Part 5 of the Social Business For Real Work series

The Challenge

Business-to-business sales teams often have to create detailed responses to RFPs (requests for proposals) and need to draw upon knowledge from across the company at very short notice. Managing this process by email is tedious and error-prone, with team members either being overloaded with updates from other members, or lacking important information. The result is a slower process and lower quality result that should be achieved.

The Social Business Advantage

An enterprise social network provides an ideal place to coordinate all the activities for the RFP response. A clear list of roles and responsibilities can be published, and each contribution to the response is accessible to all team members to review. When additional people need to join the team, they can quickly catch up on progress so far. Tasks enable the sales manager to keep track of who has completed their deliverables, and mobile access to the network enables them to stay in touch with the process even while they are out at other customer meetings.

Example

Brad is the Sales Director for Europe. He has a large sales opportunity, but needs to submit an RFP response in two weeks. The RFP has a lot of detailed technical questions which the European team is not able to answer, so he needs help from the product team in the US. He also needs help in constructing a pricing structure for the deal, and approval from the Finance team for this structure to ensure it meets compliance requirements. Brad creates a community dedicated to the RFP response. The customer has requested that information in the RFP is circulated within the company on a need-to-know basis, so the community is set to only be accessible to invited members. Brad publishes the RFP documentation, and background information about the prospect. He divides up the work, assigning tasks to people he needs assistance from. Carmen, the VP of Products delegates the task assigned to her to one of her product managers, Sergei, who is added to the community.

As each member of the team submits their contribution, Brad reviews it and posts comments where any further work is required. Finally, he constructs the final response, and submits it to his manager and the VP of Finance for approval before it is sent out to the prospect.

Make It Real

  • Create a community for each major RFP response. Where the same team is working on multiple RFPs from the same company, it probably makes sense to have a single community for all of them. But handling all RFP responses in a single sales community is unlikely to be efficient as it will probably lead to a large amount of activity that not all community members are interested in.
  • Make the community visible to as wide an audience as customer confidentiality allows. In the example above, the customer requested that information was treated on a need-to-know basis, but this is relatively unusual. Opening the RFP community to a wider audience within the company enables more people to benefit from the knowledge shared in creation of this response. It also increases the chances of valuable serendipitous input from people outside the RFP team.
  • Ensure that all documentation relating to the RFP is shared with the community, and that everyone who is contributing to or reviewing the response is invited as a member.
  • Publish the list of who’s doing what prominently in the community. Also create tasks with due dates for each assignment.
  • Ensure that all review feedback is submitted in the community as a comment on the relevant file. Don’t accept feedback outside the community, e.g. via email, as this fragments the discussion and makes it hard to follow.
  • When the final RFP response is completed, ensure it is published in the community for future reference.
  • If the deal is won, create a separate community for account management activities – don’t muddle pre-sale RFP response work with and post-sale account management together in the same community.