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How Beacon Hill customizes proposals using RFP software

How Beacon Hill customizes proposals using RFP software

Professional services companies know that not all RFPs are created equally. Each proposal you send out to prospects needs to […]

Category: Tag: RFP automation

How Beacon Hill customizes proposals using RFP software

How Beacon Hill customizes proposals using RFP software

Professional services companies know that not all RFPs are created equally. Each proposal you send out to prospects needs to be tailored to that company’s needs—which means no two RFPs you send out are going to be exactly the same.

That’s why “customizability” was top of mind when Cristina Ethridge, proposal manager at Beacon Hill Staffing Group, set out to find the right RFP response software.

Without RFP software, there wasn’t enough time for RFPs

Before RFPIO, all of Beacon Hill’s RFP-related content was stored in—or rather, scattered across—old RFPs and massive spreadsheets. Responding to RFPs entailed a long search through several different documents to find appropriate answers.

Because RFPs are reactive by nature, salespeople could rarely fit these time-consuming tasks into their day-to-day schedules. Instead, they’d work nights and weekends in order to get RFPs in on time. If salespeople couldn’t find the answer they needed, they would often bombard subject matter experts (SMEs) with urgent, last-minute requests—who then had to drop everything to pull together answers before the deadline.

If that weren’t enough, there wasn’t a solid review process in place for making sure RFP content was accurate and up-to-date. Even if salespeople could find the answers they needed, there was no guarantee that these answers were the most accurate.

The result of these problems was two-fold. First, both salespeople and SMEs were overwhelmed and overworked in their RFP responsibilities. Second, the RFPs they submitted weren’t up to Beacon Hill’s standards.

Cristina knew that her team was capable of submitting high-quality RFP responses. The biggest thing standing in their way was time (or, more accurately, lack thereof). This kicked off her search for an RFP response software.

At Beacon Hill, customization is the name of the game

After a long search, Cristina decided to move forward with RFPIO, mostly because she knew the high level of functionality would accommodate every RFP that came across her desk. “Just because I knew all the wacky set-ups that I could expect, I wanted something that had a lot of customization features so that I could actually use the tool for proposal automation.”

The staffing industry, like most professional services industries, is all about customization. Each client gets a completely unique proposal. That’s why RFPIO works so well for Beacon Hill — because it is extremely customizable and includes many unique features.

Cristina also loves that RFPIO supports both images and graphics on its platform, since her team submits a lot of RFP responses that are both text- and graphic-based. Even with added graphics, the export process is quite straightforward. All she has to do is make a few formatting tweaks to the final copy and it’s ready to send off to the prospect.

Using technology to improve content accuracy

After implementing RFPIO, Cristina populated their Content Library with company content. Not only does this mean that all company content is stored in one place, but they’ve also been able to put all their content through a moderation cycle.

Before any answer can be added to the Content Library, a moderator has to review and approve the answer. And subject matter experts conduct an audit once a year — just to make sure all their content remains true a year later.

Cristina appreciates the peace of mind an updated content library brings, “It’s good to know that when you’re going through and using the recommended answers in RFPIO, you can be sure that the answers you’re using are accurate and up-to-date.”

But, Cristina thinks one of the best things about RFPIO is that it’s constantly updated based on user feedback.

“I remember scrolling through the help center, ‘liking’ another user’s suggestion, and then seeing it implemented in the tool a few weeks later. I’ve never seen another company really listen to customer requests and ideas—and then act on them so quickly.”

Looking for help with customized proposals? Schedule a demo.

Sell smarter with data-driven RFP process management

Sell smarter with data-driven RFP process management

An RFP response may not seem like the quickest path to achieving sales success. But what if we told you there was a way to exponentially increase the odds of that RFP putting money into your pocket? And what if you could submit higher quality RFPs faster, raising the opportunity to land more deals?

No, we don’t have a magic wand, but it comes close. Modern technology is pretty amazing, and it’s that kind of wizardry we’re talking about. Data and analytics, driven by powerful AI capabilities, provides sales organizations with a new game plan—business intelligence.

How does business intelligence help you sell smarter in the request for proposal process? With data-driven RFP process management, you and your sales team gain intelligent tools to shorten the sales cycle, close more deals, and save time.

What is data-driven RFP process management?

For any organization, the RFP process must be a thoughtful, well-coordinated effort. When you leverage data analytics and business intelligence, rather than spinning your wheels, you advance your process. You evolve RFP project management into data-driven RFP process management.

Data-driven RFP process management ensures your time is well-spent on carefully selecting business opportunities and balancing resources to craft winning RFPs.

  • You assess incoming bids to determine if the organization is a good fit before you allocate time and resources to responding to the RFP.
  • Your proposal managers clearly estimate and predict the time needed for various tasks and deliverables to effectively schedule, allocate resources, and distribute workloads.
  • Your Content Library is always in good health, providing accurate, marketing-approved content for use throughout the sales process—even beyond RFPs.

86% of salespeople are looking for opportunities to shorten the sales cycle and close more deals. Besides giving you more qualified opportunities, data-driven RFP process management saves everyone time. The request for proposal process is transformed into a well-oiled machine.

RFP Response Process Steps

Powerful analytics for your request for proposal process

You want to submit the best RFP to your prospects and win more business from your organization’s collective effort. However, your entire livelihood is dictated by the sales cycle—time is always money in your world.

These analytics and reporting tools in RFPIO will help you accomplish your most ambitious sales goals with greater efficiency.

1. Intake management

Business intelligence is the key to excellence during intake management. Analyzing trends and/or past responses to similar RFPs informs business decisions. Trend analysis offers responders a detailed win/loss analysis and creates visibility into which deals your organization is winning—targeting the most worthwhile RFPs and improving the odds for a win.

2. Executive dashboard

The executive dashboard is the birds-eye view of your RFP process. Review historical data for patterns of success and opportunities for improvement. This analysis precipitates decision-making. Sales executives and proposal managers determine any resources needed to improve the RFP process for your team.

3. User report

The user report shows the bandwidth of the entire response management team. Is someone being overwhelmed and overworked? Maybe that’s you. Your RFP response workload—assigned questions and sections for responding and/or reviewing—are visible. If you need resource support, the user report helps you make a case to your proposal manager and executive team.

“Some people call this artificial intelligence, but the reality is this technology will enhance us. So instead of artificial intelligence, I think we’ll augment our intelligence.” —Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM

4. Trend analysis

When you create a new project (RFP, RFI, etc.), click on “Analyze Trends” and you’ll see a trend analysis that shows past resource requirements for similar projects. Trend Analysis helps you understand how many days similar projects have taken to complete.

Additionally, this feature shows how many questions have been answered using auto-response/stored answers versus manual responses, which also provides insight into ROI. Combine the trend analysis with the user report to ensure resources (that includes you!) are allocated properly.

5. Answer library report

Answer library reporting helps your organization build and maintain a healthy content repository. This report allows you to audit your content from a holistic view. You know how much content is currently in a review cycle, how much content is overdue with reviewers, and how much content has been assigned to moderators. Answer library reporting makes it easier to keep your best content up-to-date, so you can quickly respond to RFPs with current and relevant information.

6. Activities report

Team members across departments respond to RFPs. The activities report is your audit history for the entire system. You can filter by date range or by user—and by entity to see what type of change was made to the Content Library. If a mistake was made, you’ll find the edit history here in the activities report so you can correct it.

AI proposal software: Helping you work smarter

Artificial intelligence is everywhere. Your entire online experience is propelled by recommendations and advertising based on your historical data. Smartphones and GPS plan your day and navigate your path.

How does AI transform the world of RFP response? AI proposal software isn’t the way of the future…it’s already happening.

Artificial intelligence systems are the man behind the curtain in the aforementioned data and analytics tools. AI drives the business intelligence used for win/loss analysis, which helps your organization make informed decisions about RFP intake management and process planning.

AI proposal software automates repetitive tasks, such as exporting and formatting documents. The answer recommendation engine automates content as well, producing basic boilerplate responses and answering common questions.

In combination with data-driven RFP process management, AI proposal software helps you work faster and smarter on RFPs. By moving quickly and intelligently, you shorten the sales cycle, maximize every RFP opportunity, and gain the time and energy to focus on the next big deal.

Business intelligence helps sales organizations make better decisions, increase sales performance, and save valuable time. When your sales team operates with data-driven RFP process management, you’ll have the winning advantage. Leverage the power of data-driven RFP process management. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to optimize your sales process.

How to improve RFP response time management long-term

How to improve RFP response time management long-term

The average professional works a mere three minutes straight before changing tasks. As a subject matter expert (SME), one of those tasks is regularly contributing to your proposal management team’s cause, helping them produce high-quality RFP responses with your organizational expertise.

Every time you’re asked to collaborate on an RFP, RFI, or security questionnaire, you’re taken away from your main job requirements. To speed up the process, you repurpose old content. Then, you spend most of that time you thought you were saving searching folders and files—or relying on Control+F to navigate a massive Content Library spreadsheet with 20+ tabs.

You’re a key player with multiple roles to fill, but know that RFP responses will get much easier when you have the right toolset. Discover ways to improve RFP response time management and lead your organization toward long-term success.

A central RFP repository built for quick collaboration

Process confusion happens with many SMEs, whether you respond to hundreds or handfuls of RFPs, RFIs, and security questionnaires. Each time you’re brought into the RFP response process, it can feel like a fire drill. Your expertise is needed…ASAP.

Establishing a central RFP repository is the first step in improving time management. One of RFP software’s core features is the Content Library, a central repository that stores all of your organization’s content.

That means instead of answering the same question over and over again, you search and select relevant content from past responses. You quickly customize the response as needed, then move on with your day. Having this content accessible to your proposal management team allows them to even fill in responses ahead of time so you only need to step in when it’s time to approve the content.

However you decide to manage your workflow, with RFP software you skip the information hunt by letting technology do the majority of the work for you. It’s a much faster way to collaborate with your proposal manager.

Over time, you build a well-oiled machine by continually adding and updating response content within your Content Library. Your legacy will live on, even if you decide to move on to another professional opportunity. If you transition out of your role, you won’t leave your team hanging.

Global collaboration with RFP language translation

You’ll also save time when different languages come into play with RFP responses. RFP translation capabilities within RFPIO help you overcome language barriers with both team members and prospects.

Global collaboration with internal team

If your proposal management team is headquartered in another country, you’ll need to take quite a bit of time to clarify what is being asked. Conversely, they’ll need to understand your answers in their own language.

Global collaboration with prospects

If a prospect resides in another country, the RFP must be compiled accurately and professionally in the native language of the issuer. A substantial amount of time is literally lost in translation.

RFPIO is currently available in 17 different languages, so multi-lingual teams can navigate the RFP response process in their own language. The Content Library is powered by Google Translate as well. You can store the same answer in different languages, using tags to differentiate the content. From there, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning responses, rather than translating from scratch every time.

Optimize your time and create better RFP responses

In addition to wearing your SME hat when helping with RFP responses, the rest of your day is booked solid with primary responsibilities. Our 2019 RFPIO Responder Survey showed that our customers are just like you: 43% of subject matter experts revealed their top challenge was spending too much time on RFP responses.

When a response management platform like RFPIO supports your process, you contribute on your own time—you spend less time participating so you can focus the majority of your energy on primary responsibilities.

Here’s how RFP software helps you rise to the time management challenge…


You may have used an ad-hoc process to create and submit RFP responses up until this point. RFP software automates and simplifies this process, saving valuable time for you and your team.

When it’s time for you to jump into an RFP, you receive an email alert from your proposal manager. You can tag or filter RFPIO emails in your inbox, then complete your assigned questions or sections when you have a little extra focus time.

Workflows in RFPIO are a great way to automate business processes. You start by creating a rule. Based on the specific criteria you set, RFPIO handles a number of tasks, like sending an email, creating a task, or even updating a status.

Bulk answering is another big time-saver. The next time you face a security questionnaire with 2,000 Q&A pairs, bulk answer common questions within a response project instead of marking each answer one-by-one.


Your organization relies on your expertise in the RFP response process—but it doesn’t end there. When you audit your RFP Content Library, your job is to keep content fresh, accurate, and up-to-date for anyone who needs it. RFP software helps maximize everyone’s time with content audits too.

Set up audit alerts at a chosen cadence (quarterly, monthly, annually), so you receive an automatic reminder when it’s time to update response content. Your team always has access to your audited content—no phone calls, emails, or meetings are required. All RFP response efforts are aligned internally, which ensures your best content is always within reach.

RFPIO allows you to collaborate across a single platform to maximize your time investment. You’ll capture content more efficiently and craft high-performing RFP responses that help your organization win more business. Schedule a demo to see more ways RFPIO optimizes your time.

How RFP response software helped Celtra create a new market

How RFP response software helped Celtra create a new market

Introducing your product to a new market is no easy feat. Combine that with RFP responses and you have a recipe for long days at the office.

Nick Fitzsimmons, Director of Sales Solutions at Celtra, knew that introducing automation to the RFP response process would help make collaboration easier and reduce time spent managing RFPs.

Celtra’s Creative Management Platform (CMP) helps companies efficiently create digital advertising content in-house—from creative vision to building an engaging ad experience. They worked with media giants like CNN and NBCUniversal, but recently started serving enterprise brand companies that want more control over their ad creative process.

As they built out a new market, Celtra needed the right people, tools, and processes to accomplish this without much disruption. Nick was hired to help them make that transition and build out a technical presales team. One of their first initiatives was to course-correct their RFP response process.

Siloed RFP content before RFP response software

It’s a common story. Nick and the team were managing RFP responses in various documents and platforms, which meant their RFP content was siloed. They had challenges with workflow and collaboration. There was no central place to go for visibility into the lifecycle of their RFP response process so they could make improvements.

All of these challenges led to submitting RFPs at the last minute, and they didn’t have a great success rate. Getting it right while they built out a new market was going to be crucial.

Nick had used RFP response software before, so he had some familiarity with the available tools. He conducted a lot of research, paying attention to review sites like G2 Crowd and Capterra to narrow down his choice.

RFPIO stood out as the clear winner and has been helping Celtra get their RFP response process into shape.

nick fitzsimmons

“The real solution here is the combination of both user-friendly software and thought leadership on business process to effectively execute on RFP responses.”

RFPIO provides education, user experience, and self service

Resources for RFP response process improvement

“RFPIO has done a great job with their educational content. Beyond just evaluating software, I’ve learned best practices around how to successfully build out an RFP response process,” Nick said. “I needed to build trust and credibility internally when we were rolling out the platform, so forming a process was key. And RFPIO’s content helped me do all of it.”

Flexible user experience and integrations

Nick was impressed with RFPIO’s clean and simple user interface. “In just a couple clicks I can manage significant updates, which saves me a lot of time.” That level of flexibility in the software was a differentiator in the evaluation process.

RFPIO’s Content Library for storing and sharing content factored heavily into his choice of response management software. “Especially the functionality to auto-suggest relevant answers– that should be a table stakes offering and other solutions don’t have it.

And the really lightweight Chrome extension, RFPIO Lookup, is the most practical way to access your Q&A content. I’m still in the process of rolling that out to the sales team but when they find out they can access content in one click from their email, that will be a game-changer.”

Options for self-service and additional support

RFPIO offers a range of professional services for companies who need some extra help rolling out the platform, managing customizations, or regularly maintaining a significant number of projects—particularly large enterprises.

For Nick, who has a background in engineering and coding software, he just wanted self-service at a sustainable price point, without paying more for technical support. RFPIO checked both of those boxes.

RFP response software saves hundreds of resource hours

“Now we can answer up to 50 percent of questions automatically, based on past responses, which has clearly made us more efficient, and the quality of our responses has improved. I’m shooting for 70 to 80 percent,” Nick said.

A new collaborative RFP response process

Nick wanted the rollout of RFPIO to be minimally disruptive to people’s lives, and show them that their level of effort would be less than before. So Nick, using some tips from RFPIO’s blog, built out a full RFP response process.

His presales team acts as proposal managers, responsible for qualifying requests. They answer as many questions as possible and then brief the applicable subject matter expert.

The SMEs complete their assigned sections and then the proposal manager reviews the full document for tone, consistency, and alignment toward the solution they’re presenting. “We don’t want it to seem like 20 people answered the RFP.” Then it’s sent over to legal for final review.

Saving resources and winning more RFPs

Nick estimates that the full lifecycle of the RFP response process used to take them three to four weeks to complete, involving 15 to 30 people, totaling around two or three hundred hours.

“Now we’re doing the entire process in a week to a week and a half with five to ten people in a combined 40 hours.

The volume of RFPs we can do has really increased too. We went from, let’s say 10 to 15 responses all in the last year to having over seven that we completed within the first quarter this year,” he said. “Our next step will be profit and loss analysis, but I am confident that we are winning more RFPs with RFPIO.

Course-correct your RFP response process with RFPIO. Schedule a demo to make way for growth opportunities.

Tried-and-true RFP content management tips for finserv marketers

Tried-and-true RFP content management tips for finserv marketers

As a marketer at a financial services organization, you solve unique challenges every day. You make shrinking budgets work to attract and retain clients. You create a heavy stream of content to build consumer trust. You work within the tight constraints of compliance and regulations. And, you swim against the current in a mature industry that is slow to adopt automated technologies.

Responding to RFPs is one of the many ancillary functions of your marketing role. Yet another multiple hat situation, the RFP response process is where you serve as the facilitator, editor, creator, and decision-maker.

Just like any other content you produce, RFP response involves content management. For your content to be impactful, you need to organize, review, and improve constantly. Below, a proposal manager at a financial institution offers several RFP content management best practices to help you succeed.

43% of marketers said controlling RFP content quality was their top challenge in a recent RFPIO survey. How is your organization overcoming that challenge today?

RFP content quality will always be a challenge, especially in the banking technology environment where things change every day. The first thing we did to overcome that challenge was to change software vendors and start using RFPIO. This solution has taken the middleman out of a lot of what we do to make our RFP response process more manageable.

Having unlimited users makes it much easier for us to bring in subject matter experts (SMEs) from across the bank to answer technical questions about our products and services—without worrying about additional licenses. Through automated email reminders, I’m able to keep track of stale content and the SME responsible for updating content.

Tell us about your experience with maintaining RFP content in the financial services world.

Our product management team is responsible for updating any questions relevant to their particular products. Team availability is a primary challenge with updating RFP content. However, it’s not enough to just have a product expert—you need to have people who know how to write well and review content.

The financial services industry is a moving target. Technology changes so rapidly and sometimes laws and regulations don’t keep up the pace. Your RFP contributors must have legal expertise or compliance and regulatory expertise to make sure you’re not talking out of turn in any of those areas.

How do you use tagging in RFPIO’s Content Library to organize your RFP content?

Tagging within RFPIO’s Content Library works so much better than organizing questions and answers with folders. We had a folder system with our old RFP software—when I needed to find a question a year later, I never knew where it went.

With banking proposals, the bulk of the questions and answers will fall under a certain product or product set. So you tag your RFP content in the Content Library with the name of the product, in addition to its larger product group.

Tagging makes it easier to delegate questions to subject matter experts as well. When an ACH question comes in, I search for the ACH tag and assign these responses to the ACH product manager so she can review the content for accuracy.

Overall, tagging allows you to connect the dots with all of your RFP content. You find RFP responses quicker and keep your content up-to-date. It’s the difference between Outlook and Gmail when you’re organizing thousands of emails.

RFP response management teams tend to have different internal styles with tagging. Describe yours.

Generally, the tags you choose for your RFP content are pretty obvious. There will always be a few outliers, but the majority of the responses clearly fall in a particular product bucket or problem bucket. Even then, usually there will be a product that’s an answer to that problem, like fraud prevention or ACH positive pay.

When I first imported all of our existing RFP response content into RFPIO’s Content Library, I did the majority of the tagging. Now that our product managers update their content within the tool, I give them access to change those tags or add content as they see fit. Occasionally, I review the RFP content library to clean up any tags that look wonky.

In the same survey, managing company branding and positioning with RFP content was another challenge for 14% of RFP responders. What are some ways your team is maintaining brand consistency with RFPs?

Our RFP response team does a very good job getting eyes on everything that goes out the door, making sure the correct font size and logos are there. RFPIO has robust formatting tools that help you automatically export your documents into a consistently branded deliverable. This exporting feature has made the formatting step much faster for our team.

Can you tell us about your current RFP content audit process?

Our RFP content audit process is a precedent that has been set for a while that we’re continuing to improve with RFPIO.

At a minimum, content should be looked at once a year. Certain content requires a quarterly answer, or a service changes out of the blue. In RFPIO, you set your preferred audit cycle, put expiration dates on the content, then trigger automated emails to alert the content manager.

There are different RFP content auditing techniques. Your subject matter experts audit the content to make sure it is factually correct. Your RFP writers audit the language and change the way a response is worded when necessary. Your compliance and legal teams also need to audit and approve the content.

We have roughly 1,400 Q&A pairs—that’s a lot of content for one or two people on each team to handle. Right now we’re taking a risk-based approach and having our compliance team members do spot checks on higher risk areas. I recommend picking your battles and focusing on specific initiatives as you audit your RFP content.

What was RFP content management like before you used RFPIO?

RFP content management was a nightmare before RFPIO. Because of the license restrictions we had with our previous RFP software, I ended up being the choke point. All of the RFP content writers and SMEs provided content that had to filter through me, because I was the one uploading everything into the tool.

Having the freedom to allow all of our RFP contributors to work within the platform—without allocating more budget for licenses—is a huge improvement. This collaborative focus puts the value on what is valuable to our managers, which is getting good proposals out the door.

Enjoy freedom in a collaborative platform where you produce quality responses and manage RFP content effectively. Give RFPIO a spin.

How RFP automation helped Alera Group achieve brand consistency

How RFP automation helped Alera Group achieve brand consistency

Your brand is your business. It’s how you grab attention and distinguish your company from the competition. Which is why brand consistency is so key in RFP response management.

Hope Henderson is the Marketing Communications Coordinator at Alera Group, “an independent, national insurance and financial services firm created through the merger of like-minded, high performing entrepreneurial firms across the United States.” Their mission is to provide their clients with national resources and local service.

Since forming in 2017, Alera Group has grown to include over 75 firms across the country. However, the RFP response process is maintained through the corporate marketing team.

As Alera Group added new companies, the RFP response process began to take up more and more resources. Hope went looking for a solution that would alleviate some of the burden on the marketing team and streamline some of their challenges: sharing content and enabling collaboration across brands, while still letting the individual brands maintain their identity.

After coming upon a blog about RFP automation, a concept she was not familiar with before, Hope reached out to the company behind that guidance—RFPIO.

Content effort prior to RFP automation

Hope and her team were spending a lot of time and effort on RFPs, cobbling together content from past documents, emailing back and forth, and scrambling to format them into beautifully branded submissions. “Basically they were Frankenstein RFPs.”

It was difficult to brand each RFP for the corresponding company. “Much of the content can be shared across our firms, but they each have a distinct identity. We wanted every RFP to reflect those distinctive brands,” Hope said.

And, as is often lamented, it was hard to communicate in a simple way, which frustrated the stakeholders. “So I started doing some independent research on ways that we could improve that process and came across an article from RFPIO on RFP automation and what it entails.” She scheduled a demo with the RFPIO team and was impressed with the platform.

hope henderson

“We looked at a competitor but their solution didn’t have the full functionality that RFPIO had. I think we’d all made up our minds from the start.”

RFPIO brings brand consistency in a team environment


What really sold Hope and her team at Alera Group was RFPIO’s customizable export templates, a unique offering in the space.

“RFPIO gives people the ability to easily find shared content, tailor it to their specific firm offerings and then export it in a format that adheres to their company’s brand guidelines,” Hope said. “They can also use the Alera Group branding if they’re going after a bigger client for example. It really opens up a lot of possibilities.”


Alera Group has firms throughout the United States. With RFPIO, they are able to collaborate within the parent company and among the subsidiary firms in a unified platform.

“Through the system, we can make comments and chat, which eliminates a lot of communication breakdown. As we all know, emails can get lost and once documents are on their 20th version it just becomes unmanageable. So, the ability to collaborate in a single spot is really helpful for our team as we continue to grow.”

Knowledge Sharing

RFPIO’s content repository, called the Content Library, gives Alera Group a centralized place for content that they can categorize by firms, owners, and line-of-business, etc.

“The Content Library has become a portal for all of our latest and greatest content, that anyone who is client-facing can use, even if it’s not for an RFP.”

RFP automation exponentially increases opportunity

Hope says their process for responding to RFPs has been streamlined and they can share ideas and thought leadership while also letting each brand put their best foot forward.

“We’ve had a 20-hour turnaround for some RFPs, or even less. In fact, I can think of one that we received in the morning and sent it out by that afternoon. Before RFPIO, each RFP would take at least two or three weeks to complete, and through the library, we are able to control for consistency and quality.”

The number of RFPs they can respond to has increased exponentially as well.

“One of our firms has gone from submitting 10 RFPs last year to submitting 10 RFPs already in the first quarter of this year, and they’re looking to grow that number,” Hope said.

Alera Group is committed to making it easy for new users to get trained up on using RFPIO. Adopting new tools can be challenging, so they schedule quarterly internal webinars to train new collaborators on how to use RFP automation and give them a chance to ask questions in real-time.

“RFP automation has been invaluable to our process for answering RFPs, it’s strengthened the quality of the finished documents, and has created insane efficiency measures for firms throughout our company.”

It’s your turn to achieve brand consistency with RFP responses. Schedule a demo of RFPIO to transform the way your team works together.

13 techniques that will speed up your RFP response time

13 techniques that will speed up your RFP response time

I talk to subject matter experts every day, and they all want one thing: More time. Some SMEs even wish they had more hours in a day. The thing is…you have enough hours in your day for RFP responses, you just need to improve your time management techniques.

Ready to help your revenue team in an efficient way? Check out several techniques for speeding up your RFP response time, so you can fully support your organization’s revenue vision and move on with your day.

Speed up your RFP response time with these techniques

“Running away from a problem only increases the distance from the solution.” Though anonymous, this quote may have come from a seasoned RFP responder. Let’s take a step back to understand where time management opportunities are within your RFP response process.

1. Understand the scope of the project

Miss important details present in the scope and you will inevitably rewrite RFP responses. Knowing the scope upfront allows you to focus on creating informative, accurate content. The goal is to appease their evaluation team and show that your organization is the right partner.

2. Understand how to track clarifications back to the issuer

Is it appropriate for you to reach out to the issuer for clarification? Or, is your proposal manager or sales director running communications back-and-forth between you and the potential client? Figure this out. Questions will come up, and you want to get the content right during round one.

3. Understand your response time

Are you tracking and monitoring your response time? If not, start doing it. That way you can build a case for additional resources or technology to support you and your workload. There are plenty of time-tracking solutions out there. RFPIO even has one built into the platform.

4. Understand who is involved in the response management team

Teamwork is the name of the game. When everyone is clear on responsibilities—and who they are collaborating with—the RFP response process is more streamlined. If you don’t have a dedicated proposal manager, find out who owns the project in case you need help.

5. Understand if other departments need to get involved

From security to legal, there will be times when you call upon the subject matter expertise of people in other departments. Even when you know the questions and scope early on, unknowns appear as you craft RFP responses. Have your experts ready to be pulled in quickly.

6. Understand how everyone communicates

Email isn’t always the best channel since inboxes are crowded. Communication channel preferences should be agreed upon by everyone on the response management team, including you. Maybe that’s a monthly meeting or a Slack group, instead of lengthy email conversations.

7. Understand if there are any additional tasks

Responding to RFPs is an ongoing task, but occasionally other needs show up—like performing research or analyzing the market. When you are involved in a new RFP project, ask if your team requires additional information so you can get a headstart on these tasks.

8. Understand the questions

If you don’t understand the questions when you jump into the RFP project, you will end up in a longer review cycle later. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, either from your proposal manager—or sales, if you need more background about the organization you are responding to.

9. Understand what content is relevant

Content audits are really helpful here—and we recommend culling your library of RFP responses once per quarter. While a proposal manager will likely own content audits, you will update any content that falls under your area of expertise to ensure accuracy.

10. Understand that you can repurpose content

You want to have the best possible content, but it doesn’t have to be completely original. If you store common RFP responses in an Content Library, you can easily grab that content and customize for the current RFP requirements and specifications.

11. Understand the review cycle process

The review cycle process can be confusing with RFP responses. Know the chain-of-command so you don’t duplicate work. Your proposal manager should assign questions accordingly. However, if you notice gaps in the process that are causing confusion, speak up.

12. Understand your content management strategy

Effectively managing content decreases your RFP response time. Most SMEs store responses in docs and spreadsheets, using Control+F to find the response, then copying and pasting. An Content Library within RFP software is the quickest way to organize, manage, and execute.

13. Understand the impact of technology

Software quality has a major impact on employee happiness. 96% said they would be more satisfied at work with access to better software. But, as we know from our RFP Response Habits survey, only 16% use RFP software. Get a response management solution in place if you don’t have one. This is one of the best time-saving tips we can offer.

Providing expertise for RFP responses is a key part of your role. By contributing to the response management process, you’re showing that you care about your team, your work, and your organization.

RFPIO helps subject matter experts cut their response time down by 40%-50% on average. Schedule a demo and we’ll show you more ways to save time and do your best work.

12 RFP response automation stats to rev up your sales engine

12 RFP response automation stats to rev up your sales engine

Q4 is flying by, isn’t it? Your sales team likely needs a wee bit of motivation this time of year to meet their revenue objectives. If you’re looking for clever ways to rev up your sales engine, look no further than your RFP response process. To improve your win rate and meet your sales goals efficiently, RFP response automation is where it’s at.

As a salesperson who does double-duty as an RFP responder, time is a commodity. On average companies invest up to 40 hours into every RFP response and the RFP close rate is around 5%.

Understandably, you start thinking about greener pastures. The thing is, RFPs can be that revenue generator you’re looking for if you refocus your strategy.

According to Salesforce and McKinsey Global Institute, 40% of tasks within the traditional sales function can now be automated. With RFP software, you can automate the following strategies to help you respond faster to business opportunities, beat the competition, and achieve your sales goals.

Sounds amazing, right? That’s because it is.

RFP response automation for faster submission

When RFPs are coming at you from every direction, you have to prioritize to meet tight deadlines. You already know about the time investment that will be involved. Focusing on proposals with higher chances of winning is a smart approach.

According to the Standish group, small projects have a 70% higher chance of performing better than large projects. RFPs from that ungettable enterprise company is enchanting, of course, but stiff competition accompanies that enchantment. Mid-sized business RFPs might be a better fit for your organization, and they too can have a positive impact on your sales numbers.

Collaboration cannot be undermined in RFP response—it’s necessary every time. Considering the fact that an average professional receives about 100 emails each day, using emails alone as a collaboration tool won’t cut it. Something is bound to get missed since only 24% of sales emails get opened anyway. It’s time to automate.

How RFP response automation helps you submit faster…

Speed and accuracy are the weapons needed for winning RFPs. As soon as you receive an RFP, RFPIO makes it easy to get started with project collaboration.

  • The import function brings in any document format from the issuer, be it a spreadsheet, document, or PDF.
  • You or your proposal manager quickly assign questions and sections to SMEs.
  • Communication happens with alerts through a dedicated Slack channel, through the platform, or through Salesforce—less email means fewer tasks slip through the cracks.
  • The review cycle runs smoothly with sequential reviewing, ensuring the best possible deliverable is pulled together in an orderly fashion.
  • The beautiful finale happens when you export back into the source document or a branded template of your choosing, without a bunch of reformatting and sleepless nights.
  • You deliver a quality RFP on time…and you’re off to the next one.

“With RFPIO, all the content is in one place that the entire team can access (proposal writers and sales reps). This not only saves time and reduces errors, but also increases collaboration within the team. RFPIO is a huge time saver, and makes it easy to access and update our content as needed.” 

RFP response automation for beating the competition

Gartner points out that most clients spend 45% of their time searching for possible alternatives, both offline and online, before reaching out to sales. Personalization is the secret to success with any content. Personalizing your RFP responses helps you one-up your competition, who is probably over there recycling the same old boilerplates as they rush to meet the deadline.

Coaching your sales representatives on how to leverage technology to create personalized RFP responses can really help here. Sales teams that undergo at least three hours of training or coaching every month surpass their targets by 7% and increase their win rate by 70%. A strong team, personalized messaging, and technology powers equals winning at RFPs.

How RFP response automation helps you beat the competition…

RFP software automates the entire content creation process, freeing up your time to keep the focus on personalization. With RFP response automation, your team spends more time customizing and polishing RFP responses. Since most of the legwork is already taken care of, quality improvement is the main focus.

  • Auto-response fills in the majority of the questions up front with the help of AI, which grows smarter the more you use the application.
  • Search is another way to find content quickly, without the need for a Google Drive folder expedition.
  • Rating and tagging make top content accessible for anyone to grab and include in their RFP responses.
  • Content audit reminders can be set up at a cadence of your choosing, reminding proposal leads to refresh outdated information and rid the Content Library of unnecessary duplicates.

There is little training needed for a solution like RFPIO, which is incredibly user-friendly. Team members across departments can start using the solution for an RFP project right after onboarding. This ease promotes a collaborative environment since multiple users can work together in a centralized platform, regardless if they are in the same office or on a different continent.

You just lost a huge request for proposal…now what? Read this.

rfp response example

RFP response automation for sales achievements

Demand Gen revealed that you gain a 20% increase in sales opportunities from cultivated leads. Only 2% of deals are successful during the first meeting. Also, 84% of customers start their RFP process with a referral and peer recommendations influence about 90% of buying decisions.

Sales is a bit of a battlefield, isn’t it? You’re not alone in feeling this way. What it really comes down to is maximizing the hours you have in a day to get the most results. Though RFPs might not seem like the easiest avenue for achieving sales, every RFP is, in fact, a business opportunity.

It turns out that 45% of sales teams report excessive administration duties like manual data entry as one of their main challenges. When you have a manual RFP response process, it’s like you’re on that battlefield with a blindfold AND your hands tied behind your back. So, a good look at your process is worth it.

How RFP software helps you achieve sales…

Repetition is part of the RFP cycle, whether you’re responding to an RFI or a security questionnaire. RFPIO’s features help in multiple use cases, including security questionnaires where bulk answering and the same import/export functionality are available.

  • The project overview dashboard gives insight into the progress, status, and contributors.
  • You can feel good about where everything’s at without spending time tracking people down for updates.
  • With the time you gain from automating these processes, you can respond to more RFPs.
  • By responding to more RFPs, you increase your win potential and achieve your sales goals.

Automating repetitive tasks allows you to focus more on other sales generating activities. Automation also means you can really fine-tune the RFP for your prospect as you’ll have more time to pay attention to the requirements, versus whizzing through various questions and missing important details.

A motivated and productive sales team plays a big role in bringing in new business through RFPs. Successful RFP management is all about using technology to automate processes for efficiency. RFP response automation will empower your team to reach their sales goals.

How solutions engineers met growing RFP demand with RFPIO

How solutions engineers met growing RFP demand with RFPIO

If you’ve ever logged into a website with a traditional email or through social login, it’s likely you’ve used Janrain in the process. Founded in 2002, the company was a pioneer in the area of Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM). They work with many global enterprises and high profile consumer brands to help manage the login process for their web and mobile properties.

Information about a user’s login behavior has become a foundational element of many companies’ marketing strategy. According to Manuel Cruz, Janrain’s Director of Solutions Engineering, for those organizations, “the notion of a single identity across multiple brands or multiple divisions is like the Holy Grail.”

The demand for Janrain’s turn-key CIAM solution and GDPR readiness resources has increased as marketing strategy evolves to require more personalized and secure user experiences across web and mobile. From 2016 to 2017, the number of RFPs they received more than doubled, and that number was on trend to keep pace in the current year.

As the volume of RFPs increased, it became apparent that Janrain would need to bring in a response automation solution like RFPIO. Without a more efficient process, Manuel and his team of solutions engineers were beginning to feel stretched beyond their means.

It was important for Manuel’s team to find an RFP solution that would support these 3 things:
1. Collaboration among multiple users and departments
2. Quick implementation of their historic question and answer pairs
3. Functionality to store multiple answers for similar questions

With RFPIO, they were able to refine their RFP strategy in these 3 ways:
1. Have all their RFP content in one place, accessible to all contributors
2. Provide some relief for the increasingly busy solutions engineering team
3. Form a relationship with RFPIO’s customer success team for ongoing support

The subject matter experts

With 15 years experience as a solutions engineer, Manuel Cruz has seen his fair share of RFPs.

It is a solutions engineer’s job to assist in the technology sales process by offering technical knowledge of the product or service, and to deliver that information in a way that translates to the potential buyer. This often makes them the subject matter expert on technical questions that accompany an RFP.

In the past, Manuel’s experiences responding to RFPs were varied. He’d save questions and answers in spreadsheets or shared documents and go on elaborate quests to find the right content.

At times, he’d worked for companies that had a dedicated “RFP guy” who would independently manage the process. Since he’s been at Janrain, he has experimented with RFP automation software, but it wasn’t until RFPIO came along that the future started to look brighter.

A solution for the solutions engineers

To get ahead of their expanding number of RFPs, the team at Janrain decided to align people and processes. They started with a content exercise that would bring together representatives from all the departments that contribute to any given RFP.

They collected and combined all the question and answer pairs they could come up with. Because they work with buyers of all levels of technical prowess, it was necessary for them to store different answers for similar questions.

Manuel and team needed the right solution for storing all this content, and managing the collaborative process of responding to their growing number of RFPs. They decided on RFPIO’s response automation software, and once they were up and running, the first project was to upload the Q&A so they could get to work.

“Getting started with RFPIO was really easy. The team helped us with the initial seeding of the answer repository and a quick tutorial, which got us up to speed,” Manuel said. “The tool itself is very intuitive.”

A true customer success

Since deployment, Manuel and team have been able to meet their increasing RFP demand with time to spare and a newfound sense of relief. “I’m still not crazy about RFPs, but you guys definitely make it a more satisfying experience.”

That doesn’t mean that they went without challenges, though. Because the Janrain team was so eager to use RFPIO when they secured it, they realized after a few months that they hadn’t fully embraced the tool’s complete functionality.

So Manuel invited RFPIO customer success manager, Andrew Stone, to their office to help them manage roadblocks and take advantage of features that would address their particular needs.

“It was incredibly helpful to have that health check with Andrew,” Manuel said. “Now we know more about how to use the tool, and we have the resources to train people internally as the need arises.”

Ready for easier RFP response? Schedule a Demo with our team.

“RFPIO has absolutely been able to provide efficiencies that have allowed us to answer more RFPs with the same number of people, in less time.” – Manuel Cruz, Janrain

Manuel Cruz is the Director of Global Solutions Engineering at Janrain, a Portland-based pioneer in Customer Identity and Access Management (CIAM). He has been a Solutions Engineer and Product Manager within the Financial Services, CRM, and Telecommunications industries over the past fifteen years, and has extensive experience selling and deploying web- and telephony-based solutions within large companies like AT&T, Walmart, Banamex, Telcel, and Mondeléz. As a Solutions Engineer with Janrain, Manuel has worked closely with global enterprise customers across the US, South America, Europe, and Asia helping deliver technical and digital strategy to Qantas, Electrolux, the NBA, and Coca-Cola. He received his B.S. from Yale and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Client spotlight: Routematch’s informed RFP vendor selection process

Client spotlight: Routematch’s informed RFP vendor selection process

Deciding you want to make a purchase and then actually executing on that purchase doesn’t always happen in quick succession. For example, we don’t often have much time to think about options when it comes to replacing a flat tire, but looking for a brand new car involves research and contemplation.

Vendor selection in the business to business world is no different. Sometimes you have to make decisions without much lead time, in order to solve a problem. But if you’re able to look ahead, the best practice is to go at it with a plan.

The team at Routematch took a proactive approach to optimizing their RFP process by looking for an automation solution. They came up with carefully thought-out requirements and embarked on a journey to find the RFP software that would most closely line up with those needs.

We sat down with their Communication and Learning Specialist, Alexei Budsan, to talk about the positive results of Routematch’s strategic vendor selection process.

“I’m glad that I knew what I was looking for in RFP software before I sought it out. When I looked at the available options, it was clear that RFPIO was ahead of the curve. It really was a no-brainer.” – Alexei Budsan

Looking for a better solution

What does Routematch do, and what is your role at the company?

Routematch is a software company based in Atlanta, Georgia that enables connectivity in modern transportation. We provide the backend services for logistics of fixed route and on-demand transportation services. Cities and other regions come to us looking for ways to optimize routes to be inclusive to all members of their communities.

I’ve worn many hats at Routematch. I started as an instructional designer, providing education and structure training for those that went on the road. Then I spent time developing software documentation and eventually moved into sales and marketing, where I am now. That’s where the RFPs come in.

What’s been your involvement in the RFP process?

We wanted to be creative about our approach to responding to RFPs, and that meant looking for an automation solution. A couple problems we faced were dated content and inconsistent formatting.

So we looked at a few RFP software companies. I came across RFPIO, which had a profound difference in the marketplace. It matched up with our needs—you can keep your content fresh and the easy import and templated export take care of the formatting issue.

I’m glad that I knew what I was looking for in RFP software before I sought it out. When I looked at the available options, it was clear that RFPIO was ahead of the curve. It really was a no-brainer.

manage rfps

Determining vendor requirements

What else were you looking for with RFP software?

We did a lot of research and put together an entire matrix of capabilities and features that were important to us. RFPIO’s automation software hit every mark.

It’s a pretty long list, but a few important things were an easy to update content library, the ability to send reminders to collaborators and track changes, and a dashboard view. The integration with Salesforce and single sign on were also critical to our choice.

And, of course, the price had to be reasonable. With every one of those specifications and more, RFPIO came ahead.

What’s your advice for someone who’s looking for an automated RFP response solution?

I’d suggest getting as much buy-in from the people who are part of the RFP response process. You need some early, enthusiastic adopters in your organization to evangelize the system’s benefits and teach others how to use it.

“We can literally take an RFP at the beginning of the day—I’ve done this before—and have it printed and shipped by the end of the day.” – Alexei Budsan

Improving processes and seeing results

How many RFPs do you think you’re answering in a month, and what are the kinds of organizations that you work with?

Typically we go through at least one or two RFPs a week, but it can be more depending on workflow or season. We serve cities, states, townships (like in Australia) and other regional areas.

Since you deployed RFPIO, how have things changed?

Just like anything else it takes some time for folks to get used to change. But everyone has really jumped on board.

We can literally take an RFP at the beginning of the day—I’ve done this before—and have it printed and shipped by the end of the day. And it looks polished. It’s not necessarily ideal, but it’s a benefit to the speed of the system.

It saves us time by streamlining the process. Now we have the right people on each project and they’re notified when necessary. The system almost runs itself.

It sounds like one of your main takeaways from the software is the focus on content?

Absolutely—it’s key to RFP success. We try to make sure that our content is always maintained, but it evolves, sometimes overnight. We are being more proactive now about tagging content appropriately too, so it’s easy to find and stays relevant. The auto-suggestion capabilities in the recommendation engine are a game-changer.

How has RFPIO made your job easier?

I worry a lot less about how the document will look once it’s gone through so many style changes and versions. With the template capability, I know that we’ll have consistency when it’s exported.

Did you know? People board public transportation 35 million times each weekday. – American Public Transportation Association   

Achieving the ultimate goal

Anything you’d want people to know about Routematch?

We want to champion mobility, and be inclusive of all riders in the communities we serve. We’re striving for equality in the ways of getting here and there, and we encourage the use of public transportation systems as much as possible.

Alexei Budsan Headshot

Alexei Budsan

Learning and Communications Specialist Routematch
Connect with Alexei on LinkedIn

Alexei is a native of St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. He’s lived Atlanta for several years, after graduating from the University of Phoenix with a Master’s in Technology Management. Before working for Routematch, a leader in Intelligent Transportation System software, Alexei worked for a shipping logistics provider as an instructional designer, and an internet service provider as a global trainer. Alexei joined Routematch 5 years ago and has coordinated training and software documentation. Most recently, he joined the sales department to manage proposals and coordinate sales conferences throughout the US.

Client Spotlight: PerfectMind’s Salesforce Integration Success

Client Spotlight: PerfectMind’s Salesforce Integration Success

Salesforce integration is an important component for any technology stack used by RFP responders. Coupled with RFP software, it connects the dots between sales and marketing teams, proposal managers and SMEs to make the RFP response process run smoothly.

Technology fatigue is a common occurrence with busy teams. Ironically organizations are investing in solutions to encourage success, but one look at this year’s Martech Supergraphic tells us everything we need to know. Organizations are facing more inefficiencies by taking on too many tools.

marketing technology landscape
Source: Chiefmartec

This is why having an intelligent tool stack with beneficial integrations is a good move. For RFP responders, a solution like RFPIO offers a true bi-directional integration with CRMs, including Salesforce, to bring every stage and insight of the RFP response project into one dedicated platform.

Recently we met up with the PerfectMind proposal management team to discuss their progress with RFPIO. Today Randy, Catherine, and Garrett are pulling back the curtain on their RFP response process and sharing how Salesforce integration is an essential piece of their strategy.

Proposal Specialist at PerfectMind

Describe your involvement in the RFP response process.

Once assigned new RFPs by the Senior Proposal Specialist, I create and import projects into RFPIO. I project manage the authors and reviewers for question/answer responses, create new responses and maintain section templates and other content within RFPIO. I also export, edit, and finalize RFP documents.

Why was the Salesforce integration important for you?

Our company is using Salesforce widely as a one-stop place to maintain client information. So integration with RFPIO seemed like a natural addition.

What was the primary reason you chose to purchase RFP software?

Before RFPIO we were using MS Word documents to store boilerplate content, which was slow and resulted in copy/paste errors. Additionally we responded to questions on spreadsheets—with hundreds of questions per RFP.

To respond to new questions, authors would need to manually search through old Excel documents to find answers. We decided it was time to make a change, so we explored RFP software options until finding RFPIO.

In RFPIO, the bonus features of tagging and assigning content to Subject Matter Experts is particularly important as SMEs play a critical role in maintaining content. The central access point to content eliminates inconsistencies and potential discrepancies when developing RFP responses.

How important was the integration with Salesforce in determining your decision?

I was not involved in that decision.

How have your RFP process and strategy changed since using RFPIO? What part does the connection to your CRM play in that?

Our process is more structured and more collaborative. Each response we complete builds upon the experience of previous responses (good and bad). Our account executives spend a significant amount of time in Salesforce and the integration is valuable to them once a project has been submitted.

My first RFP response using RFPIO reduced prep time by almost 70%, so now we can focus more on customised content instead of boilerplate responses.

Catherine Lauzon

What is your role at PerfectMind?

Senior Proposal Specialist

Describe your involvement in the RFP response process.

I oversee the entire response process. I receive new RFPs and create and import projects into RFPIO. I project manage the authors and reviewers for question/answer responses, create and maintain section templates and other content within RFPIO. Additionally, I export, edit, and finalize RFP documents.

Why was the Salesforce integration important for you?

My manager required that we have an integration to Salesforce, since our company is moving towards using that platform company-wide as a one-stop place to maintain client information.

What was the primary reason you chose to purchase RFP software?

Prior to RFPIO, we were using Word documents to store all of our content. We often responded to hundreds of questions within spreadsheets as well. We decided to purchase RFP software to increase efficiency, reduce errors, and create one place where we could store approved content for clients.

How important was the integration with Salesforce in determining your decision?

Salesforce integration was not important for me personally, but my manager really wanted this feature.

How have your RFP process and strategy changed since using RFPIO? What part does the connection to your CRM play in that?

Absolutely, we have a more streamlined, collaborative process now. Our team works more easily together than ever before. I don’t really use the Salesforce integration that much, but it’s nice to have it available. If someone is looking at a Salesforce record, it is really convenient for them to be able to click on the RFPIO project to see those details.

Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn 

“63% of survey respondents said that Salesforce was the CRM their company used.” – IBD Lucep Survey

Garrett Ungaro

What is your role at PerfectMind?

Enterprise Sales Manager

Describe your involvement in the RFP response process.

I am the final approver and content contributor.

Why was the Salesforce integration important for you?

As I review open accounts in Salesforce, it is great to see the RFPIO add-in so I know what the status is. It’s also helpful to be able to click on the add-in and drill down further for more response project details.

What was the primary reason you chose to purchase RFP software?

All of our business is RFP driven and as such, we were losing track of commonly requested questions/answers, deadlines, contributors etc. We needed an overall RFP management platform to keep track of each response and re-purpose the answers.

How important was the integration with Salesforce in determining your decision?

Salesforce integration was a mandatory requirement for our purchase decision.

How have your RFP process and strategy changed since using RFPIO? What part does the connection to your CRM play in that?

The main benefit with Salesforce integration is being able to stay within the CRM—and not having to swivel-chair into RFPIO to see data or information on an account opportunity.

Beyond that, our overall RFP process is night-and-day better and the quality of our responses has increased significantly. We have structure and defined processes now and we couldn’t manage the volume of RFPs we handle without RFPIO.

Connect with Garrett on LinkedIn

expo at dreamforce
Want to see how RFPIO’s Salesforce integration can make your response process more efficient? Join us at Booth #145 at Dreamforce next week for a free personalized demo to learn more.

Schedule right now and win an Amazon Fire Stick after your demo completion.

Smash the differentiator question for an unbeatable RFP

Smash the differentiator question for an unbeatable RFP

Stating your differentiator is a high probability when you’re responding to an RFP.

It’s a question that definitely shouldn’t be taken lightly. A generic response might be the deal breaker that benefits one of your competitors, while a compelling response serves as the tipping point that benefits your organization.

The differentiator question might come dressed in many ways, such as the following:

  • What is the competitive advantage of your solution?
  • Describe your competitive position relative to your competitors.
  • When comparing yourself to the market, what are the unique selling points?
  • Briefly state how you are differentiated from any competitors.
  • Why should we work with you instead of one of your competitors?

Whatever the question looks like doesn’t matter. What your response looks like is a different story. And, that’s why an absolute must for your RFP response strategy is clearly defining your competitive differentiators.

Recently the RFPIO team enjoyed the takeaways in APMP’s on-demand webinar, A World of Difference: Differentiate Yourself From Competitors. The presenter, Chris Sant, is a consultant and trainer who has helped companies in engineering, IT, banking, and HR improve their sales proposal process.

“Having real differentiators is how you become something that is not a commodity like everybody else. Research shows that strong differentiation results in twice the profit margin. If people want it, they will pay a premium for it.” – Chris Sant

Because the presentation was so insightful, we’re passing along a few nuggets from Chris to help you make your response to the inevitable differentiator question stronger than ever. There is no magic bullet with this one, but there are strategic steps you can take to position yourself above your competitors.

Are you really differentiated?

That’s the million-dollar question if we’ve ever heard one.

When Chris Sant presented on the differentiator topic at this year’s Bid & Proposal Con by APMP, he asked the audience of proposal professionals if they felt they were differentiating their organizations well. The lightbulb moment happened as everyone looked around to see the room filled with raised hands.

The majority think they have differentiators handled, but in reality there is plenty of room for improvement. Why does overconfidence happen in organizations? Lack of feedback and lack of an outside perspective influence this behavior.

Because proposals are often rushed out the door, sliding the boilerplate response in that says you’re “uniquely qualified” ends up being the quick fix. But a quick fix won’t win deals in a highly competitive space.

“Ask executives whether their company’s offerings are differentiated and about 80% will say yes. But ask customers of those companies the same question and only about 10% will agree.” – Harvard Business Review

You’re uniquely qualified…like everybody else

You might be in the proposal professional camp who believes your differentiator game is strong. However, your prospect sees the exact same proposal over and over.

And, guess what? They all claim the organization is “uniquely qualified.” What you see and what they see is entirely different. When RFPs are indistinguishable from one another, they are called proposal penguins.

Proposal penguins generally use one of two types of fake differentiators:

  1. Marketing list type – When you throw in a bunch of positive leaning marketing terms. The random list results in a weak impact.
  2. “In love with our recent investment” type – We just spent $14M on this and we are going to talk about it every chance we get. The client doesn’t care nearly as much as you do.

Do you want your proposal to get lost in the waddling group dressed in tuxedos? Or, do you want to stand out?

Differentiation absolutely matters to your prospects

In the modern age companies and agencies are using proposals as the touchstone for making the purchasing decision. Proposals should be seen as co-equal with sales, not as sales support.

So, do clients want to know your differentiators and what makes a vendor unique? Chris revealed the answer in a survey of managers across the U.S., Canada, UK. 92% said they want to know.

When we are swamped with proposals, it is very easy to get caught up with ourselves. During the everyday hustle and bustle we fall back on the hard sell. We feel we need to convince the prospect, but forget that these are real people that are trying to make real decisions.

“The client does not know about your differentiators if you don’t tell them.” – Chris Sant

It is our responsibility to talk about our differentiators in a compelling way that makes sense. The RFP response to this question is a grand opportunity to speak to your organization’s value. If you do this well, it helps your client understand and it helps you win more.

Put your best foot forward with differentiators

Truly knowing your differentiators is more involved than crafting an extraordinary response on your next RFP. Because it involves your entire organization.

Silos and lack of ownership will prevent strong differentiation from happening.

Departments must work together to unify the company’s vision and messaging—and eliminate silos holding a team back from reaching their potential. Someone involved in the proposal process needs to take charge of the differentiation strategy, or it will continue to be glossed over by busy team members.

Including claims about being “innovative” and repurposing generic product descriptions won’t provide value or give you leverage when you’re competing against other organizations. Understanding and demonstrating your differentiators effectively will give you the competitive advantage.

The more the client desires what you have, the less they are going to be willing to move onto the next vendor.

It’s time for a differentiator gut check

Okay, so what is a differentiator?

A differentiator is anything that is both rare and adds value. If it’s rare, but it does not add value, it is trivia. If it adds value, but it isn’t rare then the client doesn’t understand why they need you. The proposal should be built around why we are better than everyone else.

You’ll know your differentiator is working if you force your competitors to respond with new products or price cuts. If they’re not responding this way, it might be a sign that your differentiators need some work.

Chris really hits a good point home in explaining the purpose of a proposal. Proposals are all about a prospect’s sources of distress and desired achievements. We have to move prospects from the distress phase to the achievement phase.

Take a good luck at your differentiator response and run through this checklist:

  • Are you demonstrating the rarity of your solution?
  • Are you sharing how much value your solution will add?
  • Are you showing how your solution will combat distress and help them achieve?

If you can answer these questions with confidence, then your RFP will be in a more favorable position when your prospect is sifting through the pile of proposal penguins. A clear demonstration of value and what’s in it for them will get you noticed.

Clearly defining your differentiator is a worthy organizational exercise. Your prospect wants to hear the reason why they should choose you. So make it easy on them by presenting a thoughtful response to every question on the RFP—especially the differentiator one.

Make incremental improvements in your RFP response process and you will be rewarded. Put the effort in, and give them an unbeatable reason to choose you over someone else.

See how it feels to respond with confidence

Why do 250,000+ users streamline their response process with RFPIO? Schedule a demo to find out.