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Optimizing your RFP Response Process and Team for Success

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Responding to RFPs is a team sport

If you watch or play any team sports, you know that success most often lies in having a team that works well together and leverages the strengths of every member to their advantage. Often, there is more than one approach to building out a team. The key to success lies in finding the right team dynamic and structure.

Responding to RFPs is like playing a team sport and, to succeed, you need to have a well-aligned team, accessible content, and well-developed processes. All members of your team – Sales, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), RFP Writers – have to work together to complete a response and get it out the door on time.

Different Approaches to Structuring Your RFP Response Process

Think of the possible RFP response process approaches as a spectrum. On the opposite ends are the two most common models – centralized and decentralized – but your framework could fall anywhere in between and represent a hybrid of the two.

All approaches have their pros and cons. The approach that works best for your organization will depend on a lot of different factors including company structure, company culture, RFP volume, etc.

Let’s go over some of the key considerations to keep in mind when deciding which model to adopt.

Flow chart showing all RFP requests going through a centralized RFP Team and shared RFP library and coming out complete and uniform.

The Centralized Approach

A centralized model means that every RFP goes through one central team of RFP or proposal writers and managers. This team is responsible for reviewing every request, dividing and assigning the work, and putting together the final submission. In many organizations, this team acts as an official RFP desk.

Pros

Cons

Flow chart depicting  a decentralized RFP response process: Individual RFP requests flow through individual sales reps each with their own RFP libraries

The Decentralized Approach

On the other end of the spectrum is the decentralized approach, where everyone in the Sales organization is responsible for doing their individual RFPs. Whoever receives the request owns the process of finding content, reaching out to SMEs, and putting together the final document.

Pros

Cons

Flow chart depicting hybrid RFP response process where Select RFP requests flow through a central RFP team working with a shared library, and individual RFP requests flowing through a sales rep who can access the shared library.

The Hybrid Approach

And then there’s a model where you have a dedicated team to manage content and create a process, but individuals outside the RFP team can work on their own RFP submissions.

Qualtrics uses a similar approach which they call a ‘self-serve’ model. Their Sales team is huge, and the company responds to over 500 RFPs a year. With the hybrid RFP model, their Sales reps can be self-sufficient because they have access to the most up-to-date content and a streamlined process for completing RFPs. This allows their lean RFP team to focus on maintaining content and be strategic in responding to RFPs. They work on requests that are bigger while empowering their large sales team to be self-sufficient.

Pros

Cons

How to make the best of any RFP response process approach

Regardless of whether you’ve got a centralized, decentralized, or a hybrid model, there are ways to make the best of what you have. These five tips will help set you up for success:

Develop an efficient RFP response process

First off, you need to have a streamlined RFP response process in place. Establish an efficient workflow that addresses all RFP response stages, from when the RFP comes in through the door to when it goes back out to the customer. For example, you could put together a checklist that includes things like key dates, the go/no-go process, the kick-off meeting or call, the project owner, the timelines for SME responses and the follow-up process, the final submission guidelines, etc.

Enable communication

To help your team always be on the same page, give team members access to the right tools and resources. Leverage available communication and video conferencing solutions to help promote alignment across the team and the entire organization. And, of course, don’t dismiss the incredible power of the good old method of communication – the phone.

Make Company Knowledge and Content Accessible

Every time an RFP comes in through the door, your team works hard to provide the best and most up-to-date responses. Why not make this content accessible to everyone who’s involved in the RFP process, so that they can reuse it again and again? Implement RFP response software so you can leverage the power of a centralized RFP repository to share information and knowledge. Plus, it’s easier to maintain and update content when it’s located in a single library.

Streamline Collaboration

Work towards streamlining collaboration between different teams and team members, including external SMEs. People responding to RFPs shouldn’t be spending half their time sending out, chasing after, and putting together responses.  

Create Alignment

It’s hard to have an effective process without cross-team alignment. Ensure that individuals responding to RFPs and the SMEs have a clear understanding of the goals, the processes, and their responsibilities when it comes to RFPs. You can achieve this through regular training sessions and process documentation.

Bringing all the elements together  

Leverage an RFP response solution to bring all of these elements together in one platform. No matter what your RFP response process looks like, RFP software can enable you to create a streamlined RFP response process, facilitate communication and collaboration with SMEs, and manage your RFP content.

Summary

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. The two most popular models – centralized and decentralized – have their advantages and disadvantages. The former might be better suited to some organizations, while the latter may be ideal for others. The approach that you select will depend on your needs and goals.

Beyond that, consider optimizing your RFP response process with RFP response solutions that enable communication, content access, and collaboration.

Learn More

Not sure where to start? Read the Guide to Implementing RFP Software to learn how to evaluate and implement an RFP response solution.

Download the Guide

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