Loopicon Recap: Top RFP Response Insights & Announcements From 2021
Loopicon—the top growth-focused conference for RFP responders—kicked off on a positive note from Zak Hemraj, CEO and co-founder of Loopio.
“We are seeing record breaking growth. The stock market dip we saw in early 2020 is far in the rearview mirror. And although we’re still dealing with a plethora of challenges related to the pandemic, the economy is showing no signs of slowing down,” says Zak.
That’s why this year’s Loopicon was dedicated to giving response teams the knowledge and tools they need to take full advantage of this positive market momentum. More than 50 industry leaders revealed insights across 20+ inspiring talks over two days for 2,500+ online attendees.
Read on for a look at some key learnings from Loopicon 2021 that’ll help you drive growth for your business—and accelerate your career in the process.
P.S. Interested in attending Loopicon? Register here for Loopicon 2022.
Day One: Capitalizing on Big Opportunities
Redefining The Role of RFP Responders
In his opening keynote, Zak laid out his vision for redefining the value RFP responders deliver to their organizations.
Many responders find themselves in a reactive position where they handle a lot of outside requests without a ton of control.
Zak believes that responders can (and should) move into a more proactive, strategic position where they can influence the sales process, product positioning, and the key decisions their companies make.
To achieve this, they have to streamline proposal management and automate low-value work. This way, they can focus on delivering unique intelligence (which they gain through the response process) to every part of their organization.
Measuring the Value of RFP Responses
Speaking of defining value, Loopio announced the release of its Insiders Guide to RFP Metrics That Matter.
This in-depth guide shares the best metrics RFP teams should track to improve performance and gain buy-in from their organization. Loopio’s Director of RFP Excellence, Kathryn Bennett, also walked through how she used some of these core metrics to make better, data-driven decisions in her talk, Take Control of Your Destiny With Smart Response Metrics.
Recognizing RFP Response Excellence
The second annual LoopICON recipients were also revealed! These response professionals are standouts in their field and have achieved incredible success within their organizations.
This year’s winners were:
- Change Maker Award: Olivia Hartman from Lyra Health
- Rookie(s) of the Year Award: Francesca Leschin and Rayme Sherron from PayPal
- ROI Achievement Award: Monica Slovik from TIFF Investment Management
- LoopICON ICON: Stephen Remmert from SailPoint Technologies
Buyer Trends on the Rise: Digital, Security, and Diversity
One panel explored market forces that will impact sales and proposal teams in the back half of 2021. James Breen, Director of Sales at Loopio sat down with Rachel Friesen, Director Client Experience at Bonfire; Lisa Longley, VP and RFP Practice Leader at Weber Associates; Jennifer Schaus, President of JSchaus & Associates; and Curtis Simpson, CISO at Armis, discussed the larger trends they’re seeing in the procurement space that vendors should be aware of, including:
- Questions around digital capabilities are still on the rise in RFPs. If the past year has impacted how you deliver your services, you’ll want to have a library of answers available to explain how you have shifted to virtual delivery.
- Expect increased scrutiny on security and more complex risk assessments. Longer, more intense review processes that require evidence of your systems and practices are becoming more common for all vendors. Prepare your infosec teams to handle more. Also, have your security information clearly outlined and available to everyone involved in the sales process so you can scale your responses.
- Requests for information around vendor diversity or environmental initiatives are growing across both private and public sectors. While most procurement teams are not sure yet exactly how to formally measure the social impact of their vendors, any evidence, data, or information you can offer on your company’s initiatives (including plans for the future) will give you an advantage.
Improving Proposal Quality Like Pros
Through a number of talks and workshops, responders learned best practices for improving their proposal quality, from creating compelling value propositions to tagging in the right team members on bids.
They also explored how to build and manage a team through sessions on headcount requests and management best practices.
Improving Digital Communication and Collaboration—One Message at A Time
The last talk of the day was from bestselling author and leading expert on digital teamwork, collaboration and innovation, Erica Dhawan. She spoke about how to decode the new signals that have replaced in-person body language as the world has moved to more digital communications.
Some of her best advice includes:
- Assuming positive intent when reading messages that don’t have a ton of context
- Taking time to respond thoughtfully and clearly to messages. (Reading carefully is the new listening.)
- Consider when you send communications, and keep them within appropriate hours to reduce burnout.
Networking in a Digital World
Throughout Day One, attendees could connect during networking breaks, share ideas in online chats (including in the Response Insiders online community) and other fun events.
Guests had their daily dose of adorable with the Loopicon ‘Petworking’ session. Attendees could grab a seat at the Petworking table in the Lounge to show off their own furry friends—and help Loopio raise funds for the SPCA.
Day One closed with a special Second City comedy show dedicated to proposal responders. From joking about the plethora of acronyms the industry uses to seeing an RFP break up call live, the day ended on a high note for participants.
Day Two: Working Smarter, Growing Faster
The Latest Innovation in RFP Software: Response Intelligence™
After starting the day with a calming meditation session, Matt York, Loopio Co-Founder and CTO, and Justin Dilley, SVP, Product and Design of Loopio kicked off their product-focused keynote.
In their presentation, they provided a preview of recent and upcoming additions to Loopio’s platform, including smarter search capabilities, more open collaboration tools, improved Salesforce and Seismic integrations, a new Microsoft Teams Integration, Excel import enhancements, and other helpful project management improvements.
The biggest upcoming improvement to the platform is the introduction of Response Intelligence™. This game-changing set of machine-learning powered features is set to transform how response professionals work. It will provide Artificial Intelligence-fueled insights and recommendations to proposal teams, which are based on data analysis Loopio has completed on thousands of proposal projects. These insights will then help RPF responders improve proposal quality—and increase win rates. (Read more about it in this blog.)
Making Proposal Response More Inclusive
Aside from discussing increasing buyer demands for socially responsible vendors, Loopicon also made space for conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion during the conference.
First, Rachel Bracken, CP APMP, of Bracken Consulting—and who is also APMP’s DEI Group LGBTQ+ Co-Chair—provided a list of exclusionary business terms that should be removed from proposals in her presentation, Using Inclusive Language in Your Proposals. She shared the history of many common business phrases that are not inclusive, and offered alternatives attendees could start using immediately.
In the panel Propelling Response Management to New Strategic Heights In Your Organization, moderator Rick Harris, APMP CEO, spoke with Joseph Ayala, Director – Bids & Proposals at PowerSchool; Maisha Hagan, Career Coach at Beauty & the Boss, LLC; and Julie McCoy, Director, Global Proposal Management at DocuSign, to discuss how responders can strategically elevate themselves within their organizations. A special part of the discussion was focused on how minority groups can be better represented, promoted, and compensated within the industry.
Some of their advice included using salary reports to determine pay for proposal roles (not individual negotiations). Also, consider creating or joining a supportive community for specific groups, where having candid conversations and getting advice on professional advancement can happen in a safe, inclusive space. (Examples include The Women in Bids and Proposal group or one of APMP’s many Affinity Network Programs).
Exploring The Best Technology and Services for the Response Space
Attendees learned about the latest tools and services available for streamlining their response process. This included:
- Panels and presentations on uncovering the value of RFP response software.
- The latest on managing third-party risk assessment effectively, with PwC risk management experts Dennis Frio, Managing Director at PwC, and Nicholas Fresina, Senior Manager at PwC.
- How to curate a world-class sales content library, with principles from Jess Armstrong, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Seismic.
- A special industry spotlight on driving digital transformation in the financial services and asset management field, which was hosted by Justin Cox, Director, Product Management at Seismic, Nicola Carney, Marketing IT Platform Owner at Ninety One, and Ruby Paramanathan, Director, Wealth & Asset Management Consulting – Distribution at KPMG UK.
- An exhibitor area full of the best vendors in the response space, including PwC, Seismic, FOIA Professional Services, Dragonfly Editorial, and APMP.
Driving Peak Performance Through Personal Happiness
Loopicon 2021 closed with an impactful presentation from Harvard MBA, New York Times bestselling author, award-winning blogger, and one of the most popular TED speakers in the world, Neil Pasricha.
Neil explained that true fulfillment won’t come from chasing achievements. In fact, to become wildly successful, you have to become happy first. He shared how to cultivate resilience and a joyful mindset—even in challenging times—so you can reach your biggest goals and lift your performance to new heights.
A few research-back insights from his powerful keynote included:
- Focus on being happy where you are now. Don’t base it on your next achievement or milestone. Plus, having a more positive mindset will improve your performance—and get you to where you want to be sooner.
- Make your mornings and evening routines untouchable. Spend your morning reflecting on what you’re grateful for—and what you want to let go of. This way, you start your day off in a good headspace. Avoid screens and technical reading at night so you have a better sleep.
- Always be cultivating new hobbies outside of work. Learning new things (unrelated to your field) helps your brain get out of its routine and make new connections. Then, you’re more likely to make new creative connections or ways of thinking during your regular work hours—and improve your performance in the process.
The Growth Doesn’t Stop Here
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 can help keep your growth going year round:
- Keep the conversation going in the Response Insiders online community.
- Check out these books from our keynotes:
- Take our free RFP Academy course on streamlining your response process
- Measure the effectiveness of your response process with Loopio’s RFP Process Grader
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