Since this year we launched Kaito, the Request for Proposal (RFP) automation platform for vendors, we gave some guidelines here for what the RFP response process is, and how to optimally conduct it. A crucial point is that an an effective RFP response process capitalises on the use of technology, more specifically process automation.
RFP response automation allows you to import your RFP files in the system as a set of requirements (or questions), build the responses using suggestions from a software, and export the completed RFP in the original file, or other templates. A lot less effort and less time for better responses than doing everything manually.
If you consider that 51% of companies write more than 50 RFP responses per year, and 28% exceed even 100, improvements such as those due to automation greatly improve productivity.
“Effective technology-using sales teams increase annual revenue year-over-year at 2.3 times the rate of less effective teams”, according to Aberdeen.
How to create an effective RFP response process
It helps to view an effective RFP response process as a paradigmatic of team work, with the right structure and dynamic. Sales staff, subject matter experts, and the actual writers are the team members. The better the team can leverage the pluses of each member, the more successful they become as a whole. “Success” reads as high likelihood of ending up with timely, well-tailored response content that closes sales.
So let’s see what is the way towards an effective RFP response process by looking at 9 concrete means that are worth pursuing to this end.
1. Create an efficient workflow
Take into account all stages of putting together your RFP, from the moment the proposal elicits your “let’s do it!” reaction, to when you feel ready to send it to the customer. It’s all about meticulously checking things like the details of the initial call for proposals, deadlines and other relevant dates, relevant features of the customer you’re writing the RFP for, timelines for subject matter experts, submission guidelines, etc, on a comprehensive checklist. This streamlines the RFP response process and raises the likelihood of getting where you plan to.
2. Establish a communication-friendly work environment
Your objective at this point is to facilitate manifestation of the team spirit we mentioned at the beginning. To this end, you should leverage all technological devices at your disposal, from the traditional phone, to the most up-to-date video conferencing tools and knowledge sharing platform. Besides technology, psychological support for team work is also a relevant resource at your disposal. Affirm team members’ enthusiasm and their adherence to the shared goal of the project.
3. Facilitate knowledge sharing
Making content accessible to all team members corroborates the previous point. Moreover, knowledge sharing allows you to build templates that can be used in future projects too, which enhances effectiveness of current work. Automation software such as Kaito can simplify things at this point.
4. Promote in- and out-group collaboration
Streamline the flow of information within the team, and also between team members and external subject matter experts. This is the best way to ensure an efficient use of time, without additionally loading the people involved in the RFP response process with putting together the pieces of the puzzle.
5. Substantiate the idea of team-work
The best way to do this is to ensure that everybody works towards attainment of the shared goal. The precondition is that both those writing the RFP and the subject matter experts clearly understand and agree on what and why they’re after. A clear means – ends structure which is acknowledged by all provides intrinsic motivation, and it makes people more willing to invest effort into goal achievement. Process documentation can make a significant contribution to grasping the goal structure.
6. Leverage technological assistance
Technology can provide crucial help in managing content by properly aligning the various elements of the RFP response, and joining them together in one platform. This way, the content of the response can be more effectively managed. In fact, technology can be of help with each of the previous points.
7. Establish a team image and present it to the customer
The main objective of this strategic step is to persuade the company that you write the RFP response for, that it’s you that they want to work with. Create your own identity and sell it well to the customer. Share relevant information that they cannot find elsewhere, e.g., on your website.
8. Keep it simple
You don’t want your customer to have to read Kant’s Critique of pure reason in order to understand what it is that you have to offer, i.e., the content of your response. Don’t be overzealous in providing information that is unnecessary. You want to say all that’s relevant for the customer to know, true, but not more than that. Therefore, try to be clear and concise.
9. Aspect matters
No, caring about the formatting style of your RFP response does not make you look superficial, on the contrary. Styling the content can make your response stand out, indicating a conscientious approach. Start by making sure that you do conform to the layout norms imposed by the RFP.
As we said before, an effective RFP response process can improve your bottom line tremendously. Starting from a crystal-clear understanding of the objectives available to the whole team working on the RFP response, and leveraging human as well as technological resources along the way, are the supporting pillars of effectiveness. Perhaps you can come up with additional strategic points for improved results.
“Best-in-class sales teams are 81% more effective at measurably connecting sales actions to revenue beyond just closed deals.” – Aberdeen