Software RFP responses: Practice what you preach to succeed

Perhaps the greatest irony of working for a software company is that we live and breathe technology, yet we aren’t always the best at practicing what we preach. This is even more apparent with RFP responses.

It’s crazy to think that the majority of companies—84% to be exact—are still responding to RFPs manually. Meaning, no software to promote efficiency and smooth out the ride. I wish I could say that SaaS companies were exempt from this technology averse group. In truth, they are just as guilty.

Software RFP responses are a different beast. Let’s get into some of the challenges SaaS organizations see daily, and how RFP software makes a definitive improvement on productivity.

3 common software RFP response challenges

In general, SaaS companies are unique. Oftentimes they consist of large sales teams that spend most of their time hunting for new business. These team members don’t necessarily have a lot of technical knowledge and they definitely don’t have a lot of time.

Teamwork is a huge part of RFP response success. As we get into three common challenges with software RFPs, you’ll see just how important teamwork is for your organization.

Challenge #1: Workflow

The very people that are working with a customer on the frontline of sales are the same team members that receive the RFP. Should sales respond to all of these questions in some dark corner of the office? Not if you’re planning on winning business—which is kind of the whole point of responding to RFPs.

Sales knows the product, and they have a good handle on what their company does. But they’re not able to take a deep dive into details on the same level as an SME (subject matter expert). With RFP response, there’s usually a pretty big disconnect between the frontline and the people doing the heavy lifting in the back.

The workflow has to be worked out. Some SaaS companies prefer to have Joe the sales rep take a shot at the first round of RFP responses before sending the document along to Hans in sales ops for the next round. Others don’t include sales reps in the RFP response process at all, because they have a dedicated proposal management team handling everything.

Figure out a workflow that makes sense for your organization. And make sure everyone understands their role in the RFP process. If Sue on the marketing ops team knows when she’ll be responding, and to which specific questions, she’ll be more willing to contribute to RFPs.

Challenge #2: Collaboration

Collaboration is key during the RFP response process. Streamlining communication efforts between departments and teams can be a substantial obstacle. It’s even more substantial for a SaaS company with remote teams in different cities, countries, and/or continents.

Remember…SaaS teams are largely sales teams. Sales is going to go where the easy money is. If they have other deals that are closer to closing, they’re going to focus their attention there rather than a stressful RFP situation they may win down the line in a few months.

Outside of sales, other team members will gladly pass up responding to RFPs in favor of the project they feel is more important. Again, everyone has a full-time job here. The reality is that you need engineers and product managers to weigh in to create quality RFP responses that land the deal.

Responders need to understand that an RFP is a breadwinner, not a waste of time. Getting everybody on the same page with this concept will move RFPs up higher on their priority lists. A stronger team commitment equals a stronger RFP.

Challenge #3: Security

These days companies have major security concerns, especially with products in the cloud. That means SaaS companies are required to respond to security questions and full-on security questionnaires often.

Security questionnaires can be a major setback for software companies. Hundreds or thousands of repetitive questions must be answered quickly. And, no pressure—how well you respond will either put the prospect at ease about your product or cause them to run off with one of your competitors.

Most team members won’t feel confident about answering highly technical questions. This responsibility falls upon the people who can respond, which ultimately exhausts your go-to SMEs.

Security is a part of life for software companies, so be prepared with the right team and a solid way to manage these responses. That’s not as easy as it sounds. But, just like any of the usual RFPs or RFIs, there are ways to take control of security questionnaires too.

Conquer software RFP response challenges and move on

Enough with the doom and gloom already, am I right? You don’t want to hear about RFP response challenges, because you see them every day. I bet you want to know how you can beat some of those challenges and move on with your life. So, here we go…

  • Have a clear and defined team – Your proposal management team doesn’t have to be big. Your team could be one or two people that manage the RFP response process, who call in technical reinforcements as needed.
  • Structure a communication system – Visibility needs to be there for all parties involved in your RFP process. Make communication easy between teams outside of email, so things don’t get lost in crowded inboxes.
  • Build a database of RFP responses – Repetition will happen, especially with responses to security questionnaires. A huge help is creating a centralized, searchable database of common questions and answers.
  • Yeah….Just use RFP software – This is really number one. To beat these software RFP challenges—and be more productive as an organization—you need technology to get the job done.

RFP software makes life easier for SaaS companies

Since you and I both work at SaaS companies, I’ll shoot straight with you. You don’t necessarily need RFP software. You can survive without it, but you’ll be surviving rather than succeeding when your Content Library is a spreadsheet instead of a system.

You don’t need to drive your car to get to work. But you also don’t want to spend two hours on public transportation when you could get there in 25 minutes. This is how RFP software works. It makes life easier.

RFP software helps you define a positive workflow, where you spell out roles and responsibilities. You have one page of communication with chat tools inside the platform, along with integrations with crowd favorites like Slack and Salesforce. You give everybody visibility into the process with dashboards. You stop wasting your effort, typing the same thing or searching for responses, because you’re storing everything inside an intelligent Content Library.

RFPIO’s features are likely in line with the goal of the product you stand behind at your company. We’re all building technology to make processes more efficient for people. For you, that means no more Control+F to find RFP responses. It’s time to practice what you preach and use software to make RFP response a successful endeavor for your team.

Mitchell Hipp

As the Senior Account Executive of Responsive, Mitchell Hipp helps businesses understand the opportunity to scale their sales operations process by adopting an RFP response solution. An experienced account executive, Mitchell previously led a team of engineers and SMEs to architect IT solutions for businesses. Connect with Mitchell on LinkedIn.

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