Be Proactive, Not Reactive

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RFP Academy

Create an Intake Process

Lesson 1 Assignment

Create a process in Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, or your Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) of choice (Google Forms will do in a pinch) to capture basic information about your next RFP and ensure the right people are notified right away. If using a CRM, you’ll likely need help from the person who administers it.

We recommend including:

  • The company name
  • Sales routing information, such as geographic region, vertical, company size, etc.
  • Type and format of the sales request (e.g. web-based portal, excel spreadsheet, or word document)
  • Due date 
  • Notes on prospect’s needs and potential key themes (i.e. themes that differentiate from competitors)

Good luck! Reminder: Download the course worksheet to keep track of your progress.

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Lesson 1: Intake

When Andrew de Geofroy started his role in solutions consulting at his former company’s team, there was no process for managing incoming Requests for Proposals (RFPs), security questionnaires, and other types of sales-related information requests. “It was loosely assumed that my team would jump on them,” he says. “But it wasn’t officially anyone’s job to own security questionnaires or RFPs.”

As a result, the arrival of a new RFP often triggered a spiral of confusion. “A customer would send us an RFP—maybe to the sales rep or to our general inbox—and it would just get bounced around from person to person,” he says. 

It’s a classic example of what psychologists call diffusion of responsibility—nobody steps up because everyone thinks someone else is handling it. For sales, proposal management, or infosec teams, it’s poison. RFP responders work on such tight timelines that, without a process in place, chaos ensues and they wind up sending messy, last-minute responses. 

That’s why our discussion of your RFP process has to begin before the RFP even arrives.

A pile of papers

In this lesson, we’ll cover how to get on top of your RFP process by creating an effective process to identify when an RFP is on its way and jump-start your team into action when it lands.

Start Your Process Before the RFP Arrives

The process shouldn’t start with the RFP. The RFP response process begins well before you receive a request.

While you may not be aware of an RFP until you see it (say, if you’re responding to a public RFP), these scenarios are the exception, not the rule.

If you have a relationship with an existing customer or are communicating with a new prospect, you’ll generally be aware if they plan to send an RFP.

When you know an RFP is on its way, you can think ahead.

“In the ideal circumstance, salespeople find out that an RFP is expected and they notify us,” says Kathryn Bennett, Proposal Manager at Dude Solutions, a CMMS and Operations Software company. “We start staging that information in Salesforce, making sure we have the capacity to take it on, and thinking about potential ‘win themes’ before the RFP ever comes out.”

When you know an RFP is on its way, you can think ahead. You can start preliminary research on the customer and think about which ‘win’ or key themes—that is to say, the best arguments for choosing your proposal over a competitor’s—will be most persuasive. 

By being prepared, you ensure that:

  • The right people notify you when an RFP is anticipated
  • You start thinking about your preliminary key themes

We’ll explore how expert RFP responders approach this problem in the next section.

Plan Ahead to Beat Your Deadlines

Identifying that a new RFP is on the horizon is a chance to proactively take control of the process. 

“You need to set up your system so that 24 hours before that deadline, it's done and it's ready,” says Kathryn. “Because what could happen is the mail could fail to be delivered or your email system would go down, or the person doesn't receive the attachments—anything could go wrong. But if you maintain control over the early part of the process, you reduce the risk of all that stuff going wrong at the end dramatically.”

But in order to be proactive, you need to prime your alert system so that when you have an RFP on your radar (or, at the very latest, when it lands) you can notify key stakeholders and prepare to start the process.

But if you maintain control over the early part of the process, you reduce the risk of all that stuff going wrong at the end dramatically.

One way to do this is to create an intake form. That’s the solution that Andrew and his former team opted for: “The stop-gap we implemented, we created an intake form. We made it clear that there is one single place to go when you've got an RFP or a security questionnaire,” he says. By instituting this process, his team created a clear chain of communication. 

When someone becomes aware of an RFP, they fill out the form. The form then alerts Andrew and another manager that an RFP was incoming, allowing them to assign an owner to the project. 

Kathryn uses a similar process. “We initiate a process in Salesforce Sales Cloud that allows us to start tracking a case for any potential RFPs.” That way, when the RFP comes out, they’ve already started thinking about their approach.  

If you don’t already have a clear process in place to capture incoming RFPs, now’s the time to implement one. That brings us to your first assignment:


Created by Loopio, the RFP response software trusted by 1000+ companies to improve their response process.