New Data: How Top Performers Complete a Better RFP Response – G2

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March 24, 2021
Responding to an RFP, or request for proposal, is like playing an Olympic-level team sport.
Planning and strategy can mean the difference between success and failure. Every team member fulfills a specific role in the journey towards a win. And the potential payoff? Well, it may not be a gold medal or international prestige, but winning massive revenue is pretty great, too.
An RFP is a document that announces the details of a project, with the goal of soliciting bids from companies who can deliver on this goal. Governments and organizations with complex project needs use the RFP process to compare vendors against a standard set of criteria, so they can choose the most qualified vendor to complete the project. Winning a bid is a big deal because RFPs can be attached to contracts that pay millions of dollars. 
According to Loopio’s 2021 RFP Response Trends Report, high-performing teams win 51% (or more) of their bids. 
win rate distribution
Those who meet this standard tend to:
If you want to learn how to hit these benchmarks, you’re in the right place. In this article, you’ll find out:
Note: All data in this article is derived from Loopio’s 2021 RFP Response Trends Report.
Let’s start with the basics. An RFP response is your set of answers to the questions and criteria within an RFP. The goal with your RFP response is to demonstrate unique value. When you respond to an RFP, you’ll likely be drafting the following:
You should be answering an important question: Why should [company] choose you over your competitors?
That answer has never been more important. In a survey of 650 teams across North America, research shows that RFPs are worth a whopping average of 35% of a company’s annual revenue.
revenue percentage
Winning that type of business isn’t easy. RFPs come with a set of specific requirements and tight deadlines. Research shows that most RFPs are turned around in three to five days – and nearly 40% are completed in 48 hours or less. So what does it take to whip up a high-quality RFP in almost no time at all? Let’s dive in. 
You’ll remember from earlier that top performing RFP response teams spend more time writing their responses: 25 hours rather than the average of 23. Those two hours may not seem like a lot of time, but when they can mean the difference between millions of dollars and, well, nothing, it’s worth investigating how to spend that time.  
So how do the pros spend their time? Here’s the winning process. 
There’s no such thing as winging it with an RFP. Top performing teams assess the landscape before they dive in: they evaluate their prospect, their competition, and the internal resources they’ll need to submit a high-quality response. 
When you receive an RFP, that’s your cue to formulate your plan of attack. Here’s what to include in your RFP plan:
Before you start writing your RFP response, gather some information. When you frontload the work of a response with some research, writing the response will become much easier. There are two types of research responsible for successful RFP responses:  
External research strategies: 
Internal research strategies: 
If you can help it, don’t reinvent the wheel with your RFP response. That’s like asking for more work. Reduce your workload, reuse content, and recycle past answers. Your most recent winning RFP responses are your best friends. Before you start creating new answers, gather all the content you possibly can from past responses first.  
After you gather all relevant past content, compare it to your current RFP and assess whether there are any gaps. This is the fresh content you’ll need to create with your internal stakeholders, including your SMEs.
RFP-writing pro Lisa Longley of Weber Associates recommends asking these key questions when editing an RFP: 
Your work isn’t over after you submit your RFP – at least not if you want to make future responses better. 
Sharpen your RFP response skills with these courses:
It’s not rocket science, but it is the law of averages: top-performing RFP teams submit more RFPs. 
The research shows teams that win more than 50% of their RFPs submit an average of 175 responses per year, as opposed to the average of 147. That’s 28 more RFPs per year, and all the more chances to win. 
Let’s do even more math: If the average team spends 23 hours per RFP response while top performing teams spend 25 hours, that’s a difference of almost 1,000 hours per year. 
Top teams tend to be better resourced, so they’re in a better position to submit more RFPs. More resources mean more RFPs submitted, and that means more money. The cycle continues. Larger teams have more tools to be more efficient. 
But simply increasing RFP volume isn’t the secret to success. Teams should prioritize efficiency over volume to maintain a sustainable process that lasts. Here’s how teams of any size can maximize efficiency to produce more RFPs and win more business. 
Not every RFP is worth responding to. Before starting a proposal, 72% of organizations assess an RFP with a go/no-go framework.  
no/go process adoption
You may be able to tell right away when a project isn’t a good fit for your organization. Whether it’s because you don’t have the resources to complete the work—or one of your competitors does something better than you do, you’ll want to weed out the unlikely wins so you can spend more time on the ones that are a perfect fit. 
Teams with a dedicated RFP response owner are more likely to feel satisfied with their RFP responses. So who typically owns the process? Here’s a breakdown according to research:
rfp ownership
Most organizations who are invested in the RFP process to win business have dedicated RFP teams to handle the workload, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes the sales team owns the process, or the marketing team can own it. In some cases, ownership is on an ad hoc basis, although that’s really not recommended. 
If your team doesn’t have resources for a dedicated proposal team member, we recommend creating a standard intake process, and assign a point-person from the sales enablement, or sales operations team to take the lead.
You may think smaller teams are more effective at rolling out a successful RFP response, but research shows the opposite to be true: the more people, the stronger the response.
Larger RFP response teams come with some challenges. It can be a hassle to ask SMEs to take time away from their regular workload to submit responses, especially when you’re racing against the clock. 
But according to Jenny Citron, bid specialist at Simpleview, there is a way: “Give your SMEs as much time as humanly possible to answer questions. If I’m reviewing an RFP and I need their help, I’ll send them a message right away letting them know that I’ll be sending over questions to them later. My SMEs really appreciate the heads up so they can adjust their schedules.”
It’s 2021: No top performing team is answering RFPs with old school tactics.  
Invest in RFP automation software to help you scale your process. According to the research, 69% of top performers use RFP response software to manage proposals. The main benefits of using RFP software include improvements to content storage, closely followed by time savings, and (of course) the automation of manual tasks. The research also found that RFP software users respond to a significantly higher number of bids each year than non-users. 
rfp software benefits
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. The majority of teams (90%) are tracking RFP success metrics, but are they tracking the right ones in the right way?
The research shows that less than half of people are tracking RFP win rate. This is shocking, considering it’s arguably the most important metric besides revenue. 
If your organization isn’t tracking RFP win rate, start small and don’t overthink. Start a shared spreadsheet and keep track of the number manually if you don’t have the software. Then have a look at some of the other most commonly tracked metrics and begin measuring them in whatever way is possible.  
rfp metrics
 
Research from the University of Oxford shows that happy workers are more productive, yet only a small percentage of teams (16%) are tracking employee satisfaction or sentiment. What’s telling is who exactly is tracking this metric: it’s top-performing teams. While this is correlation rather than causation, the link is there: better provisioning for staff and actually caring about their opinions leads to more productive work. 
You may be thinking, Why doesn’t every team track RFP metrics? If RFPs are generating as much business as they do, you’d think every organization would invest in analytics to improve their chances of success. In reality, there are several limiting factors that influence whether or not a company tracks its metrics, in addition to the quality of the analysis. It comes down to three factors:
You just learned a ton of new information about how to improve your RFP process for more wins. If that was a lot and you need some help prioritizing, here are the top three most effective ways to improve your next response:
Kathryn Bennett is the director of RFP excellence at Loopio, a software company that streamlines the RFP response process for companies like IBM and DocuSign. Loopio serves more than 900 organizations and has ranked on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50™ list for two years in a row.
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