It’s time to iron out inefficiencies in your RFP process

6 May 2015

There are probably few things in business as painful as responding to RFPs. They take ages, aren’t billable and aren’t guaranteed to bring in new business. But you can’t ignore them, and doing a bad job will affect your reputation and could prevent you from being asked to pitch for the same company at a later stage.

But let’s be honest, the RFP process is not best suited to the sales team - they’re busy, they want to be out building relationships with prospects and closing sales, not worrying about accurate documents and page layout. Marketing probably doesn’t mind the process if it doesn’t happen too often - in fact, they’re probably happy to rescue it from the sales team - but at the end of the day, they don’t earn commission. And bid support managers are meant to love this sort of thing - but it’s hard to feel positive about the process when it’s slow and painful every single time.

There is a better way. Using the right technology can help streamline the RFP process by making sure that:

- everyone has access to standard RFP answers
- company information, bios and case studies are accurate and up to date
- no-one duplicates content that already exists
- layout is automated so the bid manager / marketing team doesn’t have to waste time on formatting
- the process gets smoother every time an RFP is completed
- people can spend more time customising the response to suit each client
- quality is not compromised

Tools like Qorus Breeze Proposals are designed specifically to do all this, but it takes more than just technology to get the RFP process pitch-perfect (and yes, that was a pun).

Agree on accountability upfront

Too often, responding to an RFP is like catching a hot potato - the sooner you can get rid of it, the better. But as much as the sales team dreads them, they must own the final product. They don’t need to do all the work (a good bid manager will do this better than any sales or marketing person could) but they do need to take responsibility for the type of content included (which case studies to select, whose bios to include, and which industries to discuss) and for giving sign off before the response is submitted.

The marketing team should own the messaging. This should reflect your business’ position relative to the competition, highlighting your differentiators, using elegant language and adhering to brand guidelines. Marketing should also accept responsibility for ensuring that grammar, product names and acronyms are all correct and consistent.

And product managers should add the colour by bringing your products or services to life. They should be able to explain the benefits of your solutions as concisely as possible, going into detail when required, but always thinking about the big picture.

Responding to an RFP should never be one person’s job. Splitting the workload enables everyone to work to their strengths and will save time in the long run. This needs to be carefully co-ordinated to ensure that everyone plays their part and delivers what they need to on time.

If you have a proposal management tool, the amount of time each contributor needs to spend on the document will decrease. Rather than everyone filling in the same answers they did last time, the coordinator or bid manager simply needs to pull the information together and ask stakeholders to check that it is correct and up to date.

Build a knowledge base that actually works

Most companies have some sort of knowledge sharing platform, but unless the rest of the business buys into it, it will never be a success. It’s one of life’s mysteries - why, when you give people access to centralised information, do they avoid using it like the plague?

Usually, people complain that the system isn’t easy enough to use, and that when they do, the information in it is out of date anyway. If you use SharePoint, consider how you can make it easier to use and make sure that someone is accountable for updating it every time there is a change to company info.

Adding answers to RFP questions each time you submit one is the best way to build up a database of common questions that people can add to future RFP responses (just make sure they check that the answers actually match the questions in a particular RFP - sometimes they are subtly different).

Collaborate online

The nightmarish days of sending around 27 versions of a Word or Excel document are long gone. Thanks to the cloud, multiple stakeholders can work on one document at the same, from anywhere in the world, at any time of the day or night. So no-one is held up waiting for other people to finish making their contribution.

Those whose time is more valuable (and therefore less available) can work on the document when they have time to spare (on the train, at a client’s office or at home), without making the deadline impossible for the rest of the team to reach.

Technology can take the RFP pain away

Business is tough enough already without the labour-intensive, hair-pullingly frustrating experience of an inefficient RFP process. And there really is no reason to carry on doing what you always have - unless, of course, that’s working for you.

Can you honestly justify the time and effort going into your RFP responses today? If not, talk to Qorus Software about how technology can simplify the process, increasing efficiency and profitability.

Become a bobsguide member to access the following

1. Unrestricted access to bobsguide
2. Send a proposal request
3. Insights delivered daily to your inbox
4. Career development