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Response Management

What is RFP automation? The basics, benefits and myths

June 21, 2022

Responding to a Request for Proposals (RFP) from scratch isn’t anyone’s favorite task. 

Once the RFP comes across the proposal manager’s desk, the work begins. A proposal team must be assembled, and your bid team starts reaching out to subject matter experts (SMEs) for information — information that may or may not arrive in time for your writers to start putting together the first draft. Then there’s the legal information, compliance information, and the cybersecurity questionnaire to worry about. 

Lastly, your team needs to get the RFP in on time. This can be a problem when your team is chasing SMEs down for information, or spending time rifling through old files to find the content they need

The answer to all these issues? RFP automation.

What is RFP automation? 

Broadly, RFP automation refers to the practice of using technology to automate parts of the proposal writing process. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, RFP automation software is able to assemble a basic proposal that a team can then tailor to the project’s specific needs. Proposal teams use RFP automation — or proposal management software —  to create, organize, and, archive proposals.

On this blog, we talk about RFP automation on the sellers’ end; responding to RFPs. However, automation can be used on both sides of the RFP process. Procurement teams also use automation to create RFPs, send RFPs to vendors like you, and track responses.

By automating certain parts of the process, teams can save time and concentrate their efforts on the pieces of the bid process that require the most time, energy and creativity. 

How does it work? 

RFP automation is a type of sales enablement; it helps your revenue team do their job more quickly and easily by helping them draft proposals. 

Here’s how it works: rather than making your team chase down answers from SMEs, or search through old emails and drafts for the information they need, RFP automation software stores all information from old RFPs in one central library. 

This means an SME answers a question from a writer once and the information is added to the content library. After that, it’s always there as a reference, and the bid team can pull it up for the next proposal it applies to. (Ombud’s platform allows team members to vote on reference documents, so that the best and newest information is always available.)

The writer then uses the RFP automation software to create a first draft of an RFP response, using relevant information from the content library. The team can then use that first draft as the basis for their work, tailoring the proposal to the specific RFP they are working on. 

The benefits of RFP automation

If you’ve worked on an RFP response, you know how overwhelming it can be if your organization doesn’t have a tried and true bid process in place. Automation makes the response process easier in several ways: 

  1. Automation frees up your team: No writer likes to chase SMEs for information, and no SME likes being chased. By simply having the right information at their fingertips, your writers will be able to do what they do best—write the creative copy and produce an RFP response that sells.
  2. Not all companies have a bid team: If your salespeople are responsible for writing up proposals, there’s a chance that you may have some reluctant writers on your hands. For people who aren’t natural writers,  being faced with an RFP can be worrying. RFP automation removes the burden of writing from the salesperson’s shoulders, generating a first draft quickly.
  3. Speed: Your bid team wants to put together a solid proposal, but they also want to turn the response around quickly. Automation allows them to put together quality proposals quickly. 
  4. Saved time: Proposal professionals are pretty busy. Research from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), finds that the majority of proposal professionals work more than 40 hours per week and 14% report regularly working more than 50 hours per week. Automation lets them get at least part of their job done quickly and well.
  5. Productivity: By having a single source of content for proposal teams, RFP teams can save time and respond to even more RFPs; 43% more per year on average, according to VentureBeat.

RFP automation myths

Despite the fact that sales enablement can be so helpful, not all team members are going to embrace it right away. There are always some employees who will be skeptical of change, so it’s important to know which misunderstandings might be influencing them. 

“Our RFPs are too complicated to be automated”

This is a common misconception, but in reality, RFP automation is perfect for complex RFPs. The more complex your offerings, the more SMEs will be brought into the proposal process, and the more your team will need that central library of content. 

“RFP software only does one thing” 

Not true. RFP software can also be used to answer security questionnaires, proactive sales proposals, proof of concept, and statements of work. Any document you need a library of information for, RFP response software can help with.

“I’m going to be automated out of my job” 

Sales enablement tools are intended to help your writes, not replace them. No tool, no matter how smart, can be as creative as a human being. In fact, RFP automation is meant to take over the boring parts of the RFP process so your writers can focus on the creative part of the process and your reps can focus on selling. 

Automation helps your team put together the best bids possible

Automation is critical to the revenue teams of the future; just look at the bottom line if you have doubts. According to SalesForce’s latest State of Sales report, top-performing sales organizations use automation. RFP automation, like Ombud’s RFP automation solution, lets your team build more RFP responses in less time and with fewer headaches. That’s a win for everyone.

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