Want to reclaim some lost time? Of course you do.
Imagine how productive you’d be if you won back the time you’ve grown accustomed to losing to manual and repetitive tasks.
When you’re an RFP responder, time is a precious commodity. Your job is to help your organization grow through the constant pursuit of new business opportunities. These opportunities come in the form of requests for proposal (RFPs), which you must respond to both immediately and brilliantly.
In RFPIO’s recent response habits survey, over half of RFP responders revealed they are squeezing this high-priority task into their normal workday—even working after hours and weekends to complete RFPs before the deadline.
RFP response requires organizational teamwork on a grand scale. It’s a collective effort spanning multiple departments, from sales to IT and marketing to legal.
The great financial impact of RFPs comes down to resource costs, with companies spending thousands of man-hours on a manual process that could be alleviated with technology. This is where RFP software enters the stage and steals the show, helping companies save an average of 40%.
Here, we’re taking a look at five major time culprits RFP responders face, and the ways RFP software can help them reclaim their time.
Time culprit #1: Difficult importing
A typical RFP response can take anywhere from 20 to 40 hours of manual work. And if you ask any proposal manager what the main culprit is, they will say importing and exporting.
On import, one question might require multiple responses (Do you need XYZ? If so, what’s your budget?), which can double or triple the amount of time required to import the question. You’ve probably seen an RFP in a spreadsheet with endless rows and columns, so you know how insurmountable the task of starting a new RFP response project feels.
How RFP software helps
With software, you can import RFP responses from an original source, including documents, spreadsheets, and some systems will even allow you to import from PDFs.
And wouldn’t it be nice if you could accomplish this task with less copying and pasting? RFP software makes that possible, so you can spend more time crafting quality responses versus wrangling documents.
Time culprit #2: Ineffective team collaboration
Close team collaboration is required for every RFP response, and using email alone for collaboration means something will inevitably get missed. After all, the average professional receives over 100 emails every day.
One overlooked email, and the proposal lead may find themselves knocking on the door of a subject matter expert (SME) at midnight because the RFP deadline is the next morning, and they’re missing crucial information.
Sales teams are also an integral part of the RFP process, meeting with requesters to better understand the needs and priorities of the RFP. In the State of Sales report by Salesforce, 45% of respondents say excessive administrative tasks such as manual data entry are the most ineffective internal process and one of their biggest sales challenges.
How RFP software helps
To ensure buy in from the sales team, it’s best to work on their terms, in their preferred tool—the CRM. RFP software that integrates with popular CRM tools, such as Salesforce, will keep your sales team more focused on their work.
Integration with popular communication and collaboration tools, such as Slack, can also be useful for eliminating the back-and-forth over email and the fire drill feeling when an RFP is due if something gets missed.
Time culprit #3: Disorganized answer library
What do you do when you’re facing an RFP that includes a security questionnaire with more than 2,000 questions? (And by the way, thousands of questions is a reality for organizations—not a dramatization for this post).
Even with a wealth of technology at our fingertips, most companies store their RFP responses haphazardly: hidden in emails, buried in spreadsheets, lost in folders, etc.
If you’re the poor soul with the gargantuan security questionnaire, a strong answer library of canned responses to common RFP questions can speed up the RFP response process dramatically.
The right setup and regular maintenance make a big difference for both efficiency and quality. A disorganized answer library, on the other hand, will slow teams down, so making a time investment to properly set up your library well before an RFP is due is well worth it.
Schedule regular content audits to determine if responses are still relevant. Strong and relevant responses are more likely to win a bid. The frequency of your answer library audit ultimately depends on the number of RFPs your organization responds to—but they should happen once a year, at the very least.
How RFP software helps
Answer library capabilities within RFP software provides a centralized repository of organized information for your team. Content audit features should also be built in to help you stay on top of maintenance.
Take it one step further with an answer library that has autoresponse functionality to quickly find the best response in much less time.
Time culprit #4: Confusing review process
The review process is critical for an RFP end-product, since new business is riding on the answers you provide. Involvement from multiple team members across departments is needed to pull it off.
Without the expertise of these SMEs, an RFP response will not be as thorough. However, SMEs are notoriously difficult to track down for input. In addition, their assigned sections are often very technical, sometimes containing plenty of techy jargon. This can make the responses difficult for the average person to understand enough to review them.
How RFP software helps
Picture this…full access to every SME’s progress and the ability to assign reviewers in the correct order to complete the response on time. There is a lot less guesswork involved when you have this level of visibility, and there is a lot less confusion when you have this type of advanced workflow.
Gain control by effectively tracking RFP response status and insights, so you can strengthen your entire process.
Time culprit #5: Inconsistency on export
When you’re about to cross the finish line with your RFP, it feels amazing—unless, you’re racing against the deadline at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday because the exporting process is taking forever.
This is the point where hours can be spent formatting responses into a consistent deliverable. RFP responses need to align with your organization’s brand and vision as well. You tackle the messaging during the review process, but here is where you focus on the look and feel.
Consistency is absolutely the key with exporting. When all team members contributing to an RFP use their preferred fonts and spacing, you end up with a mess.
How RFP software helps
When you’re using RFP software, it doesn’t matter if Martha is a stickler for 11-pt. Times New Roman while Robert is a big fan of 18-pt. Comic Sans (for some odd reason).
With RFP software, there are two ways to export an RFP:
- Export to the source. This is imperative when you have specific formatting guidelines to follow, and you don’t want to modify the source document.
- Export in a template. This provides flexibility to have specific templates for each type of response and the ability to customize branded templates.
With RFP software, a consistent export is possible without much effort. The system will do the work for you and align everything—from fonts and colors, to bullet points and line spacing. Then, whoever is putting the final touches on an RFP, be it marketing or the proposal lead, doesn’t have to spend hours polishing the deliverable.
Keeping on top of the RFP response process
“An astounding 97% of organizations believe project management is critical to business performance and organizational success.” – PricewaterhouseCoopers
For companies responding to RFPs, the manual and repetitive tasks of yesteryear are still common. RFP software is disrupting this stalemate of inefficiency, causing a positive shift to help teams be more productive and focused.
Countless technologies exist today to enable a team’s success, but equally important is the chosen approach to reach that level of success. Having a sound process in place before the RFP comes will lift the time and resource strain your organization is experiencing.
RFP software has many benefits, all of which point to the winning objectives for any growing company: greater efficiency and greater opportunities.
For more info on RFP software:
Author: Britt Skrabanek
Bio: As the Communications Manager for RFPIO, Britt strives to inspire RFP responders with content and resources that support their cause. A spirited B2B content manager with half a decade of blogging experience under her belt, Britt believes content marketing can make a genuine impact on any business willing to embrace it.
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