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13 top blogs for response professionals

13 top blogs for response professionals

I like to think of RFP response managers as the unsung heroes of their organizations. In a typical company, around […]


13 top blogs for response professionals

13 top blogs for response professionals

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

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

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

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

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

Best blogs for general business trends

1. Gartner

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

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

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

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

 

2. McKinsey & Company

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

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

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

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

3. Learning Hub from G2

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

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

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

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

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

4. Insight Partners Blog

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

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

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

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

Best marketing blogs

5. Hubspot Blog

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

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

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

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

6. Seth’s Blog

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

Post you should start with: Contracts and Power

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

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

7. Martech Blog

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

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

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

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

Best proposal blogs

8. Proposal PRO

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

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

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

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

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

9. Presentation Zen

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

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

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

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

10. RFPIO Blog

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

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

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

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

11. Winning the business

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

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

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

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

Best writing blogs

12. Grammarly

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

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

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

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

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

13. Business Writing

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is knowledge management?

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

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

Are organizations achieving their objectives?

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

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

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

Creating and maintaining a content library

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

Doing the content management heavy lifting

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

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

Be organized and keep track of your own work

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

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

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

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

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

  • Usage
  • Recency
  • Completeness

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

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

Review most-used content first

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

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

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

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

Review zero-times-used content

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

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

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

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

Keep your review/moderation queue current

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

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

Break down your content to achieve success

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

High-level groups of content

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Report, report, report

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

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

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

Reporting metrics should include the following:

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

Let leadership determine reporting frequency

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

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

Be consistent and strategic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monetize the value of time spent

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

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

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

Think about the next thing coming

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

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

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

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

Technology-enabled content review

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

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

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

How Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using RFPIO

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

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

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

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

Making RFPIO’s potential a reality

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

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

RFPIO is now central to Accruent’s RFP process

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

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

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

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

The result: submitting more RFPs, with more confidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

RFPIO CEO sees opportunity in the changing economy

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

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

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

The economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RFPs in a changing economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Navigating changing times

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

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

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

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

Wendy: Does RFPIO have a role beyond response management?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wendy: What about security spending?

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

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

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

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

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

Wendy: Thank you, Ganesh.

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

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

Knowledge management best practices: Gaining company buy-in

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

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

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

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

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

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

The importance of information governance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of good information governance include:

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

Proving value to leadership beyond just cost

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

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

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

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

Who are your key decision-makers?

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

Working with your content teams

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

Monetize the value of time spent and time saved

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

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

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

How to make friends with your SMEs

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

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

Keep your SMEs engaged by:

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

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

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

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

Communicate with leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Content hoarders

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

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

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

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

People who know the answers

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

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

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

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

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

People reluctant to change

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

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

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

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

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

The knowledge management platform that instills trust

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Understand the need for a Content Library refresh

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

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

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

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

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

2. Use a strategic approach for a Content Library refresh

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Get SMEs and stakeholders on board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Michelle Johnson, VP of Growth Marketing, GEODIS Americas

5. Carry out the Content Library refresh

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Show the value of the Content Library refresh

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

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

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

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

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

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

—Penny Lane, Senior Proposal Manager, GEODIS Americas

On track for a best-in-class Content Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

What is a Request for Quote (RFQ)?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is an RFQ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

RFQ vs. RFP

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits of using an RFQ

Comparison

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

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

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

Consistency

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

Streamlining

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

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

When you might receive an RFQ

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

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

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

Features of an RFQ

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

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

How to respond to an RFQ

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

Submission instructions

Almost every RFQ includes the following:

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

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

How to determine whether you should respond

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

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

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

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

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

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

Include an executive summary

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

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

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

Templatize your pricing

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

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

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

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

Specifications

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

Contract and fees

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

How to respond to a security questionnaire

How to respond to a security questionnaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is a security questionnaire?

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

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

DDQ vs. security questionnaire

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preparing for a security questionnaire response

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

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

Components of a security questionnaire

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

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

Types of security questionnaires

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

Security Questionnaires and Security Questionnaires Lite – Standardized Information Gathering Questionnaires

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

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

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

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

Step 1 – Search for all available materials

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

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

Step 1 with RFPIO – Prebuilt centralized Content Library

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

Step 2 – Answer only the pre-existing matching responses

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

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

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

Step 3 – Group all unanswered questions and collaborate with SMEs

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

Step 3 with RFPIO – Automate through AI

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

Step 4 – Follow up and track the status of responses

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

Step 4 with RFPIO – Streamline collaboration through project management capabilities

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

Step 5 – Manually collate and complete the questionnaire

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

Step 5 with RFPIO – Export to the source file

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

Security questionnaire response obstacles

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

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

Priorities and tips for the response process

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

Streamlining workflow

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

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

Improving Content Library

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

Keeping information up-to-date

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

Software for security questionnaire responses

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

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

Automation

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

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

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

Templated responses

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

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

RFPIO’s approach to security questionnaire responses

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

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

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 due diligence questionnaires and security questionnaires. 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 a DDQ is part of a sales process, and even if it’s not, response software such as RFPIO makes answering it 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.

RFP process recommendations

RFP process recommendations

Drawing a clear line between business activities and profits is often challenging. But two things that have a clear impact on the business bottom line are: the number of RFP (request for proposal) responses you complete, and the quality of the proposals you submit. 

Every time you fail to respond to an RFP by the deadline, that’s a sale you’ve lost. And any time you send a lackluster proposal because you were rushed and sloppy in getting it out (relatable though that may be), your chances of landing that sale don’t improve by much.  

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Guide: How to Build and Use an RFP Response Template

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

Get the guide

Even understanding the value of a competitive RFP response, many companies struggle to complete persuasive proposals in a timely manner. If every RFP at your business requires internal scrambling and stress, that means you lack a strong RFP process. And that lack is costing you. 

What is an RFP Process?

An RFP process consists of the steps your company takes each time you respond to an RFP, the tools you use to enable those steps, and the people who complete them. Establishing a clearly defined process for RFP responses is crucial for getting more proposals out on deadline and ensuring each one is high-quality. 

Designing a Great RFP Process

At companies that lack a clear RFP process entirely, the response to an RFP can tend toward disorganized chaos. But while any RFP process is better than no process at all, a weak one can still leave your team unorganized, unprepared, and overwhelmed. That won’t improve your results by much. 

A great RFP response process is one that’s clearly defined, efficient, and consistently produces strong proposals. You’ll know you’re on the right track when collaboration between team members starts to run more smoothly, you increase the number of RFP responses submitted, and the workload of completing each one decreases. Oh, and when you start to win more of those RFPs, of course. That’s the best part. 

7 RFP Process Recommendations

To create the kind of RFP process that achieves those results, you’ll want to follow a few main RFP process recommendations. 

1. Determine the right tools for the job

The tools you use impact what your RFP process will look like. Many companies default to using the basics:

  • 28% rely on spreadsheets to capture information
  • 54% use email for communication and shared folders like Google Drive to share information
  • 84% stick with a manual process for RFP responses 

In some cases, those tools do the job just as well as you need them to. 

But if you’re struggling to stay on top of RFPs using the tools you have now, this is a good opportunity to consider whether it’s time for an upgrade. As you develop a clear RFP process—or work on updating the one you have—consider what needs you have that a new product (or a couple) could address.

If the stakeholders involved in your RFP response process can’t seem to get on the same page, you may want to go beyond email and invest in better collaboration tools. If your SMEs (subject matter experts) bristle at having to answer the same questions over and over again with each new RFP, a good knowledge management tool will help them reuse the work they’ve already done.

And if your team is letting relevant RFPs slip by because you can’t get them done in time, RFP automation software can considerably cut down on the time and work each proposal requires. Companies that invest in RFP software manage to submit 43% more RFP responses than those without. 

Be careful here not to confuse picking a product with solving your RFP response issues. The right tool has to be matched to the right process to make a meaningful difference. But once you’ve identified the tools that best address the RFP process challenges you face now, you can develop a more effective process based on the features you gain.  

2. Evaluate RFPs strategically

Even with an awesome team and the right products, you won’t be able to respond to every single RFP that comes your way. Crafting a strong proposal takes time, and submitting a sloppy one isn’t worth the effort. To keep the work manageable, an important RFP management best practice is developing criteria to determine which RFPs are worth your time.

Some useful questions to consider at this stage are:

  • Is our product even a fit for this RFP? You’re not going to win an RFP if your product doesn’t meet their needs. And you wouldn’t want to—trying to make your product stretch to do something it’s not meant for would be a bad experience for both of you. If you’re not the right answer to what they’re looking for, skip the RFP.
  • Is this company in our target market? Some prospects are worth more to your business than others. If you haven’t yet, define your ideal customer. Then weigh RFPs against how closely the company matches your target market. You may find it worthwhile to respond to RFPs for companies that don’t exactly match your ideal customer profile, but any time you have to choose between RFPs based on your capacity, it will help you prioritize your options.
  • Can they afford us? Don’t go through the whole process of responding to their RFP and pitching your product, only to learn that their budget is far too small. Consider this question upfront, so you don’t waste your time.
  • Do we have a relationship with the company? Any good salesperson can tell you that who you know is a big part of how sales get made. If the company issuing the RFP already has a prior relationship with your company, then you’ve got a bit of a head start.
  • Can we realistically meet this deadline? There’s no point in devoting the hours and work to starting on an RFP that you don’t have time to finish. If you can’t realistically meet the deadline with the resources available to you, let that RFP go. 

One of the fastest ways to make your RFP process more efficient is to weed out the bad-fit RFPs early on. That frees up time and resources to focus on the ones you most want to win.

3. Design your process to prioritize speed

RFP responses require a lot of labor hours. But when deadlines loom, taking the care you need to get every part of the RFP response just right can feel out of reach. And since your salespeople and SMEs have other important obligations, you can’t ask too much of their time without it costing your organization in other ways.

A good RFP process has to find the balance between working fast and doing good work. If you can hire more people to help, that’s one easy solution. But it’s an expensive one that isn’t always an option. If you’re at one of the 63% of organizations with no plan to increase staff, you have to look for ways to make your process more efficient.

Some of the RFP process recommendations on this list will help with this part, but additional tips to consider for efficiency:

  • Commit to moving fast to get started once an RFP makes it through your evaluation process. 
  • Create standard answers for as many common parts of the RFP as possible, so part of the work is already done. Something like company information doesn’t need to be written from scratch every time, when it mostly stays consistent.
  • Establish the priority level for RFP responses throughout the organization, so everyone involved in a response knows not to let it sit on the desk for weeks. Establishing a service level agreement (SLA) between departments can help with this. 

Considering efficiency as you define your process will pay off in faster and easier responses as you enact it. 

4. Clarify roles and responsibilities

When it’s time to move forward with an RFP, if you have to stop and figure out who should be assigned to each part of the process, that’s time wasted. If you then have to spend time convincing them to do their part, you’re facing an unnecessary bottleneck to the whole process—one that will lead to missed deadlines.

Instead, do this part in advance. Clarify who will consistently take charge of each part of the process. Figure out who the right SMEs are for each RFP section, so you always know who to turn to. Then make sure everyone knows their role and understands the importance of the process.  

Once you have your team clearly defined, ask them to provide their input on the RFP process. What would make their job easier? How can you best enable collaboration and communication between the whole team? Letting the key stakeholders weigh in will help you create a process that works for all of them. 

5. Use the content you already have

A smart way to cut down on the work and time involved in a RFP response is to use the content you already have. Answering every question in an RFP from scratch every time is extremely time and labor intensive. Consulting a Content Library to see if a good answer already exists is much faster and easier.

In order for this to be a useful part of your RFP response process, you do need to create and maintain a Content Library. Establish a library that collects all the best answers to the common questions you encounter in one place. Then think about how best to organize it so those answers are easy to find the moment your team needs them. Employing features like tagging, custom fields, and collections can improve discoverability, which is especially valuable when your team is in a time crunch. 

Having a well managed content library only matters if people use it. Make it part of your established RFP response process to look for any answers that already exist. The team will often want to tweak existing content to make it more relevant to the specific RFP they’re working on, but that’s still a lot faster than writing up a new answer from scratch.

6. Agree on clear metrics to evaluate your RFP process

No matter how much thought you put into developing a strong RFP process now, there will be room for improvement. Think through what a successful RFP process means to you, then select the best metrics to evaluate your success. 

Tracking relevant metrics enables you to spot ways the RFP process falls short, so you can improve it over time. And it’s how you gain proof of improved results, which is key for keeping (or gaining) the support of your executives and SMEs. 

Some RFP process metrics to consider include:

  • Number of RFP responses
  • Average response rate
  • Average response time
  • Time spent per RFP
  • RFP win rate

You’ll want to include metrics that measure process efficiency, as well overall results. A faster process is only valuable if quality doesn’t suffer as a result. 

7. Evaluate and improve

Anytime you get complacent, you stop improving. Make evaluating your process a regular part of the process itself. Review your metrics to determine if you’re meeting your goals. Check in with all stakeholders to gain feedback on their experience. And update your RFP process as needed to incorporate what you learned. 

Continual RFP process improvement will lead to a number of benefits that go beyond the RFP process itself. You’ll strengthen your Content Library, improve the relationship between internal teams, and increase overall revenue for the company. But getting those results requires doing the work to analyze how well your process works and strengthen your approach over time. 

Examples of high-quality RFP processes

Does putting all of this work into creating a great RFP process really make a difference? A number of companies have put that question to the test and seen notable results.

RFP Process Example #1: 

Between entrenched silos and outdated software (that everyone involved in the process hated), a health insurance company realized their RFP process was an inefficient mess. Getting RFP responses out was too slow, and none of the stakeholders involved ever knew enough about what was going on. They decided to address the issue by reworking the process to make it more user friendly. They incorporated RFPIO AI-powered automation into the process to save stakeholders time on the more tedious tasks, and made collaboration easier between team members.

With a new, improved process powered with better tools, they:

  • Improved collaboration between team members and opened easier lines of communication, so that everyone involved could keep up-to-date on the status and results of each RFP
  • Created a content library that helped them create consistent messaging and re-use quality content that’s already been created
  • Reduced the time it took to complete the RFI (request for information) portion of the process from around five days to just a few hours

RFP Process Example #2:

Small teams often feel buried under the work RFPs require, but hiring more people isn’t always an option. A two-person team at a growing software company could never manage to keep their content library up-to-date, because the process of manual updates was slow, and chasing the next RFP kept them too busy. 

But responding to those RFPs without an up-to-date Content Library to pull from was a slow and tedious process. They were stuck. So they looked at their RFP process. 

They changed the system they used for updating their Content Library by introducing RFPIO response software that made adding new content much easier. And instead of asking SMEs to provide answers to RFP questions in color-coded spreadsheets—a system that caused a lot of confusion and wasted time—RFPIIO allowed the proposal team to assign questions to each SME that would show up for them in an email. Much easier for all involved.

As a result, they: 

  • Doubled the content in their library within a few months, ensuring future RFPs are easier to respond to
  • Enabled their tiny team to manage more RFP responses at a time, while keeping track of where they are in all of them
  • Managed to submit 16 RFPs on deadlines in the first year of using their new RFP process—not bad for a two-person team

Creating a more effective RFP process

Whatever your particular challenges and needs, better RFP results start with developing an improved process. Many aspects of that process will be easier, faster, and produce higher quality RFP responses if you choose the best tool for the job.

RFPIO offers features that help with several parts of the RFP process. Some highlights include:

  • Collaboration tools that allow stakeholders to communicate with each other, clearly understand their role in the process, and stay updated on each RFP’s status
  • Automation tools that do a portion of the work of each RFP for you, significantly cutting down on the time commitment
  • A Content Library that enables you to easily update and organize your knowledge base in ways that make reusing existing content and finding the best answer every time fast and easy
  • A system that automatically tracks the most important RFP process metrics, so you can evaluate and improve your process with minimal extra work

Creating the right RFP process for your organization will work a lot better if you have the right tool for the job. To get started on your new, improved RFP process, get in touch with RFPIO’s team

 

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