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RFP response resource guide

RFP response resource guide

If you ask any salesperson about their ideal lead, you’ll likely hear that the perfect prospect is a confirmed buyer […]


Category: Selling & Enablement

RFP response resource guide

RFP response resource guide

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

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

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

Confirmed buyer ✅
Needs and pain points clearly identified ✅

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

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

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

What is an RFP response?

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

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

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

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

Components of an RFP response

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

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

RFP response examples

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

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

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

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

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

An RFP response typically should include the following:

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

For more specific examples, read here.

How to respond to a request for proposal

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

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

Step 1 – Determine whether you are the right fit

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

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

Step 2 – Set up your process

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

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

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

Step 3 – Break down the components

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

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

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

Step 4 – Determine what you’ll need to include

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

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

How to improve the RFP response process

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

Why? Well, automation works.

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

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

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

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

Automate manual tasks

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

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

The goals of an efficient process include the following:

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

To reach those efficiency goals, consider automating:

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

Up-to-date content

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

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

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

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

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

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

Optimize time management

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

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

Better collaboration

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

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

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

Key performance indicators for the RFP process

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

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

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

How to choose RFP response software

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

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

Why you need RFP software

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

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

Essential features

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

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

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

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

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

Common challenges of the RFP response process

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

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

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

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

Case study

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

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

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

RFP FAQs

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

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

Optimize your RFP responses the RFPIO way

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

Response management made simple

Response management made simple

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

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

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

What is response management?

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

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

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

Who is responsible for response management?

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

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

Owning the response management process

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

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

Evaluate processes

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

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

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

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

In each case, the processes are :

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

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

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

Establish an accurate organizational knowledge base

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

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

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

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

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

Eliminate repetition

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

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

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

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

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

Automate responses

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

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

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

Improve SME collaboration

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

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

Be specific

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

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

Scale response capacity

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

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

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

Measure growth and continuously improve

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

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

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

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

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

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

Repeatability

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

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

Scalability

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

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

Reporting

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

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

*Next Action*

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

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

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is an RFQ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

RFQ vs. RFP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of using an RFQ

Comparison

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

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

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

Consistency

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

Streamlining

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

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

When you might receive an RFQ

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

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

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

Features of an RFQ

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

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

How to respond to an RFQ

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

Submission instructions

Almost every RFQ includes the following:

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

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

How to determine whether you should respond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Include an executive summary

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

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

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

Templatize your pricing

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

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

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

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

Specifications

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

Contract and fees

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

How to respond to a DDQ

How to respond to a DDQ

Entering into a business relationship, whether it includes making a large purchase or even a merger or acquisition, is complicated. With today’s security challenges, it is riskier than ever.

When a company receives a DDQ, the document shouldn’t be taken lightly. Lack of due diligence on the part of the responder can risk future deals, future partnerships, and even the company’s reputation.

What is a DDQ?

DDQ stands for due diligence questionnaire. While that sounds somewhat vague, a DDQ is all about mitigating risk by determining whether the company receiving the DDQ complies with the issuer’s standards and regulations.

A DDQ could be a precursor to an RFP, a merger or acquisition, or an audit from an existing customer. It could even be a way of creating a list of “safe” companies for future dealings.

Naturally, DDQs are as varied as the companies, and especially the industries, that issue them. Tech companies, for example, emphasize security and privacy compliance. Financial institutions want assurance that vendors won’t put them in hot water with the Securities and Exchange Commission, among other regulatory agencies. And those in the healthcare industry need to verify HIPAA compliance.

Naturally, it’s not that simple. There’s a lot of overlap. Every industry, for example, is concerned with security and privacy. Nearly every DDQ, regardless of sector, probes companies about their history, investments, organizational structure, etc.

In short, the job of a DDQ response team is to paint a picture of a company that is stable and compliant.

A DDQ is not a sales document. Most DDQs will not ask about product functionality, market share, hiring practices, etc., although they might ask about major new product releases, as they could affect financial forecasts.

Who issues DDQs?

While any organization could issue a DDQ, they’re primarily issued by technology companies, financial services companies, and government agencies.

DDQs can have dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of questions, but even the simplest DDQs require input from multiple stakeholders. If you’re in charge of responding to DDQs, you may need input from the following roles:

  • Financial – You could receive questions regarding your company’s financial health. These may include questions about anything from investors, to financial statements, to liens, to the amount of taxes your company pays, etc. If you work for a privately held company, you might not choose to answer those questions, but the issuer will ask.
  • Legal – Most legal questions fall under the purview of RFPs. However, you may see DDQ questions related to legal compliance.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions – Companies must issue DDQs before entering into mergers or acquisitions.
    Analysts – While raw data might be enough to answer some questions, many will need a deeper understanding and even forecasting.
  • Compliance – Gauging compliance is the core function of a DDQ.
  • IT – IT departments are at the front line of enacting and maintaining security protocols.
  • Procurement – In many companies, procurement departments are DDQs’ project managers. It’s rare, however, to see questions related explicitly to procurement.

Why do companies issue due diligence questionnaires?

Issuing a DDQ simplifies the collection and delivery of vital information needed before engaging in or continuing a business relationship.

A DDQ enables the issuer to learn about current or prospective partnerships’:

  • Financial status – It’s easy to understand why a company might want to learn about a potential vendor’s financial position. A financial misstep from a vendor could have reverberations down the line. However, many, if not most, privately held companies will not open their books to people outside their organization. Publicly traded companies are another story; their financial statuses must be public.
  • Business holdings – Business holdings are part of financial due diligence and could reveal debts and potential tax liabilities.
  • Compliance standards – Compliance requirements are numerous and deep. If a vendor is out of compliance with an issuer’s obligations, the issuer could find themselves out of compliance,

A DDQ helps a company measure risk in a variety of types of business transactions. Reasons for issuing DDQs include:

  • Completing a merger – A merger is a marriage, so to speak, between two companies. It’s a legally binding agreement that essentially states, “what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine.” It would be irresponsible to enter into a merger without knowing what the “yours” that will be “mine” is.
  • Assessing an acquisition – An acquisition is much like a merger in that transparency is critical, and a DDQ will reflect that.
  • Considering an investment – Large investors want to vet their potential investment before writing a check.
    Third-party vendor risk management – Even if a company is 100% compliant, their vendors could put your customers at risk. Risk assessments have to dig below the surface.

Responding to a DDQ

An effective DDQ response provides enough information to empower buyers, prospective investors, or business partners to confidently move forward.

A DDQ response process has a lot in common with an RFP response process, but there are some differences. Here are the key steps for responding to a DDQ:

1. Define your response strategy

Just as responding to an RFP requires a strategy, so should a DDQ response. First, you must determine:

  • Whether the SLA (service level agreement) is defined and available.
  • Who to put in charge of intake.
  • When you will be ready to start answering questions.
  • Who will answer the DDQ.
  • How long the DDQ will be in question/answer mode.
  • When the DDQ will be ready for review.

2. Assign tasks and due dates

A typical DDQ will have several SMEs and stakeholders. Make sure everyone knows their precise roles and responsibilities and expected timelines.

3. Answer commonly seen questions

Most questions on a DDQ, or for that matter, an RFx, are identical or nearly identical to questions you’ve answered before. A well-developed Content Library should automatically provide those repeatable answers, enabling you to accept them as is or edit them as needed.

4. Consult with collaborators

Once you’ve answered all the common questions, it’s time to turn to the experts. Consult with your response team and SMEs (subject matter experts) to complete the DDQ.

5. Review

Go through the DDQ with a fine-toothed comb to ensure there are no errors or missed (answerable) answers.

6. Submit the Questionnaire to the issuer

On time, right?

Due Diligence response best practices

Even though companies send DDQs with different goals in mind, and they are as varied as any other type of document your proposal team may see, there are a few best practices you should follow for all your submissions.

Understand your position in the sales funnel

Your latest DDQ may or may not be part of the sales process. If it leads to a potential sale, you’ll typically see a DDQ high up in the funnel, perhaps as a way of selecting compliant vendors before issuing an RFP.

Occasionally you might see a DDQ after responding to an RFP and as the prospect is nearly ready to select a vendor.

Sometimes, though, the DDQ is so far removed from the sales process that it’s nothing more than information gathering, either on current vendors or maybe-one day-in-the-future vendors.

No matter where the DDQ is in the sales funnel, if it’s in the sales funnel at all, it’s not a good idea to set the document aside. Maybe it will lead to future deals, or perhaps it will expose some of your own vulnerabilities.

Aim for a consistent and systematic approach

Some DDQs have thousands of questions, which might feel intimidating, and your instinct might be to answer each question as succinctly as possible. While that approach might save you time, proving compliance requires a detailed and consistent response.

Still, you can take steps to ensure that you don’t skip questions and to help you manage the time required to provide complete answers. They include:

  • Prepare a customized checklist – Create a customized checklist of the types of information you might need, preferably categorized by industry. You could require an organizational chart, financial information, legal documents, and of course, governance, risk, and compliance documents. Here’s one you can download right now.
  • Create due diligence questionnaire templates – Consistency saves time. If you upload your DDQs into a customized template, each stakeholder will know precisely where to locate what they need.
  • Leverage RFP response management softwareRFP response management software also works for DDQs. Intelligent response management software will help you create and store both checklists and templates.

Centralize response information

Most of the questions on a DDQ are very similar to questions you’ve answered in previous questionnaires. Storing your responses and documents in a single source of truth for information can save hours, days, and sometimes even weeks on your response process. Beyond saving time, a Content Library:

  • Ensures accuracy – A company is legally bound to their answers, so accuracy is critical. The Content Library will hold on to the company-approved answers, enabling users to produce accurate responses.
  • Supports transparency – Transparency is critical for both trust and employee morale. When all the necessary information is right there for authorized users to see and use, it creates trust among the rest of the response team and potential customers.
  • Improves knowledge access – Anyone with the proper credentials can access the knowledge they need.

Automate the response process

You may not be using automation in your response process, but your competitors and many—if not most—of your customers and clients are. There are several reasons leveraging automation improves the DDQ response process, including:

  • Tracking real-time vendor completion progress – Automated response software has (or should have) project management built right in. It tracks each stakeholder’s progress.
  • Streamlining response time – Automation can answer up to 80% of your DDQ with just a few clicks.
  • Scaling ability to respond to DDQs – Automation helps determine the size and scope of the ideal response team as well as timeline estimates.
  • Efficiently managing tasks and deadlines – Define and manage tasks and expectations with automation.
  • Improving collaboration – Automated responses value and save SMEs’ time, creating more willingness to collaborate.

Due diligence checklist

While all transactions differ, a DDQ checklist facilitates a more thorough response through better organization and time management.

Common materials collected during a DDQ response include general corporate information, financial information, compliance certifications, licenses, legal documents, etc.

Organization and ownership

A DDQ might be a potential vendor’s first encounter with your organization, which means they need a proper introduction. The DDQ could ask for:

  • An organizational chart
  • Partnership/profit sharing agreements
  • Records of shareholder meetings
  • Senior leadership information (e.g., age, tenure, promotions, etc.)

Human resources

DDQs don’t generally dive too deeply into human resources issues, but you can learn much about a company’s long-term viability and potential problems from the HR department. DDQs might ask HR about:

  • Projected headcount (by function and location)
  • Benefit plans
  • Key employment agreements
  • Personnel turnover data
  • Incentive stock plan overviews
  • Employee litigation

Financial

DDQs are common in financial service organizations. Also, because DDQs might precede a lengthy business relationship, the issuer will want to know your organization is financially stable. It is important to note, though, that many privately-held companies will not provide financial documents. Requested financial records might include:

  • Annual and quarterly financial information
  • Accounts receivable
  • Capital structure
  • Summary of all debt instruments
  • Financial projections
  • Revenue (by product type, customers, and channel)
  • Major growth drivers and prospects
  • Summary of current tax positions
  • Schedule of financing history (equity, warrants, and debt)

Fund information

DDQs are necessary for mergers, acquisitions, or business partnerships. It probably goes without saying that fund information is crucial for financial or investment partner due diligence. The document might request information about:

  • Fund strategy
  • Product and fund descriptions
  • Market share
  • Timing of new products
  • Cost structure
  • Profitability

Governance, risk, and compliance

Assessing governance, risk, and compliance is the primary purpose for issuing a DDQ. Be prepared to offer documentation for:

  • Policies
  • Code of ethics
  • Fund exposure
  • Service provider risk
  • SEC communications

Legal

Legal documentation helps issuers determine whether a company is in good legal standing. You may be asked to provide information on:

  • Pending and past lawsuits
  • Environmental and employee liabilities and safety
  • Intellectual Property
  • Insurance coverage details
  • Summary of material contacts
  • History of regulatory agency issues

Streamline your DDQ response process with RFPIO

Issuing and responding to DDQs can be repetitive and time-consuming, and not just for dedicated response teams. RFPIO’s automated response software saves time, improves quality and accuracy, and helps foster good working relationships.

Due diligence software offers several features to help optimize the DDQ response process, including:

Knowledge library

RFPIO’s AI-powered Content Library is a centralized knowledge source—a single source of truth—that enables streamlined responses by intelligently answering most of a DDQ’s questions and providing the corresponding documents without asking SMEs to reinvent the wheel each and every time a similar question arises.

Answer intelligence

Using machine learning, RFPIO response management software understands the questions and knows how to respond to routine (and some not routine) requests based on previous answers. All you have to do is edit or accept the suggested responses.

Collaborative integrations

RFPIO offers best-in-class integrations with all the productivity, sales enablement, communication, and CRM tools you already use.

*Put your best answers forward with RFPIO*

Learn how RFPIO can help your company respond to DDQs with accuracy, efficiency, and expedience. Schedule a free demo – RFPIO, DDQ management software.

Understanding due diligence questionnaires

Understanding due diligence questionnaires

The internet allows consumers to easily arm themselves with information that may influence their buying decisions. Before spending money at a restaurant or hair salon, for example, they might consult Yelp or Google Business reviews.

When a business enters into an agreement with another company, whether it’s a large purchase or even a merger or acquisition, making informed decisions is a little—okay, a lot—more complicated than just checking Yelp reviews. Before entering into a business relationship, buyers must do their due diligence, or there could be severe repercussions.

What does doing “due diligence” entail when entering into business agreements? In this blog, we’ll talk about when you can expect a DDQ (due diligence questionnaire), what to expect from it, and how to make filling one out a whole lot easier.

What is a due diligence questionnaire (DDQ)?

A DDQ is a formal document and request from a company looking to have a set level of understanding of a specific topic from a potential vendor. A DDQ enables the issuer to vet prospective partnerships.

It is worth noting, however, that DDQs vary between industries and types of products or transactions. Also, unlike an RFP, a DDQ is not a sales document and may not even be a precursor to a sales document.

Although, similarly to how many (if not most) companies run background checks on new hires, a DDQ might be that “background check” before signing an official deal. DDQs are most commonly sent from highly-regulated companies, such as those in the financial services industry.

Some DDQs are product-focused, asking, for example, what the product capabilities are. However, a DDQ is not a sales document, so it generally won’t get into specific product features, pricing, or logistics.

DDQs include:

  • Financial status – Businesses make large purchases to help them fulfill their customer obligations. Suppose they choose to do business with a company that isn’t on good financial footing and could go bankrupt. In that case, the purchasing organization risks financial loss, potential legal problems, damage to credit, and a hit to its reputation. This isn’t to say they’ll always receive the answers they’re looking for; we’ll get to that in a moment.
  • Business holdings – Asking an organization to disclose its business holdings is part of the financial vetting process. It could reveal potential red flags that expose the vendor—and potentially, by extension, the purchaser—to legal and tax vulnerabilities.
  • Compliance standards – Does the vendor meet the purchaser’s industry standards and applicable government regulations? These questions might arrive via a separate security questionnaire.

Due diligence core areas

Many people confuse DDQs with RFPs and security questionnaires, but they are quite different. As mentioned earlier, an RFP is a sales document. A security questionnaire has more in common with a DDQ than an RFP but security questionnaires are generally straightforward yes/no questions.

A DDQ might contain some narrative questions, similarly to an RFP. But a DDQ is strictly about vetting a company, not making a sale. The core areas include:

  • General organizational information (business credentials) – Typically, DDQs only ask about surface business credentials, such as company name, company legal name, year founded, primary products, number of customers, etc.
  • Financial review – Financial due diligence is one of the primary purposes for DDQs, especially in financial services. Customers may want to see the last three years of financial statements. Privately-held companies are not legally required to release financial information—and as a matter of course, they won’t. As an alternative, the vendor might suggest a phone call to discuss concerns.
  • Human resources – HR questions are generally more characteristic of an RFP than a DDQ. There might be some surface-level questions, such as “how many employees,” etc., but granular questions about HR are left to the RFP.
  • Funding – A DDQ issued to a startup company might ask about funding. A DDQ may also ask about a fund manager’s strategy.
  • Governance, risk, and compliance – This is a core piece of DDQs.
  • Legal – Legal questions are usually categories under compliance. Legal agreements are generally more RFP-focused.

What does a DDQ include?

While DDQs might have some narrative questions, most are yes/no. DDQ questions might cover several categories.

They might include:

  • Company questions – Company questions might include some narrative questions, such as, “tell us about (company history, organizational structure, subsidiaries, majority stakeholders, investments, etc.).”
  • Financial information – Financial information includes income, balance sheets, accounts payable and receivable, tax returns, credit reports, etc. Many privately held companies will not answer these questions.
  • Employee information – Employee information is generally part of an RFP. However, a DDQ might ask high-level questions such as the number of employees, types of non-compete and non-disclosure agreements, etc.
  • Legal overview – A DDQ is not a legal contract, but that doesn’t mean incorrect answers won’t get you in legal hot water in the future. You may see questions about litigations, permits, licensing, etc.
  • Financial and debt statements – It’s common for a DDQ to ask for financial and debt statements. However, while that information is public for publicly traded companies, privately held companies may not, and often do not, provide those answers.
  • Consumer/customer information – Customer questions are generally not part of a DDQ. However, it might include questions about security surrounding customer records or any litigations.
  • Industry and market insights – Industry and market insights are not common DDQ subjects.
  • Intellectual property – Intellectual property questions are common on DDQs. You could be asked how many patents your company holds, whether your products are intellectual property or crowdsourced, etc.
  • Operational information – Like HR questions, operational questions are typically high-level, such as about network security. However, in manufacturing, operational questions tend to be far more complex and in-depth.
  • Regulatory compliance – Regulatory compliance is generally the most critical part of a DDQ, especially in the tech, financial, and healthcare industries. You can expect several questions about whether you comply with an issuer’s regulatory requirements.
  • Data security and privacy – In most cases, data security and privacy fall under regulatory compliance. Some issuers might want to know whether you go above and beyond to meet stringent compliance requirements.
  • Contractual obligations – Contractual obligation questions are typically in an RFP instead of a DDQ.
    Reputation and publicity reports – Reputation and publicity report questions are not generally part of a DDQ. However, you will find them on RFPs and RFIs (requests for information).
  • Information technology systems – It’s common for a DDQ to ask about existing software and hardware.
  • Tax history – Tax history typically falls under financial questions. Most privately held companies won’t answer.

Why do organizations issue DDQs?

While DDQs are not a direct part of the sales cycle, they can help facilitate it. A company may issue a security questionnaire before an RFP or even compile a list of compliant vendors for future use.

It’s also prevalent for companies to issue DDQs to existing vendors to address significant organizational changes and maintain standards in their vendor pool.

  • Mitigate risks – Risk mitigation is the fundamental reason to issue a DDQ. Risk mitigation is a common concern in investment management. DDQs are often issued for existing relationships to ensure up-to-date compliance.
  • Guarantee compliance – This falls under risk mitigation.
    Streamline disclosure process – A comprehensive DDQ is designed to streamline information collection and disclosure.
  • Enable efficient gathering of large amounts of data – DDQs can collect large amounts of data, within limits. Large response teams can provide more data than smaller teams, although advanced response software helps level the playing field.
  • Accelerate transactions – Generally, DDQs do not accelerate transactions. However, they can make choosing vendors in the short or long-term future much simpler.

Understanding DDQ responses

An effective DDQ response provides enough information to empower transactions to proceed with assurance. Quality responses can help:

  • Demonstrate strengths with compliance – Demonstrating compliance can set you apart from some of your competitors, but again, DDQs are not sales documents. It’s essential to follow the issuer’s guidelines and never fudge or exaggerate your compliance.
  • Confirm historical performance – A DDQ may ask about past performance trends, especially in investment and financial firms. Other industries might be asked about overall growth, etc., although that’s usually not a focus.
  • Investment and asset management – A DDQ might also ask about investments and asset management. However, privately held companies might not answer the questions.
  • Disclose risks – From the buyer’s perspective, a DDQ is about disclosing any risks before entering into or maintaining a business relationship. Vendors might be tempted to gloss over risks, but it’s critical to be honest about your limitations and hopefully create a plan to address them.
  • Grow revenue – DDQs are not specifically revenue-generating documents, but in many cases, they are a necessary piece of housekeeping, so to speak, before entering a sales cycle.

Types of due diligence questionnaires

DDQs are about as varied as the industries they come from and their ultimate purposes. Some industry-specific or situational questions you might find are:

Mergers and acquisitions due diligence

Not surprisingly, DDQs issued before a merger or acquisition are highly detailed. Nothing is off the table, although a DDQ will commonly ask about financial history and obligations, security compliance, legal matters, contract obligations, etc.

It is worth noting that since mergers and acquisitions are typically not public knowledge within a company, the vendor should limit project access to executives and others involved in the query.

Vendor due diligence

Not all customer/vendor relationships begin with a DDQ; it depends on the industry. For example, purchases in the investment and management realm must include DDQs. Vendor management is about standardization to take any surprises out of future business arrangements. Overall, the goal is to reduce risk and inform decision-making.

Business relationship due diligence

DDQs can be a critical part of ongoing business relationships. Have regulatory requirements changed? Have you kept up? Has your business made any structural changes?

Investment due diligence

A DDQ is extremely important in vetting companies before investing. It is worth noting, once again, that the types of questions asked on an investment DDQ ask for sensitive information, so it’s unlikely that they’ll be answered by response teams.

Due diligence questionnaires: Best practices

Unlike the RFP process, which focuses on features, pricing, onboarding processes, etc., the DDQ process elicits details and insights that may be overlooked.

Define your strategy

Your DDQ strategy should begin long before you receive one. Response managers should determine:

  • Whether their SLAs are defined and available.
  • Who is going to intake the DDQ?
  • How long will it take before you start answering questions?
  • Who will answer the questions?
  • How long will the DDQ be in question/answer mode?
  • When will the DDQ be ready for review?

Address vulnerabilities

It’s easy to assume that a DDQ mitigates risks for the issuer with little benefit to the company responding. However, it’s not that simple. An accurate and thorough DDQ response strategy can identify vulnerabilities within your organization.

As for the issuer, failure to issue a comprehensive DDQ can result in:

  • Security breaches – If a company fails to properly vet vendors for compliant security protocol, they risk breaches that are out of their control, and the vendor risks fines and litigation when they fail to deliver or try to gloss over risks.
  • Failed revenue goals – If a purchase is tied to your company’s revenue and you’ve failed to do your due diligence, it could have revenue ramifications for several quarters.
  • Falling out of compliance – Even if all of your company’s systems are compliant, a non-compliant vendor could knock you out of compliance.
  • Breached contracts – If you choose a vendor who fails to adhere to their agreement, your customers will blame your company, not the vendor.
  • Fraud – Fraud in B2B (business to business) sales is rare, in no small part because the vetting process is far more rigorous than with most consumer purchases.
  • Mismanagement – DDQs help protect against the mismanagement of funds or data.

Clearly articulate core DDQ objectives

Why did you receive the DDQ? Is it a precursor to a sales process, or will it be an ongoing quarterly or yearly review or audit?

Employ a consistent and systematic approach

An effective DDQ response process requires thoroughness, accuracy, and consistency. Advanced response management software, such as RFPIO, is the tool that creates time-saving repeatable processes.

  • Prepare customized templates – Create a branded answer template that easily imports information from whatever format a DDQ appears in.
  • Identify and quickly access SMEs – Are the questions in their area of expertise, and do they have the time?
  • Leverage RFP response management software – RFP response management software helps ensure that your answers are accurate and on-brand while saving time and resources.

Work from due diligence checklists

Checklists are built into nearly every project management software. Checklists keep you on time and on track.

Super-organized issuers might even build checklists into their DDQs.

A checklist:

  • Enables easier comparisons – Think of a DDQ as an opportunity to check your company’s compliance as it compares to yours and your issuer’s standards.
  • Effectively collects information – A checklist helps ensure that you aren’t missing anything and aren’t gathering the wrong information.
  • Prevents missed deadlines – A checklist will help ensure that your response is complete and on time.

Centralize organizational knowledge

DDQs aren’t known for originality; however, two issuers rarely ask similar questions in identical ways. Can you make the answers repeatable? Can you store answers in a single source of truth to accelerate future DDQ responses? Whether a DDQ has 20 or 2,000 questions, having content in place is by far the biggest time saver.

A single source of truth:

  • Ensures accuracy – All information stored in a company’s knowledge library should be verified accurate through regularly scheduled audits.
  • Supports transparency – With pre-approved answers, a comprehensive AI-powered knowledge library does much of the work for you.
  • Improves knowledge access – In a perfect world, every DDQ stakeholder would have access to their single source of truth. RFPIO’s unique project-based, rather than user-based, pricing structure gives access to any authorized person without having to purchase additional licenses.

Leverage automation

Because DDQs arrive via a myriad of formats, it’s crucial to have software in place that helps you standardize them. Intelligent automation goes several steps further by doing up to 80% of your work.

Benefits of DDQ response automation include:

  • Tracking the completion process in real-time
  • Streamlining the response time
  • Scaling the ability to respond to DDQs
  • Efficiently managed tasks and deadlines
  • Improved collaboration

Due diligence example questions

Not surprisingly, a DDQ’s questions are industry-specific. Below are some common industry-specific examples:

Organizational due diligence questions

Organizational due diligence questions can be a part of any DDQ, but in-depth organizational due diligence questions are more common in mergers and acquisitions than in vendor DDQs.

Questions might include:

  • What is the organizational structure of your company?
  • Can you provide professional bios for senior leadership?
  • Can you offer diagrams and charts of your corporate structure?

Financial due diligence questions

DDQs are most common in the financial services industry. Expect DDQs to ask:

  • What are your operating costs?
  • Can you provide income statements and balance sheets?
  • Can you provide accounts receivable information?
  • Can you give a breakdown of sales and gross profits (by Product Type, Channel, and Geography)?

HR due diligence questions

HR due diligence questions are uncommon but not completely unheard of. You may have to answer questions such as:

  • What do current employee contracts look like?
  • What are historical and projected head counts, both by function and location?
  • What are your benefit plans?
  • Can you provide incentive stock plan overviews?

Investment fund information

Investment and hedge funds, of course, are an arm of the financial services industry, so you will generally see DDQs. Questions might include:

  • What are your fund strategies and goals?
  • What are your historical and projected growth rates?
  • What is your market share?

Governance, risk, and compliance

A DDQ’s most basic function is to determine and mitigate risk. Governance, risk, and compliance questions include:

  • What are your organizational policies?
  • Can you provide an organizational code of ethics?
  • Can you provide a breakdown of service provider risk?
  • Can you provide your SEC communications plan?

Legal due diligence questions

Legal questions generally fall under RFPs rather than DDQs, however there are some cases where an issuer might include legal questions, including:

  • Have you been involved in any litigation?
  • Are you currently involved in any litigation?
  • What trademarks and patents do you currently have?
  • Can you provide insurance coverage details?
  • Can you provide your history of regulatory agency issues?
  • What are your compliance programs and policies?

Simplify due diligence with RFPIO

Repetitive, manual due diligence efforts are inefficient and cumbersome. RFPIO is a response platform and a project management platform. Simplify your DDQ response processes with:

Standardize importing – Whether your DDQ arrives as a spreadsheet or a Word document, import it into RFPIO for standardized, highly-searchable, formatting and functionality.
Project management – RFPIO will let you set project goals and timelines, helping ensure your answers will arrive on time.
The ability to choose your SMEs – Your SMEs are very busy and have varying degrees of expertise. RFPIO will show you the SMEs who’ve answered similar questions in the past, and show their availability.
Repeatable answers – DDQs can have thousands of questions. RFPIO’s Content Library stores approved answers to previous questions, letting you auto populate and edit as you see fit.
Standardize exporting – RFPIO lets you customize templates to match your brand and impress the issuer.
Responding to DDQs

RFPIO is the number one response management platform, and not just for RFPs. Leverage RFPIO throughout your entire DDQ response process to provide professional, accurate, and on-time responses. RFPIO’s AI-powered response platform provides:

  • A single knowledge library (RFPIO’s Content Library) – Add answers to any DDQ from anywhere within the company
  • RFPIO® LookUp– Provides access to the Content Library to any authorized person with a browser.
  • Recommendation Engine – Automatically suggests the best responses
  • Project management functions – Assign, manage, and track workflow tasks and deadlines.
  • Scalability to respond to DDQs – While most SaaS (software as a service) products have a per license pricing model, RFPIO allows for unlimited users with project-based pricing. Your capabilities will grow as you need and scale back when your response team can take a little breather.

RFPIO also enables collaboration with seamless integrations with all of the most popular communication applications. Keep in touch with teammates from anywhere in the world using Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, or Jira to:

  • Ensure accuracy – It would be tough to answer a DDQ without help from some SMEs. Real-time communication and fact checking helps you submit accurate answers.
  • Efficiently manage tasks and deadlines – Stay in touch with each stakeholder to ensure each task is completed on time.
  • Streamline response time – Better communication enables faster response times.

Explore a better DDQ solution

RFPIO isn’t just for RFPs. Our comprehensive response management platform makes responding to DDQs fast, secure, scalable, accurate, and on time. If you would like to learn how RFPIO can help you demonstrate compliance, schedule a free demo.

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

From content to timing, confusion often surrounds the differences between a due diligence questionnaire (DDQ) and a security questionnaire. Read on to learn the nuances of each document to improve your responses and win that next deal.

What is a DDQ?

A DDQ stands for due diligence questionnaire. Organizations send them to mitigate risk before entering into an agreement with another company. It is a formal document designed to establish whether a vendor complies with industry and/or customer standards or needs, including how the vendor manages its own network and cybersecurity protocols.

Unlike an RFP, a DDQ is not as much about competitive evaluations. A DDQ is all about compliance and business practices.

What is a security questionnaire?

Much like it sounds, a security questionnaire is sent to potential vendors to determine whether their security protocol meets the issuer’s standards and legal requirements. Security questionnaires are technical and usually highly complex, however most questions are “yes” or “no” rather than narrative.

Note that neither DDQs nor security questionnaires are sales documents.

DDQs vs. Security Questionnaires

Now that you know the definition of a DDQ, let’s get into how security questionnaires are unique, along with a few similarities they share with DDQs.

Common industry

Any organization can issue a DDQ, but we see them most in the financial services industry. Security questionnaires are primarily used by organizations operating in technology—either hardware or software.

Market evaluation

Much like a DDQ, a security questionnaire will not be used as a method of evaluation between vendors. Although, if an organization throws an RFP (request for proposal) into the mix, then both questionnaires play a role in market comparison.

Because a security questionnaire is not a competitive evaluation, the issuer won’t spend time performing a security review with more than five potential vendors. It’s completely different from responding to an RFP, which may be sent out to tons of vendors to cast a wide net.

Issuing departments

Usually, a security questionnaire comes from a security department (infosec, IT security, cloud security, etc.). While a DDQ will not necessarily come from that department—marketing, client services, or compliance teams frequently send these documents to responders.

Sales timing

Security questionnaires and DDQs typically show up early in the sales cycle. They may come in when an organization is trying to set you up as the vendor of choice or before it’s time to renew. Before you can become their new vendor, they need to make sure you’re compliant. If you’re an existing vendor, they might need to ensure you’re still compliant.

Even when you become their vendor partner, you might see a due diligence questionnaire again and again. Especially in the financial services industry, DDQs are sent to vendors annually—even quarterly—so make sure you’re up to speed on industry regulations.

Document types

A security questionnaire is predominantly an Excel spreadsheet. A DDQ could be a spreadsheet, but about 70% of the time, this questionnaire lives in a Word document.

Question types

Security questionnaires tend to be a standard set of questions, where you answer some variation of a yes/no answer in a drop down. You might need to add some commentary to back up your answer. While there will be some black or white questions in a DDQ, there is also room for interpretation and creating a narrative.

Succeeding with Security Questionnaires and DDQs

To knock content out of the park with security questionnaires and DDQs, naturally, the best technique is accuracy. With that top of mind, here are other tips to help you succeed as a responder.

Security Questionnaires

You have a lot less room to knock this content out of the park. Your data is encrypted or it’s not. You either have the firewall or you don’t. It’s not about how you implement the firewall, it’s simply: Do you have the firewall set up?

Stick to the facts

Obviously, one thing you don’t want to do is lie. Let’s say you are asked if you check your disaster recovery plans every 60 days. If your process is checking disaster recovery plans once a year, don’t say “yes.” They will find out 60 days later when you don’t meet their requirements.

Time to completion

Time to completion is a really good thing to shoot for with security questionnaire responses. You’re usually still in an evaluation process where you might be the vendor of choice or you’re one of two choices.

DDQs

Similar to an RFP response, there is more room for creativity with your DDQ content. However, don’t respond to a DDQ exactly as you would to an RFP. Before you respond, consult with the correct SMEs (subject matter experts).

Early stage advice

If you receive a DDQ in the early stages of the sales cycle, this document might be their vendor filtering method. DDQs are not the time for a sales pitch. Instead, consider showing your strengths with compelling and (most importantly) accurate narratives showing compliance. Late stage advice

During the late stage of the cycle, your DDQ might be a recurring document you respond to with an existing client, or it could be in addition to a DDQ you’ve already answered. Get straight to the point and ensure accuracy to show you are still in compliance.

Next steps

If due diligence questionnaires are a regular part of your sales process, response software for DDQs, such as RFPIO, makes answering them a whole lot easier. Your RFPIO Content Library can answer many of a DDQ’s questions with a few clicks.


RFPIO can help you increase DDQ and security questionnaire accuracy and efficiency.  Demo RFPIO today to support your sales process.

Understanding the RFP response process

Understanding the RFP response process

If your company is like most, you responded to a lot more RFPs last year than you did the year before. You’ll likely respond to even more in the upcoming months and years.

Leadership is beginning to understand the importance of dedicated response professionals. Still, they’re a bit more reluctant to invest in the processes needed for efficiency, faster response times, better morale, and higher win rates.

To be fair, not all RFP response processes call for automation or even computers, but unless you’re a one-person show–and even if you are—creating quality, on time responses requires a repeatable process. Here is what that looks like for us and perhaps for you.

The basics of the RFP response process

When a company or organization wants to make a major purchase or launch a project, they usually issue a detailed document–a request for proposal (RFP)—describing their needs to several potential vendors. A typical RFP will outline the following:

  • Their budget for the project or product
  • The project’s goals
  • Common deal-breakers, such as:
    • Unsatisfactory audit findings
    • Insufficient security protocols
    • Poorly-defined procedures and policies
    • Improperly vetted subcontractors
    • Customer support concerns
    • Inability to meet the buyer’s budget or timeline
    • Not enough customer references
    • No out-of-the-box functionality
  • The most important factors
  • The RFP’s due date

The prospect may also include separate documents such as a security questionnaire, which asks about your and third-party vendors’ security protocols, or due diligence questionnaire, which asks about your company rather than your product.

The best way to produce a winning bid is to have a process in place. Do you have project management software? Who is your project manager? Do you have a list of subject matter experts (SMEs) and their schedules? What about other stakeholders, such as writers and editors?

RFPs are more alike than they are different. Around 80 percent of an RFP’s questions are relatively standard. For example, it’s common for an RFP to ask about company history, hiring practices, and the onboarding process. Why not have those answers ready to go or at least prepared for a quick proofread?

Creating a repeatable process establishes:

  • Whether the RFP is worth pursuing
  • Team participants
  • Timelines
  • Role definitions
  • SME engagement
  • Final evaluation

Why are RFPs issued?

Organizations issue RFPs when their needs are complex and want to efficiently access multiple vendors. Governmental organizations, many nonprofits, and large companies send RFPs for every purchase exceeding a certain threshold.

Steps in the RFP response process

Establishing an effective and efficient process is easier than you might think. RFPIO’s response managers have identified eight steps:

Step 1 – Go/no-go

As the number of RFPs you receive increases, so does the number of questions on each one. Instead of attempting to respond to each one, choose those that best align with your business and are winnable.

Step 2 – Have a kickoff party

Unfortunately, most kickoff parties don’t have cake, but they do define team and individual roles, responsibilities, and objectives.

Step 3 – 1st draft

Because roughly 80 percent of an RFP contains questions you’ve probably answered before—many times—let your automated system take a run at it first. Make sure the answers are correct and up-to-date.

Step 4 – 2nd draft

Consult with SMEs and other stakeholders to answer the remaining questions.

Step 5 – Review and revise

Were the questions answered accurately and completely? Were all the objectives met? Are there any misspelled words or typos? Are the responses otherwise well-written? Have you attached all relevant documents?

Step 6 – Submit

Once you’ve completed and polished the response, submit it (hopefully before it’s due). Confirm that it was received and let team members know.

Step 7 – Save and audit the responses

Every answer is potentially valuable for future RFPs. Save them in a central location that’s easily accessible to key stakeholders. Make sure you regularly audit the content in the centralized repository.

Step 8 – Postmortem

Win or lose, every response is a learning opportunity. What worked? What could have used improvement?

An example of a high-quality RFP process

A high-quality process is well-defined, efficient, and generates quality proposals for winnable RFPs. Once you’ve established a high-quality process, your team will begin to run like a well-oiled machine, you’ll increase the number of responses and hopefully win more bids.

Accruent, a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) company, has recently acquired several companies with highly-technical products. RFPs began arriving faster than the response team could master the new technologies. Unsurprisingly, SMEs were stretched thin.

Accruent introduced RFPIO into their response process. Confident that their answers would be stored for future use in their Content Library, SMEs were much more likely to offer their expertise.

Soon, because more than 75 percent of answers came directly from the Content Library, the response team more than tripled its capacity.

RFP response process metrics

The go/no-go step is key to increasing your win rate, but knowing which RFPs to answer requires data. Tracking metrics should be part of your response process. Those metrics include the following:

  • Project types – How many RFPs did you answer compared to DDQs and other documents?
  • Types of wins – You should save your resources for winnable RFPs. What kinds of projects provide the highest win rates? Break types down by:
    • Vertical – Are there specific industries that are more apt to purchase your product or service?
    • Company size – Are your target customers enterprise-level or small and medium-sized businesses?
    • Product line – What is your win rate for that product?
    • Project type – Has your company successfully implemented this type of project in the past?
    • Project stage – How far do similar projects make it through the sales funnel?
    • Number of questions – Do you have the bandwidth for an RFP of that size?
    • Project value – Is it worth it for you?
  • Project scope – How much work does your current project require?
  • Completion time – How long does it take, on average, to complete a similar project? What is the shortest time on record, and what is the longest?
  • Average response rate – What percentage of incoming RFPs do you answer?
  • Resource needs – Comparing the content and moderation needs, who are the people who are best suited for the project?
  • Content needed – Read and understand the questions and determine how much content you have in your Content Library.

Once you have decided to go forward, metrics help keep you on track and tell you whether it’s worth continuing.

  • Determine workload – Break down the project into manageable deliverables which can be divided among your team.
  • Readability score – Write in a way that’s easy to understand, typically at no more than a 10th-grade level. Use tools like the Hemingway App or Flesch reading ease test to ensure readability.
  • The Probability of Win Score (PWIN) – You’ve already calculated your odds of winning based on past similar projects. Still, the PWIN examines the details of your current project for a more accurate prediction.
    • How do your answers compare to similar RFPs that you’ve won?
    • Have you answered each question?
    • Have you met all the conditions?
    • How many questions were you able to answer in the affirmative?
  • Identify content gaps – What is missing from your Content Library? What needs to be updated?
  • Determine your Content Library’s health – How many questions can you answer using the curated content in the Content Library? Aim for 40-80 percent.

For more information on response metrics, read here.

Best practices for a smarter RFP process

Turning your RFP process into an 800-horsepower revenue-generating engine takes coordination, a great pit crew (so to speak), and tools to turbocharge efficiency.

At RFPIO, we receive and respond to RFPs just like you. Below are the best practices our experts swear by.

Encourage collaboration

A Facebook poll by RFPIO found that effective collaboration was considered much more important than an efficient process. I would argue that neither is possible without the other.

Because RFPs are long, complex, and require potential input from every department, from finance to HR to IT (and more), collaboration is a critical part of an RFP response process. And because we have distributed and siloed workforces, intense competition for SMEs’ time, and tight deadlines, smart processes foster collaboration.

An RFP response system should leverage project management and communication tools to keep everyone on the same page. And because respecting your colleagues’ time is key to continued collaboration, it should also include a single source of truth knowledge management system to record answers for use on future projects.

Bring effective storytelling into your RFP responses

No one is suggesting that your RFP response should include the next great novel, but telling your organization’s story helps make your response memorable and builds trust among readers.

Your proposal’s story should include information about your company, such as why your founders created your solution, how it will meet the customer’s needs, and how you will handle their needs.

Your cover letter might highlight your company’s values and what it does to live up to them. It’s also a great idea to include testimonials from customers with similar needs.

Automate your response process

At least three-quarters of companies hope to boost their RFP response, but only around half of those companies consider increasing response staffing. That leaves one option, which is to automate their response processes.

Because most questions on an RFP are exact or near exact duplicates of former queries, you can save hours, days, or even weeks by leveraging machine learning to access those repeat question-and-answer pairs, giving you the time to address the questions that need your efforts.

Develop habits that support organizational success

Suppose you worked out or ate well today. Congratulations! Continue for a few weeks, and the next thing you know, you’ll have formed a habit that might lead to better health and longer life.

When you habitually maintain your list of SMEs and other stakeholders, as well as your Content Library’s health, those habits will pay off with faster responses, smoother collaboration, and improved morale.

Enable your sales team

Aside from your employees, a well-maintained single source of truth is your company’s greatest asset. It might contain incorporation papers, financial statements, sales reports, and product details. There’s no limit to the number of use cases.

We like to think of RFPIO as a sales enablement platform. Naturally, RFPs generate tremendous revenue. Still, a well-maintained Content Library supplies relevant, customer-facing information for sales teams with a few keystrokes. RFPIO’s proposal management features can help you create winning sales proposals complete with automation and reporting.

And because salespeople spend time on the road, RFPIO® LookUp provides access to your Content Library from anywhere you have browser access.

The role of RFP software

Chances are, your company uses CRMs and other sales enablement platforms. You probably also use communication apps and some sort of project management software. How does one make a case for more on top of what your CIO might call a bloated tech stack?

Advanced RFP software works with your tech stack, not on top of it. It should integrate with your productivity, communication, and sales enablement apps, but it should also add value on its own. Unlike a standard project management platform, RFP software is customized for proposal management.

RFP software is designed to let you respond to more requests and maximize your win rate. It may not be a specific part of your sales team, but like your top salespeople, its superpower is revenue generation.

Advanced RFP software should import and export from and to nearly every format and offer standard and customizable templates. Its knowledge and document library should provide relevant stored Q&A pairs as well as required documentation with a few keystrokes. In fact, its knowledge and document library should serve as a single source of truth for the entire organization.

The software’s reporting features should go far beyond response analytics and help facilitate informed business decisions. Additionally, because RFPs come in waves, software should be scalable and instantly respond to your changing requirements.

Choosing the right RFP software for your team

I could spend hours highlighting all the RFP software features you might need, but the fact is that even you don’t know what might arrive next week and especially next year. Your ideal RFP response solution is a bespoke answer to your evolving needs.

The software should work with your existing systems to maximize revenue and efficiency. It should be designed by response managers who know the ebbs and flows of response processes.

The most important feature, however, is the designers. Is the company receptive to your questions and poised to consider adding features as requested?

RFPIO’s approach to the response process

RFPIO offers an end-to-end approach to RFP response. Its features include:

  • Knowledge – Store your commonly-seen questions and answers and your critical documents in a single repository.
  • Collaboration – Communicate with other stakeholders inside the platform or with your current collaboration apps.
  • Projects – Break your projects down into manageable pieces, assign tasks, and keep track right inside the app.
  • Insights – How much time and other resources are you using? How many and what kind of deals do you win? What are your strengths and weaknesses? RFPIO has many standard and nearly unlimited customized reporting features.
  • IntegrationsRFPIO integrations work seamlessly with more than two dozen of the most popular business applications.
  • Remote access – RFPIO® LookUp provides access to your Content Library through Google, Microsoft Office, and many other applications.
  • Loyal customers – RFPIO is the response platform for many of the world’s most successful companies, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Visa, Lyft, Zoom, and hundreds more. Read more about RFPIO from our customers.

Case study

While RFPIO is the RFP response solution for large companies, most enterprise organizations have dedicated response departments. Employees for smaller companies find themselves wearing many hats, which sometimes means putting RFPs on the back burner.

Complí, a small software company located in Portland, OR, often found themselves missing deadlines for lack of time and personnel. Just a week after investing in RFPIO, that changed. The company was able to respond to RFPs without holding time-consuming, in-office meetings. They were also able to complete up to 80 percent of each RFP with just one click, thanks to the Content Library.

Today, they are submitting RFPs on–time (and even early) and the entire company uses the Content Library as their single source of truth.

RFP response management process FAQs

It isn’t easy to gauge RFPIO’s true value without seeing it in action. We invite you to view a demo to see how RFPIO might benefit your organization. Before that, though, here are some of the most common questions we are asked:

  • What is an RFP? – A request for proposal (RFP) is a document designed to solicit multiple bids for large organizational purchases.
  • What type of information and questions are included in an RFP? – An RFP provides in-depth descriptions of the customer needs, deadlines, and so on. It might ask for company history and details, pricing, related past projects, and projected deliverables, and so on.
  • Why do organizations issue RFPs? – Organizations issue RFPs to gather pricing and service comparisons in their desired formats.
  • Who responds to RFPs? – Some organizations have dedicated response departments. Others might respond through their sales teams.
  • What does RFP software do? – The short version is that RFP software helps organizations win more business using fewer resources. The longer version is that it utilizes your existing applications and teams, along with customizable tools and a robust Content Library, to become a revenue-generating engine.
  • Does RFPIO do more than respond to RFPs? – As a response platform, RFPIO will automatically respond to up to 80 percent of a request for information (RFI), request for quote (RFQ), security questionnaire, due diligence questionnaire, and more. As a sales-enablement tool, its proposal management features and Content Library will help you drive revenue. And as a business application, its built-in and customizable analytics will provide the information needed for informed decision-making.
  • Does RFPIO integrate with existing applications?RFPIO integrates with more than two dozen applications, including the most popular ones.
  • What if we need to add or subtract users? – RFPIO has a best-in-class pricing model. Instead of purchasing licenses, we provide unlimited access.
  • Is RFPIO secure? – RFPIO has industry-leading security protocols. We are trusted by the world’s leading technology, healthcare, and financial services companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Visa, Cigna, and far more.
How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

How to respond to an RFP like an all-star champ

Organizations issue requests for proposals (RFPs) because they have a need that cannot be fixed internally—a big need—one that will cost lots of money. This isn’t calling a plumber to fix a clog. This is soliciting bids from multiple contractors for complete remodels, or to construct full-on additions.

Obstacles in the RFP response process

The scale of an RFP can be huge

RFPs contain up to thousands of questions and requests for specific content. If your company has a solution to the problem put forth by the issuer, then you respond with a proposal that includes all the answers and requested content. Depending on the size of the RFP, it can take you hours, days, or weeks to prepare a response. As long as you submit your completed RFP response by the deadline, your solution will be considered.

Competition is fierce

The issuer compares your RFP response with all of the other RFP responses received from your competitors. Sometimes, the lowest price wins. Other times, the best solution wins. Sometimes, it’s both…or neither.

Success requires more than paperwork

Much of the time, the winner results from the best pitch — an umbrella term that includes the RFP response, relationships built with sales and subject matter experts (SMEs) during the process, pricing, reputation, and a variety of other factors. Then there are the times when winners are selected based on prior or existing relationships between the two organizations.

No matter what the deciding factor between an RFP win or loss, the ultimate truth is that you have to compose an RFP response to have a chance. Why not put your best foot forward?

How to respond to an RFP

The RFP response process is cyclical, not linear. I’ll get into more of that in the best practices section. For the sake of getting a proposal out the door, you need to follow these eight steps after you first learn about the RFP.

1. Qualify the bid

Is this worth going after? As I mentioned earlier, RFP responses can take weeks to compose. Starting off with a go/no-go checkpoint gives you an opportunity to evaluate how your solution measures up, the financial viability of the project, availability of resources you’ll need to submit a response by the deadline, and any other factors that will impact your business during the response process. Essentially, building a proposal is like investing in your future. Every investment requires close scrutiny.

2. Understand requirements

What do you need to get it done? This ranges everywhere from the type of content, to who produces the content, to who is responsible for signing off on the final proposal. The list can be quite lengthy, but it must be comprehensive to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

3. Answer commonly seen questions

Pull from your content library to fill in answers to commonly seen questions. If anything needs to be reviewed by a subject matter expert, be sure to get their eyes on it before submission.

4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators

Whose expertise do you need to get this done? After you determine requirements, you’ll identify all the milestones. There’ll be due dates for content, reviews, edits, and approvals for multiple collaborators. The trick is respecting everyone’s time while driving the process forward.

5. Assign questions for review and approval

Who needs to sign off on this content? Likely, this will not be a Caesar sitting in the stands giving thumbs up or down. You’ll have multiple approvers to sign-off on content related to sales, product, support, legal, branding, etc.

6. Polish

Make sure you’re telling the story you want to tell. Add visuals or other supporting content to tell your story better. This is where you can nail the competitive differentiation. If you have the good fortune to have a dedicated proposal team, this may fall on writing and design specialists within that team. It may also be someone from branding or marketing—someone who puts eyes on anything that your organization produces for external audiences. Ensure your proposal is in a clean, easy-to-read format. Or, even better, put it into a branded template.

7. Proofread

Don’t let poor grammar and typos be the reason you lose the bid.

8. Submit to issuer

Push send with no regrets (See? Proofreading is important!).

The Benchmark Report: Proposal Management

Learn about the state of proposal management, and see what teams need to do to be successful moving forward

Read the report

Best practices for responding to an RFP

Whether you have a dedicated team of stakeholders from each department or you assign a new team for each project, what matters most is that everyone in the organization recognizes that they have skin in the game. 

RFP wins, proactive sales proposals, and fast turnaround on questionnaires equate to revenue and may determine whether the company grows, shrinks, or offers an extra percentage point in next year’s retirement fund match.

Build the right team

Proposal managers lead the proposal team. Proposal managers may think of themselves as the director of a motion picture. After that “Directed by” end title flashes, another three minutes of credits roll by.

The proposal team I’m referring to is made up of the individuals you rely on for a variety of roles:

  • Prospect and customer interaction – Customer-facing teams have their fingers on the pulse of competitors and customer needs.
  • Subject matter expertise – Many RFP questions require detailed answers, and for those you should turn to the people who know the most about their particular area of expertise.
  • Brand messaging – Consult with marketing before submitting your response to ensure that you are on brand.
  • IT support – Can your company support the issuer’s needs?

… and all of the others who are vital to creating a winning proposal.

Even a one-person proposal department needs input from internal or external SMEs to build a high-quality response. 

Only respond to RFPs you can win

As part of your bid-qualifying at the beginning of your RFP response process, add a go/no-go checkpoint to ensure that you only respond to RFPs you can win. Whether it’s a scheduled team meeting or a checklist, you need to answer:

  • Is the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive solution that addresses all of the challenges presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match the budget?
  • Do you have an existing or prior relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

Basing the answers to these questions on data rather than anecdotal evidence will help validate the go/no-go step as well as your role as a proposal manager. RFPIO’s AI-powered analytics tools provide that data.

Respect contributors’ time

If you want SMEs and other stakeholders to feel a sense of ownership for their proposal responsibilities, then you have to respect their time. RFP responses will suffer if contributors end up working after hours and weekends, rushing to meet deadlines. Get their buy-in ahead of time on deadlines and time required for reviews and approvals.

Document your process

A documented RFP response process will anchor your team during the most chaotic times. It’s up to you to own the process, but RFP software will make it easier to automate, execute, and monitor processes from beginning to end on multiple projects running simultaneously.

Conduct a win/loss review

The win-loss review gives your team an opportunity to close the loop. Internally evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

Did you win? Why? How can you repeat it for future proposals?

Did you lose? Why? How can you avoid it in future proposals?

Include the whole proposal team in a wrap-up summary, but make the extra effort to work hand-in-hand with sales enablement so they can bring in the customer perspective.

Let technology do the heavy lifting

Remember earlier when I said the RFP response process is cyclical? The win/loss review will inform your new go/no-go step, increasing your predictive accuracy of which RFPs you can actually win. It helps to have RFP software for a win-loss review because you have everything that went into the response—the planning, communication, content, and the actual response—in one place.

Software is the single most effective way to overcome lack of time, experience, and other resources. It’s the difference maker that will help you respond like a boss. With only 43% of organizations using RFP-specific technology, there’s a huge opportunity for you to get a leg up on competitors.

How RFPIO can help

RFPIO RFP software makes it easier to collaborate with an extended team and leverage the power of technology. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using our industry-leading Content Library, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without RFP software or with less advanced software solutions. 

You create more time to spend customizing the responses that really matter and focus on differentiating yourself from the competition. And that’s only the beginning! 

Using software at every step in the RFP response process

Here’s a quick overview of how RFPIO RFP software helps during each of the seven steps of RFP response:

  1. Qualify the bid — Check data from past similar RFPs. What took weeks without RFP software may only take hours with it. All things being equal, is this RFP winnable?
  2. Understand requirements — Let the tool create a checklist of open items based on what remains after the automated first pass conducted at intake by your Content Library.
  3. Answer commonly seen questions — RFPIO RFP technology consolidates all your previous Q&A pairs into an intelligent Content Library, so you can automatically respond to repeat questions in just a few clicks.
  4. Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators — Assign each RFP question or section as a task to individual collaborators from the project dashboard in RFPIO. They’ll then receive a notification from where they’re already working (e.g., email, Slack, or Teams).
  5. Assign questions for review and approval — Simplify the review and approval process with automated reminders and cues across multiple platforms.
  6. Polish — From intake, work within a branded template and support answers with approved content that’s always up-to-date according to the SME in charge of that content.
  7. Proofread — Still important, but working with already-approved content will decrease how much you have to proofread.
  8. Submit to issuer — Push send from RFPIO or your integrated CRM!

We recently created a Proposal Management Benchmark Report where we found that organizations using RFP software already managed 43% more RFPs than those who do not use RFP software. If you’re looking to speed ahead of the field in RFP response, then gain traction faster with RFP software.

I’ll just leave these other tidbits right here…

Recognize SMEs and salespeople at quarterly meetings. Salespeople are competitive and like to be recognized for winning.

Implement formal kickoff meetings for RFPs. Make them quick and include pre-reading materials in the invitation to hit the ground running. Some organizations combine this with a go/no-go checkpoint.

Hold 15-minute daily standup meetings or calls as you approach the RFP deadline. Focus on status reports and action items.

Commit to professional development time. Join this LinkedIn group, the response management Slack community, or connect with APMP. This is especially valuable for small shops, where it can be hard to build a network.

If this has inspired you to investigate RFP software, then schedule an RFPIO demo today!

Considerations when creating an RFP process

Considerations when creating an RFP process

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency”.

– Bill Gates

Do you know how you’ll approach the RFP that arrives in your inbox today? What about one that comes next week or next quarter? You might be tempted to say, “Obviously not, because each RFP is different.” If that’s your answer, it might be too late to win those bids. 

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Let me ask a more personal question. Have you received a bill lately? You’re probably nodding right now. How do you plan to pay that bill? If it’s a fixed bill, such as insurance or your mortgage, you might set up automatic payments. If the bill is for something unexpected, say a car repair or vet bill, you might turn to your savings account or a credit card. 

What will happen if you don’t have the resources to pay that bill? 

What I just described are processes. Bill-paying processes ensure that you barely have to blink when paying expected bills and are prepared in the event of something unexpected.

What does that have to do with RFPs? Out of hundreds to thousands of questions in a typical RFP, most are, if not expected, standard. Much as you have systems to pay expected bills, a great RFP response process allows you to respond to those common questions in seconds. 

But what about the rest of an RFP? Certainly, cookie-cutter responses to complex questions aren’t going to win many bids for you. If you don’t plan for the unique parts of an RFP, you will spend more time on it, and there’s a very good chance you’ll lose your bid.

So, what should you consider when creating an RFP process?

What is an RFP process?

A request for proposal (RFP) is part of a broader category called RFx. RFx also includes requests for information (RFI), and requests for quotes (RFQ). It can also apply to other supplier questionnaires, such as security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires (DDQ). 

An RFP process is a roadmap. It outlines the entire RFP journey, from how it’s received within your organization, whether to reply, who the stakeholders are, who is responsible for each task, when each deliverable is due, how and when to send the response, to how to record and organize the attached question and answer (Q&A) pairs and documents. 

An effective and efficient RFP process decreases response time, improves response quality, and is far more likely to get your responses to the top of the prospects’ shortlists. 

Designing a great RFP process

An effective RFP response process—assisted by industry-leading automation—has several quantitative and qualitative benefits, including:

  • Quantitative:
    • Faster responses – Set your stopwatch! A great RFP response process speeds up your response time.
    • More responses – Faster responses = more time to respond to RFPs you might have set aside. 
    • A higher win rate – The average win rate is about 45%. A great response process can increase that by 15% or more.
    • Significant ROI – See how one RFPIO customer saw a 6x return on investment within just months.
  • Qualitative: 
    • Better teamwork – Great RFP response processes help develop collaboration, even across silos. 
    • A comprehensive and up-to-date company knowledge base – A great RFP process includes knowledge management. Make sure to schedule regular audits.
    • Focus – When team members know what is expected of them, and when, they are far more likely to approach a goal with focus.
    • More opportunities to personalize and customize — Re-invest time saved to give every response a better chance to win.

Considerations when creating an RFP process

One of our most common questions from our potential customers is whether RFPIO integrates with their existing software. Since the platform seamlessly and scalably integrates with more than two dozen popular business applications, the answer is almost invariably “yes.” 

Companies understand the value of business applications, especially when it comes to sales. 91% of companies with more than 10 employees use CRMs in their sales departments, so why do only 16% of companies use RFP software? $11 trillion in annual revenue, and some of the biggest deals, come from RFPs. Shouldn’t RFP response processes be as big a priority as sales processes?

Part of the answer is undoubtedly within companies’ cultures. RFP response processes require expertise from people throughout an organization. Additionally, RFP response often has a haphazard rather than strategic approach. Defining processes before RFPs hit your inbox will help you to determine which RFPs are worth your time and how to focus your efforts

Getting buy-in from stakeholders

Unlike a straightforward sales deal, an RFP response requires multiple stakeholders. An RFP process could require buy-in from finance, HR, operations, security, purchasing and procurement, sales, R&D, manufacturing, IT, etc. In other words, stakeholders can come from anywhere in the company, and you will need their cooperation at some point. 

Getting everyone aligned on the process is an essential consideration in creating it. Fortunately, RFPIO can help make the case for you. 63% of salespeople say RFPIO gives time back to them, enabling them to close more deals overall. 

71% of marketing executives say RFPIO’s Content Library saves them time locating company knowledge, and subject matter experts (SMEs) gain back more than ⅓ of each day.

Quantity vs. quality

Is it better to submit more RFPs or focus on improving your responses? In an ideal world, the answer is both, but is that reality? Although both approaches could be suitable for companies, depending on their resources and RFP landscapes, a clearly-defined response process should help with both. 

Beyond question, a response manager should focus on crafting the best responses on the most winnable RFPs. Responses riddled with errors, typos, and incomplete answers are wastes of time. So, in that respect, quality wins out over quantity. 

That said, RFP responses are a numbers game. The more well-written responses you submit, the more revenue you will generate. Given a choice, however, it’s far better to submit a few great responses than many mediocre ones.

Where to focus

When choosing where to allocate your RFP response resources, it’s best to institute a go/no-go evaluation process, which means only responding to RFPs you have a good chance of winning. You may ask about each incoming RFP:

  • Do you know the company sending the RFP? – Do you have an existing relationship with them? Were they referred to you? Your odds of winning a bid are much higher if there was a specific reason they sent the RFP to you.
  • Is yours the right company? – One of the biggest temptations among revenue-generating employees is to say, “Sure, we can do it!” While that might be true, RVP issuers aren’t looking for what you might be able to offer in the future; they’re looking for the here and now, preferably with a track record showing the ability to accomplish exactly what they are asking within their timeline. 
  • Can you meet their budget requirements? RFPs are not the time for guesswork. Consult with the right SMEs to ensure that the price you’re offering is competitive but also accurate. There might be room for some negotiation, but not for lowball bids. Suppose you happen to win a lowball bid. In that case, you risk alienating not just that customer but others in and around their industry, as well as your own company, as costs will undoubtedly escalate beyond the initial bid.
  • Is it an all-around strategic fit? – Do their needs match your organization’s business or product development strategy and vice versa? Is their industry one you know? 
  • Do you have the time? – How much is on your and stakeholders’ plates? Can you answer the RFP on time without affecting other responsibilities?
  • Have you won similar bids in the past? – Your chances of winning a bid go up when you’ve won and successfully fulfilled similar projects, especially from the same issuer.

Who’s on the team?

RFP response teams are as unique as their companies. Some, such as this RFPIO customer, have 2-person response teams. Others are larger, but the vast majority of RFPs require input from people outside the department. SMEs and other stakeholders vary from RFP to RFP, but you should have that all figured out before placing a bid.

Response managers are often known for their near-encyclopedic knowledge of their companies. They might not know every employee, but they know where to turn when they have questions. To ensure goodwill, make sure each stakeholder is aware of their roles and has the capacity to carry theirs out. 

Where is the relevant content?

Office workers report spending more than half of their time searching for information. Imagine how much more productive they would be if every bit of company knowledge existed inside a single, easily accessible, and searchable database. 

RFPIO’s search feature pulls relevant content from docs, spreadsheets, and even PDFs. RFPIO’s Content Library makes it easy to find RFP Q&A pairs, answers to security questionnaires, company history, etc. You can even store documents. 

Once you find the content you’re looking for, you can apply those answers as-is in a click or two or modify them as needed.

What else should an RFP process take into consideration?

Just as most sales departments couldn’t imagine achieving their processes without the help of their trusty CRMs, response teams should include advanced RFP software in establishing their procedures. RFPIO follows an RFP from inception to completion and even beyond. 

Whether you’re starting anew or you have an existing process, RFPIO can help by providing a framework for an optimal RFP process and the tools to get there.

  • Import an RFP from any format – Whether you receive the RFP via a document, spreadsheet, or PDF, RFPIO will capture the information and plug it into an intuitive UX platform, ensuring consistency and simplicity for each stakeholder.
  • Shred the RFP – With RFPIO, you can organize and section RFPs in the best way for your organization.
  • Analyze the project – RFPIO features built-in project management analytics to estimate the project’s time requirements and your likelihood of winning.
  • Answer all the questions you can – Tap into your Content Library to answer up to 80% of an RFP’s questions in seconds. 
  • Engage SMEs – For those questions that require additional input, RFPIO will suggest SMEs based on previous, similar RFP responses and the SMEs’ availability. Collaborate from around the globe with RFPIO’s translation tools and multi-language UI.
  • Track the project – RFPIO’s project management tools track each deliverable to ensure on-time delivery.
  • Submit the proposal – Design your customized branded template to ensure a professional and consistent look.
  • Store your new content – Once you’ve submitted the RFP, store all new content in your RFPIO Content Library for use next time.
  • Rinse & repeat – Time to start the next RFP.

Improve your win rate, organize your RFP response process, save time, and increase revenue using RFPIO. Take a few minutes for a free demo of RFPIO. 

As for Bill Gates, he’s not wrong, but RFPIO goes beyond just magnifying efficiencies. RFPIO helps response teams establish, as well as enhance, efficient processes. His brainchild, Microsoft, agrees. 

 

Benefits of a great RFP process

Benefits of a great RFP process

There was a time, I suppose, when major company purchases were relatively straightforward. If a company wanted to buy supplies, for example, they would simply contact vendors or put out the word that they were seeking bids. 

Then a salesperson answered the call with a detailed bid, including company information, product or service description, pricing, and timelines. 

Sure, there were some security concerns, as hacking and overall bad actors have been around for a very long time. Still, the regulatory environment was less rigorous, and it was generally easier to track down subject matter experts (SMEs). 

That’s not to say things were easy. Most early-day RFPs came from the government; enough said there, I assume. But response processes were somewhat less defined and usually handled by sales. 

Today, $11 trillion of revenue comes from RFPs. Many companies have entire response departments. Although nearly every other department, including sales, has software to help them become more productive, only about 16% of organizations use RFP software. 

Either organizations don’t see the viability in a robust RFP process, or it’s an issue of “why fix it if it ain’t broken.” The problem, though, is that it is broken. RFPs are tremendous revenue-generating opportunities, and a great RFP process can generate millions of dollars while saving valuable time and other company resources. 

If you are leaving viable RFPs in the virtual dustbin due to lack of time, or your win rate is in the tank, you need RFP processes. Processes will help you determine which RFPs you want to answer as well as organize timelines, key players, etc. Read on to learn more about how you can set up RFP processes for your company.

What is an RFP process?

In short, an RFP process describes the way a company responds to an RFP. It should define how you decide which RFPs are worth your time, organize the project, consult with SMEs, and determine how to manage any new content produced during the response. 

RFPIO’s response managers (yes, we answer RFPs too) use an 8-step response process which includes:

What makes a great RFP response process

The average RFP win rate is about 45%. A great RFP response process improves on that rate in a couple of ways—it allows you to zero in on winnable and profitable RFPs and spend less time on each response, thereby letting you focus on crafting winning bids for the desirable opportunities.  

Benefits of a great RFP process

A great RFP process doesn’t just benefit the response team; it benefits the entire organization with higher win rates, more revenue, and an organized and accessible knowledge base. 

Avoid missing or delaying opportunities

RFPs are like the lottery: you can’t win if you don’t play. If your RFP pipeline is backed up to the point where you’re missing or delaying viable opportunities, a great RFP process will help you break through the clogged pipeline by allowing you to triage opportunities and get the right RFPs into the right hands. 

Higher win rate

If you’re responding to a lot of bids without the revenue to match, it’s time to focus on your win rate. An effective RFP response process lets you spend more time on viable RFPs and less time spinning your wheels. 

Focus efforts in the right place

“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em.” – Kenny Rogers  

Do you play poker? I don’t, but I know enough about the game to know that if you go all-in on every hand, you’ll probably lose all your money early in the game. If you take a strategic approach, however, and only bet on the hands you think you could win, the odds tilt in your favor. 

Your boss probably doesn’t want to hear this, but RFPs are a lot like poker. Indeed, there are very few royal flushes—or guaranteed wins—but laying your time and resources on the table for a less-than-viable RFP leaves you a lot less time and fewer resources for the ones you might win.

Learn to evaluate which RFPs fit with a go/no-go qualification system in place.

  • Do you know the customer? – Do you have an existing relationship with the prospect, or did they choose to send you the RFP for specific reasons? If so, your chances are much better than if it’s a more open bidding process.
  • Is yours the right company? – If your solution doesn’t fit the customer’s needs, you should pass. Even if you spend time trying to make their round peg requirements fit into your square hole solution, you’d be wasting the prospect’s time, and you could end up annoying them.
  • Can you match their budget? – Pricing is a tricky tightrope. On the one hand, you want to win the bid, but on the other, the deal should be profitable for your company. If your SMEs in charge of pricing say they can’t fulfill the customer’s needs within a reasonable price range, listen to them. 
  • Can your company meet their needs? – Do you realistically have the time and resources to onboard and support the customer?
  • Do you want the business? — Business opportunities are a two-way street. Does the company fit your product development or business strategy? 
  • Do you have the bandwidth to answer the RFP? – If you think you’re swamped now, the number of RFPs issued is increasing every year. Sometimes, even winnable RFPs have to take back seats to better opportunities. 

Less time per proposal means more proposals

This is a no-brainer. If you answer RFPs in a streamlined, more efficient way, you will have more of that aforementioned bandwidth for more RFPs.

Revitalized internal knowledge 

RFP response teams are perfectly positioned to become the gatekeepers of company knowledge. When they record and regularly audit answers in a centralized company knowledge base, it gives executives the information they need to make more informed decisions. It also provides quick answers to anyone who needs it, including other revenue-generating teams. 

Team building 

Team-building exercises are generally either fun or downright silly, not that downright silly can’t be fun. But you don’t have to fall backward into coworkers’ arms to find camaraderie. When a team works together toward a common goal, trust and friendships are bound to develop.

Even beyond that, RFP responses require input from multiple people spread across the organization. An effective response process helps tear down silos. 

Generate more revenue

I saved this one for last because if your bids aren’t generating revenue, there’s really no point. A great response process helps you identify the opportunities that will increase revenue. 

Why a company might want to reevaluate their response process

Maybe you know your response process isn’t working for you, but even if you feel it is, maybe there’s room for improvement. Here are four scenarios that should encourage you to take a deeper look at your processes:

  • You hired a new proposal manager – A new proposal manager taking over is a great time to reevaluate your processes using fresh eyes. 
  • Your current process is—shall we say—lackluster – Is your current process winning bids for you? Is your team working hard but bored out of their minds answering questions they’ve responded to 1,000 times before? Are your processes scalable so you can win future bids?
  • Your company merged with another – Which company has better results from their processes?
  • There was a significant change in your business – Do you have new products to offer? Have your products changed? If so, your RFP Q&A pairs will change as well. Sometimes a clean break is in order. Introduce new processes to go with your new everything else. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

All organizations benefit from high-quality RFP response processes, but not necessarily in the same ways. Here are a few real-world examples of our customers’ benefits after moving their processes to RFPIO.

  • An insurance company proposal manager said about RFPIO, “When we realized we could finish the first draft of an RFI (request for information) in hours rather than days, it was like the clouds parted and the angels sang.”
  • IBA, a medical device manufacturer in Belgium, increased its win rate by 15%.
  • TOMIA, a software company, streamlined processes, and improved company collaboration.
  • Genpact, a global professional services firm, dramatically improved proposal quality.
  • Microsoft (I assume they need no introduction) estimates they saved $2.4 million in the first 18 months after implementing RFPIO.
  • On average, it takes about 8 days to complete an RFP, and that’s when there’s a fairly sizable team. That’s about 8 RFPs per quarter. RFPIO helped this two-person team answered double that, 16, in the first quarter after implementation. 
  • Let’s cut to the chase. Your boss wants to know about ROI. Well, Crownpeak, a digital experience management platform, realized a whopping 6x return on investment with RFPIO. 

Want to make your RFP process great?

Now that you know the importance of a great RFP response process, where do you start

  • Set goals – Companies talk a lot about customer pain points, but what are your pain points? Would you like a new RFP response process to decrease your response time? Could the quality of your responses improve? Are you being taken out of the running too quickly?
  • Develop a checklist – My mother is a big list-maker. I’ve never been as organized as my mother, and I blame my lack of list-making. Be my mother. Here is a somewhat typical checklist, although yours might look a little different:
    • Identify key stakeholders – Your stakeholders won’t be the same for each RFP, but having a list of stakeholders will save you from having to reestablish roles each time.
    • What is your average timeline? – Having this as a benchmark will help you figure out where your bottlenecks lie.
    • Get company buy-in – A new process is only as good as the number of people willing to adopt it.
    • Figure out if an RFP is worth answering – See above.
    • Locate and evaluate content – Most often, this is the most time-consuming part of the RFP process. 
  • Consider RFP software – Okay, I’m biased, but RFPIO wouldn’t exist without a real need for better RFP processes.

RFPIO is an ideal tool for RFP response processes. 

  • RFPIO cuts response time by an average of 40% by answering up to 80% of an RFP’s queries using machine learning.
  • RFPIO simplifies data-driven decision-making with RFPIO’s customizable reporting dashboard.
  • RFPIO’s industry-leading Content Library democratizes knowledge management organization-wide.
  • RFPIO® LookUp gives any authorized user with a browser company knowledge at their fingertips, even if they are traveling or out in the field.
  • RFPIO integrates with more of the apps you’re already using than any other response platform. Use RFPIO within your existing CRMs, sales enablement, productivity, and vendor assessment apps. Communicate with stakeholders using your company’s favorite communication tools. Your IT team will be relieved to know we offer the same SSO authentications your company already uses.

Maybe your RFP response processes need a complete overhaul or a few tweaks here and there. Regardless of your needs and goals, see how RFPIO will quickly help you drive revenue and improve your processes. Schedule a free demo now.  

 

Understanding RFP management

Understanding RFP management

When a request for proposal (RFP) comes across your inbox, it might seem overwhelming. Some RFPs contain 100s of questions on 1,000s of pages (or vice versa). Your first instinct might be to set it aside in favor of more straightforward deals, especially if you’re in sales instead of on a dedicated response team.

RFPs might be long and complicated, but most high-value deals come through RFPs, so ignoring a viable opportunity could cost your company $10s of thousands of dollars or far, far more. Further, if the RFP comes from a well-known or enterprise organization, ignoring it could cost your company some coveted cache that could ultimately bring in more business through having that company on your customer roster.

Whether you’re a relative newbie to RFP responses or a seasoned professional, learning more about RFP management could help you win more bids. And while we can’t guarantee you’ll get a raise or promotion, winning a big deal is a big deal and might earn your boss’s respect.

What is a request for proposal (RFP)?

When a company needs to purchase a significant service or product, it will often issue a request for proposal (RFP) to collect bids from multiple vendors. Sometimes they solicit bids from specific vendors, and sometimes they open the bidding process to any potential fit.

RFPs are typically more than about getting the lowest price—we’ll get to that later in this article.

An RFP is often 100s or even 1,000s of pages long with questions as diverse as, well, diversity in hiring practices and whether the vendor complies with the customer’s regulatory requirements.

The primary purpose of an RFP is to help issuers determine which company is the best fit for their specific needs. An RFP also:

  • Formally announces a project for bidding – An RFP is a little like a starting gun at the beginning of a race. Instead of the first to the finish line, however, the winner is the vendor that best suits the customer’s needs.
  • Defines project for issuers and responders – RFPs offer detailed explanations of project requirements and expectations.
  • Enables buyers to compare potential vendors – If you’ve ever shopped for a mattress, it’s almost like each retailer or manufacturer speaks a different language. If two stores carry the same manufacturer, the model names and numbers are entirely different. That’s intentional; it makes it really difficult to compare pricing and features when you’re comparing apples to watermelons. RFPs let the buyers define the parameters, and vendors (should) respond with specific and straightforward answers, which enable apples-to-apples comparisons.

Proposal manager: role and responsibilities

At the very surface, a proposal manager is the project manager for the RFP response process. When we dig a little deeper, though, we see that proposal managers are some of the most important and knowledgeable people in an organization.

When a proposal manager isn’t herding cats, their job is to know the organization’s who, what, where, when, why, and how, or at least where to find such information. A proposal manager:

  • Is the point of contact for the organization – There to answer questions from RFP issuers, response teams, sales teams, executives, and SMEs.
  • Aligns tasks and team members – Herding those metaphorical felines
  • Facilitates team meetings
  • Drives discussion and collaboration – Once those cats are in line (I think I’ve milked this metaphor dry), the proposal manager is responsible for ensuring that the right people are answering the right questions.
  • Enforces timelines for project status – RFPs have strict deadlines. Proposal managers have the experience to know how to break the project up into manageable timelines to reach that final deadline.
  • Verifies project compliance – Does the proposal answer the issuer’s questions? Can the company comply with their needs?
  • Produces proposal submission – No matter how many stakeholders were involved in answering an RFP, it’s ultimately up to the proposal manager to ensure that it’s accurate, well-written, and on time.

Managing RFPs

An RFP response should be strategic and laser-focused on a single goal, winning those winnable bids. While it might sound straightforward, effective RFP management is akin to conducting an orchestra when the musicians are scattered throughout the music hall and even the world.

When a company specifically reaches out to your company for a bid, it’s sort of flattering, and the impulse is to answer the RFP. Many RFPs, though, are open to any bidder. A poorly-defined RFP management process might include answering the wrong RFPs and a disjointed response process, resulting in a low win rate.

That’s why a transparent, strategic approach is critical to managing RFP responses and fostering a more efficient proposal response process.

  • Organize RFP response process – Is the RFP worth pursuing? If so, who are the key stakeholders, and what are their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?
  • Establish a channel for accountability – RFPIO features communication and accountability tools to keep your team running smoothly and on time.
  • Decrease response time – Save time with efficient communication and an AI-enhanced content management system that can answer up to 80% of an RFP with a few clicks.
  • Improve response quality – Winning a bid is about far more than just price. Dramatically shaving time from the more monotonous parts of the response provides more time for crafting compelling stories and ensuring that the response is well-written, complete, and accurate.
  • Create a centralized database of assets and resources – Save subject matter experts (SMEs) and team members from having to duplicate their efforts by recording responses in a centralized database of assets and resources.
  • Increase bid win rate – Respond to the right RFPs instead of more RFPs to increase your bid win rate.

There are three primary options for managing RFP proposals. They include outsourcing responses, manual responses, and RFP software.

Outsourcing the response process

Many companies choose to outsource their response process, especially if they’re relatively small or their employees are strapped for time. While outsourcing has significant advantages, there are some steep downsides to watch out for.

Advantages of outsourcing

  • Saving time – Outsourcing does save significant company time. Proposal managers can step into more of a supervisory role and let the contractor do all the labor-intensive work.
  • Improved response quality – Outsourcing lets you pull the response manager out of the weeds and allows them to focus on the final drafts instead of each iteration.

Disadvantages of outsourcing

  • Risks confidential information – Providing outside access to proprietary information is risky. Hackers and cybercriminals could intercept even if the contractor is fully screened and has an airtight NDA.
  • Loss of business knowledge – RFP contractors don’t generally update a company knowledge base, meaning any information provided to them will be lost to the next person who needs it.
  • Big financial investment – Outsourcing the response process could pay for itself, if you answer a lot of RFPs each year. Otherwise, it’s much cheaper to keep it in-house.
  • Time spent tracking down stakeholders – The further a contractor is removed from your company’s infrastructure and org chart, the more time spent tracking them down.

Manual responses

Smaller companies, or those who haven’t found the right RFP software fit, may still use manual response processes. There’s often a reluctance to let go of manual processes, which we completely understand.

Are you working harder than you need to? As the response manager, you’re tasked with juggling all of a response process’s moving parts. It’s up to you to stay on top of everything, including sending emails, managing all authors and SMEs, reviewing each Q&A pair, and ensuring deadlines are met.

Still, there are some benefits to sticking with manual processes:

  • Requires no upfront investment – Manual processes utilize the tools you already have, such as document and spreadsheet software and PDF readers. And let’s not forget the most essential tool of all, human power.
  • Familiarity with tools and processes – If you’re already used to manual processes, there’s no learning curve.
  • No uplift – You’ll never have to worry about software price increases.

Still, it’s pretty hard to make the case that manual response management processes are the ideal solution for any company. They are:

  • Time-consuming – You have to answer how many questions? How many times can you answer the very same question? Why is pinning down SMEs so complicated?
  • Repetitive – How many times can you answer the very same question? Oh wait, did I just ask that?
  • Decentralized – Financial statements, diversity policies, data compliance assurance, timelines, pricing…an RFP will include information from multiple departments and sources. Do you have to chase each one down?
  • Collaboration inhibitors – Poor and non-existent communication and project management tools make collaboration challenging.
  • Response capacity killers – The more time you spend stalking stakeholders for information, the less time you have to craft a compelling response, and the less time you have for answering other RFPs.

Leveraging RFP software

RFP software is designed to organize and simplify the RFP response process. Most importantly, advanced RFP software lets you respond to more of the right RFPs, increasing your proposal win rate and producing a hefty ROI.

Recent statistics show that:

  • 77% of proposal professionals say that their response process could use some improvement.
  • 75% of proposal teams with fully-adopted response technology say they always respond on time.

That’s not to say all RFP software is the same, but there are some standard features.

Features of an RFP response tool

The core features of RFP software include:

  • Automation – RFP software should help make your entire response process more productive by automating as many tasks as possible.
  • Content library – A content library is a centralized resource, a single source of truth, that holds assets in a single, easily accessible location.
  • Collaboration tools – RFP response software should foster collaboration through notifications and efficiencies with repeatable tasks.

Integrations and extensions

Advanced RFP response management software has features that level up the response process with integrations and AI-powered intuition. An automated response process has demonstrable benefits, including faster response times, more accurate and better-written responses, higher win rates, and a substantial ROI.

Competitive advantages of automating the response processes with RFPIO include:

  • Efficient response management – Streamline the response process with project management features, accessible and searchable content, reporting, and intuitive automated responses that answer the majority of questions with a click of a button.
  • Improved response quality – Simplified collaboration and automated responses gives back time to response managers, allowing them to fine-tune their proposals.
  • Easier collaboration – Communicate across verticals, state lines, and oceans. Compile responses right inside your favorite communication app with RFPIO’s seamless integrations. We integrate with Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, and Google Hangouts. Unlimited user access ensures that all stakeholders are included.
  • Standardized formatsRFPIO supports importing RFPs, security questionnaires, and DDQs from any format (such as Word, Excel, PDFs) and plugs the questions into your preferred template. From there, you can export using white-labeled templates or the source format (usually a spreadsheet).
  • Consistent deliverables – RFPIO’s project management features keep projects on track and on time.
  • Cost savings – Most SaaS products have subscription-based pricing models, which is costly, especially for smaller companies. RFPIO has a unique pricing model; instead of charging a subscription fee for each user, RFPIO charges based on the number of projects during any given time.
  • Increased revenue growthBetter bids translate to a higher win rate which translates to higher revenue.

There are some challenges to implementing RFP management software, although they don’t have to be deal breakers.

  • Demonstrating ROI – Demonstrating ROI to decision makers who may not even know what a response team does can be tricky. RFPIO makes it simple to make the case.
  • Securing an increased budget for an RFP management solutionSecuring budgets, especially in a tight economy, is challenging, even with a proven ROI. Your company already knows the value in sales enablement tools. RFPIO adds value to your existing CRMs and the rest of your tech stack with industry-leading integrations.
  • Onboarding RFP response team – There is a short ramp-up time to learn how to use RFP software, and RFPIO’s integrations help set your team up for a smooth transition.

Tips for improved RFP management

Whether you are full-time or an accidental response manager, and whether or not you use RFP software, follow best practices for facilitating more effective proposal responses by taking time and care when there’s an opportunity.

  • Develop an efficient go/no go process – Start by deciding whether an RFP is even worth it with an efficient go/no go process. Can you meet the customer’s needs? Do you want to meet the customer’s needs? What is your track record with similar RFPs?
  • Leverage automation to streamline workflow – Automated project management processes ensure that each deliverable is met. RFPIO’s automated Content Library does up to 80% of the work for you.
  • Create a quality content library – RFPIO’s Content Library is a single repository for all company knowledge, but it needs regular maintenance to deduplicate and ensure accuracy. Conduct regular audits; audit new clients more frequently and old customers less frequently.
  • Utilize branded response template – As much as we’d love you to sing our praises to all of your customers, responses come from you, not us. Add your brand to your preferred templates.
  • Consider an all-in-one software solutionRFPIO offers nearly anything you might want to see in an RFP response solution. If there’s a feature you don’t see, ask us.

The challenges of RFP response management

Additional challenges to the RFP response process include:

  • Labor-intensive processes – RFP responses are labor intensive, but proposal software can dramatically cut the number of hours.
  • Tight deadlines – If a proposal is due at noon on Wednesday, it’s due at noon, not 12:01, and definitely not Thursday. RFPIO’s project management features will help you meet that deadline.
  • Disorganized proposal contentData professionals spend around half their time trying to find, protect, and build content. Having that content in a single, easily searchable place saves hours each week.
  • Collaboration – Everyone, it seems, is either busy or far away. RFPIO’s collaboration tools take the hassle out of working together.
  • Security – Protect your data with RFPIO’s SSO Authentication.

How RFPIO can help

RFP response management software is a more efficient way to create quality responses. RFPIO utilizes advanced technology, including machine learning, and a unique pricing model to remain at the forefront of RFP response management software. We help companies overcome challenges with our:

  • Centralized proposal knowledge library – Most questions already have answers somewhere within your organization. Keep them all in one easy-to-find place with RFPIO’s Content Library.
  • Automated proposal responses – Let us answer the common and easy questions while you focus on the dealmakers.
  • Streamlined workflow and task management – Use RFPIO’s project management features or use RFPIO within your existing task management software.
  • Simplified communication – Gone are the days when we run down the hall to ask a question. RFPIO lets you ask any question or anyone in the organization at any time.
  • Integrated data protections into your management solutionRFPIO takes security very seriously.

Improve your RFP response process with better management solutions

Improve your work processes and impress your boss(es) with RFPIO’s all-in-one RFP management solution. Schedule a Free Demo to learn how.

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

Win more bids by scaling your response management process – part 2

In part 1, we discussed the best practices to scale your response management process from your end. This week we will look at how RFPIO’s toolbox can help you standardize your operations, improve communication, and trim response time, so your team can spend more time driving revenue. 

The RFPIO features that can help manage your response time

The RFPIO platform includes several features to help with your bid/no-bid decision-making. 

Intake

We designed the intake feature to help teams submit their project requests as intakes to the proposal team. The intake submits project requests to the designated user(s), who will approve or reject them. In addition, you can create an intake form with custom fields that will help you decide whether or not to pursue a project.

CRM integration

Another way to increase transparency and automate processes around the bid/no-bid decision is through one of our CRM integrations. For example, if sales is tracking information used in a bid decision, you can pull those fields into RFPIO. Your sales team will only ever have to enter the information once. Some of RFPIO’s CRM integrations even allow teams to fill out the intake form without ever leaving the CRM.

Reporting/custom fields

Lastly, you can use custom reporting on any fields you create in the intake form to analyze your win/loss rates and how they may be affected by certain factors in the opportunities you choose to pursue. This enables your team to evaluate your strategy and determine if you use your resources wisely when responding to RFPs.

What is your proposal management process?

You’ve decided which RFPs are worthy of responses. The next step in auditing your RFP process is evaluating how you’re managing the proposals. 

Are you having kickoff meetings?

A kickoff meeting is one of the most critical parts of the response process. At the end of a successful kickoff meeting, each team member will leave armed with clear roles and responsibilities – all designed with one clear goal, winning the bid! 

  • Are roles and responsibilities crystal clear? – Following a kickoff meeting, each team member should have an action plan. Follow up in your project management software.
  • Do you have a specific schedule? – Create hard deadlines for each team member and each response phase. 

Are you following the proposal’s progress?

Proposal managers should perform daily progress evaluations to ensure that they can address issues and lags before causing delays or inaccuracies.

How are you managing your team?

Proposal response has a lot of moving pieces. A proposal manager’s role is to follow those pieces, even if the responsibilities are outside the team’s immediate control. For example:

  • How are you tracking and managing tasks outside of the RFPIO platform?
  • How are subcontractors managed? 
  • How do your teams juggle multiple proposals?
  • Is there a shared calendar?

Task templates

How many of you have several tasks for every project? And how many of those tasks have nothing to do with the work in RFPIO? I’m referring to things like responding to an intent to bid or prepping shipping labels. Task templates can help you track those tasks automatically. Suppose you’re the manager of a team of proposal managers. In that case, you can even automate the tracking of tasks or stages across a shared calendar for a team, giving you better insight into the team’s workload on a given date or week. 

These are great ways to automate task creation. You can create a template for standard tasks under your organization settings and have it appear in each project upon creation. If there are tasks that you track as a team in a shared calendar, you can create a user in RFPIO that is assigned to these tasks automatically when you set them up in your organization settings. You can then sync that user’s calendar to a shared calendar in Outlook or Google to see all tasks across your team.

Clarifications 

Clarifications, often overlooked, is a great tool to help you compile any questions that you and your team need to send back to the issuer of your project. Then, you can export the questions, send them to the issuer, and import the responses back into the system.

Calendars 

RFPIO’s calendar view provides at-a-glance project management for you and your team.

Integrations 

Adding on our integrations for Teams or Slack can help increase transparency. I’ve also known clients to take advantage of our API integrations in their project management tools.

Discussions tab/comments

The discussions tab in the project is a great way to not get behind on potential issues. From this tab, you can quickly sort through open comments within the task. When managing multiple projects at a time, I made it a habit to open the discussions tab of each project every day to help reassign questions and resolve issues as they appeared.

Content Library

RFPIO’s Content Library uses AI to intuitively auto-populate and answer all of the most common and not-so-common questions. In addition, the Content Library offers several filtering tools, options, rules, and tags to help ensure that you’ll receive the most appropriate answer, even with simple one or two-keyword searches. Furthermore, your AI-driven library will update as you input data. 

Look inside your content management lifecycle

When did you last audit your content?

I’m going to let you all in on a bit of a secret. Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s Content Library, I start with the Content Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Content Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

You can also use RFPIO to create an internal knowledge base, perfect for training new hires. Here at RFPIO, all of our sales enablement content and sessions are easily accessible from our company-wide instance of RFPIO. It’s easy for me to remember a session from a month ago, and I can simply use the search to find a Q&A pair that directs me to the video.

Other customers have found increased collaboration between their proposal team and their marketing and security teams but are saving the most recent versions of client-facing documents in the Content Library. Using RFPIO as an internal knowledge base and a single source of truth also provides a level of self-service to your organization that can boost morale.

Lastly, especially for small companies and startups, using RFPIO to track crucial information related to delivery can help create an excellent database for client references in the future.

Are your Q&A pairs going unused?

RFPIO’s Q&A pairs is one of the most exciting features on the platform. Users can upload any type of document and customize it to suit their needs. In addition, you can edit and store content in almost 20 languages. In other words, the majority of what you need to respond to an RFP is right there, at your fingertips, and best of all, RFPIO is consistently learning.

How often do you manually respond to RFPs?

Sometimes, old habits die hard. Perhaps response managers feel they need to manually respond to justify their worth. RFPIO doesn’t want anyone to lose their job; we want to help them be more productive and respond to the RFPs they might not have had time for before automation.

How often do you automatically respond to RFPs?

RFPIO makes the RFP response process easy through near-total automation. Sure, some questions require at least partially manual responses to push the RFP over the finish line, but RFPIO will take you as much as 80 percent of the way toward full automation

If you aren’t automatically responding to every RFP that is worth a bid, we would love to hear from you and see how RFPIO will make the response process faster, less expensive, and, dare I say, enjoyable. 

How do you utilize your Content Library?

I’ll bet you that you’ve answered most questions on each RFP multiple times – perhaps for other customers. Utilize the Content Library to let RFPIO take care of the redundant and tedious aspects of response management. 

Is your Content Library content relevant and up to date?

Perhaps the most common feedback we get, especially from companies that aren’t fully utilizing RFPIO, is that they’re hesitant to use the Content Library because they haven’t audited it. Hence, their content isn’t up to date. I get that. It seems daunting to audit and update answers, but it’s not, and you can’t beat the long-term benefits.

Here at RFPIO, we refer to auditing the Content Library as getting rid of the ROT (redundant, outdated, or trivial content). Here is a simple guideline to take you through the process. 

I get it if you’re worried about deleting information you’ll need one day. Who hasn’t thrown something away in a fit of cleaning, only to need it the next day? Instead of deleting that information, you can warehouse it in case you might need it again in the future.

Are you utilizing your subject matter experts?

Subject Matter Experts (SME), which we sometimes pronounce “smee,” are, as the name implies, experts in proposals, sales, marketing, etc. Your SMEs might be experts on your organization or in their fields in general. They’re the people you turn to when you don’t know how to answer a particular question.

Do you have a moderation process?

Do you have a moderation process? Is the moderation process documented? When was the last time you checked the moderation’s organization settings? Does the content have owners and review cycles? How do you ensure your library is free of redundant, outdated, and trivial content?

The RFPIO features that help keep your content organized and current

Content Library Insights Report

Here’s a tip: Every time I perform an audit of a customer’s Content Library, I start with the Content Library Insights Report.

This report is also available for any filters you apply in the Content Library. So, for example, if you have an Archive collection set up, you can filter it out and look at the Insights report without skewing your data. 

This report is an excellent way to see what can be easily archived: Q&A pairs that you don’t use or pairs with a star rating of less than 3. This report can also help see if Owners are becoming inundated with reviews. Maybe you can reassign Q&A pairs to another SME.

I recommend customers look at the Content Library Insights Report and the Executive Dashboard routinely. Use them both to guide your content strategy and look for improvements.

Additionally, you may want to evaluate where you can use merge tags more. While a lot of our customers are familiar with the use of merge tags to replace a client or a company name in a proposal, did you know you can use merge tags for content that gets updated frequently? For example, track the number of employees in your organization or clients who use a specific product version. Updating that number once in the organization settings will reflect wherever the merge tag is used in your library and carry over into the project.

Lastly, many of our customers add on custom reporting to help guide their strategy. It allows for more in-depth reporting of custom fields and usage. I have seen customers use this feature to determine areas where they may need more content developed in their library.

Executive Dashboard

You never want to leave your response management team guessing. The Executive Dashboard provides your team insights at-a-glance. The dashboard tracks the lifecycle of your RFP from the time it’s received until it’s archived.

The Executive Dashboard lets users create reports, such as RFP viability, based on similar bids from the past. In addition, managers can pull win/loss analysis, average completion time, and identify the top contributors. 

If this blog post inspired you and you want to dive deeper into your workflow or content management strategy, RFPIO’s Professional Services Team can help! As an RFPIO customer, you can purchase bundles of Professional Services hours for specific projects and initiatives. You’ll work alongside a Professional Services consultant like myself for the entirety of your engagement. Reach out to your customer success manager or account manager, and they’ll connect you with a member of my team who can scope your project.

 

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