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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 […]

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.

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.

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

If you’ve ever responded to a request for proposal (RFP), you know the feeling of relief that comes when you finally submit the finished proposal. After all, your response is likely the product of hours of hard work spent writing, revising, designing and reviewing. And, depending on your RFP project management approach (or lack thereof), the path to creating the final proposal may have been anything but clear. Unfortunately, this is the case for many proposal teams.

Without a clear RFP project management approach, responding to RFPs is chaotic, unclear and frustrating. Even worse, the lack of organization often results in unsuccessful bids, rendering the time you invested a total waste.

RFP project management brings order to the information, tasks and people involved in the RFP response process. Furthermore, it lays the groundwork for executing a faster, easier and more effective process.

If you’re looking for an organized approach to RFP responses, look no further. This post will explore the ins and outs of RFP project management. To start, you’ll learn key definitions, why project management works well for the proposal process and common approaches to try. Then, I’ll share key steps to implementing an RFP project management strategy. Finally, I’ll provide tips and resources to ensure success.

RFP project management basics

Project management is one of the three key skills required for successful proposal management. Indeed, it is the strategy for executing the proposal process.

Project management definition

Project management, sometimes abbreviated as PM, is the practice of planning and executing defined processes that organize the actions, tools, roles and knowledge required to accomplish a specific goal.

Typically, each project has a unique goal and a set ending point. Ultimately, the purpose of project management is to improve efficiency, consistency and outcomes.

What is an RFP in project management?

In project management, RFP stands for request for proposal. An RFP is a formal request sent from a buyer to potential vendors seeking a product, service or solution. 

The RFP document asks all vendors the same questions. Then, interested vendors submit their answers in a proposal document for consideration. This approach promotes transparency and fairness while enabling buyers to make data-driven purchasing decisions using consistent criteria.

How project management principles apply to RFPs?

There’s no way around it, RFPs are notoriously difficult to manage. There are dozens of elements to organize. And, they are a key element of business growth. Despite their importance, the same challenges arise over and over again. Typically, the core of the problem is a lack of communication and accountability, making project management and RFPs a natural match. 

Requests for proposals are projects with a set beginning and end. In addition, the many tools, people and actions required to accomplish the end goal must come together in the right order at the right time. Consequently, project management creates a helpful framework for organizing the RFP response process.

What does an RFP project manager do?

Many most successful proposal coordinators share similar duties and skill sets that make them particularly effective at proposal management.

Effective RFP project managers are:

  • Team leaders
  • Highly organized
  • Critical thinkers
  • Detail oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Creative problem solvers
  • Patient
  • Communicative
  • Strategy focused

Proposal project manager responsibilities

Within the RFP response project, the proposal manager acts as the project manager. Consequently, they are ultimately responsible for the completion and on-time delivery of the proposal. However, there are a number of other responsibilities that they perform. 

Proposal project manager duties

  • Act as an advocate for the organization – If, at any point, the desired outcome is no longer achievable, it’s the PM’s responsibility to cut losses and move on or escalate the problem to executive management.
  • Gather and aggregate intelligence – From summarizing the capture management plan to collecting and inserting answers from subject matter experts (SMEs), the proposal manager brings it all together.
  • Facilitate team meetings – The project manager schedules meetings and creates the agenda. For example, they run the kick off, update, review and debrief meetings.
  • Establish and communicate expectations – The RFP response timeline is created and enforced by the proposal project manager. For instance, they set touch points and milestones to ensure on-time final proposal delivery.
  • Solve problems that arise – As the project manager, they are responsible for clearing roadblocks, managing bottlenecks, bridging communication gaps and correcting blindspots. Essentially, they do whatever it takes to keep the project moving forward.
  • Facilitate communication between steps – The proposal project manager ensures that tasks with chronological dependencies move forward to the next person promptly. If your process is manual, that may be an email notification. Alternatively if you use RFP response software, those task notifications are managed by proposal automation.
  • Act as the buyer’s point of contact – To centralize communications between your organization and the buyer, the proposal manager acts as the primary point of contact. As such, they ask which elements of the RFP are most important to the evaluators, request scoring and evaluation information, seek feedback about lost opportunities and request evaluation scoring information.
  • Verify the proposal is compliant – The project manager is responsible for ensuring that the proposal meets the RFP evaluation criteria and requirements before approving the final draft.

Benefits of RFP project management and common approaches

Project management defines the goal, and provides a step-by-step guide plan to reach that goal. Because it breaks down the project into individual tasks, deliverables and workflows, it’s much easier to manage. But, these aren’t the only benefits of RFP project management.

How project management improves the proposal process

  • Ensures team alignment and defines objectives
  • Improves process predictability
  • Enhances clarity between teams by defining RFP terminology
  • Provides quick updates for inquiring executive leaders
  • Promotes consistency that enables data capture and optimization
  • Creates an organized approach, making responding to unknown factors easier
  • Enables fast adaptation to challenges by identifying impacted parties
  • Reduces the risk of including inaccurate, unapproved or unreviewed responses
  • Improves understanding of the meaning and intent of RFP questions

Common RFP project management strategies

Project management practices evolved over the years as business strategies and technology advanced. If finding the right approach for your team feels overwhelming, consider asking your proposal colleagues and fellow project managers for insight on the strategies they prefer. Alternatively, you can start by exploring three of the most popular approaches for RFPs below.

RACI Matrix

A good choice for teams that struggle to know who is doing what.

An RFP RACI matrix focuses on identifying the roles required to complete each task within the project. Indeed, the RACI acronym represents each of the roles and stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. For example, when answering new questions in an RFP, the proposal manager is often the person responsible, a subject matter expert would be accountable, a stakeholder or sales person may be consulted and an executive would be informed.

Proposal timeline/Gantt chart

A good choice for teams that struggle with deadlines.

The proposal timeline and Gantt chart approach illustrates the order and timing of tasks at a glance. Generally, the proposal timeline gives an overview of the process and remains the same through the completion of the project. On the other hand, a Gantt chart details the timing and progress of individual tasks. Consequently, many teams use both tools in tandem.

Project implementation plan

A good choice for proposal teams that frequently include members new to RFPs.

The detail included in a proposal project implementation plan helps new stakeholders and subject matter experts navigate the process. This RFP project management approach focuses on providing context, detail and instructions for success. Furthermore, it guides contributors through the process and offers more background information than other approaches.

Additional project management approaches

Here are three more project management approaches that you may have heard of and could adapt to RFP responses. The Digital Project Manager has a helpful overview article with information on each.

  • Agile – For an experienced team of doers, focuses on final outcomes, collaboration and flexibility
  • Scrum – For teams with several strong leaders and well-defined areas of expertise within the proposal process
  • Kanban – For teams that work best with visuals, focuses on individual task progress

How to improve your proposal process with project management

There are a few things that remain the same regardless of which project management approach you select. Here’s the steps that will make your new process successful.

1. Identify the goal of the project

Generally, this part is fairly straightforward. Clearly, you want to win an RFP opportunity. However, it’s important to think beyond that and define why this RFP is a good fit as well as the projected impact on the business if you win. In this situation, it is often helpful to refer back to your discussions to bid or not bid.

2. Define the project tasks

After you’ve identified your goal, you must clearly state the tasks that your team must accomplish for success. For example, your list might look like this:

  • Create your project brief 
  • Identify tasks that can be accomplished concurrently
  • Schedule and facilitate a kickoff meeting
  • Collect and submit follow up questions for the buyer
  • Review your RFP content library for reusable answers
  • Customize reusable answers for this opportunity
  • Assign new questions to subject matter experts
  • Write and review new answers
  • Set proposal pricing
  • Compose proposal document
  • Review for answer consistency and accuracy
  • Format proposal
  • Design and add visual elements
  • Ensure that each of the RFP business requirements are met
  • Final review by marketing and sales
  • Executive review and approval of proposal
  • Final proposal submission
  • Request feedback on final result
  • Hold debrief meeting for feedback
  • Optimize processes and update knowledge library

3. Build your proposal team

Now, review your task list. Who is best suited to accomplish each item? Will they need help, input or review from others? Match people with the tasks they will be assigned and the role they will play in the process. Your list will likely include stakeholders, support staff, SMEs, department heads and executive leaders.

4. Explore information and tools needed

Next, you need to ensure that your team has the information and tools they need to successfully accomplish the tasks you’ve provided. For instance, do your subject matter experts all have access to your knowledge library, centralized proposal or better yet, RFP software? Do you have the performance data and customer references the buyer asked for? Has your capture management team provided their research, win themes and customer insights? Avoid delays and roadblocks in your process by verifying the necessary resources are available before the project begins.

5. Create a project brief

Bring it all together in a project brief. Start with your project goal. Then, share the key milestones in the project. For example, you might include when follow up questions are due, when SME answers are due and the proposal submission deadline. Next, provide the project tasks matched with the assigned staff. Finally, provide the information that contributors will need to complete their tasks.

6. Get started

Now, you’re ready to execute your project. At the kickoff meeting, ensure everyone is aware of the RFP project management approach and how to use it. Then, it’s up to you as the project manager to keep the process on track.

7. Track and save key data

One of the biggest benefits of proposal project management is the opportunity to gather RFP data. Indeed, thanks to the consistency of your process, you can track response cost, time spent, answer quality and final outcome. Once you’ve collected enough data, review for patterns, roadblocks and opportunities for improvement.

RFP project management tips

Take charge

When your proposal team gathers for meetings, remember your intent and purpose. You’re not asking for opinions. You are dealing in facts. Are the contributors’ workloads manageable? Is the project progressing as expected? Are the required resources and information available? Is the plan feasible? 

Essentially, you’re asking the team for insight on any potential gaps or blind spots. However, you are NOT asking for input about the project management style, responsibilities or reviews. We all have that team member that always has something negative to say. Don’t let anyone derail your project with uncertainty.

Adjust as needed

While consistency is an essential element to reap the full benefits of project management, not every RFP needs the full treatment. For instance, if a proposal is brief and requires input from two people, you can abbreviate your process and accelerate your timeline. In addition, if you’re the incumbent vendor and the RFP is a formality, the approach should change. 

Remember, generally these methodologies are best used to manage big projects. So, if an informal process is significantly more efficient to achieve the end goal, then do it and spend the time you saved tackling something else.

Seek executive support

Inevitably, you’ll encounter roadblocks and challenges. If they’re caused by someone outside of your chain of command, you may feel uncomfortable addressing the issue. This is why it’s so important to have executive support.

When your team sees visible support from executives, you’ll benefit from an improved position in workload prioritization, mediation if needed, enhanced responsiveness and a higher awareness of the value of your work.

Centralize the process

Many proposal teams struggle with miscommunications and a lack of clarity around the proposal process. By centralizing everything, each team member has access to all the information they need to make informed decisions and carry out their next steps. 

While shared drives help, the most effective way to centralize the proposal process while improving efficiency at every step is RFP software. Your RFP response solution should feature workflows and collaboration, knowledge management, automation and integrations. 

Don’t change your process to solve temporary problems

As a project manager, it’s important to identify the cause of challenges that arise. For instance, you may encounter unusual circumstances, unique barriers or uncooperative people. Certainly, it is tempting to alter the process immediately to try and solve the problem. However, resist this urge.

Unique circumstances are bound to come up from time to time. And, resistance to change is natural.  But, rather than immediately solving perceived problems with process changes, focus on identifying the likelihood of the issue coming up again as well as improving buy-in and accountability with individuals. In short, don’t permanently alter your RFP project management approach to overcome temporary challenges. 

Give it time

Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have a seamless process the very first time you use your new RFP project management strategy. In fact, it’s possible that the first time you use a new process may be less efficient. However, persevere!

As you and your team become more familiar with the proactive RFP management process and expectations, you’ll see remarkable (and measurable) improvements. Remember, reverting back to a reactive process will keep you from reaching your full potential. 

Ultimately, the purpose of RFP project management is to reduce the number of hours it takes to create a proposal while also improving the likelihood of success. 

As we all know, the hours you put into a proposal aren’t free. Not only does a more efficient RFP process save your company money, but it also gives you more time to answer additional RFPs with the potential to further grow your business. The result? A compounded impact that any proposal team can achieve with the right knowledge, process and tools.

Accelerate your RFP for asset management response process

Accelerate your RFP for asset management response process

When your financial institution receives a new RFP for asset management, is it viewed as an exciting opportunity? Or, is it just one of a dozen (or more) RFPs waiting for completion? Many financial services firms report that the number of RFPs from institutional investors has increased dramatically in the last few years. And, as organizations continue to focus on maximizing value while minimizing risk, there’s no end in sight.

For some firms, answering every incoming asset management RFP has become an impossible task. Consequently, they are forced to prioritize the best opportunities and ask their RFP teams to find ways to work more efficiently. The outcome isn’t ideal for the firm or the prospective client. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

In this post, I’ll offer insight into why the RFP for asset management workload increased. In addition, I’ll highlight the challenges facing investment firms. And finally, I’ll provide helpful tips to empower you to respond more efficiently and effectively.

The current state of RFPs for asset management

So, why are asset management RFPs piling up? It comes down to a combination of factors.

More RFPs more often

RFPs have always been a part of institutional investing. But now organizations send more RFPs to more firms per mandate. In fact, an article from Institutional Investor notes that the number of RFPs fielded by managers rose by 13 percent between 2017 and 2018.

Because the market is so competitive right now, investors use the RFP process to evaluate existing relationships as well as explore new services. However, the increased volume of RFPs means that firms must find new ways to stand out from the crowd while managing more work. Ultimately, more RFPs is good news ⁠— if you can keep up.

Demand for customized financial services

It’s no surprise that organizations that leverage their assets to pursue strategic business goals want partners who understand their needs. These organizations are no longer satisfied with run-of-the-mill service from big-name investment firms.

Indeed, the high demand for customized institutional investment services leads to longer asset management RFPs with more complex questions. Not only that, but we’re seeing buyers of these services become more knowledgeable and savvy than ever. The result is that each response in each RFP for asset management must be customized, complete and dependable. That level of detail takes time.

As the article from Institutional Investor discusses the shift saying:

“… the increase in manager evaluation documents is partly due to a shift in asset allocation among investors that emphasizes more complex asset classes and solutions, such as multi-asset funds. But it is also driven by allocators and investment consultants [are] paying more attention to the risks they’re taking.”

Emphasis on risk management

Finally, as mentioned in the quote above, the last factor influencing the volume of RFPs for asset management is the industry-wide focus on risk management. RFPs enable institutional investors to ensure compliance and transparency in their asset management firm selection. However, within the selection process and throughout the relationship they must also verify that the firm won’t put the business at risk.

So, in addition to completing RFPs to win new business, investment firms must also complete individual due diligence questionnaires (DDQ) from each existing client each quarter. Questions asked within the DDQ are similar to those found within an RFP for institutional business. For example, the DDQ will likely request updates on total assets under management (AUM), investment personnel changes and any changes in policy.

Unfortunately, DDQs are often just as repetitive and time-consuming to complete as an RFP. Because of the overlap between RFPs and DDQs, the same staff often answers both documents using their knowledge library. While these tools effectively identify risks for the client, they certainly increase the workload for the investor relations or client services staff who answer them.

RFP challenges facing asset management firms

While some firms have added dedicated RFP staff, others have their investor relations or client services teams manage incoming RFPs and quarterly DDQs. With the increased workload, team members who serve as proposal coordinators face a number of challenges.

  • Prioritizing RFPs and deciding to bid or not to bid
  • Meeting fast turnaround times and quick deadlines
  • Creating a consistent and repeatable RFP response process
  • Finding previous answers to RFPs and DDQs
  • Verifying that previous answers are accurate and compliant
  • Coordinating with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create new proposal content
  • Managing RFP workflows and approvals

3 ways to accelerate your asset management RFP responses

Regardless of how many people work together to complete proposals, every firm can benefit from a faster RFP response process. Here’s how to answer all of those RFPs for institutional business in less time and win more.

1. Build a better knowledge library

Using previous RFP responses is a quick way to save time when answering a new RFP for asset management. While businesses want customized answers, there are many similarities in the types of questions they ask. Instead of searching through old proposals individually, create a centralized knowledge library to store questions and responses.

Knowledge management is one of the many skills that make a great proposal manager. In fact, creating and managing a knowledge library is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve efficiency. Whether you collect questions and answers in a Word document, spreadsheet or RFP software (more on this later), you’ll be able to find what you need more quickly.

In addition to cataloging the content itself, consider adding metadata to help categorize knowledge records. For example, segmenting records by region, client industry and topic provides a quick way to find all of the relevant information.

Remember, more content in your knowledge library means less back-and-forth with SMEs. It’s much easier for them to review and update answers than it is to create from scratch.

RFP for investment management examples

If you’re not sure where to start as you begin to build your knowledge library, check out these RFP for asset management examples for inspiration. Each of them provides sample questions to help you start creating an RFP content library.

2. Maintain a team mentality

Successful asset management RFP responses require input from many stakeholders and subject matter experts. Together, this proposal team works together to create winning proposals. However, the members of the team are all busy people, and coordinating with them via email can be a challenge.

To work efficiently and effectively, everyone involved in the RFP process must understand the importance of the project and be invested in the outcome. To encourage a team mentality, hold a kickoff meeting to get everyone on the same page. Share your proposal timeline with the team to ensure they understand the RFP process and their role in it.

I also find that creating and referencing a RACI matrix throughout the project helps to clarify the proposal workflow and responsibilities. Additionally, keep your team engaged in the process by asking for feedback, regularly reviewing proposal content, holding debriefs and celebrating success.

3. Adopt RFP software

RFP software for financial services firms seamlessly manages all aspects of RFPs for institutional investment and DDQs. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many financial services professionals that have benefited from proposal management software, like Responsive (formerly RFPIO). The platform brings your knowledge and team together into a single, centralized workspace and offers tools to improve the RFP process.

RFP software empowers asset managers to:

Improve efficiency

Keeping up with the competition means answering more RFPs, faster. RFP software solutions empower proposal teams through the entire process.

Proposal automation ⁠— RFP software speeds the proposal process with RFP automation. Simply import the RFP for asset management or DDQ and the system will identify questions you’ve answered before. Then, it will suggest relevant answers, so your team spends less time answering standard questions.

Workflow and collaboration ⁠— All of your team’s work on your proposal happens within the RFP tool. The proposal coordinator can create workflows and collaborate in one place. For example, RFP software makes it easy to assign new questions to SMEs, collaborate on responses and request approvals. It moves the process out of email and siloed systems to create a single source of truth.

Dashboards and reporting— Keeping the proposal moving forward can be a challenge. However, the RFP management system provides at-a-glance insight from real-time dashboards. Each member of your team can quickly see what they are responsible for and when it’s due.

Ensure consistency and compliance

When your team moves quickly, it’s hard to ensure that RFP responses are compliant. RFP software protects your firm by improving consistency and ensuring oversight.

Knowledge management ⁠— As I mentioned above, knowledge management is crucial to an efficient RFP process. Luckily, RFP software makes it much easier to collect, categorize and find previous response content from investor relations, compliance and analyst teams. Leverage tagging, account hierarchies and an easy-to-use search tool, to ensure the right content is always at your fingertips.

Regular review cycles — With dozens of DDQs due each quarter, it’s crucial that the knowledge library is kept up to date at all times. RFP software makes keeping track of updates simple. Just assign the knowledge record to the responsible person and set a recurring review cycle. Then, the system automatically sends a notification. When the records are updated, metadata is automatically attached including the date of the change, who updated it and how often it has been used. Now anyone using the knowledge base can quickly verify that the record is current.

Permissions, audits and approvals ⁠— Undoubtedly, your proposals contain detailed and sensitive information. The RFP system protects this data with secure permissions allowing users access to only the information they need. In addition, it logs changes to content so tracking edits is easy.

Preparing for the future of institutional investment

As competition within the financial services industry continues to heat up, your firm must leverage every advantage possible to stay ahead. That means finding creative ways to answer more RFPs for asset management without compromising quality or compliance. To prepare for the future plan to leverage knowledge management, harness the power of your proposal team and RFP software to gain an edge and ensure continued AUM growth.

The RFP proposal writer: Role, skills and resources

The RFP proposal writer: Role, skills and resources

There’s an art to creating proposals that are fact-filled, persuasive and memorable. It takes a combination of creativity, attention to detail, sales savvy and marketing know-how. Consequently, an effective RFP proposal writer embodies all of these attributes and leverages them to help their business win RFP opportunities.

The RFP proposal writer role provides a unique opportunity to connect with customers and directly influence business growth. It’s a challenging, exciting and rewarding position ⁠— do you have what it takes to be successful?

In this blog, we’ll explore the role of a proposal writer in detail. First, we’ll define the position and how it fits into the proposal team. Next, we’ll focus specifically on the responsibilities and skills required. Finally, you’ll discover recommended resources for proposal writers.

The proposal writer role

What is a proposal writer?

A proposal writer, sometimes called a bid writer, is the person responsible for creating complete and compelling responses to the questions posed in a request for proposal (RFP). Their goal is to help the organization articulate their value and win new business. The title of proposal writer may refer to any position focused on creating persuasive documents including grant, research or project proposals. However, this blog and the advice included focuses on professionals who write in response to RFPs.

Role in the proposal team

Within the proposal team, the RFP response writer reports to and works closely with the proposal coordinator or manager responsible for proposal project management. In large organizations, a single proposal writer may work on multiple RFPs and projects simultaneously. On the other hand, in other organizations, one employee may serve as both the proposal manager and the proposal writer.

Key responsibilities of an RFP proposal writer

From one business to another, the responsibilities of the proposal writer vary. Ideally, the proposal writer dedicates themselves fully to the composition of proposal content. However, they may perform other duties as a part of the proposal team. 

Proposal writer responsibilities

  • Read incoming requests for proposals 
  • Participate in kick-off meetings, strategy sessions and proposal project planning
  • Review and customize RFP responses from the proposal content library
  • Collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) and proposal contributors to articulate complex facets of products and services
  • Review and edit RFP responses created by SMEs and stakeholders from various internal teams
  • Ensure responses follow brand style and tone guidelines as well as coach SMEs as needed
  • Verify that responses address key customer hot buttons and win themes
  • Write or review additional RFP response documents and attachments including RFP cover letters and executive summaries
  • Incorporate feedback from proposal review sessions
  • Assist with proposal knowledge management and retention of content for future use

The most important proposal writer skills


The whole purpose of the RFP process is to communicate. Accordingly, it should be no surprise that clear communication is the first skill on our list of must-haves.

RFP proposal writers excel at expressing complex ideas and concepts in a way that is approachable and easy to understand. Indeed, they must produce written work that is articulate and free of typos. In addition to being a master of the written word, you must also be able to effectively communicate and collaborate verbally with colleagues.


As a proposal writer, you’ll work closely with colleagues from all areas of your business. While every person you work with will deliver value to the process, they may not be able to instinctually express differentiators and value. Luckily, that’s where you come in. As you connect with contributors, it’s important to collaborate by listening, brainstorming, clarifying and interviewing them.

From executives and department heads to specialists and consultants, you’ll spend time working closely with a variety of roles. Together, you’ll work from one question to the next to identify key elements to include in your answers. Then, you’ll write to show the prospective customer exactly why your company is their best choice. 

Time management

Successful proposal writers are experts at project management and prioritization. Moreover, they may work on several proposals or projects concurrently with overlapping deadlines. Consequently, the ability to adhere to a strict proposal timeline and avoid delays is highly prized. In any case, the fast-paced work is rewarding and those who are highly motivated and organized tend to thrive.

Attention to detail

It’s not uncommon for RFPs to include dozens of complex requirements. Consequently, the corresponding proposal may span a hundred or more pages. Accordingly, proposal writers need to be tenacious, thorough and meticulous.

In addition to ensuring the proposal response meets the RFP requirements, proposal writers must check each response for a number of things. For example, they must write and review for accuracy, grammar, readability, style, terminology and more. 

An aptitude for technology

As with most modern careers, technology is now a significant part of the day-to-day operations of many proposal teams. Indeed, professionals with technology experience are in demand. More specifically, those with proposal software experience are particularly sought after. Designed specifically to improve efficiency in the RFP response process, these solutions are widely used by leading proposal teams.

The best RFP software solutions centralize the entire process. Specifically, they enable proposal project management, content knowledge management and data collection.

Resources for proposal writers

While the proposal process can be complex, fortunately, there are lots of RFP response tools that lighten the load. From collaboration and proposal management to persuasive writing and grammar, there’s a software, tool or resource to help you hone your skills.

To connect and learn: Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP)

If you’re looking to deepen your proposal process knowledge or network with peers, look no further than the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). With APMP, you’ll find education, commiseration and collaboration in one place.

To sharpen your persuasive writing skills: Chip & Dan Heath – Made to Stick

While this book isn’t specifically for proposal writers, the skills it teaches are incredibly valuable to the RFP response process. It focuses on reviewing your writing for six key elements — simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotion and stories.

To check proposals for readability and grammar: Hemingway Editor

Using the Hemingway App is incredibly easy. To analyze your proposal responses, simply copy and paste them into the app and work through the text. Then, the app helpfully highlights sections that need attention. For example, you can quickly review your work for difficult to read sentences, passive voice, simplicity and overuse of adverbs.

To expand your expertise: LinkedIn Learning

Looking to expand your skill set? Start with the courses on LinkedIn Learning. It seems that there’s a course for every aspect of the proposal process in addition to topics that will expand your expertise. Make professional development a priority and expand your horizons into sales, marketing and business development courses as well.


Ultimately, proposal writers use the RFP response as a canvas to paint an appealing picture for potential customers. How will everyone benefit? What will a partnership with the business look like? How do the mission, vision and values of the two companies align? Without a doubt, much of persuasion is about getting the proposal evaluator to imagine themselves as your customer and compel them to take the next step.

Not only is the proposal writer a key element of business growth, but they also enjoy close relationships with key contacts throughout the business. Consequently, this exposure and insight continually improve their understanding of the business while providing visibility to the value of their work. All of these elements make this role ideal for someone who is creative, empathetic and ambitious.

Build an RFP response database to answer faster & win

Build an RFP response database to answer faster & win

When it comes to answering requests for proposals (RFPs), efficiency is essential. Unfortunately, if you’re like many of your peers without an RFP response database, getting proposal answers is likely difficult and tedious.

In fact, you likely spend countless hours looking for previous proposal content or waiting for subject matter experts to rewrite RFP answers from scratch. Consequently, one of the most important skills required for successful proposal management is RFP knowledge management. Indeed, whether you respond to five RFPs per year or 100, finding reliable information quickly saves you and your team time and frustration.

In this post, we’ll explore how to create an RFP answer library by leveraging knowledge management best practices. To start, I’ll share the basics of knowledge management and how they apply to RFP content and proposal management. Next, you’ll learn the steps to build and maintain your own RFP knowledge library. And to conclude, I’ll offer an overview of some of the benefits and value you and your proposal team can expect to receive from applying knowledge management to your RFP response process.

Proposal knowledge management basics

What is knowledge management?

There are dozens of definitions of knowledge management, but Gartner summarizes the term best saying:

“Knowledge management (KM) is a business process that formalizes the management and use of an enterprise’s intellectual assets. KM promotes a collaborative and integrative approach to the creation, capture, organization, access and use of information assets, including the tacit, uncaptured knowledge of people.”

Knowledge management is a relatively new practice among businesses. However, the value of the approach is immediately obvious to anyone who has spent hours searching for information. In fact, according to KMWorld, the cost of looking for information is significant: 

“Knowledge workers spend from 15 to 35 percent of their time searching for information. Searchers are successful in finding what they seek 50 percent of the time or less.”

Companies create massive amounts of data on a daily basis. For example, every customer email exchange, invoice, policy document and sales proposal contains information that is vital to the operation of your business. And without a system to save, organize and find that information again, all potential value disappears.

Indeed, time spent searching for information unsuccessfully or recreating knowledge that already exists represents a significant financial cost to your business. Consequently, the goal of knowledge management is to increase efficiency and productivity by making information readily available to those who need it.

Applying knowledge management to the proposal process

While we all know that every RFP is different, it’s also true that there is a significant overlap in the information requested in most RFPs. Our customers often estimate that 60-80 percent of the questions asked in the RFPs they receive were answered at least once already. So, when applied to the proposal process, knowledge management saves, centralizes and organizes those RFP answers for future use. 

In addition, saving and storing RFP data enables you to uncover customer trends, predict future opportunities and explore how variations of answers perform.

Where to store RFP responses

So, where does all of this proposal content end up? Hopefully, in a searchable, centralized, cloud-based RFP response database. Your business may call this database a request for proposal library, content repository, body of knowledge, RFP answer library, RFP knowledge base or some combination of these terms. Regardless of what you call it, this is where your RFP responses live, from your company boilerplate to your list of competitive advantages.

RFP response database software options

Before you can begin building your proposal content repository, you have to select a solution to host it. There are two primary options: an editable shared document platform (Google Docs, Google Sheets, Sharepoint) or RFP software designed for proposal management. Both options offer a centralized location for real-time collaboration with subject matter experts as they create new RFP answers. In addition, both solutions are searchable and provide options for organizing. However, shared document platforms aren’t designed for knowledge management and will limit the efficiency of your RFP process.

Certainly, there are pros and cons for each option, and selecting the right option for your team will depend on a variety of factors. However, you’ll find the primary differences are capabilities and cost. 

If your organization wants to respond to more RFPs by improving efficiency as part of an RFP strategy, proposal management software delivers a strong return on investment (ROI). On the other hand, with some creativity and patience, you can manually manage your knowledge base in a free shared document platform.

Knowledge management features in Responsive:
  • Real-time SME and stakeholder collaboration
  • Categorization tags and account hierarchies
  • Individual user roles and permissions
  • AI-powered search with filters
  • Fully auditable change tracking
  • Duplicate identification
  • Automatic Content Library review cycles
  • Task management and workflow tools
  • Bulk knowledge import and export

How to create an RFP response database

Gather previous proposal content

The first step of building your knowledge base is to gather RFP question and answer pairs from previously completed proposals. Hopefully, some of this information is already digitized and ready to go. You may be tempted to only use RFPs that you won, however, it is beneficial to include as much data as possible.

Decide how you will organize and tag your data

To make your proposal content truly useful, you have to be able to find it quickly. This is where the organizational piece of knowledge management comes into play. Consider how you would categorize each question and its corresponding answer. Also, consider who should have access to what information.

RFP response software uses tags to catalog important aspects of your information. For example, you may use tags to segment knowledge by the industry it addresses, the region it’s applicable to or the section of the RFP it applies to. In addition, the software enables you to easily create account hierarchies to limit a user’s ability to view and edit sensitive information.

Review, update and refine

Now that you’ve collected and labeled your data, it’s time to review it before uploading it to your RFP response database. Start by locating duplicate questions and answers. Then, decide which version of the answer is your go-to response. Factors to take into account include deciding which answer is part of more winning proposals as well as how recently the answer was written or updated. 

After you’re done removing duplicates, review the question and answer sets. Look for any information that is no longer relevant or needs updates. While reviewing all this information may be tedious, it’s important. Your knowledge base can only deliver value if it’s accurate.

Conduct training

One of the biggest factors that determine the success of RFP knowledge management is buy-in from users. While most RFP response database software is very easy to use, hosting tailored training sessions will save you time in the long run. 

Indeed, your sessions should certainly cover search functionality and how to revise out-of-date content. In addition, your team must establish parameters for when to create new knowledge records and which tags to use. Don’t forget to also update any supporting process documentation to reflect the changes.

Seek feedback and optimize

A successful RFP response database is continually growing, changing and evolving to better serve your organization. Ideally, you will consistently update records and add new information as you encounter new RFP questions. Typically, we recommend setting general review sessions at least twice a year to solicit user feedback, review usage and ensure content consistency.

Benefits of creating an RFP response database

Applying a knowledge management approach to RFP answers delivers benefits and solves several common proposal team challenges. 

Stop wasting time searching for proposal content

We all know the old feeling. The sense of deja vu that comes when you read a question you’re sure you’ve answered before. Then you spend time searching through emails, notes and old RFPs to find it. Eventually, you give up and send the question to the subject matter expert who answered it last time, begging them to write it again.

However, with a well-organized knowledge library, your answers are easy to find. Simply conduct a keyword or question search, pick the best answer, and move on with your life. A recent review on G2 described the impact of their knowledge library saying:

A single content repository, combined with automation and project management tools, makes responding to even the most complex RFPs easier. Having a single storage of RFP-driven work that is tracked and easily referenced makes management happy, and our sales teams know how to engage with the bid & proposals team.

Make life easy for your subject matter experts

Working with subject matter experts isn’t always easy. They’re busy. And, just like you, they’re tired of answering the same questions over and over again. 

With a knowledge library, you can use the catalog of existing RFP responses to complete as much of the questionnaire as possible. Then, send any remaining questions that require input to the SME. As they answer new questions, your knowledge library grows. Subsequently, you can complete more of each RFP on your own.

Improve your proposal team’s consistency

We all know that asking two people the same question will probably result in two very different answers. Likewise, an RFP question that has been asked a dozen times may have a dozen answer variations. 

Luckily, a knowledge library serves as a single source of truth for your proposal team. So you only find the best version of each answer. In addition, proposal managers become more confident that the proposal is accurate.

Decide to bid or not to bid in less time

When considering whether to bid or not to bid on a new RFP opportunity, the time required to respond is always a factor. With an updated knowledge library, you can gauge how much new content is required and how much you can reuse. As your collection of responses grows, you’ll be able to take on more proposals in less time.


For organizations focused on growth, efficiency and productivity are key. Consequently, every minute you spend searching for information or recreating existing work represents wasted resources. And, for proposal managers, the lost time results in missed RFP opportunities.

Luckily, a well-managed RFP response database delivers accurate information to the right person at the right time ⁠— maximizing the value of your time and expertise.

See how it feels to respond with confidence

Why do 250,000+ users streamline their response process with RFPIO? Schedule a demo to find out.