I’ve spent my entire career in software sales and marketing. I have hustled to bring in hot leads, accelerate the sales cycle, and win deals — which means I’ve invested hundreds of hours of my life thinking about, working on and responding to RFPs — a necessary evil when it comes to winning new business.
RFPs have always felt like a never ending paper chase — a miserably slow process that inevitably required hunting down answers from product management, running conflicts with legal, troubleshooting issues with IT, and confirming numbers with finance. Those who are familiar know — the list goes on. Marketing, sales and business development professionals spend countless hours inefficiently sifting through previous answers to repetitive questions, chasing responses to new questions, verifying the information and seeking approvals over and over again. The process is complex, time-consuming and a strain on any organization’s resources.
Despite the rapid evolution of technology, for many businesses, the RFP process has changed very little from my experiences at the beginning of my career more than a decade ago. Marketing teams are still using manual processes to put together proposals, using answers pulled from any number of sources that may reside in Excel spreadsheets, shared Google docs and even email archives.
That said, not only do we desperately wish the RFP process were more efficient, the industry is beginning to demand it, which is where emerging software stands to make tremendous impact to the RFP landscape.
Benefits of RFP Software
Beyond making the construction of an RFP less painful; establishing a quick, repeatable process for RFPs can have a direct impact on revenue. This is where emerging RFP technology steps in.
RFP software centralizes and catalogs common questions and responses in a content library. Most of these solutions are cloud-based and support real-time collaboration between proposal managers, subject matter experts and executive-level approvers.
In particular, RFP360 enables users to quickly:
- Save, find and reuse content with a custom Knowledge Base
- Work with coworkers on the same version of a single document
- Assign questions, track progress and automate reminders
- Automate responses with AI that identifies questions and selects the correct response
- Access the Knowledge Base and work on proposals in Word, Excel and Chrome with plug-ins.
As a result, users of a RFP360’s proposal management solution have reported that they were able to dramatically cut total response times, increase the number of RFPs they are able to complete and, at the same time, improve their overall win rates.
We responded to 85 percent more RFPs this year than we did last year, and we increased our advancement rate by 9 percent.
Erica Clausen-Lee, chief strategy officer with InfoMart
With quicker responses, you’ll have more overall opportunities to deliver consistent, accurate and efficient responses that are more likely to win the business.
Boost RFP Consistency
Using the platform’s Knowledge Base, users can easily store, organize, search and reuse past proposal content, giving them a head start on RFP responses. A centralized hub for proposal content keeps your team from rewriting existing answers, allowing you to collect data and keep the best answers for future use.
We have the security of knowing our knowledge is safe and consistent. We don’t have to worry that we’ll lose any SME expertise if someone quits or takes a vacation. We’re not spending hours hunting down previous answers and trying to figure out who is doing what because all the questions and answers are right there in RFP360.
Improve RFP Accuracy
Incorrect or outdated answers can be tricky to catch, even for the most experienced team member. When paired with the commonly occurring quick-turn deadline on an RFP, the risk of providing flawed information compounds. Unfortunately, inaccurate information can also be extremely costly in that it can cost you the very business you are aiming to pursue. An incorrect RFP response can lead to exclusion from consideration, prolonged negotiations, delays in contracting or worse.
Cloud-based RFP software addresses this problem by allowing teams to update their responses from anywhere at any time with the confidence of knowing the change is reflected system wide.
For example, this type of functionality is a great tool to have when a product or service undergoes frequent updates that need to be included in a standard response. In many cases, faced with this type of change, teams must run through an entire organizational chart to ensure updates are adopted institutionally and then follow up with each member to ensure it’s been made at an individual level while also double-checking each proposal before they go out. It’s exhausting.
Cloud-based RFP software manages these changes for the entire business and serves as a single clearinghouse for evolving content.
Enhance RFP Efficiency
The biggest benefit of RFP software is how quickly efficiency is improved — in its own way, the time it takes to build an RFP using this type of technology is comparable to the difference between driving coast-to-coast and flying. Many RFP software solutions, including RFP360, are also cloud-based, which allows for quick deployment, meaning that the results are almost instantaneous.
Time to value (TtV) is the idea that there’s a clock that tracks how long it takes a customer from signed contract to the ‘ah-ha moment’ when they fully understand the value and unlock the potential of the software. For RFP software, this moment typically happens a few weeks after the contract has been signed when the user is working with the customer experience team on their first RFP. The standard answers and the first proposal are uploaded to the system, then the ah-ha moment — the software recognizes the questions and inserts the correct answers, completing on average around 60 to 70 percent of the RFP – in a moment’s time.
We found that RFP360’s interface was the most intuitive and easy to get up and running. There’s been a very minimal learning curve for us, and it allowed our performance to increase almost right away.
The evolution of the RFP process gives users time back to focus on higher-level, strategic initiatives.
It’s definitely made us more efficient. RFP360 has given us back our time and allowed us to really pick and choose our projects. We’re not frantic anymore. We can take a deep breath, focus on being strategic and make sure we’re choosing the right projects and providing quality responses.
Brandon Fyffe, business development associate at CareHere
RFP Technology Must-Haves
- Business beyond RFPs – Response software isn’t just for RFPs, you can also manage requests for information (RFIs), security and due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), requests for qualifications (RFQs) and more. The technology can be used for any type of standardized question and answer form with repeatable answers.
- Best-in-class usability and support – Not everyone who works on RFPs is a super user. RFPs require input from many departments and subject matter experts with varying levels of technical skill. Pick a solution that is easy-to-use and intuitive with excellent customer support.
- Experience and stability – As with any SaaS technology provider, you can expect regular updates and enhancements from your RFP technology, but make sure the company has the experience to deliver genuinely useful features that you can count on.
- Knowledge Base – Every RFP solution should include a searchable content hub that allows your users to easily collaborate and provide updates to the responses assigned to them. Look for a solution that leverages AI to match common questions to their responses.
- Intelligent plug-ins and integrations – RFP technology should work with the programs you use. Look for plug-ins that allow you to use your knowledge base while working to on your response in programs like Word or Excel. The software should also integrate with key CRM and productivity applications to seamlessly support your RFP existing processes.
Waste Less Time And Win More RFPs
RFPs are about winning. They’re designed to help the buyer decide who is best, and the faster you can prove that your business fits the bill, the better. RFP software accelerates your process to get you into consideration faster, close more business and give you even more opportunities to win.
As marketing teams become even more aligned and collaborative with revenue operations, RFP technology becomes even more crucial to the process. The demand for quick RFP responses isn’t going away. So don’t wait until you can’t take it anymore to adopt tech that saves you time on your RFPs. Your competitors certainly won’t.