It’s a new year, and for most companies that means new and expanded sales goals. For many companies, RFPs represent a major component of the sales process, and responding to them requires cross-functional and widespread collaboration.
Prior to my current role leading marketing at Proposal Software, I worked with a global marketing outsourcing firm made of up of hundreds of companies that bring unique skills in media buying/planning, application development, print, digital, social and mobile marketing, and more. Every RFP provided an opportunity to tap into the skill sets of the specific companies that could best deliver on the prospective client’s requirements. It was exciting to work with talented individuals based all over the world, each bringing their own expertise to our proposed outsourced marketing solutions for global Fortune 100 brands.
There were challenges, though: managing the distribution of questions to the appropriate specialists; exchanging information between the participating entities; and tweaking the collective response so it seemed to come from a single, unified organization. Since there wasn’t a centralized proposal platform or content knowledgebase to leverage, we relied on Google Docs, where we hosted an Excel spreadsheet containing the RFP questions. We had each provider type in their responses for the sections of the RFP for which they would be responsible for providing the solution. In some cases the RFP contained 250+ questions and involved six different companies operating in six different time zones, based on four different continents providing their distinct responses.
As the person responsible for finessing the language of each RFP response, I can tell you the process was not exactly quick and easy. Each time I went to work on the content, I had to scan the entire Excel document to determine when or if contributors had made updates. A color-coding system helped. We used it to identify responses as being ready to go (green), still needing more information (yellow), or incomplete (red). Thankfully, due to our contributors’ dedication and work caliber, we pulled it off… more than once. But since everyone had full-time jobs outside of proposals, continually pulling them into the RFP response process in the manner I’ve described was simply not sustainable.
The value of this experience was incredible, not only because of the people I got to work with and the experiences I got to participate in, but also for providing hands-on exposure to the challenges companies face when they don’t have access to a centralized proposal platform. With this firsthand knowledge, it’s easy for me to recognize the benefits of our PMAPS® (Proposal Management and Production System) WebPro platform and understand how much more efficient the RFP process would have been in my previous role if I had access to a platform like PMAPS.
Here’s a quick synopsis of how using PMAPS would have streamlined this RFP process:
- I would have uploaded the RFP directly into the PMAPS database and created a record for each question and answer pair to be stored and accessed for future RFPs.
- I would have used PMAPS Search to look for responses stored in the database from past RFPs or current product/marketing information, so I could limit the number of questions I had to distribute across the participating entities.
- I would have distributed RFP questions directly to the appropriate subject matter experts (SMEs) using PMAPS RFP Assignments, so each SME could have added or updated their content directly in the platform. Assignments would also have provided a status of where each contributor was in the process of responding to their questions.
- Once all the responses were compiled, I would have submitted them to our legal and finance personnel for review and approval using PMAPS Compliance Central.
- And finally, using the PMAPS Assembly Center, I would have compiled our final proposal in a branded template for distribution to the client.
Indeed, the distributed organization model will only continue to expand. And with more and more companies expanding globally and many organizations allowing both in-office and remote staff arrangements, the need for content centralization is becoming more critical. Distributed arrangements allow, and in some ways encourage, individuals to craft their own content for sales proposals and presentations to efficiently respond to prospects and get their jobs done. But self-serve models can be dangerous to companies’ time and investment in building their brands and product/service positioning.
Solutions like PMAPS RFP response software can help by providing a centralized system for companies to store, manage, access and update content that gets reused and needs to be made available throughout an organization.