When evaluating software solutions, the main focus is often on functionality and features. Examples: Project management software better have due date and progress tracking. Marketing automation software should have stellar email campaign administration.
...and some companies will stop there. They’ll sign a contract with the low-cost option that meets their base requirements and move on to implementation.
But, truthfully, there are often numerous tools that “check all the boxes.” To find the right software for your team (that you won’t just have to replace in a year), there’s more research and diligence you need to do to ensure the correct fit.
From our experience over the years, we’ve boiled this down to four key areas that should go into your purchasing decision—particularly for RFP management software.
Team Composition: Who owns the RFP process?
Team composition is quietly the most crucial factor to have a keen understanding of.
You may have a dedicated proposal team or deal desk that serves as a central point when an RFP comes in. Alternately, RFP response may be a shared responsibility across Sales, PreSales, and Sales Operations, with every position owning part of the process.
With this flavor of organizational structure, clear collaboration and communication across phases are paramount to the successful delivery of each response. It’s also essential to understand the different expectations, responsibilities, and level of involvement across teams.
- How do the RFP systems you’re comparing handle multiple team licensing?
- Are you restricted in the number of seats?
- Will restricted licenses hinder your processes?
We detail the many intricacies of team collaboration in a recent blog post, which gives tactical advice to understand this deeper.
Request Complexity: How complicated are the RFPs?
RFPs are like snowflakes, each unique in size, shape, and design.
If you’re a company with a light-weight SaaS solution, your RFPs may be a breeze. The average might be ~200 questions with standard functionality- and security-related questions—signed, sealed, delivered within a day or two. If you serve the public sector, you may have just scoffed at a 200-question RFP—more like a 200 page RFP.
So, if you’re encountering many complex requests, you’ll need a heavier-weight tool that can handle multiple documents, in various file types, in one RFP, as well as one that won’t freeze up on you when you try to pop in an 800-page RFP (and yes, we’ve actually seen that.)
- Are the RFP systems you’re comparing able to handle an extremely complex request?
- Or, on the flip side, can you quickly get things in and out of the tool with little friction?
- Additionally, across the board, we’re seeing RFP volumes increase, so can you handle an additional influx of RFPs in the systems you’re evaluating?
Content Churn: How fast does your content go stale?
Security and privacy regulations are continually changing. Many software companies are moving to more agile engineering cycles. Consolidation is happening across all industries, with multiple acquisitions being announced each week.
All of these changes can impact RFP responses and the accuracy (or lack thereof) of past responses.
- Are you able to curate and update content as it changes?
- Are you able to hide out-of-date content?
- Who are your core reviewers of content in this process, and does the system supplement that process or hinder it?
If you’re looking to level up your content update efforts as you implement a new system, check out our recommendations on making your responses process more robust and efficient.
Process Transparency: Who needs eyes on RFPs?
In an ideal world, leaders would have clear transparency into every tool and system their team is using and can track productivity and progress.
In reality, that’s not the case. But, is an RFP system one of those tools? As an integral part of closing business, is it imperative to have transparency for the revenue leaders and managers? That’s something you’ll have to answer.
- Do your revenue leaders need access to a system like this?
- Are there integrations available (like CRM, Slack updates, etc.) in lieu of formal access?
- Are you okay with having a “black box” of a tool you have no insight into?
If you need to up your remote collaboration game, here are six strategies to do just that.
...are you just trying to check a box?
At the end of the day, the right tool will not only “check the boxes” but will signal the beginning of a strong vendor partnership for your company. Some tools treat RFPs as transactional pieces of content that need to get done fast so teams can get back to the fun stuff. Others (like Ombud) look at sales responses and content as an essential company asset.
Both are equally valid and are just evidence of how far your team is on the Sales Content Maturity Cycle—whether you’re at the beginning where your focus is solely on efficiency, or you’re farther along and focusing on accuracy and effectiveness.
Want to understand more about where your team lies on the Sales Content Maturity Cycle? Check out this infographic to learn more.