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RFP response management resource

RFP response management resource

You may have heard the adage that 80 percent of a company’s business comes from 20 percent of its customers. […]


Category: Product & Best Practices

RFP response management resource

RFP response management resource

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

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

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

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

Now for the good news.

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

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

Understanding RFP management

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

A typical RFP response includes:

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

The Response management process

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

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

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

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

Step two – Hold a kickoff meeting

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

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

Step three – First draft

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

Step four – Second draft

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

Step five – Review and revise

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

Step six – Submit the response

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

Step seven – Save and audit the responses

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

Step eight – Postmortem

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

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

The challenges of response management

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

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

How to manage RFP responses

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

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

Optimize time management with automation

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

Scale your response management process

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

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

Upgrade your content management approach

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

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

Facilitate collaboration

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

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

Employ branded response templates

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

What is knowledge management?

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

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

Improving RFP knowledge management

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

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

Scale organizational content

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

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

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

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

Centralize your content library

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

Future-proof your knowledge base

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

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

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

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

Choosing response management software

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

RFP management software: essential features

When assessing available software, look for the following:

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

How a response management platform can support your revenue team

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

Increase your win rate with RFPIO

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

Case study

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

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

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

Response management software FAQs

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is knowledge management?

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

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

Are organizations achieving their objectives?

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

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

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

Creating and maintaining a content library

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

Doing the content management heavy lifting

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

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

Be organized and keep track of your own work

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

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

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

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

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

  • Usage
  • Recency
  • Completeness

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

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

Review most-used content first

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

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

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

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

Review zero-times-used content

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

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

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

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

Keep your review/moderation queue current

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

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

Break down your content to achieve success

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

High-level groups of content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report, report, report

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

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

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

Reporting metrics should include the following:

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

Let leadership determine reporting frequency

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

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

Be consistent and strategic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monetize the value of time spent

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

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

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

Think about the next thing coming

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

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

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

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

Technology-enabled content review

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

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

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

The importance of information governance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of good information governance include:

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

Proving value to leadership beyond just cost

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

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

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

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

Who are your key decision-makers?

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

Working with your content teams

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

Monetize the value of time spent and time saved

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

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

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

How to make friends with your SMEs

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

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

Keep your SMEs engaged by:

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

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

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

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

Communicate with leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content hoarders

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

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

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

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

People who know the answers

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

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

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

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

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

People reluctant to change

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

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

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

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

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

The knowledge management platform that instills trust

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

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

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

How to respond to a security questionnaire

How to respond to a security questionnaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a security questionnaire?

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

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

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparing for a security questionnaire response

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

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

Components of a security questionnaire

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

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

Types of security questionnaires

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

Security Questionnaires and Security Questionnaires Lite – Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaires

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

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

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

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

Step 1 – Search for all available materials

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

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

Step 1 with RFPIO – Prebuilt centralized Content Library

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

Step 2 – Answer only the pre-existing matching responses

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

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

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

Step 3 – Group all unanswered questions and collaborate with SMEs

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

Step 3 with RFPIO – Automate through AI

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

Step 4 – Follow up and track the status of responses

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

Step 4 with RFPIO – Streamline collaboration through project management capabilities

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

Step 5 – Manually collate and complete the questionnaire

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

Step 5 with RFPIO – Export to the source file

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

Security questionnaire response obstacles

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

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

Priorities and tips for the response process

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

Streamlining workflow

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

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

Improving Content Library

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

Keeping information up-to-date

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

Software for security questionnaire responses

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

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

Automation

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

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

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

Templated responses

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

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

RFPIO’s approach to security questionnaire responses

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

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

Knowledge management best practices

Knowledge management best practices

When a business is in its founding phase, it’s undeniably chaotic, but it’s also when company communication is at its peak. Everyone is on a first-name basis and working toward the same goal.

If Mark in sales needs financial information about the company for a potential customer, it’s easy to run down the hall to ask Bethany, the CFO. If Bethany wants next quarter’s marketing forecasts, Harper, the CMO, is just steps away.

Soon, though, the business grows, which of course, is the goal. Then the company hires an HR team, and the staff begins to expand. And then, perhaps without noticing, something happens—silos develop. 

Harper and Bethany might still know each other, but their employees may not. Sales, for example, becomes wholly removed from the people responsible for building the company’s products. They may even be siloed off from others involved in the sales cycle. 

The most significant loss in a siloed organization isn’t about names or distance to colleagues’ workstations; the most significant loss is democratized access to company knowledge. 

This blog will discuss best practices for transforming scattered company knowledge into a single source of truth, a.k.a., an intelligent Content Library. 

What is knowledge management?

Knowledge management refers to how companies collect, organize, analyze, share, and maintain valuable company documents and data. The objective is to democratize knowledge and empower employees to accomplish more in less time. 

Knowledge management is also about ensuring that everyone in the organization is on the same page—a single source of truth. Effective knowledge management prevents miscommunication, incorrect information, and knowledge gaps. It also spurs productivity and helps connect, if not tear down, silos. 

Knowledge management systems

A knowledge management system is about managing a centralized repository of all of an organization’s information. It may include shareholder or annual reports, marketing collateral, sales enablement material, legal documents, contracts, company data, software documentation, operating procedures, etc. 

Knowledge, of course, is fluid—so is an effective knowledge management system. The software should prompt gatekeepers to run regular audits for inaccurate, non-regulatory compliant, or out-of-date files. It should also remind them when a record might need to be virtually shredded. 

Aside from its employees, internal knowledge is a company’s most important asset. Accurate and up-to-date knowledge management systems help executives, response management teams, sales, marketing, accounting, human resources, etc., do their jobs. Does that mean all employees should have access to the entire knowledge base all the time? Definitely not, but we’ll elaborate on that in a bit.

The importance of managing internal knowledge

We are in the midst of the Information Age. Nearly anything we’d want to know is a simple Google search away. But can we say the same about workplaces? As much as that might be the goal, for most organizations, the unfortunate truth is no. 

  • 75% of organizations qualify creating and preserving knowledge as important or very important.
  • Only 9% of those organizations say they are ready to address knowledge management.
  • About ⅓ of organizations haven’t leveraged any form of artificial intelligence (AI) for knowledge management.
  • Only 8% say they’re leveraging AI to a great extent.
  • More than half of companies’ data goes unused.
  • An employee survey showed that over 90% of respondents think it should be as easy to find company knowledge as it is to find information on Google.
  • Most think it’s easier for consumers to find information.

Advantages of developing a knowledge management system include:

  • Informed decision making – All the data and documentation is at decision makers’ fingertips.
  • Better strategies – Knowledge management systems provide click-of-a-button access to sales and market trends.
  • Increased revenue – Arm sales and response teams with the knowledge they need to win more business. 
  • Increased efficiency and productivity – No more searching for information.
  • Improved proposal quality – Content at your fingertips provides more time to write and edit a compelling, bid-winning story. 
  • Increased response accuracy – Reusing existing company-approved content is far less error-prone than rushing to compile information and provides more time to check work.
  • Trend analysis – Generate reports from anywhere.
  • Staying ahead of competition – Compile competitive and market research.
  • Expert knowledge retention – No one likes to answer the same questions twice (or more). 

What is content creation and reuse?

Content creation is about generating content that appeals to a company’s persona buyer. Content can come in written, visual, or audio form. 81% of organizations see content as a core business strategy.

A content management system allows users to create, collaborate, publish, edit, store, and catalog digital content right on the platform. Advanced content management systems help take work off of users’ hands, leveraging AI to read, catalog, and store uploaded documents. 

Then, instead of reinventing the wheel each time stakeholders need information, they can reuse and edit content as required. 

Best practices for knowledge management

Knowledge management aims to create an effective single source of truth, with accurate and up-to-date information. Whether a stakeholder works in sales, response management, legal, finance, or HR, the information should be easily searchable, consistent, and repeatable. 

But consistency and repeatability on their own aren’t enough. A knowledge management system needs to not only have the scalability to grow and change with the organization but also to help the organization grow and change. 

Determine the best type of management solution for your company

There are two main knowledge management solutions: company wikis and internal knowledge bases. Let’s delve a little deeper into which solution might work best for your organization.

Corporate Wikis

Did you know that the word “wiki” means “very quick” in Hawaiian? It sort of seems like an oxymoron for island life, right?

A corporate wiki is basically the same concept as Wikipedia. A wiki allows any employee to add, delete, or edit content. And surprisingly, most wikis are pretty quick.

Corporate wikis:

  • Are knowledge repositories – Employees add knowledge to the database as it becomes available.
  • Are searchable – As with Wikipedia, corporate wikis are easily searchable.
  • Save time – If the information is in the wiki, there’s no need to track down subject matter experts. 
  • Improve employee engagement – Since wikis are open to all employees, even relatively bottom-of-the-ladder employees can participate in information gathering, sharing, and utilization.
  • Support links – A single document or piece of content might have one or more parent or child records. Wikis let users link to related documents and content.
  • Some, but not all, wikis are open source.

Still, corporate wikis are not without their downsides, including: 

  • Unreliable contributors – Sometimes, knowledge can be too democratized, and contributors might not have the entire picture.
  • Inaccurate information – Wikis don’t generally have quality control measures in place.
  • Difficult to audit – Knowledge can have a short shelf life. Wikis aren’t famous for processes to weed out and update old content. Also, anyone can edit.
  • No way to define page roles – Wikis are open to all employees; there is no way to limit viewing or editing rights.

Internal knowledge bases

On the other hand, an internal knowledge base has more in common with a library, only without space limitations. Ideally, a knowledge base should house all company knowledge, and after an employee enters their login credentials, a library card of sorts, the virtual librarian directs the user to the content they need.

But there’s more to an internal knowledge base than gatekeeping and pointing users in the right direction. A true internal knowledge base should have several key features, including:

  • Built-in smart search feature – Leverage AI assistance for fast and accurate searching.
  • Custom fields – No two companies are alike; they should be able to create fields that match their company needs.
  • Multi-format capability – An AI-powered internal knowledge base should support both written content such as question and answer pairs, and uploaded documents.
  • An intuitive and easy-to-navigate user interface – What good is an internal knowledge base if it’s difficult to use?
  • Tagging – You would never just throw files in a file cabinet. Think of your knowledge library as a sophisticated file cabinet. All content should be tagged and, if applicable, attached to parent and/or child folders.
  • User restrictions – Content creation and editing are reserved for verified specialists.
  • Simplified auditing – Function within the parameters of a content strategy with regular audits.
  • Scalability – A knowledge management system needs to grow as your company grows. 

Implement change in gradual steps

Too much change all at once is a shock to the system. Prioritize departments in need and introduce the system to one department at a time. Gradually expand as you dial in training, word of mouth circulates about how great the system is, and you have success stories to share with new departments and executive sponsors.

Showcase improvement metrics

Internal knowledge base software capabilities allow easy, quantifiable measurements of post-implementation success. The functional value of knowledge management will rapidly become apparent to end users in how they can execute their responsibilities. 

See how Genpact increased efficiency by up to 35% with their RFPIO-powered knowledge base.

They’ll be able to build better proposals faster, respond to prospects and customers with greater accuracy in near real-time, and gain contextual insight into all the content relevant to their role.

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

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

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

Ensure that your team can access the knowledge they need for shared success

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

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

Managing organizational knowledge with RFPIO® LookUp

Remote work and distributed workforces are the new norms, so why should employees have to go to the office to access the knowledge database? 

RFPIO’s internal knowledge base software enables better organizational knowledge management. RFPIO® LookUp provides team-wide access to RFPIO’s Content Library from anywhere and from preferred productivity tools, such as:

  • Google Chrome
  • Chromium Edge
  • Google Hangouts
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Slack

Whether from a salesperson in the field or a response manager who works from home, enhanced accessibility helps facilitate content reuse, enable real-time access to corporate expertise, improve response time, and scale the ability to respond to RFPs from wherever they have access to a computer. 

See RFPIO® LookUp in action

I often say that RFPIO’s robust, scalable Content Library is like Clark Kent—bookish, a little nerdy, but incredibly smart and has the strength of a superhero. RFPIO® LookUp removes the metaphorical glasses and lets the Content Library fly to any destination at the speed of, well, the internet.

If you’re interested in learning how RFPIO’s Content Library, teamed with RFPIO® LookUp to let your company knowledge fly, read more about it. You can also schedule a free demo.

 

RFP management best practices

RFP management best practices

“You have to have a plan, or else you’re just creating a recipe for chaos.” ~ David Brooks

What is your first instinct when an RFP lands on your desk? Do you push it aside in favor of more urgent matters? Do you dive right in, or do you already have a strategy in place?

New York Times columnist David Brooks might not have been talking about RFP management, but as with many things, having an RFP management plan, a strategy, can mean the difference between winning your bid and chaos. 

What is RFP management?

At the highest level, RFP management is about managing the process of responding to proposal requests from start (even before receiving the RFP) to finish. Responsibilities vary from organization to organization, but the goals are the same, which is to win new business. 

At their core, RFP response is about answering how you will address a prospect’s requirements, but a good response goes far beyond giving rote answers. Using carefully curated and fresh content, the response should tell a story demonstrating that you understand the customer’s needs and how to best address them. 

RFP management includes leveraging company resources, such as subject matter experts (SMEs), existing data, and of course processes. If you consistently provide quality answers to RFPs, your win rate will increase. Below are the best practices we and our customers use to drive revenue and elevate win rates. 

Bid for RFPs strategically

There’s strength in numbers, right? The more RFPs you answer, the more you’ll win, right? Probably not. Some of the RFPs you receive aren’t a good fit for your company, so why waste time and resources on those? 

Tools such as RFPIO’s AI-powered content library, which answers up to 80% of an RFP’s questions, makes answering an RFP much faster and less resource-intensive. But if you know going in that you won’t win the bid, or you can’t service it, you’re still wasting valuable time and resources. Is the bid winnable? Follow these steps to narrow down which RFPs you should respond to. 

  • Do you have a preexisting relationship with the customer? Did they specifically choose to send it to you, or are they using a buckshot approach? A previous relationship—or when the issuer has done their own research—will dramatically improve your win rate over the RFPs that are automatically sent to everyone in your industry.
  • Is your company a fit? If you can’t service the customer’s needs, there’s no reason to answer their RFP.
  • Can you address all of the challenges presented in the RFP? Or at the very least, the most important ones?
  • Is your pricing within the customer’s budget? No, money isn’t everything, and often, features and ability to meet the RFP’s challenges will win out. However, if your solution is far outside of the customer’s budget, it’s a tough hill to climb and efforts will be best spent elsewhere.
  • Can you meet the prospect’s timeline? Can you meet the submission deadline? What about each deliverable? Can your organization fulfill all of the requirements on time?
  • Do you know why the RFP was issued? This could help determine the customer’s pain points.

First you should identify and consult with your SMEs. If you haven’t won similar bids before, or if you’d have a difficult time fulfilling the requirements, you might be better off passing on that particular opportunity. 

Have a clearly-defined RFP team

Regardless of whether your organization has a proposal management team or proposal management is the purview of the sales team or even a single person, there should always be a person who’s ultimately in charge. 

From there, the team might vary depending on the customer’s needs and your company’s organizational structure. Titles are often used interchangeably and can mean different things to different organizations. 

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) membership roster includes more than 1,300 different job titles. You might have a dedicated proposal management team, but they may need to involve additional SMEs and stakeholders such as the executive team, legal, HR, information security, training and implementation, sales, customer success, account managers, IT, operations, finance, etc. Each organization is different, but proposal management team roles might include the following: 

  • Bid (or project) manager — The bid manager leads the proposal management team and is involved in every stage of the bid process.
  • Proposal manager — The proposal manager works on a more granular level than the bid manager. Proposal managers oversee the entire process.
  • Proposal writer — The proposal writer is responsible for responding to the customer’s requirements in a persuasive style that includes relevant information such as case studies and other differentiators.
  • Proposal coordinator — The proposal coordinator is responsible for the administrative aspects of the response, including coordinating the internal flow, schedules, security and integrity, and directing submission of final documents.
  • Proposal editor — The proposal editor ensures that the writing is high quality, persuasive, and maintains a consistent voice. They also check grammar, spelling, punctuation, and format consistency.
  • Content manager — The content manager is responsible for adding to, maintaining, and periodically reviewing the content library. 

In many organizations however, all of these roles are being filled by only a few individuals or even one, which means those individuals often wear a lot of hats. Be sure to have actionable deliverables to ensure that each person contributing to the response has clear expectations. This applies even if there’s a single contributor. 

Fully understand the customer’s expectations

There’s no such thing as a cookie-cutter RFP or customer. It’s critical to fully understand a customer’s specific wants and expectations before attempting to answer their RFP. For example, don’t mention features that don’t matter to the customer, such as niche certifications that don’t apply.  Start with what interests the issuer and then tailor your responses to those interests.

Read between the lines in trying to understand customer pain points. For example, if a customer asks a software developer if they offer user-based pricing, rather than answer “yes” or “no,” ask yourself why a customer might ask that. Perhaps they’ve reached limitations with other systems, or there’s a competitor that offers a more appealing pricing structure.

Determine how you stand out from your competitors, which of course can include cost, but it can also include product or service quality, expertise, customer service, and overall reputation. 

Manage and organize RFP content

As baseball icon Babe Ruth once said, “Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.” Similarly, yesterday’s answers don’t win today’s RFPs, even if you’ve won that exact same RFP for the exact same customer in the past. Why? Because as your business changes, so should the content. 

When you search your content library, you might find hundreds or even thousands of relevant Q&A pairs. Weeding through them might seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Managing and organizing your content library should be an ongoing process, but there are some things you can do right now to help whittle down your Q&A pairs. The key is to focus on quality rather than quantity. You should regularly audit your content library for:

Accuracy – If, for example, you inadvertently lowball the bid, you could be contractually obligated to honor that pricing. Additionally, if you erroneously claim regulatory compliance, your organization could be held responsible for data breaches, etc. In other words, accuracy is critical, as is regularly auditing your content library to archive outdated information and update as applicable. 

Content availability – RFPs are bulky and time consuming, and most organizations are stretched thin. Finding the correct answer quickly is critical. An updated content library lets you easily find the right information without having to sift through thousands of documents and megabits of data.

Naming and tagging – Establish a standardized naming convention for each project. Not only does that make the content more accessible to each team member, it helps you find customer-specific content for future requests. You can further narrow down the content by tagging. How you want to tag is up to your company. Many choose tagging by industry or general requirements. This can help dramatically narrow down your content.

Keep content up-to-date

The best way to get around content bloat is to avoid it in the first place. Perform regular audits to keep your content fresh. 

  • Is the content still current?
  • Is the content accurate?
  • Are the answers relevant to your customers?
  • Is the content well-written?
  • Does the content match your company’s voice and tone?
  • Is the content easily accessible?

Regularly scheduled audits might not be enough, though, especially if your company goes through pricing, service, or regulatory changes. 

RFPIO response management software is a proven tool to increase RFP win rates and help you keep your content up to date. If you’d like to learn more about how you can win more by doing less, schedule a demo. 

The proposal management plan for a one-person team

The proposal management plan for a one-person team

An effective proposal management process is like a jigsaw puzzle; it takes multiple pieces, and they have to fit together just right. If you’re a one-person team, putting all the pieces together can be a challenge, but it’s manageable, at least if the right processes are in place. 

With small and medium-sized businesses, it’s common for one-person teams to manage the entire proposal management process. However, they can hopefully count on support from collaborators, such as the sales team and subject matter experts (SMEs).

If you’re a one-person team, you might have other job responsibilities on top of responding to RFPs. In addition, a proposal manager can oversee many different aspects of the RFP process. 

If that’s you, we’re here to help you bring order to the chaos, starting with incorporating these factors into your proposal management plan—powered by collaboration and automation.

How a proposal team of one can optimize the proposal process

A proposal manager is in charge of the proposal management process. Whether they are a one-person team or the head of an entire department, an effective proposal management process incorporates three essential factors: 

  1. Saying “no” as part of your proposal management plan
  2. Engage your sales team
  3. Leverage subject matter experts

There are many aspects to the proposal management process. Let’s dig into three of the most critical and why they matter.

Saying “no” as part of your proposal management plan

RFPs are a great opportunity—and maybe your CEO has the impulse to throw a hat in the ring for each one. That might sound like a great strategy, but it’s also a way to rack up a lot of losses. 

Sometimes your product or service isn’t what the customer is looking for. Responding to poorly-qualified opportunities can put well-qualified prospects at risk because they pull resources from winnable bids.

Establish a go/no-go process to focus your organization’s efforts on suitable proposals.

Work with sales and executives to perform a win-loss analysis on past bids. Understand the likelihood of winning business when new deals are on the table by researching the requirements before writing a single sentence of an RFP response.

A viable proposal management plan is based on data and research. Rather than reactively pressing “go” every time an RFP arrives, pause and analyze to ensure the opportunity is the right fit. Taking this extra time will ensure your time is optimally spent.

Engage your sales team

Salespeople are motivated to sell, and they have a lot to keep up with, so responding to an RFP may not be topmost on their list of selling activities. Yes, you need their support with response content, but what level of support are you offering them in exchange?

Proposal managers can provide a lot of value to their sales teams.They can help sales with time management, content management, and seamless collaboration. With proposal automation in place, you’ll enable your sales colleagues to respond to RFPs faster and more effectively.

Your response process will run smoothly when salespeople have instant access to high-quality content in the Content Library. Since RFPIO® LookUp is accessible via a web browser or CRM, the same content library will come in handy for them on discovery calls and prospecting.

Using proposal automation software, your sales team will collaborate using the same communication tools they’re comfortable with, including CRMs such as Salesforce and HubSpot, and communication solutions such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.

By showing sales teams the value you can provide, they’ll be more willing to help you out, so get sales on board early and use RFPIO proposal automation software as their support system. Show them how they’ll save time and improve client-facing communication.

Many subject matter experts are a one-person show, just like you. Proposal automation makes their lives easier by reducing time spent responding to RFPs and other internal queries. An important aspect of your role as a proposal manager is to continue improving your process to minimize unnecessary SME involvement and protect their time by bringing them in only when necessary.

SMEs are process-driven individuals; they expect clean processes and clearly defined responsibilities, tasks, and deadlines. Your response process will be most effective when your subject matter experts’ time is protected and valued. Proposal automation offers a more intelligent approach to response management, allowing SMEs to contribute and move on with their day.

The first step to transforming your proposal management process into a well-oiled machine is to consolidate all of your organization’s content in one place. Whether you are an enterprise or a small business, proposal software is key to a well-run process. 

The Content Library offers standardized and curated content, effectively breaking down information silos and saving time. You can automatically fill in most of the RFP responses with help from the Content Library and save SME contributions for any revisions or customizations.

Once an SME has provided expertise on one RFP, the proposal manager can seamlessly update the Content Library with the new answer. 

The next time you have an RFP that includes similar queries, RFPIO’s AI-driven content management system and answer recommendation engine will automatically present the responses for your approval, further reducing the time SMEs spend responding.

Successful response management revolves around processes and people. As a team of one, you lead the charge by creating a viable proposal management plan and providing value to colleagues that support you. How can you make collaboration easier? What steps can be automated? Stay focused on plan improvements to keep your team happy, supported, and productive.

The next step in your new and improved proposal management plan is bringing on RFPIO. See how proposal automation allows you to thrive as a team of one. RFPIO can help proposal managers thrive, no matter the resources. 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Biggest Benefit

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

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

Business Case: The Numbers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Case: Being Respectful of Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Case: Improve Content, Improve Proposals

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

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

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

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

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

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

5 steps to healthy RFP collaboration between sales and presales

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 steps to improve collaboration between sales and presales

Step 1: Add transparency to RFP roles and responsibilities

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Write the executive summary

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Schedule a kick-off call

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 5: Reflect on the results, win or lose

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

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

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

Good collaboration = good content

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

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

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

Building a proposal management program

Building a proposal management program

After months of voicemails, postponed meetings, and careful nurturing, a customer wants to see a formal proposal. Or, maybe a customer approached you with a request for a proposal (RFP). Either way, you’re in a good position, as long as you have a proposal management program in place.

While proposals entail a lot of work, they are also an opportunity to meet your customer halfway. A well-crafted RFP clearly outlines a customer’s requirements, and a well-crafted response lets them know that you understand their needs and the specific ways your company will address them.

Quality written proposals represent your brand and its approved messaging—your marketing team thanks you. They are unambiguous—we can almost hear your legal department cheering. They clearly outline each deliverable—are those your fulfillment, onboarding, and churn prevention teams we hear joining in? And there’s no disputing the pricing—did the billing department just order cake? And, most importantly, they drive revenue—everyone is coming to the party!

Well-written and thorough proposals protect your company’s interests, and each one you submit has the potential to bring you closer to your quarterly or yearly goals and add to your company’s bottom line.

A proposal management program that leverages advanced RFP response software lets you generate more, higher-quality proposals using fewer resources while also helping level the playing field and achieve sales goals. Still, companies can be reluctant to invest in high-ROI proposal management software.

The future of proposal management is automated

Every once in a while, a proposal manager approaches us, wondering what will happen to them if their company turns to  automation for their proposal management program.

Naturally, we reassure them that even the most advanced proposal management automation software requires human expertise.

We also acknowledge that proposal managers work long, hard hours and that there’s an excellent chance that their companies already partially automate sales, marketing, finance, and customer service processes. Yet, those are still some of the fastest-growing roles within organizations.

Rather than competition, proposal management software is like a long-deserved assistant designed to make proposal managers more productive and valuable.

Qualities of an effective proposal management system

While proposal management shares many similarities with sales or project management, some challenges require a specialized approach.

Inconsistent formatting

RFPs may arrive as Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, or PDFs, with layouts that are difficult to maneuver. A proposal management system should be able to import from any of the most commonly used formats, convert the requests into formats your stakeholders can easily navigate, and export the documents in the customers’ preferred formats.

Inconsistent wording

Up to 80 percent of an RFP is relatively standard, but even if two questions ask the same thing and require the same answer, at first human glance, the questions might look very different.

For example, one RFP might ask how many years your company has been in business, but the wording in your knowledge library question-and-answer pair might ask about the founding date. Both questions obviously have the same answer, but in the few seconds it takes the human mind to determine what search terms they should use, an automated system with machine learning will translate the question and provide the answer.

Scattered team

There’s a very good chance that you are reading this from the comfort of your own home, surrounded by a menagerie of furry friends. Alright, maybe I’m referring to my work situation, but I am far from unique.

In fact, 58 percent of workers work from home at least some of the time. Add those to the numbers of people on the road (common for SMEs) or those who work from other offices, and you can see why gathering your team in a single conference room is a challenge.

Project management software is the answer for most teams. Even here at RFPIO, our marketing and product teams rely on project management software. However, our response teams use RFPIO because it goes far beyond assigning roles and deliverables, although it does that as well.

RFPIO:

  • Assists in the go/no-go process by producing trend analytics data from similar RFPs
  • Allows stakeholders to track their overall progress through their preferred CRM
  • Integrates with the most popular communication applications so teammates can stay in touch in real time
  • Provides a simple project overview dashboard for up-to-the-minute progress updates
  • Suggests SMEs based on expertise and availability
  • Leverages artificial intelligence to answer as much as 80 percent of an RFP’s questions
  • Produces the data you need for valuable postmortems

How to build a dynamic proposal management program

It would be really nice if we had a crystal ball that could predict our proposal response needs from year to year or even day to day. Some days you might have just one on your plate and others, let’s just say, more than one.

Even if we could predict our proposal volume, our needs and resource requirements vary according to customer, product, and bespoke particulars.

A dynamic proposal management program will provide you with the agility to respond to your response needs, regardless of volume or complexity.

Establish a clear mission statement

Think of your response team as a microcosm of your company. Your goals and objectives should align but also fit with your specific roles.

We recommend that you, like your company’s founders, create a mission statement to describe your areas of focus. For example, you might want to minimize SME participation, reduce response time, or win more bids. In that case, your mission statement might look something like this:

Our goal is to leverage technology to empower the response team to reduce proposal response time, efficiently manage knowledge library content to minimize subject matter expert participation, and deliver successful high-quality proposals via solicited and unsolicited bids.

  • Create and maintain a centralized repository for company knowledge and documents.
  • Establish efficient and scalable proposal service delivery.
  • Become a one-stop shop for quality proposal content.
  • Provide the content and tools necessary to create engaging and successful proposals.

Obtain company buy-in

If you ask most employees, and even most executives, what their proposal team does, there’s a good chance that they’ll only have a vague idea, even if they know what other revenue-generating teams bring to the table.

Even though most large purchases require a proposal, proposal teams often have to fight for company buy-in. Be sure to keep leadership in the loop regarding your goals and progress. Work with users to understand their content management and general work styles.

Recruit a winning proposal team

Creating high-quality winning proposals requires a very specialized team. You’ll need salespeople, marketing professionals, company authorities, storytellers, and editors. Some juggling skills wouldn’t hurt. If you’re thinking that’s a lot to ask of a single team, we’d have to agree.

Thankfully, your company has existing resources to help. Partnering with a salesperson or two can help you formulate the proposal. Your marketing team can provide you with approved messaging, or at least a messaging guideline. Subject matter experts are authorities within their respective realms, and proposal managers are often de facto company historians.

But every proposal team needs a core skill. They should be able to quickly craft compelling stories and wield an editor’s pen as well as a high school English teacher. In fact, writing and editing may be the most essential qualities in a proposal team member. With an excellent content and project management system, the rest can be taught.

Structure organizational procedures

A mission statement is only meaningful with the procedures to achieve your goals. If, for example, you want to minimize SME participation, you could give them more control over their content review cycles.

Not only will this help ensure that your team has accurate and usable content, but it will also demonstrate to the SMEs that you respect their time and expertise and make them more likely to want to work with you in the future.

Demonstrate growth with metrics and reports

Track your progress toward your goals with data. Generate reports showing your pipeline, SME engagement, win rate, numbers of responses, revenue generated, completed reviews, content use, and so on.

Build your content library

Your content doesn’t have to be siloed, even if your organization is. There is likely a wealth of company assets such as white papers, data sheets, message source documents, value discovery guides, product information and roadmaps, and other marketing materials.

Democratize your content library by allowing everyone access and working with content creation teams to ensure they file the assets for future use.

Enlist the right proposal management software

Your sales and marketing teams have customer relationship management software. Your HR and finance teams have their software. While it is possible to establish an effective response team without proposal management software, the right software will increase your win rate, drive more revenue, and conserve resources.

Look for proposal management software with project management features to help you choose your SMEs and keep your team on track. Find a robust content management system with built-in auditing tools. Invest in a platform that imports and exports in the customers’ preferred formats but provides a standardized working template for all your stakeholders.

Perhaps most importantly, look for customizable reporting features to help you decide whether to respond, determine how many resources you are using, and provide the data needed to make informed business decisions.

Value factors for choosing proposal management software

Do more with less—that seems to be the 21st century motto. Accomplishing that rather lofty goal requires the right productivity software. Look for proposal management software that has all the functionality you need today and is scalable for what you might need tomorrow.

Improved workflow collaboration

Today’s distributed and siloed workforces require advanced workflow collaboration tools to keep everyone singing the same song. Look for software that integrates with your existing workflow collaboration tools so users can communicate using those tools or directly through the proposal management platform.

Convenient integration capabilities

The last thing your IT team wants is to weigh down your company’s tech stack. Your proposal management software should integrate instead of compete with your cloud storage solution, CRM, project management, and other productivity tools. In other words, it should work the way you work.

Intelligent knowledge base

The knowledge management system is a vital component of any response software solution, but the wrong one could create more work instead of simplifying your response process.

Look for a knowledge base that stores the types of documents you use. The knowledge base should be accessible to anyone who needs it but secure enough to keep prying eyes away. The search functionality should recognize your language and search terms.

It should be intuitive, intelligent, and give you the correct answers when you need them. It should also assist with content moderation and your review cycles.

Built-in security standards

Data security is at the top of every CIO’s priority list, which is why they’ll need to be assured that proposal management software, along with every other piece of software, is fully compliant with the latest security protocols.

Advanced reporting features

While we’re on the subject of data, your proposal management software should offer advanced reporting capabilities to provide actionable insights to assist with everything from your go/no-go process, to where you are on any given project, to where you stand with your team’s quarterly or annual goals.

How RFPIO can help

RFPIO is like a rocket booster for your proposal management program. It handles the routine and surprisingly time-consuming aspects of proposal management, letting you focus on the content that will help win more bids and drive more revenue.

RFPIO’s indispensable features include the following:

  • Improved workflow collaboration – Whether your team works from a single office or several, keeping communication channels open is critical. RFPIO integrates with all the most popular communication applications, enabling your team to work directly through Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, and Google Hangouts.
  • Convenient integration capabilities – With more than two dozen integrations, RFPIO leads the pack, and we’re constantly adding more. The platform seamlessly integrates with your preferred CRM connectors, communication apps, productivity, sales enablement, and other applications.
  • Intelligent knowledge base – Use your time to create winning proposals instead of searching for the information you need. With just a few clicks, RFPIO will find you the correct answer to your previously answered questions. RFPIO® LookUp grants access to any authorized user from any place, as long as they have a browser.
  • Built-in security standards – RFPIO takes security very seriously. Our customer roster includes security experts such as Microsoft, Google, Visa, and Zoom, among many others. More specifically, we are ISO 27001 certified and compliant with AICPA SOC, GDPR, and the State of California.
  • Advanced reporting features – Gather the data to help you decide whether to respond to an RFP, track your project’s and team’s progress, analyze content usage, and your wins and losses. That’s just the beginning of the actionable insights RFPIO’s advanced reporting capabilities can provide.

*Next Action*

Proposal managers have a lot going on. RFXs are coming faster and faster, and expectations continue to rise. See how strategic proposal management software such as RFPIO can help you keep up with your increasing demands and make your company more profitable.

Schedule a free demo.

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

7 tips to excite SMEs about the RFP process

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

Before I launch into how to get internal and external SMEs excited about the RFP process, I want to call out a recurring theme that echoes through all of the tips: Respect their time. SMEs already have daily calendars chock full of responsibilities, such as solving engineering issues, dealing with clients, and creating demos.

Requesting their help with responses to any RFx (RFP, RFI, RFQ, DDQ, security questionnaire, etc.) is you asking them to repurpose some of that valuable time. But you need their help to complete the RFP process. Your company needs the revenue. SMEs need the company. In the circle of your company’s success lifecycle, the greater the SME involvement and enthusiasm, the easier your job will be.

#1: Control comms chaos

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

#2: Do the heavy lifting for them

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

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

#3: Update the RFP Content Library on a regular cadence

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

#4: Point out how they control their own destiny

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

#5: Sell the benefits of content audits

The more up to date the Content Library, the more your proposal team can complete automatically, and the easier SME lives will be during live proposals.

Use this carrot often, but even when you’re updating existing content in the Content Library on a cyclical basis, remember tip #2 (do the heavy lifting). SMEs are not grammar gurus, and it will be easier for them to deliver content in their language. It’s up to you or your content/proposal team to wordsmith it.

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

#6: Be transparent with external SMEs

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

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

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

#7: Recognize the effort

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

Give respect, earn respect

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

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

Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Everything you need to know about the RFP process

Much like a human, every RFP is different. However, from an anatomical perspective, there are also similarities. Each RFP response your team creates will impact your organization’s win potential. Knowing how to respond to an RFP effectively can increase your chances of landing a deal.

This is by no means an extensive list of every question that you will encounter (or email you’ll have to send). Instead, we picked a few RFP questions and themes to explore. The goal is to help you know what’s coming ahead of time, so you are more prepared with a stronger foundation.

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Guide: How to Build and Use an RFP Response Template

Discover how to build better RFP response templates and get tips and insights on improving your RFP response process.

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By the time you’ve finished reading this post, you’ll understand that:

  1. There is an effective way and an ineffective way to respond to an RFP
  2. Understanding the anatomy of an RFP helps you create stronger responses
  3. Team success happens by combining processes with technology

Once you’ve completed this “lesson,” you’ll have the necessary anatomical background to respond to RFP questions with precision. And, you’ll also understand why RFP software is the primary set of tools you need to operate.

How to respond to an RFP effectively

RFP stands for “request for proposal”, and is one of the many “requests for” that your company may respond to. RFP is part of a broader category known as RFx, which also includes RFIs and RFQs. Between an RFI, RFP, and RFQ an RFP will likely require the most effort to respond to.

As you’re preparing to respond to your RFP… you need to know how to respond to an RFP. There really is a right way and a wrong way to respond to an RFP:

The effective way to respond to an RFP

  1. Exceptional teamwork happens with every RFP project.
  2. Communication is clear and easy for all contributors.
  3. A documented RFP process serves as the anchor for your team.
  4. Content is easily accessible in an Content Library.
  5. The Content Library is always relevant to ensure quality.
  6. There is plenty of time to spare before the deadline.
  7. Branding and messaging is on point every time.
  8. A healthy percentage of these RFPs result in business won.

The ineffective way to respond to an RFP

  1. Teams and departments work in distinct silos.
  2. SMEs feel frustrated to contribute because of inefficiencies.
  3. Nobody owns the RFP response process.
  4. Responders can’t find content when they need it.
  5. Spreadsheets, emails, and online folders “store” historic responses.
  6. RFP contributors work after hours and weekends to meet deadlines.
  7. Inconsistent fonts and language are compromising the deliverable.
  8. A high percentage of these RFPs result in business lost.

The effective way is made possible with both a great internal process and technology that offers continued support. The ineffective way is the result of a manual RFP response approach where a lack of direction, process, and accessibility cause great inefficiencies.

Teams using RFP software experience a much more streamlined process. They not only cut their response time down, they also improve the quality of the responses to win more deals. Yet, only 16% of organizations are using RFP software to support their efforts.

This is a disservice to busy teams, who can benefit from a tool that helps them manage a lengthy document like an RFP. As we dig into the anatomy of an RFP, it’s easy to see just how many sections there are to handle—and how technology is really the right move here.

Understand the anatomy of an RFP response

Ready for your RFP anatomy lesson? From “head to toe,” here are some questions you will likely come across in an RFP.

Your homework as a responder is to familiarize yourself with the nuances of an RFP, so you can pass your prospect’s test with flying colors. Analogies aside, understanding these different questions and themes will help you craft stronger responses to win the next opportunity.

Company Information

“27% rated project management flow during the content creation process as ‘fair,’ revealing that some projects moved along efficiently but they faced bottlenecks.” – Content Marketing Institute

Though it may seem like a basic part of an RFP response, company information can be tough for teams. This content includes all of the foundational pieces for your organization: company name, address, annual revenue, employee count, website URL, year founded, etc.

While HQ’s address is an easy one, the employee count is not. Depending on company growth the number of employees might change dramatically every year or even every quarter. RFP software automates this basic content in your Content Library, ensuring the most accurate information is on-hand for team members.

Executive Summary

Responding to an executive summary is tricky in an RFP, but it’s also one of the factors that affects your organization’s chances of winning. Though usually an optional section, this particular content section allows you to stand out by adding some flavor to your deliverable.

All too often responders mix up the RFP executive summary with the cover letter—but they are two distinct sections. An executive summary is high-level content that covers the issuer’s challenges, and demonstrates how your solution will help. While a cover letter is more of a conversational introduction that mentions your reason for responding and what you are providing in your RFP response.

Need a cheat sheet for your next RFP executive summary? Enjoy…

How to write executive summary
Competitive Differentiators

There’s a high probability that you will be asked to state your competitive differentiators when responding to an RFP. Here are some examples of what that question might look like:

  • What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
  • Describe your competitive position relative to your competitors.
  • When comparing yourself to the market, what are the unique selling points?
  • Briefly state how you are differentiated from any competitors.
  • Why should we work with you instead of one of your competitors?

Speaking of competitors…a generic RFP response to this particular question will only benefit your competitors dazzling the issuer with a great response. Instead of using jargon-y adjectives that everyone else uses, focus on demonstrating the value your solution provides.

Knowing company differentiators is half the battle for many organizations—take the time internally to explore what these are and how to communicate them. Once you have these locked down, make sure the best versions are readily available for your team to grab and tailor appropriately within your Content Library.

“A value proposition offers clients something they want and gives them a good reason to choose you over your competitors. In the executive summary and in your full proposal, communicate a strong value proposition that matches your client’s needs and demonstrates your unique offer.” – APMP Body of Knowledge

Our Approach

The approach question is a seemingly straightforward inquiry. However, similar to competitive differentiators, this is another RFP response that teams struggle to execute well.

If someone were to ask who you are as a person, how would you answer them? You might go with a safe answer about your line of work and what you do. Or, you might share a little bit about what you value and believe in. There is no right or wrong way to answer this, because you are made up of all of these things.

When you respond to the approach question of an RFP, think about who your organization is along with what you do. Explain your methodology and how your solution benefits your customers. Also demonstrate why you do what you do to show your greater purpose behind offering the solution.

Branding

How does content impact an RFP response? Majorly. Which is why marketing teams often own this piece. Branding isn’t a specific question per say, but more about how the final RFP deliverable is presented. Messaging, font style, and any visual design must align with your brand.

Due to the collaborative nature of RFP responses, you end up with many voices and styles from SMEs who don’t always have their pulse on branding guidelines. Random fonts and bullet points combine with an ancient logo from eight years ago for a big design headache. Technical jargon makes sense to the expert, but isn’t engaging for the issuer reading the response.

To achieve a consistent look and feel when it’s time to wrap up the RFP project, manually fixing the branding bloopers can cost marketing a lot of time. RFP software helps teams save hours during the export process with templates that ensure consistency for a higher quality deliverable.

Learn How RFP Software Empowers the High-Performing Marketer

rfp response marketing
Security

Security is a concern for modern organizations and this topic is becoming more and more common in RFPs. You will either need to address your internal processes by responding to a specific section of the RFP or you may need to respond to a separate security questionnaire. It’s also quite possible that you will do all of the above.

A security questionnaire might arrive at the same time as an RFP, or along with the DDQ if you’re further along in the vendor selection process. Depending on your industry, a security questionnaire might have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand questions.

security questionnaire template
RFP software supports teams who are responding to these massive spreadsheets. Auto-response fills in the majority of questions from the start of the project. A template designed for even the largest Security Questionnaires imports the content in a single click. Technology makes a big difference in time-savings and providing the most accurate responses.

Pricing

To share pricing or to not share pricing…that is the question. As an RFP responder, you must answer this one way or another. There is a strategic decision to be made about pricing depending on many factors.

If you provide pricing in your RFP response upfront, you have less control over the conversation around pricing. Negotiation and discussion are replaced by numbers on a page. So, you might decide to hold off on providing pricing until you have advanced further in the RFP response process.

Like anything else, as long as you show the value of your product or service, the pricing should not disqualify you. In this case, you could get away with maneuvering around this question by sharing benefits of your pricing model without getting into exact numbers. It’s really up to your organization on this one, and you could test RFP responses over time to see if the price reveal is working for you or against you.

Support / Customer Service

Today’s buyer has many, many choices. When they choose your solution, they want to make sure they have a partner who will stick around to offer support long after the purchase. Your response is an opportunity to make your organization stand out as the obvious partner.

This is a great time to take advantage of subject matter experts from your appropriate service department to clearly explain these benefits. Do you have a help center where they are able to self-educate? Do you offer onboarding sessions and in-depth webinars to ensure they start and continue on the right path? When you respond to this question, you can highlight your service in a number of ways.

More powerful than your voice is the voice of your customer. So, another good move is to share validation from your happy customers. This could be a review or customer success story that covers the positive experience they had while working with you. Like this one…

“RFPIO’s customer service is amazing! Between weekly training and addressing questions with platform improvements in a matter of days, onboarding has been a pleasure rather than a chore.” – Lauren Daitz, Senior Manager at HALO Recognition

Including a great review can make a big impact with an issuer. All of your competitors are answering this same question—and they might be answering it the same boring way, with a generic rundown. Play to your strengths and to their emotions with a little storytelling.

Legal

With RFP responses, your legal team will be involved at some point. Specific wording must be used to stay in line with certain legalities. Legal might come in during the review process or to answer legal questions.

Collaboration with your legal team is much easier with RFP software. There is always a healthy amount of redlining in Google and Word docs when legal chimes in with feedback. This can all be handled within a solution to make communication and finalization easier on everyone.

Past responses that are “legal team approved” can be stored in your Content Library as well to populate responses with correct information. That way legal only has to perform a quick review rather than repeating themselves every time a similar question arises.

General Requirements / Situational Requirements

Speaking of repetition, general requirements are the questions you have answered thousands of times on every other RFP for your product or service. They can be disqualifiers or “knock-out” questions you plow through quickly.

On the other hand, situational requirements are gaining popularity with RFPs. With these questions you respond to a scenario, rather than just saying “yes” or “we have this feature.” The issuer might spell out a problem and ask you the following:

  • How would your software handle this situation?
  • How would your solution solve this problem?
  • How would your approach alleviate this issue?

…no pressure, right?

Situational requirements require a thoughtful response that demonstrate how your solution is the right choice for them. As such, they take more time to craft and refine. These responses should reinforce some of the strongest parts from your competitive differentiators and approach.

Again, RFP software is highly useful for knocking both general requirements and situational requirements out of the park. All content is already stored in the Content Library. Search functionality helps you select the most relevant response in seconds, versus endlessly digging through emails and folders—or rounding up a committee of SMEs and marketing to constantly create fresh content.

Combine a great RFP response process with technology

Nice work, RFP responder! You made it through your RFP response anatomy lesson. We hope you feel more confident about the next RFP that lands in your inbox.

By combining a great RFP response process with technology, your team will submit a quality deliverable that has a higher potential to land the deal. And, it will all happen in less time so you and your team can operate with greater precision and move on to other priorities.

Ready to improve RFP response operations? Reach out and we’ll show you how RFPIO can help you manage everything.

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