The Biggest Problem with Business Proposals — And How to Overcome It
Sales teams rarely greet requests for proposals (RFPs) with a smile. While they represent a chance to win business, too many organizations feel like they’re just a waste of time.
That was certainly the case at PlanSource.
“People who were already very busy at their jobs spent far too much time providing RFP responses, only to have us lose the project anyway,” said Michael Makatura, senior director of analytics & sales operations, reflecting on his previous proposal management process.
Fortunately, PlanSource now has a much better process in place — one that Michael says increased productivity by 85 percent.
But we’ll come back to that. First, we need to understand exactly why so many organizations struggle to efficiently craft winning proposals.
Why most organizations waste too much time on proposals
So, what is it that makes proposals so time-consuming and ineffective?
It’s the fact that most organizations repeat the entire process every single time they get an RFP.
Instead of reusing boilerplate content and past RFP responses to create proposals, they start from scratch … and that wastes countless hours and leads to frustration.
Jillian Diehl, proposal writer at Mitratech, experienced this problem first-hand. Engineers and subject matter experts (SMEs) struggled to find the content they needed to respond to RFPs, so they simply repeated the process every time.
“It was just easier to spend twice as much time rewriting their response, even though it was the same question they’d gotten 18 times before,” Jillian explained.
How traditional proposal management processes create this problem
What’s causing this problem?
Simply put, while most of the world entered the Digital Age, the proposal process was inexplicably neglected.
Instead of using innovative technology to streamline content management and proposal generation, organizations rely on outdated, manual tools that aren’t getting the job done.
Jeff Ginsberg, email marketing veteran, noted that many organizations expect proposals on paper in an article on Email Vendor Selection.
“Who does that anymore?” he asked. “Why are we printing anything that we don’t need to print? They want multiple copies? What about those trees?”
We sympathize with his frustration.
But even organizations that use electronic tools often miss the mark.
As Brandon Fyffe, business development associate at CareHere, said, “There’s a lot of workarounds for not having RFP management software, but they’re just not the right tool for the job. You need something that’s specifically made for RFP responses.”
Unfortunately, many organizations try to use manual tools like Excel and Outlook to track and manage the RFP response process … often with less-than-stellar results.
The problem? These tools don’t enable real-time collaboration.
As a result, multiple versions of the same RFP response float around between SMEs, marketers, sales, and product teams. When it’s time to submit the final response, it’s often difficult to find the most accurate, up-to-date version.
Beverly Blakely Jones, National Geographic Learning | Cengage supervisor, knows exactly how stressful that can be.
“Having multiple versions of several RFPs floating through inboxes was just a mess,” she explained.
How to improve the proposal creation process
Now that you understand the problem, how do you go about correcting it?
By investing in technology that reduces unnecessary redundant work.
RFP management software that empowers users to store, organize, search, and reuse past RFP responses and collaboratively edit proposal documents in real time, helps organizations avoid the trap of reinventing the wheel with every response.
For example, the individuals mentioned earlier in this post all eventually implemented RFP360 — the only end-to-end RFP management solution on the market today — with impressive results.
Michael of PlanSource saw productivity increase by 85 percent.
“We’re accomplishing more with less effort,” he said. “RFP360 has been a key enabler in addressing our RFP challenge.”
Once Jillian of Miratech implemented RFP360, her team used the Knowledge Base to more easily find and reuse past proposal content, rather than rewriting responses to RFP questions they had previously answered.
“The RFP360 Knowledge Base has done far beyond what our previous tools could do,” she said. “Unlike the others, it effectively searches past responses and provides matches and suggestions for each question. The ease of use for ‘lay’ team members to go through the KB and find what they need without looping in an SME has been amazing.”
And Beverly of National Geographic Learning | Cengage no longer struggles to track and edit RFP responses via email.
“It’s much more efficient and cleaner,” she said. “There’s no version confusion, and we can make sure content was updated and approved recently.”
Using innovative technology to streamline proposal management
The power of RFP360 lies in the fact that it takes the traditionally archaic RFP process and injects innovative technology to create a better experience for everyone involved.
And that requires not just the creation of a cutting-edge solution, but also its evolution.
Learn more about how RFP360 transforms the proposal creation and management process.