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How to maximize ROI of a strategic response management platform

How to maximize ROI of a strategic response management platform

Leading RFP teams and other responders have 16 percent higher win rates and 34 percent more revenue, according to the […]

How to maximize ROI of a strategic response management platform

How to maximize ROI of a strategic response management platform

Leading RFP teams and other responders have 16 percent higher win rates and 34 percent more revenue, according to the Responsive 2023 Strategic Response Management Maturity Report. Of those leaders, 52 percent use strategic response management (SRM) tools like Responsive. While most organizations use SRM to increase efficiency, improve collaboration and add visibility into response processes, selling its value to budget stakeholders often comes down to good ol’ return on investment (ROI).

To quantify your prospective ROI from a SRM platform, we recommend following the advice of one of our favorite customers, Microsoft: capture, quantify and communicate.

  • Capture user numbers, time spent on the platform, most-used content and other data available through the platform’s reporting capabilities.
  • Quantify the insight by comparing new data to old data (e.g., time spent searching for content before/after SRM) and attach a dollar value based on user salary averages.
  • Communicate the results to stakeholders such as team managers who want to optimize SRM tool usage and executives who are monitoring proposal team contribution to the overall organization.

SRM is usually brought in initially to fix one specific problem (e.g., increase RFP response efficiency by 40%). In doing so, a valuable collection of your best content comes together in the Content Library. By providing access to this library to your entire organization, other SRM use cases quickly arise in InfoSec, sales, marketing, legal, product development and more.

The best part is that we have proof that this works. The following four ROI profiles from Microsoft, CAPTRUST, AppviewX, and Teradata illustrate how to successfully achieve significant ROI by leveraging an SRM platform.

Microsoft’s time saved for the field

Microsoft, a global technology leader, implemented Responsive SRM in 2019. At the time,  leaders for the Microsoft Proposal Center of Excellence wanted to be able to share proposal-ready (i.e., vetted, compliant, up-to-date, technically accurate) content with the entire company. They targeted the global sales organization specifically, to enable individual team members to build high-quality proposals based on content under constant curation by the Proposal Center of Excellence team. After a meticulous approach to implementation, Microsoft now has more than 17,000 Responsive users.

Microsoft believes in a capture-quantify-communicate model of illustrating platform value. Data captured includes use count, number of active users, win rate, dollars won and ROI. For ROI, the primary metric is time saved for the field, from which they extrapolate a dollar amount saved. 

For example, in 2022, Microsoft saved 21K hours on 63K responses through Responsive. They saved $4.2M in search time alone (these numbers don’t quantify the fact that the answers found were always correct). Time not spent searching for content can instead be dedicated to building customer relationships and pipeline.

Play Video

For more on how Microsoft calculates their SRM ROI, how SRM is used across the company and why they’re excited about AI capabilities and API integrations,
watch this video.

Key Takeaway: Calculate how much time you spend searching for proposal content before you evaluate SRM platforms. As you progress through the proof of concept and trial the search functionality, you’ll be able to figure out how much time you stand to save.

CAPTRUST’s due diligence for implementing AI

CAPTRUST, a leading investment advisory firm, initially brought in Responsive for two reasons. One, they wanted to modernize their process. It had grown cumbersome to track whether responses were accurate, compliant and current in an Excel spreadsheet. Two, as a rapidly growing firm, they needed a solution that could scale with the escalating workload and expectations.

After using Responsive for responding solely to RFPs, CAPTRUST recognized that a centralized Content Library of response-ready content was valuable to multiple teams. They now use Responsive to respond to due diligence questionnaires (DDQs) and security questionnaires. Additionally, CAPTRUST uses Responsive to issue investment management RFPs, bringing the firm’s RFP process full circle on a single platform.

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Recently, CAPTRUST was one of Responsive’s first financial services clients to add AI Assistant. This intuitive generative AI solution trains on CAPTRUST’s Content Library, which keeps the firm’s information private. Financial services firms are notoriously skeptical about using AI for fear of compromising client privacy or proprietary data. CAPTRUST’s IT team and Responsive worked hand-in-hand to make sure that AI Assistant was in compliance with all security and privacy requirements.

For more on how CAPTRUST is unifying all of its response processes on Responsive, watch this video.

Key Takeaway: Build a clean, compliant Content Library for a single use case and then grant access to that content to your whole organization. The value of your proposal-ready content and contribution to the overall success of your company will spread quickly.

AppViewX’s increased content review efficiency

AppViewX, a provider of network automation and orchestration solutions, struggled with Responsive the first time around. They weren’t fans of the legacy user experience. Eventually, their Q&A library got so clogged up that it was difficult to search efficiently. They left and tried a different solution. But not for long.

After using the other solution for a short period, AppViewX realized that Responsive provided capabilities for  assigning reviewers for content curation that were necessary for their organization, especially after the upgrades to the user experience. They returned to Responsive and worked with the customer success team to clean up their existing Q&A library while establishing automated review workflows to prevent future contamination.

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Now, with increased content review efficiency, AppViewX is winning more deals. And AI is sure to identify even more efficiencies. Deduplication of redundant content is already making a major impact and the team is looking forward to figuring out other use cases.

For more on AppViewX’s future plans with Responsive SRM, watch this video.

Key Takeaway: Disciplined curation of your content library enables SRM users to leverage greater efficiency benefits. These benefits will grow exponentially as AI use matures.

Teradata’s 4X+ faster turnaround of security questionnaires

Teradata, a leading data analytics and cloud services provider, found their SRM ROI in higher RFP response quality and increased security questionnaire efficiency.

Initially, Teradata used Responsive for RFP responses and unsolicited proposal development in support of their go-to-market organization. Theirs is a highly competitive industry in which almost every vendor is able to satisfactorily complete an RFP response. To stand out, Teradata uses Responsive to create customized, accurate and more polished responses than its competitors.

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The Teradata InfoSec team also uses Responsive to automate responses to standard security questionnaires. Auto Respond produces an immediate first draft that the InfoSec team can then customize. They have cut their response time from 40 hours to 10 hours or less for each questionnaire.

For more information on how Teradata is exploring how to expand Responsive’s function as a content repository across the organization, watch this video

Key Takeaway: Manage change to accelerate ROI. Communicate the value of the tool to your sales team end users. Provide reports to executive leadership to validate your team’s contributions.

These four use cases demonstrate how to maximize the ROI of an SRM platform. By automating manual tasks, centralizing content, enabling collaboration and leveraging analytics, organizations can:

  • Streamline response processes
  • Improve the quality of response deliverables
  • Enhance prospect engagement
  • Increase chances of winning new business 

Watch these videos for insight on how you can capture, quantify and communicate to illustrate the ROI of SRM.

Guide to a great RFP response process

Guide to a great RFP response process

You may have landed on this article because your RFP response process feels disorganized, slow, and downright stressful. First off: congratulations! Many companies don’t have any RFP process in place at all!

(If you don’t have a process yet, you can get started with this guide: How to create an RFP response process.)

So you’re already at an advantage. But, of course, the goal is to build a process that is efficient, reliable, repeatable, and ready to scale up for an increasing volume of RFPs. That’s what we’ll cover in this post.

Why your process matters

A streamlined, repeatable process is the most reliable tool in winning RFPs at scale. 

Do you have project management software? Who is your project manager? Do you have a list of subject matter experts (SMEs) and their schedules? What about other stakeholders, such as writers and editors? These are the questions that you’ll answer as you refine your process.

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

Creating a repeatable process establishes:

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

Basic components of an RFP

A typical RFP will outline the following:

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

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

Steps in the RFP response process

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

Step 1 – Go/no-go

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

Step 2 – Have a kickoff party

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

Step 3 – 1st draft

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

Step 4 – 2nd draft

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

Step 5 – Review and revise

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

Step 6 – Submit

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

Step 7 – Save and audit the responses

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

Step 8 – Postmortem

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

An example of a high-quality RFP process

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

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

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

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

RFP response process metrics

The go/no-go step is key to increasing your win rate, but knowing which RFPs to answer requires data. 

Tracking metrics should be part of your response process. Those metrics include the following:

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

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

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

For more information on response metrics, read here.

Best practices for a smarter RFP process

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

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

Only chase RFPs you can win

Stop wasting time on RFPs that are not a great fit. When assessing this during the go/no-go stage, ask yourself: Does your solution meet the minimum mandatory requirements for the RFP? Does your company have adequate bandwidth to take the project on? Does your price match the prospect’s budget? 

RFPs take a lot of time and effort, but not nearly as much time and effort as onboarding and supporting a customer that doesn’t fit your business or product development strategy. There are few things more frustrating than submitting and winning an RFP only to find out that you cannot follow through because it’s not a strategic fit for you or the issuer.

Encourage collaboration

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

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

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

Bring effective storytelling into your RFP responses

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

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

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

Automate your response process

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

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

Develop habits that support organizational success

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

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

Enable your sales team

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

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

Build repeatable processes

Any improvements need to be repeatable. For example, if you bring in a contract proposal manager for a response, then be prepared to do so every time. This is a process you will cycle through for every RFP. If it works as well as it should, then you may want to carry the process over to other responses, such as security questionnaires or due diligence questionnaires (DDQs).

The role of RFP software

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the right RFP software for your team

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

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

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

Responsive’s approach to the response process

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

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

Case study: A small software startup

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

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

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

RFP response management process FAQs

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

  • What is an RFP? – A request for proposal (RFP) is a document designed to solicit multiple bids for large organizational purchases.
  • What type of information and questions are included in an RFP? – An RFP provides in-depth descriptions of the customer needs, deadlines, and so on. It might ask for company history and details, pricing, related past projects, and projected deliverables, and so on.
  • Why do organizations issue RFPs? – Organizations issue RFPs to gather pricing and service comparisons in their desired formats.
  • Who responds to RFPs? – Some organizations have dedicated response departments. Others might respond through their sales teams.
  • Why are RFPs issued? – Organizations issue RFPs when their needs are complex and want to efficiently access multiple vendors. Governmental organizations, many nonprofits, and large companies send RFPs for every purchase exceeding a certain threshold.
  • Who is responsible for the RFP budget? – According to a poll conducted by the Responsive team, 50% of companies have assigned the RFP budget to their marketing team.
  • Who is responsible for the RFP tools? – More and more often, the answer is: marketing departments. Among the vast sea of marketing technology, RFP response software sits alongside CRMs, marketing automation, and project management platforms these solutions are all tuned to help the organization deliver a strong and growing revenue stream.
  • Who owns the RFP response process? – While it’s generally a collaborative process including executives, product developers, client success managers and more, the bottom-line responsibility often falls on marketers. After all, marketers are the best at crafting messaging and ensuring brand consistency, which is essential for a strong RFP.
  • What does RFP software do? – The short version is that RFP software helps organizations win more business using fewer resources. The longer version is that it utilizes your existing applications and teams, along with customizable tools and a robust Content Library, to become a revenue-generating engine.
  • Does Responsive do more than respond to RFPs? – As a response platform, Responsive will automatically respond to up to 80 percent of a request for information (RFI), request for quote (RFQ), security questionnaire, due diligence questionnaire, and more. As a sales-enablement tool, its proposal management features and Content Library will help you drive revenue. And as a business application, its built-in and customizable analytics will provide the information needed for informed decision-making.
  • Does Responsive integrate with existing applications?Responsive integrates with more than two dozen applications, including the most popular ones.
  • What if we need to add or subtract users? – Responsive has a best-in-class pricing model. Instead of purchasing licenses, we provide unlimited access.
  • Is Responsive secure? – Responsive has industry-leading security protocols. We are trusted by the world’s leading technology, healthcare, and financial services companies, including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Visa, Cigna, and far more.

9 best proposal software solutions: 2023 buying guide

9 best proposal software solutions: 2023 buying guide

Proposal software can deliver tremendous value to your business – helping you win more. But, as you may have already discovered, there’s an overwhelming number of solutions. While that means there’s a good option for every business and every budget, it also means that finding the best proposal software for your team can be a challenge. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.

In this buying guide, you’ll find everything you need to decide which type of proposal software is best for your needs, team and business. But, to start, we’ll just cut to the chase: Here’s our list of the top nine best proposal software solutions. You can click to jump straight to the list to see each solution in more detail, or explore our proposal software buying guide below.

9 best proposal software solutions (Click to jump to more detail)

  1. Responsive – Best all-around proposal software for revenue growth
  2. Bonsai – Best proposal software for consultants
  3. Better Proposals – Best proposal software for B2C proposals
  4. Visme – Best free proposal software for freelancers
  5. Smart Pricing Table – Best proposal software for simple, itemized quotes
  6. Nusii – Best proposal software for agencies
  7. Buildertrend – Best proposal software for construction job quoting
  8. Instrumentl – Best proposal software for grants
  9. Vendavo – Best proposal software for manufacturing quotes

Table of contents

Proposal software buying guide

Top 9 best proposal software solutions for 2023

Proposal software buying guide

What is proposal software?

Proposal software is technology that helps businesses create, manage and track proposals. Also called proposal management software, the technology simplifies the creation of professional proposals by providing pre-designed templates and a user-friendly interface. With proposal software, you can easily reuse and customize content, add images or videos, and format the document.

Types of proposal software

Searching “best proposal software” online will yield dozens of solutions. Literally. As of this writing, there are 201 solutions (and counting) listed in the proposal software category on G2. Part of the reason there are so many solutions is because the word ‘proposal’ is used in different ways in business.
For example, someone starting a new venture might want to write a business proposal to convince investors or partners to join. On the other hand, a non-profit may use proposal software to win grant funding. Fortunately, there’s a proposal software solution for every need.
In this buying guide, we’ll cover lots of different types of proposal software, but we’ll primarily focus on tools for the two most common proposal types: request for proposal responses and proactive proposals. Before you begin exploring software, it’s important for you to understand if your business needs to be able to create just one of these types of proposals or both.

Competitive proposals or RFP responses

If you receive and respond to requests for proposal (RFPs) to win business, you will need to focus on a software solution that enables you to quickly review the questions in the RFP and search previously used answers to create your bid. This is called a competitive proposal or RFP response.

RFP responses typically follow a format dictated by the buyer designed to allow them to compare vendors side by side and select a winner.

Proactive proposals

On the other hand, a proactive proposal is a bid that you provide outside of the request for proposal process. Often, a proactive proposal is used to formalize your offer to a potential buyer. For example, when you’re talking to a prospect and they say, “send me a proposal,” that’s considered a proactive proposal. It’s far more casual and informal than an RFP response. Indeed, because you’re initiating the proposal without any guidelines or restrictions from the buyer, you can create a document in whatever format you think will be most compelling.

Small businesses will most frequently create proactive proposals. However, as an organization scales and grows, competitive RFPs become more common. Most businesses use both approaches. However, many proposal software solutions are really only built for one or the other. To get the most out of your investment, consider a strategic response management software that does it all.

How to know if you need a proposal solution

For teams who create proposals using manual processes, the necessary technology stack may include email, Word, Excel, Sharepoint, Slack, Grammarly, Trello and scheduling software, just to name a few. While these tools can be adapted to work with the proposal process, it’s far from ideal and they fall short when it comes to maximizing efficiency and improving consistency.
On the other hand, the features within proposal management software brings much of the process into one centralized platform. It empowers your team to save time by reusing proposal content, improving collaboration and leveraging proposal automation to streamline the process.
The result? More consistent, complete and compelling proposals that take WAY less time to create and perfect.Consequently, any organization that creates proposals to provide information to potential customers and win business can benefit from proposal management software. However, there are a few common scenarios that usually prompt an investment in software.

  • Sales professionals are spending hours creating and formatting proposals, taking them away from selling.
  • The proposal manager is overwhelmed, struggling to create proposals and RFPs for the entire business.
  • An audit reveals a pattern of ineffective, inconsistent and inaccurate proposals.
  • An inability to quickly find proposal content, get SME input and secure final approval result in inefficiency, missed deadlines and lost revenue.
  • The business adopts an RFP strategy to facilitate business growth by answering more RFPs.

The value of any software investment depends on more than just features and functionality. Indeed, there are a number of intangible factors that are just as important. These considerations are about how the software and company work rather than what the tool does.

Benefits of proposal management software

Even if you’re not solving an immediate problem, finding and implementing the best proposal software delivers impressive benefits.

  • Create proposals and respond to RFPs in less time
  • Increase the volume of proposals you send
  • Build a valuable proposal content library to answer internal and external questions
  • Enhance team collaboration
  • Improve your overall win rate
  • Ensure consistency and repeatability
  • Reduce risk and ensure compliance
  • Capture win/loss data to optimize your process
  • Ensure knowledge retention and reduce new employee onboarding time

How to find the best proposal solution for your business

When considering software of any kind, it’s important to find a solution that has the features and functionality you need as well as the resources to support your team both now and in the future. There are plenty of proposal solutions that have all the right technical tools, but lack helpful customer success resources. Additionally, it’s wise to make sure that the solution you pick will be a good partner in the future as well.
As we work through our proposal software checklist, we’ve separated considerations into two categories: features (what the proposal solution actually does) and value (how the company providing the solution ensures your success).

Proposal software features and functionality

Here we’ll offer a list of proposal solution functionality and features to consider. While some of these things may feel basic, like search capabilities, the way each proposal solution solves that challenge will make a significant impact on usability and adoption. So, they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Content management features

There are a number of things to look for in a proposal content library, but above all, it should be easy to use. As you explore features and functionality, ask yourself if the average user would be able to quickly and easily use the software. Some of the factors listed below might be deal breakers for you while others are simply nice to have.
Search functionality

  • Keyword and Boolean advanced search for a Google-like experience
  • Exact match searches or synonym recognition with natural language processing
  • Duplicate record detection to avoid messy data and uncertainty
  • Search filtering by tag, category or metadata to narrow results
  • Plug-ins and extensions that empower you to access your content library outside of the platform while using a browser or application

Proposal creation and formatting

  • Customizable formatting and templates
  • Robust import capabilities to leverage previous proposals to create document templates
  • Ability to embed attachments, links, charts, images and video to enrich the content
  • Variable text fields for quickly customizing proposal templates to include customer information

Document and data management

  • Document delivery portal for certifications, security policies, terms and conditions
  • Content audit data and continual change tracking of user updates and change times
  • Categorization and tagging to separate and organize groups of data
  • Accounts, subaccounts, hierarchies and user roles so the right people have the right information
  • Data security certifications to ensure that your data, as well as your potential customer’s data is safe
  • Encryptions and data security

Workflow and collaboration features

From sales and marketing to legal and finance, there are a lot of people involved to successfully create a compelling proposal. If you ask a proposal manager what the most frustrating part of their job is, the phrase ‘herding cats’ is a common response.
Indeed, making sure the right people are involved in the right steps can be complex and cumbersome. Fortunately, proposal software makes managing the process, people, data and tasks involved in creating a proposal a lot easier.
Process and task management

  • Automatic suggestions for the subject matter experts based on topic expertise
  • Role assignment and notifications so who is responsible for what task is clear
  • Real-time progress tracking with easy to read visualizations for fast updates
  • Commenting notifications on tasks and projects

Collaboration functionality

  • Real-time, multi-user answer editing so your team can work simultaneously
  • Record notes and comments to share ideas and edit suggestions
  • Engage subject matter experts using Email, Slack and Teams and have their input centralized in the proposal software
  • Review and approval functionality to ensure accuracy and compliance

Questionnaire handling 

  • Import from Word, Excel and PDF to quickly begin creating a proposal
  • Section and question identification — either manual or automatic
  • Export back into buyer’s requested format: Word, Excel and PDF

Automation features

Proposal automation capabilities expand each year as technology advances. Indeed, because most RFP management platforms follow the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, you can expect to see regular improvements. Even now, automation brings your content and process together and completes tedious tasks for you.
Process automation

  • Deal analysis that reviews customer requirements to assist with bid or no bid discussions
  • Notifies contributors of assignments with individual emails
  • Sends follow-up reminders as the due date for incomplete work approaches
  • Suggestions and tips based on usage to improve efficiency
  • Reports and analysis of content, processes and outcomes

Content automation

  • Generative AI to write first drafts, customize existing content and optimize for the reader
  • Content translation into additional languages
  • Identifies and surfaces relevant answers using AI and natural language processing
  • Suggests most relevant answer based on match percentage or confidence score
  • Establishes regular content review cycles to prompt subject matter experts to update content


  • CRM integration (Salesforce, Hubspot, Dynamics 365, etc.)
  • Communication app integrations (Slack, Teams, Hangouts, etc.) for SME collaboration
  • Productivity app integrations (Microsoft Office, G-Suite)
  • Clouds storage integrations (Dropbox, Sharepoint, Box, OneDrive, etc.)
  • Sales enablement integrations (Seismic, Highspot, etc.)
  • Single sign on (SSO) to improve login process

Proposal software value considerations

When aiming to invest in the best proposal software solution, it’s important to weigh factors outside of features and functionality. These considerations have a huge impact on the overall value, long-term adoption and return on investment of your proposal solution.

Ease of use

To ensure adoption, your users must see the value of using the proposal tool. Consequently, the best proposal software is designed with this in mind and delivers value quickly. As you explore various tools through trials and demos, consider how it would work in your organization with your current team and process.
The biggest influences on ease of use are layout, process and navigation. Unfortunately, you’ll find that some tools simply can’t be used productively without regular practice.
So, ask yourself:

  • Could an occasional user follow the process inside the platform with minimal assistance?
  • Is the layout and user experience intuitive? Are the features easy to find and use?
  • Can an untrained user navigate the platform and complete basic actions without support?

Ease of use is particularly important in organizations where subject matter experts and executive approvers vary from one project to another. Generally, they may only use the system a handful of times per year each.

Company vision

You want to invest in an proposal solution that can keep you ahead of your competitors. Look for a company that innovates quickly, adopts new technology and routinely releases product updates and enhancements. Some good questions to ask are:

  • Is the company growing year over year?
  • Do they implement changes when they receive customer feedback?
  • Are they updating the software regularly to optimize performance and add new features?

The best proposal software solutions also create thought leadership content, follow industry trends and work closely with experts in the field. Ideally, they use these insights to create new features that deliver value to your business.

Customer success

Customer success (CS) and company culture go hand-in-hand. When you work with customer success teams, you’ll quickly understand what the company’s priorities are.

No matter what RFP software you select, you’ll go through onboarding and implementation with the customer success team. So, clear communication and organization is important.

Helpful customer success questions to ask:

  • What level of training and support is included?
  • Can you talk with a CS manager with experience in your industry?
  • What resources are available for self-service support?
  • How will the company ensure successful implementation and adoption?

Customer support should be readily available, friendly and knowledgeable. While the platform should be easy to use, the best proposal software companies are always there to help when you need it.

Value and return on investment

As with all software purchases, value is always a factor. But wait — notice I didn’t say price. Certainly, the two are related, but they’re not the same thing. Often, value is quantified in a return on investment (ROI) calculation. The higher the ROI, the better. So, when weighing the long-term value of proposal platforms, consider:

  • Is the platform designed for large team collaboration? Will you be able to easily scale in the future?
  • Are there additional use cases (RFIs, RFQs, DDQs, SOWs) to add more value?
  • Can you replace or consolidate systems if you adopt this technology?
  • How will the company ensure successful implementation and adoption?

The best proposal software companies can quickly provide quantifiable ROI results for their customers. Using this information, you can predict your own results.

Top 9 best proposal software solutions for 2023

As you might imagine, it’s our business to know the ins and outs of proposal software. So, we’ve gathered our picks for the top proposal software solutions. These selections were made based on our own research, customer reviews and market intelligence.
All of the proposal software solutions featured below are cloud-based. They empower your team to improve the proposal process including writing, designing, collaborating, sending and saving your work.

1. Responsive – Best all-around solution for revenue growth

Overview: Responsive is a strategic response management platform, meaning that not only you can manage both competitive and proactive proposals, but you can also use it to respond to any kind of information request. That’s why it’s our top pick for teams that need to grow revenue and scale. The platform has tons of value to offer and is constantly offering updates and new features that keep users at the cutting edge.
Highlights: Easy-to-manage content library, tons of automation functionality including a GPT/generative AI writing assistance, dozens of integrations, intuitive proposal templates and highly-rated customer service

“If you’re looking to manage the proposal process from start to finish, look no further.” – Amanda via G2

Industries: Information technology and software, financial services, healthcare, business services, education
Use cases: Responding to RFPs, RFQs and RFIs, creating proactive proposals, answering vendor risk assessments, completing due diligence questionnaires, submitting responses in online portals
Benefits: Responsive’s customers report cutting the time required for proposal creation by up to 50 percent. They also report increasing the number of proposals they by 5x. The resulting savings adds up and customer ROI figures are impressive.
Considerations: The Responsive platform is incredibly robust and offers tremendous all-around value. However, the depth of features, content management tools and customizations may be more than some small teams need.

2. Bonsai – Best for consultants

Overview: If you’re like most consultants, you have your proposals down to a science. And, you know better than most that time is money. Fortunately, Bonsai is the best proposal software for consultants to save time and deliver more value to clients. With this proposal solution, you can easily organize projects by client and track your time.
Highlights: Thoughtfully designed for consultants, Bonsai includes a client portal for sharing info and collaborating, financial tools like contracting and invoicing, and task tracking.

“All my client management is in one place. The contract and proposal templates are super helpful and super customizable. Everything is flexible to work with the needs of my business.” – Cata via G2

Industries: Consultancies, professional services, marketing and advertising agencies and recruiting
Use cases: Client management, proactive proposals, consultancy templates, managing contracts and invoicing, time and financial tracking
Results: While ROI figures and quantifiable results are difficult to find on their site, customer reviews report that centralizing client management saves them time when creating and sending documents. Additionally, Bonsai improves payment management and processing.
Considerations: Many consultants respond to RFPs to win business. Unfortunately, Bonsai’s functionality isn’t a good fit for creating RFP responses. It’s also worth noting that a few reviews of Bonsai mention that onboarding and customer service has room for improvement.
Bonsai - Best Proposal Software for Consultants | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

3. Better Proposals – Best for B2C proposals

Overview: For business-to-consumer service providers like photographers, landscapers and lifestyle coaches, creating proposals is just part of the job — but it’s not the whole job. Better Proposals is the best proposal software for teams and professionals that just want to get back to their real job. It offers web-based proposals that combine visual elements with persuasive text. They also provide more than 200 templates helpful to service providers including proposals, contracts, quotes and statements of work.
Highlights: As with other tools on this list, Better Proposals focuses on usability. They have drag and drop proposal building blocks, robust customization options (including coding), branding style guide, eSignature, payment options and customer chat.

“This is hands down the best proposal solution I’ve ever used. It takes a bit to get your bearings but once you’re comfortable you can whip up awesome and engaging proposals, send them out, track interactions with them, and edit on the fly.” – Gregor via G2

Industries: Service providers, freelancers, creative consultants, marketing and advertising
Use cases: Proactive proposals, customer billing, contracts and statements of work
Benefits: Better Proposals that 76 percent of proposals sent through their platform were also paid through the system. So, if you struggle with billing and collections, this alone might be worth it. Additionally, they credit their 40+ integration options for making the proposal process 85 percent faster.
Considerations: Better Proposals is a great option to create consistency in your proposals for solo service providers and small businesses. For larger organizations, the content library functionality may fall short. Additionally, many of the templates follow a similar vertical, sectional design that feels a little dated. Finally, a number of reviews on G2 express frustration about the platform’s customer service experience.
Better Proposals Screenshot for Best Proposal Software

4. Visme – Best for freelancers

Overview: It may sound counterintuitive, but the reason Visme makes our list for best proposal software for freelancers is because it’s not really proposal software. Stick with me. Visme is all about making content creation more visually appealing, cohesive and accessible for non-designers.

So, the platform includes tools to create presentations, infographics, ebooks, social media, videos and, of course, proposals. Having one affordable solution for all of these needs is crucial for freelancers who don’t have the time or desire to build a tech stack of individual tools to help them market their services.

Highlights: The number and variety of Canva-like templates available in Visme is impressive. For example, they have 174 proposal templates available to browse. The platform also includes a lot of free media.

“I like the options and templates. I am not a graphic artist, so the user-friendly aspect works well for me.” – Heather via G2

Industries: Marketing and advertising, management consulting, non-profit management

Use cases: Proactive proposals, marketing content creation, presentations

Results: As you might expect from a design tool made for non-designers, time savings is one of the platform’s biggest benefits. Visme has a wealth of case studies that quantify results including 25 to 79 percent time savings in content creation and design cost reduction of 97 percent.

Considerations: While Visme offers a wide variety of content to create, it doesn’t offer any contracting, eSignature or payment processing features — which would be a huge benefit to freelancers. Some user reviews report issues with storage, exporting and bugs.

Visme best proposal software for freelancers

5. Smart Pricing Table – Best for itemized quotes

Overview: Smart Pricing Table keeps things simple. The proposal templates and formats focus on itemized bids rather than details about the offered product or service. So, if your deals often come down to price, Smart Pricing Table can offer your customers a simple way to explore your offer and breakdown costs.

Highlights: The easy-to-use interface focuses on creating templates and reusable line items that reduce the amount of unpaid time you spend creating a proposal. They also offer clickable add-ons so customers can create a package that feels customized to their needs and you can increase your chances of a successful upsell.

“This software helps cut down the time to create proposals for our clients, it’s easy to edit and make modifications and clients really appreciate how clear this software makes it to know what costs are and what they are getting.” – Caitlin via G2

Industries: Higher education, information technology services and marketing and advertising

Use cases: Proactive pricing-focused proposals, itemized bids

Benefits: Customers report significant time (up to 80 percent) savings in creating, submitting and receiving back an executed proposal.

Considerations: Simplicity and affordability is the name of the game for Smart Pricing Table, so if you’re looking for a tool that offers integrations, regular product updates and collaboration tools this one might not be for you.

Smart Pricing Table - Best Proposal Software for Quotes | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

6. Nusii – Best for creative agencies

Overview: Nusii is all about visual impact — which makes the best proposal software for advertising, marketing and web agencies. Afterall, if you want a customer to trust you with their image, your branding better be on point too. The proposal is a crucial tool for conveying your vision, skill and understanding of their needs. Nusii is a good fit for organizations that give their proposals the full design treatment using  Photoshop, InDesign or Pages but need to streamline their process and save time.

Highlights: This platform offers visually stunning, interactive proposal templates that look like websites, custom branding tools, proposal content library, eSignature and proposal tracking tools. Nusii offers three plans with varying functionality ranging from $29-129 per month.

“Very easy to develop high-quality proposals – the design and platform features enable me to focus on content for our clients rather than spending time on formating.” – Customer review via G2

Industries: Marketing and advertising, design and media production

Use cases: Creating and tracking proactive proposals

Results: While ROI calculations are difficult to find, Nusii reports that customers reduced their time spent waiting for a signature from clients by 52 percent. And, everyone loves a shorter sales cycle.

Considerations: While Nusii is a great tool for creating proactive proposals that match your brand or the customer’s aesthetic, it’s not a great fit for organizations that also need to respond to RFPs. Competitive proposals and RFP responses must often follow a rigid pre-set format that isn’t easily compatible with Nusii’s interface. So, agencies looking to streamline their proposal efforts to win government or nonprofit bids might want to consider other solutions.

Nusii - Best Proposal Software for Agencies | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

7. Buildertrend – Best for job quoting

Overview: For construction professionals, creating proposals for new jobs often involves countless considerations from material costs and labor rates. Fortunately, Buildertrend empowers field and office teams to collaborate easily to create a fast and accurate job quote.
Highlights: Buildertrend creates a single source of truth for all project bids, automates workflow reminders, streamlines subcontractor collaboration and enables visual customization of proposals. In addition, the platform features a host of helpful integrations.

“I like the level of customization available in the software, it allows me to detail my proposals, and make them look the way I want, so they stand out from the competition. Also love the financials feature, and the schedule, so the client always knows what the project balance is, and what is happening next.” – Greg via Software Advice

Industries: Construction, architecture, building
Use cases: Bid management, quick estimates, payments and work-in-progress reports, client collaboration
Results: Recent case studies report that using Buildertrend cuts the time required to perform key tasks nearly in half including proposal creation, HR management and more.
Considerations: While Buildertrend offers a mobile app to connect field and office staff, some users report it’s difficult to use and slow. Additionally, to get the most value possible out of the platform, users report having to import or create considerable amounts of data on a continual basis.
Buildertrend - Best Proposal Software for Job Bidding | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

8. Instrumentl – Best for grant proposals

Overview: If you’re a nonprofit or grant writer, Instrumental is a great tool for finding funding opportunities, writing grant proposals, tracking the process and measuring results. It offers an extensive suite of tools to help your team collaborate, track deadlines, report success and reuse proposal content.
Highlights: Instrumentl has a grant matching algorithm that uncovers new opportunities best suited to your organization. It also offers a free 14-day trial to enable you to explore the platform. Purpose built for grants, you can organize, prioritize and centralize your work.

“I love everything about Instrumentl – it has changed my grants process completely from research, to proposal, to tracking tasks, to tallying grants won. I’m waiting for a decision on a $150K grant that I would not have know about without Instrumentl!” – Laura via Capterra

Industries: Nonprofits, education and grant writers
Use cases: Finding nonprofit funding RFPs, creating and tracking proposal progress, reporting outcomes
Benefits: Instrumental reports that customers realize 92% time savings using the platform. They also report that new users raise $200,000 in new grants on average within their first 12 months using the platform.
Considerations: Overall, user reviews for Instrumentl are impressively positive. In fact, on G2, every reviewer has given them four or five stars. A few customers mention minor functionality gaps with filtering. But, in the grand scheme of things, they consider this an annoyance rather than a dealbreaker flaw.
Instrumentl Screenshot Best proposal solution for grants

9. Vendavo – Best for manufacturing quotes

Overview: Vendavo is technically a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) platform, but it also is a powerful proposal tool for manufacturing sales. The system empowers sales teams with cost, inventory and profitability information to help them move quickly and provide customers with accurate, effective proposals.
Highlights: User-friendly interface, quick access to product catalogs, governed selling, profit margin calculations and other guiding information for proposal compliance

“We can go from nothing to a proposal in less that 10 minutes with accurate information.” – Review via G2

Industries: Industrial, manufacturing, distributing, construction
Use cases: Managing pricing information, building complex itemized proposals
Benefits: Vendavo boasts high adoption rates, significant increases in cross-sell and upsell revenue, and a return on investment in a matter of months.
Considerations: As you might expect from a platform that counts manufacturing giants like Ford, Dell and Shell as customers, some customers report that Vendavo is expensive so it’s likely not the best fit for small to mid-sized businesses. Additionally, reviews report that setup can be a challenge and customization is time consuming.
Vendavo Best Proposal Software for manufacturing

Final thoughts

Ultimately, the goal of every proposal team is to win more business, more often with less effort and proposal software makes that possible. After all, the proposal process is complicated and time consuming enough without resorting to tools that aren’t designed for what you need. By centralizing the response process, your team can work more efficiently, collaboratively and successfully together.

Request for proposal executive summary: Example, template & tips

Request for proposal executive summary: Example, template & tips

Even for the most experienced proposal manager, writing an effective request for proposal executive summary can be a challenge. After all, it needs to be concise, clear and compelling. At the same time, it must convey your deep understanding of the buyer’s unique needs while perfectly capturing how your organization helps them meet their goals and delivers value. 

Certainly, it’s no easy feat when you’re staring at a blank screen, feeling the RFP submission deadline approaching minute by minute. So, to avoid facing that pressure, I always recommend checking out a request for proposal executive summary example or two to give yourself a head start.

In this post, we’ll define an RFP executive summary (sometimes called a proposal executive summary) and share how it differs from a cover letter. Then we’ll outline best practices for writing an executive summary for an RFP as well as how to leverage RFP software to make the process faster. Finally, I’ll offer an RFP executive summary example, samples and templates for inspiration to help you get started.


Proposal executive summary basics

  • What is a proposal executive summary?
  • Why create an executive summary for a proposal?
  • Who writes the executive summary?
  • When should you write an RFP executive summary?
  • The difference between an RFP executive summary and a cover letter

How to write a proposal executive summary

  • Best practices for stand-out executive summaries

RFP executive summary examples

Proposal executive summary template

Just need the proposal executive summary template?
Download it now here.

Proposal executive summary basics

What is a proposal executive summary?

A proposal executive summary is a document that provides a high-level overview of a vendor’s bid, proposal or offer. The executive summary for a proposal is usually just a few pages long and precedes the proposal itself which is much longer and contains lots of in-depth information.

Think of it like a book jacket that includes a teaser blurb. An effective proposal executive summary helps the reader decide if they want to dig in and read more about the vendor’s offer. It contains a synopsis of the buyer’s needs and objectives as well as the vendor’s proposed solution and experience. 

The proposal executive summary may also be called an RFP executive summary, RFP executive brief, an executive summary of an RFP or an RFP response executive summary. All of these terms can be used interchangeably.

This short but powerful document also provides additional context for the buyer or decision maker to consider. The intention is to inform and persuade the executive. Most of the time, executives only read this brief instead of the whole RFP, so it has to be right on the money.

Bid Perfect, a proposal consultancy, offers this insight:

“The people who will read your executive summary will be expecting it to summarize the main, compelling elements of your bid, how it meets with their specific objectives and why they should select you as their supplier of choice above all others.”

Why create an executive summary for a proposal?

There’s no way around it, reading an RFP response isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time. Indeed, due to the in-depth nature of RFP questions and responses, it is unrealistic to expect that an executive will have time to read each 50-page proposal from front to back. Despite this, often executive stakeholders are key decision makers.

Luckily, the executive summary of a proposal provides a solution. Because it is typically contained on one or two pages, the summary enables busy stakeholders to understand the vendor’s offer and RFP response in mere minutes.

Beyond saving time, the RFP executive summary gives you the opportunity to address an executive’s concerns that may not have been covered in the RFP questions. Indeed, the reason an executive buys a solution often differs from the reasons that a production team (sales, marketing, IT, etc.) is interested.

Executive teams have big-picture, strategic goals while production teams have daily workflow improvement goals. For example, when we work with sales teams their main objective is to save time and respond to RFPs more efficiently. However, an executive is more interested in how Responsive increases win rates and revenue. 

With that in mind, the executive summary of your proposal presents an opportunity to differentiate your organization from your competitors. It is the perfect place to express how your business helps the executive (and organization) meet their goals.

Who writes the executive summary?

Generally, the proposal manager writes the RFP executive summary. However, that is not always the case. Indeed, in small- to medium-sized businesses, sales or marketing may write the proposal executive summary.

Regardless of who is the primary writer of the executive summary, just like with the proposal, it’s a group effort.  Be sure to involve anyone who has the best knowledge of the prospect’s needs, the proposal win themes and the proposal content. Many members of your team will contribute to or review the executive summary. 

Typical creation and approval process for the proposal executive summary

  • Proposal coordinator or manager: Begins the process using an executive summary template for proposals
  • Sales, marketing or business development team: Ensures the proposal summary aligns with win themes and customer needs
  • Subject matter experts: Contributes to and verifies accuracy
  • Marketing – Polishes content and ensures brand alignment
  • Executive approver: Reviews the messaging, signs and approves the final RFP executive summary

When should you write the executive summary?

At what point in the RFP response process should the executive summary be written? Well, it depends on who you ask.

Some argue that writing the executive summary of the proposal at the beginning of your proposal timeline helps guide your messaging and process. Conversely, others recommend waiting until the end of your proposal process to create the executive summary for your RFP response. And still others believe it’s best to write the proposal summary as you go.

As you might imagine, this topic is hotly contested among proposal professionals. The difference in timing delivers different benefits:

1. Starting with the proposal executive summary

APMP teaches that writing the entire first draft of your RFP executive summary at the beginning is best. By writing the summary at the beginning, you can incorporate customer insights gained from your discussions to bid or not to bid as well as any win themes that have been identified in the capture management plan.

2. Writing the RFP executive summary as you go

Another option is building your proposal executive summary in tandem with your RFP response. Bid Perfect suggests that the executive summary of your request for proposal should be a living document. Consequently, edits are gradual and continual as the team works on the proposal: “We believe that there should be no fixed time for writing it but that we are always writing our executive summary throughout the life of the bid preparation phase.”

3. Creating the RFP executive summary as your last step

Finally, Boardroom Metrics recommends writing the RFP executive summary at the end, saying,

“… write it at the end, once all the other work has been completed on the response. That way you will have access to all the thinking that’s been done on preparing the request for proposal – thinking on the issuer, their needs and your solution.”

Ultimately, each of these approaches works and only you can decide which of the three is best for you. Consider your organization’s unique RFP response process and determine which strategy fits.

What’s the difference between an RFP executive summary and a cover letter?

At first glance, it may seem like the executive summary and an RFP cover letter are the same thing. Afterall, they both precede the full RFP response and take only one page. In addition, often, the RFP issuer doesn’t establish requirements or parameters for either document. So it’s easy to see why the two get confused. However, each document has a unique purpose and requires a different approach.

Executive summary vs. cover letter

Request for proposal executive summary

To put it simply, the executive summary is a high-level overview of your proposal. Its purpose is to enable the reader to quickly understand key elements of the proposal. Think of it as a blurb on the back of a book. Without having to read the entire thing, anyone can read the executive summary and understand the highlights of your proposal.

RFP response cover letter

On the other hand, the RFP cover letter is more like a greeting and introduction. Consequently, it can be slightly less formal than the executive summary. A great cover letter will give the reader a positive first impression of your company and encourage them to dig into your full proposal.

An effective RFP executive summary will:

  • Help a busy executive or stakeholder get up to speed
  • Predicts the benefits the customer can expect from your partnership
  • Summarize the most important parts of your proposal
  • Offer additional insight on key differentiators

A compelling cover letter will:

  • Be addressed to the evaluator(s) and set the stage for the proposal
  • Express an understanding of the business and their needs
  • Convey your desire to be a true partner and why you’re a good fit
  • Create a genuine, human connection

Despite their differences, when well written, both the executive summary and cover letter can help make your proposal more memorable. However, it is important to remember that neither document is a sales pitch about your business. Indeed, both should be customer-centric and benefit focused.

Which comes first, the proposal executive summary or cover letter?

Another common question that comes up when discussing proposal executive summaries and cover letters is which comes first when presenting your final RFP. Again, the answer to this question depends on who you ask. One easy way to decide is to ask, ‘If a decision maker only reads one of these two pages, which would you pick?’ In most cases, we believe the answer is the executive summary.

Suggested order of RFP documents

  1. Cover page
  2. Executive summary
  3. Cover letter
  4. RFP response
  5. Pricing (if not included in the RFP questions)
  6. Supporting documentation
  7. Terms and conditions

How to write an RFP executive summary

One effective strategy for writing an executive summary breaks down the content into four sections: needs, outcomes, solution and evidence. Developed by Dr. Tom Sant, the author of Persuasive Business Proposals, this approach goes by the acronym NOSE. Your executive summary should address these four areas:

  • Needs: Spell out your understanding of the prospect’s challenges
  • Outcomes: Confirm the results they expect to achieve
  • Solution: Explore how you solve the problem
  • Evidence: Build trust by sharing results from customers with similar needs

According to Dr. Sant, by organizing your executive summary to align with NOSE, you’ll address the main three questions executives ask:

  1. Does the proposed solution meet the need?
  2. Is it worth the investment of resources and time?
  3. Can they really deliver?

Many salespeople make the mistake of focusing more on “summary” than “executive.” Remember that your proposal executive summary shouldn’t be a table of contents for the RFP response. It should speak to the executive perspective.

RFP executive summary best practices

Now that you have all the basics down, let’s dig into some best practices for your request for proposal executive summary.

Make your message customer-centric

Similar to your RFP response, the focus of the executive summary should be the customer. As you write, keep them in mind. Make sure that you address their criteria, needs and goals. Hone in on the specific things they indicated are a priority and explain how your solution delivers value to those areas. 

Your message should resonate with executives and stakeholders alike. If possible, tell a memorable and influential client success story that brings your value to life. Alternatively, you can convey your strategic vision for your partnership. In addition, clearly and succinctly reiterate the key points and differentiators in your proposal.

Use the recipient’s actual name whenever possible. It makes recipients feel important and personally attended to when they see their name on the front page. Additionally, aim for a 3:1 ratio of recipient company name versus your company name.

Use dynamic verbs and active voice

Sadly, the most popular title for an executive summary is “Proposal for Prospect Company.” Use the title or subtitle as an opportunity to capture the executive’s attention. “Increasing lead-generation…,” or “Visualizing revenue forecasting…,” or “Streamlining cloud storage…” or whatever it is that your solution is going to do for them.

And, just like in your RFP responses, remember to use active voice whenever possible. This practice makes your RFP executive summary more direct and impactful.

Express empathy and understanding

Use your proposal executive summary to convey your understanding of the company’s needs — remember the ‘N’ of the NOSE approach above. Work with the  sales and business development teams to gather this information. 

As you enumerate the prospect’s objectives, limit your list to between three and five points prioritized by importance. If your list is longer you risk making later bullets seem trivial. As you articulate your understanding in the proposal executive summary, you relieve any concerns an executive approver may have as the holder of the purse strings.

Be brief

Be concise and make a big impact using as little space as possible. Review each sentence critically. Does it convey something new, relevant to the reader and memorable? The RFP executive summary isn’t the place to get into the details of every aspect of your offer. It should be easy to scan and understand. 

Remember, the reviewer is likely reading a summary from every prospective vendor trying to keep them all straight. Your brevity will not only make your executive summary more memorable, but the reviewer will appreciate it.

Leverage your knowledge library

The content library in your proposal management platform doesn’t just have to be for RFP responses. You can also store executive summary content in the same way. We all know the feeling of satisfaction when we perfectly articulate a value proposition or find a clever way to point out a differentiator. Don’t miss an opportunity to use that awesome content in your next RFP response. Use tags and categorization to save sections of text for future executive summaries. 

It’s worth noting that if you use RFP software, you can automate much of your executive summary construction. You can use a template for consistency, gather the responses you need and leverage the Responsive AI Assistant to summarize your content. 

What used to take hours, you can now accomplish in minutes. However, don’t forget to remove any customer information before saving it to your knowledge library. And just like your RFP or proposal templates, always remember to customize and review before sending.

Make sure it can stand alone

Write your executive summary as if the reader has limited knowledge of the original RFP or your corresponding proposals. The document should be easy to understand on its own. 

Outlining high-level benefits is key. Remember that the executive summary may be the only thing that some decision-making stakeholders read. So make sure you make it count.

Follow directions

This may seem basic, but it’s not uncommon for procurement teams to disqualify vendors that didn’t follow instructions. For example, we’ve seen some RFPs that include executive summary guidelines like page limits, topics to be covered or format. If instructions are provided, be sure that you’ve read them carefully and follow them closely — a proposal compliance matrix can help.

Proposal executive summary examples

Want to see an executive summary for an RFP example? You’re not alone. As with most writing, starting is the hardest part. If you find yourself frozen, staring at a blank page check out these RFP executive summary examples to help. 

Simple RFP executive summary example

This proposal executive summary example is one that we have used ourselves. You’ll see the approach we use when creating an executive summary for an RFP we’ve answered. The customer wanted a solution that would improve and automate their manual RFP response process, deliver value quickly and grow with them.

You’ll see in this executive summary for an RFP example that we addressed each of the customer’s needs. In addition, we touched on several of our key differentiators. To conclude, we support our statements with a proof point and a statement of what the customer can expect when they partner with us. You can jump to the next section to download this example as a template.

Proposal Executive Summary Example - Document Image - Downloadable Template Available at

Creative extended proposal executive summary example

This imaginative RFP executive summary example plays out a sample scenario between fictional companies called “Paradocx” (the prospective vendor) and “ACME” (the buyer). If you’re familiar with Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, you may recognize a few of the themes in this example. Additionally, this example follows the NOSE approach described above. As you read along, see how the proposal identifies the needs, outcomes, solution and evidence.

Request for proposal executive summary example ACME and Paradox Creative ExampleDownload this example in PDF.

RFP executive summary template

Executive summary template for a proposal

You can download this RFP executive summary template for a proposal in Word and customize it to meet your needs. In addition, the request for proposal cover letter template provides suggestions in the comments with additional guidance so anyone can quickly create an impactful executive summary.

Request for Proposal Executive Summary Template Preview Image

Additional RFP executive summary examples and resources

The value of a proposal executive summary

We answer a lot of RFPs here at Responsive. And, we have a saying, ‘A proposal by itself is unlikely to win the deal, but a bad proposal can certainly lose it.’ The same can be said for an executive summary.

It’s been my experience that very few organizations or individuals get any training on writing effective RFP executive summaries. Hence, there’s often a lot of inconsistency from one sales person to the next — which makes it difficult to identify what’s working. That’s one area where the Responsive platform shines. With dynamic templates, simplified collaboration and content governance, you can create consistent, data-driven RFP executive summaries in minutes.

Of course, every executive summary of an RFP is a little different. But with the right process and tools, you’ll be far more likely to be successful. And, as your experience grows, expands and improves, so too will the quality of your executive summaries.

Originally published November 3, 2021 — Updated August 24, 2023

9 of the best due diligence questionnaire (DDQ) examples

9 of the best due diligence questionnaire (DDQ) examples

Recently, you may have noticed an increase in due diligence questionnaires (DDQs). When you respond to them, it’s crucial to get it right. Traditionally, a DDQ comes into play when an organization is considering an investment, completing a merger or assessing an acquisition. In addition, the due diligence questionnaire is now commonly used for vendor risk management.

With the increased prevalence and importance of due diligence, this refresher on DDQ basics will help you feel confident when you encounter your next one. And, with a few real-world examples, responders can improve their process.

In this post, we’ll explore the definition of due diligence, the importance of the due diligence questionnaire, who issues them, when and why. Then, you’ll find a list of the most common kinds of due diligence questions. And, finally, we’ll offer our list of the best nine due diligence questionnaire examples.

If you’re looking to optimize your response process with DDQ software, learn more here.

Jump to:

DDQ meaning: Everything you need to know

Before we jump to the DDQ examples, let’s cover a few basics. When you respond to DDQs, it’s important to answer some basic key questions like: What is a DDQ? Why use a DDQ? and Who uses DDQs? This background information will help you answer questions more efficiently and effectively.

What is a due diligence questionnaire?

A due diligence questionnaire, referred to by the acronym DDQ, is a list of questions designed to evaluate aspects of an organization prior to a merger, acquisition, investment or partnership. Sometimes, the due diligence questionnaire is called the due diligence checklist.

Investopedia defines due diligence as “an investigation or audit of a potential investment or product to confirm all facts, such as reviewing all financial records, plus anything else deemed material. It refers to the care a reasonable person should take before entering into an agreement or a financial transaction with another party.” It’s important to note that issuing a due diligence questionnaire is just one part of the much larger due diligence process.

Why do companies issue DDQs?

The goal of a due diligence questionnaire, like a security questionnaire, is to reduce risk. As a part of an investigative process, the DDQ simplifies the collection and delivery of important information that will inform the transaction. For example, the questionnaire may ask about an organization’s financial information, security policies, contractual obligations, personnel, pending legal matters and regulatory compliance.

DDQs enable organizations to gather large amounts of data quickly and efficiently. Likewise, it streamlines the disclosure process for companies providing information. While there’s no standard due diligence questionnaire, variations of the questionnaire are used globally. Consequently, many DDQs will have overlapping categories and questions.

Who issues due diligence questionnaires?

While DDQs aren’t unique to one industry, they are most extensively used in technology, government and finance. Indeed, the most common version of this questionnaire is the finance DDQ.

Additionally, you may find organizations using other DDQ variations including:

  • Vendor due diligence questionnaire
  • Private equity due diligence questionnaire
  • Third-party due diligence questionnaire
  • Hedge fund due diligence
  • Investment manager due diligence checklist
  • Technical due diligence
  • ESG due diligence

On an individual level, many roles work together to create, issue and analyze due diligence information gathered in the DDQ. Indeed, a mix of financial, legal, mergers and acquisitions, analysts, compliance, IT and procurement professionals may participate in the process.

When do companies issue DDQs?

The due diligence process is intentionally and necessarily complex. Indeed, it is designed to dig up details and surface insights that may otherwise be overlooked. So, a DDQ isn’t a good all-purpose, information-gathering tool. It delivers the most value in the following situations.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) due diligence

Due diligence is crucial in M&A transactions. Prior to completing the transaction, the buy-side organization must verify that the investment is sound and will likely pay off.

Typically, the questions cover general company records, personnel information, financial data, current contract obligations and legal matters. If a company is deciding between several similar opportunities, the information can be used to compare business risks and value side by side.

Investment due diligence

Due diligence questionnaires are useful in a variety of investment situations. For example, common projects well suited to the process include some of those listed above like hedge fund due diligence, institutional investment due diligence, IPO due diligence and venture capital due diligence. Investment due diligence questionnaires explore topics like company founders, customer and supplier information, intellectual property and competitor analysis.

Vendor due diligence

The term vendor due diligence has two distinct meanings. Once you know the difference between them, it’s easy to identify each within the context of their usage.

Proactive sell-side due diligence

When a company intends to put their business up for sale, and they expect to have more than a few interested parties, they may conduct a proactive due diligence exercise. In this situation, the term refers to completing the due diligence process to investigate risks within their own company. Often, all prospective buyers receive the resulting information once they’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This practice speeds the sales process and allows the seller to avoid completing new DDQs for each interested buyer.

Third-party risk assessment

The second type of vendor due diligence deals with managing the risk inherent in supplier partnerships. In this scenario, buyers issue vendor DDQs to potential suppliers. These DDQs are sometimes called third-party or vendor risk assessments.

As information security consultancy KirkpatrickPrice puts it, “No matter the vendor, they pose some level of risk to your organization – especially financial risk, operational risk, reputational risk and cyber risk – because they have access to your data, network, hardware, cloud and more.”

This vendor due diligence questionnaire requests information about vendor’s data security, financials, human resources policies and references. Vendor due diligence is often initially conducted as part of the request for proposal (RFP) process. In addition, the selected vendor must participate in ongoing due diligence.

Types of due diligence questions

To be effective, DDQs must be thorough. The responses must provide enough information to empower buyers to confidently determine whether or not to move forward. This means identifying risks, then taking action to either deem them acceptable, mitigate or avoid them.

Each DDQ is different, depending on the kind of project. And in some cases, a questionnaire may focus entirely on a particular type of due diligence. Financial DDQs, operational DDQs, IT DDQs and vendor DDQs are the most common examples of these category-focused, stand-alone questionnaires.

However, more often, the questions required for a comprehensive DDQ fall into several categories. These categories are subsequently centralized into a single document to suit the engagement. For instance, a hedge fund due diligence questionnaire will use a different combination of questions than an IPO due diligence questionnaire.

Categories of due diligence questions

  • Company questions
  • Founder and company background
  • Shares and ownership information
  • Employee information
  • Environmental factors
  • Diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Legal overview
  • Financial and debt statements
  • Consumer/customer information
  • Industry and market insights
  • Intellectual property
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Real estate and property holdings
  • Operational information
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Data security and privacy
  • Contractual obligations
  • Administrative information
  • Reputation and publicity reports
  • Information technology systems
  • Tax history

Sample due diligence questions

So, what DDQ questions should you expect to answer? Naturally, it all depends on the engagement and your circumstances. However, here are some common questions that may be asked in a DDQ.

Due diligence questions for investment funds

  • What is your overall strategy or approach to responsible investment?
  • Which disclosure initiatives influence client reporting for this strategy?
  • What international and industry standards or guidelines do you follow?
  • How does your organization audit the quality of your policies?
  • What stewardship methods does your organization use?

Vendor due diligence questions

  • Do you have a business continuity plan?
  • What is your pricing philosophy? How often do your prices change?
  • Describe your employee screening and background check procedures.
  • Do your systems meet our compliance and regulatory requirements?
  • How and where do you store data, both ours and your own?

Operational due diligence questions

  • Have you performed due diligence on your current vendors?
  • How often is your information security policy reviewed and updated?
  • Does your firm have a disaster recovery solution in place?

Intellectual property (IP) due diligence questions

  • List all law firms that manage IP matters for your company.
  • Which patents, patent applications and trademarks relate to the transaction?
  • What confidentiality, nondisclosure or proprietary rights agreements are in place?
  • Are there any product or IP-exclusive rights that have been granted by your company?

9 best due diligence questionnaire examples

Due diligence questionnaires are long and complex, but there are a lot of commonalities, especially within categories.

Below are nine of the most common types of DDQs with sample questions that could help you prepare for the next time you are asked to respond to a DDQ.

1. Limited partners DDQ

The Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA) provides a thorough, and periodically updated, due diligence questionnaire. The original document pulled questions from more than a dozen real-world questionnaires provided by limited and general partners as well as third parties. The downloadable DDQ example is available in Word and PDF formats.

It covers 14 crucial areas:

  • General firm information
  • General fund information
  • Investment strategy
  • Investment process
  • Team
  • Alignment of interest
  • Market environment
  • Fund terms
  • Firm governance, risk and compliance
  • Environmental, societal and governance
  • Track record
  • Accounting, valuation and reporting
  • Legal and administration
  • Diversity and inclusion

2. Hedge fund due diligence questionnaire

Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI) is an organization founded by institutional investors to promote responsible investment. The group provides investment tools including their own DDQ checklist example. Helpfully, PRI offers a transparent overview of the questionnaire development process. 

PRI’s recommended hedge fund DDQ contains four categories:

  • Policy
  • Governance 
  • Investment process
  • Monitoring and reporting

3. Business relationship DDQ

MISC issued this due diligence questionnaire example to ensure organizations meet their ethical standards. The questionnaire details their expectations as well as the documentation they require for compliance. MISC goes on to explain its commitment to risk management, saying:

“The due diligence process of clients lies at the heart of minimizing MISC’s risk exposure as a result of activities carried out by MISC on clients’ behalf. At minimum, the due diligence exercise on our client is to ensure that the activities performed by MISC on behalf of the client will not breach our own CoBE’s requirements.”

4. Correspondent banking DDQ

The Wolfsberg Group created a helpful correspondent banking DDQ. This due diligence questionnaire focuses on banking compliance and is designed specifically for public sector organizations. The DDQ contains questions regarding compliance in areas like anti-bribery and corruption, sanctions policies and risk management.

In addition, the Wolfsberg Group provides guidance documentation, PDF and Excel versions of the template as well as Spanish and Japanese language versions.

5. Investor and consultant DDQ

This comprehensive investor and consultant DDQ provided by INREV is a hefty 41-pages long. The INREV association is dedicated to promoting best practices, sharing knowledge and increasing transparency in the non-listed real estate investment industry. 

INREV’s DDQ aims to assist “investors and consultants in the due diligence process to understand a fund manager’s structure, strategy and non-listed real estate business. It also gives insight in a specific vehicle’s strategy, risk processes, management, terms and projected performance. With it, investors can determine, in principle, whether a proposal fits their investment objectives.”

Their due diligence questionnaire template is attractive, highly organized and easy to use. The INREV website also provides helpful appendixes, translations and tools. Download it all in Word to inspire your next DDQ.

6. Environmental, societal and governance (ESG) DDQ

Invest Europe uses this sample DDQ to provide help for general partners as they seek to identify risks and maintain best practices in investing. While other questionnaires on our list deal with investment and finance concerns, this document focuses on environmental and social responsibility. 

Ultimately, organizations can use the questions in this DDQ example to identify potential issues that may need further attention. Luckily, this questionnaire is helpful both before and after the investment, so there’s no wrong time to use it.

7. IPO due diligence checklist

The days, weeks and months leading up to an initial public offering are absolute chaos. Getting the right information into the right hands at the right time can make or break your venture. However, organizations can prepare by exploring this extensive due diligence checklist provided by Find Law.

8. M&A due diligence checklist

LexisNexis created this comprehensive M&A due diligence checklist guide. Organizations can choose from their list of common requirements to fit the unique needs of each project. Choose from these 14 categories and nearly 100 checklist items to create your own ultimate DDQ template.

  • Basic corporate documents
  • Security issuances
  • Shareholder information
  • Material contracts
  • Patent and trademark matters
  • Manufacturing
  • Operations
  • Sales and marketing 
  • Tangible property
  • Litigations and audits
  • Environmental issues
  • Employees
  • Management
  • Other

9. Vendor due diligence checklist example

Procurement professionals are responsible for maximizing value while reducing risk. It’s tricky. Luckily, the best vendor due diligence checklists make finding the right fit easier. So, next time you’re issuing an RFP with a vendor DDQ, check this one-page DDQ list from KirkpatrickPrice to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.

How Responsive can help

We know that responding to DDQs is time-consuming ⁠— that’s why our customers use our RFP software to manage the process.

The Responsive platform empowers you to answer DDQs quickly

  • Organize content in a single knowledge library and quickly add answers to any DDQ
  • Use AI to automatically suggest the best responses
  • Assign, manage and track workflow tasks and deadlines
  • Improve collaboration and compliance so the people work on and approve DDQs
How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

For many businesses, the proposal process is always a scramble. Certainly, it’s understandable when working with tight time frames, a variety of stakeholders and a whole lot of information. A project implementation plan can help organize your team as you tackle complex RFPs. In addition, a thoughtful plan can improve the consistency and efficiency of your proposal execution. 

In this post, we’ll explore exactly what a project implementation plan is. Additionally, we’ll cover how it benefits the RFP response process and how to build one for your proposal team. Finally, we’ll provide templates and an example to help you get started. With these tools, you can bring order and efficiency to your proposal process.

What is a project implementation plan?

A project implementation is approach that breaks down a project into the distinct steps required to accomplish a particular goal. Within the plan, each step required to achieve the goal has an owner and a due date. Often, the goal of the plan supports larger business objectives. Project Manager offers this insight into the strategic role of the tool:

“Strategic planning is done on an organizational level, dictating the direction of the company strategy and allocating resources to make that strategy come to life. Thus, the implementation plan traces the edges of that, mapping out how to best implement a strategic plan from the outset, and how to effectively manage it as it gets put into place.”

How can proposal managers use a project implementation plan

Certainly, a project implementation plan is a helpful project management tool for nearly any process. However, it is particularly useful for proposal coordinators. The plan gives them a way to organize their team and the complex RFP response process. Similarly, a RACI matrix or proposal timeline can also serve as a guide for the proposal team to work from.

Benefits of a project implementation plan

A solid project implementation plan has short- and long-term benefits for your proposal team as well as your organization. Certainly, creating your project plan will take some time and optimization through trial and error, but stick with it.

Implementation plan benefits:

Boost buy-in

Disagreements are bound to happen in proposal management. Naturally, when it comes to allocating resources, there will be conflicting opinions. However, a project implementation plan can help when resources are scarce. This can reassure any stakeholders or team members who may have doubts about pursuing a particular opportunity.

Improve collaboration

Bring your stakeholders, subject matter experts (SMEs) and the entire proposal team together with a clear path to success. A project implementation plan can eliminate confusion about who is responsible for which steps. So, each team member knows what they are accountable for and when within the process. In addition, progress updates are clear and questions about what comes next are quickly answered.

Optimize and answer more RFPs

Because the RFP response process is clearly defined in your plan, the process can move more quickly. There’s no second-guessing or confusion because the steps are clearly defined.

Following a project implementation plan creates efficiency. Consequently enabling your team to answer more RFPs and win more opportunities. Then, with periodic reviews of your process, you can identify areas for improvement and become a well-oiled, RFP-answering machine.

How to create a proposal implementation plan

Ready to try a proposal project implementation plan? Get started here.

1. Define your goal

I get it. This may seem a little silly when creating a project implementation plan for proposal management. After all, the goal is obvious: to submit a winning bid. However, it’s so important to keep this goal in mind, because it should guide your plan and will prompt important questions.

Take a moment to consider. If your goal is to submit a winning bid, ask yourself, is this RFP winnable? Unfortunately, far too many businesses waste time and resources answering RFPs they were never going to win. Accordingly, that’s why the discussion of whether to bid or not to bid is so important.

In addition, it’s essential to know what it will take to achieve your goal. What internal resources will you need in order to submit a compelling bid on time? Who will need to be involved? Which stakeholders should be consulted? Ultimately, considering all of these questions will help you build a more complete, strategic implementation plan.

2. Map your process and resources

After asking yourself what it will take to win, you’re ready to start laying out your process and taking stock of your resources.

Your proposal timeline milestones should include:

  • Go/no-go evaluation and discussion
  • Project planning
  • Kickoff meeting
  • Collection of questions for RFP issuer
  • Search of content library by section and question
  • SME question assignment
  • Customization of knowledge library content
  • Executive summary and RFP cover letter creation
  • Review of SME responses
  • Formatting and design
  • Final reviews
  • Proposal submission

Assign due dates to each of these milestones. Remember, it may be easier to work backward from your proposal submission date to ensure you’re not rushing at the end of your process. Then, assign each task to the relevant team members. Who is responsible for ensuring the work is completed? Are they available and able to meet the required deadline? 

This step is crucial for avoiding bottlenecks and delays later in the process. As time goes on, you can revise your timeline to account for the efficiency you’ve gained. Alternatively, you may need to adjust if some steps that take more time than expected.

3. Build and publish your implementation plan

Now that you have all the information you need to include in your project implementation plan, you need to organize and present it in a clear and helpful way.

Proposal project implementation plan components:

Introduction and goal

Keep your introduction short and sweet. Generally, a paragraph or two is sufficient to outline the project. For example, your introduction should state the potential customer issuing the RFP, the value of the business and the goal of submitting a winning proposal by the deadline. Include the primary point of contact for the project for any questions or concerns.

Executive summary

Include an executive summary to give a high-level overview of your plan. What differentiators will you highlight? Why are your chances good to win this RFP? What challenges will you need to overcome to be successful?

Need an RFP executive summary template to help you get started? Find one here.

List of stakeholders and contributors

Provide a comprehensive list of who will be involved in executing the project. Also, include a brief description of their role in the process. You may find a RACI matrix helpful for this step.

Outline of milestones and tasks

Create a chronological list of milestones. Within that list, add each task and responsible party. Certainly, it can be helpful to also note important dependencies as well as work that can be accomplished concurrently. You may find a Gantt chart helpful for visualizing this process, or you may want to use a project management tool. Provide additional instructions and any required context.

Implementation schedule

Your implementation schedule will follow the proposal timeline you created in your earlier preparation. Work backward and allow some extra time; assign due dates for each milestone and task within your plan.

Background documentation and resources list

Next, include links to any background or research you’ve done. The extra information helps subject matter experts and contributors customize their messaging. In addition, include any capture planning documentation or strategic account information available.

Approval process

Define how the final proposal will be reviewed and approved. If changes are required, clearly state how those changes will be reviewed, adopted and documented so you don’t run into any version control issues. Finally, provide guidance for who is responsible to give final approval.

Project implementation plan templates and example

Basic implementation plan template – Smartsheet

Smartsheet created this helpful project implementation plan template for general project management. However, it is easily adaptable for the purpose of proposal management. In addition to the elements listed above, this version also contains sections to explore risks and assumptions as well as security considerations. 

Detailed implementation plan template – University of Illinois

For complex, high-value RFPs, more detail may be required. This is a project implementation plan example from the University of Illinois. Helpfully, it provides instructions for use and a wealth of customizable sections. As with Smartsheet’s template, some sections may not be applicable to proposal management. 

Basic project plan example –

This example from is a no-frills version of a project implementation plan. Unusually, it forgoes background information and introductions. It jumps directly into a list of key tasks and milestones. In addition, each task notes the estimated time required and the name of the team member responsible. While this likely isn’t a fit for larger RFPs, it may work well for managing an RFP lite or a standard security questionnaire.

Efficiency and organization go hand in hand. Certainly, creating and following a project implementation plan for your proposal process can deliver huge improvements. For more information about improving your proposal process, you can also check out these blogs:

Is a proposal development consultant the key to winning your next RFP?

Is a proposal development consultant the key to winning your next RFP?

When a huge opportunity crosses your desk in the form of a detailed RFP, there’s a lot of pressure to get it just right. Will you be ready to create the proposal of a lifetime and seal the deal? If you’re not quite sure, hiring a proposal development consultant may pay off in a big way.

Proposal development consultants go by a number of names. Titles of the role include proposal consultant, proposal writing consultant, strategic proposal consultant or even marketing consultant. No matter what you call them, their goal is to improve your chances of winning the business. 

In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about hiring and working with a proposal development consultant. We’ll start with what you can expect from your proposal consultant, why you might hire one as well as interview questions to help you find the right fit.

What is a proposal development consultant?

As you might expect, a proposal development consultant works with businesses to create proposals. Sometimes they are called proposal consultants or RFP consultants. These consultants offer an outside perspective, insight and expertise. 

Typically, they have years of experience in the field. Many started their career answering proposals themselves before making the move to consulting. So, your proposal consultant should have a deep understanding of your challenges and industry.

Why hire a proposal consultant?

There are a lot of reasons to consider engaging with a proposal development consultant. For example, you may need expertise in a particular industry you’re selling into, or you may need someone to finesse your responses for a particularly lucrative opportunity. Bringing in a little help to ensure your proposal hits all the right notes will help you move forward with confidence.

When it comes to small and medium-sized businesses, they likely don’t have a dedicated proposal coordinator or manager. So, creating a timely and compelling proposal is a challenge. Beyond pulling resources away from their full-time work, it’s easy to let proposal deadlines sneak up. However, engaging with a proposal development consultant will take the burden off of the team and ensure that the project stays on track.

On the other hand, large, dedicated proposal teams face a different set of challenges. RFPs are a huge part of the overall business strategy. In these cases, proposal managers must find a balance between volume and quality. A proposal writing consultant can help by managing overflow work, consulting on key projects, evaluating and optimizing processes or simply providing an outside perspective.

It’s easy to get entrenched (and a little blinded) by a repetitive RFP process. When creating proposals becomes routine, it can be easy to overlook things that aren’t clear. In addition, little mistakes can pop up here and there. But little mistakes can make a big impression. 

A good illustration of this comes from an interview with Betsy McDonald of the Chicago White Sox. When the team was looking for an advertising agency, they received more than 60 proposals and some were memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“Our stuff needs to be perfectly proofread, so typos and mistakes in the RFP response were hard to overcome.”

Proposal development consultant services

When you hire a proposal consultant for the first time, it’s hard to know what to expect. Generally, businesses seek a proposal writing consultant to help them create content. However, they can be a great resource to your entire proposal team. They’re a wealth of knowledge, so explore the services they offer beyond writing proposal content.

Additional proposal consultant services may include:

Types of strategic proposal consultants

In your search for proposal help, you’ll find a range of organizations and individuals eager to work with you. Before you engage with one, it’s important to understand your options. Your needs will determine what type of consultant you should hire and for what services.

Proposal consultancy firms 

There are some great proposal consultancy firms that are laser-focused on finding new ways to win RFPs. Often, these organizations work in a variety of industries. One benefit of working with a group of consultants is that efficiency is built into their business model. Therefore, they probably have a tried and true process. They should be highly organized, communicative and prompt. So if speed is your highest priority, this may be the way to go.

Marketing consultant or sales consultant

Proposal management often falls into the marketing or sales department. Accordingly, you may find that a marketing or sales consultant has the proposal expertise you need. Thanks to their broad focus on the marketing landscape or sales lifecycle, these consultants can offer trend and process insights. If you’re looking for a holistic approach to RFP management consulting, this might be the way to go.

Independent proposal consultants

When you need expertise about your potential customer’s industry, there’s an independent consultant out there for you. Solo proposal development consultants generally specialize in one field. Because of their experience, they are able to create tailored responses that use the right terminology and tone. More importantly, they understand the underlying need and logic behind the questions in the RFP. To leverage the full value of this insight, engage them to perform regular reviews of the content library as a part of your knowledge management strategy.

Freelance proposal writer

Almost all proposals can benefit from an outside perspective and a second pair of eyes. In this case, a proposal freelancer may be your best choice. Often, it’s difficult to make a proposal consistent. After all, proposals are frequently written by a handful of subject matter experts and stakeholders. A freelance proposal writer will review the content to make it more powerful and compelling while creating a cohesive and error-free final product.

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) offers a directory with proposal consultants of all types. APMP members can access the entire catalog, while non-members have limited access. Check it out here.

How to pick a proposal development consultant

From a full proposal consultancy firm to a proposal freelancer, there’s no doubt that the right consultant can be the difference between winning and losing. Speed is a crucial factor, so start with these questions ready when you interview candidates. Ultimately, the right answers will depend on your needs. But, remember to trust your gut. All the experience in the world can’t make up for a poor communicator or a bad culture fit. 

What is their process?

This should be your first question. The process they use will impact your entire team and your success. All proposal development consultants should be able to clearly articulate their best practices and work process. Be sure to communicate any relevant project background as well as your goals.

How will they communicate with you and your team?

Collaboration will be key to success. While the consultant will be able to provide input and advice, they don’t have the expertise about your business to complete the proposal themselves. Communication must be a two-way street throughout the process. How and when will they share updates? Will they need to set meetings with stakeholder and subject matter experts? How will they collaborate with you and your team?

What proposal technology do they use?

Speaking of collaboration, how does the consultant leverage technology? An RFP management tool delivers a ton of value when working with a consultant. Will they work with your team within your existing process or will they need you to adapt to them? Do they use a file share system to gather information?

Who have they worked with in the past?

Ask for references and success stories from previous clients. Inquire about their background in the industry and relevant experience. Did they do a little homework about your business? If they specialize in your industry or work with potential competitors, ask about confidentiality and data security practices.

What will they need to get started?

Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll want to move quickly and empower them with the information they need. After all, the proposal deadline waits for no one. How can you prepare your team and empower the consultant to be successful?

Investing in proposals

We all need a little help sometimes. With so many people, questions and elements involved in the RFP response process, there’s no question that organizing a proposal can be a challenge. Luckily, proposal consultants are experts that have worked through dozens, if not hundreds of similar RFPs. Their experience can provide important insight about what you may have forgotten and ideas you should consider as well as subtext about what the buyer is looking for. At the end of the day, engaging a consultant is an investment, but for the right opportunity, it can really pay off.

Jumio increases RFP win rate by 20% and doubles response volume without adding headcount

Jumio increases RFP win rate by 20% and doubles response volume without adding headcount

Jumio helps organizations know and trust their customers online. From account opening to constant monitoring, Jumio’s KYX Platform provides advanced identity verification risk assessment and compliance solutions that help accurately establish, maintain and reaffirm trust. With RFPs impacting up to 80% of all sales, a 30% growth in the salesforce, and a 40% growth in questionnaire volume, Jumio brought in Responsive to help streamline collaboration, centralize and manage content, and increase visibility into their RFP processes.

Jumio’s bid management team handles up to 350 questionnaires per year. RFPs are their primary focus, but the same content is used to respond to RFIs, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs), and GDPR and security questionnaires. Responsive was brought in to make life easier for the bid management team, but other teams — including sales, product management and legal — are enjoying the benefits, too. Jumio uses Responsive as a single source of truth with a consolidated Content Library and automated review processes to keep it up to date. Led by an inspiring bid management team leader who exemplifies Jumio’s commitment to quality responses, Responsive is helping multiple teams collaborate efficiently while increasing RFP win rate by more than 20%.

Jumio results to date:

  • More than doubled capacity to simultaneously work RFPs in flight, from 5-6 per week to 11-14 per week.

  • Increased RFP win rate by more than 20%.

  • Respond to up to 350 RFPs, RFIs, DDQs, and GDPR and security questionnaires annually.

Pushing beyond human limits

RFPs are instrumental in 70-80% of Jumio’s sales, including renewals of its pioneering identity verification software. Add in RFIs, security questionnaires, DDQs and GDPR questionnaires and Mythili Gopi’s bid management team handles up to 350 questionnaires per year.

Back when Mythili’s team only handled 150 questionnaires per year, she assembled a process involving Google Drive, Slack, a spreadsheet containing 72 tabs, team input based on experience, and a tenured representative from every department who was the subject matter expert (SME) for RFP answers. It was complex and extensive, but Mythili held it all together and continually produced high-quality responses.

“Anybody on my team can reach out to the vice president of engineering or product or legal or any other team because they would be the key contact for our RFP support,” Mythili said. “So we always had access to quality answers. But regardless of the answers, we did not have enough time to turn around the RFPs in the stipulated time frames.”

As the annual number of questionnaires grew toward 200, Mythili’s team kept five or six RFPs in flight every week, scrambling for 20-30% of content for each. “It was humanly possible, but the pressure was mounting, and the work was getting tougher.”

Jumio wanted to grow, which meant the number of questionnaires would also continue to grow. To allow Mythili and her team’s mission to scale alongside the company’s growth without adding headcount, Jumio brought in Responsive.

Overcoming 3 major response challenges

Jumio evaluated three solutions, initially seeking only to improve life for the bid management team. Early on, they discovered that the entire organization could benefit from Responsive’s centralized Content Library. In fact, Responsive ticked all of the boxes and more to help Jumio address three major response challenges: 

  • Collaboration: Response is a team effort at Jumio, but the company’s global footprint and growth mindset contributed to destabilizing inefficiency.
  • Siloed, scattered content: Content was stored on a Google Drive, Slack, email and individual computers, making consistency difficult and resulting in repetitive tasks.
  • High-stakes revenue implications: With up to 80% of sales depending on RFPs and a salesforce in hypergrowth mode, the bid management team needed more bandwidth to keep up. 

Within two months of deployment, all users were seeing the benefits of using Responsive. The content owners received fewer disruptive queries and the bid management team was able to complete larger portions of questionnaires on its own. 

“Suddenly in two months, we all became technical experts confidently churning out these answers, and the larger Jumio team started liking Responsive.” — Mythili Gopi, Manager, Bid Management Team at Jumio”

Now, Responsive is used by multiple teams in the organization as a single source of truth. For example, product and legal teams refer internal inquiries to Responsive so employees can locate their desired information on their own.

Streamlining collaboration across multiple teams

Mythili’s five-member team works out of offices in Colombia, Kenya and India to support sales teams operating out of the U.S., UK and Singapore. As a result of being scattered across multiple time zones, the bid management team lacked visibility into what SMEs had already been asked, resulting in too many repetitive inquiries. 

“More than 50% of our work involved following up. We were the chief following-up officers. All of us were ‘CFOs.’”  — Mythili Gopi, Manager, Bid Management Team at Jumio ”

A typical RFP would involve an initial email to all department heads, and then tracking them down every three days, either in Slack or through email. Tracking communications across multiple channels for multiple RFPs in flight consumed an inordinate amount of the bid management team’s time and impacted submission deadlines. Mythili requested extensions sometimes, but her team never missed a deadline.

With Responsive all response communications have been unified on a single platform, streamlining collaboration and eliminating repetitive inquiries. Mythili’s real-time dashboard helps collaboration within her team. “I start my day, I look at the dashboard and I can immediately see, ‘Oh yeah, this InfoSec team member hasn’t responded in the last four days. Let me give a nudge.’ That person could be working from the UK, pretty much aligned to my time zone and I give a nudge and I get the answer, complete, in time.”

Organizing content to be able to give the best answer

Centralizing content and automating the processes for content review have helped Jumio in many facets. “Rarely, there are times that I do not review [the RFP response], but if I don’t review, it’s only because I know the answers are right and taken straight from the Responsive Content Library, which is updated,” Mythili said.

“It doesn’t matter if it is an RFP, if it is going to carry millions of dollars of opportunity size, or if it’s a plain, know-your-customer eKYC kind of document,” she said. “My team does not look at a questionnaire in that perspective. We give our best answers with the updated repository that we have.”

Mythili has set up automated content review cycles to keep her Content Library up to date. She identifies content that requires regular reviews (e.g., ISO and PCI DSS policy documents), sets a review cycle timeframe (quarterly, biannually and annually), and then assigns a content owner. That owner automatically receives an alert that a review is due. When their review is complete, Mythili can review her dashboard to see that the content is updated.

The Responsive Content Library is also contributing to more RFP wins.

“Our success rate is definitely more than 60%, and I’m very proud of it. And that’s been constantly on the rise. I would definitely attribute it to the organized Content Library and the features that allow review of these answers.” — Mythili Gopi, Manager, Bid Management Team at Jumio

Expanding Content Library benefits beyond the bid management team

Simply put, Responsive seeks to make it easier for organizations to share and exchange information. At Jumio, the bid management team has executed on that perfectly as it uses its Content Library to respond to RFIs, DDQs, and security and GDPR questionnaires. But Mythili recognizes the value of the Content Library everywhere in the organization and is working to expand to other teams.

Other than her five-member bid management team, Mythili has activated almost 150 Responsive users, making teams more confident and self-reliant in the process.

“The Responsive  response management tool has significantly improved our proposal process. Its repeatable workflows and reusable knowledge base have allowed us to streamline the process from end-to-end and increase the throughput of our RFP responses.” — Christian Schwaiger, Senior Director, Information Security at Jumio.

Sales and business development reps use the Content Library for cold calls and follow-up responses when engaging with a prospect prior to the RFP stage. Account managers and solution engineers respond to customer inquiries or share updated policy documents during renewals using the Content Library.

Responsive is now such an essential tool to Jumio’s sales team that new hires are added as users when onboarding. According to Mythili, “Right at the time of a new induction — when an account executive, an account manager or a solution engineer is hired — the first week will include Responsive induction as well. I always sell Responsive as a magic bullet when I introduce my first demo to any new users.”

Jumio also integrated Responsive with Salesforce to make it easier to scale with the sales team. “The sales group — that’s such an awesome team — all they have to do is just click the ‘Create Project’ button and then half of the form is auto-populated from Salesforce. The opportunity size, the opportunity value to the history of the account, what is the ask, everything that I need to know,” Mythili said.

Working with Responsive support during deployment

While deploying Responsive, Mythili had many questions, but not around completing RFPs. That was much easier. She also wanted to learn how best to manage the Content Library so that she could properly train her team. There were multiple Zoom calls where she relied on Responsive experts to teach her best practices.

“Your India support team was amazing,” Mythili said. “They jump on a call in less than half an hour when I raised a ticket. For larger issues, when they needed a little bit of time, they always recorded the session and would come back promptly with a response. So the initial period of support when I needed it the most was amazing.”

Before Responsive
After Responsive
Bid management team had capacity to manage 5 or 6 RFPs per week.Bid management team has capacity to manage 11 to 14 RFPs per week.
Bid management team achieved 35-40% success rate while working with complicated, frustrating manual processes.Bid management team achieves 60% success rate and growing with new sense of ease around response processes.
Bid management team was able to manage up to 200 questionnaires per year.Bid management team manages up to 350 questionnaires per year.
Bid management team had to inefficiently chase down content for RFPs, RFIs, DDQs, and GDPR and security questionnaires.Bid management team uses trusted Responsive Content Library to respond to RFPs, RFIs, DDQs, and GDPR and security questionnaires questionnaires.
Management relied on anecdotal feedback regarding RFP processes and the bid management team’s workload.Custom reporting and real-time dashboard provides “microvisibility” into RFP processes and the bid management team’s contributions.

Harnessing the power of “microvisibility”

Mythili believes her team is better and faster with Responsive. In fact, she can confirm it through review of her highly detailed dashboard, which she built based on Responsive’s reporting capabilities. She calls it “microvisibility,” and it’s producing some impressive results.

  • Improving her relationship with her manager: “The conversations that I have with my manager have become really friendly because he knows that I’m working. He really doesn’t have to ask work-related questions because he can access the answers on his own,” Mythili said.
  • Protecting her team’s time if a user tries to offload a task: “I open the report and say, ‘Hey, you looked at this questionnaire only for seven minutes and 30 seconds. Go back, work on the questionnaire, spend an hour, and if you can’t find the answers, then you come back to me.”

Microvisibility also gives Mythili peace of mind that she’s in control of all her projects. She doesn’t have to explain anything to her manager and her team doesn’t have to explain anything to her. Trust is being built within her team and between multiple teams. Stakeholders know that content is being reviewed, individual RFP projects are progressing, and when the bid management team says they’re fully booked, they really mean it.

Finally, microvisibility is also a pivotal factor in Mythili’s two favorite Responsive benefits.

“The two top benefits of using Responsive would be the content library and the project management. It’s like we do not have to communicate on emails or Slack. Responsive has everything.”  — Mythili Gopi, Manager, Bid Management Team at Jumio

How to use a proposal compliance matrix: Tips, template and examples

How to use a proposal compliance matrix: Tips, template and examples

When it comes to RFPs, simply following the instructions and providing all of the requested information can give you a big advantage. If you think that sounds deceptively simple, you’re right. As RFPs become more complex, proposal managers must take care to respond thoroughly to each question. At the same time, they work to build a compelling narrative and highlight differentiators ⁠— all while ensuring that the proposal meets multiple requirements stated in the RFP. When all is said and done, the path from the RFP requirements to the resulting proposal may feel like a tangled web of information. Fortunately, creating a proposal compliance matrix serves as a map to keep you on track. 

When missing a single requirement can mean automatic disqualification, compliance is crucial. So, you must sift through every line  of the RFP to identify, manage and ensure compliance with each RFP requirement. The proposal compliance matrix enables quick cross-referencing between the information requested in the RFP and the corresponding responses in the proposal.

In this blog, we’ll cover the proposal compliance matrix. First, you’ll learn what a proposal compliance matrix is. Then, we’ll walk step-by-step through how to create and use one to ensure your RFP responses meet every requirement. Finally, you can view real-world examples to help you get started.

What is a proposal compliance matrix?

A proposal compliance matrix is a grid-style tool used by proposal managers to identify, track and meet each requirement in a complex request for proposal (RFP). It may also be called an RFP compliance matrix, compliance traceability matrix or proposal matrix. No matter how it’s referred to, the matrix helps readers understand exactly how the vendor’s proposal aligns with the buyer’s requests. 

What’s the purpose of a proposal compliance matrix?

To understand the value of the proposal compliance matrix, you must consider the buyer’s perspective. 

The RFP has likely been issued by a procurement manager or department head seeking a solution to a problem. They know there are a lot of factors to consider and they need to be certain they’re choosing wisely. Accordingly, they invest time creating an RFP that organizes their needs and ensures objectivity. 

Then, the buyer issues the RFP to a number of vendors who respond with their best offer. Because reading each proposal in detail is labor-intensive, the proposal evaluator performs an initial review. In this review, they quickly check each proposal to verify it meets the requirements stated in the RFP. Unfortunately, if a proposal doesn’t adhere to all of the submission guidelines, minimum criteria and content requirements, it may be disqualified .

After all of the time your team invested, missing a single requirement could mean that no one even ends up reading your proposal. It may seem harsh, but the buyer doesn’t have time to waste and they don’t want to partner with a business that exhibits no attention to detail, poor reader comprehension or an inability to follow instructions. With the stakes this high, you can’t afford to miss anything ⁠— which is why the proposal compliance matrix comes in handy.

The grid-style format lists each customer requirement, where it is stated in the RFP and where it is addressed in the final proposal. Indeed, this enables the proposal manager to track progress and quickly verify that all the necessary information is included.

Who uses them?

Generally, the proposal manager assigned to the RFP creates the compliance matrix and manages any updates to it. Contributors and SMEs may also use the proposal matrix when writing their responses. In addition, reviewers use it as a checklist during the final proposal review to verify compliance before submission. Consequently, it is helpful to save the RFP matrix in a shared, centralized location so that each member of the proposal team can refer to it as needed.

Benefits of using a proposal compliance matrix

Know every need before you bid

Most RFPs are long and detailed, composed of paragraphs of text and dozens of questions. Because requirements are often scattered throughout the document, and not always specifically notated as requirements, they can be easy to miss. Therefore, consolidating the information to create a scannable list makes the customer’s expectations easier to understand and evaluate. With a comprehensive set of needs, your team can confidently determine if you’re a fit and decide to bid or not to bid. 

Additionally, the matrix helps organize the results of the RFP shred process into a checklist to help you track your needs. RFP software automates this process with content analysis.

Prepare a complete plan

As you plan the proposal process, gather your team and assign tasks, the RFP compliance matrix can help. For example, you can use it as a guide when you create the proposal timeline and when you fill out your RACI matrix, assigning each requirement to the appropriate people.

Write relevant responses based on the stated requirements

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are always short on time, so it’s important to provide the information they need without distracting them with unnecessary details. Luckily, they can reference the proposal compliance matrix to quickly understand the customer’s needs.

For example, an RFP software buyer may specify that they require Boolean search functionality in the introduction of the RFP. Unfortunately, without a proposal compliance matrix, a subject matter expert may not think to include that detail, if it isn’t mentioned again in the particular question that asks them to describe search capabilities. 

Furthermore, if the SME wants to see if there is additional helpful context before they write their response, they can use information from the matrix to save time. It enables them to jump directly to the section and paragraph in the RFP that discusses the requirements assigned to them.

Create a roadmap for reviewers

Finally, once the proposal is complete, it undergoes final review and approval. The proposal compliance matrix can be used as your checklist to ensure that each requirement is clearly addressed before submission. 

How to create and use a proposal compliance matrix

Ultimately, the point of the proposal compliance matrix is to check the RFP, line by line, for each of the customer’s requirements. This process is often referred to as shredding the RFP. You can shred the RFP using RFP management software or perform the process manually.

RFP compliance using proposal software

As technology advances, proposal software becomes more skilled at performing the RFP breakdown. Indeed, proposal automation can save time and shred an RFP in seconds. However, it can only go so far and proposal managers are still needed to verify, evaluate, and interpret the results.

How to create a proposal compliance matrix manually

Alternatively, shredding the RFP and creating a proposal compliance matrix takes more time, but is easy once you know what to do. All you need is a spreadsheet and your RFP.

Read through the RFP line by line. As you find requirements, add them to the first column of the spreadsheet in the order that they appear in the RFP. Then, as you read through the RFP, you’ll be able to spot requirements by looking for words like shall, will, must or should. In addition, include any questions that appear in the body of the RFP. Finally, check for information requests that use verbs like describe, list and explain. 

For each requirement you identify, note the section, page and paragraph where it appears in the RFP. Then, use the next two columns to record our ability to comply (F – fully comply, P – partially comply, N – do not comply) as well as where the response to the requirement is located in your proposal (section, page and paragraph).

As you can imagine, it quickly becomes a lot of information. But, if you want to track more proposal data, adding columns to the compliance matrix is easy. For example, you could use the proposal matrix to manage task assignments or make notes for other team members. In addition, you may also add columns with information that helps SMEs write their responses, including win themes, differentiators or customer hot buttons. Indeed, some proposal teams use a column to draft or summarize their responses as well.

If the manual approach isn’t for you, consider automating the process. A robust response management platform should:

  • Digitally shred RFPs using predetermined keywords
  • Format it in a spreadsheet
  • Understand and track the RFP requirements

RFP compliance matrix best practices

To get the most out of your RFP compliance matrix, there are a few things you should know.

1. Create your matrix at the beginning of the proposal process

The proposal compliance matrix should guide you as you write the proposal outline and create your responses. If you wait until the end to create it, you’ll miss out on a lot of benefits, and possibly cost yourself a lot of unnecessary time and effort

2. Match the language used by your customer

Avoid confusion by using the exact language and terminology found in the RFP. Resist the urge to paraphrase or reword requests. If clarification is needed, use a notes column to collaborate with your team.

3. Continually update the proposal matrix

As you create your proposal outline and subsequent proposal drafts, the sections of your proposal may shift. Update the response location column of your matrix to reflect any changes.

4. Share your matrix with the proposal evaluator

While the proposal compliance matrix is typically created by the vendor for internal reference only, it can be helpful for the proposal evaluator as well. Indeed, it can serve as a cheat sheet and map to your proposal for them.

In fact, some procurement managers include a proposal compliance matrix template and require the vendor to fill it out and include it with their response. Alternatively, you can always proactively provide it. Just remember to remove any internal notes or comments before attaching it to your proposal.

Compliance matrix templates and examples

Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) proposal compliance matrix template

APMP provides a wealth of resources for proposal managers including this proposal compliance matrix template. You can download the Excel file and customize the matrix to meet your needs.

Technical compliance matrix example 

This proposal matrix example is from the Department of Administrative Services. They require participating vendors to complete it as part of their submission to streamline the evaluation process.

IT support services – Proposal compliance matrix example

Created by The Federal Proposal Experts (FPEX), this is a good example of what you might expect a public sector RFP compliance matrix to look like.

As a part of their RFP process, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority requires that interested vendors complete this RFP compliance matrix. Instructions request that vendors provide an explanation for any requirements the vendor is unable to meet or deems not applicable.

When it comes down to winning RFPs, complete compliance can make or break your proposal. So, whether you invest time to manually create your proposal matrix or use RFP software to automate the process, attention to detail always pays off.

If manual processes seem a little daunting, ask how Responsive’s matrices might make your life a whole lot easier. 

From RFPIO to Responsive: An inside look at our brand evolution

From RFPIO to Responsive: An inside look at our brand evolution

RFPIO is now Responsive. That’s the headline, but it’s not the whole story. We’re excited to share the details of our journey including why we made the change, how we got here, what’s next and an inside look at our brand evolution.

Explore the story

From RFPIO to Responsive: The story behind the brand

Built on a shared vision to transform the way that businesses exchange information, Ganesh Shankar, AJ Sunder and Sankar Lagudu founded RFPIO in 2015. Armed with insights from first-hand experiences and their collective expertise in product management, software development and operational excellence, they set to work bringing RFPIO to life. 

In the intervening years, a lot has happened within RFPIO, our industry and the world. We’ve grown along with our customers, pioneered industry best practices and watched as the world embraced digital transformation.

We’ve always known that technology could deliver faster, better RFP responses that result in increased win rates and revenue. But RFPs are just the beginning. In the current global landscape, our customers need to be able to manage responses of all kinds with unparalleled efficiency, accuracy and confidence. And with our platform, they do. 

Since the beginning, customers have leveraged RFPIO to respond to all kinds of requests. We work with people in all roles, at all levels within a business. Sales and marketing teams create proposals and answer RFPs, RFQs and RFIs to win business. Security teams answer vendor risk assessments and SIG questionnaires to share vital information. Legal teams collaborate on due diligence questionnaires to illuminate and secure game-changing transactions. And crucially, we work with the CEOs, CTOs, CFOs and CROs who are seeking a single, unifying way to remove roadblocks for their teams and drive growth.

We believe that anyone who responds to any kind of query or question deserves to have a way to do that as efficiently and effectively as possible while protecting their organization from risk and ensuring compliance. Our new name, Responsive, reflects that core belief.

We empower every user, regardless of their position or department, to answer questions once and save their valuable time and energy for doing what’s most important to them. Our brand needed to more accurately embody that holistic sense of collaboration, clarity and efficiency.

This is more than just a new name and logo. It signals our deeper understanding of the fundamental human connection between colleagues, partners and organizations. You’ll see this evolution take shape in the way Responsive looks, how we communicate and how we develop our platform.

Being Responsive

Responsive, formerly RFPIO, CEO Ganesh Shankar Headshot

Ganesh Shankar
Chief Executive Officer

As Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of RFPIO, now Responsive, Ganesh Shankar leads by example. In partnership with co-founders AJ Sunder (CPO/CIO) and Sankar Lagudu (COO), Ganesh models the foundational company values established at the company’s inception — notably a dedication to serving customers, employees and shareholders.

This focus has remained constant as the company has grown. It’s manifested in long-term customer relationships, countless awards and a reputation for innovation. Driven to fulfil the company’s mission and realize our vision, Ganesh sees the new brand as the next stage in our evolution.

Why is RFPIO now Responsive? Why is the company name changing?

GS: When we selected the name RFPIO, it served us well. We needed a name that was short and meaningful. Because our mission was to make RFPs as simple and easy as inputs and outputs, RFPIO was the perfect fit. It made it immediately apparent to anyone we talked to what we were all about.

In the years since then, we’ve grown and seen customers use RFPIO beyond RFPs. The platform allows them to be collaborative and compliant working with the right people internally. They are able to minimize risk and redundancies to become more efficient and effective. 

We’re helping customers streamline and manage all of their strategic responses. We knew we needed a name that reflected the broader value of the platform. Shifting from RFPIO to Responsive reflects that holistic approach to the larger organizational need for strategic response management.

Why now?

GS: Given the challenging global economy, where everyone is expected to do more with less, we have a solution that helps our customers do just that. We want our customers to realize the highest possible ROI using the platform and that means leveraging its capabilities to answer more than RFPs. So this repositioning helps to communicate that.

Why did the name Responsive resonate?

GS: Responsive is more than a name, it’s a character trait. That really resonated with us because we’ve always been responsive.

One of our values is to be agile and nimble. To us, that means seeing what our customers need, hearing their feedback and putting it into action. We’ve been successful because of our dedication to launching high-quality products and features quickly to delight our customers — another one of our values. So, the name Responsive automatically clicked with us. It reinforces how we want our teams to be. We want them to always have the customer’s success in mind.

The name is also a reminder of how we will continue to be successful in the future — being responsive to our customer, employee and shareholder needs. All three are necessary, and the name speaks to each.

What can customers expect from Responsive moving forward?

GS: Our commitment to customers is the same — to always be responsive. It’s part of our company culture and will continue to be. We will continue to deliver the value our customers deserve and depend on. It’s really that simple.

What does the future look like for Responsive?

GS: When envisioning the future after our rebranding, we recognize that our customers, investors and employees are at the heart of our success. 

For our customers, this rebrand signifies an enhanced commitment to delivering exceptional experiences, best-in-class solutions and exceeding their expectations. We will continuously listen to their feedback, adapt to their evolving needs, and offer innovative products and services that improve their lives.

To our investors, the rebrand showcases our strategic vision and the potential for long-term growth and profitability. We are dedicated to maximizing shareholder value by leveraging our reimagined brand to capture new market opportunities, drive revenue growth, and maintain a solid financial foundation.

Our employees are integral to our future success. The rebranding reflects our unwavering commitment to providing a great place to work with a culture of collaboration and innovation.

Overall, our rebranding signals a future where we build deeper connections with our customers, forge strong partnerships with investors and cultivate a thriving community within our organization. Together, we will create a shared future marked by growth, prosperity and collective achievement.

Finally, what does it mean to you to be Responsive?

GS: Personally, I take our commitment to our customers very seriously. When a customer signs up, we are committing to empowering their success. The word responsive directly reflects that focus and fuels that drive to help our customers meet their goals.

According to our customers,
we've always been Responsive.

“RFPIO’s team is so cooperative and responsive! Their goal is to truly be a partner to us in our RFP efforts.”

— Lauren, Customer review from Software Advice

“The feature set continues to grow and RFPIO is very responsive to customer feedback.”

John, Customer review from G2
“Whether we enter a support ticket or email with our account representative, the team is 100% responsive and ensures that our question/need is addressed … I could not ask for a better vendor partner.”

— Andrew, Customer review from G2

“Everything about our experience has been extremely positive. From the outset they were responsive and attentive."

— Customer review from G2
“RFPIO’s customer support and account management teams are extremely responsive, pleasant, helpful and have ensured a seamless implementation/adoption at every step of the way.”

— Jesse, Customer review from Capterra
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Becoming Responsive

Michael Londgren CMO of Responsive formerly RFPIO Headshot

Michael Londgren
Chief Marketing Officer

As Chief Marketing Officer, Michael Londgren draws from decades of executive experience guiding strategy and scaling world-class technology businesses. He has a passion for taking businesses to the next level and a proven track record.

His approach leverages his past successes building category-leading brands, delivering value to customers and driving hypergrowth. Michael empowers cross-functional collaboration and alignment, organizational excellence and innovative thinking — crucial skills for successfully shifting from RFPIO to Responsive.

What’s the ultimate goal for rebranding the company?

ML: The ultimate goal for rebranding to Responsive is to properly position the company given its expanded value proposition supporting multiple use cases. The name RFPIO served the company well early on when the primary use case the company focused on was RFPs. The platform has since expanded to support not only RFPs but security questionnaires, DDQs, RFIs and many other kinds of information requests. So, we needed a name that more holistically reflects our business-wide value proposition.

Generally, I wouldn’t recommend rebranding a company that already has such a strong brand and commanding presence in the market. But, in our case, the company has grown to support so many other important use cases that an RFP-centric name no longer accurately represented the tremendous value the platform delivers. 

How are you thinking about the category Responsive participates in?

ML: In our view, Responsive is the breakout leader in an emerging new category called Strategic Response Management (SRM). In fact, Aragon Research just published THE seminal paper on SRM titled Getting to Faster Business Results with SRM. Aragon’s paper does a wonderful job identifying the emergence of this new category, highlighting SRM’s value proposition, and arguing that SRM is the “next must have GTM solution.”

We are thrilled Responsive was named as pioneering the category and to see capabilities we deliver as core to a best in class SRM solution. We also feel that our Responsive name is more reflective of our overall leadership position in the category given the breadth of use cases we support.

A rebrand is a big undertaking. Where did you start?

ML: Our rebranding journey started with the realization at our executive leadership team level that we’d outgrown the RFPIO name. RFPIO had served us incredibly well early on because it did a nice job communicating what we were about: RFPs. However, it’d become clear that the name had become limiting and not reflective of our overall value proposition.

Once our team aligned on that realization, we pulled in an award-winning agency, Barrett Hofherr to assist us with our rebranding efforts. B/H helped us drive a process whereby we explored and refined our vision, mission, and value proposition while also coming up with a new company name and visual identity.

When looking for a new name, what were the criteria?

ML: We wanted a name that reflected our value proposition. It also needed to be authentic to our team and culture. It needed to be simple, memorable and available. Beyond that it needed to work on a global scale communicating value across all countries, segments, industries and use cases. 

The process we went through with B/H was thoughtful and thorough. You’ll laugh, but we actually built a model to weigh different options against these and other criteria to help inform our naming decision. When we landed on Responsive, we vetted both the name and logo extensively — with internal stakeholders as well as external customers, partners, analysts and other ecosystem partners.

What else did you do? Walk us through the process.

ML: While exploring name and then logo options, the team began working cross functionally to build the activation plan for the brand both internally and externally. This plan included sharing updates with our internal teams and the company as a whole over the course of our journey (and incorporating a lot of feedback along the way), developing and refining messaging, hosting internal brand workshops, building a new website, updating core materials, and outlining our roll-out strategy including website launch, PR announcement and social campaign. 

Moving forward, what we’re most excited about is truly bringing the Responsive brand to life through the voice of our customers as they increasingly adopt our platform and get value across a number of use cases in their business.

How have people reacted to the name?

ML: People across the board have reacted very positively. When we unveiled Responsive internally during a company-wide all hands meeting as our proposed new name, it was very exciting to see the Zoom chat light up with dozens of positive reactions to the news. When that happened, we knew we had a winner and had landed on the right spot.

Similarly, customers, stakeholders and experts that we’ve shared the name with have reacted positively as well. They agree that it’s more reflective of the overall value proposition.

What does Responsive mean to you?

ML: To me, to be responsive means to be empathetic, truly understand needs and respond accordingly. That’s what we do. That’s who we are. 

Responsive is a natural evolution from our beginnings. The name reflects the fact that we’re helping organizations respond across the board to information requests. But, importantly, it also signifies being interactive with customers and truly working to meet their needs. 

Responsive perfectly embodies our team and culture, the value proposition we’re extending to customers and the value proposition we enable our customers to extend to their audiences while using our platform.

Looking Responsive

Wil Dimpfmaier

Wil Dimpflmaier
Creative Director

As Creative Director, Wil Dimpflmaier was tasked with transforming the new name from a simple word and concept into a memorable, engaging and cohesive visual brand identity — no easy feat. The new look needed to represent the evolution from RFPIO to Responsive, staying true to the foundational ethos of the company.

Working with a team of talented designers and B/H while drawing inspiration from the sense of momentum and connection inherent in the Responsive name, the brand began to take shape.

The end result? A look that feels excitingly fresh, but reassuringly familiar. Drawing from previous design elements and embracing the bold colors, dimensional layers and engaging textures of Wil’s signature style, the Responsive visual identity is distinct, impactful and engaging.

What were your goals for the new look of Responsive?

WD: From the outset, I knew we needed to take a holistic approach to the design to ensure that the Responsive brand resonates wherever people engage with it. With that in mind, we had a few design directives we needed to incorporate into the new brand.

First, we wanted to preserve the essence of RFPIO while positioning ourselves for the future. Second, we needed to create a logo that speaks to our range of use cases and our broader vision of transforming how companies share and exchange information in the same way that the name Responsive does. And finally, we wanted our visual identity to invoke a sense of the growth, momentum and connection we deliver to our customers.

Walk us through the new Responsive logo.

WD: The new logo consists of an icon and wordmark allowing for greater flexibility in how we use it. The icon is made of three rounded triangle shapes — inspired by RFPIO’s signature arrow — in bold shades of green which create a subtle, stylized ‘r’.

We call this the Responsive trefoil. The three shapes represent the parties involved in information exchanges: requesters, responders and our platform that connects them. The three ascending shades of green and the forward spiraling motion of the trefoil represent the flow of information as well as the growth and transformation our platform delivers to our customers.

Additionally, you’ll see the trefoil shapes echoed in our wordmark as the tip of the ‘r’ and the dot of the ‘i’. These shared elements make for a very cohesive and distinct logo and allow for brand consistency when paired together or used individually.

New Responsive Logo and wordmark an evolution from RFPIO
What other visual changes accompany the new name?

WD: Having the new name and logo, we wanted to carry through the idea of growth, momentum and connection. With that, you’ll notice a few changes including updates to how we use our color palette, the incorporation of the trefoil and a shift in how we illustrate the platform.

Our color palette

The Responsive brand still leads with our signature green as the dominant color. However, we’re using our vibrant, secondary colors in new ways. By incorporating lighter backgrounds paired with high-contrast, bold colors we enhance the brand’s approachability and draw the eye in. For those who knew us as RFPIO, this palette will feel familiar, but by updating how we use them, we create a fresh look.

Responsive, formerly RFPIO, new brand colors blog image

The trefoil

Forward momentum has always been part of the company’s brand. We’re pushing forward into the future, evolving, growing and helping our customers do the same. Accordingly, you’ll see this movement reflected in the new logo and throughout the new site design.

I may be biased, but from a design perspective the trefoil is the perfect shape. It plays off the angular point of an arrow offering a strong direction and indication of growth, but also has a curve that gives it a sense of movement. At a small scale, we can use the trefoil as a detail in illustrations. And, at a large scale, we can use the curve to create flow within web pages and image designs. The trefoil really gives us a foundation and creates cohesion between brand elements.

Responsive was RFPIO, new brand imagery overview blog image

Platform illustrations

Obviously, depicting our software and communicating its value through imagery is crucial. The previous isometric style leveraged screen shots and product elements angled at an intersecting grid mimicking the point of the classic RFPIO arrow.

We wanted the new visual design to be more dynamic, even in our static images. The Responsive illustration style is more direct, layered, textured and engaging. We use these elements to highlight product details and connect the end user to the value we deliver.

RFPIO is Responsive evolution story with platform illustration comparisons

Evolve and grow with us

In the next few months, you’ll see more about Responsive on our website and social media. In addition, we’re still working hard to deliver even more value and innovation within the Responsive platform. So, join us and follow along. Be part of our story, because the best is yet to come.

Pharmaceutical company uses Proposal Builder to reduce time spent creating templates by 90%

Pharmaceutical company uses Proposal Builder to reduce time spent creating templates by 90%

For this RFPIO customer that manufactures pharmaceuticals, the science is highly complex, and so are the proposals they generate to engage each of their partners. With Proposal Builder from RFPIO, this customer now creates proposal templates in 20 minutes as opposed to half a day — a 90% improvement. For a team that processes three to four proposals per week on average, the time savings add up fast.

This customer’s results to date:

  • Reduce time to create proposal templates by 90%.

  • Save proposal team approximately 20 hours per week.

  • Relieve proposal writers and SMEs of formatting frustration.

Customizing proposals down to a molecular level, literally

This pharmaceutical company’s proposals are extremely complicated, and not just because they involve the procedural minutiae of molecular science. For the proposal team, proposals are the first stage of developing a partnership.

There are two stages of proposal development before they’re shared with prospects. First, a template is generated. Then a draft is built, filling out the template with known or presumed information about the prospect. Proposal drafts are essential to the sales process because they help drive prospect conversations and hone in on the specific services needed to engage in a successful partnership. They also include contracts and master service agreements.

As these conversations progress, the team has to be able to modify the proposal. As the team learns more about what processes will be involved in capturing a molecule—for example, the type of resin required to capture it based on size or charge or other molecular attributes—the proposal changes can alter costs by hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.

There is no canned proposal template for this company. Every template is customized. As the process to build proposals grew more chaotic, proposal quality suffered, proposal writers couldn’t keep up with demand, and subject matter experts (SMEs) were so frustrated with formatting that they couldn’t focus on the science.

Ripple effects devolve into workload tsunamis

Prior to using RFPIO, proposal writers were taking previously written proposals for other clients of similar scope and then editing those proposals to create templates. It was a problematic process for two primary reasons. One, they had to find the right proposal to use as the template. Two, with Word files of varying age that have been worked on by multiple people, the formatting styles got corrupted, and unwieldy 60-page documents become even more unwieldy.

The proposal team manager and technical lead harvested individual modules from all possible proposal templates and then saved each module in its own Word document. That was the only way to preserve formatting styles. While proposal writers could then build their template by copy-and-pasting individual modules into a single document, complications arose from scope dependencies.

A single modification could cause a ripple effect throughout the proposal. The only way to manage that ripple effect was to manually update every module, which made accuracy and consistency difficult. Six or seven rounds of revisions were not uncommon, causing delays that disrupted the whole workflow.

Seeking flexibility, efficiency and relief in a SaaS solution

The proposal team processes three-to-four proposals per week, each of which averages 60 pages in length and requires high-level customization. Even with a library of copy-and-pastable modules, manual proposal development made it difficult to keep up with demand from the business development team.

With too much time being lost and SME frustration boiling over, the pharmaceutical company set out to find a SaaS solution that could help. Among all the solutions they considered, RFPIO stood out first for the flexibility it offered the proposal team. The team technical lead recognized instant efficiencies in the ability to easily move sections around in Proposal Builder.

Then they learned about Proposal Builder’s Catalog functionality. Catalog structure is a template that allows you to plug-and-play product and service content: It was the perfect automated workflow to replace the team’s manual module building.

Add in user interface clarity, the ability to make global changes across all proposal templates, and professional services support to get the ball rolling, and RFPIO was the clear winner. To the team’s credit, they knew that they would need some help from the very beginning and elected to add professional services to assist with implementation.

A 90% improvement in less than 3 months

RFPIO Proposal Builder now helps the proposal team generate an initial proposal draft in a fraction of the time it took using the old method. With RFPIO, they can generate a starting template within just a few minutes, whereas before it would take at least half a day.

RFPIO professional services helped this customer achieve these gains within three months of implementing the solution. The more the team technical lead used the system, the more they realized how helpful it could be. But there were many questions that cropped up as they started building templates. Being able to walk through those questions with professional services has prevented roadblocks and allowed the process to reliably scale. Professional services also helped with some of the initial heavy lifting by reapplying styles already being used in their proposals.

RFPIO allows the proposal team to develop a standard process and save time for proposal writers. At a conservative estimate of 20 hours per week saved, multiple people on the team are saving several hours each for every proposal, times three or four proposals per week.

While efficiency in proposal creation has saved time, redirecting focus on getting the science right has improved proposal quality.

Spending time on science, not formatting

All proposal writers at this pharmaceutical company have biochemistry backgrounds. The scientist SMEs that review and customize proposals are PhDs. The last thing these high earners need to spend their valuable time on is wrangling fonts, margins, bullet points, and other formatting styles as they make changes to proposals.

Proposal writers and SMEs have been pleasantly surprised by the new process built around RFPIO Proposal Builder. Feedback has most certainly been positive.

The proposal team spends more time on the science and doesn’t have to fuss with the formatting. Writers can focus conversations with SMEs—which are tough to carve out time for—on tailoring the proposal for the specific needs of the client.

Leaning on professional services to build a scalable system

As soon as the proposal team started using RFPIO, deeper questions arose. They maintained a close relationship with their RFPIO professional services consultant, who helped guide them through every new wrinkle.

Three months after launch, the team technical lead in charge of setting up RFPIO was working on Proposal Builder structure 60% of the time and on specific proposals 40% of the time. Ultimately, by month six, the lead expects that ratio to swing to 20% administration – 80% proposal development. The rapid return on time investment will continue to pay off as proposal writers gain more experience with the system.

Spend half a day building proposal templates by sifting through a massive Word module library and copy-and-pasting content.Reduce time it takes to create a proposal template by 90% using RFPIO Proposal Builder.
Too much time spent looking for templates, formatting and manually overseeing global changes.Proposal writers and SMEs save 20+ hours per week, refocusing time on improving proposal quality.
Proposal manager worked alone on an inefficient process to build a library of siloed Word proposal modules used to manually paste together proposal templates.RFPIO professional services supports the proposal manager as they build out the system to drive an efficient proposal template creation process.
Proposal accuracy and consistency suffered when revisions caused ripple-effect changes throughout and had to be manually implemented.Ability to make global changes reduces errors and saves several hours per week.>

Proposals are the first step to life-saving medicines

By taking advantage of all of RFPIO’s response management capabilities, this pharmaceutical company will be able to more efficiently turnaround proposals their partners need. And that’s what it’s all about. Because when their partners know the science is there to back them up, it’s another roadblock removed from creating the next medical breakthrough.

RFP best practices — Content and process tips

RFP best practices — Content and process tips

There’s nothing more frustrating than spending hours writing, editing and collaborating with SMEs only to find out you didn’t win. Collectively, your business invests hours into each proposal. So, if your hard work isn’t paying off, it may be time to brush up on RFP response best practices.

RFP best practices can be broken down into two focus areas: content and process. Content is what your proposal says to the prospect and how you say it. The RFP process is the steps needed to create the proposal. Both are essential to create a winning proposal.

First, I’ll explore RFP content. Starting section by section, I’ll share how to achieve the goal of each element of an RFP response. Then, I’ll offer guidelines that ensure your content follows RFP response best practices as well as winning response examples.

Next, I’ll cover RFP process best practices. I’ll review the RFP response process steps and tips for how to improve. Finally, I’ll conclude by exploring common challenges that come up during the RFP response process and how to overcome them.

Table of contents

RFP best practices for content

RFP section-by-section guide

Before we get into the nitty-gritty details of each section, let’s start with the golden rule of request for proposal best practices: It’s all about the customer. In each section and in every response, keep the customer in mind. 

Remember, these incredibly busy people have a problem to solve. Therefore, if they feel like you’re wasting their time, you’ve already lost them. So, as we work through each RFP response section, remember these guidelines:

  • Stay focused on the customer’s problem and the solution you deliver.
  • Keep it short and fluff free ⁠— for the customer, the RFP isn’t an invitation for you to give a sales pitch, it’s a fact-finding mission.
  • Stick to the project scope and remove any information that isn’t immediately relevant, save the upsell for later

RFP cover letter

The goal
Make a good first impression, create a human connection and let the customer know you truly understand their problem.

How to do it
Share your enthusiasm about the prospect of being a part of their future success. Then, restate their known objectives. Finally, paint a picture of how your solution solves their problem and makes their job easier. Make it all about them.

If you’re ready to write a killer cover letter, explore more in this RFP cover letter guide.

Executive summary

The goal
Give a high-level overview, summarize the most important parts of your proposal and prove you’re qualified to meet their needs.

How to do it
Research. Do your homework to ensure your executive summary addresses the customer’s biggest concerns. Find out why they’re issuing the RFP. Did their last provider fail to deliver? Is their business growing? The more you can speak directly to their needs, the greater your chance of winning the project. 

Remember, your summary needs to provide enough information to stand alone if it’s the only piece of the proposal an executive sees. However, it also must be short enough to read in a couple minutes.

Want to see what a stand-out executive summary looks like? Check out this RFP executive summary guide for examples.

Project implementation plan and schedule

The goal
Help the buyer picture themselves as your customer and prepare them for the next steps in the buying process.

How to do it
Be specific. Your project implementation plan and schedule sets expectations. For example, establish milestones and address any concerns the customer expressed. In addition, provide a full project plan outline from purchase to go-live date. Use the RFP timeline the buyer provided and set milestones assuming a start date almost immediately after the RFP’s final selection announcement.

It is also helpful to share key contacts and staff the customer will work with from subject matter experts to project managers. Finally, include what you’ll need from their business to ensure a successful engagement. For example, current process documentation, training timelines, user roles, administrator input and so on.

Contract terms

The goal
Ensure a speedy contracting process that benefits both you and the customer.

How to do it
In this section of your request for proposal response, get your ducks in a row so the contracting process goes smoothly. For example, share what you’ll need to execute the contract and include who will be involved. Then, outline the approval process and required documentation. Consider preemptively providing your standard SIG assessment or security questionnaire as well as terms and conditions.

In addition, offer an overview of how you’ll continue to support the customer after the contract is executed. Include information about their customer success manager, any available self-service tools and who will supervise the delivery of contract terms.

If possible, provide very specific details — how often will someone check in, what will be covered and how feedback is addressed? Remember, it’s all about them. Make them feel confident that you’re in it for the long haul and prepared to be a true partner to them.

Customer references and case studies

The goal
Provide concrete, third-party evidence of the results they can expect.

How to do it
Share the positive return on investment you’ve achieved for customers similar to your prospect. Of course, don’t make them just take your word for it. Also include metrics and powerful quotes provided by happy customers. If possible, offer to connect them with a current customer for a reference call. Certainly, there’s nothing more persuasive than hearing candid feedback from a peer.

Winning RFP content tips and examples

Beyond hitting the goals for each RFP section outlined above, winning RFPs have great content. I’ve reviewed content from countless winning RFP response examples and they all have a few things in common. I’ve collected these themes and created a list of RFP best practices and examples below.

Insert the customer into your answers

Remember, it’s never about you. Your audience doesn’t care how great you are. They only care about how you can make their lives easier and improve their profitability. All of your answers should support the argument that you will make them more efficient, effective and empowered.

In addition, don’t just explain what you do, but also why it’s important. This focus will help you write an “About Us” and “Background” statement that will make prospects pay attention.

Original RFP response:
Our company improves efficiency and cost savings.

Winning RFP response example:
XYZ solution empowers ABC company to optimize efficiency and maximize savings.

Keep it simple and skimmable

Your evaluators are pressed for time. Write clearly and succinctly. Use proposal formatting to make it scannable. For example, headings, subheadings, call-outs, and bullets make your proposal more approachable. And, remember to keep it non-technical and simple so your responses can be read and understood by anyone.

Original RFP response:
With XYZ solution, which optimizes internal and external collaboration and communication processes, automates RFP management, improves workflows and empowers reporting, our current customers like ABC Company are able to not only respond to complicated RFPs,  security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires for a comprehensive proposal management experience.

Winning RFP response example:
ABC Company will leverage XYZ solution to:

    • Improve internal and external collaboration
    • Automate complex RFPs
    • Manage workflows and view reports
    • Respond RFPs and questionnaires
    • Centralize procurement and proposal functions

Include visualizations

Charts and graphs quickly convey a more powerful message than a spreadsheet full of data. Use visualizations to help customers better understand your projected impact on their business.

Original RFP response:
XYZ solution’s customer submitted 83 proposals in 2018. More than twice the number completed by their competitors.

RFP response best practices | Spreadsheet Illustration

Winning RFP response example:
XYZ solution’s customer submitted 83 proposals in 2018. More than twice the number completed by their competitors.

RFP best practices | Chart Illustration

Review, revise then review again

Typos, style inconsistencies and abrupt changes in grammatical tense or tone can be incredibly distracting for your reader. Consequently, it’s important to review your responses and make sure they all work together and sound consistent.

In fact, try reading your responses out loud. It will help you catch a ton of errors or awkwardness that spell check won’t. A blog from Proposal Reflections offers five things to watch for (and remove) from your proposals including: long sentences, passive voice, empty words, nominalizations and incorrect words. Follow these guidelines to make your content stronger, more concise and more persuasive. The post also offers this example:

Original RFP response:
Our COTS solution saves the Government time and money.

Winning RFP response example:
Our COTS solution provides the Government with life-cycle savings of $250,000 in software development costs.

Note: The Responsive platform’s leading response management software includes a GPT assistant that leverages the latest AI tools to optimize your RFP responses for readability, comprehension, simplicity, passive voice and more. Learn more here: Responsive integrates GPT.

RFP response process best practices

Every RFP response process follows the same basic steps:

  1. Review RFP: Understand the customer’s requirements, objectives, goals, key deadlines and evaluation criteria.
  2. Assess suitability: Evaluate your organization’s capacity, align your expertise with customer needs and determine project alignment with business goals.
  3. Assemble the response team: Identify key contributors and stakeholders, assign roles and determine responsibilities.
  4. Develop a win strategy: Analyze competitively the landscape, define your differentiators and establish a project plan.
  5. Build your proposal: Gather past answers, collaborate with SMEs to create new responses and customize your proposal content.
  6. Write executive summary: Introduce your company, highlight your value proposition and offer an overview of your strengths.
  7. Review, proofread and submit: Ensure compliance with RFP requirements, review for accuracy and clarity and submit prior to the deadline.

How to improve your RFP response process

Perfection is unattainable. There’s always room for improvement, even within teams who have tightly refined their RFP process. For example, a highly-skilled and efficient two-person team can respond to one or two RFPs per quarter when working manually. However, after implementing RFP response best practices and RFP software, the same team can successfully respond to 16 simultaneous RFPs in the same time frame. Hopefully these tips will help you achieve the same kind of results.

Only answer RFPs you can win

One of the most important (and most neglected) RFP response best practices is the qualification or a bid or no-bid decision step. Far too many teams answer every RFP that comes their way. Unfortunately, that means spending time answering long shots and RFPs you’re not qualified for, while potentially missing or neglecting better opportunities.

RFP qualification considerations

What was your level of involvement prior to the RFP being issued?
If you’re just hearing about the opportunity thanks to the RFP, your chances may be slim. Indeed, odds are definitely better when sales or presales has developed a relationship with the prospect. Alternatively, you may have already responded to a request for information (RFI), which is also a good sign.

Is your solution a fit?
At minimum, it needs to meet the mandatory requirements. Everyone’s agile. Everyone’s flexible. Issuers already know that. Accordingly, you need to be able to prove that you have a tried and true solution.

Does your price match the prospect’s budget?
Of course there’s always give and take when it comes to pricing. However, don’t let that distract you from carefully evaluating the opportunity in terms of dollars and cents. The issuer expects your bid to include everything they need within their budget. So, can you do it and still make the project profitable? 

Is it a strategic fit?
RFPs take a lot of time and effort. But, onboarding and supporting a customer that doesn’t align with your business or product development strategy takes more. There are few things more frustrating than submitting and winning an RFP only to find out that the partnership isn’t a strategic fit for you or the issuer.

Do you have bandwidth?
Too often, this consideration gets pushed to the side. It’s completely understandable to want to respond to more RFPs.

In fact, we found that 72% of companies plan to respond to more RFPs year-over-year. But, simply responding doesn’t mean your team has the time and attention required to write a winning RFP response. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity. 

Create a content library

If you have to dig through emails, past RFP responses and documents to find answers to questions you’ve seen over and over again, it’s time for a new approach. After all, once you’ve curated and perfected your content using the tips above, you’ll want to use it as often as possible. Indeed, it saves so much time, building an RFP content library is a cornerstone RFP response best practice.

Your content database should be the single source of truth for building RFP responses that are efficient, consistent and accurate. To start, gather content from past proposals. Then, update it to ensure it is flexible enough to be easily customized or used in its generic form. It should all have a consistent voice to reduce editing and review time.

An RFP content library needs a structure that helps with searching. You can organize RFP content using tags, collections and custom fields. Additionally, it’s helpful to organize content to match the structure of the RFPs you receive. What sections do you always see? 

Common RFP sections
  • Company overview
  • Experience and staff biographies
  • Features, functionality and differentiators
  • Training, implementation, delivery and support
  • Security and data policies
  • Case studies and customer results or references
  • Reports, terms and policies

If you’re not using RFP software, organizing your files and documents this way will help reduce the need to chase down or recreate content for every new RFP.

Know your team (and their strengths)

Stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) within your organization are essential to creating compelling content. But, getting in touch with the right people at the right time may be a challenge — especially if they don’t know who you are or what you do. Building relationships is an important part of curating an efficient and effective RFP process.

The better you know your resources, the better your response will be. Get to know the people behind the proposal. Keep track of each person’s area of expertise, preferences and availability — and then respect it. 

RFP software integrates with many apps and channels. So you can approach busy SMEs in the way that works best for them. For example, maybe you have an SME who hates writing. Call them up. As they talk you through the answer, you record it and save it to the content library. Putting in the legwork to build relationships with your resources will pay off at crunch time.

Create a project plan

While RFPs are a team sport, they need a captain. Someone has to own the process to hold contributors accountable to ensure you meet your deadline. If you have a full-time proposal manager they’ll take charge. If not, the process will likely be managed by a sales or marketing team member. Regardless, you need a plan to get everyone on the same page.

Initiate a kickoff meeting for each RFP that includes all key team members. During this session, you’ll discuss your timeline, roles and responsibilities, win strategy, expectations and next steps. Surface any scheduling conflicts, content gap concerns or issues with deadlines to avoid surprises. 

Then, as you progress through your plan, regularly share progress updates, changes and dependencies to improve team visibility. 

Repeat, review, optimize and expand

The great part about adopting RFP best practices is that they’re designed to be repeatable. As you implement improvements it’s also important to review results. As you become more efficient, you’ll find more ways to identify gaps, tighten communications, anticipate outcomes and ensure success. 

Additionally, once you’ve mastered RFP best practices, you can get even more value by applying them to other routine information requests. For example, these principles can be applied to RFIs, requests for quotations (RFQs), security questionnaires and due diligence questionnaires (DDQs).

Common RFP response roadblocks and how to overcome them

Even when you meticulously follow RFP best practices, the process may not be smooth. Here are some issues proposal teams frequently encounter and how to overcome them.

The customer isn’t asking the right questions.

The challenge
The customer missed something key in their RFP. Unfortunately, the gap in information makes it difficult for you to win or might result in the customer selecting an incomplete solution that’s not in their best interest. Either way, it’s worth mentioning. But how do you tactfully make sure the customer has all the information they need without being a bother?

Work through the roadblock
Procurement professionals are skilled at finding the best vendor for a project. However, they’re likely not an expert in the nuance of your particular industry, good or service. Instead, they use stakeholder requirements to customize an existing RFP template. 

This process often leaves gaps in knowledge and results in an incomplete RFP. It also puts you in a tough position of trying to explain additional value you deliver that the customer doesn’t understand and didn’t ask about.

Typically, at the beginning of the RFP timeline, there’s a period to allow for vendor questions. This is a good time to raise the concern. Simply include it in your questions. For example, you can ask: “Have you considered unaddressed factor? Is that an area of need for ABC Company?” Alternatively, you could say, “Many of our customers ask about unaddressed factor, would you like us to include information about how XYZ solution solves this challenge?

Time consuming back-and-forth with subject matter experts

The challenge
One of the hardest parts of creating a request for proposal response is coordinating with your subject matter experts (SMEs). They’re usually very busy people. And, while they’re experts in their field, they likely all have a different writing style. So, how do you make RFP responses from a dozen different sources look consistent and sound cohesive?

Work through the roadblock
Most SMEs are just as excited about winning new business as you are, but they can’t read your mind. Unfortunately, they won’t know intuitively what to cover just by reading the RFP question. 

So, it’s an RFP best practice to be clear about what you need. SMEs are usually happy to provide answers that cover customer hot buttons, written in the company’s preferred proposal format ⁠— they just need to know what that is. It’s usually as simple as providing your SMEs with a company style guide for faster editing.

In addition, make sure you search your RFP content library before asking an SME to weigh in on a question. There’s nothing more frustrating and alienating to a busy SME than answering the same question over and over again. If you find an applicable knowledge record, send the response for review. After all, updating or customizing a response is a lot faster than writing from scratch. Certainly, this is a situation where RFP software that centralizes internal collaboration is an advantage.

SMEs are a key part of your proposal team. So, bring them into the fold and make the importance of their role clear. Include SMEs in proposal kickoff meetings, regular content updates and annual process reviews. Even if they can’t make every meeting, putting in the effort to keep them involved will help them feel invested.

The RFP clearly favors a specific vendor

The challenge
You recognize your competitor’s language in the RFP. It seems like they are the incumbent vendor or are heavily favored. You suspect their capture management team helped craft the RFP. To have a fighting chance, you’ll need to overcome an unfair preference with education and awareness.

Work through the roadblock
Some RFPs aren’t fair. That’s the unfortunate truth. You know your competitors and for the most part, everyone uses the same tactics to try to win new business. For example, we all know how much easier it is to write a winning RFP response when your team helped craft the RFP itself.

If you notice the RFP favors a specific approach or if phrasing is overly specific, that’s a good indication of an outside influence. Use your competitive intelligence to counteract their preconceived notions. Without naming the competitor, explain why your product or approach better addresses their needs.

Alternatively, just ask. Reach out to the RFP contact and look for more background information. Is there an incumbent vendor? If so, why has the project gone back out to RFP? What would sway the decision maker, or what is the competitor lacking that would make the decision easy? Ultimately, addressing the lack of transparency head-on will help you make a well-informed bid or no-bid decision.

The RFP response has a quick turnaround

The challenge
In the world of RFPs, time is typically your biggest adversary. Your proposal timeline can only be compressed so much while still maintaining RFP response best practices and manually completing the RFP makes submitting responses on time difficult.

Work through the roadblock
One of the best ways to fast-track your proposal process is to invest in RFP response software. Not only will it automate your responses by suggesting answers to previously asked questions, but it will also empower you to:

  • Search and find past proposal content
  • See who wrote the content and when it was written
  • Review the revision history
  • Verify when the content was last reviewed and updated
  • Check how often it’s been used

Too many teams spend all their time writing answers but never save or organize them. If your team can’t find and reuse past RFP responses, collaborate on content and easily see team responsibilities and next steps, you’ll end up constantly reinventing the wheel.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, RFP best practices help everyone involved in the sales and proposal process work toward a singular goal ⁠— to win new business. And, for proposal professionals, there is no greater feeling than hearing that your team submitted a winning RFP response.

By following these winning RFP response best practices you’ll start to see all of your writing, editing, collaborating and waiting pay off.

See how it feels to respond with confidence

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