Structuring your RFP response process can be tricky, especially when you're working with a large volume of RFPs. In a recent post, we talked about the different approaches to structuring your RFP response process. In this post, we'll cover how Qualtrics has leveraged a hybrid RFP response process structure to create an astoundingly large number of proposals with a relatively small team. We'll dive deeper into specific examples of the systems and workflows that their proposal team has built to help them scale their response process.
Qualtrics is a single system of record for all experience data, also called X-data™, allowing organizations to manage the four core experiences of business—customer, product, employee and brand experiences—on one platform. This allows organizations to create more satisfying experiences for their customers and employees, develop better products, and set their brands apart in an increasingly competitive market. Over 8,500 enterprises worldwide, including more than 80 percent of the Fortune 100 and 99 of the top 100 U.S. business schools, rely on Qualtrics.
Jessie Kingsford, Proposal Manager, has seven years of RFP experience in the software industry. Jessie was the first member of the proposal team at Qualtrics and was responsible for building the RFP response process from scratch.
Trevor Evans, Proposal Manager, has been with Qualtrics for almost three years and has been helping further develop and scale their RFP response process and systems. Before that, he held positions as an IT Analyst and a Technical Writer.
Challenges with the RFP response process
When Jessie first joined, she faced a number of challenges:
- Multiple RFPs due every week
- No centralized library of RFP content
- Lack of clear ownership or division of responsibilities
- No strategy for weighing and prioritizing RFP opportunities in terms of dollar value, chances of winning, and solution fit
To solve these RFP response challenges, Jessie set two goals:
- Creating ‘go/no-go’ rules for RFPs to prioritize what deals warranted the most effort
- Developing an RFP response process that allows sales reps to become self-sufficient and work on their own responses
Salesforce has played a key role in helping the Qualtrics team to streamline the RFP intake process, while Loopio’s RFP platform has enabled them to centralize the entire proposal completion process and to work productively on dozens of deals at a time.
The RFP Intake Process at Qualtrics
Having more than 700 sales reps and only six proposal specialists to support them challenged Qualtrics to develop a data-driven RFP intake process, which helps the RFP team determine which level of proposal support is best suited for each opportunity.
The RFP team leverages Salesforce to create a streamlined request process for RFPs/RFIs and to track essential data about their bids, such as deal sizes, opportunity result (won or lost), industry, and product.
Submitting a Request for Proposal Support
To begin, a sales rep kicks off the request in their Salesforce account and provides key information about the opportunity using a Qualtrics survey that launches directly from Salesforce at the click of a button. Important details that they need to provide include their geographic region, the type and format of the sales request, and the due date.
The form also requires the sales rep to provide their knowledge of the opportunity and the prospect: what challenges the prospect is facing, what goals the prospect has, and what steps the prospect is taking to address the issues. This allows the RFP team to help develop a deal-winning strategy and differentiate their solution.
Assigning a Support Level
Once the sales rep completes the form, the survey scores all of the answers and assigns an appropriate RFP/RFI support level. The support level outlines what kind of help the RFP team can offer, how much of the work the rep needs to do themselves, and what the next steps are. All this information is available for the rep right at the end of the survey, so there’s no confusion.
The system also emails the request details to the RFP team, who then can assign and track the progress of each deal. All of this information is automatically recorded and tracked in Salesforce.
Tiered Levels of RFP Response Support
Internally, the RFP team at Qualtrics tiers their proposal support into four levels:
- Guided service
- No bid
The first two are bucketed into what’s called ‘Deals Team Support,’ and the last two are called ‘Office Hours Support.’
Here are the criteria for determining what level of support the opportunity is assigned.
When an opportunity falls into the ‘No Bid’ category, the RFP team will make this recommendation, but the sales rep is free to complete the RFP response on their own if they chose to. If they opt to complete the RFP on their own, they still have access to office hours.
Full-Service Proposal Support
Opportunities with really strong evaluation criteria fall into this tier and have the full attention of the RFP team. The support provided in this tier includes:
- A kick-off meeting to come up with a strategy
- Co-project management
- Custom win themes
- Customized RFP content
- Full editing and formatting of the RFP response
- Any other extra effort that will help win the deal
Guided Service Proposal Support
This tier offers partial support where the RFP team focuses on the areas where they can add the most value to. This includes:
- A kick-off meeting to come up with an initial strategy
- Guidance on win themes
- Import into Loopio’s RFP response platform and export
- Formatting of the response
As Jessie puts it, this level is more about teaching sales reps how to fish as opposed to actually fishing with them.
Self-Service Proposal Support
Since Qualtrics responds to over 600 RFPs a year, it’s impossible for the RFP team to offer the same level of support on each one of these requests. Implementing a tiered approach where they train the sales reps to respond to a lot of their own opportunities has allowed Qualtrics to scale their response process and enables the RFP team to focus on opportunities that are strategically important for their company.
As part of the self-service support level, the RFP team offers reps the same level of help as in the guided service level but only during set office hours. In addition, they send out guides to train reps on how to use Loopio to become self-sufficient.
Creating a Self-Service RFP Response Level
To make their self-service tier successful, Qualtrics uses Loopio’s RFP response solution. The platform streamlines the process of responding to RFPs and includes a content library, search capabilities, collaborative workspace, and automation workflows.
These are some of the factors to consider when implementing a self-service model:
- The RFP library needs to be well-structured and easily-searchable
- The content should be regularly reviewed and updated
- The sales team needs to be trained on the response process and offered at least some level of support, which makes having regular office hours extremely important
Having an easy-to-search library structure (categories, sub-categories, and tags) is key to empowering sales reps to respond to RFPs on their own. This reduces pushback and provides them with a better experience so they can find content easily and respond back in a timely manner. It is important to understand from sales reps the kind of information they use most often and leverage categories to make this content obvious and quick to find.
Having great RFP content in Loopio means that the reps still have a stronger chance of winning a deal, even without formal RFP support. The RFP team at Qualtrics leverages Loopio’s review cycles to help keep their RFP content fresh. When the sales reps know that the RFP library has up-to-date content, it’s easier to get their buy-in for the self-service model.
Of course, keeping content fresh requires input from other teams (legal, technical sales, technical support, partners, etc.), so the RFP team sets up regular review cycles to help their Subject Matter Experts remember to update the content. Getting buy-in from these different groups to regularly review and submit content is crucial, which can take some time but pays off in the long run.
Sales Team Training
The RFP team provides periodic training to the sales team. The sessions cover topics such as the response process, the Loopio Platform, value propositions, and executive summaries.
They found that doing training at the team level (5-10 sales reps in a room) was much more effective than doing sales-wide sessions (20+ sales reps) because it gives them an opportunity to cater the training to different teams’ needs.
Having regular office hours, a time when any sales rep can have access to the proposals team, has been a success at Qualtrics. The team has office hours to accommodate reps in Europe, Australia, and North America. One RFP team member sets aside an hour a day to help the sales reps with their RFP responses. Both in-person and video conference formats are available.
During this time, the team can help with:
- Answering proposal questions
- Training on the RFP response process
- Consulting on deal strategy
- Editing, importing, and exporting
- Providing guidance around deal strategy and value propositions
As a fast-growing company, Qualtrics had to figure out a way to maximize the effectiveness of their RFP response process and came up with a tiered model. Having different levels of proposal support allows the RFP team to focus most of their attention on more strategic opportunities across the business while also enabling their sales team to go after their own deals.
They’ve been experiencing great success leveraging Loopio’s RFP software to spread the impact of their small proposals team across a larger number of deals to create a substantially higher financial impact (ROI) to their sales organization. So if you’re looking to scale your RFP response process, consider taking a hybrid approach that’s similar to the one Qualtrics developed.