We've had a number of blog posts and even a fun video that premiered on LinkedIn that contemplate the miserable feelings associated with finding an RFP in your inbox. I have spent the bulk of my career in the world of software and can share that in my personal experience, responding to an RFP for software can be a daunting process. RFPs are often lengthy documents filled with detailed requirements, pricing models, and instructions. And while my history is shamefully littered with a "just plow through it "approach, the most successful responses require careful planning, attention to detail, and solid bid management practices. So without further ado, here's why bid management is the key to winning a software RFP:
What is Bid Management?
Bid management refers to the overall process of responding to an RFP. It involves everything from organizing your team to developing the proposal documents. Key elements of bid management typically include:
- Assembling a cross-functional bid team with subject matter experts in areas like technical requirements, pricing, and project management.
- Conducting a detailed review of the RFP to identify must-have requirements vs. nice-to-have capabilities.
- Developing win strategies based on evaluation criteria, competitors, pricing, and more.
- Creating compliant response documents that directly address RFP requirements.
- Carefully reviewing all materials before submission to avoid errors.
- Managing follow-up activities like presentations and contract negotiations.
It bears mentioning that a key part of the bid management process is determining whether or not your company will even participate in the bidding process. Unless you have an AI Assistant for RFPs that handles RFP automation for you, you might be looking at a significant time investment. In that case, if the RFP does not seem winnable, it might not make sense to invest time into responding to it.
Why Bid Management Matters
Assuming you've decided to move forward, bid management helps strategically tailor your response to the client's needs and increase your odds of winning. Without it, RFP responses often fail on basics like:
- Not fully addressing RFP requirements and evaluation criteria
- Submitting generic, boilerplate responses
- Having misaligned pricing and solution offerings
- Making avoidable mistakes in response documents
Effective bid management aligns your solutions, messaging, prices and activities to the RFP. This prevents wasted effort on nice-to-have capabilities the client won't value. It also reduces errors that can immediately disqualify you. And finally, it should ensure that you get the bid across the finish line on or before the due date.
Optimizing Bid Management for Software RFPs
Again, my experience with RFPs is really limited to software. And I've been on the winning side of a number of RFPs. Where I've seen the most success in winning software RFPs is making sure that your bid management approach accounts for for key issues like the following:
- Technical requirements - Many software RFPs have complex technical specifications. Your response must articulate your solution's technical capabilities and how they address the client's needs. Having solution architects and developers contribute to this part of the response is key. (You can read more about the importance of leveraging Subject Matter Experts in preparing your RFP response.)
- Pricing models - Software pricing can involve licenses, subscriptions, professional services, support fees and more. Your bid team needs to develop aligned pricing reflective of the software and services being proposed.
- Implementation plan - RFP evaluators will look for a reasonable implementation roadmap. Your proposal should outline phases, timelines, milestones and responsibilities for rolling out your software solution.
- Compliance documentation - Software RFPs typically require legal, financial, and compliance documents. Your bid management process must track and deliver all required docs like security documents, disaster recoery plans, licenses, insurance certificates etc.
Creating an Efficient Bid Management Process
So you're sold on the importance of a implementing bid management process? Here are some tips on how to create one and enjoy a streamlined RFP response workflow:
- Centralize tools and assets - Maintain shared folders housing past proposals, response templates, pricing models, and compliance docs. This saves time over recreating materials.
- Establish a master calendar - Create a centralized calendar for the entire team to view deadlines, assignments, reviews and submission date.
- Document roles and responsibilities - Clearly define who owns what pieces like writing solution descriptions, compiling pricing, managing legal reviews, etc.
- Automate where possible - Use tools like templates and proposal software to automate repetitive tasks like formatting and content generation.
- Conduct reviews at each stage - Don't wait until the end for quality checks. Build in reviews of outline, rough draft, final draft, so issues are caught early.
- Create submission checklists - Develop checklists to verify all required pieces before submission, including all attachments and compliance docs.
An efficient, coordinated bid management process reduces wasted effort, duplication, and mistakes. Investing in your RFP response workflow pays dividends in increased win rates.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that tools like the ones we offer fundamentally changes things. Having said that, implementing a repeatable process for Bid Management should still accrue to your benefit. You will likely need to tweak the process, however, to account for the fact that much of the time-consuming work will be done for you.
Whether or not you're leveraging an AI Assistant, diligent bid management tailored to the nuances of software procurement can help you can develop winning RFP responses that showcase your solution's fit and value. This puts your company ahead of competitors who take a less strategic (typically ad hoc) approach. So what are you waiting for? The time to set up your process is now!