Have you ever heard of the 80/20 rule? Also called the Pareto Principle, it’s the idea that 80% of input comes from 20% of your input. In sales, this can mean that 80% of your revenue is being produced by 20% of your sales team’s efforts.
While the numbers don’t match up exactly, research shows that most of your sales team’s time isn’t taken up by activities that produce revenue. According to Insidesales.com, sales reps spend 36.6% of their time actually selling, while a study from GetMoreDone found that sales reps spent just 22% of their time selling.
So where do the hours go? A recent study found that reps are spending a lot of time on non-revenue generating activities, like internal communications, paperwork, meetings, and scheduling. Sales pros who are trying to write proposals can get stuck doing things that waste time, like chasing subject matter experts (SMEs), tracking down research, and looking for copies of old RFP responses.
All of that is keeping your team from spending time on the activities that truly matter: selling.
The busy life of a bid writer
It’s not just sales reps who are spread thin. Research from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), the majority of proposal professionals work more than 40 hours per week. Fourteen percent report regularly working more than 50 hours per week. Considering that at least half of these professionals are writing bids in addition to their day jobs, that’s a lot of work — and probably a lot of work that is getting backed up.
Automating RFP responses, however, can help decrease the time writers are spending chasing SMEs, responding to emails, and doing research.
What is RFP automation?
RFP automation is just what it sounds like: automating part of the RFP response process using technology. Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, RFP automation software is able to assemble a basic proposal that a writer can fine tune so it fits the project you’re bidding on.
Quick note: This doesn’t mean RFP automation is writing the whole bid for you, however. It’s just automating the repetitive, tedious parts so writers can focus on writing the best possible proposal.
How does RFP automation work?
If your writers are putting together an RFP response from scratch, the process looks like this: once the bid comes in, the writer (or proposal manager) sends questions out to various SMEs across your organization. They’ll need input from several departments: IT, legal, compliance, product, and any other stakeholders who should be included in the RFP response.
Those SMEs might get back to the writer immediately, and they might not. If not, the writer will have to chase them in order to get the information they need before the deadline. They might also start doing research, looking for the answers the SMEs might have provided for other proposals. This can take a lot of time, and is risky: those older answers might be out of date, or may not apply to the bid that’s being written now.
Meanwhile the SMEs are wasting time as well. This is probably not the first time they’ve been asked this question for an RFP response. Now they have to take time out of their day to write a new one or to find an old response. The entire process costs time and productivity at several levels of the organization.
RFP automation can solve this problem by saving and organizing RFP response content. Using RFP automation, an SME answers a question just once. Then the answer is added to a content library so it’s always there as a reference, and the writer can pull it up whenever they need it for a bid. This content library means a writer can very quickly pull together a first draft of an RFP response using pre-existing content. They can then work to improve that draft based on the customer’s needs.
How does RFP automation boost your workflow?
When your team is writing bids from scratch, it can take a long time— especially if your team is taking the time to craft detailed, complex proposals, and that can limit the number of proposals your organization can send out in a year. However, companies that invest in automation can improve their workflow and take in more business. According to VentureBeat, organizations that automate parts of the RFP process respond to an average of 43% more RFPs per year. In fact, according to SalesForce’s latest State of Sales report, top-performing sales organizations use automation.
By not getting bogged down in the repetitive tasks that are associated with bid-writing, RFP teams can save time and focus on the tasks that are likely to bring in more revenue, like connecting with customers, asking for the deal, or tailoring a proposal to a client’s needs.RFP automation, like Ombud’s RFP automation solution, might even let your hardworking sales team take a bit more time off.