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Response Management

Do You Need New RFP Management Tools? 5 Typical RFP Software Pain Points

September 28, 2020

If you’re part of a fast-growing organization and your team is seeing an increasing number of RFPs, you might be considering a light-weight response automation tool. They give you suggested content, make it easy to pop in and out, and, truthfully, anything is better than hitting “Command+F” in a long Word or Excel document.

Fast’re on a rocket ship and your team gets bigger. The sales opportunities you go after get more complex. Volume grows and response times get longer. You open international offices across the globe and your team and customer base are spread across multiple countries. And, all of a sudden, that RFP response tool becomes too small, with not enough features, and difficult to scale. 

Does this sound like you? If you feel these pains, you aren’t alone. 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 to meet more complex needs. 

Below, we’ve compiled the most common complaints we hear from our ecosystem. Some were the “straw that broke the camel’s back” when it came to outgrowing RFP management software:

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. For companies that either have low RFP volume or a single offering, this works well. Companies get the answers they need and respond to RFPs quickly.

As deals become more complex or product offerings expand, you may find you need more context behind these questions and responses. Was this response in relation to an enterprise deal? What product offering was this for? Did we offer product customization?

The nuances to each response and situation are what make that proposal sing. Especially in a heated sales cycle or 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.

Win more deals with RFP software that properly organizes & personalizes your sales content.

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.

2. The RFP management software can't handle multi-document proposals.

RFP tools set up with a simple question-and-answer format also raise issues for scaling your organization. Often, as the offerings and sales cycle get more involved, so does the request format. We frequently see clients with RFPs containing 5+ response attachments and hundreds of pages in Word docs or thousands of spreadsheet lines. Especially with rising concerns in data and cybersecurity, this trend will only continue.

In these situations, most RFP tools force you to create separate documents or workspaces to accommodate these massive requests, leading to a loss of context or clarity. If your team is inconsistent in a complex response like this, you won’t be putting a professional deliverable in front of your prospect.

Additionally, many buyers now rely on web portals like ARIBA to create and manage procurement processes. Most solutions don’t offer support for these web portals, or only have simple browser extensions that lack the ability to provide these responses for future proposals. This capability is increasingly helpful as these types of requests become part of the RFP process.

Scale RFP responses to fit any proposal format.

Ombud makes it easier to create responses 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 it makes to have visually appealing, easy-to-read responses. When buyers are first examining responses in a competitive sale, they will judge based on appearance and clarity. So, an RFP response that is simple but visually stunning will stand out in a pile of confusing documents with too many attachments.

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 learning new technology. But, those individuals don’t typically comprise your entire team. Others may get confused the first time using a new RFP management tool, throw up their hands, and never use it again.

Adoption is the #1 issue we’ve heard from customers who graduated from simple RFP tools.

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.

Improve adoption with a platform that team members want to use.

On the surface, the answer to this pain point seems easy: find a platform that sales and proposal team members actually want to use. But in reality, this is a difficult proposition: how can you make sure everyone is satisfied with your new RFP software?

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. When finalizing an RFP, you can choose to put that content into the library for future use or lose it forever. Typically, you expect the library of resources to grow organically with clear structures that filter out unnecessary or irrelevant content.

Perhaps when your team was smaller, this wasn’t an issue. You had a proposal manager finalize every proposal. But, as revenue teams grow and frequently have self-service RFPs or a decentralized proposal response effort, team members who infrequently respond to the requests may miss this step. Now, this content falls into a bottomless pit, and it’s hard to bring it back.

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—further complicating this process.

Put collaboration at the center of your RFP management process.

With Ombud's sales content collaboration platform, you can nominate your best content to a document that stays fresh, called 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 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.

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 SMEs across the business who need to engage in sales responses (such as colleagues in product management and marketing, legal, and finance). In addition, many of these systems have per-user licensing, which can mean increased costs for SMEs.

But, without cross-functional adoption of SMEs, you miss an enormous opportunity for more effective and quality responses to these requests. If you don’t have these SMEs added into a centralized system, your collaboration becomes disjointed (using various channels of communication and collaboration such as Slack, email, and document sharing) and loses the context of the customer’s needs and situation.

RFP management tools should be accessible to everyone.

Ombud is the knowledge library and content collaboration platform for teams across your organization, not just your proposal team. Solutions like Ombud allow you to engage with SME's in a way that's mutually beneficial.

With a central library of content, you can access subject matter experts' past answers to questions and see whether or not a piece of content has been approved. If you are creating new content, RFP management software makes it easier to engage with SMEs in one place, so the approved content can be reused instead of going back to that SME every time.

 It's time to size up your RFP response technology with Ombud.

If these sentiments resonate with you, know 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.

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