Using software to build a better proposal management system

Written by
Wendy Gittleson
Wendy Gittleson
Updated on
  8 min read

Well-written and thorough proposals protect your company’s interests, and each one you submit has the potential to bring you closer to your quarterly or yearly goals and add to your company’s bottom line.

A proposal management system that leverages advanced RFP response software lets you generate more, higher-quality proposals using fewer resources while also helping level the playing field and achieve sales goals. Still, companies can be reluctant to invest in high-ROI proposal management software.

The future of proposal management is automated

Every once in a while, a proposal manager approaches us, wondering what will happen to them if their company turns to  automation for their proposal management program.

Naturally, we reassure them that even the most advanced proposal management automation software requires human expertise.

We also acknowledge that proposal managers work long, hard hours and that there’s an excellent chance that their companies already partially automate sales, marketing, finance, and customer service processes. Yet, those are still some of the fastest-growing roles within organizations.

Rather than competition, proposal management software is like a long-deserved assistant designed to make proposal managers more productive and valuable.

The role of proposal management software

Project management software is the answer for most teams. Even here at Responsive, our marketing and product teams rely on project management software. However, our response teams use Responsive because it goes far beyond assigning roles and deliverables, although it does that as well.

Proposal management software can help with any of the following:

  • Assist in the go/no-go process by producing trend analytics data from similar RFPs
  • Allow stakeholders to track their overall progress through their preferred CRM
  • Integrate with the most popular communication applications so teammates can stay in touch in real time
  • Provide a simple project overview dashboard for up-to-the-minute progress updates
  • Suggest SMEs based on expertise and availability
  • Leverage artificial intelligence to answer as much as 80 percent of an RFP’s questions
  • Produce the data you need for valuable postmortems

How to build a dynamic proposal management system

It would be really nice if we had a crystal ball that could predict our proposal response needs from year to year or even day to day. Some days you might have just one on your plate and others, let’s just say, more than one.

Even if we could predict our proposal volume, our needs and resource requirements vary according to customer, product, and bespoke particulars.

A dynamic proposal management program will provide you with the agility to respond to your response needs, regardless of volume or complexity.

Establish a clear mission statement

Think of your response team as a microcosm of your company. Your goals and objectives should align but also fit with your specific roles.

We recommend that you, like your company’s founders, create a mission statement to describe your areas of focus. For example, you might want to minimize SME participation, reduce response time, or win more bids. In that case, your mission statement might look something like this:

Our goal is to leverage technology to empower the response team to reduce proposal response time, efficiently manage knowledge library content to minimize subject matter expert participation, and deliver successful high-quality proposals via solicited and unsolicited bids.

  • Create and maintain a centralized repository for company knowledge and documents.
  • Establish efficient and scalable proposal service delivery.
  • Become a one-stop shop for quality proposal content.
  • Provide the content and tools necessary to create engaging and successful proposals.

Obtain company buy-in

If you ask most employees, and even most executives, what their proposal team does, there’s a good chance that they’ll only have a vague idea, even if they know what other revenue-generating teams bring to the table.

Even though most large purchases require a proposal, proposal teams often have to fight for company buy-in. Be sure to keep leadership in the loop regarding your goals and progress. Work with users to understand their content management and general work styles.

Recruit a winning proposal team

Creating high-quality winning proposals requires a very specialized team. You’ll need salespeople, marketing professionals, company authorities, storytellers, and editors. Some juggling skills wouldn’t hurt. If you’re thinking that’s a lot to ask of a single team, we’d have to agree.

Thankfully, your company has existing resources to help. Partnering with a salesperson or two can help you formulate the proposal. Your marketing team can provide you with approved messaging, or at least a messaging guideline. Subject matter experts are authorities within their respective realms, and proposal managers are often de facto company historians.

But every proposal team needs a core skill. They should be able to quickly craft compelling stories and wield an editor’s pen as well as a high school English teacher. In fact, writing and editing may be the most essential qualities in a proposal team member. With an excellent content and project management system, the rest can be taught.

Structure organizational procedures

A mission statement is only meaningful with the procedures to achieve your goals. If, for example, you want to minimize SME participation, you could give them more control over their content review cycles.

Not only will this help ensure that your team has accurate and usable content, but it will also demonstrate to the SMEs that you respect their time and expertise and make them more likely to want to work with you in the future.

Demonstrate growth with metrics and reports

Track your progress toward your goals with data. Generate reports showing your pipeline, SME engagement, win rate, numbers of responses, revenue generated, completed reviews, content use, and so on.

Build your content library

Your content doesn’t have to be siloed, even if your organization is. There is likely a wealth of company assets such as white papers, data sheets, message source documents, value discovery guides, product information and roadmaps, and other marketing materials.

Democratize your content library by allowing everyone access and working with content creation teams to ensure they file the assets for future use.

Enlist the right proposal management software

Your sales and marketing teams have customer relationship management software. Your HR and finance teams have their software. While it is possible to establish an effective response team without proposal management software, the right software will increase your win rate, drive more revenue, and conserve resources.

Look for proposal management software with project management features to help you choose your SMEs and keep your team on track. Find a robust content management system with built-in auditing tools. Invest in a platform that imports and exports in the customers’ preferred formats but provides a standardized working template for all your stakeholders.

Perhaps most importantly, look for customizable reporting features to help you decide whether to respond, determine how many resources you are using, and provide the data needed to make informed business decisions.

Value factors to consider when choosing proposal management software

Do more with less—that seems to be the 21st century motto. Accomplishing that rather lofty goal requires the right productivity software. Look for proposal management software that has all the functionality you need today and is scalable for what you might need tomorrow.

Improved workflow collaboration

Today’s distributed and siloed workforces require advanced workflow collaboration tools to keep everyone singing the same song. Look for software that integrates with your existing workflow collaboration tools so users can communicate using those tools or directly through the proposal management platform.

Convenient integration capabilities

The last thing your IT team wants is to weigh down your company’s tech stack. Your proposal management software should integrate instead of compete with your cloud storage solution, CRM, project management, and other productivity tools. In other words, it should work the way you work.

Intelligent knowledge base

The knowledge management system is a vital component of any response software solution, but the wrong one could create more work instead of simplifying your response process.

Look for a knowledge base that stores the types of documents you use. The knowledge base should be accessible to anyone who needs it but secure enough to keep prying eyes away. The search functionality should recognize your language and search terms.

It should be intuitive, intelligent, and give you the correct answers when you need them. It should also assist with content moderation and your review cycles.

Built-in security standards

Data security is at the top of every CIO’s priority list, which is why they’ll need to be assured that proposal management software, along with every other piece of software, is fully compliant with the latest security protocols.

Advanced reporting features

While we’re on the subject of data, your proposal management software should offer advanced reporting capabilities to provide actionable insights to assist with everything from your go/no-go process, to where you are on any given project, to where you stand with your team’s quarterly or annual goals.

How Responsive can help

Responsive is like a rocket booster for your proposal management program. It handles the routine and surprisingly time-consuming aspects of proposal management, letting you focus on the content that will help win more bids and drive more revenue.

Responsive’s indispensable features include the following:

  • Improved workflow collaboration – Whether your team works from a single office or several, keeping communication channels open is critical. Responsive integrates with all the most popular communication applications, enabling your team to work directly through Slack, Microsoft Teams, Jira, and Google Hangouts.
  • Convenient integration capabilities – With more than two dozen integrations, Responsive leads the pack, and we’re constantly adding more. The platform seamlessly integrates with your preferred CRM connectors, communication apps, productivity, sales enablement, and other applications.
  • Intelligent knowledge base – Use your time to create winning proposals instead of searching for the information you need. With just a few clicks, Responsive will find you the correct answer to your previously answered questions. Responsive ® LookUp grants access to any authorized user from any place, as long as they have a browser.
  • Built-in security standards – RFPIO takes security very seriously. Our customer roster includes security experts such as Microsoft, Google, Visa, and Zoom, among many others. More specifically, we are ISO 27001 certified and compliant with AICPA SOC, GDPR, and the State of California.
  • Advanced reporting features – Gather the data to help you decide whether to respond to an RFP, track your project’s and team’s progress, analyze content usage, and your wins and losses. That’s just the beginning of the actionable insights RFPIO’s advanced reporting capabilities can provide.

*Next Action*

Proposal managers have a lot going on. RFXs are coming faster and faster, and expectations continue to rise. See how strategic proposal management software such as Responsive can help you keep up with your increasing demands and make your company more profitable.

Schedule a free demo

Wendy Gittleson

Wendy has more than 10 years experience as a B2B and B2C copywriter. She developed a passion for writing about tech from living in the San Francisco Bay Area and working for a technology school. From there, she transitioned to writing about everything from SaaS to hardware and cloud migration. She is excited to be part of the wonderful team at Responsive and looks forward to playing her part in building the future. Connect with Wendy on LinkedIn.