If you’re part of a fast-growing organization and your team is answering an increasing number of Requests for Proposals, you may be considering a response automation tool. If you’re on a budget, you might be looking at a lightweight one, a tool that offers you suggested content, and lets you quickly put together a proposal without having to spend hours in Word or Excel.
But will that tool scale with your business? Probably not.
Imagine this: it’s been a couple of years and your business is growing—fast. Your team is getting bigger. You’re going after more complex sales opportunities. Volume grows and response times get longer. Both your team and customer base are spread across multiple countries. All of a sudden, your RFP response tool is too small for your team. It doesn’t have enough features and can’t handle the complex proposals you’re writing.
At Ombud, we frequently hear from teams that they’ve started to outgrow their subscription-based RFP tool and need to level up their tech stack with new proposal automation software. It’s a common issue for fast-scaling teams.
What are the warning signs? Below, we’ve compiled the most common complaints we hear from our customers. If any of these sound like you, you may want to take a pass on a lightweight solution and choose one that can grow with you.
1. The RFP management tool can't handle complex sales cycles
Typically, RFP software is set up with searchable question-and-answer pairs or simple keyword searches that provide results based on what’s in the question library. This is fine for teams that aren’t responding to many bids, and for companies with a single offering.
Once companies start to scale, however, they can run into trouble with a simple RFP automation tool. As deals become more complex or product offerings expand, teams often need more context behind questions and responses. Was a response in relation to an enterprise deal? What product offering was this for? Was the product customized?
These nuances are important, and they can also make a proposal sing. In an extremely competitive market, a response that caters directly to your prospect’s industry or pain point will put you a cut above the rest.
2. The RFP management software can't handle multi-document proposals.
When a company’s offerings and sales cycle get more involved, so do the requests from potential customers. We frequently see clients with long complicated RFPs: more than five response attachments, hundreds of pages in Word docs, or thousands of spreadsheet lines.
In these situations, most RFP tools force you to create separate documents or workspaces to accommodate massive requests, leading to a loss of context or clarity. If your team is inconsistent in a complex response, you won’t be putting a professional bid in front of your prospect.
Additionally, many buyers now rely on web portals like Ariba to create and manage procurement processes. Most RFP solutions don’t offer support for web portals, or only have simple browser extensions that lack the ability to provide these responses for future proposals.
3. Only a couple of revenue team members use the tool, and everyone else refuses
We all have those team members who are gung-ho about new software tools. They’re the first to jump into everything and love new technology. Then there’s everyone else: the people who use a new tool grudgingly, and those who have a bad user experience the first time they use an RFP management tool, and never touch it again.
Adoption is the #1 issue we’ve heard from customers who graduated from simple RFP tools. It’s a huge problem; when people refuse to adopt a system, it brings risk to every sales opportunity. These people could start going rogue, using outdated and un-approved content, squirreling away responses on their desktops, and ignoring subject matter experts for customer deliverables.
When this happens, the following two issues arise: loss of deal momentum and waning credibility with prospects. With disparate systems and siloed processes, these requests take longer to produce and approve, which can ultimately hinder deal cycles.
If you're concerned about adoption on your team, consider a few must-haves when you're choosing RFP management software. Support from the vendor is absolutely essential, so when team members get frustrated, answers are easily accessible. It's also key that the software does not have a massive learning curve. The faster someone can learn a new platform, the more likely they'll actually use it.
4. The content library is hard to manage
With many RFP response tools, content libraries don’t automatically update. You can either choose to put a bid’s content into the library for future use or lose it forever after you finalize the bid.
For smaller teams this might not be a problem, but as teams grow, it can become one. Rather than having a proposal manager finalize every proposal, larger teams might have self-service RFPs or a decentralized proposal response effort, and the team members who respond to the requests may forget to add the content to the library.
Additionally, as your team grows, it’s paramount to create clear communication lines and collaboration with your revenue team subject matter experts—capturing their knowledge and expertise in a centralized database. Simple proposal response tools rarely provide this functionality, and even if they do, it’s usually not a straightforward experience.
5. Subject matter experts are hesitant to jump into software that doesn't provide value directly to them
Most RFP response tools are purpose-built for a specific target audience: proposal teams. They speak the proposal team language, follow their particular workflows, and cater to that persona. When your team is small and focused, this can be great. But, as knowledge spreads far and wide in an organization, it becomes harder to consolidate RFP responses and sales content.
Because of these tools’ intentional segmentation, they rarely provide value (or even make sense) to colleagues in product management, marketing, legal and other SMEs across the business who need to engage in sales responses.
But without cross-functional adoption of SMEs, you miss an enormous opportunity for more effective and quality responses to these requests. If SMEs are not added into a centralized system, collaboration will happen in other channels, like email or Slack. When communication is spread over many channels, it becomes disjointed and loses the context of the customer’s needs and situation.
What can a mature RFP response tool do?
With comprehensive sales content collaboration tools like Ombud, it's possible to create personalized RFP responses without wasting time sifting through old content. Our machine learning capabilities take a first pass at answers using your best content, so you can spend your energy on targeting your client's unique questions, pain points, and values in your response.
Plus, you will never lose a piece of sales content again. Our content library gives you the ability to organize with structure. Every time you search for a piece of content, our database will give you valuable information about what it is and how it has been used in the past.
In fact, with Ombud's sales content collaboration platform, you can nominate your best content to a reference document.These documents have review cycles that automate the content curation process and keep them up to date with your company's preferred messaging.
This is just one way our content library works for our customers. It also allows team members and SMEs to work together across locations with automatic updates and real-time version history. It's always easy to track your work and identify which changes make the difference in your content.
If your team is writing increasingly complicated RFP responses, Ombud makes it easier to create proposals that follow the most complex formats. Proposal software exports don't have to be painful: instead, use our customizable documents and templates to deliver branded reports.You'll be surprised what a difference design makes. An RFP response that is simple but visually stunning will stand out in a pile of confusing documents with too many attachments.
It's time to size up your RFP response technology with Ombud
If these sentiments resonate with you, you’re not alone. Proposal management software exists to accelerate growth by automating processes and increasing your sales effectiveness along the way. As teams get bigger and more distributed, deals and offerings get more involved and sophisticated; your proposal management solution should support that acceleration, not hinder it.
At Ombud, our goal is for revenue teams to generate more centralized, contextual, and collaborative sales content (including RFP responses and proposals). If you’ve outgrown your existing tool and it’s time to size up, reach out to our team to learn how we’ve helped emerging growth companies right-size their response management approach and implement RFP response best practices.