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 forward...you’re on a rocketship and your team gets bigger. The sales opportunities you go after get more complex. Volume grows. 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’re starting to 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 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 their RFP management software:
“The tool can’t handle complex offerings and sales cycles.”
Typically, RFP tools are set up in question-and-answer pairs to search upon. They have 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 can work great. They can get the answers they need and respond to these 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.
“The tool can’t handle multi-document and complex proposals.”
RFP tools set up in 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 requests’ format. We frequently see customers 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 of 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 are now relying 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 context and ability to provide these responses for future proposals—which is increasingly helpful as these types of requests become more frequent.
“Only a couple of revenue team members use the tool, and everyone else refuses.”
We all have those team members that 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 it, throw up their hands, and say, “I’m just going to respond to this in excel,” and proceed never to use the tool again.
The issue of adoption is the #1 complaint we’ve heard from customers who’ve graduated from simple RFP tools.
When people refuse to adopt a system or have a bad initial experience, that 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 not leveraging subject matter expertise for customer deliverables.
When this happens, two issues arise: loss of deal momentum and waning credibility with prospects. With disparate systems, pockets of content, and siloed processes, these requests start taking longer to produce and certainly longer to approve, which can ultimately hinder deal cycles.
“The content library is manual to update and 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, even when thinking of a search engine, you expect the library of knowledge to grow organically with clear structures to filter out unnecessary or irrelevant content.
Perhaps when your team was smaller, this wasn’t an issue. You had a person finalize every proposal and check this box. But, as revenue teams grow and frequently have self-service RFPs or a decentralized proposal response effort, this step can be missed by team members who infrequently respond to these requests. 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 SMEs—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.
“Subject matter experts are resistant to jump into software that doesn’t provide value to them.”
Most RFP response tools are purpose-built for a specific target audience: proposal teams. They speak their 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 harness 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 who don’t see the value.
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, document sharing) and loses the context of the customer’s needs and situation.
It’s time to size up.
If these sentiments resonate with you, know you’re not alone. RFP response tools exist 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.