How to Implement an RFP System (Onboarding 101)

Katie Flood
Katie Flood

Congratulations—you’ve decided on a new Request for Proposal (RFP) software. You’ve received buy-in from your team, now all that’s left is the onboarding process for this new system.

Sounds straightforward, right? It is. But the importance of onboarding is often underestimated. It’s a critical time for your team to shape how they want to work together and lay the groundwork for success.

With the right expertise, onboarding can take anywhere from 15 to 60 days—depending on your company size. During any implementation, you’ll go through the following five steps:

Keep reading to find out how best-in-class onboarding looks. Plus, learn how to set up your team for long-term success with an RFP system.


1. Kickoff With Your Onboarding Team

Just like a kickoff during the RFP response process, this meeting is essential for aligning teams around the goals of a new project.

Kickoff Meeting Activities:
  • Meet your onboarding team ✓
  • Learn about implementation milestones ✓
  • Access helpful resources for your whole team ✓
  • Discuss how to roll out user training ✓

Typically guided by onboarding experts from your vendor’s customer experience team, the kickoff is an opportunity to discuss project goals and success criteria. It’s also the right time to ensure your core team feels confident in their assigned roles and responsibilities. Once you’ve aligned on goals and timing, you can start setting up your RFP platform.


2. Set Up The Content Library (Your RFP System Foundation)

The foundation of any successful RFP process is a robust content library. It’s a resource that you can use to house your latest and greatest RFP content that’s easy for your team to access. This can be a total game-changer—but it’s easier said than done.

When preparing to use a new RFP system, you’ll likely start with one of the two scenarios below.

Scenario one: You’re confident in the quality and accuracy of your current content. So now, it’s simply time to migrate into your new system. The good news? You can start with as little as 100 answers to structure a solid library.

Scenario two: You don’t have much existing RFP content, so you need guidance on where to start. For this scenario, you’ll want to intentionally select and import content sourced from high quality and recently submitted questionnaires. These will become the responses you lean on as your single source of truth.

Regardless of the scenario, your onboarding manager will partner with you to:

  • Ensure your library is easy to search by designing an effective content structure
  • Define the best method of importing new content into your RFP system

Once you lay the right foundation, you’ll be able to build your library over time as you add new responses from recent RFPs.

Seek resources to train your co-workers on adding responses to your library. Tapping into your team’s collective knowledge will help you scale faster.
Monica Hirano, Senior Customer Enablement Manager
Loopio

3. Develop Your RFP Process Map

Before you onboard your whole team, you need to define what the RFP process looks like at your company.

You can do this through an RFP process map, a chart identifying the steps of your process, and the order in which they should happen.

RFP process map - 8 steps to respond

Developing a process map is an essential step during implementation because it:

  • Lays the foundation of a repeatable (easy) process for your whole team
  • Identifies any key stakeholders missed when getting buy-in for the software
  • Defines goals for each contributor to the RFP process

The RFP process map is something you should develop in partnership with an onboarding manager. They’ll dive into your current process and make recommendations for best practices to close any gaps. To take it a step further, you can also establish ownership for each step.


4. Plan a Phased Training Approach

Depending on the size of your team, it can be helpful to onboard stakeholders in multiple phases.

Phase one should focus on training administrators and super-users. This core group would typically include your proposal managers, bid team, or teammates dedicated to sales efficiency (sales operations or enablement). Activities in this phase include:

  • Getting buy-in from leadership and frequent users of the RFP software
  • Clarifying “what’s in it for them” to ease the fear of change
  • Gathering feedback from early adopters about how to improve the training
  • Creating excitement via super-users that will encourage other contributors

Phase two should focus on rolling out to contributors and subject matter experts (SMEs).

SMEs are the army of expertise behind your RFP responses. They’re the internal experts who know about different business areas and are essential to make sure that each RFP is up-to-date and accurate. They typically include technical or product team members, marketers, directors, or exec-level employees needed for approvals. Activities in this phase should:

  • Show SMEs how to use this centralized sales library
  • Explain how the system makes their job easier (no more repeating answers, over and over again)
  • Demonstrate features that directly impact them, like review cycles and project tracking (so they can see all the questions they’re assigned to at a glance, instead of jumping between channels, documents, or file drives)

5. Build Your First RFP Project

Now comes the most critical part of onboarding: Using the RFP system to complete a project.

Start by importing an upcoming RFP into the software. Once the document is uploaded, the tool will automatically detect which areas have questions that require answers.

Next, you’ll have the opportunity to use answer automation (also known as ‘Magic’ at Loopio HQ) which can complete the first pass of answers for you. The tool will automatically populate the answer sections of the RFP with content it has pulled from your library.

Within the software, you can edit and modify any answers you choose. According to procurement pros, customizing answers is an important step in writing proposals and effectively answering RFP questions.

Once you’re satisfied with your answers, export the project. And voila! You’ve officially completed a proposal through RFP software.


Setting Up for Long-Term RFP Success

Once you’ve successfully onboarded, you’ll be transferred to a Customer Success Manager who will become your ongoing resource for success with your new RFP system. They’ll be available to answer any questions you may have about the software—but more importantly, they’re an ongoing resource you can tap into for strategies that set your team up for success.

After you’ve finished onboarding, one key thing to remember: it’s essential to keep your content library fresh. Here are some quick tips for making sure your new process doesn’t degrade over time.

Tips for Content Maintenance:
  • Define and (regularly) socialize responsibilities around content ownership
  • Establish automated review cycles that ping SMEs to quality-check content on a regular schedule
  • Review your content library to identify responses that require updating, then delete duplicates
  • Analyze your content usage to identify your most commonly used answers
  • With every new RFP, make sure all new content and updates flow back into your RFP software to keep responses as fresh as possible

While RFP platform onboarding and training may seem like a lot of work at first, it’ll set you up for long-term success. (Plus, save you many hours in scrolling through email chains for RFP answers.) With the right expertise and proper approach, the process will be smooth sailing no matter how many contributors are involved.

Want to learn from someone who’s implemented an RFP tool? Learn how this RFP leader onboarded her whole team in 45 days.

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