Those who respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) have the power to unlock huge, new revenue opportunities from a single project. However, research shows that 33% of proposal teams are experiencing a decrease in RFP volume right now.
So, during a downturn, how can proposal team members continue to add value to their company?
Here are seven activities that proposal managers can do right now, to drive business value (and grow their career in the process).
Effectively Scope Out Future Opportunities on Bid Portals
As most businesses experience a decrease in RFP volume, proposal teams may need to shift to a more proactive approach.
Use bid portals as your research tool: you can search past proposals and anticipate which opportunities may resurface in the near future.
Here are four portals that your team can use to start sleuthing for opportunities this week 🔎:
- BidDetail. BidDetail has a robust platform, which provides access to global opportunities, tenders, and projects. Plus, procurement forecasts specific to business areas.
- BidPrime. This portal boasts a database of government opportunities across North America and helps users find bid requests, quickly.
- MERX. One of the most comprehensive sources of public and private sector opportunities in North America, MERX, adds hundreds of new opportunities each day.
- RFP.ca. This tool helps proposal professionals easily search opportunities from public sector organizations across Canada.
Bid portals can be hit or miss for new business, so it’s important to scale your process if you plan to respond to open or active bids. Look for web browser extensions (like Loopio’s Chrome Extension) that make responding to RFPs from bid portals easier. An extension will scan your content library for past questions and answers—without shifting browsers—and help you get through online proposals quickly and accurately.
Create Business Continuity Content for RFPs
Proposal teams can expect a shift in the type of requests they receive. Right now, topics like risk assessment and business continuity will likely come up—so having answers prepared will save you time and effort.
Proposal managers who use RFP response software can build a new Business Continuity Plan (BCP) template. Fill a custom BCP project template with the most frequently asked questions on this topic, and prepare your best answers. Now for future asks, you’ll be equipped with quickfire responses each time you receive this request.
Some of the areas you’ll want to prepare answers for include:
- Whether your company qualifies as an essential business (or service) that is permitted to continue operating under emergency orders.
- Security controls your business has in place to maintain data confidentiality while employees work from home.
- Steps your organization is taking to ensure uninterrupted service in the event that some of your employees are unable to work.
- Steps your business is taking to address potential impact from third-party vendors that support your operation.
Creating answers to these types of questions is valuable for your proposals moving forward—whether they’re explicitly called out in an RFP or not.
“Ask yourself what the customer needs first,” states Julie McCoy, Sr. Manager, Proposal Department at DocuSign. “Lead with the customer and lead with value. I don’t believe that you need to talk about the pandemic explicitly, but you can talk specifically around some of the challenges that they may be facing and what the value of your service would be.”
Make Valuable Updates To Your RFP Answer Database
If you’re finding yourself with extra time on your hands, take this opportunity to refresh your RFP content library and set yourself up for future success.
To clean up your RFP content management system, consider the following tasks:
- Rid your library of duplicate content. This way, there won’t be any confusion for team members when they’re searching for the correct entry.
- Ask Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to review older content or anything that hasn’t been updated in a while.
- Set up review cycles and content audits so you can prevent your library from becoming stale or unreliable in the future.
- Revisit your organizational structure (and potentially content categories), and check-in with other team members to ask if the information is easy to find. This feedback will help you decide if you need to recategorize or where to add in more content.
When updating your answers, be sure to assess them from a competitive perspective. Which type of RFPs does your team consistently win? What are some of your problem areas? Take this time to roll up your sleeves and sit down with your SMEs to build content that differentiates from your competitors. Which brings us to our next point…
Keep Your Roster of Internal Experts Engaged
According to industry research, 19% of proposal teams state that timely SME collaboration, and SME engagement, is their largest struggle, and 21% of respondents said that maintaining their current project momentum was their top challenge.
To keep your current roster of experts engaged—and improve your RFPs in the process—ensure that your SME list is up to date. In large organizations, this list changes fairly quickly. Plus, your usual SMEs may be taking on different roles and responsibilities right now, so figuring out who should help with RFPs is worth revisiting now.
It’s also important to build relationships with SMEs by letting them know of any shifts in your RFP volume. And, if you’re facing a decrease, ask them if there’s any way you can help them in their work. Supporting some of their activities will earn their trust when things do pick up again (and you’ll be seen as a team player).
Provide Extra Support To Sales Through Your RFP Content Library
Take advantage of any downtime you have by partnering with your sales team on process improvements so you can win more now and in the future.
For example, Lisa Longley, VP of Weber Associates, recommends to sit down with your sales team for a win-loss debrief. “Examine the last six months to understand where you’ve won, lost, and why. That can influence important insights into your content, and help you determine where you need a refresh.” This way, your teams can better address customer needs in the sales cycle.
Another way to deliver value to your sales team: provide access to your RFP content library so they can answer sales questions faster on calls, or through email. Give them view-only access to your library (if your RFP software or solution allows for this user type) or use a search extension for a platform your team already uses, like Slack. This will help them find information they need more efficiently to close new business.
Review Your Security Response Process to Gain Efficiencies
Security questions often slow down deals, as they require precious time from your infosec team to review. Take this opportunity to consider if you have a team member, who can take the lead as your first-line reviewer, and improve your security questionnaire turnaround time.
Also, consider how your RFP content library could help the sales team complete security questionnaires faster. Many RFP platforms automate parts of the security questionnaire response process. Or, at least, your sales team can begin to leverage their RFP answer library for security information.
Build Internal Awareness for RFPs
Considering doing your own ‘RFP roadshows’ (or in our current climate—virtual roadshows) to educate SMEs and leaders on the value RFPs drive for business.
In our recent webinar, Managing RFPs In Uncertain Times, Lisa Longley also explained which high-level details proposal managers should deliver in a roadshow:
- Explain what you do
- Outline your RFP process
- Walk-through turnaround times for completing an RFP
- Share RFP volumes and submission numbers
- Share your company’s win and loss rates
Ultimately, you want SMEs to be invested in the success of an RFP, how they contribute to the process, and the work you’re doing to drive value for your business.
For more insights on how teams are managing RFPs during this pandemic, watch our on-demand webinar.