Responding to RFPs (Requests for Proposals) and other critical, often complex information requests has long been a proven method for companies to source and secure business. Companies with mature strategic response management (SRM) functions have a key competitive advantage: higher win rates and increased revenue compared to organizations with less streamlined processes.
The world of strategic response management is getting more complicated by the day. Response teams are being tasked with covering an ever-increasing array of response types, which are getting longer and denser as companies seek more and more information from potential vendors.
To understand the state of SRM, gather RFP response trends and set RFP response benchmarks, Responsive commissioned a global research study, the 2023 Strategic Response Management Maturity Report: Habits of Leaders vs. Laggards. This report identified companies with different maturity levels in SRM and profiled their best practices and business outcomes.
Keep reading for an overview of what we found, along with advice and concrete recommendations on how all companies can improve their strategic response management function to win more business.
What is strategic response management?
Strategic response management (SRM) is the practice of responding to critical, often complex information requests from buyers, customers, partners and other parties using a software platform that centralizes your organization’s most valuable content and documents. SRM is a critical company function, especially as the number and diversity of information requests companies are asked to respond to continue to increase annually.
It’s not just RFPs that companies need an SRM solution or RFP response tool for. There are a number of different types of requests, each requiring an individual approach, all of which can be centrally managed with the right SRM software:
- Request for Proposals (RFPs)
- Request for Information (RFI)
- Request for Quotes (RFQ)
- Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Questionnaires (DEIs)
- Environmental, Social, & Governance Questionnaires (ESGs)
- Vendor Security Questionnaires (VSQs)
- Due Diligence Questionnaires (DDQs)
The value of better response management
Developing a mature strategic response management function – one that leverages a winning combination of the right tools and processes – is essential to gain a leg up on your competitors. Response management teams that integrate the best SRM software and adopt leading practices are able to optimize all aspects of the proposal process, increasing their RFP win rate to drive more revenue for the business.
As a response management leader, focusing on the maturity level of your function doesn’t just have profound impacts on your company – it’s also a good career move. C-level executives understand the strategic nature of SRM to the overall business and they care about getting it right. Putting in place a better response management process at your organization is the ideal move for both the future of both your company and your personal career.
Strategic response management index
To better understand how companies are addressing the new strategic needs of responding to different types of requests, we developed the SRM index. This index is based on our global survey of 718 executives and managers who own response management at their organizations.
We asked about a wide variety of response management practices, skills and technologies, and then categorized responding companies by their maturity level across the key dimensions identified as being most important to driving business outcomes.
The SRM index has four maturity categories. Each company falls into one of the following classifications:
- Response leaders: These companies display the highest level of maturity among survey respondents. They exemplify the greatest skills, most efficient processes and display the greatest use of SRM platform technologies. Just 18 percent of companies in our sample fell into this category.
- Response achievers: These companies are above the median in terms of skills, processes and use of technology, but they are not as advanced as response leaders. This category was 34 percent of the sample.
- Response strivers: These companies are just below the median in terms of skills, processes and use of technologies. A third of the companies surveyed (33 percent) were classified as strivers.
- Response laggards: These companies represent the lowest level of maturity, displaying the lowest level of skills, least efficient processes and lowest use of SRM platforms or technologies. Laggards made up 15 percent of the sample.
We surveyed more than 700 strategic response executives worldwide
For this survey, conducted in Spring 2023, we surveyed 718 executives and managers responsible for strategic response management who work at organizations with greater than $50 million in annual revenue. Respondents came from all over the world and worked at companies across a range of industries.
The industries represented in the sample are as follows:
- Technology (45 percent)
- Manufacturing (21 percent)
- Financial Services (14 percent)
- Healthcare (12 percent)
- Business Services (8 percent)
Respondents worked across a number of functions, including IT (49 percent), executive management (13 percent), marketing (10 percent), operations (9 percent), sales (8 percent) and product management (8 percent). Their job levels were as follows:
- C-level (37 percent)
- SVP/VP (15 percent)
- Director (18 percent)
- Manager (28 percent)
- Team Lead (3 percent)
Correlating practices to business outcomes
Overall, we found a strong correlation between companies with more mature SRM practices (including processes, technologies and organizational structures) and positive business outcomes like win rate and revenue generated from RFPs.
Leading companies (response leaders in the SRM index) have a 16 percent higher win rate and generate 34 percent more revenue from their response functions than response laggards. It’s evident that implementing the right tools, practices and technologies can have a significant impact on an organization’s ability to scale the maturity curve.
What makes a response leader?
According to the SRM index, a response leader is a company that displays the highest level of maturity in their strategic response management function. At the other end of the spectrum are response laggards – companies that have the most work to do, have the most ad hoc processes and use the least amount of modern tools and practices.
Response leaders with the most mature SRM functions have iron-clad and efficient RFP response processes that allow them to respond to RFPs and other requests quickly and accurately. Because they employ leading SRM technology like Responsive, they gain key efficiencies that set them apart from their competition.
RFP performance benchmarks
By surveying a spectrum of companies, we were able to surface a number of RFP response benchmarks from response leaders.
Average win rate
We found that business outcomes differentiate leaders from laggards. Leaders told us they win 58 percent of responses, while laggards win only 50 percent, meaning leaders have a 16 percent greater win rate.
Average number of RFP responses per month
Leading companies are able to respond to more RFP responses on a monthly basis. Almost half of the companies surveyed (47 percent) handle 10-25 RFP responses per month. Response leaders (17 percent) handle over 25 per month, while laggards (31 percent) complete just five to 9 responses per month.
Revenue generated from responses
There’s a significant difference between leading companies and laggards when it comes to the percentage of revenue generated from responses. Companies with the most mature SRM functions generate 55 percent of revenue from strategic responses, while laggards generate only 41 percent – a 34 percent difference.
RFP response trends
Our survey revealed some key RFP response trends. Here’s what companies leading the pack in RFP response win rate and revenue generation are doing.
Leaders involve their C-level executives
Focus groups we conducted revealed that C-level executives appreciate the strategic nature of response management overall. At leading companies, members of the C-suite are embedded in the SRM process – these executives take the time and spend the focus to ensure the process is working correctly.
92 percent of response leaders according to the SRM index said their executive teams get involved in contributing to or reviewing large RFPs and other strategic responses, compared to only 55 percent of laggards. Additionally, 96 percent of leaders said their executives are very or extremely involved in the SRM process, compared with 45 percent of laggards.
Leaders have well-defined roles and responsibilities
The SRM process is a complicated one, often involving as many as a dozen or more individuals from across a variety of functions. Depending on the response type, subject matter experts (SMEs) and response collaborators come from security, sales, business development, risk management, IT, compliance, finance, marketing, HR and more.
A lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities in the SRM process can cause critical confusion that derails responses. 100 percent of the leaders surveyed have well-defined team roles and responsibilities. Comparatively, only 59 percent of laggards displayed clarity here.
Leading companies also displayed a shared ownership of the SRM process. Again, 100 percent of response leaders said their response team members are highly knowledgeable about the process of responding to RFPs and other strategic responses, yet only 72 percent of laggards reported this shared expertise.
Leaders also involve more people in the strategic response process: 11 people per response compared to nine for laggards. SRM software like Responsive makes it simple to collaborate cross-functionally by centralizing the response process in a single tool. Response managers can tag SMEs directly to solicit their participation. SMEs can then add their contributions directly into the response draft that’s managed in the platform.
Leaders have streamlined processes
Companies with the most mature SRM processes have much smoother processes than laggards. All leading companies surveyed are very or extremely satisfied with their company’s process, compared to only 54 percent of laggards. A lower level of satisfaction can hamper response times and response quality, which has cascading negative effects (i.e., lower win rates, decreased revenue generation, etc.).
Leaders are investing in modern tools and technologies
All of the companies we surveyed reported a variety of tools used for SRM. These include:
- Standard office applications like Excel, Word, Google Docs, etc.
- Strategic response management tools like Responsive
- Sales enablement tools
- Content management tools
- CRM platforms
Leading companies are much more likely to invest in a modern suite of tools and technologies to automate their processes and enable their teams to access the right data at the right time in the process. 52 percent of leaders according to the SRM index use SRM tools, compared to 44 percent of laggards.
Response leaders also invest more than double on SRM tools and software than response laggards: $574,000 for leaders vs. $255,000 for laggards. This increased spend is correlated with greater process efficiency. Leaders are able to close and submit on average 14.8 responses per month, while laggards are only able to complete 10.2 responses.
Tips for strategic response management
Companies that are lagging in their SRM processes have a severe disadvantage. According to our research, less mature SRM functions are correlated with lower efficiency, productivity and results.
There are a number of things companies can do to move up the strategic response management index, including:
- Hiring and training highly skilled response team members. Organizations with dedicated and developed SRM functions are more successful.
- Improving strategic response processes. Companies that have developed SRM processes enjoy higher win rates and greater revenue.
- Engage the C-suite. Response leaders on the SRM index report an increased investment from executive leadership in the SRM process, especially when it comes to the highest value responses.
- Invest in an industry-leading SRM platform. Platforms like Responsive can instantly improve strategic response processes with automation, organization and AI.
How Responsive can help your team become an RFP response leader
Integrating SRM software into a strategic response management strategy provides a critical boost to your company’s SRM function. With the right partner, you’ll increase the number of responses you can complete, see an improved win rate and generate a greater percentage of company revenue from RPFs.
Responsive is the #1 SRM software solution according to G2 for four years and counting. As a complete strategic response management platform, Responsive enables companies across industries to swiftly respond to every information request, including RFPs, EFIs, ESGs, DDQs, security questionnaires and more.
There are a number of platform features that improve key SRM processes. Here are some highlights.
Without an SRM software solution, the response process can be messy. As our RFP report revealed, companies at the top of the SRM index are able to integrate more people per response than laggards.
Responsive makes collaboration super easy. Response managers can simply tag various personnel and SMEs whose contributions are needed. Thorough integrations with top communication tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams ensure that SMEs are instantly alerted. They can then address their action items and contribute to any response directly in the platform.
Additionally, Responsive has native integrations with key business productivity tools such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace, making it easy to import and organize information from any file type or location.
One of the largest advantages Responsive provides in the SRM response process is the productivity boost you get from a centralized knowledge base. Instead of manually searching through different platforms, storage solutions and files, response teams can find the right content easily (and instantly) directly in the Responsive platform.
With features like Responsive LookUp, all of the expertly crafted content and documents your team uses in the SRM response process are instantly available to teams across your organization, directly from the productivity applications they use every day.
Automation and AI writing tools
RFPs and other information requests tend to ask similar questions. To speed up the SRM process, Responsive will pre-populate answers to repetitive questions using your past responses, all of which are automatically stored in the platform.
Responsive also has generative AI writing embedded natively into the platform. With a simple click of a button, Responsive will comb through your knowledge base and draft answers to any question in seconds – a process that takes hours otherwise.
And when it comes to formatting and branding, you won’t need to worry about a thing. Responsive will automatically ensure your company is well-represented and you can easily export responses into source files, branded templates, or even website pages.
Not all RFPs and strategic responses are created equal: some are more complicated than others and your chance of winning is not necessarily always the same.
Responsive offers automated intelligent insights to sharpen your strategic response management. These insights help you decide whether to respond to each RFP and RFI that comes in using built-in intelligence. That way, you can focus your efforts on the opportunities that will have the greatest payoff.
Become a response leader with Responsive
To become a response leader, you need a critical edge in your SRM process. Leading companies use Responsive to achieve higher win rates and greater revenue.
See how Responsive can provide a critical boost for your company: schedule a customized demo here.