What’s the most tedious part of responding to RFPs, RFIs and RFQs? The repetition. Like a kid during a road trip asking “Are we there yet?” every five minutes, most questions in RFPs and other requests have been asked before. Many times. The answer is almost always the same, and the repetition can wear you down.
But what if you didn’t have to respond to the same standard questions over and over? Or, at the very least, were able to do it a lot less? If you could proactively provide answers to the most common RFP questions before they’re even asked, what would happen? Ideally, you’d receive shorter RFPs that only ask new questions that are unique to the prospect’s needs. The proactive approach would also make you the vendor that sets the stage for the deal, leaving your competitors to play catch up. And, in the best case scenario, you’d be able to avoid a formal, competitive RFP altogether.
InfoSec professionals began adopting profiles as an efficient means of sharing information several years ago. Today, sharing a profile, instead of completing a questionnaire, is the prevailing means of providing sensitive (though repetitive) IT security information to prospects, customers, and business partners. If your IT team can use an information profile to avoid answering the same security and risk questions over and over — why not apply the same principle to RFPs, bids and proposals?
In this blog, we’ll explore how bid and proposal professionals can leverage profiles to reduce repetitive work and win more business. First, we’ll start with some basics about what an information profile is and the potential benefits of using one. Next, we’ll explore what this idea looks like in practice and provide examples of the kinds of information you might share with a prospective or current customer using a profile. Finally, we’ll share how the Responsive platform’s new product, Profile Center, makes it easy — plus offer tips to try it out for yourself.
Profile basics and background
What is an information profile?
First thing’s first: What is a profile? When we use the term profile, we’re referring to a collection of information assembled to address the needs of a specific audience. The information within a profile addresses a particular topic and is factual, thorough but standardized. Common profile contents include precompleted questionnaires, fact sheets, policy documents, certificates, and other credentials. The objective is to provide a body of information that enables your prospects, customers, and business partners to browse the profile you’ve shared and self-serve the information they require.
How are profiles used?
As mentioned in the introduction, InfoSec (information security) teams pioneered the use of security profiles to share detailed, sensitive information with trusted external parties. They regularly use security profiles to deliver vendor risk assessments, preempt SIG (standardized information gathering) questionnaire requests and share security certifications. A profile might include complex information about a company’s data storage policies, employee training, security certifications, hardware policies and so on.
In this case, the information in the profile likely doesn’t change significantly from day to day or depending on who’s asking. Regardless, this information is specialized and isn’t public so it’s routinely requested by customers, partners and others. Luckily, profiles are ready to go whenever they’re needed.
It is common for teams to maintain multiple profiles—each focused on a distinct product line, system, or policy area. Organizing information into multiple profiles helps ensure the information shared is focused on the needs of the viewer, and ensures sensitive information is shared on a need-to-know basis.
Why use a profile instead of a PDF or Word document?
Unlike a PDF or Word document that is out of your hands once sent, an information profile offers more control. Profiles are shared by invitation only, ensuring only your intended recipient can view the information. Access to the profile is provided using an email address and delivered in a secure portal. Additionally, the sender can adjust user permissions, revoke access if needed, revise and reshare information, and see if the profile has been viewed or downloaded for additional insight.
Using profiles to win business
When viewed at a high level, the sales cycle is one big exchange of information. You’re asking questions and building a picture of the opportunity. What does the prospect need? How can you help? Who else are they considering? Will the engagement be mutually beneficial? The buyer is likewise trying to gather information, but they may not know what they should be asking.
Here’s your chance to use a profile to assist, educate and influence the deal. Collaborate with your sales, marketing, bid and proposal teams to create a general profile that offers detailed answers to the 25 (or so) most commonly asked RFP questions. Add more information that speaks to the customer’s specific needs using your RFP content library. Then, invite them to the profile.
This approach has a number of advantages.
1. Create a sense of transparency, exclusivity and trust
As a bid and proposal professional, your instinct is to heavily customize anything you send to connect with the customer and sell them the exact solution they need. And, when you’re answering a competitive RFP, that tailoring is essential to success.
However, when you provide a profile, you’re likely earlier in the sales cycle. At this point, you’re acting as an expert consultant. By inviting a prospect to view a profile, you create a sense of transparency, exclusivity and trust.
Transparency – Because the profile contains general information and very little customization, you create the perception that you’re not winding up for a hard sell, you’re simply seeking to educate. You’re there to assist them in their journey and help them find the right solution.
Exclusivity – Information contained in your profile isn’t publicly available to just anyone. Logging in to a secure portal makes the prospect feel like they’re being let into a high-value secret.
Trust – While most of the information in your profile likely isn’t sensitive and echoes dozens of past RFP responses, you don’t share it freely for obvious reasons. As you advise and consult with the prospect, you’re building trust. It’s a two-way street that a profile reinforces.
2. Skip the RFP altogether
When a prospect expresses a desire to tap into your organization’s expertise, sales teams often jump at the chance to help write an RFP. Naturally, you ask questions that play to your strengths. But you’re still going head to head with your competitors.
Instead, consider offering access to a profile that has common questions AND your answers in one neat package. Offering a profile proactively delivers the standardized information the prospect needs to gain buy-in from their business without unintentionally seeding the idea that they should compare vendors.
Additionally, a profile may enable you to provide the prospect with everything they need to move forward to the next steps. The goal is to give them confidence that they can (and should) skip the hassle, extra time and expense of issuing an RFP.
3. Influence unavoidable RFPs
Admittedly, sending a proactive profile isn’t going to help you to avoid every RFP. But, it can still be a valuable tool for positioning your organization to win. Buyers and procurement teams often draw RFP inspiration from independent research and industry analysts but there’s nothing quite like a real-life example. Build your information profile using common questions from past RFPs as well as those that best highlight your strengths.
When you share the information as a way to help your prospect, you’ll accomplish two things. First, you’ll influence the questions of the RFP and have a head start on your response. And second, the buyer may subconsciously set a higher bar for competitors based upon your answers.
Additional profile use cases and examples
Profiles are helpful in a variety of applications across your entire business. Essentially, any information that you’d like to securely deliver to an external party can be provided via a profile. For example, you could create profiles to share:
- Proactive sales information (as described above)
- Boilerplate company information
- Financial history and insurance details
- Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies
- Data security policies and certifications
- Supplier diversity certifications
- Due diligence information
- Vendor security information
- Privacy policies
- SOC certifications
- ESG policies
- Terms and conditions
An inside look at the Responsive Profile Center
Creating and sending secure profiles is quick and easy with our strategic response management platform. The Responsive Profile Center enables your team to build and send profiles leveraging your Responsive content. Because Responsive serves as a single source of truth, your customer receives consistent, current and approved content across profiles and RFP responses.
How it works
- Create a profile to share, selecting completed questionnaires from your response projects and relevant documents from your content library.
- Enter email addresses for recipients and set access level.
- Recipients receive an invitation to view the profile.
- Recipients view the profile after verifying their identity with a one-time passcode sent to their email.
- Track recipients’ engagement with the profile content through real-time analytics.
- Revoke or revise access when the engagement changes or concludes.
- Secure access – Share profiles with confidence and confidentiality, protecting access with one time password (OTP) verification and real-time control.
- Current and complete content – Use the Responsive AI-enabled content library as a single source of truth for accurate and effective response content..
- View or download control – Specify how recipients can interact with your information, maintaining complete control over your profiles.
- User activity tracking – See how many times profiles have been viewed or downloaded, learning how they’re being used.
- Review profile history – See activity logs and an audit trail for changes and updates made by your team to every profile.
- Revoke access at any time – Resend, revoke or delete your profiles as needed based on your sales process, time limits and so on.
- Dashboard for profile data visualization – Glance at a dashboard to see real-time analytics on interactions with shared content.
Building prefilled questionnaires and document collections from your Responsive response content — profiles — have a wide range of benefits. From easily sharing information with customers and business partners in a secure environment to improving customer relationships and closing new business as quickly as possible, Profile Center helps you take your bid and proposal process to the next level. Using profiles empower you to be more proactive, helpful and aligned with your prospects and others.
See Profile Center in action
If you would like to explore more about how you can use profiles to win more business and accelerate deal time frames, request a Responsive demo. Or, if you’re an Responsive customer, see it in action with your account manager.