June 6, 2023 11:35 pm

David Wadler

"Responding to RFPs is my favorite pastime" said no one ever.

If you’re in enterprise sales, you are intimately familiar with the feelings that come from receiving a Request for Proposal (RFP). There is a quick hit of euphoria as you think, “Yes! This is going to be a big opportunity!” And then there is that sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you open the RFP questionnaire and see how much time it’s going to take to respond. Then nausea creeps in when you realize that you’ll have no chance to leverage your sales skills and that your participation amounts to a crapshoot. What is the likely return on your invested time? Seconds of euphoria give way to days of dread while we summon the willpower to start working on it. That dread turns into guilt as you wrangle colleagues, rationalizing that “many hands make light work.” In a word, ouch!

There has been quite a bit written on the challenges of RFPs already, although most of it with a more buttoned-up, corporate tone. So I asked a bulleted-list loving LLM to generate a blog post about this. I’ve done some light editing and added some commentary to each section about how this changes when using Vendorful’s AI Assistant to help draft RFP response. Here we go….

Responding to RFPs (Requests for Proposal) can be a daunting task for salespeople. RFPs are formal documents that invite vendors to submit proposals and bids for a specific project or solution. They are often issued by large organizations or government agencies that have complex and rigorous procurement processes.

RFPs can be a great opportunity to showcase your value proposition and win lucrative contracts, but they also come with many challenges. In this blog post, we will explore four (Why four? Because five is so played out!) of the most common challenges of responding to RFPs and how you can overcome them.

Challenge 1: Assembling and managing your team for responding to RFPs

The first challenge of responding to RFPs is assembling and managing your RFP response team. RFPs often require input and collaboration from multiple departments, such as sales, marketing, product, engineering, finance, legal, etc. You need to have a clear and efficient process to coordinate and communicate with your team members, assign roles and responsibilities, track progress, and ensure quality.

Some of the ways you can assemble and manage your RFP response team are:

  • Identify the key stakeholders and subject matter experts who will contribute to the RFP response
  • Define the scope, objectives, deliverables, and timeline of the RFP response project
  • Establish a communication plan and a feedback mechanism for regular updates and reviews
  • Use a project management tool or a software platform to centralize and organize your RFP response documents, tasks, and workflows
  • Provide training and guidance to your team members on how to write effective and persuasive RFP responses

With Vendorful: Will it still make sense to involve other people in the process? Probably. Are you going to ask them to do a ton of work? No way. Our AI assistant turns the RFP response process into a validation and editing exercise. You can reduce your seat license expenses for your product management software, go to a concert with your co-workers instead of enduring more training about persuasive writing, and build your social capital by not haranguing team members so take on drafting RFP questionnaire answers.

Challenge 2: Understanding and addressing the buyer's needs for responding to RFPs

The second challenge of responding to RFPs is understanding and addressing the buyer's needs. RFPs are often complex and detailed documents that contain multiple questions, requirements, specifications, criteria, etc. You need to have a thorough and accurate understanding of what the buyer is looking for, why they are looking for it, how they will evaluate it, and how you can differentiate yourself from the competition.

Some of the ways you can understand and address the buyer's needs are:

  • Read the RFP carefully and highlight the key information, such as the background, objectives, scope, deliverables, evaluation criteria, etc.
  • Conduct research on the buyer's organization, industry, challenges, goals, pain points, preferences, etc.
  • Ask clarifying questions or request additional information from the buyer if anything is unclear or missing in the RFP
  • Tailor your RFP response to the buyer's specific needs and expectations, using relevant examples, data, testimonials, etc.
  • Emphasize your unique value proposition and competitive advantages in your RFP response

With Vendorful: Our AI Assistant, when populated with your data, develops a deep understanding of the features/functionality you provide and the value you deliver. It is “smart” enough to understand the semantic differences between requirements across RFPs and can generate tailored responses to questions. You will still have the opportunity to edit the final responses, but by that time, you should already be very close to the finish line.

Challenge 3: Writing clear and compelling RFP responses

The third challenge of responding to RFPs is writing clear and compelling RFP responses. RFP responses are often lengthy and technical documents that need to convey a lot of information in a concise and convincing way. You need to have strong writing skills and a consistent style and tone to craft RFP responses that are easy to read, understand, and remember.

Some of the ways you can write clear and compelling RFP responses are:

  • Follow the format and instructions provided by the buyer in the RFP
  • Use simple and direct language that avoids jargon, acronyms, or ambiguity
  • Use headings, bullet points, tables, charts, etc. to structure and organize your RFP response
  • Use proofreading tools or services to check your grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc.
  • Use visuals such as images, videos, diagrams, etc. to illustrate your points and enhance your RFP response

With Vendorful: If your company’s writing is clear and to the point, so too will be your RFP responses. Our AI Assistant “reads” the content you provide and can adopt your writing style, vernacular and more. Having said that, the goal here is to allow humans to do more in less time, not to replace human judgment altogether. This should be a collaboration between the sales executive(s), subject matter experts, and the AI assistant.

Challenge 4: Responding to RFPs on time and on budget

The fourth and final (or final from the perspective of this blog post) challenge of responding to RFPs is submitting your RFP response on time and on budget. RFPs often have strict deadlines and budgets that need to be met and respected. You need to have a realistic and reliable plan to manage your time and resources and deliver your RFP response without compromising quality or accuracy.

  • Some of the ways you can submit your RFP response on time and on budget are:
  • Estimate the time and cost required for each stage of the RFP response process
  • Set milestones and deadlines for each task and deliverable
  • Prioritize the most important or critical aspects of the RFP response
  • Delegate or outsource tasks that are not within your core competencies or capacities
  • Monitor and measure your performance and progress throughout the RFP response process

With Vendorful: Remember that feeling I referenced earlier? The one that you feel in the pit of your stomach? That’s what happens when you stare into the RFP abyss. I’ve been there many times. I’ve told myself, “If I do an hour per day for ten days, that’s not so bad and I’ll get it done with time to spare.” And then other priorities emerge and suddenly, I’m staring at a deadline of tomorrow with very little done. I take a deep breath, lock the door, and just write and write and write. With the Vendorful AI Assistant, you can say, “Goodbye!” to that feeling. Earlier users of the product – including me – have seen 10x improvements in time to completion.

Conclusion

Responding to RFPs can be a challenging but rewarding process for salespeople. By following the tips and best practices outlined in this blog post, you can overcome the common challenges of responding to RFPs and increase your chances of winning more contracts and growing your business.

With Vendorful: If you want to spend less time freaking out over RFPs, you should sign up for an account.

About the Author

David Wadler is a co-founder and Chief Revenue Officer at Vendorful. Prior to Vendorful, he was the General Manager for Rich Media & Cloud at Lexmark Enterprise Software, where he was responsible for strategic direction of Lexmark’s initiatives as they related to rich media and cloud products. He came to Lexmark in 2013 with the acquisition of Twistage, where he was a co-founder and CEO. Prior to Twistage, he worked in a variety of industries and roles while trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with himself. David is a holder of a degree in economics from Brown University and is a resident of New York City.

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