Shift from chaos to crushing it: How to drive RFP process efficiency and accelerate growth

This guest post, exploring proposal process efficiency, was written by Lisa Rehurek, Founder and CEO of The RFP Success® Company, a leading RFP consultancy and strategic planning company.

“It works somewhat, but it’s absolute chaos every time.” Sound familiar?

Are you and your team constantly scrambling toward the RFP response finish line? Do you wake up from the chaotic proposal-building fog just in time to hit “submit” at the last moment? If your answer is yes to either of these, it is likely time to take a step back to review, revisit and revise.

Most RFP-responding teams have the basics down: receive the RFP, organize a kick-off meeting right away, divvy up the answers, note the deadlines and get to work. But shifting from low efficiency and frequent losses into high gear requires reassessment of your proposal process, from receipt through award/loss notification.

Over the last 25 years, I’ve seen everything from teams chasing down a UPS truck to get their response shipped, to the heartbreaking reality of losing a bid because of one missed signature. These mistakes are the result of an inefficient process. The difference between a proposal and/or capture team in chaos and a fine-tuned winning machine, can double, triple… even quintuple your win ratio (and thus, your revenue).

In this article, we’ll share five tips to shift your team out of chaotic drifting and into maximum (efficiency) overdrive. By implementing these five RFP process tips, you’ll introduce structure to your team and take the initial, must-do steps to a culture of winning.

  1. Get a baseline
  2. Conduct an audit
  3. Revisit your foundation
  4. Identify resources
  5. Train and document

How to shift out of RFP chaos and into the (efficient) driver’s seat

1. Get a baseline

You can’t figure out where you need to go without knowing where you are. Data and measurement is essential to decreasing chaos. What’s your win rate? How much revenue are you making from each new RFP? Which competitor are you losing to the most? Why have you lost each bid?

Create a report with hard-number statistics so that you can assess exactly where you are on a number of levels. You likely won’t have every number readily available, but here are a few RFP data points that are important to know:

  • The number of RFPs you bid on per month, on average
  • The amount of money in staff time spent on each RFP response
  • The average contract value per opportunity
  • The time spent responding to each RFP (this will help when designing your process order and priorities)
  • Average contract length

2. Conduct an audit

A process audit will give you the clarity to see exactly where your roadblocks exist. But, before you can fairly review your RFP process, you must dedicate the time!

A highly-valuable process audit requires you to:

Review the process over multiple days
This gives you a chance to thoroughly understand, question and come back to discussion points.

Involve multiple internal parties
Be willing to get vulnerable here and encourage honest feedback.

Engage an unbiased, 3rd party
In our experience as RFP process and team consultants, an outside perspective dramatically impacts future win rates and RFP success. In many instances, an outside RFP expert can improve overall win rates by 50 to 60 percent. To get the most out of an outside reviewer, commit to receive feedback and ideas your team may not have had on their radar, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Indicate the pain points, big or small
Notate the exact pain points at every step of the process. This allows you to create an action plan for how to eliminate these pain points.

3. Revisit your foundation

Why are you bidding on RFPs? What does winning (or losing) an RFP do for your company? Why are you the best solution? What is your value proposition? These questions are vitally important to answer as a team. Put them in writing! Also, have your team members contribute in writing. You’ll see what preconceived ideas each team member has been operating on as they contribute to the proposal lifecycle.

4. Identify resources

From the right technology, to the right people, a smooth (and winning!) RFP process requires a careful blend of resources. In this step, you’ll identify which resources are already present as well as the gaps. Suggested key resources to explore include, but are not limited to:

5. Train and document

Efficient teams have clear processes that are documented thoroughly. Make a concerted effort to create written, step-by-step processes that are easily accessible and updated routinely. Task one team member with owning this responsibility.

Document processes such as assessing opportunities, onboarding a new RFP, internal debriefs, external debriefs, use of software tools, and the list goes on. Even the smallest of processes should be included.

This documentation should include proposal team training to ensure all team members know the processes and know where to access this documentation. This should also be part of your new hire onboarding training for any new team members involved in RFPs.

Start shifting now

The time to make a move is now.

It’s easy to ignore processes. They aren’t sexy. They feel hard. But having the right systems and processes will make a massive difference.

Shifting from Chaos to Crushing It requires your time, a commitment to ever-improve your team’s processes, and the flexibility to shift when your review uncovers potential gaps and fail points.

The multi-faceted approach laid out above will help ensures your team members are committed to implementing RFP processes that will benefit you all.

Explore more insights from Lisa Rehurek:

And for more details about the proposal process, you can download the ebook: The proposal process guide.

RD Symms

RD is a senior copywriter at Responsive. He has more than 15 years of experience in writing, content development, and creative strategy. Connect with RD on LinkedIn.

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