Loopicon 2020 Recap: Mastering Proposals & Fuelling Growth

Claudia DoRego
Claudia DoRego

Sharing knowledge and building connections. That’s always been the mission of Loopicon, our annual conference for RFP responders. And since the events of 2020 threw us—and everyone else—a curveball, this goal felt more important than ever.

So this year presented an unexpected opportunity. With Loopicon going virtual, we could host more activities and experts on an even wider range of topics. In total, Loopicon 2020 included 31 speakers, 20 sessions, one live magic show, a virtual yoga class, and dozens of networking opportunities over the course of just two days.

And since the entire conference was digital, it means we can share everything that happened, for free, with you too. Read on for a look back at the event highlights, key learnings, and inspiring presentations from Loopicon 2020.

P.S. Miss a talk at Loopicon 2020? Watch every session on-demand now.

Day One: Moving The Needle on Better Response Management 

Day one covered a lot of ground—the spirit was on improving the RFP response process, as well as developing oneself professionally.

Opening with Inspiration

The conference opened with Zak Hemraj, Co-founder and CEO of Loopio. Zak reflected on the challenges that businesses have faced over the past five months—as well as resiliency gained, which will continue to fuel your growth in the future.

“What have you learned over the past few months that will fuel the next few years?”
Zak Hemraj, Co-Founder & CEO

Looking forward, Zak’s top tips to set yourself up for an intentional plan of growth are:

  • Embrace casualness. We’re all human, so don’t take yourself too seriously. Over the past few months, we have all learned to balance our home life (children, pets, and more) with our careers. So remember that casualness can foster candor, camaraderie, and real conversations.
  • Move fast and stay agile. The ability to maintain agility is your strength. There is no point in waiting for perfection when you can make an impact now. Spend your energy on the things that matter and initiatives that really move the needle.
  • Reflect weekly. Make a habit of consistently sitting down and ask yourself: What are your biggest wins and obstacles over the past week? What needs to change? And what are your top intentions for the week ahead?

During Zak’s opening keynote, we also took the time to recognize the first-ever LoopICON award winners. What are LoopICONs? They are trailblazers and advocates, who have driven change across their organizations (with a little help from the Loopio platform).

Congratulations to our LoopICON recipients, who are absolute standouts in the field:

  1. Kathryn Bennett, Proposal Manager, Dude Solutions
  2. Ben Chen, Sales Engineering Manager, Commercial Team, Clari
  3. Matt Northam, Product Line Marketing Manager, VMware CBPU
  4. Sara Willson-Thacker, Sr. Manager, Technical Proposals at VMware, End User Computing
  5. Robert Wunder, RFP Team Lead, IBM Watson Health

Lessons on Perfecting Your Craft 

Next up: sessions focused on leveling up your proposal writing, process, relationships, and technology. The list includes:

  • How to Level Up Your Copywriting Game and Win More. Practical tips from Privy CMO, Dave Gerhardt. Improve your conversational copywriting to help your next proposal, email, or sales collateral, stand out from the competition.
  • Building the Ultimate RFP Response Roadmap. Enable your team to churn out high-quality bids, every time, with this process workshop from Loopio Customer Success Manager, Megan Nobrega.
  • Hunger Games & Glitter Bombs: A Case Study on How RFP Gamification Engages SMEs & Improves Productivity. In this incredibly entertaining talk, Simpleview Bid Specialist, Jenny Citron, walks through her strategy to make RFPs fun—and better engage internal experts.
  • Demystifying AI: What Does the Future Hold for RFP Responders? Loopio Senior Product Manager, Nahla Salem, demystifies the world of intelligent automation. Learn how Loopio is harnessing the power of data to streamline the RFP response process and make your life easier. 
  • Stop Wasting Time: Streamline Your Process with Lean Strategies. Kathryn Bennett, Proposal Manager at Dude Solutions taught attendees how they can optimize their team’s response process from start to finish with lean techniques so they can focus on doing the work right, the first time.

After a packed morning, guests took a break with a special show from Loopio’s own Account Executive, and in-house magician, Zach Farber. Want to learn how magic makes RFP stress disappear? Check out Zach’s live magic act, and all other sessions, here. 

Conversations on Strategic Buying & Career Moves 

Later in the afternoon, panel conversations explored topics of career growth, as well as insights from the executives in charge of buying decisions. They included:

  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go: The New Response Professional Career Paths. Industry leaders provided candid advice for building a fulfilling career, instead of just following the traditional path. This conversation hears from Stephanie Benavidez, Senior Director, Sales Enablement, WellRight; Marie-France Cardin, Principal, The Winning Partnership; and Sara Willson-Thacker, Sr. Manager, Technical Proposals at VMware, End User Computing.
  • The Flip Side: Meet Your New Buying Committee. CRO and co-founder of Loopio Jafar Owainati sat down with three executives to hear how buying decisions, evaluation, and priorities have shifted in 2020. This panel hears from Pallabee Bera, VP, Procurement, Acosta; Jeff Kohrman, CEO, eCISO; and Brian Montminy, CFO, Lessonly.

Learning to Better Manage Relationships

Now that RFP teams know how to level-up their performance, it was time to focus on another essential part of the role: working effectively with others.

The next two sessions explored change leadership lessons, and how to best automate your work (without losing the human touch).

  • Change Leadership Lessons That Every Professional Needs to Know. Change Management Strategist, Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, explained how to become an agent for change in your organization—and increase your internal influence.
  • How to Automate Your RFPs—Without Losing The Human Touch. Fastly Proposal Manager, Grant Waldron, revealed the tactics his team uses to turn around highly technical RFPs at lightning speed (without losing their humanity in the process).

Controlling Your Attention

The day closed with a keynote by best-selling author and behavioral expert, Nir Eyal. He spoke about becoming indistractable, which felt timely, given how the past few months have required us to rely on digital tools—which can be extremely addictive and distracting—more than ever.

Nir’s top tips for controlling your attention and choosing your life include:

  • Ask yourself: What discomfort are you trying to escape from? All distractions are rooted in escaping psychological discomfort—analyze how you personally deal with emotional discomfort.
  • Plan your time (not the output). You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it’s distracting you from. Use a time box calendar and schedule your day to ensure you stay productive.
  • Spend less time communicating and more time concentrating. Make sure you have time scheduled in your day for reflective work.

Day Two: Empowering People to Propel Growth

On the second day, speakers dove into key tools that help teams collaborate better and provided candid advice for developing better relationships to accelerate your career.

Opening with Innovation

After starting the day with a refreshing live yoga session, Matt York, Loopio Co-Founder and CTO, kicked off his keynote. In his insightful presentation, Matt shared trends driving digital innovation in RFP response software.

“We want you to be able to focus on work that matters most to you. And gives you time for growth.”
Matt York, Co-Founder & CTO

Bonus: he also provided a sneak preview of the exciting updates to Loopio’s platform this year. (Want to see some of the new features yourself? Check out Matt’s talk here.)

Lessons on Team Harmony and Productivity

Next up: discussions from industry experts focused on the best ways to implement software, cope with burnout, improve your tech stack, and build a global team.

  • Ready, Set, Implement! How to Adopt RFP Software in 45 Days. Segra Complex Bid Specialist, Maureen Cody, explained how she led her team through one of the fastest onboardings in Loopio’s history.
  • How to Battle Professional Burnout (Even If You Don’t Control Your Workload). Author Hamza Khan shared how a deadly brush with burnout inspired him to create a framework for eliminating busyness and focusing on what matters.
  • Leveraging your TechStack to Achieve Lightning-fast Security Questionnaires. Clari’s Sales Engineering Manager, Ben Chen, proved that fast security approvals are indeed possible—his team uses three critical tools to handle 5000 security questions each quarter.
  • Change Your Proposal Narrative to Increase Your Win-Rate. Dragonfly Editorial President, Samantha Enslen, shared how to leverage the power of persuasion in your proposal writing (and increase your win-rate).

Discussions on Scaling Your Solution (And Sales Best Practices)

Panel conversations explored best practices for technical sales and valuable tips for scaling response processes across organizations of all sizes.

  • How to Make Technical Sales Your (Unfair) Competitive Advantage. Kristin Biddie, Customer Success Manager here at Loopio, sat down with Nathan Eads, Senior Solutions Engineer, Slack; A.J. Forkner, Manager, Solutions Consulting, Outreach; and Akshat Srivastava, Founder, Sales Engineers of New York, Enterprise Solutions Architect, Amazon Web Services, for tips on how to up your technical sales game to gain a surprising edge and fuel your business growth.
  • How Teams of All Sizes Can Increase Response Velocity. Lise Fleuette, Senior Proposal Writer, Tracelink; Stephen Remmert, Senior Sales Proposal Analyst, Sailpoint; and Nicole Robinson, Bid Manager, Herjavec Group discussed the tools, strategies, and processes they use to accelerate response speed—without sacrificing quality in their RFPs, Security Questionnaires, and more with Loopio’s Director of Customer Success, Sara Masson.

Closing with the Right Questions

The final day of Loopicon 2020 closed with a powerful presentation from best-selling author and Columbia Law professor, Alexandra Carter.

Alex shared that the key to building fruitful relationships comes down to negotiation—but not the kind of fist-pounding-on-the-table, tense situations you may be thinking of. Instead, she shared the 10 questions you should be asking to resolve issues, and sway others to your way of thinking. A few of those questions include:

  • What is the problem you want to solve?
  • How have you handled this successfully in the past?
  • What are your concerns?
  • And the all-powerful: Tell me about…

After this incredible live session, guests moved on to virtual networking.

Throughout the entire conference, RFP teams continued to chat in a private Slack community—which led to dozens of educational discussions and share-worthy moments. There were daily giveaways, and photo contests (like the one below from BKJAMIN Consultant, Ben Klein).

Then vs. Now (2020) travel photo from Loopicon participant, Ben Klein.

Then vs. Now (2020) travel photo from Loopicon participant, Ben Klein.

P.S. Thank you to our sponsors and supporters for helping to make this event possible: DragonFly Editorial, The Change Leadership, and Seismic.

The Learning Doesn’t Stop Here For RFP Responders

After two days jam-packed with proposal improvement and professional development, the learning doesn’t have to stop.

Here are some helpful resources shared during the conference, that anyone in the response space can take use for their professional growth:

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