How to Evaluate RFP Tools (And Which Features Your Team Needs)
The time has come: You’re ready to ditch Excel sheets and Word documents for an RFP tool that helps you respond faster to RFPs.
RFPs can help you win big accounts, but they’re a massive undertaking that require you to answer far-reaching questions that span your entire organization, from legal to sales to data security. If you’re reading this, you’re probably no stranger to staying up late and working weekends to complete an RFP.
Choosing the right RFP tool can save hours of your time. In this article, we’ll show you how to evaluate RFP response software by demystifying key features and highlighting the top value-adds to watch out for when you’re deciding on a solution.
Keep reading to learn how to evaluate RFP tools based on:
Top RFP Tool Features at a Glance
RFP response software can transform a potential revenue blocker into your competitive advantage. The right RFP software will have the following feature categories, which will help you unlock time savings, improve collaboration, and improve proposal quality.
Smart Content Management Features
An RFP platform should come with content storage and management options that make it easy to find the right answers and keep content updated.
Collaboration Tools & Integrated Workflows
When you centralize your process to a single workspace, it’s easier to manage teammates and subject matter experts (SMEs) with a streamlined, collaborative, and transparent process.
Intelligent Task Automation
RFP response software automates manual, low-impact tasks, like copying and pasting answers, detecting library duplicates, and more so you can save time and teach your team how to write an RFP response that wins.
What Are the Top Features of RFP Software?
When you’re evaluating RFP tools for your business, you’ll want to focus on features in three of those buckets explained above: content management, automation, and project management & collaboration. Here’s a breakdown of each.
Content Management: Quick Access to Accurate Answers
Customizable Content Library
House your most reusable and relevant content in a way that can be easily found, repurposed, or customized for each project. Custom categories, tags, and similar features make organizing content your way possible—whether it’s by product lines, language, or more.
Smart Content Search
Flexible search options will save you time and return the most relevant results faster. In addition to keyword search, you should seek exact phrase matching, plus the ability to filter results by category, sub-category, and or custom tags.
A good RFP response platform should have tools for supporting your library’s maintenance. Automated review cycles, at-a-glance insights, and duplicate answer detection can help keep content clean and accurate.
Library User Management
Controlling who can view, approve, and update content is essential to maintaining quality—while still making information easy to find. Restricting sensitive information access by user type are also considerations when selecting a tool. (Check out this blog for a preview of how an RFP content management system works.)
Automation: Kickstart Each Response With Ease
RFP Document Importing & Exporting
Response software should support importing a variety of formats—including Word, Excel, and PDFs—plus export back to their original format, web portal, or a custom template, once the response is complete.
Auto-fill & Auto-suggested Answers
Software often suggests answers based on questions you’ve completed before. Best-in-class tools use filters and Natural Language Processing (a technique of AI) to improve match accuracy.
Built-In Quality Improvement
A platform should not only help keep content up-to-date, but also improve the quality of your library (and subsequently, your future responses). Look for solutions that make it easy to thoughtfully capture updated or new content from your responses so it can be used again in future RFPs.
This feature allows you to be able to set your branding guidelines for all documents. This way, you can export beautifully designed proposals without help from a designer.
Project Management: More Effortless Collaboration
Intuitive RFP Workspace
Look for a platform that offers a single, intuitive workspace for building your RFP responses. This eliminates version control issues, streamlines communications, and lets you see responses being worked on in real-time.
Reviews & Approval Workflow
Solutions should have notification settings and workflows for assigning tasks on a project (like answering individual questions) and sending requests for approvals or reviews from legal/compliance teams, SMEs, and more.
Having visibility into project statuses and tasks is important for staying ahead of your deadlines. A robust platform should have project dashboards so that you can see your team members’ work and project milestones at-a-glance.
It’s important that you can easily see what’s on your team’s plate and proactively identify at-risk projects or opportunities to better manage workloads. A solution should offer the ability to view data on content and platform usage and other related stats for a more comprehensive understanding of your RFP response process.
Beyond RFP Tool Features: What Are The Key Vendor Differentiators?
Now that you know the top features of an effective RFP tool, we’ll describe some of the additional factors that can help you decide between two solution providers that may have similar features and functionality.
Pricing will vary vendor to vendor and is often based on the number of premium features, users, or projects you’d like. Selecting the one that works best for you comes down to the following:
- Your must-have features
- How many concurrent RFP projects you’re going to work on
- How many project collaborators you’d like in the platform
Pro tip: Look for vendors with flexible pricing, and make sure to check if there are extra charges for additional services (like support, customer success managers or onboarding), or if they’re included in the plan.
Superior Customer Support
When you’re comparing RFP tools, you’re not just comparing the software itself–you’re comparing the quality and speed of the help you receive from the vendors’ teams.
Search for a vendor that invests in your successful adoption of their platform. They should offer timely support for technical inquiries, as well as coach you through the training and onboarding process. You should also ensure the platform offers a customer success manager that will make sure you’re keeping up with software updates and best practices for the ideal response process.
Your team may already use software like Google Drive, Salesforce, Slack, and others to manage their day-to-day tasks. Look for an RFP platform that can connect to these tools, so your contributors aren’t required to switch platforms when performing basic tasks.
Integrations allow for increased productivity, better internal adoption, and higher quality responses.
Choose an RFP vendor that is committed to transparency through security documentation, including legal, regulatory, or contractual requirements for the sensitive information that will live on the RFP platform.
Bonus points if your chosen vendor has a security package that includes a recent copy of their Security Operations Center (SOC) 2 Type 2 audit.
Ongoing Training & Helpful Resources
Finally, choose an RFP automation company that is considered a thought-leader in their space. You’ll want to partner with a vendor that invests in industry-wide training through webinars, community events, and other learning opportunities for industry best practices.
Why Picking the Right RFP Software Makes a Difference For Your Team
Whether its outdated documents, unsearchable files, or busy teammates, there’s a multitude of factors that get in the way of answering RFPs quickly and closing deals faster. Response software can turn RFPs into your team’s competitive advantage by helping you:
- Provide accurate answers, every time
- Finish RFPs faster—without sacrificing quality
- Effortlessly engage teammates to improve responses
With the right response solution, you can finish RFPs faster and improve answer quality—no matter how tight the deadline.
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