8 Unexpected Ways to Leverage Technology in Your RFP Process

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"Genius solutions" is the name of my favorite Pinterest board (a social network for finding, sharing, organizing your interests).
 
 
I've found the very best tips are almost always very unexpected (like using a spice rack to organize a medicine cabinet!)
 
And the same is true of our work efficiency.
 
Which is why we've curated 7 little-known tricks for making your Request for Proposals a little less infuriating, and your Supplier Relationship Management more dynamic. (If you're a vendor, get your RFP tips and tricks here). 
 


8 outside-the-box ways to use technology in your next RFP 

 

#1. Trade the legacy suite for a "best of breed" product

It can be intimidating to move away from an industry "gold standard" in favor of a one-specialty product (vendor management software, contract management software. etc.) that focuses on just one part of the sourcing process.

But depending on what kind of procurement software or vendor resource management tool you're looking for, it's often wiser to go niche. 

Why? 

Simply put, because no one is the "best" at everything, and if you really only need one two functionalities you shouldn't pay a suite price. 

Consider trying a newer or smaller player who may be able to offer you more functionality or more competitive plans than their legacy counterparts. 

Websites like Capterra are a great place to find specialty purchasing software (and read the reviews). 

Capterra.png*Image credit: screenshot of Capterra hompe page

 


 
How to use it in your next RFP: identify your top procurement needs and try a best of breed company who specializes in it (even a 30-day trial should be a sufficient fit indicator). 

 

#2. Get free advice on industry forums 

Collaboration outlets like LinkedIn Groups, and industry-based forums like Procurious (for Procurement professionals) are the perfect place to ask colleagues for feedback on topics you're grappling with.

Because discussions are web-based, you widen your net for feedback, getting more global and comprehensive perspective. 

It's also a great way to network. 

Procurious.png*Image credit: screenshot of Procurious discussion forum



Quora
 is another valuable collective input resource. They self-describe as the way to find the "best answer to any question."

The topics are countless, ranging from fun and frivolous to business analytics.

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*Image credit: screenshot of a Quora procurement strategy discussion


 
How to use it in your next RFP: use industry forums to get (free) advice on everything from vendor recommendations to procurement strategy tips. 

 

#3. Use Slack for internal communication 

Want 90% fewer internal emails?

That's what happened to the RFP365 team when we adopted a team messaging system called Slack, it completely revolutionized our communication process. 

Slack.png*Image credit: screenshot of a Slack product video 


Slack allows you to directly message your teammates (similar to a Skype chat), as well as have open discussions according to topic (Sales, Marketing, funny cat videos, etc.) The robust search engine allows you find past messages, including links, files, pictures, and attachments. 

And the news get's even better: the basic plan is free. 

We're not the only ones using it, everyone from global charities to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (they put robots on Mars) are using it. 

Think it's a nice idea, but not quite right for procurement? See why procurement teams love it



How to use it in your next RFP:
use it as a platform for discussing project priorities, brainstorming RFP questions, or conferring with your colleagues. 

 

#4. Try RFP software 

Okay, yes, we're an RFP software company and therefore obviously biased and motivated to invite people to try our product. 

But that aside, let's talk about why we included RFP software as an "unexpected" way to incorporate technology in your RFP process. 

Because over and over, what we hear prospects and clients say is:

"I had no idea RFP software even existed."

"I had no idea I had more more efficient options." 

If you ask us who our greatest competitor is, we won't name another platform or software company. We'll tell you it's "the what it's always been done." (Endless emails, PDFs, and manual Excel matrices). 

Yes, we'd like you to try our software, but more importantly, we'd like you to entertain the idea that supplier evaluation can be easier. 

That things like vendor scoring don't have to be a manual Excel matrix, but can actually be done automatically. 

Learn more.

RFP365_Automated_Scoring.gif*Image credit: GIF of the RFP365 issuing platform in use 


Most software companies offer a free trial (or should), so even if you're nervous about trying a new RFP tool you should be able to take it for a test drive with no strings and minimal effort. 
 



How to use it in your next RFP:
consider trying RFP software. Check out a couple of different options and do a couple of free trials, and see for yourself if it's worth incorporating into your eprocurement process. 

Or ask providers to show you a case study so you can see what kind of results you can expect.  

 

#5. Create your own repository to utlize past work

We've all been there. You're looking for that one RFP template, that one set of functionality requirements, or security questions.

Unfortunately, it's scattered across multiple versions, on several computers, and you're not sure which is most up to date or how to find it. 

Create your own repository.jpeg*Image credit: Unsplash, Taduuda

 
If this has happened to you, it's the perfect time to create a team repository of past work.

Whatever method you use, the goal is get your data out of static documents (Microsoft Word versions) into a one-version living document, that can be edited by multiple people at the same time (cloud-based).



How to use it in your next RFP:
try creating a company Wiki,Google Intranet, or a team collaboration platform (see ours), as the final place to store and edit important RFP templates, projects, and files. 

 

#6. Use social media to scope out potential providers

Why?

Because "67% of consumers have used a company’s social media channel for customer service."

Use social media to scope out potential providers.jpeg*Image credit: Unsplash, Saulo Mohana

And because companies many have dedicated customer service social media accounts, it's a great way to see how they handle complaints and crises. 

As our friends at Businessolver rightly stated:

"In today’s Digital Age, nearly every company has social media profiles. In fact, it could be a red flag if a company doesn’t have an online presence. Just as you would check the social media activity of a potential new hire, it’s smart to see what your potential partner is doing online too."

 


 
How to use it in your next RFP: make checking vendors' social media accounts part of your standard Request for Proposal process, keeping a careful eye out for how they respond to to complaints. 

 

#7. Don't expect yourself to remember anything

I use Google calendar and its "reminders" for everything. And I do mean everything. I use them to remind myself to do my taxes, check my car oil, and clean my bathroom. 

Google_Calender_Reminders.gif*Image credit: gmail.googleblog.com

 

I've learned trying to "remember to remember" is just too hard. I'll inevitably let something fall through the cracks.

Vendor information can be the same way.

Your company's needs are dynamic and changing constantly, just like your vendors' offerings. Which is why a dry annual update just won't cut it. 

Instead, use some kind of calendar or task tracking to remind yourself to do ongoing vendor selection tasks like updating profiles, refreshing standard RFP questions, or checking in with key stakeholders. (We recommend a quarterly cadence). 


 
How to use it in your next RFP: don't expect yourself to remember to do updates. Assume you won't and set automated/recurring reminders at a pace that fits you.

(Or try out a vendor management software that includes digital vendor profiles that can be updated any time by the vendors themselves. Even replacing annual RFIs). 

 

#8. Use a search engine to find industry sample RFP questions

We continually have clients ask us for sample RFP questions, and while we definitely have some, usually we just Google their market and advise them to do the same.

Use a search engine to find industry sample RFP questions.jpeg

*Image credit: Unsplash, Dai KE

 

It's surprising just how many recommended RFP questions you can find, across a variety of industry niches. Like sample questions for a 401(K) provider, and company relocation supplier, and even healthcare mobile app questions vendors.

 


 
How to use it in your next RFP: use a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo), to look up unique RFP questions related to your industry. Use them as a starting point for your own Request for Proposals, or to fill in gaps of things you may have missed. 
 

Here's to finding every genius solution and "hack" we can to make your e-procurement and RFx processes work as hard as you do.

Have your own tip? Tell us what we missed in the comments. 

 

 

**Feature image Credit: SplitShire, Daniel Nanescu