The Request For Proposal (RFP) process is broken, flawed, and disorganized. It is a complicated business routine that is vital to companies progressing, expanding, and forging partnerships where both sides win.
When you’re down in the weeds, entangled in the messy process, it can be hard to figure out how to make improvements. Luckily, technology is our saving grace.
The importance of centralizing information cannot be overstated. Job roles come with their own bibles. Writers have a style guide, salesmen have a sales playbook, and you should have a central tenet of information. While the editing team can choose a single style and commit it to the guide, RFP creators need something a bit more flexible.
To fill that need, RFP automation software exists. It serves to free up time and remove barriers that lead to more efficient and higher-quality work. It is like a document management system but specialized for the task.
Give a thought to these six signs, and if they sound familiar to you, you may be at the unforgiving mercy of a bad process and in need of change.
Sign 1: It takes too long to complete each RFP
If you were to time your RFP creation process, how much time gets sunk into each one? Days? Weeks? Months?
A good RFP is an intricate document that achieves many things. It sets the business up for its next venture, it helps pinpoint the exact business partners you should be working with, and if done correctly, can help to minimize problems further down the road.
So, a good RFP requires a lot of work. But a lot of work is not the same as a lot of time.
GovLoop reported that it takes over 57 days for an average RFP to go from postage to award, and that’s just too long. Especially when you add in the time it takes for other companies to respond to an RFP.
The effort and time being spent on one of these documents should be about refining answers, crafting intelligent and engaging sales pitches, and ensuring the business and its proposal is presented in the best way possible.
Too much time is spent on the myriad annoying little jobs, such as hunting down facts and figures or finding references. Have you ever had the frustration of digging through your email inbox to try and find that amazing introductory line that a colleague sent to you six months ago? You know it’s there somewhere… and you could rewrite it, but it wouldn’t quite be the same.
This is NOT what you should be spending your time on. Your time should go towards perfecting, refining, and designing a great request document.
RFP automation is a godsend when it comes to these rage-inducing time sinks.
By keeping everything in one place and acting as a central hub for information and up-to-date facts, figures, and versions, RFP automation cuts these annoying obstacles. Everything is right there where you need it.
RFP automation creates shortcuts, without cutting corners. Good automation is being utilized across industries and across the world. Chances are, the people writing the proposals in response to your RFP are using the best proposal enablement tech practices, so you should be maximizing your output too.
You can save hours and hours of work per person on each RFP. It means two things that benefit the entire company, as well as you.
Firstly, you can hit deadlines earlier and smoother, leaving more time to work on the next RFP. Second, you have more time to perfect and improve, leading to better quality documents and better partnerships for the company.
Sign 2: You’re butting your head against knowledge barriers
RFPs draw on information and resources from all the departments of a company. It is a task that requires stitching together many points of view into a cohesive whole. After all, any potential business partner needs to be able to satisfy the needs of the entire company.
A successful business should have a constant and efficient ebb and flow of information between departments. But if you have one person that keeps their figures on Google Sheets, and another relies on searching their email inbox to pull out facts and figures… It’s an impossibility.
Imagine: a deadline is looming and you realize that you’re missing a vital piece of information. Even for something like a simple pricing query, if you don’t have the information to hand, it’s a huge barrier.
You need to find the person who has the information, locate them, ask them, and then sit, twiddling your thumbs until they finally get back to you. Only then can you slot it into your proposal.
And that’s if you’re lucky. What if the piece of information you need is from someone who is out of office, or, even worse, no longer works with you? Diving through someone else’s computer files is a nightmarish task. You can get lost in a maze of organization that makes zero sense to you. And all the while, the deadline is ticking nearer.
Even if you do dig out the info, there is no guarantee that it will be up to date. So then comes an entire tangent of fact-checking and seeking the root of the information in the first place.
It’s all an absolute waste of time.
Uncentralized knowledge leads to poorer work quality and slower task completion. However, there is an easy way to stop butting your head against these information barriers and ease the info-hunting headaches.
You can solve it by installing a system that holds all your information, your stats, and your quotes. Build a database of everything you might have to know and arm yourself with the information you need.
Most automated RFP systems come with a way to slot information into your proposal with the click of a button. Even if a colleague is unavailable to ask directly, a centralized store of knowledge means you’ll always have the info right there. It is easy to update any facts or figures and can cut out hours of fact hunting.
Of course, saving time and energy won’t just benefit your workload. Trying to root out snippets of information can quickly turn you into the office nag.
The flip side of the information barrier leads us onto the third sign you need to automate.
Sign 3: Your colleagues are annoyed at you asking them questions
We have to spend our days rubbing shoulders or checking in virtually with our colleagues.
It’s good, then, to keep happy and healthy relationships with them. Sadly, it’s not always that easy.
Like you, they all have stresses and deadlines to meet. Each person is at the center of their own storm of responsibilities. What might sound like a simple request to you, could be a huge and annoying wrench in the works of their day.
Have you ever perkily asked someone for help digging out some information, only for them to snap “go find it yourself” or “go find the answer I gave before”?
Eesh! It’s not good and leaves you in a difficult spot. Do you double down and demand their time or go and spend twice as long trying to find it yourself?
Any annoyance likely comes from the fact they have their own work to be getting on with. It’s unlikely they factored your inquiry into their day’s work. It is the small, mundane, annoying tasks that get us down and gum up our workday like dirt in a machine.
If all salespeople could focus on selling, then they would sell more. Instead, they need to source testimonials, balance pricing, and learn their way around new products.
Even the smallest of self-employed workers now accept credit cards because it cuts out the grind of having to walk stacks of notes and coins to the bank.
Your legal teams, product managers, and marketers aren’t employed to contribute towards your RFP. If colleagues are often bothered by your questioning, it is a pretty clear sign that your process is not efficient. It needs a revamp.
So how do you free up their time? By improving your tools.
Consolidate your information, cut down on repeat requests, and save yourself from being the office nag.
Sign 4: There are too many individuals and not enough teamwork
Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the team goes about things in an individual way. It can hurt productivity and begin throwing up the knowledge barriers discussed above.
The first step towards making a team more productive is gathering productivity metrics.
These can and should come from any platform that your team works on, be it a platform for ecommerce for enterprise, a CMS system, or, of course, automation software. If you haven’t got a platform, you can’t measure output!
The time you spend digging through your computer files or inbox, or typing into Word or Google Docs, is time that goes unaccounted for. Companies are moving away from using computer programs as individual tools in favor of the benefits that Enterprise Content Management (ECM) systems can give.
At the end of the day, a company isn’t a group of individuals bouncing around like ping pong balls in a box. A company is a team that should be working together to achieve the same goals.
Use centralized RFP software to streamline your team. Not only does it make things more productive (one person can easily jump in and re-draft or edit another’s work or give an opinion), but it means everyone is playing on the same field.
It also holds people accountable and protects you from mistakes. Other software, like a call recording service, is used to hold staff members accountable after a mistake has been made. Creating RFPs with automation software means that all the information is in a central place and stops mistakes from being made at all.
All the individuals involved in a process need to be operating on the same interface. RFP creators are often one of the most isolated teams, with no common ground or resources to work from, and that needs to change.
Sign 5: Your business isn’t as strategic as your competitors
If you’ve ever listened to a podcast, you’ve heard the hosts beg you to rate and subscribe them in the app. If you’ve ever had a letterbox, you’ve almost definitely received a well-written prospecting letter from the local estate agent. It’s evidence of strategic approaches to the business’ goals.
For the former, they are trying to improve their reputation with social proofing, and the latter, well they are trying to gather more customers.
These tactics didn’t pop into being by themselves. Employees put time and energy into thinking of ways to improve the company’s strategy. Ways that elevate the company to higher levels of business. This does not happen when everyone gets bogged down with mundane, mind-numbing tasks.
And it’s important! RFPs can generate gigantic cost savings for a business, depending on the market. Spot your sector below and see, according to GovLoop, how much your RFPs should be saving.
Any form of automation lets employees devote more time to high-level tasks and achieve better savings and KPIs. Piper Jordan claimed that automating their RFP alone saved them 40 hours per week.
That’s 40 hours per week that can go into thinking about processes. Hours spent analyzing data and performance, hours spent coming up with novel ideas that improve the business.
McKinsey Global Institute Analysis put together a report that found that by 2065, business automation will lead to productivity growth of 1.4 percent annually.
Marketing teams have perfected the art of automating their services. We know that marketing automation boosts conversions. No one thinks that every sales email they receive was sent personally – we take it for granted that automation exists. So why are we not automating internal processes already?
Businesses do not thrive when their employees act as robots doing simple tasks. Cut out the robot work and embrace automation. You can improve your strategy and start reaping in RFP responses that seal the deal.
Sign 6: Your career progression is stalling
Of course, automation isn’t all about the business. What change would it make to you personally?
One of the most frustrating feelings for any ambitious individual is when upward progress has stalled. No one wants to become another cog in the machine, but it happens far too frequently.
The mundanity of everyday, simple tasks can impact your ability to perform well, not to mention your happiness in the workplace.
At your next performance review, will you have achieved enough to stand out from the crowd?
It is hard to swim against the current and prove yourself the biggest fish in the pond if your workflow isn’t streamlined. You can’t exceed expectations if you spend most of your time trying to piece together the perfect RFP when none of the puzzle pieces are to hand.
Believe it or not, there are a lot of insights and many benchmarks for creating documents, and it might surprise you to compare yourself.
Hopefully, you are able to begin automating your processes yourself. If not, it is time to start petitioning to your line manager. After all, automation has been part of the working environment for a hundred years. From steam engines making overland transport possible, to the way AI improves business operations.
More and more, assembly lines are manned by robotic, not human, hands. Minecarts stopped being pushed by men in overalls and were replaced by automated trains. Receptionists save hours of time that would get wasted repeating and directing the same queries by using an automated phone system.
Why should you manually copy and paste in paragraphs when software can do it for you? Not only can you get RSI, but the boredom can kill your energy and sap creativity.
Furthermore, the people behind these types of automation software are the experts. They know sides to the business that you don’t. It used to be that most offices would have an in-house PBX that would need maintenance, but nowadays, most have moved to feature-rich hosted PBX that can elevate the way they work.
Buying into an RFP automation system will help you to produce modern RFPs, with added features that will constantly improve your work.
Take a higher-level approach to your work and spend time improving quality and achieving great successes that will impress at your next review.
Get it done, you won’t regret it
Automation is the way forward, whatever the business and whatever your job role. And it isn’t just a tool for large businesses, there are lots of processes small businesses should automate to improve the way they work.
The sooner you start using RFP automation software, the sooner you can start delivering better, higher-quality documents.