Four Tips for RFP Success

By Zak Hemraj, CEO and Co-founder, Loopio

A request for proposal (RFP) is like a relay race. Reaching the finish line requires a team effort with quick, well-coordinated handoffs at each leg of the journey.

However, balancing speed and quality in the RFP process does have its hurdles – particularly for sales teams that also qualify leads, nurture relationships, and prepare for client meetings every week.

In a survey of 500 companies, Loopio found that, second to proposal managers, sales teams are the group most likely to handle RFP submissions at their organization. While RFPs are not the most beloved part of the sales process, they do have a big impact on top-line revenue. On average, RFPs generate a sizable 41 percent of sales revenue annually, according to Loopio’s study.

Looking ahead, 63 percent of businesses say they plan to increase the number of RFPs they’ll respond to in 2020. This influx means there’s no better time to evaluate and improve how your team handles the RFP process.

These four data-backed insights will make your response process more efficient and earn more RFP wins.

1. Build Your Dream Team: Involve More Experts
Completing an RFP is one of the few office projects that is more successful when more people are involved. Research shows that organizations involving more people have higher win rates. This is because diverse expertise from different areas of the business is likely to improve your RFP quality by making responses more well-rounded.

Here are some simple steps you can take to involve more team members in a streamlined way:

  • Select a clear owner. Organizations with a dedicated proposal individual or team are more likely to feel that the process is efficient and be satisfied with their response rate. If you don’t have a proposal manager in your company, identify one person in sales or marketing to take on this role.
  • Institute a straightforward process. Those with a defined process have an average win rate of 55 percent, while those without average 38 percent. Assigning owners to various questions, establishing clear timelines, and having a streamlined process for proofing the final RFP is essential.
  • Schedule regular content maintenance. Set a quarterly deadline for your company subject matter experts to proactively update content being used in RFP submissions. This way, your answers are always accurate and your responses won’t require as many time-intensive rounds of review.

2. More Writing Time = More Business Wins
The more people involved in writing RFPs, the longer the response process takes. But that doesn’t mean involving fewer people – or finishing faster – is necessarily better.

Interestingly, research shows organizations that spend more time writing responses tend to achieve higher win rates. Companies with 80-99 percent win rates are 6 percent more likely to spend 61 hours or more writing an RFP. On average, companies across all industries only spend 23.8 hours writing an RFP.

You can find more time to write RFPs by simplifying other areas of the process. For instance, building a bank of on-brand, pre-written content will save time because your team won’t be starting from scratch with each response. Also, consider storing your RFP content in short, simple, question-and-answer pairs. This will make finding the right response easier than searching through long paragraphs.

3. Boost Quality and Submission Rates with RFP Automation Tools
Eighty percent of respondents report using a dedicated RFP response or proposal management software. The other 20 percent use a mix of office tools, including cloud document sharing (68 percent), email (66 percent), offline document sharing (55 percent) and messaging apps (42 percent).

Although many organizations indicated that their current system is working adequately, participants using RFP response software are 10 percent more likely to rate their tools as “extremely effective.” In comparison, those who don’t use RFP software are 17 percent less likely to rate their tools as “extremely effective.” It’s worth noting that those who consider their RFP tools extremely effective are 24 percent more likely to be very satisfied with their RFP response quality.

Using dedicated RFP software can help teams respond to more RFPs, which increases the chances of winning bids. The report found those with dedicated software respond to an average of 152 RFPs annually, while those without respond to an average of 103. RFP software speeds up the process by automating tasks such as importing responses, notifying team members of deadlines, and even suggesting answers to questions based on past RFPs.

4. Maintain Morale by Tracking Success and Employee Satisfaction
Research shows that executives and associates are disconnected regarding RFP metrics. For instance, executives are also more likely to report higher win rates and submission rates than the employees who personally handle RFPs. It could be that leaders have access to data that employees don’t – or that they don’t know the day-to-day metrics as well as they think they do.

Interestingly, when sales (rather than a proposal manager) owns the process, metrics are less likely to be tracked. And those who report feeling “very satisfied” in their role were also 15 percent more likely to report that their company is effectively tracking revenue and team performance metrics. This means better reporting and tracking could keep organizations aligned and motivated at all levels.

Outside of net-new win rates and revenue, some key metrics to track include:

  • Business retained through RFPs
  • Quarterly submission rates
  • Time required to complete an RFP (and RFP length)
  • Employee satisfaction with the RFP process

Employee satisfaction is a metric I strongly suggest companies track. Only 23 percent of respondents in our survey measure this number, yet the research found that those who are more satisfied in their role also report higher RFP quality, submission rates, and win rates. The lowest satisfaction levels are reported at the associate and manager levels – and those are likely the people writing your RFPs. Keeping these team members motivated is an integral part of cracking the RFP success code.

Hemraj is the CEO and co-founder of Loopio, a Toronto-based technology company that helps enterprises supercharge their responses to RFPs, DDQs, and security questionnaires.