Proposal software

Business proposals are written documents from a seller to a prospective customer or buyer. Business proposals are a key element in the complex sales process. A proposal consists of the buyer's requirements in a framework that favors the seller's services or products, and informs the buyer about the abilities of the seller in fulfilling their needs.

Sales proposals

Generally, most managed service providers (MSPs) are more technically sound than being business or sales experts. Many MSPs struggle with the critical aspects of successfully running a business. Developing a business is clearly important, particularly during the early days of getting started in the managed services space. While some growth occurs organically through word of mouth, it is not going to guarantee consistent new business, even when the MSP delivers great services.
Proposals are critical to business success. Without proposals, there is no new business, and without new business, there is no revenue. Sales proposals make the heart and soul of every B2B sale - sales proposals eventually summarize the difficulties that prospective buyers face and outline the seller’s approach to deliver suitable solutions. When pursuing leads, a prudently planned and well-written sales proposal is the best way for businesses to land new customers.

What is a proposal software?

Proposal software allows users to create and develop proposals, requests for proposals or RFPs and presentations. Proposal software creates a template or outline that forms the baseline of sales proposal documents. Proposal software is a form of business process automation solution that helps companies create better sales pitches, proposals and RFP responses more efficiently.
Typical proposal software consists of a content library, enabling time and cost savings, and also helps improve the quality of the proposal content. Proposal software acts as a searchable repository that consists of previous proposals, sales pitches and RFP responses.
Businesses across the world handling large contracts and proposal documents choose proposal software to create templates that ensure consistency in branding. Proposal software helps businesses with collaboration capabilities, for live co-authoring and reduced version control issues. Popular proposal automation tools include task allocations and workflows, audit trails, review and approval steps, project dashboards, tracking capabilities and reporting.

Why use a proposal software?

Proposal software helps organizations resolve numerous quality and compliance issues that they face on a regular basis, including the following:

Addressing demarcated sectors, geographies and target markets

Companies can create a variety of templates, each consisting of detailed information, declarations or disclaimers for different markets.

Controlling content

Content contained within templates can be locked to prevent users making unwarranted changes, before a proposal is finalized. Proposal software provides audit trails of all changes made in a document so that business decision makers always know who added what content, and when.

Updating and approving content

“Proposal software helps build review and approval cycles to ensure that new content is approved or the existing content is up-to-date. If a sales team is struggling to create proposals, sales pitches and RFP responses that consistently help them win new business, proposal management software may be just what they need to improve the situation.

Speed and efficiency

Bid and sales teams can create winning proposals quickly and efficiently by storing, managing and controlling all proposal content in one place, making it easy to search and retrieve. Proposal software helps keep content up-to-date, indicate inappropriate content or incorrectly formatted documents, and fix versioning issues.

Increase prospecting

With proposal software, sales teams can generate more leads in the sales funnel – this is because they are far more confident that the new process with proposal software means efficient and faster turnaround on new proposals.

Understanding prospects

Proposal software provides insightful metrics that can help sales teams understand what runs in the clients’ minds. Are they lingering longer on a particular section of the proposal? Have they viewed specific pages multiple times? Metrics like these can help sales reps reach out to customers in a timely manner. Even better, some proposal software comprises chat functions for prospects to reach out immediately when they have queries.

Increase prospecting

What actually matters for a business to grow is not the size of the sales team, but the number of deals that are closed with the right proposals. When businesses are not ready to scale the sales team, proposal management software can help existing salespeople increase efficiency and productivity.

Proposal management software helps streamline the proposal creation process and include value-adds, like flexible fee options. This leads to increased average contract value and client base without having a large sales team.

What is proposal management?

Proposal management is the closing of a deal with a written document created using repeatable processes that guides a team of contributors and balance the tactical aspects of proposals. Proposal management is the process of planning and producing the proposal content, assigning staff, coordinating their contributions, and validating proposal quality.
End-to-end proposal management helps clients with the guarantee that a proposal will be the best possible sales document to start off with—while being compliant and receptive.

Putting a proposal management process in place means having checklists, document tools, and providing guidance to keep all associated stakeholders on the same page. An inclusive proposal process typically consists at least these three elements:
Pre-RFP
Planning and managing proposal development
Writing the proposal

Here are the common proposal management steps that help systemize the process:

Step 1

Making the decision

Before writing the proposal, it is important to determine whether the opportunity is a good fit for the business. Although an accurate prediction might not be possible, it is important to determine whether the organization has a reasonable shot at closing the deal.

Step 2

Planning the proposal

Proposal planning includes categorizing tasks and individual responsibilities, creating a winning strategy, drafting a proposal framework, creating schedules, and coordinating with consultants or contractors.

Step 3

Initiating the meeting

Once planning the proposal management effort is done, all the designated contributors have to be gathered to ensure that everyone knows it is on the same page. This is also referred to as the “kick-off meeting.”

Step 4

Developing the proposal

With an outline in place, proposal development is about putting the plan into action. Proposal development is the actual writing of the proposal, designing the document, creating graphics and images, and putting together the numbers, and running it through a review team.

Step 5

Sending out the proposal

This depends a lot on how the prospect wants the proposal to reach them. Often, sales teams present the proposal, giving them the advantage of adding valuable inputs during the meeting.

Step 6

Proposal Close Out

Once the proposal is sent out, it is a common best practice to file an electronic or paper copy of the entire proposal, RFP, or agenda in a designated location, adding it into the proposal database.

Types of proposal management software

Be it web proposal tools, proposal writing software or anything else in the spectrum of proposal management tools, there several options in the wide world of software that can help businesses manage proposals faster and better. Proposal management software can be cloud or server-based. However, most providers offer this as a service (cloud-based).

There are two main types of proposal management software:

Web-based proposal management software is a SaaS platform that has to be imported into an organization’s system. Once the content is imported, the proposal management tool acts as a search engine allowing the concerned team members to find what they need quickly and easily. The HTML format makes it more effective with search capabilities like stemming or full-text searching.

The native file format proposal management tools store documents and files in their native formats, as opposed to most web-based proposal management software that store content in HTML format. Considering the size of an organization, proposal management software can be categorized into two types:

Small Business System

This model of proposal management software consists of basic tools like canned elements, standard workflows and templates. Most small businesses have standard bidding requirements, which can be addressed straightforwardly with small business system proposal software.

Enterprise System

Largely, bigger companies and enterprises with complex projects need proposal modifications to achieve unique requirements. Enterprise software helps large organizations configure procedures like submission of contracts, consolidation and approval, and tweak specific proposal elements precisely.

Difference between a quote and a proposal

While both quotes and proposals are official offer documents for clients with many parallels, proposals and quotes are used in particularly different situations.
A quote is a response to a request for the availability of product, service or price.  Commonly, the requester is looking for specific information targeted on the needs.

A proposal is a response to a request for a requirement or solution.  The requester is generally uncertain of what they want or are open to options that address their requirements.  Proposals can be very comprehensive in nature and typically follow precise guiding principles, procedures and timelines.

Proposal software features

Here are a few key features in a good Proposal Management Software:

Automation of RFP/RFQ

Proposal management software that enables automation of RFP or RFQ gives businesses the power of artificial intelligence to automate proposal drafting and formatting based on the requirements. Also, automation allows sales teams to send proposals to prospective customers via email or queue the document to be sent at a scheduled time.

Proposal templates

Proposal templates are the usual kick starters in the process of drafting proposals. A good proposal management software is designed with standard contract templates from which sales reps can choose and fill out the essential elements. This is a handy feature for new businesses or amateur proposal writers.

Multi-tier approval

One of the important features to consider in a proposal management tool is multi-tier approval, especially if a business deals with complex proposals that need several hierarchical endorsements including:

Vertical approval – authorization according to rank, normally from the lowest to the highest-ranking managers and departmental heads.

Horizontal approval – the proposal entails approval across numerous departments.
Some additional features to consider include

E-signatures
Unified database for old and new proposals
Collaboration and communication tools
Analytics tools

Functionalities of proposal management software

Proposal management software is becoming increasingly popular with organizations that manage recurrent and widespread proposal writing projects. Proposal management software helps businesses automate routine tasks involved with proposal management and also easily track multiple versions.

Proposal management software offers multiple functionalities for storing, reviewing, controlling, semantically enriching, and publishing documents. Key functionalities include:
API - Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for custom integrations with the solutions that a business is already using
Audience Targeting - Audience segmentation to tailor messages to specific user groups
Contact Management – To manage a large number of business contacts in a centralized system
Contact Sharing - Sharing contacts across multiple teams or platforms to migrate addresses across different systems
Data Export - To streamline the data migration across systems or applications
Data Import - To use data sets from other systems to reduce data entry tasks or easily migrate records
Email Integration - To send and receive emails within an application
External Integrations - Integrations with other software or platforms for improved efficiency and compatibility
Inventory Tracking - To manage the storing, retrieving or production of new proposals
Lead Management – To manage leads and prospect inquiries for improved sales outreach
Multi-User - For better collaboration with colleagues
Notifications - To be alerted on important events and other time sensitive tasks

Potential issues with proposal software

Closing deals in the pipeline becomes faster with proposal software that delivers striking proposals and sales documents. Choosing tools with the right features, real-time reporting dashboards and drag and drop capabilities present the best results.

However, it is important to try multiple products and test the software by requesting a demo or by signing up for a trial. This helps evaluate the tool’s user experience before putting it into action. Some of the most robust proposal management tools in the market can have or not have certain features that might be potential reasons for concern to certain businesses. Here’s a look at the common concerns across many proposal management tools:

Longer learning curve due to robustness of the software
Minor bugs and customer service issues
Lack of electronic signatures and problems with formatting and UX
Large proposal management software can seem a bit clunky for new or small businesses
Inability to manage large volumes of proposals within the tool
Auto-save and limited functionality can sometimes prevent editing overwritten content
Lack of integration capabilities
Lack of native mobile applications
Templates can tend to be too generic
Navigation can be occasionally challenging

Ideal components of a proposal

Sales proposals eventually summarize the problems that prospects face and outline a company’s approach to provide solutions to fix them. When pursuing a hot lead, a sensibly planned and well-written sales proposal is the best tool that can help land new business.

Irrespective of what is being sold, there are a few key elements that make a sales proposal, the winning one. Although each sales proposal differs based on the uniqueness client needs, here are some proven best practices to be followed in any bid:

Cover letter

Arguably, the most important part of a proposal, a cover letter captures the prospect’s attention, making them want to read on. Personalizing the cover letter helps create crucial emotional bonds between the buyer and seller.

Executive summary

Unlike the cover letter that offers a broad overview, the executive summary is more tightly-focused, plainly and concisely describing how the seller plans to implement solutions. This section typically includes details about the timeline and resources that will be required.

Scope of work

This section offers complete details laying out the scope of work of the seller, highlighting the exact steps the company plans to take, avoiding any sort of miscommunication or subjective interpretation.

Pricing details

his section communicates the financial costs and payment terms of the seller. It details the costs with clear, easy-to-understand pricing breakdown of the solution that is offered. Using interactive pricing tables can help prospects edit item or service quantities, and select products or services that they need.

Implementation strategy

This section outlines how the solution would be implemented. It is important to convey the details with thorough strategic plans focused on delivering value to the prospect.

Social proof

This section typically carries case studies, testimonials, reviews or references that factually highlight the seller’s solutions and past successes in similar cases similar to that of the prospect.

e-signature options

This option gives the prospect to digitally sign the proposal from anywhere, on any device, with legally binding eSignature technology.

How to choose the best proposal software?

When looking for the right proposal management software, although the features are the most important; here are a few basic but crucial factors to be considered:

Adaptability to bidding requirements

It is important to consider the flexibility of the tool with respect to providing bidding documents in different designs. Choosing a versatile proposal management tool allows businesses to create various designs.

Integration with key systems

A good proposal management software integrates with existing systems that a company is using – existing systems can be in the form of CRM, document management applications or email.

Manual Intervention

Although automated proposal management tools are very advantageous, it is essential to consider a proposal management tool with manual override capabilities. This is helpful when manual entries are needed for unique bid requirements

Collaboration Space

When contracts or proposals need contributions from professionals across various departments, it is vital to choose a tool with robust collaboration features. This enables efficient file sharing, remote working, and consolidation of all the great minds within the organization.

What are digital signatures?

Digital signatures are coded messages or ‘electronic fingerprints’ that securely links a signer and a document in a verified transaction. Digital signatures use a standard and accepted format called Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) for top-notch security and universal reception.

Digital signatures ensure the authenticity of electronic documents like e-mail, text documents, spreadsheets, etc. Authenticity here means that the signer knows who created the document and that it has not been modified in any way from when it was created.

Digital signatures rely on particular forms of encryption to guarantee authentication. Encryption involves taking data from one computer and sending it to another by encoding it in a form that can only be decoded by the other computer. Authentication verifies whether the source of the information can be trusted.

Uses of digital signatures in proposals

Digital signatures use the PKI methodology - the internationally accepted, standards-based technology that helps prevent forgery or alterations to a document after it is signed. This way clients can view, approve, and sign contracts immediately. This ensures that sales documents are as lawfully valid as pen-and-paper documents. Digital signatures help eliminate printing, scanning, and faxing. Electronic signatures in proposal software speeds up the sales process.

Proposal management software with e-signature feature helps automate and manage complete digital workflows using powerful business capabilities, and at the same time, stay compliant with local and industry standard eSignature norms. Digital signature with SSL certificate provides proof that a document is not tampered with, since the time it was sent. Computers tenaciously pair Digital Signatures to one saved version of a document; this makes it nearly impossible to reject a digitally signed document. For developers who distribute software online, a code signing certificate reassures their customers that the executables really come from the developer.

How does e-sign help in the sales cycle?

Faster turnaround and efficiency

When sales teams adopt electronic signatures, there is obvious and improved efficiency in a company’s work flow process.

When all paperwork becomes digital, it can be shared easily without the risk of losing information in transit. Companies do not have to depend on physical paperwork, meaning that contracts or proposals can immediately reach the concerned person at the click of a button. It also eliminates the need for fax machines, photocopy shops or printers, and at the same time, ensure legal, safe and secure documentation. Businesses can get the required paperwork signed on the go, on smartphones or laptops, as electronic signatures in digital paperwork are legitimately be acknowledged.

With IP addresses, date and time, geographic locations, and verified emails, there is an entire data trail, as opposed to physical paperwork. This is ideal when businesses need accountability and verifiable confirmation.

Quicker invoicing

E-signed digital contracts or POs can be passed over directly and immediately to the finance department; having all the relevant information to invoice clients using a digital contract, ensures invoicing without payment delays.

FAQs

What is a proposal?

Business proposals are written documents from a seller to a prospective customer or buyer. Business proposals are a key element in the complex sales process. A proposal consists of the buyer's requirements in a framework that favors the seller's services or products, and informs the buyer about the abilities of the seller in fulfilling their needs.

What is a proposal software?

Proposal software allows users to create and develop proposals, requests for proposals or RFPs and presentations. Proposal software creates a template or outline that forms the baseline of sales proposal documents. Proposal software is a form of business process automation solution that helps companies create better sales pitches, proposals and RFP responses more efficiently.

Typical proposal software consists of a content library, enabling time and cost savings, and also helps improve the quality of the proposal content. Proposal software acts as a searchable repository that consists of previous proposals, sales pitches and RFP responses.

What is proposal management?

Proposal management is the closing of a deal with a written document created using repeatable processes that guides a team of contributors and balance the tactical aspects of proposals. Proposal management is the process of planning and producing the proposal content, assigning staff, coordinating their contributions, and validating proposal quality.

End-to-end proposal management helps clients with the guarantee that a proposal will be the best possible sales document to start off with—while being compliant and receptive.

What are the types of proposal management software?

Be it web proposal tools, proposal writing software or anything else in the spectrum of proposal management tools, there are several options in the wide world of software that can help businesses manage proposals faster and better. Proposal management software can be cloud or server-based. However, most providers offer this as a service (cloud-based).

There are two main types of proposal management software: Web-based proposal management software and native file format proposal management tools. Considering the size of an organization, proposal management software can be categorized into two types: Small Business System and Enterprise System.

Why is a proposal important?

Proposals are critical to business success. Without proposals, there is no new business, and without new business, there is no revenue. Sales proposals make the heart and soul of every B2B sale - sales proposals eventually summarize the difficulties that prospective buyers face and outline the seller’s approach to deliver suitable solutions. When pursuing leads, a prudently planned and well-written sales proposal is the best way for businesses to land new customers.