When it comes to the sales process, how you respond to an RFP can be the make or break moment. It is also an intricate process that is not supported by ever shorter deadlines and increasing competition.

Mistakes are common when responding to RFPs, whether it's in a small bid team or a large sales team in a business. The good news? These can be easily resolved and pave the way for a more efficient proposal development process and end results.

Sales-y Response to Proposals

According to a recent survey conducted by Strategic Proposal's "Buyer's Views of Bidders," 75% of buyers believe the RFPs are too sales-y. This can seem like a frustrating statistic, especially when an RFP is about selling and wining business!

So how do you avoid being too sales-y? Do your homework and work with the sales team and other subject matter experts. Make the RFP response less about you and more for the buyer. Review and customize the RFP response to how your products or services resolve their issues. A laundry list with features or metrics doesn't always work: make it believable from the customer's point of view. At the same time, you want your offer to stand out from the competition. Illustrating a competitive advantage will always be an essential aspect of a successful bid.

Lack of Sales collaboration

So you are ready to avoid the first mistake in the too "salesy" proposal. And as already mentioned, with a successful Request for Proposal response comes the right number of stakeholders - not in a vacuum. A single proposal team cannot drive content.

As most bidding professionals know all too well, they often come in at the last minute and rush to meet deadlines. Instead, the RFP team should be brought in much earlier in the sales cycle. The sales team should also be involved in the actual RFP process to formulate the most attractive bid. There are many moving parts of working together and sharing knowledge, but there has to be a two-way relationship.

Lack of Subject Matter Expert Collaboration and Discovery

In addition to all the possibilities of working with the sales team, there is also a need to work more closely with other subject matter experts across the business from start to finish. There is so much internal knowledge that can (and should) be tapped from the legal department to the product team.

Finding the right subject matter experts and keeping them involved in the process from start to finish to come up with a proposal that will stand out from the rest of the competition is extremely important.

To enable this early engagement beyond traditional bid and sales teams and using an RFP platform with better content management, workflow, scheduling and collaboration capabilities, relieves headaches and makes it easier to collect critical inputs and information across the enterprise. Imagine having the ability to assign a question to someone, it's answered and the proposal is updated. You can work with these different entries in a unified environment, add content suggestions early on, and then proofread the text in subsequent edits to create a robust and unified document.

Disorganized Content Library

Organizing content - past and present - is essential to creating a great RFP response. Common tactics comprise shared folders and Google Docs. Although these are functional techniques, they are certainly not very effective and can lead to a chaotic and inefficient process.

Keeping all proposals and gathered content in a central archive solves several problems. When a new request for proposal is uploaded with current technology, options and suggestions from previous RFP responses are provided automatically. And if that's not what you want, you can do even deeper text searches. This not only saves time, but also helps find the content. As most RFP experts can confirm, finding and collecting past content is often one of the most time-consuming tasks in the entire response process. With an organized content library and backup technology, you can finally keep track of everything and use it to your advantage.

Order and Timing of Reviews

There are several typical pitfalls with the reviews of RFP responses.

A typical danger is starting reviews when the proposal is finished and ready for the client. Nothing is worse than completing a review process only to get a key stakeholder to ask for significant edits and revisions, or add inputs that should have been there before. It happens too often.

While not all businesses or proposals require a thorough color team reviews process, all businesses would benefit from uniformly using a review if their proposal content is 65-70% complete. The key to successfully adding this review to your process is first setting a deadline to meet it in the overall response plan, and then guiding your writers toward that goal. The most effective way to communicate this to the team is to have your content collaboration environment also support project management so that all participants work in a single tool that provides content insight to both the timeline and content.

Request For Proposal Responses: The 4 Solutions To The Five Mistakes

Each of the above mistakes seems easy to avoid if you focus on the one problem alone, but what about all five? In fact, there are four strategies to increase the chances of avoiding these pitfalls, and they are based on each other:

• Start the process by embracing the customer's mindset and considering their needs, business goals, and even emotions.
• Promote holistic collaboration within the company, especially between sales and proposal teams, but also between all your SMEs, whether they are technical, legal or financial experts.
• Organize your content centrally and grant access to all your writers.
• Set your schedule and be successful while setting clear dates and deadlines for the team, preferably in a unified resource to minimize confusion.

Author's Bio: 

Win more customers by creating impressive digital business proposals, quotes and contracts with The Bid Lab.
Use The Bid Lab when you want your business proposals, quotes, and contracts to stand out and give you the best chance of attracting a new business. For more tips and tricks for an RFP response, visit our website.