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Response Management

How to Make Your Sales Response Process More Efficient

April 29, 2020

Opportunities for automation and process improvement abound within the sales and sales operations landscape. In fact, one could argue they are table stakes in the modern selling environment and key to driving competitiveness for your business. Perhaps you’ve identified or implemented tools relating to sales automation, social selling, engagement and intent data, or pipeline analytics, for instance. But, what about sales content and the associated sales response process? Think responses to RFPs and RFIs or documents your team creates during sales motions like Security Questionnaires, Statements of Work, or Proofs of Concept. 

These content- and collaboration-intensive deliverables and their associated processes are the next place you should look to drive efficiency for your team...and there’s no time like the present. Regardless of your team’s size, there are a few key areas to consider when looking for efficiencies in your sales response process:

Centralize Your Response Library

This may seem like a no-brainer, but a recent study by Forrester found that 43% of sales teams don’t share their sales content and the effectiveness of certain content. 

At Ombud, this is the number one problem we see teams trying to solve. Even if they’ve had a response management solution in place previously, content and processes can often be disparate across sales teams...not to mention content scattered across the various business units or departments of an organization.

If this sounds familiar, it may be time to invest in sales content collaboration software. These platforms offer collaboration, authoring, and publishing of quality content every time you have a request from a client. And, if you get a solution like Ombud, it can even take the first pass on RFPs and security questionnaires via machine learning, enabling your team to increase your response capacity by 200%. 

Compile Your Library

Once you find a suitable solution, you’ll need to compile a library of your best content. Where do you look first? Well, you’re looking for two different pools of content: the questions you’re frequently asked in these requests and the content required to respond. 

Some common sources we see for the questions are:

  • Recently won or shortlisted proposals (from various regions/teams/business units)
  • Reverse or company-friendly RFP templates
  • Customer FAQs or account management documentation
  • Common objections encountered in the sales process

The goal of building out these questions is to make these as close as possible to the language you would see in an RFP or security questionnaire. As a result, they’ll be more searchable and, if you use a sales content collaboration system like Ombud, make your automated response through machine learning more accurate.

Some common sources we see for the responses are:

  • Marketing collateral
  • Product/technical documentation (i.e. product or market requirements documents)
  • Customer FAQs or account management documentation
  • Sales training and enablement documentation

This content is often handled differently across multiple teams. The product team may use a knowledge management tool like Confluence, whereas the customer team may use a customer support platform like Zendesk. When consolidating this disparate information, keep in mind you ultimately want it to be tailored in tone and message to fit a sales response. 

Finally, in polling your sales organization, you may find that teams have their own home-grown response repositories you can utilize as well. 

For more tips and an in-depth guide on where to find this content, check out our recent blog on the topic

Categorize Your Sales Response Library by Subject Matter

The next step is to categorize your content. We recommend dividing content by the subject matter and the subject matter experts (SMEs) who need to update it regularly. This also streamlines future effort on the part of your SMEs.

Additionally, we recommend splitting content on the basis of response dependency. In other words, will the response to a question change based on the criteria. For instance, if you would answer a specific security question differently for a proposal in EMEA as opposed to North America, separate those for ease of use. This distinction is relevant for other dimensions such as industry, product line, company size, business unit, and much more depending on your organization. 

Ombud makes the content categorization process easy with “Reference” workspaces. Reference workspaces house content that is regularly updated and curated (your very best content), all denoted with a gold star. This visual cue shows end users that content has been curated and approved for use, and centralizes exactly where your SMEs need to update.

Retire Old & Unused Responses

Once your response library is centralized, updated, and categorized, you’ll want to monitor content on a regular basis and retire it as it goes out of date or isn’t being utilized. 

For company, financial, and security information, we recommend a quarterly update or yearly update depending on the subject matter and update cadence. For product-related functionality, we recommend aligning updates with your team’s major release cycle. As a result, you can be confident in the technical accuracy of your content. 

How do you determine if the content isn’t being leveraged? Ombud makes this easy by tracking every time a response is used in a new workspace and tracking responses that have never been used—keeping your sales response library clean and useful. 

If you don’t have a solution like Ombud, we recommend scanning requests from the most recent quarter to identify trends within the questions. For question patterns that exist, cross-check them with content you currently have in place. Finally, look at any content that specifically refers to functionality that’s been discontinued or is no longer relevant to customer needs.

Automate & Integrate

In 2020, automation and integration are the quickest and easiest ways to find process efficiency. Three of the most helpful types of integration within sales content collaboration software include:

  • Chat (like Slack): to send notifications of updates to documents/projects to a specific channel for focused communication.
  • CRM (like Salesforce): to understand the full context of the opportunity so you can respond in the best way possible!
  • Calendar (like Google or Outlook): to bring due dates from assignment or expiration dates into your work calendar, so you never miss a deadline.

Final Thoughts About the Sales Response Process

Don’t leave your sales response process behind when modernizing the tools and processes that support your sales playbook. Keeping your sales content centralized, categorized, updated, and automated will accelerate your sales responses and give you more time to do what you do best—sell. 

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