When it comes to B2B RFP responses, you either have to be prepared to personalize your proposal or pass on the opportunity. Full RFP response templates that provide a one-size-fits-all, assembly-line approach to answering every RFP are the stuff of fantasy.
Buying from a B2B vendor is an investment and the opening act of a long-term partnership. No two partnerships look the same because no two customers’ needs are the same. You can’t possibly hope to forge a lasting relationship by replying to an RFP with a cookie-cutter template.
But that doesn’t mean you should always start your RFP responses from scratch. There is a middle ground between answering with a generic RFP response template and delivering bespoke proposals. Let’s take a look at some proposal elements you can templatize to get a head-start on your responses without sacrificing the customer-centricity you need to win deals.
What proposal elements should I consider templatizing?
Boilerplate makes copywriters cringe and readers’ eyes glaze over, but there’s nothing wrong with storing pre-written versions of your most used proposal content. Just don’t expect to cut, paste, and send. Pre-written proposal content can get you 80% of the way toward completing some RFP sections. That’s when you come in to customize the content to align with your prospect’s industry, pain points, and persona.
Here are a few common proposal sections where it might be helpful to start from a template:
- Proposal cover letter template: Keep a starter version of your cover letter on hand for each of the industries you commonly sell to or that fall within your ideal customer profile (ICP).
- For example, you may have a starter cover letter template for healthcare companies and another for financial services companies.
- Executive summary template: Create a base version of an executive summary that summarizes how your company meets customers’ needs for each of your typical use cases.
- For example, you may have a base version of an executive summary for a company for which your SaaS security product is an ideal solution, and another for a company for which you managed datacenter service is the best fit.
- Leader bios template: To prove your expertise and help prospects get to know your organization, you may feature key team members bios in your proposals. Often it makes sense to keep different templates for each business unit, solution area, or geography you support.
- For example, you may have a template that includes a write up about each leader on the EMEA professional services team and another for the APAC services team.
If you issue proposals in multiple languages, it’s also a good idea to translate your RFP response templates and proactive proposal templates into your most commonly used languages. A quality RFP response automation software can help you keep your starter templates organized and up-to-date. Automation software can even suggest the most relevant templates to start from for each opportunity.
A closer look at RFP response templates (reactive proposals)
For the most part, when you get an RFP, you’re constrained by the questions and directions your prospective customer provided. While every RFP is a different—sometimes dramatically—if you’ve been in business for a while or you answer a high volume of RFPs, you’re going to see patterns.
Nearly every prospect will ask questions about product functionality, services, security, and company history. You can’t predict the exact questions, but you can be ready to answer the most common ones faster with a bank of pre-written responses. Your SMEs will thank you when, instead of asking them the same question for the third time, you look to your proposal content library for previously approved responses.
You can think of all your ready-to-go RFP starter answers as mini RFP response templates that you can mix and match on-demand to build a first draft response.
Caution: Trying to manage all these potential RFP starter answers across SharePoint, Word documents, and Excel spreadsheets can quickly get out of hand. A quality RFP response automation solution provides a central location to store all you’re approved content, with content expiration reminders and automatic approval workflows for when it’s time for updates.
When you encounter an RFP question you’ve never seen before, after you craft the perfect answer, make sure you don’t forget to save it for future use. (If you’re using RFP response software, its closed-loop functionality will simplify submitting your new answer for library consideration.)
Proactive proposal templates (unsolicited)
When you send a proactive proposal to a prospect in your ideal customer profile (ICP), it’s tempting to templatize everything to save time. That’s a guaranteed way to burn bridges and potentially ruin the one opportunity you had to catch the prospect’s attention.
There’s a clear difference between a helpful vendor reaching out with a timely, relevant solution and SPAM. It comes down to taking the time to understand your prospect and deliver a customized proposal that specifically addresses their pain points and offers a well-aligned solution.
Remember: No one asked you for this proposal, so it must prove you:
- Understand the challenges facing your prospect’s company
- Comprehend your prospect’s top business priorities
- Genuinely believe your product or service is a great fit
Proposal templates will get you a fraction of the way there, but their primary objective is to give a launchpad to create a customized, persuasive sales document that will help close the deal.
I don’t have time to customize my proposals
You’re not alone if you read this blog wishing you could follow these best practices, but know there aren’t enough hours in your workweek. Turning down a well-fitting opportunity will never be a popular decision, but the only path to predictable, sustained success is prioritizing quality over quantity.
You have a decision to make: narrow your focus, or consider purchasing RFP automation software to increase your productivity.
Consider narrowing your focus
Instead of maximizing the number of proposals you send out the door, consider adopting a more rigorous qualification process. Focus only on the best-fitting, strategically important RFPs and forget the rest. You’ll see a far higher success rate when you deliver customized, persuasive responses to a handful of RFPs than when you pump out a plethora of mediocre proposals because you’re stretched too thin.
Try to narrow the definition of your ideal customer profile (ICP) to focus on the types of accounts that understand your offerings and derive the most value for the least amount of effort on your side. These are the accounts that are likely to stick with your company for the long-term and provide a higher customer lifetime value (CLV).
Consider RFP response automation software
To truly accomplish more with the same resources—without compromising quality–take a look at RFP response automation software like Upland Qvidian. Qvidian is specifically designed to automate away the tedious and time-consuming aspects of your RFP response and proposal management processes.
Qvidian frees up time by helping you create draft RFP responses in minutes by inserting the best fitting RFP answers from your central proposal content library. That way, you can dedicate more time to the most challenging RFP questions, questions you’ve never seen before, and—of course—customizing your proposals to increase their persuasiveness and boost your win rates.
To learn more about how Qvidian can uniquely help your organization, contact one of our RFP response and proposal experts.