Proposal software can deliver tremendous value to your business – helping you win more. But, as you may have already discovered, there’s an overwhelming number of solutions. While that means there’s a good option for every business and every budget, it also means that finding the best proposal software for your team can be a challenge. Fortunately, we’ve got you covered.
In this buying guide, you’ll find everything you need to decide which type of proposal software is best for your needs, team and business. But, to start, we’ll just cut to the chase: Here’s our list of the top nine best proposal software solutions. You can click to jump straight to the list to see each solution in more detail, or explore our proposal software buying guide below.
- Responsive – Best all-around proposal software for revenue growth
- Bonsai – Best proposal software for consultants
- Better Proposals – Best proposal software for B2C proposals
- Visme – Best free proposal software for freelancers
- Smart Pricing Table – Best proposal software for simple, itemized quotes
- Nusii – Best proposal software for agencies
- Buildertrend – Best proposal software for construction job quoting
- Instrumentl – Best proposal software for grants
- Vendavo – Best proposal software for manufacturing quotes
Table of contents
- What is proposal software?
- Types of proposal software
- Benefits of RFP response software
- How to find the best proposal solution for your business
Proposal software buying guide
What is proposal software?
Proposal software is technology that helps businesses create, manage and track proposals. Also called proposal management software, the technology simplifies the creation of professional proposals by providing pre-designed templates and a user-friendly interface. With proposal software, you can easily reuse and customize content, add images or videos, and format the document.
Types of proposal software
Searching “best proposal software” online will yield dozens of solutions. Literally. As of this writing, there are 201 solutions (and counting) listed in the proposal software category on G2. Part of the reason there are so many solutions is because the word ‘proposal’ is used in different ways in business.
For example, someone starting a new venture might want to write a business proposal to convince investors or partners to join. On the other hand, a non-profit may use proposal software to win grant funding. Fortunately, there’s a proposal software solution for every need.
In this buying guide, we’ll cover lots of different types of proposal software, but we’ll primarily focus on tools for the two most common proposal types: request for proposal responses and proactive proposals. Before you begin exploring software, it’s important for you to understand if your business needs to be able to create just one of these types of proposals or both.
Competitive proposals or RFP responses
If you receive and respond to requests for proposal (RFPs) to win business, you will need to focus on a software solution that enables you to quickly review the questions in the RFP and search previously used answers to create your bid. This is called a competitive proposal or RFP response.
RFP responses typically follow a format dictated by the buyer designed to allow them to compare vendors side by side and select a winner.
On the other hand, a proactive proposal is a bid that you provide outside of the request for proposal process. Often, a proactive proposal is used to formalize your offer to a potential buyer. For example, when you’re talking to a prospect and they say, “send me a proposal,” that’s considered a proactive proposal. It’s far more casual and informal than an RFP response. Indeed, because you’re initiating the proposal without any guidelines or restrictions from the buyer, you can create a document in whatever format you think will be most compelling.
Small businesses will most frequently create proactive proposals. However, as an organization scales and grows, competitive RFPs become more common. Most businesses use both approaches. However, many proposal software solutions are really only built for one or the other. To get the most out of your investment, consider a strategic response management software that does it all.
How to know if you need a proposal solution
For teams who create proposals using manual processes, the necessary technology stack may include email, Word, Excel, Sharepoint, Slack, Grammarly, Trello and scheduling software, just to name a few. While these tools can be adapted to work with the proposal process, it’s far from ideal and they fall short when it comes to maximizing efficiency and improving consistency.
On the other hand, the features within proposal management software brings much of the process into one centralized platform. It empowers your team to save time by reusing proposal content, improving collaboration and leveraging proposal automation to streamline the process.
The result? More consistent, complete and compelling proposals that take WAY less time to create and perfect.Consequently, any organization that creates proposals to provide information to potential customers and win business can benefit from proposal management software. However, there are a few common scenarios that usually prompt an investment in software.
- Sales professionals are spending hours creating and formatting proposals, taking them away from selling.
- The proposal manager is overwhelmed, struggling to create proposals and RFPs for the entire business.
- An audit reveals a pattern of ineffective, inconsistent and inaccurate proposals.
- An inability to quickly find proposal content, get SME input and secure final approval result in inefficiency, missed deadlines and lost revenue.
- The business adopts an RFP strategy to facilitate business growth by answering more RFPs.
The value of any software investment depends on more than just features and functionality. Indeed, there are a number of intangible factors that are just as important. These considerations are about how the software and company work rather than what the tool does.
Benefits of proposal management software
Even if you’re not solving an immediate problem, finding and implementing the best proposal software delivers impressive benefits.
- Create proposals and respond to RFPs in less time
- Increase the volume of proposals you send
- Build a valuable proposal content library to answer internal and external questions
- Enhance team collaboration
- Improve your overall win rate
- Ensure consistency and repeatability
- Reduce risk and ensure compliance
- Capture win/loss data to optimize your process
- Ensure knowledge retention and reduce new employee onboarding time
How to find the best proposal solution for your business
When considering software of any kind, it’s important to find a solution that has the features and functionality you need as well as the resources to support your team both now and in the future. There are plenty of proposal solutions that have all the right technical tools, but lack helpful customer success resources. Additionally, it’s wise to make sure that the solution you pick will be a good partner in the future as well.
As we work through our proposal software checklist, we’ve separated considerations into two categories: features (what the proposal solution actually does) and value (how the company providing the solution ensures your success).
Proposal software features and functionality
Here we’ll offer a list of proposal solution functionality and features to consider. While some of these things may feel basic, like search capabilities, the way each proposal solution solves that challenge will make a significant impact on usability and adoption. So, they shouldn’t be overlooked.
Content management features
There are a number of things to look for in a proposal content library, but above all, it should be easy to use. As you explore features and functionality, ask yourself if the average user would be able to quickly and easily use the software. Some of the factors listed below might be deal breakers for you while others are simply nice to have.
- Keyword and Boolean advanced search for a Google-like experience
- Exact match searches or synonym recognition with natural language processing
- Duplicate record detection to avoid messy data and uncertainty
- Search filtering by tag, category or metadata to narrow results
- Plug-ins and extensions that empower you to access your content library outside of the platform while using a browser or application
Proposal creation and formatting
- Customizable formatting and templates
- Robust import capabilities to leverage previous proposals to create document templates
- Ability to embed attachments, links, charts, images and video to enrich the content
- Variable text fields for quickly customizing proposal templates to include customer information
Document and data management
- Document delivery portal for certifications, security policies, terms and conditions
- Content audit data and continual change tracking of user updates and change times
- Categorization and tagging to separate and organize groups of data
- Accounts, subaccounts, hierarchies and user roles so the right people have the right information
- Data security certifications to ensure that your data, as well as your potential customer’s data is safe
- Encryptions and data security
Workflow and collaboration features
From sales and marketing to legal and finance, there are a lot of people involved to successfully create a compelling proposal. If you ask a proposal manager what the most frustrating part of their job is, the phrase ‘herding cats’ is a common response.
Indeed, making sure the right people are involved in the right steps can be complex and cumbersome. Fortunately, proposal software makes managing the process, people, data and tasks involved in creating a proposal a lot easier.
Process and task management
- Automatic suggestions for the subject matter experts based on topic expertise
- Role assignment and notifications so who is responsible for what task is clear
- Real-time progress tracking with easy to read visualizations for fast updates
- Commenting notifications on tasks and projects
- Real-time, multi-user answer editing so your team can work simultaneously
- Record notes and comments to share ideas and edit suggestions
- Engage subject matter experts using Email, Slack and Teams and have their input centralized in the proposal software
- Review and approval functionality to ensure accuracy and compliance
- Import from Word, Excel and PDF to quickly begin creating a proposal
- Section and question identification — either manual or automatic
- Export back into buyer’s requested format: Word, Excel and PDF
Proposal automation capabilities expand each year as technology advances. Indeed, because most RFP management platforms follow the Software as a Service (SaaS) model, you can expect to see regular improvements. Even now, automation brings your content and process together and completes tedious tasks for you.
- Deal analysis that reviews customer requirements to assist with bid or no bid discussions
- Notifies contributors of assignments with individual emails
- Sends follow-up reminders as the due date for incomplete work approaches
- Suggestions and tips based on usage to improve efficiency
- Reports and analysis of content, processes and outcomes
- Generative AI to write first drafts, customize existing content and optimize for the reader
- Content translation into additional languages
- Identifies and surfaces relevant answers using AI and natural language processing
- Suggests most relevant answer based on match percentage or confidence score
- Establishes regular content review cycles to prompt subject matter experts to update content
- CRM integration (Salesforce, Hubspot, Dynamics 365, etc.)
- Communication app integrations (Slack, Teams, Hangouts, etc.) for SME collaboration
- Productivity app integrations (Microsoft Office, G-Suite)
- Clouds storage integrations (Dropbox, Sharepoint, Box, OneDrive, etc.)
- Sales enablement integrations (Seismic, Highspot, etc.)
- Single sign on (SSO) to improve login process
Proposal software value considerations
When aiming to invest in the best proposal software solution, it’s important to weigh factors outside of features and functionality. These considerations have a huge impact on the overall value, long-term adoption and return on investment of your proposal solution.
Ease of use
To ensure adoption, your users must see the value of using the proposal tool. Consequently, the best proposal software is designed with this in mind and delivers value quickly. As you explore various tools through trials and demos, consider how it would work in your organization with your current team and process.
The biggest influences on ease of use are layout, process and navigation. Unfortunately, you’ll find that some tools simply can’t be used productively without regular practice.
So, ask yourself:
- Could an occasional user follow the process inside the platform with minimal assistance?
- Is the layout and user experience intuitive? Are the features easy to find and use?
- Can an untrained user navigate the platform and complete basic actions without support?
Ease of use is particularly important in organizations where subject matter experts and executive approvers vary from one project to another. Generally, they may only use the system a handful of times per year each.
You want to invest in an proposal solution that can keep you ahead of your competitors. Look for a company that innovates quickly, adopts new technology and routinely releases product updates and enhancements. Some good questions to ask are:
- Is the company growing year over year?
- Do they implement changes when they receive customer feedback?
- Are they updating the software regularly to optimize performance and add new features?
The best proposal software solutions also create thought leadership content, follow industry trends and work closely with experts in the field. Ideally, they use these insights to create new features that deliver value to your business.
Customer success (CS) and company culture go hand-in-hand. When you work with customer success teams, you’ll quickly understand what the company’s priorities are.
No matter what RFP software you select, you’ll go through onboarding and implementation with the customer success team. So, clear communication and organization is important.
Helpful customer success questions to ask:
- What level of training and support is included?
- Can you talk with a CS manager with experience in your industry?
- What resources are available for self-service support?
- How will the company ensure successful implementation and adoption?
Customer support should be readily available, friendly and knowledgeable. While the platform should be easy to use, the best proposal software companies are always there to help when you need it.
Value and return on investment
As with all software purchases, value is always a factor. But wait — notice I didn’t say price. Certainly, the two are related, but they’re not the same thing. Often, value is quantified in a return on investment (ROI) calculation. The higher the ROI, the better. So, when weighing the long-term value of proposal platforms, consider:
- Is the platform designed for large team collaboration? Will you be able to easily scale in the future?
- Are there additional use cases (RFIs, RFQs, DDQs, SOWs) to add more value?
- Can you replace or consolidate systems if you adopt this technology?
- How will the company ensure successful implementation and adoption?
The best proposal software companies can quickly provide quantifiable ROI results for their customers. Using this information, you can predict your own results.
Top 9 best proposal software solutions for 2023
As you might imagine, it’s our business to know the ins and outs of proposal software. So, we’ve gathered our picks for the top proposal software solutions. These selections were made based on our own research, customer reviews and market intelligence.
All of the proposal software solutions featured below are cloud-based. They empower your team to improve the proposal process including writing, designing, collaborating, sending and saving your work.
1. Responsive – Best all-around solution for revenue growth
Overview: Responsive is a strategic response management platform, meaning that not only you can manage both competitive and proactive proposals, but you can also use it to respond to any kind of information request. That’s why it’s our top pick for teams that need to grow revenue and scale. The platform has tons of value to offer and is constantly offering updates and new features that keep users at the cutting edge.
Highlights: Easy-to-manage content library, tons of automation functionality including a GPT/generative AI writing assistance, dozens of integrations, intuitive proposal templates and highly-rated customer service
“If you’re looking to manage the proposal process from start to finish, look no further.” – Amanda via G2
Industries: Information technology and software, financial services, healthcare, business services, education
Use cases: Responding to RFPs, RFQs and RFIs, creating proactive proposals, answering vendor risk assessments, completing due diligence questionnaires, submitting responses in online portals
Benefits: Responsive’s customers report cutting the time required for proposal creation by up to 50 percent. They also report increasing the number of proposals they by 5x. The resulting savings adds up and customer ROI figures are impressive.
Considerations: The Responsive platform is incredibly robust and offers tremendous all-around value. However, the depth of features, content management tools and customizations may be more than some small teams need.
2. Bonsai – Best for consultants
Overview: If you’re like most consultants, you have your proposals down to a science. And, you know better than most that time is money. Fortunately, Bonsai is the best proposal software for consultants to save time and deliver more value to clients. With this proposal solution, you can easily organize projects by client and track your time.
Highlights: Thoughtfully designed for consultants, Bonsai includes a client portal for sharing info and collaborating, financial tools like contracting and invoicing, and task tracking.
“All my client management is in one place. The contract and proposal templates are super helpful and super customizable. Everything is flexible to work with the needs of my business.” – Cata via G2
Industries: Consultancies, professional services, marketing and advertising agencies and recruiting
Use cases: Client management, proactive proposals, consultancy templates, managing contracts and invoicing, time and financial tracking
Results: While ROI figures and quantifiable results are difficult to find on their site, customer reviews report that centralizing client management saves them time when creating and sending documents. Additionally, Bonsai improves payment management and processing.
Considerations: Many consultants respond to RFPs to win business. Unfortunately, Bonsai’s functionality isn’t a good fit for creating RFP responses. It’s also worth noting that a few reviews of Bonsai mention that onboarding and customer service has room for improvement.
3. Better Proposals – Best for B2C proposals
Overview: For business-to-consumer service providers like photographers, landscapers and lifestyle coaches, creating proposals is just part of the job — but it’s not the whole job. Better Proposals is the best proposal software for teams and professionals that just want to get back to their real job. It offers web-based proposals that combine visual elements with persuasive text. They also provide more than 200 templates helpful to service providers including proposals, contracts, quotes and statements of work.
Highlights: As with other tools on this list, Better Proposals focuses on usability. They have drag and drop proposal building blocks, robust customization options (including coding), branding style guide, eSignature, payment options and customer chat.
“This is hands down the best proposal solution I’ve ever used. It takes a bit to get your bearings but once you’re comfortable you can whip up awesome and engaging proposals, send them out, track interactions with them, and edit on the fly.” – Gregor via G2
Industries: Service providers, freelancers, creative consultants, marketing and advertising
Use cases: Proactive proposals, customer billing, contracts and statements of work
Benefits: Better Proposals that 76 percent of proposals sent through their platform were also paid through the system. So, if you struggle with billing and collections, this alone might be worth it. Additionally, they credit their 40+ integration options for making the proposal process 85 percent faster.
Considerations: Better Proposals is a great option to create consistency in your proposals for solo service providers and small businesses. For larger organizations, the content library functionality may fall short. Additionally, many of the templates follow a similar vertical, sectional design that feels a little dated. Finally, a number of reviews on G2 express frustration about the platform’s customer service experience.
4. Visme – Best for freelancers
Overview: It may sound counterintuitive, but the reason Visme makes our list for best proposal software for freelancers is because it’s not really proposal software. Stick with me. Visme is all about making content creation more visually appealing, cohesive and accessible for non-designers.
So, the platform includes tools to create presentations, infographics, ebooks, social media, videos and, of course, proposals. Having one affordable solution for all of these needs is crucial for freelancers who don’t have the time or desire to build a tech stack of individual tools to help them market their services.
Highlights: The number and variety of Canva-like templates available in Visme is impressive. For example, they have 174 proposal templates available to browse. The platform also includes a lot of free media.
“I like the options and templates. I am not a graphic artist, so the user-friendly aspect works well for me.” – Heather via G2
Industries: Marketing and advertising, management consulting, non-profit management
Use cases: Proactive proposals, marketing content creation, presentations
Results: As you might expect from a design tool made for non-designers, time savings is one of the platform’s biggest benefits. Visme has a wealth of case studies that quantify results including 25 to 79 percent time savings in content creation and design cost reduction of 97 percent.
Considerations: While Visme offers a wide variety of content to create, it doesn’t offer any contracting, eSignature or payment processing features — which would be a huge benefit to freelancers. Some user reviews report issues with storage, exporting and bugs.
5. Smart Pricing Table – Best for itemized quotes
Overview: Smart Pricing Table keeps things simple. The proposal templates and formats focus on itemized bids rather than details about the offered product or service. So, if your deals often come down to price, Smart Pricing Table can offer your customers a simple way to explore your offer and breakdown costs.
Highlights: The easy-to-use interface focuses on creating templates and reusable line items that reduce the amount of unpaid time you spend creating a proposal. They also offer clickable add-ons so customers can create a package that feels customized to their needs and you can increase your chances of a successful upsell.
“This software helps cut down the time to create proposals for our clients, it’s easy to edit and make modifications and clients really appreciate how clear this software makes it to know what costs are and what they are getting.” – Caitlin via G2
Industries: Higher education, information technology services and marketing and advertising
Use cases: Proactive pricing-focused proposals, itemized bids
Benefits: Customers report significant time (up to 80 percent) savings in creating, submitting and receiving back an executed proposal.
Considerations: Simplicity and affordability is the name of the game for Smart Pricing Table, so if you’re looking for a tool that offers integrations, regular product updates and collaboration tools this one might not be for you.
6. Nusii – Best for creative agencies
Overview: Nusii is all about visual impact — which makes the best proposal software for advertising, marketing and web agencies. Afterall, if you want a customer to trust you with their image, your branding better be on point too. The proposal is a crucial tool for conveying your vision, skill and understanding of their needs. Nusii is a good fit for organizations that give their proposals the full design treatment using Photoshop, InDesign or Pages but need to streamline their process and save time.
Highlights: This platform offers visually stunning, interactive proposal templates that look like websites, custom branding tools, proposal content library, eSignature and proposal tracking tools. Nusii offers three plans with varying functionality ranging from $29-129 per month.
“Very easy to develop high-quality proposals – the design and platform features enable me to focus on content for our clients rather than spending time on formating.” – Customer review via G2
Industries: Marketing and advertising, design and media production
Use cases: Creating and tracking proactive proposals
Results: While ROI calculations are difficult to find, Nusii reports that customers reduced their time spent waiting for a signature from clients by 52 percent. And, everyone loves a shorter sales cycle.
Considerations: While Nusii is a great tool for creating proactive proposals that match your brand or the customer’s aesthetic, it’s not a great fit for organizations that also need to respond to RFPs. Competitive proposals and RFP responses must often follow a rigid pre-set format that isn’t easily compatible with Nusii’s interface. So, agencies looking to streamline their proposal efforts to win government or nonprofit bids might want to consider other solutions.
7. Buildertrend – Best for job quoting
Overview: For construction professionals, creating proposals for new jobs often involves countless considerations from material costs and labor rates. Fortunately, Buildertrend empowers field and office teams to collaborate easily to create a fast and accurate job quote.
Highlights: Buildertrend creates a single source of truth for all project bids, automates workflow reminders, streamlines subcontractor collaboration and enables visual customization of proposals. In addition, the platform features a host of helpful integrations.
“I like the level of customization available in the software, it allows me to detail my proposals, and make them look the way I want, so they stand out from the competition. Also love the financials feature, and the schedule, so the client always knows what the project balance is, and what is happening next.” – Greg via Software Advice
Industries: Construction, architecture, building
Use cases: Bid management, quick estimates, payments and work-in-progress reports, client collaboration
Results: Recent case studies report that using Buildertrend cuts the time required to perform key tasks nearly in half including proposal creation, HR management and more.
Considerations: While Buildertrend offers a mobile app to connect field and office staff, some users report it’s difficult to use and slow. Additionally, to get the most value possible out of the platform, users report having to import or create considerable amounts of data on a continual basis.
8. Instrumentl – Best for grant proposals
Overview: If you’re a nonprofit or grant writer, Instrumental is a great tool for finding funding opportunities, writing grant proposals, tracking the process and measuring results. It offers an extensive suite of tools to help your team collaborate, track deadlines, report success and reuse proposal content.
Highlights: Instrumentl has a grant matching algorithm that uncovers new opportunities best suited to your organization. It also offers a free 14-day trial to enable you to explore the platform. Purpose built for grants, you can organize, prioritize and centralize your work.
“I love everything about Instrumentl – it has changed my grants process completely from research, to proposal, to tracking tasks, to tallying grants won. I’m waiting for a decision on a $150K grant that I would not have know about without Instrumentl!” – Laura via Capterra
Industries: Nonprofits, education and grant writers
Use cases: Finding nonprofit funding RFPs, creating and tracking proposal progress, reporting outcomes
Benefits: Instrumental reports that customers realize 92% time savings using the platform. They also report that new users raise $200,000 in new grants on average within their first 12 months using the platform.
Considerations: Overall, user reviews for Instrumentl are impressively positive. In fact, on G2, every reviewer has given them four or five stars. A few customers mention minor functionality gaps with filtering. But, in the grand scheme of things, they consider this an annoyance rather than a dealbreaker flaw.
9. Vendavo – Best for manufacturing quotes
Overview: Vendavo is technically a Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) platform, but it also is a powerful proposal tool for manufacturing sales. The system empowers sales teams with cost, inventory and profitability information to help them move quickly and provide customers with accurate, effective proposals.
Highlights: User-friendly interface, quick access to product catalogs, governed selling, profit margin calculations and other guiding information for proposal compliance
“We can go from nothing to a proposal in less that 10 minutes with accurate information.” – Review via G2
Industries: Industrial, manufacturing, distributing, construction
Use cases: Managing pricing information, building complex itemized proposals
Benefits: Vendavo boasts high adoption rates, significant increases in cross-sell and upsell revenue, and a return on investment in a matter of months.
Considerations: As you might expect from a platform that counts manufacturing giants like Ford, Dell and Shell as customers, some customers report that Vendavo is expensive so it’s likely not the best fit for small to mid-sized businesses. Additionally, reviews report that setup can be a challenge and customization is time consuming.
Ultimately, the goal of every proposal team is to win more business, more often with less effort and proposal software makes that possible. After all, the proposal process is complicated and time consuming enough without resorting to tools that aren’t designed for what you need. By centralizing the response process, your team can work more efficiently, collaboratively and successfully together.