Better Sales Proposals Start with the Right Response Management Technology

Recycled content jeopardizes new business opportunities

better sales proposals

If solid sales proposals are the key to getting your foot in the door with new clients (and they are), then why are so many responses to requests for proposal (RFPs), requests for information (RFIs) and requests for quote (RFQs) lackluster?

The truth is too many sales proposals are copy-and-paste jobs, with little customization or ingenuity. Sales and marketing teams have a lot on their plates, which means creativity in RFP, RFI and RFQ development often falls to the wayside. But response management software can help streamline the proposal process, improve content innovation and capture more revenue.

Sales proposals seem like a straightforward concept. You’re just answering questions about your services, right? But we all know the reality is much more complicated.

On average, companies submit between 200-300 RFPs per year. In most cases, the process requires you to track down information scattered among spreadsheets, Google Drive folders and past submissions. For questions your team can’t answer, you have to ask subject matter experts and follow up until you get the information you need. Then there’s the matter of getting appropriate stakeholder approval. And all of it has to happen on a tight deadline.

No wonder responses often lack ingenuity. The process of pulling a proposal together is a significant undertaking. Not to mention, about a third of organizations rarely or never audit their content, which means outdated information has the potential to make its way into your proposal.

But clients notice when sales proposals are lacking. Fifty-four percent of clients say most RFPs are clearly copied-and-pasted, 62% find grammatical errors and half say RFP responses are generic sales fluff. Given the sales proposal is one of the first interactions your organization has with a prospect, a bad RFP response can quickly cause them to question your ability to deliver quality work.

Fortunately, response management technology can help you create, manage and automate responses to long-form and short-form sales inquiries. The software serves as a single source of truth for all your response content (like RFP answers, infographics, sales email templates and more), with additional capabilities that allow you to import and complete sales proposals in a fraction of the time. But not all solutions are the same, so it’s important to do your due diligence to find the right partner.

What to Look for in a Response Management Solution

Response management software is a useful tool for streamlining the sales proposal process. It serves as an internal knowledge base to capture and share content, giving your team back time to focus on the quality of the proposal rather than just its completion. But you’ll want to make sure your response management vendor meets the following criteria:

Content library – A central content repository is essential for streamlining sales proposal creation. Instead of chasing down answers, you’ll have approved responses and images readily available. But make sure the solution offers features to improve searchability, like the ability to tag content based on keywords. That way your team can spend more time personalizing the content, rather than just looking for it. Also, look for solutions that offer content review reminders to help ensure your answers are always accurate and up-to-date.

AI-enabled – Artificial intelligence can help you complete proposals faster, with more confidence. Look for a solution with the capability to auto-suggest answers from your library based on the question. Some vendors can also identify RFP requirements like the estimated time it will take to complete, the number of questions and which subject matter experts to involve. AI and automation can reduce manual tasks to help your team focus on customization and completing more proposals. In 2020, organizations that used response management software submitted 43% more RFPs than those that didn’t rely on the technology.

Collaboration features – Sales proposals need input from many stakeholders, like legal, finance and product. It’s even more difficult to reach the right people in a hybrid or remote environment. Solutions with collaboration features help you assign tasks more effectively. Look for response management software that offers language translation, unlimited user licenses, integrations with messaging platforms and the ability to assign questions.

Customer-centered – Your response management solution should serve as your partner, not just a vendor. Whether you have a question on best practices, need help with a technical issue or have an idea for product improvement, your partner should be able to quickly resolve issues and innovate on your behalf. Look for solutions that are recognized as market leaders in customer support or product-related categories.

Ability to assist in any response – A response management solution can benefit many teams, not just sales. Look for providers that aren’t limited to RFPs. Some response management vendors can assist with the completion of documents like security questionnaires, due diligence questionnaires (DDQs) and scopes of work (SOWs). This ensures your software subscription adds value across the organization.

Increase Creativity, Time Savings and Win Rates

Creative and timely sales proposals capture the attention of prospective customers and help win more revenue. But the high volume of RFPs combined with the limited bandwidth of sales and marketing teams often pushes content innovation to the bottom of the priority list.

The right response management solution can help manage content so you can submit more — and better — proposals. Instead of reinventing the wheel or digging for outdated content, your team can focus on value-add activities that will impress customers and move you closer to a deal.

Author

  • Ganesh Shankar is CEO of RFPIO, a developer of cloud-based software that automates and streamlines the process of responding to a request for proposal.

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