What is a security questionnaire and do you need to fill it out?

May 31, 2023
4 minutes

To meet regulatory requirements and growing customer expectations, enterprises have to ensure that they’re upholding the highest security and privacy standards. As a result, enterprises expect the same from their own vendors. At the end of the day, it wouldn’t make sense to do all the work of adopting the right security tools and meeting rigorous certifications only to expose your business to risk through a vendor relationship. 

To navigate these requirements in the sales process, many enterprises have extensive security questionnaires that software vendors have to fill out in order to be considered for a contract. 

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at what a security questionnaire is, and how you can navigate this process as a B2B SaaS vendor. 

What is a security questionnaire? 

A security questionnaire is a set of questions designed to assess the security measures, policies, and procedures that a vendor has in place within their product or service. Enterprises typically use them to understand the risk exposure of working with a specific vendor as well as to compare vendors in a competitive sales process. 

These questionnaires typically cover a wide range of topics, which vary depending on the type of vendor being assessed and can include the following:

  • Data privacy
  • Access control 
  • Information security 
  • Physical and datacenter security 
  • Governance, risk management, and compliance
  • Infrastructure security 
  • Supply chain management
  • Threat and vulnerability management

The questions in a security questionnaire can be quite detailed and may require input from various departments within an organization. For a vendor, getting answers to a security questionnaire is typically managed by the sales rep who has to coordinate with a number of different individuals, including security team members. This can be quite an intensive process, taking team members away from their core competencies.

Why are security questionnaires important?

For enterprises, security questionnaires are important in that they help define a vendor’s security posture, which is a core aspect of the vendor risk assessment. They are an extension of the enterprise’s security team into the procurement process, and help ensure that only the most security-forward vendors become partners. 

For vendors, this process is important as it allows them to build trust early on in their relationship with the enterprise customer. If a vendor can quickly answer all the relevant queries and show that they prioritize security, then they’re more likely to become a trusted partner.

On both ends, they can also help accelerate the beginning of the partnership. By providing a lot of important data up front, the vendor’s technology can be more quickly integrated into the enterprise environment. 

Best practices for filling out security questionnaires

Here are five things you can do to set your business up for success when answering security questionnaires for your enterprise prospects. 

  1. Take the time to understand the questions. If you need to circle back with the prospect for clarification, do so. It’s better to do that than given an inadequate answer that misses the mark.
  2. Involve the right people. As a sales rep, you’re not going to know all the technical security details. Take those questions to the right individuals, but make sure you do it in a way that makes it as easy and quick as possible for them to share the right intel.
  3. Be honest. This should go without saying, but make sure you’re being as transparent as you can be. You don’t want the sale to go through and then have the enterprise customer realize that you weren’t factual in your responses. 
  4. Provide evidence. Where possible, share documentation to support your answers. This could include policies, procedures, or materials that demonstrate that you have implemented appropriate security measures.
  5. Review your answers. Before you send your responses to the prospect, review them carefully. Make sure that all questions have been answered and that the responses are accurate and complete. 

Lastly, make sure you keep a repository of past answers easily available to all your sales reps. Enterprises aren’t that different from each other when it comes to their security considerations, so it’s likely that there’s significant overlap between one security questionnaire and another. 

What is the alternative to filling out security questionnaires? 

As we indicated above, filling out a security questionnaire can be quite a daunting task. For vendors that are ramping up their sales across multiple enterprises, responding to these long lists of questions can become a full-time job — and it can also massively slow down the sales process. One way that companies can reduce the need to fill out security questionnaires is by becoming SOC 2 compliant

Vendors that are SOC 2 compliant have already gone through the extensive process of meeting a number of different security requirements — most of which align with the asks in a security questionnaire. With a SOC 2 compliance report, a vendor can securely send that over instead of rounding up a team of people to answer a number of questions. Instead, all the sales rep has to do is have the prospect sign an NDA and then send over the SOC 2 report. (This is something that Pima can help you do faster than your competitors.)

While it’s true that becoming SOC 2 compliant will require a significant upfront investment — both in terms of time and resources — the ROI in terms of hours saved in the sales process is significant in the long run. 

At Pima, we’ve made it easier than ever for SaaS vendors to share this important information quickly and securely. Learn more about our product on the homepage

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