, and support sales ops needs to execute their business development strategy. Sales enablement strategy also evaluates the sales tech stack to make sure it’s optimized to give leadership full visibility and ensure deals aren’t shrouded in the mystery of reps’ own records. It’s about finding ways to make internal relationships more efficient so they’re not detracting from time spent on revenue-generating activities.

7 sales enablement best practices

Sales enablement is important because it plays such a key role in scaling the organization. By providing all salespeople with a level playing field and equipping them with knowledge on demand, sales teams should thrive. I recommend following these seven steps to get the most out of your sales enablement strategy.

  1. Define objectives: The key to sales enablement is that every team involved is on the same page. What is our goal? How do we get there together? What is in our way? I drive and execute on the sales enablement strategy at RFPIO, but I don’t develop it single handedly. Strategic development falls on a combination of leadership from sales, marketing, IT, contracts, and operations.
  2. Understand your buyers: Empowering the sales team also involves empowering your buyer. Make sure that your buyer journey is mapped out accordingly in order to maximize sales enablement and customer experience outcomes.
  3. Continue training: Sales enablement is not a one-and-done solution. Adequate and frequent training will need to be incorporated into the company culture in order for veteran sales members to stay up to date on the trends and new sales members to learn the ropes.
  4. Create valuable content: There are two layers to this step.
    1. Work with marketing and/or your content development manager to provide assets like case studies, white papers, blog posts, webinars, and other content that sales teams can utilize to develop relationships. The best websites and products can bring in their own leads with content and branding, making it easier for sales to close the deal.
    2. Make sure the content that the sales team needs to do their job well is always up to date and accessible. This can include sales briefs, training materials, product roadmaps, and any other knowledge they need to have in order to build trust with a customer. At RFPIO, we actually conduct and record sales enablement sessions on everything from product updates to contracts to ongoing customer support to train anyone in the company who’s interested.
  5. Manage sales enablement processes: This doesn’t mean micromanage, because no one likes a micromanager. However, this process can be new to sales teams. Take the time and effort to ensure sales is enacting the strategy. Check in to ask if anything can be improved and gather feedback.
  6. Use tools effectively: Don’t just give answers. Show the sales team where they can find answers so that they can take control of the process.
  7. Document (v.): Too many sales processes only exist as word of mouth, especially in startup environments. Sales enablement can own the documentation of these word-of-mouth preferences to convert them into manageable, trackable processes. Take handoffs from one team to another, as an example. Sales enablement can smooth out these traditionally rough patches. Rather than nurturing or babysitting handoffs, document how those handoffs need to take place to make sure there’s a smooth transition for customers. This is the type of help that keeps sales teams focused on selling instead of getting distracted by vague operational details.

Empower your sales team

When you empower your sales team with the tools they need to succeed, they will return the favor with better performance. From presales to sales leadership, improved outcomes will leave all team members happy.

On-demand access to knowledge and content is essential to sales operations and sales enablement. Operationalizing your sales tech stack with AI-enabled software that drives more self-service experiences can remove many dependencies that have become frustrating pauses in the sales cycle. It can also increase revenue by up to 20%!

To learn more about how RFPIO can help with knowledge management and how RFPIO® LookUp can grant sales teams access to all content from almost anywhere, schedule a demo today!

How to write a proposal cover letter [with example]

How to write a proposal cover letter [with example]

Like the devilishly tempting Hostess Ding Dongs treat, a proposal cover letter has to be short, sweet, and dense. Unlike that aforementioned hockey puck of delectability, proposal cover letters cannot be mass-produced. To write a proposal cover letter with nary a wasted word, you first need to understand its strategic significance in the overall proposal.

I’ve spent more than 17 years on proposals and have written hundreds of proposal cover letters. When I started, we printed out proposals and created huge binders to share with reviewers. Reviewers would open the binders to see the proposal cover letter, then an executive summary, and then dig into the proposal itself. Binders are part of a bygone era; there’s been a big digital shift since I started.

Requests for paperless submissions and the growing popularity of online portals has altered the strategic significance of the proposal cover letter. It’s gone from a “must-have” element, to a “nice-to-have” one. My background is predominantly healthcare and insurance. Anecdotally, maybe only 30% of requests for proposals (RFPs) in healthcare and insurance request executive summaries while most volunteer that a cover letter is optional. If they give you an option, take it.

Some online portals don’t even give you an opportunity to include extra documents like cover letters. In such cases, you now have to include the cover letter as part of your proposal PDF. At the same time, RFPs are more complex than ever, requiring more details in submitted proposals. Issuers expect you to have your content in order, and a lot of it.

Speaking of issuers and what they’re looking for in proposal cover letters: They don’t need information that they can find on your website, that they can Google, or that sounds canned. They want to make sure you’ve reviewed the RFP requirements, and it’s absolutely essential to hit them with that up front, in your proposal cover letter. Especially if your solution meets all of the issuer’s requirements. Emphasize that fact simply and directly.

What is a proposal cover letter?

The proposal cover letter is meant to frame up your RFP proposal. It’s not a rehashing of the proposal or executive summary. It’s a vehicle to thank the issuer for the opportunity to respond, to say, “We’ve seen your business requirements and composed this proposal because we think we’re the best partner for you.” Think of it as the bow on your RFP proposal package.

Whether paper, PDF, or stone tablet, one thing that hasn’t changed about the proposal cover letter is that it’s your first opportunity to declare the value propositions that differentiate yours from competitive proposals. These value props will be the threads that weave through your proposal, from cover letter, to executive summary, to answers to questions.

As far as length, I aim for a page and a half when I write proposal cover letters. Try to keep it under two. Go longer only if a template or specific framework for the cover letter is provided by the issuer, which is sometimes the case in government RFPs.

Why a good proposal cover letter matters

RFP reviewers will be looking for deviations in responses. Deviations among responders as well as deviations from their (the issuers) requirements.

When you can write a cover letter and state, “After reviewing the RFP, we are confident that our solution meets all requirements and detail that fact in our proposal,” you make a compelling argument for reviewers to concentrate on how your proposal illustrates how you solve problems. They’ll notice cover letters that do not mention something that direct, and will review those proposals to look for where the solutions fall short.

When should you write the proposal cover letter?

It’s page one so it should be written first, right? Not necessarily. I’m a proponent of writing the executive summary first, the cover letter second, and then building the proposal. Certainly review the RFP first so you can determine what it’s asking for. But don’t just jump into a response from there. Take the time to establish the value props that will make it a cohesive proposal.

Writing the executive summary first helps you formulate your argument and determine which content you’ll need for the proposal. Once you know what you need to be persuasive and how you can solve the issuer’s problem, then you can develop the three-to-five value props (I try to boil it down to three solid, unique value props) that you can define in the proposal cover letter.

Who signs the proposal cover letter?

Notice I didn’t title this section, “Who writes the proposal cover letter?” The person who writes it and the person who signs it may not be one and the same.

If your proposal team is fortunate enough to have a dedicated writer, then have them write the letter based on input from the frontline sales rep. Whoever writes the letter must be fully informed of response strategy and have intimate knowledge of the proposal and executive summary. Strategy, voice, and style need to be consistent across all documents (cover letter, executive summary, and proposal).

Who signs it depends on a variety of factors. In most cases, the frontline sales rep will sign the proposal cover letter. They have the relationship, own the strategy, and likely conducted the discovery that informed the proposal. However, it’s not uncommon for an executive sponsor such as a VP of sales to sign. The thinking being that executive reviewers may appreciate seeing a proposal that’s been vetted by a fellow executive.

There are also those cases when the executive of executives, the CEO, signs the letter. There are two common scenarios for this play. One, the RFP may be large enough to represent a significant percentage of a responder’s annual revenue. Two, the responding organization is concerned with appearing relatively small, and in an effort to improve its stature, seals the proposal with a CEO’s signature.

There’s definitely some gamesmanship at play here. Even so, the name on the letter will never overshadow the content of the proposal.

7 steps to write a proposal cover letter

The compact nature of the proposal cover letter makes it difficult to fit everything in one or two pages. Good writers are valuable assets in these instances. Every proposal cover letter should contain the following sections:

  1. Thank the issuer (and broker, where applicable) for the opportunity.
  2. Recite your understanding of the opportunity to validate that you reviewed the RFP requirements.
  3. List your abilities to meet requirements. If you can meet all of them, lead with that fact.
  4. Describe your value propositions. You’re trying to portray that, “This is what we bring to the table, and that’s why we’re the best choice.”
  5. Provide a high-level future snapshot of what business will look like after your solution is chosen.
  6. Conclude with a persuasive delivery of your understanding of next steps: “We look forward to the opportunity to discuss our proposal further.” Show that you’re able and willing to move forward in the sales lifecycle.
  7. Sign it from the frontline sales representative or executive sponsor. This should not look like a form letter from the organization as a whole.

3 common mistakes to avoid

Beyond the mistakes of not including a proposal cover letter at all or writing one that’s too long, proofread your next letter for the following mistakes before sending it.

  1. Avoid repeating anything from the executive summary or proposal. Those documents need to live on their own, just like the proposal cover letter.
  2. Don’t waste space with your resume. Something like this…

    RFPIO’s growing list of 600+ clients including 40+ Fortune 500 organizations continue to take advantage of our one-of-a-kind Unlimited User licensing model, expanding their usage on the platform to scale organizational success. With RFPIO as their team’s support system, every day they break down silos by facilitating collaboration and efficiency in their RFx response process
    ….is boilerplate that can appear elsewhere in the proposal or not at all, given that it’s likely available to the issuer on your corporate website.
  3. If a broker is involved, thank them, too. The proposal cover letter is also an opportunity to directly address the issuer. This can be particularly valuable when a broker is involved. Some issuers rely on RFP brokers to sift through responses to make sure only the best possible solutions get serious consideration. Ignore these brokers at your peril. While the response and executive summary will address the issuer and the problem at hand, the cover letter is where you can give a nod to the broker. Acknowledging their involvement in the process and thanking them for the opportunity as well will at the very least alert all reviewers that you paid close attention to the RFP requirements.
  4. Don’t guess. Make sure you or someone on your team does the legwork and discovery to inform your response strategy. The more you have to guess, the longer the letter will take to write.

Proposal cover letter example

Feel free to use the proposal cover letter example below as a template for your next letter. One of the many advantages of proposal building software such as RFPIO is the automation of the cover letter process. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to write it, but RFPIO helps:

  • Access and write in the template within the platform (no need to toggle back and forth between a word processor and whatever application you’re using to build your proposal)
  • Include identical brand elements as the proposal and executive summary
  • Add the cover letter to the front of the proposal and/or executive summary when you output it for submission

When you use the following example, you’ll need to swap out the RFPIO-centric items with your own company and solution information as well as the custom value props for that specific proposal. The three value props highlighted in the example are Salesforce integration, data security, and customer support. For your letter, these will be specific to your solution and the problem stated in the RFP.

Hi [Issuer(s) first name(s)],

Thank you for considering RFPIO as your potential vendor for RFP automation software. We are cognizant of the effort it takes to make a selection like this, so we very much appreciate the opportunity. First and foremost, RFPIO meets all of the requirements detailed in your RFP. That’s illustrated in greater detail in this proposal. In the meantime, the following capabilities make us confident that RFPIO is the most qualified company and solution for [issuing company name’s] [RFP title].

  • Helping businesses improve and scale their RFP response process for greater efficiency. The time and resource savings reported to us from our clients has allowed them to participate in more proposals and provide high-quality responses that create additional revenue opportunities.
  • Automating the import and export functions, centralizing content for RFPs, and facilitating collaboration among key stakeholders.
  • Managing knowledge and content through our AI-enabled Answer Library.
  • Giving clear visibility into the entire RFP process through reports and dashboards—including project status and progress, and analytics for actionable insights.

We know that it’s important for [issuing company name] to find a solution with a strong integration with Salesforce. This proposal details RFPIO’s integration with Salesforce, and how it will work for you. In addition to that, RFPIO’s open API allows for integrations with many other technologies for cloud-storage, collaboration, and other desired platforms.

We also take your data security concerns highlighted in the RFP very seriously. You can be assured that your data will be safe and accessible. We work with a variety of enterprise customers and understand the necessary level of security that is required. From the beginning, we made it a priority to build security right into RFPIO’s technology, which we continue to maintain. We are SOC 2 and ISO27001 certified, while continuing to pursue other best-in-class certifications to ensure security.

Regarding your requirement for ongoing support following implementation: When it comes to customer support, our technical and account managers are high performers. We have an expert group of 110 nimble programmers and developers who are always ready to provide quick technical fixes (that you can request right within the solution). Our reliable and attentive account team is ready to fully support [company name] should we move forward as your vendor.

Upon deploying RFPIO, it’s intuitive user experience is simple to get used to. You’ll also get free access to RFPIO University for all your training needs, now and in the future. Getting started is as simple as loading that first project. The whole team will be collaborating from there. As your Answer Library grows, machine learning will provide more and more automation opportunities. It won’t be long before you see a drastic uptick in proposal quality and number of proposals submitted.

If you’re interested in comparing our solution to other comparable tools, we recommend that you visit software review platform G2 Crowd’s top RFP Solutions grid. This information is based on user satisfaction and places RFPIO at the top in all categories.

We look forward to the opportunity to discuss our proposal further. We appreciate your consideration, and wish you luck on your selection.

Thanks,
[Signee’s name]
[Signee’s title]

You should have it “cover”-ed from here

If you’ve done your research and client discovery, and you know the value props specific to the RFP that you’ve already reviewed, then letter writing will go fast. The better you know the client and people involved, the easier it is going to be for you to tailor the proposal cover letter, the executive summary, and, most importantly, the RFP proposal.

To learn more about how RFPIO can help you write better proposal cover letters, schedule a demo today!

How proposal teams can prove their value and drive sales productivity

How proposal teams can prove their value and drive sales productivity

This blog is a continuation of RFPIO’s white paper, Experience the Freedom to Thrive. Read the full paper here.

RFPs are part of the sales cycle. Ergo, RFP teams should be part of the sales team. You’d think it would be that simple… but, alas, nothing in the world of proposals is simple.

I’ve been in the proposal industry for almost two decades. Throughout that time, I’ve had to “make my case” to prove why I deserved a spot at the sales table.

This is despite the fact that $11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes every year—and organizations with proposal professionals submit 3x more RFPs than those without.

And I know I’m not alone. According to a recent LinkedIn poll we conducted, only 69% of respondents said proposal management sits within the sales organization.

Proposal management in sales

For proposal managers who want to prove their value and drive sales productivity, the first step is demonstrating how your role fits in with the sales cycle.

Put an end to RFP telephone

Oftentimes, the RFP handoff from sales looks something like this:

  1. Sales forwards an RFP to the proposal manager and tries to get the proposal manager up to speed on the last 8 months of activities in about 15 minutes.
  2. The proposal manager starts herding the cats of SMEs and leadership in a short amount of time.
  3. Because the proposal manager wasn’t fully part of the sales strategy from the get-go, they aren’t able to answer questions about proposal strategy from SMEs.
  4. If the SMEs want to know what kind of “spin” they should put on certain questions, proposal managers might not know if they didn’t have a good hand-off from sales.

As a result, the SME answers the question generically. The proposal won’t be tailored to the customer’s specific needs. And sales might lose the deal.

That’s why proposal managers need to be involved in sales conversations from the very beginning.

If you’re trying to get caught up on everything, it’s too much to take in in a short amount of time. You need to understand how sales has been building up to that proposal, and what you need to highlight in the proposal to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.

Take your seat at the sales table

The most important thing you can do to prove that you’re part of the sales team is act like you’re part of the sales team.

That means making it clear to your sales leader that you need a better understanding of what’s coming down the line and need to be part of sales huddles and pipeline meetings. This is especially important in this new era of remote work, where we’re not running into each other at the office. In the absence of impromptu conversations, we (proposal professionals) need to be more purposeful about communicating with sales.

If you’re not currently part of sales huddles and pipeline meetings, here’s an email template you can borrow to request to be part of those meetings:

Hi {boss name},

I’m writing to request an invitation to the sales team’s weekly sales huddles and pipeline meetings.

As the proposal manager, I’m responsible for crafting a compelling proposal that solves our clients’ problems. The sooner I’m clued into the status of open opportunities, the sooner I can start researching our client—and the more compelling proposal I can write.

To put a number on this:

    • Total dollar value of proposals won in [last year]:
    • Total dollar value of proposals lost in [last year]:

By joining sales conversations early on, I’m confident I can increase our proposal win rate—and help push deals deeper into the sales cycle.

Looking forward to seeing you in the first meeting!

Best,

{Your Name}

Take this template and make it your own—especially the metric purpose. I recommend tailoring your impact data t your company’s sales goals, whether that be revenue, membership, or new logos signed.

Once you’re part of those meetings, you have a chance to bring up ideas and offer your help. And help people understand that proposal teams don’t exist just to respond to RFPs. They are critical to winning and retaining accounts.

Gimme the data

After you’ve made the case to rightfully take your spot on the sales team, the next step is proving to leadership what you’re bringing to the table. And, more importantly, what would happen if you weren’t there.

This leads me to my golden rule of proposal management:

Even if you think everyone knows how much you’re working, they don’t.

If you’ve ever been told something along the lines of “Wow, your team is magic!”, that’s a big red flag.

My team is full of amazing, competent human beings who are excellent at their jobs. But there’s no such thing as magic. And if everyone else at your company believes you’re a team of magical proposal elves, that’s an easy recipe for burnout.

If you find yourself in that situation, you need to demonstrate how much time you’re spending on projects.

Here’s a list of everything you need to track to start building your case:

  • # of questions in each RFP
  • Time spent
  • By RFP
  • By task (e.g. formatting, printing, coordinating with SMEs)
  • By team member
  • # of RFPs and due dates

If you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to track all this”… Well, that’s probably a sign that you need to start tracking these metrics and prove to leadership how much you’re working.

If you have RFP software, tracking these metrics is easy. If you don’t, it’s a bit more challenging, but not impossible. I’ll cover both methods in the next two sections.

I think there’s an app for that…

If you really want to get on top of your data tracking, RFP software is going to be extremely helpful. It tracks all those metrics I listed in the previous section automatically, so you can just get on with your normal business and pull a report at the end of the quarter (or month or year or whatever it may be).

At my previous employer, we used RFPIO. We just went about our normal business and let RFPIO whir in the background. At the end of our analysis, we created a report showing (in quarterly timeframes and YTD):

  • How many hours go into each RFP
  • How many hours each individual is working per week
  • How many hours are spent on each part of the RFP

And the results of my report were really eye-opening for senior staff. I was able to prove that we needed an extra 2.5 people to achieve the same output and work 8 hours per day. As a result, we were put at the top of the list for new hires over the entire sales organization.

In lieu of RFP software, pivot tables are your friend

If you aren’t using RFP software, you’ll need to say hello to pivot tables, because they are going to be your new best friend.

First, ask your team members to use a free time-tracking software (like Toggl) to track their time. If you’re anything like me, you hate asking your over-worked team to do extra work.

If you start thinking that, just remember: The only way you can help your team get the support they need is by proving to the rest of the organization how much work you and your team are actually doing.

To put together a comprehensive report, you’ll need to ask your team members to track time by:

  • RFP, and
  • Task (e.g. formatting, printing, coordinating with SMEs, etc.)

At the end of the week, compile the report from each of your team members and pivot table away.

You don’t have to do this exercise forever. Only as long as it takes to build your case. Maybe it’s a week, maybe it’s a month. But just know that at the end of the exercise, you’ll have the data you need to prove how much you’re working.

Because—and I can’t say this enough—nobody knows how hard you work. And after you show them the numbers, they’ll wonder how you were ever able to do it all.

Building the right tech stack for your proposal team

As a proposal manager, you probably won’t have a huge say in what sales technology your team uses. When my previous company switched from Skype to Teams, nobody asked me what my thoughts were. All I could do was adjust and adapt.

And here is my pitch for RFP software. It truly is a game-changer for proposal teams. If you (or your boss) still need convincing, here are all the stats you need to build your case.

With RFP software, you can:

  • Act on the 80/20 rule: Automate responses to standard questions, and spend more time personalizing the client-specific questions
  • Always use the right client names: With RFP software, merge tags like [client name] make sure you never accidentally use the wrong client in a proposal (an easy mistake, but still embarrassing)
  • Consolidate content and keep it up to date: With an AI-enabled content library, you can store pre-approved, proposal team-blessed content, and make sure your entire sales team has access.

If you are already using RFP software, find ways to integrate with the rest of your tech stack. For example, RFPIO (my personal favorite) integrates with all kinds of platforms, including:

  • CRMs (Salesforce, MS Dynamics, Hubspot)
  • Cloud Storage (Box, Dropbox, Sharepoint, OneDrive, Google Drive)
  • Communication Apps (Slack, MS Teams, Google Hangouts, Jira)
  • SSO Authentication (Azure, Okta, OneLogin)
  • Web Browsers (Google Chrome, Chromium Edge) (These are technically called “browser extensions” and not “integrations” but whatever)
  • Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, Outlook)

Proposal managers are essential to driving sales productivity

Trillions of dollars of revenue are won through competitive proposal processes each year, and organizations with dedicated proposal managers submitted 3.5x more responses in 2020 than those without.

To learn what else proposal managers can to do drive sales productivity, check out our newly published white paper: Experience the Freedom to Thrive.

 benchmark-blog-report

Are you ready to jump into the revenue-generation game?

Read our white paper to learn how

One thing we found… with the right sales stack, proposal managers become an impactful source of revenue.

Not to toot our own horn, but with RFPIO, you can expect to reduce your RFP response time by 40% (on average).

To put a number on that: If you spend 40 hours per week responding to RFPs, RFPIO could save you 16 hours per week, on average.

Ready to see how it works? Schedule a demo.

Follow along as I craft an RFP executive summary example

Follow along as I craft an RFP executive summary example

I recently wrote an article on how to write an executive summary that will give you the best chance to win your request for proposal (RFP). It’s a riveting read! I included a template in that article to give you a head start. Now I’d like to draft an executive summary example with you using that template.

Now I’m not suggesting that you create War and Peace here, but there are some key elements you need to include. And, as I mentioned in the other article, follow Dr. Tom Sant’s guidelines for persuasive writing, namely following his NOSE acronym:

  • Needs: Demonstrate your clear understanding of the prospect’s business problems. Only by demonstrating that you truly understand the customer’s specific problems, and that you understand the business payoffs of solving those problems, are you qualified to recommend a solution.
  • Outcomes: Confirm the results they will achieve when their problems are solved.
  • Solution: Recommend a specific solution.
  • Evidence: Illustrate how you’ve solved similar problems in the past and provide convincing proof of your track record.

Follow along or skip to the section you want to focus on:

“N” of NOSE: Understanding your prospect’s needs
“O” of NOSE: Surfacing desired outcomes
“S” of NOSE: Presenting the solution
“E” of NOSE: Providing evidence of your solution’s validity,
Conclusion: Sign off with a thank you

I recommend opening the template in a separate window and reviewing this example in parallel with the instructions included in the template. It’s a richer experience.

Also, note that I created the example using a fictional software company (“Paradocx”) responding to another fictional company’s RFP (“ACME”). While Paradocx is a complete fiction, ACME is loosely based on a running gag in Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons—but still a complete fiction.

RFP executive summary example: Read, copy, and make it your own

The first thing you’ll notice in the executive summary example is that I’ve dubbed it an executive briefing instead of an executive summary. “Brief” is more active and meets the expectation of the executive, the intended audience of this document. The intention is to inform and persuade the executive, not attempt to abbreviate and condense the response into a couple of pages. Most of the time, the executive will only read this brief instead of the whole RFP, so it has to be right on the money.

Executive Briefing

Thank you for inviting Paradocx to participate in ACME Global’s RFP for your time travel software initiative. The entire Paradocx team is eager to partner with ACME, and having carefully considered your requirements, we are very confident we can deliver a solution that will deliver significant efficiencies and competitive advantage to your organization.
In this executive briefing, we outline how our solution will address ACME’s stated requirements and deliver on your desired outcomes. We provide a high-level overview of Paradocx’s recommended solution, before then providing justification as to why Paradocx is the right choice for ACME.

“N” of NOSE: Understanding prospect’s needs

Our Understanding of ACME’s Needs

Safe, on-time delivery of overly complex devices intended to capture roadrunners—no matter how remote the location or how much TNT is included—is essential to maintaining ACME’s perceived value and satisfying subscribers. In our conversations with your team, you have informed us that you currently face several challenges with ACME’s shipping and packaging services, including:

Skyrocketing customer churn rate
Simply put, when deliveries don’t arrive on time, customers are rushed, mistakes are made, and roadrunners escape. Dissatisfied customers are quick to terminate subscription services, especially with your primary competitor, Zambezi, offering incentives to do so.

Fewer new subscriptions
ACME market share has dropped by an average of 6% year-over-year since 2017. Influx of competitors such as Zambezi has created a price war over scarce consumer dollars. ACME’s safety reputation has been damaged by social media coverage of unplanned TNT explosions.

Response times slowed by lack of data, poor decision-making
Unexpected supply chain delays surprised ACME during the pandemic crisis of 2020 and 2021. Siloed data and legacy systems that could not be integrated blocked the packaging department’s ability to find new materials in a timely manner. Panic buying of sawdust and styrofoam peanuts resulted in a dangerous hazardous waste debacle.

Too many missed on-time delivery milestones
Inability to find replacement parts for Rube Goldberg contraptions delayed delivery on more than 17% of orders in Q2 2021. Lack of communication with shipping resulted in promises of delivery times and sites based on 2018 manufacturing times that could not be matched in 2021.

“O” of NOSE: Surfacing desired outcomes

ACME’s Desired Business Outcomes

By implementing ACME’s Time Travel SaaS Platform, you wish to benefit in several ways in addition to addressing the above challenges. The desired outcomes you shared with us include:

Reduce churn while increasing customer retention
By resetting the timeline and meeting shipping deadlines for 90% of transactions tagged as “late arrival,” ACME will eliminate cause for switching services while limiting risk to reputation.

ACME will also be able to proactively alter shipping deadlines based on navigation of the near future. Headcount in the shipping and packaging department can remain constant until customer onboarding rate outpaces customer churn rate.

Distance ACME further ahead of the competition
Next-level customer rewards programs will make for a difficult choice if customers want to take their business to competitors such as Zambezi. Additionally, improved response, accurate deliveries, and better overall service will make leaving ACME even less appealing.

Many Paradocx customers have related to us that even minor interruptions in the timeline allow them to gain a toehold against aggressive competitors. Like a loud noise distracts an angry dog, time travel disrupts competitors’ momentum and returns the advantage back to our customers.

Accelerate response time

Responding to complex order requests to remote destinations takes time, especially if fireworks are involved or the destination is not a physical address. Consequently, roadrunners have already passed the target zone by the time deliveries arrive, resulting in frustrated customers.

A time travel software solution can deliver significant efficiencies to address these concerns, as well as significantly improving the probability of upgrading orders to increase average order value.

Guarantee delivery to desired destination, no matter how remote

There’s nothing scarier than receiving a delivery request to a pin on a map. No address. No roads. And barely any landmarks to establish a frame of reference. Despite their name, roadrunners don’t always spend their time on main highways. Coyotes need to follow the scent no matter how treacherous the terrain.
With ACME’s Time Pause functionality, shippers can freeze time for up to 72 minutes and reroute our GPS satellite to the delivery site. From there, it’s just a matter of drawing a topographic map of the area and letting our AI-enabled drone army strategize a delivery plan.

“S” of NOSE: Presenting the solution

Paradocx’s Recommendation for ACME

Having diligently studied your requirements and challenges, stated above, we strongly urge ACME to invest in Paradocx’s Time Travel SaaS Platform.

Paradocx’s market-leading solution was designed with customer retention and improving service quality as priorities. Paradocx’s founders were career time travelers and therefore have firsthand experience of how to reset timelines while managing chaos risk. Simply put, our solution was designed by time travelers to help you control time.

Consequently, Paradocx will eliminate ACME’s past mistakes so you can reduce customer churn and begin increasing subscriber revenue. The core capabilities of our solution are highlighted in the graphic below:

Paradocx’s Key Functionality – An Overview

Analysis of the Past:

Without time-traveling software designed to analyze past transactions and identify the flashpoints that undermined your intended customer experience, you can spin your wheels for years. Even if you are lucky enough to find the right transactions, you still need the ability to travel backward and alter the outcome.

Paradocx’s Analysis of the Past allows you to alter only the outcomes that matter so that you don’t waste resources on those that don’t. This functionality also limits your risk of causing chaos or possibly opening a wormhole.

Timeline Correction:

Some say that there is inherent danger in changing the past and that doing so becomes an exercise in butterfly effect management. We agree.
Butterfly effect management is the difference maker in timeline correction. Following Analysis of the Past—when we’ve identified the most impactful flashpoints—our patented timeline correction process reverses results while limiting butterfly effect risk. Moving forward, butterfly effect management will result in fewer timeline corrections with future planning.

Future Planning:

It’s not enough to change the past and live in the now. Maintaining competitive performance for the long haul requires future planning based on insight into tomorrow.
In addition to identifying upcoming service interruptions and opportunities for customer rewards, future planning also monitors what will happen with Zambezi and other competitors. This level of insight is not available anywhere else because of Paradocx’s hold on a proprietary fixed point in spacetime.

Pause for Accuracy:

Customer expectations are off the charts. Packaging and/or shipping deadlines are bearing down. You’ve already used your monthly allotment of timeline corrections. Is there anything else you can do to accelerate response time?

Engage pause for accuracy, an up-to-72-minute dimensional freeze-frame in which you can still move around freely. Seems like a paradox. We thought so too until we accidentally developed it 7,000 years from now.

Data Security:

Customer data is the lifeblood of your business at ACME. Without pinpoint accurate location coordinates, payment information, and certification data at your fingertips, your deliveries are at risk.
We recognize how vital your data is and want to assure you that we’ve taken measures to keep it secure now, in the past, and in the future. And if there is a catastrophic breach? We’ll perform a timeline correction (at no extra cost) to fix it. Our security protocols meet the following standards:

  • SOC II
  • GDPR
  • ISO 27001

System Uptime:

At ACME, the shipping and packaging processes are mission-critical to your end-to-end services, so your chosen solution needs to recognize that fact. Paradocx is as reliable as it is secure.

Our Time Travel SaaS Platform is 100% cloud-based with redundancy provided by ultra-reliable Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting infrastructure.

In fact, Paradocx has achieved 99.98% uptime since our inception, and we considered deploying timeline correction to bring it to 100%. However, future planning indicated doing so increased the possibility of an event horizon forming in the Southern Ocean if we had. Barring the possibility that doing so may end existence as we know it (in which case our services are moot), you can be confident that Paradocx will always be up when you need it.

“E” of NOSE: Providing evidence of your solution’s validity

Why should ACME partner with Paradocx?

We completely understand that ACME has a choice of vendors with whom you will partner. So, with several outwardly similar solutions on the marketplace to choose from, why should ACME select Paradocx?

ACME asked us to explain clearly how we are different from our competitors. While there are many differences between us and our competitors, we’ll highlight the four that are most relevant to ACME’s needs.

ACME’s Key Differentiators

We’re all still here

Paradocx is the only time travel software provider that has been used by our competitors to save existence from annihilation. The physics and mathematics driving our software development actually enable time travel capabilities for all our competitors. We invented it and made it openly available to the world.

Results are guaranteed

We’re not the largest, most valuable corporation in the world for nothing. Time is every company’s most valuable asset. What you do with it determines your success. It just so happens that we control it.

User-friendly, low-risk interface

All animations, binary songs, and gravitation wave rhythms are maneuverable through our proprietary touchscreen interface. Unlike competitive solutions that rely on messages in bottles and subliminal messaging through high-frequency radio waves, our insights come through loud and clear. And no timeline corrections can be made without judgement from the World Time Panel.

Only provider with privacy promise

Paradocx searches across time with full encryption with no need to rely on disguises to avoid butterfly effect events. At no time will any customer know that you peeked back or forward at them. Deja vu was eliminated with our 2.0 upgrade in 2019.

What Paradocx’s Customers Are Saying…

Paradocx is consistently the highest-rated solution in the market. But don’t just take our word for it. Here are some soundbites provided by three Paradocx customers.

Daffy’s Duck & Cover

“My company never used to get the respect it deserved. Online sales almost cost us our business. Thanks to Paradocx, we’re now the biggest sporting good retailer in all of hill country.”
Daffy Duck, CEO, Duck & Cover

Birdswing Emporium

“Many of our customers were placed in dangerous areas, at risk of attack or illness from the elements. Paradocx helped us reset some timelines that were real life savers.”
Tweety, VP Product Development, Birdswing Emporium

A Small World

“We somehow ended up in the wrong universe! Paradocx reversed the mistakes made by one of its competitors and rescued me, our IP, and, ultimately, our business. Oh boy!”
M. Mouse, CTO, A Small World

ROI

Based on ACME’s expected outcomes, the unlimited user pricing model that is optimal for your business, and the fact that we will perform a timeline correction for any time required for onboarding, we created the following ROI estimates.

Day 30: 10% ROI

Day 90: 50% ROI

Year 2: 248% ROI

We came to these numbers using our ROI calculator, which includes the following factors:

  • Avg. price per Rube Goldberg device
  • Avg. margin for shipping and packaging costs
  • Estimated customer churn reduced to 3% by day 90
  • Year-over-year increase in subscription rate f 7.3%

Paradocx Overview

Why choose Paradocx to help you with this important business initiative? Founded so far in the future that you don’t need to worry about it, we brought this technology back to 21st century earth through an Einstein-Rosen bridge to make a difference in how humans work, live, and play. Our platform has been designed and built from the ground-up by an extremely experienced and talented team of individuals who understand firsthand the demands of conducting business in linear time.

We are a financially strong, vibrant business, backed by unlimited financial resources and control of time. As the market leader, we provide time travel services to more than half of the Fortune 100.

We are consistently the highest-rated vendor on independent review sites such as TARDIS. We are the only time travel software endorsed by MIT and NASA.

ACME Customers

Paradocx provides services to more than half of the Fortune 100, nearly two-thirds of the Comprend Global 100, more than three-quarters of Forbes Global 2000, and a fruit farm in southwest Idaho.

Conclusion: Sign off with a thank you

Conclusion

Once again, thank you for considering Paradocx as a partner for ACME relative to your time travel software needs.

In conclusion, everyone at Paradocx is excited at the prospect of working with ACME, and eagerly anticipating welcoming you to the fast-growing list of Paradocx customers. We will work extremely hard to build a strong, long-term partnership focused on helping you achieve your customer churn and subscription objectives and exceed your expectations at every point along the way.

Next Steps

Download the complete executive summary example here. These templates will be a huge time saver for you moving forward. It takes a little longer to write the first one, but you’ll be able to rattle off those that follow in no time.

To learn more about the value of templates in RFPIO’s workflow, schedule a demo now. You can also see how Genpact’s bid team uses RFPIO® LookUp to download templates directly from their Answer Library in this article.

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

Deploy content governance that will take your breath away

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

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

What is content governance?

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

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

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

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

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

Why do you need content governance?

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

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

4 benefits of content governance

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

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

How to create a content governance workflow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business proposal example, template, and how-to instructions

Business proposal example, template, and how-to instructions

Before I get into the business proposal example, template, and tips, I need you to remember one thing: You’re Yoda, not Luke Skywalker:

“Think about Luke Skywalker and Yoda in Star Wars. When Luke meets Yoda, he encounters the perfect guide. Yoda understands Luke’s dilemma and has mastered the skills Luke must develop if he is going to defeat the Death Star.”
Donald Miller

As the writer of a business proposal, you want to come off as the perfect guide. Your goal is to make your prospect look like Luke Skywalker, the hero of the story. The prospect doesn’t care about your product; they care about solving their problem.

What is a business proposal?

Put simply, a business proposal is your solution pitch to a prospect’s business problem. It’s you saying, “I understand your problem. This is what the situation will look like after it’s fixed. Here’s a few ways we can help you fix it. Sign here to get the solution rolling.”

It’s used often, especially if your prospect isn’t the only stakeholder involved in deciding whether or not to buy your solution. In such situations, the business proposal is the document that your prospect will share with those decision-makers. Jeff Bloomfield, sales coach and author of NeuroSelling, says, “They need to know that they are saving money with your solution when compared to the high cost of the problem you are solving.”

As succinctly as possible, you need to tell the story of how your solution will help your prospect look like Luke Skywalker. That’s not much room; the opening scroll in all the Star Wars movies takes up more than two pages.

A business proposal is brief, yet informative and customized to every prospect’s specific problem, even if you only have one solution. Remember this is about their needs rather than your features. To put it another way, it’s the photo negative of a brochure or website.

How to write a business proposal

Arguably the most important step when writing a business proposal takes place before any writing begins: Confirm interest in your solution. Odds of winning deals from unsolicited business proposals are multi-state lottery-level. Any effective business proposal starts with a conversation.

When you understand objectives and have a solution, then you can begin writing. If after identifying the prospect’s pain points you believe that your solution isn’t strong enough, then keep digging for the pain points where you can excel. Sometimes you have to push to get the right objectives to make sure there’s enough pain to justify your solution.

Timing is essential because a business proposal needs to be educated and comprehensive. Too early and it’s going to land on deaf ears. Too late and either someone else solved the problem or you’re perceived as not caring enough to make it a priority.

As soon as you’ve identified pains, objectives, and how to position your solution as the ideal, then gather the following content:

  • Logos (yours and prospect’s)
  • Pricing options
  • Scope of work collateral you can link to from the business proposal

Now you just have to complete the business proposal template. These business proposal best practices will help.

8 business proposal best practices

  1. Take advantage of “title” real estate. As my esteemed colleague Keith Norrie explains in his expert advice on executive summaries, the title is too good of a setup opportunity to pass up. Use an action verb to surface the primary problem that you’re proposing to fix with your solution. The following power-verb examples will perk up stakeholders’ ears: increasing, reducing, accelerating, improving, streamlining, monetizing… Check out the business proposal example to see how I framed the solution in the proposal.
  2. Agree on 3-5 objectives with the prospect’s champion during your initial calls. These objectives will be based on pains that your prospect wants to overcome.
  3. Explain how your solution will enable these objectives. This isn’t an opportunity for you to list product features—most of which the prospect won’t care about. It’s where you tie solutions to problems. For example: “RFPIO’s AI-enabled Answer Library will reduce XYZ Company’s time spent responding to repetitive questions from 1,200 hours to 720 hours or fewer annually for an equal number of submitted RFPs.”
  4. Give multiple pricing options as a checkable list. Avoid line-item detail. Explain the difference between each option. For example, “This one allows you to scale…this one gets you to the end of the year…this one is best for small businesses…”
  5. Provide a high-level scope of work specific to the prospect’s need. Link out to data sheets or websites for more information.
  6. Include a call to action, preferably a signature request. At the very least, schedule a call to review next steps.
  7. Review the proposal with the prospect over the phone or through video conferencing. If possible, try to get the person you’re really building the proposal for (the decision-making stakeholder in the shadows behind the prospect champion) to join the review. If you can’t schedule a review, then record a Vidyard of you walking through the business proposal that can be shared with stakeholders.
  8. Be careful of jargon. Every industry has its unique terminology, but be wary of using jargon for jargon’s sake. With only two pages, you don’t have any room to waste on hollow language that doesn’t address the prospect’s specific problem.

Download your business proposal template & business proposal example

Here are the business proposal template and the business proposal example. When you’re ready to write your own business proposal, make a copy of the template. Then, delete all the instructions as you complete the sections. That way you don’t accidentally fire off a document complete with my tips and tricks. Also, if you build your business proposals from Salesforce, then these tips on Salesforce Proposal Builder will be a big help.

I hope you find the template and example helpful. Remember, the decision-making stakeholder (likely an executive) will be reviewing multiple proposals. They should be able to look at yours and identify that it’s comprehensive and customized for them. They’ll sniff out cookie-cutter treatments immediately and will sideline them while they look for something unique, like yours.

Be confident. This isn’t a shot in the dark. The prospect needs to solve this issue. Your business proposal will illustrate how you’ve thought through their problems.

Bid & Proposal Conference Denver: Key Takeaways

Bid & Proposal Conference Denver: Key Takeaways

We just returned from 3 jam-packed days in Denver, Colorado—and we’re still buzzing from all the excitement. There’s just something so special about having real conversations with people in person. Although, remembering how to talk to people was definitely a bit of a learning curve.

In short, APMP’s 2021 Bid and Proposal Conference in Denver was great. It was held at the Gaylord Rockies—an absolutely gigantic hotel outside of Denver, complete with a waterpark. If anything, nobody was complaining about not getting their steps in.

I’d also like to call out what a good job APMP did with COVID precautions. Attendees could order a COVID test to come to your house right before the conference. And everyone needed to submit a health screening form and get their temperature taken before the day’s activities began.

Learning and growing

BPC did not lack in informative sessions. With more than 40 sessions over three days, we definitely left with far greater insights than we came with. Here were a few of our faves:

How to use FBI hostage techniques to get what you want from other people

This session was a huge hit—to the point that people had to stand in the back in order to sit in.

And the speakers, Adele Cehrs and Chip Massey, made some brilliant parallels between the job of an FBI agent and the job of a proposal professional.

When an FBI is in a hostage negotiation, they need to connect with the fugitive. So they approach the situation from the fugitive’s point of view. A good FBI agent will say: “I know what you’re going through. You’re looking over their shoulder, thinking something’s going to happen, you can’t trust anyone… You know you’re going to be brought in eventually. I’m here to help.”

If you looked at things from an FBI agent’s point of view, they’d just say, “Listen, I need to bring you in. So come on.” That’s not very convincing.

Proposal professionals are doing the same thing. They’re understanding the situation from the buyer’s perspective. What is their pain? Why are they seeking the solution? How can you help?

These are all questions a good proposal manager will ask themselves.

Bid Responsibility: Effectively Partnering with the Sales Team

The CEO of Patri, Josh Ellars, started off this presentation with this slide.

After this slide was shown, I imagine everyone in the audience mentally said, “Looks about right.”

A stark difference in headcount isn’t the only thing that’s disconnected between bid and proposal teams. In this presentation, Josh explained what else is missing—and what you can do about it.

Exploring the Future of Response Management

In this session, RFPIO’s very own CEO sat down with the President of APMP, Rick Harris for a “power half hour” coffee. They talked about everything under the sun, including where response management came from, where it’s going, and how the relationship between AI and humans will continue to evolve.

This was a well-attended session that saw lots of audience participation where people were able to interact with Ganesh. It was a really fun session to watch!

Managing the Changing Landscape of Response Management

Change is hard, but necessary. Because the risk of staying the same is much greater than the risk of accepting change.

In this session, Angela Earl, VP of Global Marketing at RFPIO, talked about how response management has changed over time—especially over the last few years.

At the same time, buyer’s expectations are changing. Buyers expect providers to know who they are, what interactions they’ve had, and where they are in the decision-making process. Prospects want to be heard, not herded.

Networking and reconnecting

BPC Denver was absolutely a chance for everyone to regrease those socializing wheels, dust off your electric magenta blazer, and get back out into the world of interacting with people in real life.

Luckily, APMP made networking and reconnecting easy. Here are some of the activities we enjoyed:

Regi-ception

We kicked off the conference with a “Registration + Reception” combo. This helped jumpstart everyone’s socializing skills and get everyone excited for the days ahead. RFPIO sponsored

THE TARA

“TARA” stands for “The Art of Reconnecting Annually”. And APMP did not disappoint. They had a ton of great food (the truffle mac n cheese was my personal fave), a VW bus photo booth, cornhole, ladder ball, and shuffleboard. It was a lot of fun!

RFPIO Booth

To honor the weirdness of the last year and a half, we were giving out some fun, practical SWAG at our booth—hand sanitizer and notebooks.

We also had a lot of fun with a photo booth! Anyone who took a photo at our booth would be entered into our raffle to win a $100 Amazon gift card. We only had four lucky winners, but a lot of wonderful entries!

On Day 2, I felt like everyone could use a bit of a pick me up… so I hyped up the music a bit. And it worked like a charm. As soon as I put on “We Will Rock You” by Queen, a group of people started stomp-stomp-clapping. And to honor their impromptu-ness, Angela, our VP of Global Marketing, gave them all impromptu raffle tickets!

Chapter of the Year: APMP India

Finally, I want to give a shout out to APMP India for winning Chapter of the Year award! This award honors the APMP chapter that demonstrates excellence in chapter sustenance and development through support of APMP initiatives.

Nice work, APMP India! 🎉

Looking forward

After all the fun we had at BPC Denver, we immediately checked when BPC 2022 would be. It’s already scheduled for May 22-25, 2022 in Dallas.

If you’re interested in more APMP events, make sure to register for their upcoming webinar, “How Proposal Teams Can Drive Sales Productivity and Improve Outcomes.” Watch the webinar here (you have to register before you can watch).

Also, make sure to sign up for updates about RISE UP 2022! It will be a fully virtual event, happening February 16-17, 2021.

How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

Executives don’t want to be summarized. They want to be briefed, which is what your executive summary needs to do. While common terminology is “executive summary,” approaching it as an executive briefing will put you in the proper persuasive mindset.

It all tracks back to Dr. Tom Sant. Know him? If you prepare proposals or briefings to make your sales living, then Dr. Sant’s subject matter expertise needs to be in your toolbox.

He’s written a few books, one of which is Persuasive Business Proposals. I highly recommend it, and not just because I used to work with Dr. Sant at one of the companies he founded. Its value is in how he ties proposal writing to the psychology of how humans make decisions. It’s a master class in how to use persuasive language in sales when building proposals and their executive summaries.

For the sake of this article—and to help keep us focused on the executive summary—I want to focus on one of Dr. Sant’s most helpful guidelines, which goes by the acronym NOSE.

  • Needs: Spell out your understanding of the prospect’s problems.
  • Outcomes: Confirm the results they anticipate when their problems are solved.
  • Solution: Recommend how you can solve the problem.
  • Evidence: Illustrate how you’ve solved similar problems in the past and who else trusts you to solve such problems.

According to Dr. Sant, by organizing your executive summary to align with NOSE, you’ll address three questions that executives want answered while being briefed:

  1. Are we getting what we need?
  2. Is it really worth the investment of resources and time?
  3. Can they really deliver?

Many salespeople make the mistake of focusing more on “summary” than “executive.” Summaries tend to not provide answers. They’re more like glorified tables of contents for the larger proposal.

Create the executive summary with the understanding that it’s likely the only part of a proposal that executive-level decision-makers will review. You have to elicit the desired response from a proposal without including everything that goes into a proposal. No doubt it’s a top-flight challenge in persuasion, but it’s the hurdle your executive summary has to leap.

Executives want to see that you understand their needs and desired outcomes, their pains and wants. Seeing this level of understanding articulated in the executive summary helps relieve any anxiety they may have as check writers. Many executives just want the briefing to overcome their fear of making the wrong decision or selecting the wrong vendor, which can be a career-damaging move.

5 more tips for writing an executive summary that packs a punch

There are heaps of tips written in-line in the template. It’s a template with instructions, like one of those fresh dinner boxes you can have delivered that has all the groceries and the recipe you need to make a meal, but without all the surprise prep work that no one ever mentions (“Wait, I still have to marinate this meat and chop all these veggies?”).

In fact, there’s so many tips that I didn’t have room for these four, so I’m dropping them in here:

  1. Create a title using a dynamic verb: Sadly, the most popular title for an executive summary is “Proposal for Prospect Company.” Use the title as an opportunity to capture the executive’s attention. “Increasing lead-generation…,” or “Visualizing revenue forecasting…,” or “Streamlining cloud storage…” or whatever it is that your solution is going to do for them.
  2. Use the recipient’s actual name whenever possible: It makes recipients feel important and personally attended to when they see their name on the front page.
  3. Aim for a 3:1 ratio of recipient company name versus your company name: Make the document feel customized to them, not you.
  4. Show how well you understand your prospect’s needs: Sales or business development representatives should provide this information either from experience or from a formal discovery phase that needs to happen prior to your building a proposal with an executive summary. List only 3-5. Six and beyond are dismissed by the brain as trivia, and are almost never read.
  5. Make sure your key functionalities match your prospects’s desired business outcomes: If they don’t, it’s probably not a good fit.

Executive summary template: Use it or reference it, whichever works best for you

I could tell you *how* to write an executive summary until the cows come home. But, if you’re anything like me, things don’t really click until you see these best practices put into action.

That’s why I pulled together an executive summary template based on Dr. Sant’s NOSE. Replace the in-line instructions with recommended content and you’ll end up with an executive summary that’s bound to impress. Or, at the very least, that’s bound to address executive-level strategic concerns about your proposal. Download the full template here.

Pro-Tip: When you’re ready to write your own executive summary, make a copy of the template. Then, delete all the comments. That way you don’t accidentally fire off a document complete with my tips and tricks.

Create effective executive summaries consistently

Some of us around here at RFPIO are prone to saying, “A proposal on its own is not likely to win a deal, but it can certainly lose it.” The same can be said for an executive summary.

Remember that executives buy a solution for different reasons than a production team (sales, marketing, IT, etc.) wants to use it. Executive teams have strategic goals while production teams have daily workflow improvement goals. In RFPIO’s case, while prospect executives may want to increase sales pipelines, sales and proposal teams just want time back for sanity.

I hope you find this template and walkthrough helpful. It’s been my experience that very few organizations or individuals get any training on writing executive summaries. Hence, on the sales side, there can be a lot of inconsistency across the organization when it comes to executive summary approaches. With RFPIO’s ability to work from templates for executive summaries and proposals, uploading this template can help establish a consistent foundation for executive briefing creation moving forward.

To learn more about RFPIO and functions such as Salesforce Proposal Builder, schedule a demo today.

What is an RFP?

What is an RFP?

RFP stands for request for proposal, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a plea for help, a clue to problems that need solved, and an opportunity to build pipeline. This article will take you from asking, “What is an RFP?” to knowing how to use RFPs to drive revenue in less than 1,500 words. Buckle up.

First, an assumption: If you came here because you want to know what an RFP is, then I’m guessing that a high-value target has decided to issue an RFP to find a solution to a problem you feel strongly about solving. When that target finally understands that you’re the answer to their problem, then you’ll pick up a sizable chunk of business. Now you just have to play the RFP game.

(Just in case you’re here because you want to know how to issue an RFP, check out this article instead.)

What is an RFP opportunity?

There are essentially two types of RFP opportunities: solicited and unsolicited. Solicited means that you’re invited to play the game. Unsolicited means you have to crash the game. You have a better chance to win when you’re invited.

That reminds me. There’s a fair bit of jargon in the RFP world. Here’s a short glossary of some common terms you’ll encounter often, including in this article:

  • RFP issuer: The organization that sends out the RFP. They have a problem, and they’re willing to pay someone to solve it, within certain parameters.
  • RFP responder: You.
  • RFP response: How you answer the RFP.
  • RFP proposal: Your response to the RFP.
  • RFP Q&As: Most RFPs present a number of questions that responders must answer. This section makes up the lion’s share of your proposal.
  • RFP win: You were selected by the issuer to solve their problem.
  • RFP loss: Happens to the best of us.

Back to more on “What is an RFP opportunity?”…While you can still win an RFP if you submit an unsolicited response, the odds are against you and you need to take an honest look at whether or not it’s worth it to respond.

RFP responses are not easy, even when you’re invited to partake. If you’re lucky enough to be alerted to an RFP on the day it’s issued, then you’re likely looking at a 3-6 week window to compose your response. Rarely are you so lucky. Sometimes it’s brought in with notice of a week or less, putting you on a tight deadline. The number of hours you’ll have to commit to building a proposal during that time will be determined by, among other things, team participation, content relevance and access, and how much you have to rely on manual processes to complete the response.

Now that you understand what an RFP is and the opportunity it presents, you need to put yourself on a path to respond only to those RFPs that you can realistically win. If this is one of your first RFP responses, then it could be a rabbit hole of unknown depths. Insert a go/no-go milestone before you go ask Alice. It involves asking yourself the following five questions:

  1. What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued?
  2. Is your solution a fit (now, not at some squishy date in the future after you’ve had a chance to adapt it to what the problem calls for)?
  3. Does your price match the RFP issuer’s budget?
  4. Will winning the RFP be a strategic fit for your organization?
  5. Do you have bandwidth (to complete a competitive proposal, not to deliver your solution)?

As part of the RFP response process, you should have an opportunity to ask the questions necessary to fill in the gaps for your go/no-go milestone. Best-case scenario? Your sales team has already laid the groundwork for all of this with the issuer and it’s just a matter of taking their learnings and making them actionable.

It’s a “go.” Now what?

It’s a process deal. Doesn’t that take the pressure off?

I won’t get into the nitty gritty of the RFP process here (you can do so here if you’re ready to start now), but I will touch on the value of efficiency. Even if this is your first RFP, you’ll want to go into it as prepared as possible to save you and your team some pain and give your organization its best shot at winning.

Break down your efficiency goals into three main categories: project management, content management, and proposal quality. Before you start checking boxes under these categories, you need a team. Part of that team has likely already formed. The salesperson at the tip of the spear will be your subject matter expert (SME) for issuer-related questions and perspectives. The rest of the team will come together based on your review of the RFP. What questions need answered? Who has the answers? Who has the design and technical chops to build the proposal?

After you identify potential team members, dig into their availability and try to build a schedule to complete the response by deadline, preferably before deadline to give yourself some buffer. Then schedule a kickoff meeting with all team members to get their buy-in to process details for the following:

  • Project management: You’ll be the lead for collaboration, assigning tasks, and driving the schedule.
  • Content management: You’ll need content creators, content reviewers, and a storage system for a content library (if you’re gathering all this valuable info for an RFP, you’ll want to save it for repurposing; even if this will be your only RFP response of the year, the info will be useful for business proposals, answering prospect and customer questions, and training new hires).
  • Proposal quality: Answering RFP Q&As won’t be enough. You need to personalize the proposal to make it stand out.

Remember, the issuer is using the RFP process to identify its optimal vendor. They’re inciting competition, so you need to play to win. Second prize doesn’t even get a set of steak knives.

Beef up your sales pipeline

Now that you’ve discovered RFPs and the opportunities they can offer, you may want to evaluate how they can help you achieve your sales goals. 69% of B2B salespeople do not have enough leads in their pipeline to meet quota. Pursuing RFPs can build up pipelines fast: Globally, $11 trillion of revenue is won through competitive proposal processes (i.e., RFPs) every year.

Obviously, you’re not going to win every RFP. We found the average win rate to be 45%. However, RFP opportunities can cost as much as 5X more than traditional sales opportunities, which makes your process and your sales tech stack your best friends when it comes to response efficiency.

Automate to dominate

The optimized sales technology stack is a hot point of conversation these days. With so many software solutions, it’s easy for sales teams to overspend on solutions they barely use. A recent Harvard Business Review article cites a survey where 62% of B2B companies were not satisfied with their sales technology return on investment. It also found that:

“The winning companies in our analysis were 1.4 times more likely to fully deploy sales technology tools and 1.9 times more likely to fully integrate them…By taking the time to embed these technologies properly into its sales processes, the [SaaS] company was able to increase revenue growth by 200 basis points within a few weeks.”

RFP automation offers a massive competitive advantage for responders. It saves time, improves proposal quality, and helps companies create their best work by activating their company knowledge. Companies with RFP-specific technology responded to 43% more RFPs in 2020 than those without a designated RFP tool. “With RFPIO, I would say we have increased our win rate by 15%,” said Grégory Saive, IBA global director of sales support and tender management,

But it has to be the right RFP automation technology for your sales tech stack. It has to be able to manage your entire response process — from building proactive proposals to answering prospect and customer questions on the fly and responding to questionnaires — while integrating seamlessly with the other applications you rely on, such as your CRM, communication, and cloud storage solutions.

What’s next? Demo.

We started with “What is an RFP?” and made it all the way through to the value of RFP automation. Once you win one, you’re going to want to win more. Since I’m almost at my promised 1,500-word cap, I’ll wrap it up with a tip on your next step: Schedule a demo. It’s the fastest and easiest way to find out if RFP automation is right for you. Even if it’s not, you’ll get some valuable response tips from our process experts.

How RFPIO celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month

How RFPIO celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month is a period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States for recognizing the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans to the history, culture, and achievements of the United States.

It started way back in 1968 under President Lyndon Johnson and was officially signed into law in 1988.

This year, the RFPIO team celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month in our own way, through cocktail making, pot painting, and a bit of trivia.

How RFPIO celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month

Our Hispanic Heritage Month Event was special for two reasons. First, because we were able to celebrate Hispanic culture. Second, it was our first company event since RFPIO acquired RFP360! It was great bringing the two teams together under one virtual roof and getting to know each other a bit better.

We gave everyone the option to do two different activities: Cocktail Making and Terracotta Pot Painting

Cocktail Making 🍹

For this one, we invited the great Robert Damian Scout to help us become cocktail-making pros. He showed us how to craft a couple of amazing classic cocktails made famous by a man named Don Javier Delgado Corona. He’s an absolute legend in the Hispanic community AND the bartender community worldwide. If you’re looking for a good story, look him up. You won’t be disappointed.

In the class, Robert showed us out to make two classic cocktails: La Paloma and Batanga.

Here are the recipes:

La Paloma
2 oz blanco Tequila (preferably Patron Silver)
½ oz fresh lime juice
1 oz fresh grapefruit juice
¼ oz r squirt of agave nectar (simple syrup works too)
Club soda
Pinch of salt
Tajin or chili salt (optional)
If you’re not a fan of tequila, a grapefruit shandy or beer also works great!

Batanga
2 oz blanco Tequila (preferably Patron Silver)
¾ oz fresh lime juice
4-5oz of Coke (preferably Mexican Coke)
Salt
One whole lime

Tools:
Shaker tin of any sort (anything with a removable and tight lid will work)
Cocktail Strainer (you can also use your hands)
One sharp knife, big enough to stir into your glass
Preferably a “collins” glass, but any pint-like glass will work

Terracotta Pot Painting 🎨

For this activity, we sent anyone a kit with a few mini terracotta pots and some paint pens.

We kicked off the event by exploring the virtual art exhibit hosted by the Smithsonian museum, Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art.

At this exhibit, we learned about how the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s galvanized Latino artists across the United States, who began creating new images of their communities and examined bicultural experiences. Until recently, this art was not considered part of “American” art—the exhibit at the Smithsonian attempts to change this.

We’d encourage you to explore the exhibit on your own here. It will run until March 2022.

After we learned a bit about the history of Latino art in the United States, we learned more about the significance of pottery in Latin America, but Mexico specifically, and how native indigenous pottery was influenced by Spanish techniques. And then… we took that inspiration and painted our very own masterpieces!

Each participant received two terracotta pots and 4 paint pens… and then we got to work. Here’s a sampling of our collective genius:

Hispanic Heritage Trivia 🤓

We finished off our event with some trivia!

Here are some of the questions we asked. See if you could get them right! (Scroll to the bottom of the blog for answers).

Why does Hispanic Heritage Month start on September 15th?

  1. September signifies the start of Fall in many Latin American countries
  2. It’s Pancho Villa’s birthday
  3. It marks the day many Latin American countries gained independence

When was the first time Hispanic Heritage Week (now Hispanic heritage Month) was celebrated in the US?

  1. 1988
  2. 1968
  3. 1990
  4. 1978

How large was the self-described U.S. Hispanic population as of 2019?

  1. 132 million
  2. 50.5 million
  3. 27.8 million
  4. 60.6 million

How many states had a population of more than 1 million Hispanic residents as of 2019?

  1. 8
  2. 10
  3. 12
  4. 14

According to a 2018 census estimate, the U.S. Hispanic population will reach this size by 2060.

  1. 81.2 million
  2. 91.8 million
  3. 111.2 million
  4. 124 million

What’s the largest city in Latin America by population?

  1. São Paulo
  2. Mexico City
  3. Lima
  4. Bogotá

What’s the highest waterfall in South America?

  1. Iguazu Falls
  2. Tugela Falls
  3. Gocta Waterfall
  4. Angel Falls

Which South American country do the Easter Islands in the Pacific Ocean belong to?

  1. Uruguay
  2. Paraguay
  3. Argentina
  4. Chile

All for a good cause

While drinking and painting are good fun, there was a greater purpose behind our shenanigans.

All participants were encouraged to donate money to Voto Latino, a grassroots political organization focused on educating and empowering a new generation of Latinx voters, as well as creating a more robust and inclusive democracy. We set out with a stretch goal to raise $1,000—and we surpassed that number!

As of October 8, we have $1,175 raised. The fundraiser will be open until the end of Hispanic Heritage Month on October 15. If you haven’t donated yet, but would like to, please visit our GoFundMe page.

If this sounds like fun… we’re hiring

At RFPIO, we like to have fun. If you also like to have fun, you’ll fit right in.

We’re hiring in pretty much every department. Check out our most current job listings here. If something catches your eye, please apply! We can’t wait to meet you.

Answers to trivia questions:
C. It marks the day many Latin American countries gained independence
B. 1968
D. 60.6 million
C. 12
C. 111.2
A. São Paulo
D. Angel Falls
D. Chile

To learn more…

Here are some resources you can check out.

Podcasts: 

MexiCan

A Latinx culture podcast about Mexican and Mexican-American history, folklore, traditions, and art. 

Anything for Selena

Marcia Garcia was 9 years old when Selena was murdered. 25 years later, she’s on a quest to understand what it means to love, mourn, and remember Selena. 

Code Switch

A podcast that tackles the subject of race with empathy and humor, exploring how race affects every part of society. 

Reading:  

Book: The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes on a Latin American Journey, by Ernesto Che Guevara

Book: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

Article: Dia de los Muertos

Watch

Documentary: Latino Vote: Dispatches from the Battleground

Documentary: Underwater Dreams

TV Show: Gentefied

Documentary: Discovering Colombia

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

10 ways RFPIO customers can strengthen security

$3.92 million. That’s the global average cost of a data breach in 2019, according to Ponemon Institute.

So it’s no wonder that companies invest heavily in cybersecurity. In the five years between 2017 and 2021, global spending on cybersecurity products is slated to exceed $1 trillion—and this trend is only expected to continue on its upward trajectory.

If you’re storing company information in RFPIO to streamline your RFP responses, I have good news: RFPIO has state-of-the-art security controls to protect your data. Even so, there are still extra things you can do to further protect your information.

Here are 10 things you can do to further strengthen security in RFPIO:

1. Use SSO: A Sweet Security Option

SSO stands for Single Sign-On, but it is also a super sweet security option. RFPIO uses the most widely accepted industry standard, SAML 2.0.

With SSO, RFPIO users use the credentials they already have to sign in. That means they don’t have to remember (yet another) separate user ID and password—and Admins don’t have to take on the responsibility of managing user credentials.

SSO isn’t just convenient. It’s also more secure. When you use SSO, passwords aren’t stored in the browser and there’s a lower risk of a lost or forgotten password. This prevents security gaps that hackers will exploit to gain unauthorized access to the application.

Additionally, SSO allows Admins to manage user activities in real-time, which gives you the extra visibility you need for a tightly run security program.

2. Automate user management with SCIM

SCIM stands for System for Cross-Domain Identity Management. Luckily, it is not as complicated as the 13-syllable name would have you believe.

In a nutshell, SCIM simplifies user management. If SCIM is enabled, users can be added or deleted automatically. It’s as easy as that.

On the one hand, SCIM makes life much easier for Admins. No more manually adding and deleting user accounts.

But it’s also important from a security perspective. With SCIM, user accounts are automatically deleted as soon as employees leave your organization, which means employees won’t have access to sensitive company information after they’ve left.

SCIM happens through SSO and is supported by OneLogin and Microsoft Azure. If your identity provider supports it, I highly recommend implementing SCIM—both for the added convenience and peace of mind.

3. In lieu of SSO, use 2-factor authentication

If your organization doesn’t use SSO, I would recommend you set up 2-factor authentication as an additional layer of security.

If you’ve ever had a code sent to your email or phone, that’s 2-factor authentication. After a user enters their username and password, 2-factor authentication prompts users to enter a valid key or code.

2-factor authentication prevents an unauthorized person from accessing data. Even if a cyber attacker learns the login credentials, they will not be able to access the code for 2-factor authentication.

RFPIO supports 2-factor authentication through Google Authenticator and Duo Mobile.

4. Control access with User Roles

With User Roles (default) and Custom Roles (customized), you can define what users can see and do, and ensure users only have access to the data that’s relevant to them. This is key for security. When you reduce the number of people with access to sensitive data, you minimize the risk of leaks.

RFPIO’s out-of-the-box user roles include Super Admin, Admin, Manager, Team Member, and Project Requester. With Custom Roles (available as an add-on, or included with enterprise package), you can create your own roles that make sense for your organization For example, Content Owner, Reseller Partner, or Project Contributor, but really it can be whatever you want. The world of custom roles is your oyster.

Read our Help Center article to learn more about specific permission levels for the out-of-the-box user roles (RFPIO customers only).

5. Control visibility with collections

Collections is another, more granular way to control access to sensitive data.

While User Roles controls access to projects and organization settings, Collections controls access to content.

When you assign a piece of content to a collection, you can restrict visibility to that collection, either by a user group level (e.g. the sales team) or on an individual level. You can get as granular as you’d like.

For example, you may choose to have a “security” collection and restrict visibility to just the InfoSec team. Or maybe you want a “financials” collection, and want to restrict access to just the finance team and upper management. Here’s a blog with more detail on using collections to organize your content (or scroll to the bottom to watch the webinar).

6. Get really granular with permissions

If you want to get really in the weeds with visibility, you can set privacy settings at the individual object level (e.g. a Q&A pair). Rather than assigning it to a collection, you can set privacy settings to control who can view or edit a specific piece of content.
If there’s a Q&A pair you really only want upper management to have access to, you can do that.

You can also adjust view and edit permissions. For example, maybe there’s a question about a product feature that you really only want the product team to be able to edit, but still want to give your marketing team access to view.

7. Keep up with your audits

With RFPIO, all activities are tracked and logged at different levels (e.g. project level, content level).

Every so often, I’d recommend pulling the Activity Report, which monitors all user activity within the application—including permission changes, user creation, and user deactivation.

For example, if you notice an individual user’s permissions have been changed to have broader access to data that may not be relevant to their role. In response, you can reach out to the person who made the change for more information—and, if necessary, reverse their permission levels to a level more appropriate to their role.

You can also pull the User Login Activity Report. This log includes information about:

  • Who accessed the account,
  • When it was accessed,
  • Where it was accessed (e.g. IP address), and
  • How they logged in (e.g. SSO, username + password, etc.)

Using the User Login Activity Report, Admins can see if the user logged in at odd hours, like on the weekend or very late at night. This could be an indication of unauthorized access that could lead to a data breach.

8. Set up “session timeout”

Avoid the risk of internal attacks by setting up session timeouts that automatically log you out of the application. This is most relevant for organizations working in an office setting.

Here’s the scenario: The VP of Sales leaves their desk for a meeting. Scooby-Doo walks over to the VP of Sales’ desk and downloads a bunch of sensitive financial information from RFPIO, and uses it to wreak havoc. Classic Scooby move.

To prevent this kind of situation from happening, you should set up “session timeout”. The default timeout is 20 minutes, but you can adjust according to your needs.

9. Bring Your Own Key (BYOK)

Set up an extra layer of security with BYOK. RFPIO already encrypts data with our own mechanism, but if you want that added boost… you should consider BYOK.

Basically, BYOK gives you the ability to provide your own encryption key to protect your data—on top of the encryption that RFPIO already uses. This is an added measure for fighting unauthorized access to data.

If you’re an RFPIO customer, learn more about BYOK in the Help Center.

10. Securely share information via Linked Companies

Share company information with partners (e.g. resellers) in such a way that they can only view and use it—but don’t have edit access. This essentially transforms your RFPIO Answer Library into an internal knowledge base that your reseller partners can use to respond to RFPs or answer any other questions that may come up during the sales cycle.

You can set this up using Linked Companies. Learn more about how to set up and use Linked Companies in the Help Center (RFPIO customers only).

What is RFx? Do the math for sales and procurement.

What is RFx? Do the math for sales and procurement.

What is RFx? In this case, it’s proof that Mrs. Vickers, my pre-algebra teacher, was right. She assured me that algebra would come in handy in my adult life. It only took 35-ish years, but it turns out Mrs. Vickers’s crystal ball wasn’t so foggy after all.

Back to the original question: What is RFx? It’s the shorthand for your “Request for” category of procurement and sales processes and documents. Solve for x.

  • RF(Proposal)
  • RF(Information)
  • RF(Quote)
  • RF(Application)
  • RF(Bid)

Explanations and definitions of these are insightfully encapsulated here (processes) and here (glossary). However, if you want an overview of how you can use any of these RFx varieties for your business — either in procurement or business development, then you’re in the right place.

Using RFx for procurement

If you use RFx for procurement, then you’re the issuer creating the RFx. Typically, you’ll submit requests in the following order:

  1. RFI
  2. RFP
  3. RFQ

Ultimately, you want to play your RFx cards to select an ideal vendor using strategic sourcing. The RFI will be high level, probing to see if a problem can be solved. It will help narrow down providers to whom you’ll want to submit the RFP, which will be much more detailed and a heavier lift for you to evaluate.

Your RFP will ask for in-depth problem analysis, what it will take to solve the problem, how a vendor proposes they’ll solve the problem, proof of solving similar problems in the past, and, possibly, an estimate on cost. It may also inform responders how responses will be evaluated (e.g. cost = 35%, experience & performance = 35%, response quality 30%), budget expectations, and timing details.

From your pool of RFP responses, you’ll submit an RFQ to one or two providers to finalize your costs. At this point you know the exact product or service that you want so you request a price quote for that specific solution.

“RFB” is also known as “invitation to bid.” While this terminology does appear in the U.S., it may be more common internationally, where issuers post “tenders,” and responders submit “bids” in response to those tenders.

RFAs are associated with government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Funding has already been set aside for a specific requirement and now agencies or organizations are seeking recipients of funding. Agencies want to solve a very specific problem, such as building the capacity for drinking water systems. Nonprofit organizations have grant money available and seek applications to distribute the grant, such as for placing veterinarians in underserved areas.

Using RFx for business development

For the 69% of salespeople who do not have enough leads in their pipeline, RFx opportunities are an opportunity to drive revenue. When you use RFx for business development, then you are the RFx responder. Response teams require expertise from multiple areas, including sales, product development, product marketing, finance, contracts, and more, depending on the product or service you sell. It’s up to you to respond appropriately in an attempt to put your product or service at the top of the list for RFx issuers.

If you’re lucky, then you have a unified content repository of some sort to reference for your responses. Many sales professionals still work from personal content libraries they’ve amassed on their own, which is problematic for brand management and onboarding new employees. If you’re even luckier, then you represent one of the 43% of organizations using RFP-specific software, which helps automate response processes.

Responding to an RFI will get your foot in the door. Hopefully, it’s something you do regularly and doesn’t take up a lot of bandwidth, for you or any other response team members. This will be early on in the sales process, possibly too early to even count toward your pipeline. When an RFx is not certain of gaining revenue, then you want to minimize resources spent on responding.

However, once you’re selected to respond to an RFP, you can add prospective revenue to your pipeline. This will also be the largest investment as far as resources that you’ll commit to responding to an RFx.

The RFP is your opportunity to lay all your cards on the table. Show the issuer what you can do, how you can do it, and why you can do it better than anyone else. Expect to be evaluated on your experience, your price tag, and the quality of your response. By evaluation, I mean you’ll be measured against all other responders in as much of an apples-to-apples comparison as the issuer can comprise based on the complexity of the response.

The RFQ will be the final deal number, if it wasn’t already requested in the RFP. It will highlight the solution you’re providing within the issuer’s budget. If your solution comes standard with additional functionality beyond the scope of what the issuer originally requested (e.g., integrations with other software, free training, or VIP support), the RFQ is a great opportunity to call that out.

What is RFx automation?

RFx automation reduces the manual processes required to issue and respond to any RFx. For issuing, RFx automation streamlines how requests are created and organizes the evaluation process for you. For responding, RFx automation uses artificial intelligence to Auto Respond to any RFx based on content in your Answer Library. Organizations that use RFP-specific software are not only able to respond to 43% more RFPs than those without a designated RFP tool, they’re able to turn around each response 40% faster.

RFx response automation can also extend to responding to security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), scopes of work, and whatever else you may be requested to respond to in your sales or client support lifecycles. The functionality can also serve you well for proactive proposals, where you need to deliver a proposal or presentation even though one wasn’t specifically requested. This is common in business proposals when a prospect wants something in writing to share with management or the C-suite to build a business case for adding your solution.

Whether you want to use RFx for procurement or business development, if you’re going to do it for the long term, then RFx automation will be a boon to your workflow, morale, and bottom line. The math works out. Mrs. Vickers says so. Learn more about AI-enabled RFx management by scheduling a demo.

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