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Secure AI: How Teams are Elevating their Proposal Game with AI

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Cheryl Smith



9 min

If Artificial Intelligence (AI) still conjures images of robots and space stations, and thoughts of job instability and career hopping, you’re not alone. Only a couple of years ago, AI was the stuff of sci-fi movies and smartphones. Today, however, AI has arrived at the forefront of the bid and proposal industry conversation.

Change (and Efficiency) is in the Air

First, a confession; I’m no techie. I’m a proposal manager and writer and when I first started working on proposals, the world looked like this


We received RFPs via snail mail. When someone asked for a copy of the RFP, they meant a hardcopy on paper. When people asked where they could find an answer? I pointed them to a room down the hall that housed shelves heavy with binders from past bids. 

So, what’s changed? Why is AI now a viable solution to bid and proposal challenges? 

Consider this date: January 1st, 1983. It’s considered the official birthday of the Internet, or the communication protocol, that made the Internet possible. What’s happened between then and now has made AI much more accessible: 

  • Speed. Computers today are about 10,000 times faster than computers from 20 years ago - and AI needs fast, parallel-processing abilities for performance.   
  • Accessibility. Since its beginnings in the 1940’s, AI has been a black box, but with today’s devices, such as virtual assistants, it’s been socialized - and AI needs accessibility to reduce fear and highlight benefits. 
  • Data. Over the last couple of decades, there has been a significant push to collect more and more data - and AI requires data to be effective.

    Here’s the rub; we’ve presumed that this speed, accessibility and data would equal more helpful information. Yet it has led us down the rabbit hole where we find ourselves today; data we cannot easily harness with little to no insights. 

The High Cost of RFP Analysis

How many proposals did you and your team submit last year? According to the APMP US Bid & Proposal Industry Benchmark Report, companies replied to an average of 162 RFPs last year, up from 137 the year before. 

To address this volume growth, more and more teams are implementing a go/no go process - up 80% in fact, according to APMP, from past years. So, the RFP drops, and planned or unplanned, you walk it through your go/no go process.RFP Drops (1)

Now, the average RFP can be anywhere from 177 pages to 1,152 pages and review and analysis can take anywhere from 1 to 5 days. While “no” is the new default (prove to me we can win), teams must still take time to do the reading and analysis.

Reducing the High Cost of RFP Analysis

When it comes to the go/no go process, everyone tends to have their own criteria, including everything from technical feasibility and financial viability to timing and resource availability. For a moment, imagine your go/no go criteria considers these factors: 

  • Is it wired for the competition? Is there a Bidders Conference? An opportunity for Confidential Discussions? How rapid is the deadline? 
  • Is this a fishing expedition? Are there spelling errors? Hypothetical questions and evaluation criteria that strikes you as odd? 
  • Can we meet the requirements - without impacting the price of the project? What’s the Mandatory vs Optional breakdown? The COTS vs Custom percentage? 
  • Is this a good fit for our company? What are the long-term benefits? What are the trade-offs we’d have to juggle across other projects?
  • If we win, can we be successful? Do we meet the qualifications? How much of a stretch will that be? And can we stretch that for project success?

Now consider the fact that APMP goes on to report that, on average, organizations no bid 38% of the bids they receive. For busy teams trying to increase volume and revenue, that is a lot of time spent reading and analyzing for a 38% no bid rate. 

AI helps teams elevate their proposal game by doing the reading and analysis for them, so they can focus on the decision. For example: 

Case Study:
Serves: Global, highly regulated
Challenge: Multi-document RFPs, too many go/no go methods, getting the right information to the right department/SMEs fast, large, complex proposals


AI as co-pilot, automatically reading and analyzing RFPs and supporting documents.

  • Analysis based on business-specific go/no go criteria. For example, Wills and Shalls.
  • Analysis identifies and classifies and categorizes criteria.  
  • Analysis output displayed as a matrix/range of red flags and values. For example, value above x must be reviewed or pre--approved. 
  • Automatic analysis expedites go/no go discussion and decision
  • Automatic analysis expedites the right information to the right experts. For example, those responsible for the checklist and project.

Imagine having more time to understand how requirements impact your pricing and project. More time to invest in identifying other opportunities better suited for your business. In other words, reduce the high cost of RFP analysis, and evaluate more RFPs with AI as your co-pilot.

The High Cost of Content Sifting

The opportunity is a go; now it’s time to start developing our content so we can hit our deadlines. So, we naturally review each requirement and turn to our past proposals, or if we’re lucky our curated content library, for content reuse. 

As we browse and search, we quickly find ourselves drowning in data again. Data we must sift through for relevance to respond to anywhere from 500 to 1,000 pages of requirements. 

RFP Drops (2)

And what do we get for the time our experts spend searching and sifting for content?

The content we get... Drives more tasks
- Another client's content
- Inaccurate content
- Doesn't answer the requirement
- Doesn't address the pain points
- More Rewrites
- More compliance checks
- More reviews
- More deadline sprints

Case Study: Reducing the High Cost of Content Sifting

No matter how you choose to store your proposal content, clearly having content to access is a significant advantage vs the blank page. But, as we search, and do not find what we need, our content becomes less and less effective. How do we make relevant content easier to find? 

Our clients are using AI as their co-pilot to surface relevant answers to requirements faster.

Client: Nordic Unmanned, Delivers high-end products and services related to drones and data capture.
Serves: Maritime, Defense and Security, Offshore Energy
Challenge: Massive growth, highly complex documents.


AI is a co-pilot, database of past proposals

  • AI delivers context-based suggestions.  
  • Reduced effort for complex proposals. 
  • Faster product and services quotes. 
  • More productive reviews, more time to customize for quality.
  • Easy to find, makes life easier!

At the same time, other clients are having success with AI and their highly curated proposal content library.


Client: Anonymous
Serves: Global, highly regulated
Challenge: High-volume proposals, so much data and too many document crashes.


AI is a co-pilot, database of curated content

  • AI delivers context-based, or common ground-based, suggestions 
  • Find accurate, relevant answers faster. 
  • More time to customize for quality. 

Imagine having more time to understand how requirements impact your pricing and project. More time to invest in compliant, relevant and personalized content that engages evaluators and compels decision makers. That’s exactly what our clients are doing today with AI.

Lessons Learned: What to consider when considering AI

At Xait, we work closely with our client community and industry experts to keep pace with the evolving needs of sales and proposal professionals. This includes taking time to understand the lessons learned that will propel our AI program beyond today’s RFP analysis and content suggestions. So, what are our lessons learned? And how can they help you position for the benefits of AI?

#1 AI is not coming for your job. 

If you got a marketing degree in the 80’s, did the internet replace you? Forty years later, the Internet is a valuable marketing tool. OK, so AI is not coming for your job, but people who understand how to use AI are. 

  • Lesson: Upskill now. Take a class, identify where your organization is headed, and start building the team mindset and skill flow. 

#2 Content Remains King

Content remains king; it's the unique, high-quality, interesting and relevant content that contributes to our win. And we are still the best judge of what content is relevant. 

  • Lesson: Curate content for the best outcomes, grow. The more data the better AI works, but it is only as good as the data it is given.

#3 Security is Not An Option

For those of us working with sensitive, confidential, often classified information in highly-regulated, compliance driven industries, security is not an option; it is a necessity to protect you, your business and your clients. 

  • Lesson: Understand and control your data source and how it is used to bar against bias risks and legal infringements. Where is the data coming from? Will we use data we didn’t pay for? Can our data be reused? 

#4 Critical Thinking is our Superpower

Critical thinking is our AI superpower; we are where creativity, imagination, empathy and innovation come from. AI helps us navigate the volume and complexities of our data and by evaluating and questioning we make well-informed decisions that solve problems effectively. 

  • Lesson: Hone your critical thinking skills. Look to your experience and ask open-ended questions. Look for gaps, form your own opinions, advocate your ideas and present them in a logical fashion. 

AI is rapidly transforming the way we work, and its potential as a helpful, time-saving proposal co-pilot tool is quickly becoming reality. From automating repetitive tasks, such as RFP analysis, to providing insightful content suggestions, AI can help us to be more productive and efficient and elevate our proposal game.


Related article: Beyond the Hype: Secure AI for Business 


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Cheryl Smith

Cheryl Smith is our Senior Content Writer. She has additionally been writing and managing proposals since 1998. Shipley trained, she has helped establish proposal centers and advised on capture strategy, coached orals teams and lead marketing, communications and knowledge management programs. Cheryl is a graduate of The George Washington University with degrees in Theatre, Communications and Literature. When she’s not sharing her passion for work, she loves drawing, writing, cooking and exploring the Virginia woodlands with her husband, their dog Chase and the fuzzy guests they host for Rover.

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