Congratulations, you’ve been invited to participate in an RFP! Is there another acronym that can create such internal conflict in a sales organization? While many vendors are rightfully suspicious of the integrity of the RFP process, even the most virtuous buyer can send an ill-equipped sales team into a tizzy. Think about it. You’ve received a long questionnaire from a prospective user of your product or services, and in many cases, the invitation to submit a proposal is your first contact with the company.
As a sales professional, you’re in the relationship business, but this request seems to stand in the way of your getting facetime with the stakeholder on the other side of the process. Building rapport is a critical step in developing a deal. However, if you look at this from the perspective of the buyer, you might get some insight into the value of the RFP. Do you think that a buyer, or in some cases a purchasing team, has the bandwidth to indulge every salesperson who wants to get to know them and understand their needs and motivations? Of course not. The RFP isn’t a modern torture device that buyers unleash on vendors. Rather, it functions as a gatekeeper which works to your benefit as well. By allowing buyers to sort through vendor offerings across a predetermined set of criteria, the RFP saves everyone — vendors included! — lots of time.
As a vendor, you know that that if you’ve been shortlisted, the odds are good that this opportunity is in your wheelhouse. However, even if a sales team respects the RFP process, participating in it can still be a drag. Most RFP responses are stored in seemingly random folders on the computers of various members of the sales team. Teams that are more organized might have a giant spreadsheet or document that lists all of the questions that they’ve received as well as all the answers that they have provided. Believe it or not, doing that is miles better than putting together an ad hoc response. And for most companies, this is the gold standard. Companies are spending hours reading through countless documents trying to come up with an effective response strategy that will stand out and win new business. The process can be extremely inefficient for many companies for reasons that include, but are not limited to:
- Losing emails because they are incorrectly sent to junk mail folders
- Deliverability challenges due to large files sizes
- Accidentally including or excluding people on an email
- Forgetting to include an attachment
If this all sounds familiar, RFP response management software may already be on your radar to see a better ROI. It can mean the difference between winning new business or losing out to one of your competitors. Transitioning from the old-fashioned approach of spreadsheets and documents to an automated RFP management process can help your organization:
Submit better responses by easily engaging with SMEs.
How can you properly respond to questions without engaging the subject matter experts? It is critical for organizations to identify key stakeholders who can offer informed responses on different areas of the RFP and focus solely on the questions that they are best equipped to answer. SMEs offer valuable input for RFP responses, but the RFP process is often a low priority for them which makes their time is challenging to come by. With RFP response management software, you can automate the process by assigning questions, due dates and setting up reminders to review the answers of your organization’s subject matter experts. Transparency and communication among internal stakeholders is key for keeping the RFP process on track, especially when you’re trying to meet a tight deadline.
Increase consistency in responses in a centralized location.
Consistency in responses is often a common pitfall for organizations. If you are engaging with multiple SMEs, your RFP responses are most likely stored across various departments in emails, folders and spreadsheets. It is important to customize your responses for each company but there is no need to give different answers to the same question when you can re-use past winning responses. RFP response management software gives you the ability to upload documents with questions and answer from previous RFPs. Imagine seeing your response history and knowing how you responded to the same question in a previous RFP!
Consolidation of knowledge and information.
Have you ever written a really complex RFP answer, but you had to dig through all your past RFPs or email to find it? Managing your RFP process in a single centralized location is the best way to ensure everyone involved in the process has access to the data and documents they need. Consolidating information makes it easy for you to:
- Work in the same version as every responder on the team— no more merging documents
- Easily assign writers to their sections and questions
- Attach files and embed media in your responses
Shorten turnaround time for responses.
By eliminating manual tasks, you shorten the turnaround time for responses and will NEVER miss a deadline again. Automation will reduce the time spent rifling through Word documents, email and spreadsheets. It also will cut back on the time SMEs spent on the process, ultimately saving your organization money. Think about how much time you currently spend editing responses, searching through emails or rewriting responses.