How Do You Improve the RFP Process? Optimize 6 Over-Looked Opportunities

Kyla Steeves, Content Marketing Manager at Loopio
Kyla Steeves

How often does your team respond to an RFP before the deadline with a high-quality proposal that wins? If your answer is 100% of the time⁠—congrats, you’ve achieved the Holy Grail of RFPs. 👏 But if your average win rate says otherwise, there are opportunities to improve the RFP process you might be overlooking.

As James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, once said, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” In other words, higher win rates don’t hinge on the individual heroics of your proposal team. Instead, the key to bidding success lies in your strategic coordination of completing the RFP process steps.

But how can you turn around winning a final proposal with such tight, hectic timelines, considering 52% of responses wrap up in less than two business days? The answer: Look for opportunities where you can eliminate bottlenecks, streamline collaboration, and write a winning RFP response more efficiently.

Here’s how to improve the RFP process, starting with 6 opportunities:

  1. Define a Consistent Team Workflow
  2. Set Up a Mandatory Intake Form
  3. Follow Uncompromising Evaluation Criteria
  4. Optimize the RFP Process for SMEs, Too
  5. Build an Accessible Content Library
  6. Measure the Success of Your RFP Process

How to Improve the Proposal Process for RFP Responses (And Get the Most Out of Your Time)

The exact optimizations you make to your RFP response process will depend on your proposal team’s size (and dynamics), request volume, and average RFP timeline. That said, when creating an effective RFP process for the long term, here are the opportunities I’d focus on first to develop more successful RFP responses:

1. Define a Consistent Team Workflow

A consistent workflow can bring order, direction, and so much sanity to your RFP team. Too often, contributors message back and forth, wondering about internal deadlines, file locations, and expectations. But when everyone has visibility into what to do, how to do it, and by when, they have more time to collaborate on RFP questions. The bonus? They won’t need to ping you for explanations.

You don’t need to create a complicated flowchart or swim lane diagram to keep everyone on track. You can use:

“I have everyone complete an RFP management plan during the kickoff meeting,” she explains. “I pre-fill in the requirements but then have the proposal team discuss strategies, portfolio highlights, and assign responsibilities for content provision. We also agree on the schedule together and note it in the document so everyone walks out knowing exactly what they are responsible for and when it’s due.”

Here’s how to define a consistent team workflow:

  1. Look at the big picture: Visualize the different stages a proposal typically goes through before it’s ready for submission, like evaluating the opportunity, conducting thorough market research, or making a response plan.
  2. Break down the tasks: Jot down what happens at each stage, who’s responsible for what, and how long each task typically takes. Don’t worry if some things change between RFPs—try to sketch a broad picture.
  3. Make your workflow official: Document your RFP process in a central location where everyone on your team has access, like a shared document, spreadsheet, or by using proposal software features like the Project Plan in Loopio.
  4. Link helpful resources: Attach pertinent file folders, document locations, customer references, or even tools that will help your team complete their tasks, like this go/no-go decision template.
  5. Loop in your RFP team: Record who’s participating in the proposal, then assign responsibilities and due dates by working backward from the RFP deadline. (Pro tip: Involve your team in creating the workflow to get insight into their day-to-day bottlenecks.)

Too busy responding to RFPs? Save time by downloading this RFP checklist template 📋 which you can quickly customize with a workflow that works best for your team.

I have everyone complete a proposal management plan during the kickoff and send calendar invites for key milestones like ‘draft v1 comments due’ so no one can say, “I forgot.”
Rachelle Ray
RMR Consulting

2. Set Up a Mandatory Intake Process

One of the best ways to ensure an effective RFP process is to take control before the RFP lands in your inbox. Instead of waiting for a proposal request to trigger the process, be proactive by gathering key insights from your sales team as early as possible. Chances are, they will already be engaging with the prospect, know whether an RFP is on its way, and can tell you more about the opportunity.

And the sooner you can get your hands on this information, the sooner you can start thinking about your win themes—putting you miles ahead of the deadline. But wait, how will you know when your sales team knows? 

With an intake form, you can designate a single entry point for incoming RFPs, whether fresh from the procurement oven or in the making. How does it work? Easy—once a sales representative or capture manager becomes aware of the RFP, they fill out basic details about it in Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, or your customer relationship management (CRM) software of choice, which then alerts the right people (like you).

Plus, if you receive a high volume of RFPs annually, an intake form can effectively corral the requests so they don’t get lost in an email thread or tossed from one person evading the responsibility to the next. 

Your Must-Have Intake Form Fields 📋

✓ Company name

✓ Sales routing information (region, vertical, company size, etc.)

✓ Sales request type (e.g., web-based portal, Excel spreadsheet, or Word document)

✓ Due date

✓ Notes (i.e., prospect’s needs and potential key themes)

3. Follow Uncompromising Evaluation Criteria

Picture this: You’re busy responding to an RFP you have zero chances of winning (thanks to an incumbent vendor) when a shoo-in bidding opportunity gets delivered on a silver platter. What do you do? If you said to squeeze in both responses simultaneously, even if it means working late on Sundays, you might want to set some healthy RFP boundaries.

Not every RFP is worth responding to or needs to be treated with equal urgency as the megadeal contracts. Saying yes, no matter the request, will only steal your focus away from the RFPs that matter most. So, how do you decide which bids are most deserving of your team’s time and attention? Qualify, qualify, qualify. 

Like the procurement team, you should also assess each new partnership by following a standardized RFP evaluation process. Scoring evaluation criteria like customer fit, competitor landscape, and overall value of winning will help you prioritize proposals (or say no altogether) and ultimately reduce overload in the RFP response process.

“Adopt a default position of qualify in rather than qualify out to overcome complacency,” explains Ceri Mescall, a Work Winning Consultant. “And qualify actively—if new information comes to light, regroup and decide whether to continue or withdraw. The worst decision is no decision, or a late decision.”

A robust qualification process—which includes the key elements of probability of win, ability to deliver, and profitability—gives the bidding organization the information and confidence to invest in the RFP process.
Ceri Mescall
Ceri Mescall
Work Winning Consultant

4. Optimize the RFP Process for SMEs, Too

51% of RFP responders report collaborating with subject matter experts (SMEs) and other internal stakeholders as the number one challenge in the RFP response process. It makes sense. SMEs are busy people—and responding to RFPs isn’t their full-time job. And yet, your proposal can’t live without their detailed knowledge of your company’s solution, technical qualifications, or past performance on similar work.

While you can’t expect them to clear their calendars, you can increase engagement by making the RFP process a positive experience, so they feel good about taking the time to help.

For Angie Hymes, Technical Proposal Manager of Florence Healthcare, this involves understanding how SMEs operate and doing your best to accommodate that. “Some SMEs love to write; others are happy to answer questions over a quick call. Some are great with deadlines; others will completely forget and need reminders.”

So, how do you engage SMEs with varying work styles? Here are some best practices:

Take the first pass: Show your SMEs that you’ve done the legwork and only enlist them to fill in the blanks or fact-check. Psst, nothing makes a SME respond faster than a wrong answer. 😅

Schedule an interview: Hop on a call with SMEs who are less responsive to email. (Pro tip: Use a transcription tool like Rev to record their answers, so all you have to do is polish their phrasing.)

✓ Share your content plan: Show them what sections of the RFP they need to contribute to and provide a past response they can use as a guide for structuring their answers.

Show your gratitude: Increase the odds of them jumping on board again with little gestures of appreciation.

Reuse their content: Save their answers in a single place so you can leverage their work again, making it easier for both of you next time.

How Loopio Automates the Response Process 🪄

You can use Loopio to automate the response process with its Magic tool, which automatically populates answers to questions by selecting the best, match answer from your content library (which saves a lot of searching, as well as copy-and-pasting for both you, and your SMEs).

How does it work? Magic simply searches your library for matches to any blank answers in your RFP or questionnaire. Then, when Magic finds a match, the answers are automatically populated with your pre-written content.

Below is a quick video preview of Loopio’s Magic tool.

Being a good people manager (even for people who you don’t actually manage) will make the RFP process run more smoothly because you’ll be seen as an ally and an advocate, not just another thing on their to-do list.
Angie Hymes
Angie Hymes
Technical Proposal Manager
Florence Healthcare

5. Build an Accessible Content Library

The secret to submitting winning proposals faster is not to reinvent the wheel. You already have most of your content marinating from past RFPs—and it’s not cheating if you repurpose it. 🤫 You simply need a central place to store it for quick access, so you’re not digging through old proposals for relevant pieces of information.

Enter the content library.

A content library does wonders for optimizing the RFP process because it acts as a single source of truth. Instead of starting from scratch for every RFP, you can pull up answers to frequently asked questions and copy and paste them into the response. All you have to do is add a touch of personalization for each new client and have SMEs review the information for accuracy. The results? Astronomical time savings.

Fun fact: Loopio’s RFP software tools can help you build a content library to which makes building proposals faster and easier. The Library is a central content hub that allows you to easily manage, update, and store your content.

Below is a quick video preview of how to organize and maintain a library in Loopio.


And thanks to new enhancements (Sales Knowledge), your whole team can now promptly access quality, consistent answers to customer questions in a number of ways, including email, messaging apps, sales tools, cloud documents, and desktop documents.

Pro tip: Create a structured content library so everyone who’s involved in the RFP process can easily find answers for reuse later. Our recommendation? Leverage the power of a centralized repository in RFP response software to quickly search for answers, auto-populate responses, and share knowledge.

How to Build a Content Library From Scratch 📚

  1. Find a central location to store your RFP content, like Google Drive, DropBox, or Loopio.
  2. Sift through your most recent 5-10 RFPs for frequently asked questions.
  3. Group your answers with categories and subcategories (i.e., organize it like a filing system). 📁
  4. Add answers to never-before-seen questions from new RFPs.
  5. Schedule regular reviews to ensure your content stays accurate and up-to-date.

6. Measure the Success of Your RFP Response Process

Submitting a complete RFP response doesn’t end the proposal process…

Soon enough, another RFP will come along, and your team will want to put their best foot forward again as the right vendor. That means taking a step back and reflecting on what went well and what to improve next time.

First, consider measuring the success of your RFP process with key proposal metrics. For example, you can track your RFP Participation Rate (%) to see if you’re taking on too many bids. Or, check whether your team’s efficiency is trending upward with the help of a content library by tracking Writing Time Per RFP (hours).

Then, collect feedback by hosting a retro. In this structured meeting, actively inspect any hiccups, plan ways to increase quality and effectiveness, and make the necessary tweaks. While it’s important for your team to feel heard, it’s also a good idea to get their quantitative feedback using a metric like a Net Promoter Score (NPS) so you can track their satisfaction with the RFP process over time.

4 Questions to Measure Sentiment of Proposal Teams 📈

  1. Which department are you in?
  2. How much time did you spend on this RFP?
  3. On a scale of 1-5, how would you rate your experience on this project?
  4. What would you change about the proposal process?

If you carve out time to analyze every RFP, you’ll get closer and closer to optimizing the RFP process because you’ll be able to reassess changes immediately until something sticks. Process makes perfection. 🙌

✨Bonus✨ How to Improve the RFP Process Even More

In addition to the RFP process best practices above, here are other ways to optimize the RFP process:

  • Keep the Lines of Communication Open

    Whether you’re working in person or remotely, it’s important to communicate clearly with your team. That’s why it’s a good idea to designate a single place where folks can coordinate and surface any questions—like a Slack channel, Microsoft Teams chat, or a dedicated email thread.

  • Pad Your Process for the Unexpected

    Budget more time than you think for your RFP response process. Giving your team this extra time allowance will ensure you don’t fall victim to any last-minute technical glitches. Nor get rejected for a preventable mistake. One unrushed proposal + Triple quality checks = A winning bid. 🏆

  • Create a Content Plan (And Stick To It)

    Your team shouldn’t spend half their time asking questions, chasing content, and rewriting an RFP response. Make sure everyone is aligned with your win themes at the kickoff meeting and knows the content plan by heart before they go on their merry way drafting the proposal.

Using RFP Software to Optimize the RFP Process

Optimizing your RFP process takes an investment of time and effort—but it’s well worth it to build a system you know you can rely on. By assessing where you are, envisioning your ideal state, and building in process improvements, you’ll unlock a repeatable strategy for high-quality, stress-free submissions.

And you don’t have to do it alone. Leveraging RFP software like Loopio can help you streamline your RFP response process, facilitate collaboration with SMEs, and manage your content library effectively.

How? Loopio streamlines collaboration with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Gone are the days of siloed efforts and disjointed teamwork. With Loopio, you can bring together your whole company’s expertise into one central source of truth. This intuitive platform organizes and catalogs your content, allowing you to access what you need, when you need it. (Efficiency is no longer a luxury—it’s your new standard. 😎)

Interested in learning more? Watch a 4-minute walkthrough video of Loopio in action and discover how you can streamline the process of responding to RFPs.

FAQs to Help Improve Your RFP Response

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