Managing requests for proposals (RFPs) and creating winning responses is complex under any circumstances. But, working with large RFP teams can pose additional challenges.
For every proposal, you have to:
- Conduct research to get to the heart of what your prospect really wants
- Create a well-reasoned plan to solve their challenge
- Present your proposal in the most compelling way possible
Sure, you have more people to help with time-consuming tasks, but there are also more moving parts to coordinate and account for. And things can get very messy — fast.
In this post, we’ll explore how large RFP teams can find strength in numbers, improve their proposal process and most importantly, win.
How can large RFP teams communicate effectively?
The first challenge large teams face is communicating effectively.
As stated in Communication Studies:
“Unlike smaller teams, many times people in large teams may not be familiar with others in their team. Managers of large teams don’t often have enough time to spend with each member of the team and require the help of supervisors to communicate with them. Communication in a large team can become less frequent in a workplace, relying more on memos, network communication, instant messaging, emails and morning meetings. But, at the end of the day, when it comes to successfully communicating in either a small or large team, each person counts.”
Certainly it’s true that the larger the team, the more difficult it is to coordinate. And, for RFP teams, keeping everyone up to date on progress and decisions is crucial.
Likewise, global RFP teams, with offices in a variety of time zones face similar communication challenges. Fortunately, technology is making it easier to communicate across large distances. We have phones, conferencing, email and instant messaging services like Slack and Skype. The trick is knowing when and how to use each option.
How to pick the right communication tool
According to Tsedal Neeley, an associate professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School and founder of consulting firm Global Matters:
“Instant technologies are valuable when leaders need to persuade others to adopt their viewpoint. But if they simply want to share information, then delayed methods such as e‑mail are simpler, more efficient, and less disruptive to people’s lives. Leaders must also consider the team’s interpersonal dynamics. If the team has a history of conflict, technology choices that limit the opportunities for real-time emotional exchanges may yield the best results.”
When it comes to communicating with large RFP teams, there are two things you should keep in mind:
- Ensuring everyone has up-to-date, accurate information
- Providing context for conversations and updates
This is where using manual tools like Outlook, Word, and Excel can get you into trouble. Instead, you should consider investing in technology purpose-built for RFP management, such as RFP360.
According to Brandon Fyffe, business development associate at CareHere, “There’s a lot of workarounds for not having RFP management software, but they’re just not the right tool for the job. You need something that’s specifically made for RFP responses.”
Brandon and thousands of other users rely on RFP360 to work collaboratively on proposals in real time. The solution empowers them to communicate directly within the RFP. It also ensures they’re always working on the most up-to-date version of their proposal.
Sticking to the RFP timeline
Another major challenge you’ll face with a large team is sticking to your timeline. Prospects usually have a strict deadline. In many cases, missing that deadline can disqualify your organization. But, keeping large RFP teams on track isn’t exactly easy.
According to Alison Green, former chief of staff for a national nonprofit lobbying organization, the key is to create a production schedule with checkpoints that occur well before deadline.
“Build those check-ins into your schedule from the start and then you shouldn’t be panicking and wondering what’s going on with the work,” she said. “You’ll have a clear system to make sure you stay appropriately in the loop.”
Alison went on to add that you don’t want to be overzealous with your check-ins. While it’s important to keep track of your team’s progress, at the end of the day, everyone you work with is an adult and you should treat them as such.
“Calibrate the level of your engagement based on the skill and track record of the people on your team and the difficulty/newness/importance of the project,” she suggested.
Of course, even if you correctly calibrate the frequency of your check-ins, they’re still often cumbersome for you and your team.
That’s why RFP360 customer appreciate the platform’s automated reminders and progress tracking. Visual dashboards keep each team member on track. Likewise, it can help identify bottlenecks in the process.
Working more efficiently across your RFP Team
One of the biggest problems RFP teams face is the tendency to write every response from scratch. This challenge is particularly problematic with large teams.
You’ve likely noticed that many of the RFPs you receive include similar questions. Instead of passing those same questions to subject matter experts (SMEs) each time, develop a system for reusing past proposal content.
Otherwise, you’ll waste your time and frustrate your SMEs, as Beverly Blakely Jones, National Geographic Learning |Cengage supervisor, can attest.
“It all came to a head as managers kept getting kickback,” she said. “The product SMEs and marketing team were tired of answering the same questions over and over. They knew there had to be an easier way to manage our RFP responses.”
Beverly and her team now use RFP360’s knowledge library to store, organize, search and reuse past proposal content — empowering much faster RFP responses.
“We’re not spending hours hunting down previous answers. All the questions and answers are right there in RFP360,” Beverly explained. “It has cut down on organizing and putting RFPs together like you would not believe.”
Want to learn how RFP360 can streamline the RFP responses process at your organization?