By John Golob, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer

 

With more than 25 years in sales, marketing, and communications experience in transportation and logistics, Brian Everett is known as the go-to guy when it comes to marketing in the logistics industry. He is also the CEO of the Transportation Marketing and Sales Association (TMSA), so I was pleased to spend a few minutes with Brian at his headquarters outside Minneapolis discussing the need for RFP automation with his membership base, thousands of transportation commercial leaders.

For almost 100 years, the TMSA has helped its members and their companies be more effective, productive, and profitable in their marketing and sales endeavors by bringing together resources and solutions. According to Everett, a big part of TMSA’s attention these days is on technological solutions to help their members work smarter and more efficiently. “We are focused on educating our members on what’s going on in the industry and making sure that the processes they have in place are effective for moving and advancing their sales and marketing forward,” Everett shared with me over coffee at his inviting, well-furnished but modest office outside Minneapolis, Minnesota.

One of TMSA’s goals is to help their members put themselves in the shoes of their current and prospective customers so they can better meet their needs.

Specifically, Everett stressed that today’s buyers are looking for more savvy providers who can help them be more effective. This includes the ability for a logistics company to offer a unique outside perspective that can help clarify how the client can adjust their processes to make their transportation more efficient. “That’s where I think our members can bring more value to their customers and their prospects — by understanding the overall supply chain, the business processes within transportation and logistics, and many of the shippers and other customers.“

For this to work, logistics companies need to learn how to incorporate these kinds of solutions into their RFPs. However, some TMSA member companies are still scrambling when it comes to responding to RFPs because they do not have a well-defined process for developing or responding to proposals, not to mention the ability to streamline innovative responses.

“The RFP process needs to have some overall procedures established, as well as a way to see where the organization‘s team is at each point in the process.“ Additionally, Everett finds that too often, if one ball is dropped, everything else in the RFP process is stalled. Having a tool or a platform in place as well as having well-established processes and defined team member roles and responsibilities are critical to making sure the RFP process keeps moving forward.

That’s why Everett stressed the need to encourage the industry in general to think more purposefully about the RFP process. “If you start looking at the RFP process strategically, you can really start effectively building out those consistent responses without having to reinvent the wheel every time.“

In addition to those consistent responses, teams must also find strategic ways to determine how to accommodate the unique values that your company can bring to the table. “That’s critical in making sure that you’re not spending a horrendous amount of time on every single RFP; you’re also giving it the right due diligence to be able to respond properly.“

Qualification

Everett stressed that industry sales and marketing professionals need to incorporate more discipline to make sure they look at each RFP strategically, taking a close look to determine whether or not it’s the right fit for their organization.

One of the first steps any organization needs to look at is qualification: how do you qualify the best opportunities out there? “Is there a way to build into your process a quick and easy way to say ‘These are the five things that we’re looking for in an overall opportunity‘? If you can check all five, then you need to ask a few more questions before you decide. I think that the qualification process and building that into the overall RFP process is critical.“

Everett added that using a technology platform can enable companies to easily assess the opportunity closely, as well as adjust and streamline the overall RFP process. “I strongly encourage sales and marketing leaders to think long and hard about not responding to every single opportunity. Sometimes, it’s just clearly not a right fit. But for those that are right fits, that’s where you want to deploy the resources and the energy to do what you can to make sure you win that opportunity.“

Process Visibility

“One of the things that we’re passionate about is making sure our members are thinking from a process standpoint to determine what resources they need internally,“ Everett added.

This also means identifying who is responsible for what, which can be confusing when there’s an extended team made up of several individuals. “Having a key team that will manage the RFP process is absolutely critical. With that comes the need for clearly identifying roles and expectations.”

That being said, Everett added that a lot of TMSA members do not currently have a clearly defined process. “And that’s an area where I really think there’s value with Winmore in terms of being able to offer that infrastructure internally and have those processes better defined,“ he explained. “The more efficiently our members can think about the overall RFP process and how are they are going to move — especially when many of these RFPs are sent out last-minute — by having a process in place, they can really help maximize the opportunity to get a win.“

The Promise of AI-driven Bid Management

One comment Everett is regularly hearing from TMSA members is that the RFP process has definite opportunities to utilize artificial intelligence. Members are looking for ways to incorporate AI into their overall product lines, automating responses and processes, and adding more customer value.

“We see things such as Excel files or Word documents being used inefficiently, where every response is going to be different,“ said Everett. “What I find really exciting with the Winmore platform is the ability to take all those cobbled processes together and make it a very finite, intelligent, and organized system. Ultimately, it’s going to help our members and the industry, in general.“

Additionally, transportation and logistics buyers need to have more real-time intelligence and access to information. Without it, those developing RFPs are basing their proposals on what they think, rather than what they know. “It’s critical to be able to understand not only the RFP’s requirements, but how they can differentiate their own value into the process itself,“ said Everett. “If you can present that within the infrastructure of the RFP, that can be a magical thing.“

Every year, the TMSA conducts a sales and marketing metrics study, and about 35% of its members say that CRM is their “number one pain point as well as their number one opportunity to advance forward.“

CRM is critical to the RFP process: merging all the processes that are tied into the CRM platform in general so that the RFP team can ensure the visibility of data, intelligence, and the conversational exchanges are up-to-date.

As Everett explained, in the RFP process, “It’s key to have a collaboration across the enterprise, whether it’s in Sales, Marketing, IT, or Pricing. Everyone has to work together and there needs to be a ‘playbook‘ in place so the team knows what needs to be accomplished. If you don’t have steps A through Z established and balls are dropped, you could have a huge problem.“

In fact, this past year, TMSA’s theme specifically focused on the value of integrating all the different organizations within an enterprise. “When you look at the RFP process, in particular, Sales typically owns it, yet Marketing often executes it, and IT has an influence on it, too. The more we can encourage that integration and collaboration internally among all those different ‘silos,‘ that’s really where you’re going to have some good wins within an organization, to have that collaborative effort bringing in the results.“

Process, however, is only part of the equation. The internal collaboration and dialogue can sometimes be challenging, especially among global enterprises. This is another area where CRM can help. Looking at ways to bring teams together — even if they’re not in the same location — can be hugely beneficial. “Figuring out ways to collaborate with other individual thought leaders within the organization across all time zones in a common platform, and understanding the visibility of where the RFP is in any place in time, that can be very powerful.“

Additionally, the virtual nature of companies should not be a barrier, but rather an opportunity to enhance collaboration. “Whether you’re in Chicago or Rotterdam or Hong Kong, technology allows you to have visibility and information-sharing about the RFP process at any time.“

The Bottom Line

My afternoon with Brian at the TMSA headquarters validated an observation many of us have made; sales and marketing professionals still don’t look at the RFP process as a consistent procedure, but they should — and new technology can help.

“Traditionally, there has not been one platform out there that can really help logistics or transportation companies figure out exactly all the aspects needed to be incorporated into the proposal,“ Everett concluded. “That’s why it’s exciting to hear of a platform such as Winmore that can really make things happen.“

We look forward through our support and sponsorship of TMSA, Brian, of continuing to educate and inform your members. See you in Florida!