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9 best proposal software solutions: 2023 buying guide

9 best proposal software solutions: 2023 buying guide

Proposal software can deliver tremendous value to your business – helping you win more. But, as you may have already […]

Category: Product & Best Practices

9 best proposal software solutions: 2023 buying guide

9 best proposal software solutions: 2023 buying guide

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.

9 best proposal software solutions (Click to jump to more detail)

  1. Responsive – Best all-around proposal software for revenue growth
  2. Bonsai – Best proposal software for consultants
  3. Better Proposals – Best proposal software for B2C proposals
  4. Visme – Best free proposal software for freelancers
  5. Smart Pricing Table – Best proposal software for simple, itemized quotes
  6. Nusii – Best proposal software for agencies
  7. Buildertrend – Best proposal software for construction job quoting
  8. Instrumentl – Best proposal software for grants
  9. Vendavo – Best proposal software for manufacturing quotes

Table of contents

Proposal software buying guide

Top 9 best proposal software solutions for 2023

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.

Proactive proposals

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.
Search functionality

  • 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

Collaboration functionality

  • 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

Questionnaire handling 

  • 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

Automation features

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.
Process automation

  • 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

Content automation

  • 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.

Company vision

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

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.
Bonsai - Best Proposal Software for Consultants | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

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.
Better Proposals Screenshot for Best Proposal Software

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.

Visme best proposal software for freelancers

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.

Smart Pricing Table - Best Proposal Software for Quotes | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

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.

Nusii - Best Proposal Software for Agencies | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

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.
Buildertrend - Best Proposal Software for Job Bidding | Top 9 Blog from Responsive

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.
Instrumentl Screenshot Best proposal solution for grants

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.
Vendavo Best Proposal Software for manufacturing

Final thoughts

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.

9 of the best due diligence questionnaire (DDQ) examples

9 of the best due diligence questionnaire (DDQ) examples

Recently, you may have noticed an increase in due diligence questionnaires (DDQs). When you respond to them, it’s crucial to get it right. Traditionally, a DDQ comes into play when an organization is considering an investment, completing a merger or assessing an acquisition. In addition, the due diligence questionnaire is now commonly used for vendor risk management.

With the increased prevalence and importance of due diligence, this refresher on DDQ basics will help you feel confident when you encounter your next one. And, with a few real-world examples, responders can improve their process.

In this post, we’ll explore the definition of due diligence, the importance of the due diligence questionnaire, who issues them, when and why. Then, you’ll find a list of the most common kinds of due diligence questions. And, finally, we’ll offer our list of the best nine due diligence questionnaire examples.

If you’re looking to optimize your response process with DDQ software, learn more here.

Jump to:

DDQ meaning: Everything you need to know

Before we jump to the DDQ examples, let’s cover a few basics. When you respond to DDQs, it’s important to answer some basic key questions like: What is a DDQ? Why use a DDQ? and Who uses DDQs? This background information will help you answer questions more efficiently and effectively.

What is a due diligence questionnaire?

A due diligence questionnaire, referred to by the acronym DDQ, is a list of questions designed to evaluate aspects of an organization prior to a merger, acquisition, investment or partnership. Sometimes, the due diligence questionnaire is called the due diligence checklist.

Investopedia defines due diligence as “an investigation or audit of a potential investment or product to confirm all facts, such as reviewing all financial records, plus anything else deemed material. It refers to the care a reasonable person should take before entering into an agreement or a financial transaction with another party.” It’s important to note that issuing a due diligence questionnaire is just one part of the much larger due diligence process.

Why do companies issue DDQs?

The goal of a due diligence questionnaire, like a security questionnaire, is to reduce risk. As a part of an investigative process, the DDQ simplifies the collection and delivery of important information that will inform the transaction. For example, the questionnaire may ask about an organization’s financial information, security policies, contractual obligations, personnel, pending legal matters and regulatory compliance.

DDQs enable organizations to gather large amounts of data quickly and efficiently. Likewise, it streamlines the disclosure process for companies providing information. While there’s no standard due diligence questionnaire, variations of the questionnaire are used globally. Consequently, many DDQs will have overlapping categories and questions.

Who issues due diligence questionnaires?

While DDQs aren’t unique to one industry, they are most extensively used in technology, government and finance. Indeed, the most common version of this questionnaire is the finance DDQ.

Additionally, you may find organizations using other DDQ variations including:

  • Vendor due diligence questionnaire
  • Private equity due diligence questionnaire
  • Third-party due diligence questionnaire
  • Hedge fund due diligence
  • Investment manager due diligence checklist
  • Technical due diligence
  • ESG due diligence

On an individual level, many roles work together to create, issue and analyze due diligence information gathered in the DDQ. Indeed, a mix of financial, legal, mergers and acquisitions, analysts, compliance, IT and procurement professionals may participate in the process.

When do companies issue DDQs?

The due diligence process is intentionally and necessarily complex. Indeed, it is designed to dig up details and surface insights that may otherwise be overlooked. So, a DDQ isn’t a good all-purpose, information-gathering tool. It delivers the most value in the following situations.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) due diligence

Due diligence is crucial in M&A transactions. Prior to completing the transaction, the buy-side organization must verify that the investment is sound and will likely pay off.

Typically, the questions cover general company records, personnel information, financial data, current contract obligations and legal matters. If a company is deciding between several similar opportunities, the information can be used to compare business risks and value side by side.

Investment due diligence

Due diligence questionnaires are useful in a variety of investment situations. For example, common projects well suited to the process include some of those listed above like hedge fund due diligence, institutional investment due diligence, IPO due diligence and venture capital due diligence. Investment due diligence questionnaires explore topics like company founders, customer and supplier information, intellectual property and competitor analysis.

Vendor due diligence

The term vendor due diligence has two distinct meanings. Once you know the difference between them, it’s easy to identify each within the context of their usage.

Proactive sell-side due diligence

When a company intends to put their business up for sale, and they expect to have more than a few interested parties, they may conduct a proactive due diligence exercise. In this situation, the term refers to completing the due diligence process to investigate risks within their own company. Often, all prospective buyers receive the resulting information once they’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This practice speeds the sales process and allows the seller to avoid completing new DDQs for each interested buyer.

Third-party risk assessment

The second type of vendor due diligence deals with managing the risk inherent in supplier partnerships. In this scenario, buyers issue vendor DDQs to potential suppliers. These DDQs are sometimes called third-party or vendor risk assessments.

As information security consultancy KirkpatrickPrice puts it, “No matter the vendor, they pose some level of risk to your organization – especially financial risk, operational risk, reputational risk and cyber risk – because they have access to your data, network, hardware, cloud and more.”

This vendor due diligence questionnaire requests information about vendor’s data security, financials, human resources policies and references. Vendor due diligence is often initially conducted as part of the request for proposal (RFP) process. In addition, the selected vendor must participate in ongoing due diligence.

Types of due diligence questions

To be effective, DDQs must be thorough. The responses must provide enough information to empower buyers to confidently determine whether or not to move forward. This means identifying risks, then taking action to either deem them acceptable, mitigate or avoid them.

Each DDQ is different, depending on the kind of project. And in some cases, a questionnaire may focus entirely on a particular type of due diligence. Financial DDQs, operational DDQs, IT DDQs and vendor DDQs are the most common examples of these category-focused, stand-alone questionnaires.

However, more often, the questions required for a comprehensive DDQ fall into several categories. These categories are subsequently centralized into a single document to suit the engagement. For instance, a hedge fund due diligence questionnaire will use a different combination of questions than an IPO due diligence questionnaire.

Categories of due diligence questions

  • Company questions
  • Founder and company background
  • Shares and ownership information
  • Employee information
  • Environmental factors
  • Diversity and inclusion initiatives
  • Legal overview
  • Financial and debt statements
  • Consumer/customer information
  • Industry and market insights
  • Intellectual property
  • Competitive intelligence
  • Real estate and property holdings
  • Operational information
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Data security and privacy
  • Contractual obligations
  • Administrative information
  • Reputation and publicity reports
  • Information technology systems
  • Tax history

Sample due diligence questions

So, what DDQ questions should you expect to answer? Naturally, it all depends on the engagement and your circumstances. However, here are some common questions that may be asked in a DDQ.

Due diligence questions for investment funds

  • What is your overall strategy or approach to responsible investment?
  • Which disclosure initiatives influence client reporting for this strategy?
  • What international and industry standards or guidelines do you follow?
  • How does your organization audit the quality of your policies?
  • What stewardship methods does your organization use?

Vendor due diligence questions

  • Do you have a business continuity plan?
  • What is your pricing philosophy? How often do your prices change?
  • Describe your employee screening and background check procedures.
  • Do your systems meet our compliance and regulatory requirements?
  • How and where do you store data, both ours and your own?

Operational due diligence questions

  • Have you performed due diligence on your current vendors?
  • How often is your information security policy reviewed and updated?
  • Does your firm have a disaster recovery solution in place?

Intellectual property (IP) due diligence questions

  • List all law firms that manage IP matters for your company.
  • Which patents, patent applications and trademarks relate to the transaction?
  • What confidentiality, nondisclosure or proprietary rights agreements are in place?
  • Are there any product or IP-exclusive rights that have been granted by your company?

9 best due diligence questionnaire examples

Due diligence questionnaires are long and complex, but there are a lot of commonalities, especially within categories.

Below are nine of the most common types of DDQs with sample questions that could help you prepare for the next time you are asked to respond to a DDQ.

1. Limited partners DDQ

The Institutional Limited Partners Association (ILPA) provides a thorough, and periodically updated, due diligence questionnaire. The original document pulled questions from more than a dozen real-world questionnaires provided by limited and general partners as well as third parties. The downloadable DDQ example is available in Word and PDF formats.

It covers 14 crucial areas:

  • General firm information
  • General fund information
  • Investment strategy
  • Investment process
  • Team
  • Alignment of interest
  • Market environment
  • Fund terms
  • Firm governance, risk and compliance
  • Environmental, societal and governance
  • Track record
  • Accounting, valuation and reporting
  • Legal and administration
  • Diversity and inclusion

2. Hedge fund due diligence questionnaire

Principles for Responsible Investing (PRI) is an organization founded by institutional investors to promote responsible investment. The group provides investment tools including their own DDQ checklist example. Helpfully, PRI offers a transparent overview of the questionnaire development process. 

PRI’s recommended hedge fund DDQ contains four categories:

  • Policy
  • Governance 
  • Investment process
  • Monitoring and reporting

3. Business relationship DDQ

MISC issued this due diligence questionnaire example to ensure organizations meet their ethical standards. The questionnaire details their expectations as well as the documentation they require for compliance. MISC goes on to explain its commitment to risk management, saying:

“The due diligence process of clients lies at the heart of minimizing MISC’s risk exposure as a result of activities carried out by MISC on clients’ behalf. At minimum, the due diligence exercise on our client is to ensure that the activities performed by MISC on behalf of the client will not breach our own CoBE’s requirements.”

4. Correspondent banking DDQ

The Wolfsberg Group created a helpful correspondent banking DDQ. This due diligence questionnaire focuses on banking compliance and is designed specifically for public sector organizations. The DDQ contains questions regarding compliance in areas like anti-bribery and corruption, sanctions policies and risk management.

In addition, the Wolfsberg Group provides guidance documentation, PDF and Excel versions of the template as well as Spanish and Japanese language versions.

5. Investor and consultant DDQ

This comprehensive investor and consultant DDQ provided by INREV is a hefty 41-pages long. The INREV association is dedicated to promoting best practices, sharing knowledge and increasing transparency in the non-listed real estate investment industry. 

INREV’s DDQ aims to assist “investors and consultants in the due diligence process to understand a fund manager’s structure, strategy and non-listed real estate business. It also gives insight in a specific vehicle’s strategy, risk processes, management, terms and projected performance. With it, investors can determine, in principle, whether a proposal fits their investment objectives.”

Their due diligence questionnaire template is attractive, highly organized and easy to use. The INREV website also provides helpful appendixes, translations and tools. Download it all in Word to inspire your next DDQ.

6. Environmental, societal and governance (ESG) DDQ

Invest Europe uses this sample DDQ to provide help for general partners as they seek to identify risks and maintain best practices in investing. While other questionnaires on our list deal with investment and finance concerns, this document focuses on environmental and social responsibility. 

Ultimately, organizations can use the questions in this DDQ example to identify potential issues that may need further attention. Luckily, this questionnaire is helpful both before and after the investment, so there’s no wrong time to use it.

7. IPO due diligence checklist

The days, weeks and months leading up to an initial public offering are absolute chaos. Getting the right information into the right hands at the right time can make or break your venture. However, organizations can prepare by exploring this extensive due diligence checklist provided by Find Law.

8. M&A due diligence checklist

LexisNexis created this comprehensive M&A due diligence checklist guide. Organizations can choose from their list of common requirements to fit the unique needs of each project. Choose from these 14 categories and nearly 100 checklist items to create your own ultimate DDQ template.

  • Basic corporate documents
  • Security issuances
  • Shareholder information
  • Material contracts
  • Patent and trademark matters
  • Manufacturing
  • Operations
  • Sales and marketing 
  • Tangible property
  • Litigations and audits
  • Environmental issues
  • Employees
  • Management
  • Other

9. Vendor due diligence checklist example

Procurement professionals are responsible for maximizing value while reducing risk. It’s tricky. Luckily, the best vendor due diligence checklists make finding the right fit easier. So, next time you’re issuing an RFP with a vendor DDQ, check this one-page DDQ list from KirkpatrickPrice to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.

How Responsive can help

We know that responding to DDQs is time-consuming ⁠— that’s why our customers use our RFP software to manage the process.

The Responsive platform empowers you to answer DDQs quickly

  • Organize content in a single knowledge library and quickly add answers to any DDQ
  • Use AI to automatically suggest the best responses
  • Assign, manage and track workflow tasks and deadlines
  • Improve collaboration and compliance so the people work on and approve DDQs
How to use a proposal compliance matrix: Tips, template and examples

How to use a proposal compliance matrix: Tips, template and examples

When it comes to RFPs, simply following the instructions and providing all of the requested information can give you a big advantage. If you think that sounds deceptively simple, you’re right. As RFPs become more complex, proposal managers must take care to respond thoroughly to each question. At the same time, they work to build a compelling narrative and highlight differentiators ⁠— all while ensuring that the proposal meets multiple requirements stated in the RFP. When all is said and done, the path from the RFP requirements to the resulting proposal may feel like a tangled web of information. Fortunately, creating a proposal compliance matrix serves as a map to keep you on track. 

When missing a single requirement can mean automatic disqualification, compliance is crucial. So, you must sift through every line  of the RFP to identify, manage and ensure compliance with each RFP requirement. The proposal compliance matrix enables quick cross-referencing between the information requested in the RFP and the corresponding responses in the proposal.

In this blog, we’ll cover the proposal compliance matrix. First, you’ll learn what a proposal compliance matrix is. Then, we’ll walk step-by-step through how to create and use one to ensure your RFP responses meet every requirement. Finally, you can view real-world examples to help you get started.

What is a proposal compliance matrix?

A proposal compliance matrix is a grid-style tool used by proposal managers to identify, track and meet each requirement in a complex request for proposal (RFP). It may also be called an RFP compliance matrix, compliance traceability matrix or proposal matrix. No matter how it’s referred to, the matrix helps readers understand exactly how the vendor’s proposal aligns with the buyer’s requests. 

What’s the purpose of a proposal compliance matrix?

To understand the value of the proposal compliance matrix, you must consider the buyer’s perspective. 

The RFP has likely been issued by a procurement manager or department head seeking a solution to a problem. They know there are a lot of factors to consider and they need to be certain they’re choosing wisely. Accordingly, they invest time creating an RFP that organizes their needs and ensures objectivity. 

Then, the buyer issues the RFP to a number of vendors who respond with their best offer. Because reading each proposal in detail is labor-intensive, the proposal evaluator performs an initial review. In this review, they quickly check each proposal to verify it meets the requirements stated in the RFP. Unfortunately, if a proposal doesn’t adhere to all of the submission guidelines, minimum criteria and content requirements, it may be disqualified .

After all of the time your team invested, missing a single requirement could mean that no one even ends up reading your proposal. It may seem harsh, but the buyer doesn’t have time to waste and they don’t want to partner with a business that exhibits no attention to detail, poor reader comprehension or an inability to follow instructions. With the stakes this high, you can’t afford to miss anything ⁠— which is why the proposal compliance matrix comes in handy.

The grid-style format lists each customer requirement, where it is stated in the RFP and where it is addressed in the final proposal. Indeed, this enables the proposal manager to track progress and quickly verify that all the necessary information is included.

Who uses them?

Generally, the proposal manager assigned to the RFP creates the compliance matrix and manages any updates to it. Contributors and SMEs may also use the proposal matrix when writing their responses. In addition, reviewers use it as a checklist during the final proposal review to verify compliance before submission. Consequently, it is helpful to save the RFP matrix in a shared, centralized location so that each member of the proposal team can refer to it as needed.

Benefits of using a proposal compliance matrix

Know every need before you bid

Most RFPs are long and detailed, composed of paragraphs of text and dozens of questions. Because requirements are often scattered throughout the document, and not always specifically notated as requirements, they can be easy to miss. Therefore, consolidating the information to create a scannable list makes the customer’s expectations easier to understand and evaluate. With a comprehensive set of needs, your team can confidently determine if you’re a fit and decide to bid or not to bid. 

Additionally, the matrix helps organize the results of the RFP shred process into a checklist to help you track your needs. RFP software automates this process with content analysis.

Prepare a complete plan

As you plan the proposal process, gather your team and assign tasks, the RFP compliance matrix can help. For example, you can use it as a guide when you create the proposal timeline and when you fill out your RACI matrix, assigning each requirement to the appropriate people.

Write relevant responses based on the stated requirements

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are always short on time, so it’s important to provide the information they need without distracting them with unnecessary details. Luckily, they can reference the proposal compliance matrix to quickly understand the customer’s needs.

For example, an RFP software buyer may specify that they require Boolean search functionality in the introduction of the RFP. Unfortunately, without a proposal compliance matrix, a subject matter expert may not think to include that detail, if it isn’t mentioned again in the particular question that asks them to describe search capabilities. 

Furthermore, if the SME wants to see if there is additional helpful context before they write their response, they can use information from the matrix to save time. It enables them to jump directly to the section and paragraph in the RFP that discusses the requirements assigned to them.

Create a roadmap for reviewers

Finally, once the proposal is complete, it undergoes final review and approval. The proposal compliance matrix can be used as your checklist to ensure that each requirement is clearly addressed before submission. 

How to create and use a proposal compliance matrix

Ultimately, the point of the proposal compliance matrix is to check the RFP, line by line, for each of the customer’s requirements. This process is often referred to as shredding the RFP. You can shred the RFP using RFP management software or perform the process manually.

RFP compliance using proposal software

As technology advances, proposal software becomes more skilled at performing the RFP breakdown. Indeed, proposal automation can save time and shred an RFP in seconds. However, it can only go so far and proposal managers are still needed to verify, evaluate, and interpret the results.

How to create a proposal compliance matrix manually

Alternatively, shredding the RFP and creating a proposal compliance matrix takes more time, but is easy once you know what to do. All you need is a spreadsheet and your RFP.

Read through the RFP line by line. As you find requirements, add them to the first column of the spreadsheet in the order that they appear in the RFP. Then, as you read through the RFP, you’ll be able to spot requirements by looking for words like shall, will, must or should. In addition, include any questions that appear in the body of the RFP. Finally, check for information requests that use verbs like describe, list and explain. 

For each requirement you identify, note the section, page and paragraph where it appears in the RFP. Then, use the next two columns to record our ability to comply (F – fully comply, P – partially comply, N – do not comply) as well as where the response to the requirement is located in your proposal (section, page and paragraph).

As you can imagine, it quickly becomes a lot of information. But, if you want to track more proposal data, adding columns to the compliance matrix is easy. For example, you could use the proposal matrix to manage task assignments or make notes for other team members. In addition, you may also add columns with information that helps SMEs write their responses, including win themes, differentiators or customer hot buttons. Indeed, some proposal teams use a column to draft or summarize their responses as well.

If the manual approach isn’t for you, consider automating the process. A robust response management platform should:

  • Digitally shred RFPs using predetermined keywords
  • Format it in a spreadsheet
  • Understand and track the RFP requirements

RFP compliance matrix best practices

To get the most out of your RFP compliance matrix, there are a few things you should know.

1. Create your matrix at the beginning of the proposal process

The proposal compliance matrix should guide you as you write the proposal outline and create your responses. If you wait until the end to create it, you’ll miss out on a lot of benefits, and possibly cost yourself a lot of unnecessary time and effort

2. Match the language used by your customer

Avoid confusion by using the exact language and terminology found in the RFP. Resist the urge to paraphrase or reword requests. If clarification is needed, use a notes column to collaborate with your team.

3. Continually update the proposal matrix

As you create your proposal outline and subsequent proposal drafts, the sections of your proposal may shift. Update the response location column of your matrix to reflect any changes.

4. Share your matrix with the proposal evaluator

While the proposal compliance matrix is typically created by the vendor for internal reference only, it can be helpful for the proposal evaluator as well. Indeed, it can serve as a cheat sheet and map to your proposal for them.

In fact, some procurement managers include a proposal compliance matrix template and require the vendor to fill it out and include it with their response. Alternatively, you can always proactively provide it. Just remember to remove any internal notes or comments before attaching it to your proposal.

Compliance matrix templates and examples

Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) proposal compliance matrix template

APMP provides a wealth of resources for proposal managers including this proposal compliance matrix template. You can download the Excel file and customize the matrix to meet your needs.

Technical compliance matrix example 

This proposal matrix example is from the Department of Administrative Services. They require participating vendors to complete it as part of their submission to streamline the evaluation process.

IT support services – Proposal compliance matrix example

Created by The Federal Proposal Experts (FPEX), this is a good example of what you might expect a public sector RFP compliance matrix to look like.

As a part of their RFP process, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority requires that interested vendors complete this RFP compliance matrix. Instructions request that vendors provide an explanation for any requirements the vendor is unable to meet or deems not applicable.

When it comes down to winning RFPs, complete compliance can make or break your proposal. So, whether you invest time to manually create your proposal matrix or use RFP software to automate the process, attention to detail always pays off.

If manual processes seem a little daunting, ask how Responsive’s matrices might make your life a whole lot easier. 

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

If you’ve ever responded to a request for proposal (RFP), you know the feeling of relief that comes when you finally submit the finished proposal. After all, your response is likely the product of hours of hard work spent writing, revising, designing and reviewing. And, depending on your RFP project management approach (or lack thereof), the path to creating the final proposal may have been anything but clear. Unfortunately, this is the case for many proposal teams.

Without a clear RFP project management approach, responding to RFPs is chaotic, unclear and frustrating. Even worse, the lack of organization often results in unsuccessful bids, rendering the time you invested a total waste.

RFP project management brings order to the information, tasks and people involved in the RFP response process. Furthermore, it lays the groundwork for executing a faster, easier and more effective process.

If you’re looking for an organized approach to RFP responses, look no further. This post will explore the ins and outs of RFP project management. To start, you’ll learn key definitions, why project management works well for the proposal process and common approaches to try. Then, I’ll share key steps to implementing an RFP project management strategy. Finally, I’ll provide tips and resources to ensure success.

RFP project management basics

Project management is one of the three key skills required for successful proposal management. Indeed, it is the strategy for executing the proposal process.

Project management definition

Project management, sometimes abbreviated as PM, is the practice of planning and executing defined processes that organize the actions, tools, roles and knowledge required to accomplish a specific goal.

Typically, each project has a unique goal and a set ending point. Ultimately, the purpose of project management is to improve efficiency, consistency and outcomes.

What is an RFP in project management?

In project management, RFP stands for request for proposal. An RFP is a formal request sent from a buyer to potential vendors seeking a product, service or solution. 

The RFP document asks all vendors the same questions. Then, interested vendors submit their answers in a proposal document for consideration. This approach promotes transparency and fairness while enabling buyers to make data-driven purchasing decisions using consistent criteria.

How project management principles apply to RFPs?

There’s no way around it, RFPs are notoriously difficult to manage. There are dozens of elements to organize. And, they are a key element of business growth. Despite their importance, the same challenges arise over and over again. Typically, the core of the problem is a lack of communication and accountability, making project management and RFPs a natural match. 

Requests for proposals are projects with a set beginning and end. In addition, the many tools, people and actions required to accomplish the end goal must come together in the right order at the right time. Consequently, project management creates a helpful framework for organizing the RFP response process.

What does an RFP project manager do?

Many most successful proposal coordinators share similar duties and skill sets that make them particularly effective at proposal management.

Effective RFP project managers are:

  • Team leaders
  • Highly organized
  • Critical thinkers
  • Detail oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Creative problem solvers
  • Patient
  • Communicative
  • Strategy focused

Proposal project manager responsibilities

Within the RFP response project, the proposal manager acts as the project manager. Consequently, they are ultimately responsible for the completion and on-time delivery of the proposal. However, there are a number of other responsibilities that they perform. 

Proposal project manager duties

  • Act as an advocate for the organization – If, at any point, the desired outcome is no longer achievable, it’s the PM’s responsibility to cut losses and move on or escalate the problem to executive management.
  • Gather and aggregate intelligence – From summarizing the capture management plan to collecting and inserting answers from subject matter experts (SMEs), the proposal manager brings it all together.
  • Facilitate team meetings – The project manager schedules meetings and creates the agenda. For example, they run the kick off, update, review and debrief meetings.
  • Establish and communicate expectations – The RFP response timeline is created and enforced by the proposal project manager. For instance, they set touch points and milestones to ensure on-time final proposal delivery.
  • Solve problems that arise – As the project manager, they are responsible for clearing roadblocks, managing bottlenecks, bridging communication gaps and correcting blindspots. Essentially, they do whatever it takes to keep the project moving forward.
  • Facilitate communication between steps – The proposal project manager ensures that tasks with chronological dependencies move forward to the next person promptly. If your process is manual, that may be an email notification. Alternatively if you use RFP response software, those task notifications are managed by proposal automation.
  • Act as the buyer’s point of contact – To centralize communications between your organization and the buyer, the proposal manager acts as the primary point of contact. As such, they ask which elements of the RFP are most important to the evaluators, request scoring and evaluation information, seek feedback about lost opportunities and request evaluation scoring information.
  • Verify the proposal is compliant – The project manager is responsible for ensuring that the proposal meets the RFP evaluation criteria and requirements before approving the final draft.

Benefits of RFP project management and common approaches

Project management defines the goal, and provides a step-by-step guide plan to reach that goal. Because it breaks down the project into individual tasks, deliverables and workflows, it’s much easier to manage. But, these aren’t the only benefits of RFP project management.

How project management improves the proposal process

  • Ensures team alignment and defines objectives
  • Improves process predictability
  • Enhances clarity between teams by defining RFP terminology
  • Provides quick updates for inquiring executive leaders
  • Promotes consistency that enables data capture and optimization
  • Creates an organized approach, making responding to unknown factors easier
  • Enables fast adaptation to challenges by identifying impacted parties
  • Reduces the risk of including inaccurate, unapproved or unreviewed responses
  • Improves understanding of the meaning and intent of RFP questions

Common RFP project management strategies

Project management practices evolved over the years as business strategies and technology advanced. If finding the right approach for your team feels overwhelming, consider asking your proposal colleagues and fellow project managers for insight on the strategies they prefer. Alternatively, you can start by exploring three of the most popular approaches for RFPs below.

RACI Matrix

A good choice for teams that struggle to know who is doing what.

An RFP RACI matrix focuses on identifying the roles required to complete each task within the project. Indeed, the RACI acronym represents each of the roles and stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. For example, when answering new questions in an RFP, the proposal manager is often the person responsible, a subject matter expert would be accountable, a stakeholder or sales person may be consulted and an executive would be informed.

Proposal timeline/Gantt chart

A good choice for teams that struggle with deadlines.

The proposal timeline and Gantt chart approach illustrates the order and timing of tasks at a glance. Generally, the proposal timeline gives an overview of the process and remains the same through the completion of the project. On the other hand, a Gantt chart details the timing and progress of individual tasks. Consequently, many teams use both tools in tandem.

Project implementation plan

A good choice for proposal teams that frequently include members new to RFPs.

The detail included in a proposal project implementation plan helps new stakeholders and subject matter experts navigate the process. This RFP project management approach focuses on providing context, detail and instructions for success. Furthermore, it guides contributors through the process and offers more background information than other approaches.

Additional project management approaches

Here are three more project management approaches that you may have heard of and could adapt to RFP responses. The Digital Project Manager has a helpful overview article with information on each.

  • Agile – For an experienced team of doers, focuses on final outcomes, collaboration and flexibility
  • Scrum – For teams with several strong leaders and well-defined areas of expertise within the proposal process
  • Kanban – For teams that work best with visuals, focuses on individual task progress

How to improve your proposal process with project management

There are a few things that remain the same regardless of which project management approach you select. Here’s the steps that will make your new process successful.

1. Identify the goal of the project

Generally, this part is fairly straightforward. Clearly, you want to win an RFP opportunity. However, it’s important to think beyond that and define why this RFP is a good fit as well as the projected impact on the business if you win. In this situation, it is often helpful to refer back to your discussions to bid or not bid.

2. Define the project tasks

After you’ve identified your goal, you must clearly state the tasks that your team must accomplish for success. For example, your list might look like this:

  • Create your project brief 
  • Identify tasks that can be accomplished concurrently
  • Schedule and facilitate a kickoff meeting
  • Collect and submit follow up questions for the buyer
  • Review your RFP content library for reusable answers
  • Customize reusable answers for this opportunity
  • Assign new questions to subject matter experts
  • Write and review new answers
  • Set proposal pricing
  • Compose proposal document
  • Review for answer consistency and accuracy
  • Format proposal
  • Design and add visual elements
  • Ensure that each of the RFP business requirements are met
  • Final review by marketing and sales
  • Executive review and approval of proposal
  • Final proposal submission
  • Request feedback on final result
  • Hold debrief meeting for feedback
  • Optimize processes and update knowledge library

3. Build your proposal team

Now, review your task list. Who is best suited to accomplish each item? Will they need help, input or review from others? Match people with the tasks they will be assigned and the role they will play in the process. Your list will likely include stakeholders, support staff, SMEs, department heads and executive leaders.

4. Explore information and tools needed

Next, you need to ensure that your team has the information and tools they need to successfully accomplish the tasks you’ve provided. For instance, do your subject matter experts all have access to your knowledge library, centralized proposal or better yet, RFP software? Do you have the performance data and customer references the buyer asked for? Has your capture management team provided their research, win themes and customer insights? Avoid delays and roadblocks in your process by verifying the necessary resources are available before the project begins.

5. Create a project brief

Bring it all together in a project brief. Start with your project goal. Then, share the key milestones in the project. For example, you might include when follow up questions are due, when SME answers are due and the proposal submission deadline. Next, provide the project tasks matched with the assigned staff. Finally, provide the information that contributors will need to complete their tasks.

6. Get started

Now, you’re ready to execute your project. At the kickoff meeting, ensure everyone is aware of the RFP project management approach and how to use it. Then, it’s up to you as the project manager to keep the process on track.

7. Track and save key data

One of the biggest benefits of proposal project management is the opportunity to gather RFP data. Indeed, thanks to the consistency of your process, you can track response cost, time spent, answer quality and final outcome. Once you’ve collected enough data, review for patterns, roadblocks and opportunities for improvement.

RFP project management tips

Take charge

When your proposal team gathers for meetings, remember your intent and purpose. You’re not asking for opinions. You are dealing in facts. Are the contributors’ workloads manageable? Is the project progressing as expected? Are the required resources and information available? Is the plan feasible? 

Essentially, you’re asking the team for insight on any potential gaps or blind spots. However, you are NOT asking for input about the project management style, responsibilities or reviews. We all have that team member that always has something negative to say. Don’t let anyone derail your project with uncertainty.

Adjust as needed

While consistency is an essential element to reap the full benefits of project management, not every RFP needs the full treatment. For instance, if a proposal is brief and requires input from two people, you can abbreviate your process and accelerate your timeline. In addition, if you’re the incumbent vendor and the RFP is a formality, the approach should change. 

Remember, generally these methodologies are best used to manage big projects. So, if an informal process is significantly more efficient to achieve the end goal, then do it and spend the time you saved tackling something else.

Seek executive support

Inevitably, you’ll encounter roadblocks and challenges. If they’re caused by someone outside of your chain of command, you may feel uncomfortable addressing the issue. This is why it’s so important to have executive support.

When your team sees visible support from executives, you’ll benefit from an improved position in workload prioritization, mediation if needed, enhanced responsiveness and a higher awareness of the value of your work.

Centralize the process

Many proposal teams struggle with miscommunications and a lack of clarity around the proposal process. By centralizing everything, each team member has access to all the information they need to make informed decisions and carry out their next steps. 

While shared drives help, the most effective way to centralize the proposal process while improving efficiency at every step is RFP software. Your RFP response solution should feature workflows and collaboration, knowledge management, automation and integrations. 

Don’t change your process to solve temporary problems

As a project manager, it’s important to identify the cause of challenges that arise. For instance, you may encounter unusual circumstances, unique barriers or uncooperative people. Certainly, it is tempting to alter the process immediately to try and solve the problem. However, resist this urge.

Unique circumstances are bound to come up from time to time. And, resistance to change is natural.  But, rather than immediately solving perceived problems with process changes, focus on identifying the likelihood of the issue coming up again as well as improving buy-in and accountability with individuals. In short, don’t permanently alter your RFP project management approach to overcome temporary challenges. 

Give it time

Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have a seamless process the very first time you use your new RFP project management strategy. In fact, it’s possible that the first time you use a new process may be less efficient. However, persevere!

As you and your team become more familiar with the proactive RFP management process and expectations, you’ll see remarkable (and measurable) improvements. Remember, reverting back to a reactive process will keep you from reaching your full potential. 

Ultimately, the purpose of RFP project management is to reduce the number of hours it takes to create a proposal while also improving the likelihood of success. 

As we all know, the hours you put into a proposal aren’t free. Not only does a more efficient RFP process save your company money, but it also gives you more time to answer additional RFPs with the potential to further grow your business. The result? A compounded impact that any proposal team can achieve with the right knowledge, process and tools.

Accelerate your RFP for asset management response process

Accelerate your RFP for asset management response process

When your financial institution receives a new RFP for asset management, is it viewed as an exciting opportunity? Or, is it just one of a dozen (or more) RFPs waiting for completion? Many financial services firms report that the number of RFPs from institutional investors has increased dramatically in the last few years. And, as organizations continue to focus on maximizing value while minimizing risk, there’s no end in sight.

For some firms, answering every incoming asset management RFP has become an impossible task. Consequently, they are forced to prioritize the best opportunities and ask their RFP teams to find ways to work more efficiently. The outcome isn’t ideal for the firm or the prospective client. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.

In this post, I’ll offer insight into why the RFP for asset management workload increased. In addition, I’ll highlight the challenges facing investment firms. And finally, I’ll provide helpful tips to empower you to respond more efficiently and effectively.

The current state of RFPs for asset management

So, why are asset management RFPs piling up? It comes down to a combination of factors.

More RFPs more often

RFPs have always been a part of institutional investing. But now organizations send more RFPs to more firms per mandate. In fact, an article from Institutional Investor notes that the number of RFPs fielded by managers rose by 13 percent between 2017 and 2018.

Because the market is so competitive right now, investors use the RFP process to evaluate existing relationships as well as explore new services. However, the increased volume of RFPs means that firms must find new ways to stand out from the crowd while managing more work. Ultimately, more RFPs is good news ⁠— if you can keep up.

Demand for customized financial services

It’s no surprise that organizations that leverage their assets to pursue strategic business goals want partners who understand their needs. These organizations are no longer satisfied with run-of-the-mill service from big-name investment firms.

Indeed, the high demand for customized institutional investment services leads to longer asset management RFPs with more complex questions. Not only that, but we’re seeing buyers of these services become more knowledgeable and savvy than ever. The result is that each response in each RFP for asset management must be customized, complete and dependable. That level of detail takes time.

As the article from Institutional Investor discusses the shift saying:

“… the increase in manager evaluation documents is partly due to a shift in asset allocation among investors that emphasizes more complex asset classes and solutions, such as multi-asset funds. But it is also driven by allocators and investment consultants [are] paying more attention to the risks they’re taking.”

Emphasis on risk management

Finally, as mentioned in the quote above, the last factor influencing the volume of RFPs for asset management is the industry-wide focus on risk management. RFPs enable institutional investors to ensure compliance and transparency in their asset management firm selection. However, within the selection process and throughout the relationship they must also verify that the firm won’t put the business at risk.

So, in addition to completing RFPs to win new business, investment firms must also complete individual due diligence questionnaires (DDQ) from each existing client each quarter. Questions asked within the DDQ are similar to those found within an RFP for institutional business. For example, the DDQ will likely request updates on total assets under management (AUM), investment personnel changes and any changes in policy.

Unfortunately, DDQs are often just as repetitive and time-consuming to complete as an RFP. Because of the overlap between RFPs and DDQs, the same staff often answers both documents using their knowledge library. While these tools effectively identify risks for the client, they certainly increase the workload for the investor relations or client services staff who answer them.

RFP challenges facing asset management firms

While some firms have added dedicated RFP staff, others have their investor relations or client services teams manage incoming RFPs and quarterly DDQs. With the increased workload, team members who serve as proposal coordinators face a number of challenges.

  • Prioritizing RFPs and deciding to bid or not to bid
  • Meeting fast turnaround times and quick deadlines
  • Creating a consistent and repeatable RFP response process
  • Finding previous answers to RFPs and DDQs
  • Verifying that previous answers are accurate and compliant
  • Coordinating with subject matter experts (SMEs) to create new proposal content
  • Managing RFP workflows and approvals

3 ways to accelerate your asset management RFP responses

Regardless of how many people work together to complete proposals, every firm can benefit from a faster RFP response process. Here’s how to answer all of those RFPs for institutional business in less time and win more.

1. Build a better knowledge library

Using previous RFP responses is a quick way to save time when answering a new RFP for asset management. While businesses want customized answers, there are many similarities in the types of questions they ask. Instead of searching through old proposals individually, create a centralized knowledge library to store questions and responses.

Knowledge management is one of the many skills that make a great proposal manager. In fact, creating and managing a knowledge library is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve efficiency. Whether you collect questions and answers in a Word document, spreadsheet or RFP software (more on this later), you’ll be able to find what you need more quickly.

In addition to cataloging the content itself, consider adding metadata to help categorize knowledge records. For example, segmenting records by region, client industry and topic provides a quick way to find all of the relevant information.

Remember, more content in your knowledge library means less back-and-forth with SMEs. It’s much easier for them to review and update answers than it is to create from scratch.

RFP for investment management examples

If you’re not sure where to start as you begin to build your knowledge library, check out these RFP for asset management examples for inspiration. Each of them provides sample questions to help you start creating an RFP content library.

2. Maintain a team mentality

Successful asset management RFP responses require input from many stakeholders and subject matter experts. Together, this proposal team works together to create winning proposals. However, the members of the team are all busy people, and coordinating with them via email can be a challenge.

To work efficiently and effectively, everyone involved in the RFP process must understand the importance of the project and be invested in the outcome. To encourage a team mentality, hold a kickoff meeting to get everyone on the same page. Share your proposal timeline with the team to ensure they understand the RFP process and their role in it.

I also find that creating and referencing a RACI matrix throughout the project helps to clarify the proposal workflow and responsibilities. Additionally, keep your team engaged in the process by asking for feedback, regularly reviewing proposal content, holding debriefs and celebrating success.

3. Adopt RFP software

RFP software for financial services firms seamlessly manages all aspects of RFPs for institutional investment and DDQs. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many financial services professionals that have benefited from proposal management software, like Responsive (formerly RFPIO). The platform brings your knowledge and team together into a single, centralized workspace and offers tools to improve the RFP process.

RFP software empowers asset managers to:

Improve efficiency

Keeping up with the competition means answering more RFPs, faster. RFP software solutions empower proposal teams through the entire process.

Proposal automation ⁠— RFP software speeds the proposal process with RFP automation. Simply import the RFP for asset management or DDQ and the system will identify questions you’ve answered before. Then, it will suggest relevant answers, so your team spends less time answering standard questions.

Workflow and collaboration ⁠— All of your team’s work on your proposal happens within the RFP tool. The proposal coordinator can create workflows and collaborate in one place. For example, RFP software makes it easy to assign new questions to SMEs, collaborate on responses and request approvals. It moves the process out of email and siloed systems to create a single source of truth.

Dashboards and reporting— Keeping the proposal moving forward can be a challenge. However, the RFP management system provides at-a-glance insight from real-time dashboards. Each member of your team can quickly see what they are responsible for and when it’s due.

Ensure consistency and compliance

When your team moves quickly, it’s hard to ensure that RFP responses are compliant. RFP software protects your firm by improving consistency and ensuring oversight.

Knowledge management ⁠— As I mentioned above, knowledge management is crucial to an efficient RFP process. Luckily, RFP software makes it much easier to collect, categorize and find previous response content from investor relations, compliance and analyst teams. Leverage tagging, account hierarchies and an easy-to-use search tool, to ensure the right content is always at your fingertips.

Regular review cycles — With dozens of DDQs due each quarter, it’s crucial that the knowledge library is kept up to date at all times. RFP software makes keeping track of updates simple. Just assign the knowledge record to the responsible person and set a recurring review cycle. Then, the system automatically sends a notification. When the records are updated, metadata is automatically attached including the date of the change, who updated it and how often it has been used. Now anyone using the knowledge base can quickly verify that the record is current.

Permissions, audits and approvals ⁠— Undoubtedly, your proposals contain detailed and sensitive information. The RFP system protects this data with secure permissions allowing users access to only the information they need. In addition, it logs changes to content so tracking edits is easy.

Preparing for the future of institutional investment

As competition within the financial services industry continues to heat up, your firm must leverage every advantage possible to stay ahead. That means finding creative ways to answer more RFPs for asset management without compromising quality or compliance. To prepare for the future plan to leverage knowledge management, harness the power of your proposal team and RFP software to gain an edge and ensure continued AUM growth.

Create winning RFPs in 5 easy steps

Create winning RFPs in 5 easy steps

Want to start winning RFPs but the response process gives you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? You’re not alone. Every proposal writer knows what it feels like to spend hours searching through spreadsheets, emails and old RFP bids for answers. After all, they know they’ve answered this before! All too often, when they finally locate the content, they discover the answer is outdated.

Then, you feel guilty for interrupting a subject matter expert to get critical proposal content. Meanwhile, you know they have their own pressing concerns. All of this to complete a bid that has no guarantee of winning new business … Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.

By following the five tips listed below, you can simplify the proposal process and create winning RFPs that land your organization on the shortlist.

1. Identify and understand your ideal customer

Responding to every RFP that comes in the door doesn’t increase your chances of winning new business. In fact, it wastes time and resources.

For example, if you don’t have an existing relationship with the issuer, experts say your chances of winning are very low. And, every second you spend chasing a low-probability opportunity is time you’re not focused on the deals you’re more likely to close.

So, stop going after deals that aren’t a good fit for your company. Focus on winning RFPs that support your business goals. The best way to do this is to use a bid or no bid process.

2. Define your RFP process

Once you’ve decided to bid on a project, determine the most efficient way to complete the proposal.

If you don’t have an RFP team or proposal coordinator, don’t worry — a lot of companies don’t have those roles. Just make sure to clearly define ownership with a RACI matrix and responsibilities in the RFP process. That way everyone knows who is involved, what the expectations are and when the deadlines are.

If possible, give yourself 72 hours or so to proofread and add the final touches before submitting the bid. This will also give you time to ensure the responses carry the same voice and tone, which can take work when multiple stakeholders provide content.

3. Assign proposal tasks early

Start assigning tasks as soon as you receive the RFP. Whatever you do, do NOT procrastinate. Remember, if you have to engage subject matter experts, proposals are lower on their priority list so it may take some time to get the answers you need.

Giving them as much time to answer questions as possible will help them balance their priorities and help create winning RFPs. In addition, it prevents you from scrambling to add their content at the last minute.

4. Be genuine — Customize canned answers

If you use canned responses, the people who score the submission will see right through it. Instead, you should provide customized responses that directly address their most pressing concerns.

So, how can you give your team more time to customize answers? Great question! Stop reinventing the wheel with every RFP response. It’s imperative you develop a centralized repository of proposal content you can quickly access and tailor to each RFP.

This can be daunting, I know. But it’s absolutely worth it. Start by compiling answers from recent, successful RFP bids. You’ll know the content is up to date because the bid is recent, and you’ll know it’s compelling because you won the bid. Then, create a list of the most frequently asked questions and start collecting answers.

You may need help from some of your team with this step. Don’t hesitate to ask. They’ll likely be happy to help knowing this will prevent them from having to answer the same questions over and over again.

5. Highlight how you are different, but don’t give away your secret sauce

Keep it simple. Provide value through substance, not superfluous detail. For example, a public relations firm might want to detail how their industry contacts and relationships can help a potential client get the exposure and press they’re looking for.

They won’t, however, want to list those contacts to prospects — it provides little value, can potentially undermine the sale and may even sour those critical relationships.

To learn more about how Responsive RFP software can help you create even more winning RFPs, schedule a free demo. 

The perfect proposal format: Create eye-catching RFP responses

The perfect proposal format: Create eye-catching RFP responses

While it’s true that looks aren’t everything, when it comes to your proposal format, appearance is important. Visual appeal is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. The way your RFP response looks impacts how your potential client feels about your company. A properly formatted proposal is more approachable, engaging and effective. Consequently, paying attention to proposal formatting pays off.

I’ve worked on countless proposals and RFP presentations in my career. Frequently, I find myself adjusting the same things. So, the big question is: What should a proposal look like? To help, I wanted to share some tips to help you view your proposals from a design perspective. 

In this blog, I’ll start by offering some things to think about when considering your proposal format. In addition, I’ll offer 11 tips for creating visually appealing proposals. And finally, I’ll share my favorite tools to help. Armed with these tips and tools, you’ll understand how these small adjustments make a big impact.

Things to remember when thinking about formatting

As you read through the tips below, there are a few things you should keep in mind. The format of your proposal should always support your end goal. Naturally, that goal is to help a potential customer decide that your business is the best choice. Some of the suggestions may seem small, but every little advantage counts.

What proper proposal formatting can do

Make a positive impression

Your business did a lot of work to get this RFP, so the response should capitalize on the good impression you’ve already made through capture management. Consequently, the proposal design should reinforce your brand, professionalism and reputation. In addition, the way your RFP response looks can communicate that your company is easy to work with and understands what the buyer needs.

Encourage evaluators to actually read your proposal

Sadly, most of the people who will see your proposal won’t actually read it. It’s unfortunate, but true. In the best-case scenario, your proposal will be one of three options, but at worst, one of dozens. As an evaluator, no matter how short the RFP is, evaluation is a daunting prospect. Naturally, the first review of an RFP response is quick. Several of the tips below are designed to grab attention and turn the procurement manager’s impulse to skim and scan into a positive.

Advance to the shortlist and win the business

Ultimately, the quality of your proposal content should be compelling enough to win the business. However, as any person who evaluates proposals regularly can tell you, there are little things that can work against you. It may seem unfair, but typos and inconsistencies are a distraction. In addition, they communicate carelessness, a lack of attention to detail and an inability to execute. Certainly, those qualities aren’t often associated with winning proposals.

11 tips for appealing proposal formatting

Note: If there’s a tool that applies directly to the tip, click the [tool] text to jump directly to it in the tools section.

1. Pick your font with purpose

To kick off, let’s talk about fonts. It’s a little thing, but not all fonts are created equal. Don’t think it could possibly make a difference in your proposal? Check out this example:

All three of these fonts are well-known and available in Microsoft Word. Each is 12-point and has the same line spacing, but the difference is remarkable. Not only do some fonts pose a page-limit challenge, but imagine having to read an entire proposal in Papyrus. My eyes are exhausted just thinking about it.

If your RFP response will likely be distributed by the issuer digitally, I recommend a sans-serif font, like Arial. While the debate is ongoing, generally designers believe that these simple fonts are best for digital reading. The reason is interesting (at least to a designer) and you can read more about it in this article.

On the other hand, if you know your proposal will be printed or you must submit a hard copy, a serif font may be the right pick. Books and newspapers are typically printed in a serif font, like Times New Roman, so readers are comfortable with the style. Interestingly, it is estimated that Times New Roman uses 27 percent less ink than Arial. So, if you often submit hard copies of long proposals, it’s a reliable pick that looks good and saves you money.

2. Stick with a style [tool]

As I mentioned above, consistency counts. While I don’t have a strong opinion about the Oxford comma, your entire proposal should follow the same style. After all, the last thing you want to do is distract an engaged reader from your message.

When working with several authors and subject matter experts (SMEs), you’ll likely receive content that has a variety of appearances. From page layout to font and everything in between, the proposal design should look the same from front to back. When I review proposals, I always run through this checklist to ensure consistency:

Proposal formatting checklist

  • Margins
  • Font(s)
    • No more than two
    • Size and line spacing
  • Headers
    • Font and size
    • Title or sentence case
  • Capitalization
    • Product or solution names
    • Employee titles
  • Oxford commas – Yes or no
  • Sentence spacing – One or two spaces
  • Photos – Style, border, shape
  • Charts and graphs – Style, colors, font
  • Spelling – International differences
  • Lists
    • Bullet points or dashes
    • Numbers or letters

3. Embrace your brand

Use your proposal format to support your company brand. Part of being memorable is being recognizable. For example, if you have a well-established brand, consider using your company logo, colors, font and images in your proposal format. Not only will it reinforce your brand identity, but it will make your proposal stand out from the stack.

Branded proposal format example

Check out this example of branded proposal formatting from FedEx. Even without looking it up (or reading ahead), I’m sure you could draw their logo and name their brand colors. Accordingly, FedEx leverages its distinctive look in their proposal design. They feature their logo, use brand colors for headers and include photos to make their proposal incredibly easy to spot.

There’s a lot to learn from this proposal format example, and you’ll definitely see it pop up a few more times throughout the rest of our tips.

4. Be concise but nice [tool]

In the world of proposal review and scoring, brevity is a kindness. However, without the benefit of the timing and tone of verbal communication, overly short written responses may be misinterpreted as blunt or harsh. Beyond the challenge of creating a singular voice from a patchwork of input, proposal coordinators must find a balance between cordiality and concision.

Luckily, your RFP cover letter and executive summary present an opportunity to make a human connection. Use these introductory documents to set the tone for the rest of the proposal. Consider mentioning intangible reasons why you’re a good fit. For example, discuss how you can uniquely serve them, your vision for the future and company values you have in common.

Within your RFP responses, strive for short sentences and paragraphs. As you read lengthy answers from SMEs, look for compound sentences that can be broken down. From there, you’ll often find that part of the sentence wasn’t necessary. In addition, it is helpful to read the answer and then summarize it to yourself. With the shortest possible answer in mind, it will be easier to communicate the essential facts and remove anything else.

By simple virtue of being easy to read and not overwhelmingly dense, your proposal will be memorable. This goes for paragraphs too. Try to keep things as simple as possible, so your reader isn’t faced with a wall of text.

5. Personalize with pictures [tool]

Proposals don’t have to be a massive block of text. One of the best ways to catch and retain attention is by adding pictures. For example, if your proposal includes short bios for key staff, add a headshot for each. Or, if the RFP requests a customer story or reference, include a photo or logo from that customer.

Images break up your text blocks, are eye catching and help the issuer picture themselves as your customer. However, when you use images, make sure they are relevant, secondary to your content and good quality.

Again, our proposal format example from FedEx does a great job of using images to capture attention. In the image below, the RFP question is about eco-friendly transportation. Their answer includes information about their EarthSmart program. Additionally, it is accompanied by an image of a truck with the EarthSmart logo. The combination makes the idea of green initiatives feel more concrete.

6. Take advantage of video [tool]

If you respond via an RFP software platform, you have a unique advantage. RFP management systems can enable you to embed videos into your RFP responses. The applications are endless. For example: If the RFP asks customer success questions, you can include a short video about the process. Indeed, who better than the department director to talk through the onboarding process while showing how quick and easy it is to access support services? Notably, a minute of video is the equivalent of about 150 words, the equivalent of about a quarter page of text.

7. Leverage links

In addition to embedding video, proposal software enables you to include links in your responses. Consequently, the resulting proposal is shorter and the person evaluating it has more control.

For instance, a procurement manager may only need the basics about data security protocol, however, when they pass the proposal along to the IT department, a link allows them to dig in further without additional back and forth.

Including links also reduces file sizes. And, it allows the vendor to control access to the information, if necessary. So, even sensitive information can be shared without sending it via email. Ultimately, links allow you to provide additional information without getting bogged down by attachments, addendums and supplemental documentation tacked onto the end.

8. Get creative with charts and graphs [tool]

Let’s face it, spreadsheets are not likely to hold anyone’s attention for long. So, rather than just linking to an attached spreadsheet, create a chart or graph to illustrate your most impactful stats.

Here’s our FedEx proposal formatting example one more time. In a continuation of the question about sustainability, the company further illustrates the results of their efforts. FedEx uses infographic-style visuals to present information in an engaging way.

Not only do they tout their accomplishments, but they also share their ongoing goals for the future. Certainly, it’s a powerful statement of their commitment to doing their part for the environment. For companies who prioritize partnerships with companies who share their values, this looks like a winning proposal.

Remember, just like images and video, the charts and graphs you include must be relevant to the RFP question. No matter how tempting it is to shoehorn your best numbers into the proposal, resist the urge.

9. Make it accessible and inclusive [tool]

Assumptions and implicit bias are everywhere you look. But, they shouldn’t be in your proposal. Remember, once you submit, you don’t know who within your potential customer’s organization will need to read and weigh in on your proposal. Accessibility and inclusion are powerful and matter deeply. Here are some easy ways to ensure your proposal can connect with everyone:

Quick tips for proposal accessibility

  • Avoid using color combinations that are tricky for people with color blindness
  • Don’t use font colors or images that are low contrast
  • Add alt text to describe images for people who are visually impaired

A few considerations for inclusive proposals

  • Use ‘they’ instead of gendered pronouns when referring to a hypothetical person
  • Be sure to feature images that are representative of your diverse company and customer base
  • Avoid language that may alienate your reader like technical jargon and sports metaphors

10. Follow the requested format

This shouldn’t have to be said, but you’d be surprised how often we hear procurement professionals express their frustration that vendors can’t follow directions. In fact, some are so fed up with it they will automatically disqualify suppliers who disregard RFP instructions. You have to play by the rules. That’s really all there is to it.

11. Review, refresh and revise [tool]

We’ve arrived at our final tip: proposal review. After spending hours writing, editing and reviewing, it’s important to ask for outside input. I can’t overstate the value of a fresh pair of eyes. Enlist a colleague to be your go-to reviewer. Then, equip them with a proposal style guide (think about using the checklist in Tip 2) to help guide their edits.

First, ask them to scan the proposal, just like the procurement manager will. If they notice anything that looks out of place or doesn’t make sense, make adjustments. Likewise, ask them to briefly skim the answers and point out any inconsistencies or confusing answers. Don’t be afraid to make last-minute changes. Better to correct it now and feel confident than wonder after you’ve already submitted it.

Tools for help make your RFP response look like a winner

Now, it’s time to put these tips into action. Here are some of my favorite tools and guides to help you get started creating the perfect proposal design.

Proposal style tools

Style guide creation

This helpful blog from Venngage explores all of the things that you should include in your style guide as well as examples from tech companies. However, before you start from scratch, check with your marketing team to see if you have a brand guide that might meet your needs.

Readability tool

Easily one of the best tools for evaluating readability, Hemingway Editor is free to use. Its most helpful feature for proposal teams is the sentence length warnings: it highlights long sentences in yellow and extra long sentences in red.

Inclusion and accessibility tools

A guide for inclusion

The Conscious style guide is a centralized location to find all of the latest articles and educational materials about inclusion. The site offers topics to get you started, or you can simply search for information if you have a specific question.

How to use color blind-friendly palettes

Another great tool from Venngage, this guide explores everything you need to know about color blindness. In addition to providing background information, it offers easy ways to put it to practice.

Color contrast checker

Quick and easy to use, this checker from Coolors is great for ensuring your digital is easy to read for those with low vision. Simply insert your background and text colors and get an automatic visibility score.

How to add alt text to a PDF

If you submit proposals as PDFs, be sure to check out this guide from Adobe to adding alt text to images and graphs. Alt text enables people with a visual impairment to hear a description of the image.

Review tool

Real-time grammar feedback

Grammarly is a helpful tool available as a Chrome extension or a standalone web app. If you install it on your browser, you can see real-time feedback when it detects a potential error.

Guide to proposal review

The process to review proposals is a crucial skill. Fortunately, this proposal review guide explores everything you need to know. In addition, it includes helpful tips to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

The proposal process: Organize and master RFP responses

The proposal process: Organize and master RFP responses

When it comes to responding to RFPs, there are a lot of moving parts. Between developing messaging, collaborating with subject matter experts and meeting tight deadlines for big opportunities, it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on. Luckily, a strong proposal process transforms chaos into managed efficiency. In addition, it enables you to answer more RFPs, improve your win rate and grow your business.

Whether you’re new to RFPs, or looking to brush up on best practices, you’ll find everything you need to know here. To start, we’ll cover key definitions and team roles. Then, I’ll share a step-by-step proposal process guide and an overview of challenges you may face. In addition, throughout the post, I’ll share resources you can explore to learn more about each topic. Finally, to conclude, you’ll learn some quick tips to continually improve your proposal process.

Proposal process basics

What is the proposal process?

The proposal process, sometimes called the request for proposal (RFP) response process, is the organized approach a vendor follows when they create a proposal in response to an RFP issued by a buyer. Within the formalized process, you’ll organize the people, information and steps that must come together to create a successful proposal. 

As you might imagine, the proposal process is different in every business. Indeed, there are countless variables that can impact the steps and details involved. However, the foundation of the process typically remains the same. Defining your unique process enables consistency from one RFP to the next. Subsequently, you can examine and optimize your proposal process to improve response speed, accuracy and effectiveness.

Who is responsible for the proposal management process?

Generally, RFPs call for a wide range of input and expertise from departments throughout your business. The input from each contributor must be collected, organized and compiled together to create a compelling proposal. With so many steps and people involved, having a single person responsible for overseeing the project is absolutely essential. This person serves as the proposal manager or proposal coordinator.

While large organizations may have a full roster of dedicated proposal managers, small- and mid-sized businesses often don’t. In these cases, a salesperson, marketing team member or business operations professional may take on the role in addition to their primary job function. Regardless, the proposal manager acts as the project leader and main point of contact throughout the proposal management process.

Who else is involved in the proposal process?

From competitor research to unique industry expertise, there are many people in your business you’ll need to work with during the proposal process. Each of these professionals is a part of your proposal team. And, each person performs a crucial role.

Again, large businesses may have one or more people dedicated to each of these roles. Conversely, small- and medium-sized businesses may have one person performing tasks from several of these roles.

Capture manager

Before you receive an RFP, the capture manager is already working on winning it. Indeed, they develop a capture management plan with research, win themes and customer insights to give your organization an advantage. 

Subject matter experts

The bulk of your proposal content will come from subject matter experts (SMEs). When it’s time to answer in-depth industry and topic-specific questions, these are the people you turn to. In addition, they verify that knowledge library content is accurate.

Proposal development consultant

When a high-value RFP opportunity comes along, you may want the advice and assistance of an external advisor. A proposal development consultant delivers valuable proposal support, messaging review and industry insights.  

Executive-level approver

The executive-level approver is your proposal’s last stop before it goes back to the buyer. With the big picture in mind, they ensure that the opportunity aligns with the company goals and that the proposal represents the company accurately.

A step-by-step guide to the proposal process

From beginning to end, there are a lot of elements in the proposal process. But, don’t worry, it’s easy to master with a little knowledge and practice.

1. Identify an RFP opportunity

Naturally, the first step in the RFP response process is identifying an RFP to respond to. There are several ways to find new, open RFP opportunities. Alternatively, you may use a more focused approach and create a capture management plan to target key accounts. 

How to find RFPs

Everyone wants to find more sales opportunities, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to find RFPs.

Use Google to find government RFPs
Look for publicly posted RFPs in searchable portals. Many valuable government RFPs are a mere Google search away.

Discover open RFPs on social media
Some organizations regularly post their RFP opportunities on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Subscribe to an RFP database service
An RFP database collects open bid opportunities and categorizes them by industry. Typically, these services are easy to use and affordable.

Register directly with large organizations
Check the websites of your top target accounts for a vendor registration page. Then, fill out the vendor profile and submit your information.

Catch the attention of a broker or consultant
High-value, specialized procurement projects are often outsourced to brokers or consultants. Reach out and ask to be included in future RFPs.

RFPs through capture management

The practice of capture management is all about gaining an advantage before a buyer issues an RFP. For example, you may know that one of your potential customers has a contract expiring at the end of the year and that they will issue an RFP to explore their options.

By creating a capture management plan, you strategize, gather insight and connect with the customer to demonstrate why you’re the best fit for the business. Ideally, the subsequent RFP favors your company.

2. Decide to bid or not to bid

After you’ve identified a potential RFP opportunity, it’s time to learn more and decide to bid or not to bid. As you can already see, the RFP response process takes time. Each RFP that your team responds to represents an investment of time and resources. Therefore, it’s important to closely examine each RFP to determine if it’s a good fit for your organization.

Considerations when deciding to bid or not to bid

  • Organizational alignment: Does this RFP match your business’s big-picture goals?
  • Expertise and ability: Can your business meet the customer’s needs?
  • Value: Will the return on investment justify the cost of the project?
  • Background: Are past proposal responses readily available?
  • Competition: Is one of your competitors clearly a better fit?

3. Select a proposal project management approach

Once you’ve decided to respond to an RFP, it’s time to make a plan. There are a lot of tasks, deadlines and people involved in the RFP response process ⁠— without structure, confusion runs rampant. Adopting a formal project management approach organizes and streamlines the process. 

Common approaches include using a RACI matrix, project implementation plan or proposal timeline. Once you’ve selected and applied one of these processes, share the plan with your proposal team in a kickoff meeting.

RACI matrix

A RACI matrix defines the tasks, team members and responsibilities involved in your proposal process using a chart format. Tasks appear on one axis of the chart, while team members are listed on the other. The chart then fills in who is who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who is Consulted and who is Informed for each step. Because the information is clearly displayed, it’s a quick way to get everyone on the same page.

Project implementation plan

Chronological thinkers tend to prefer a detailed project implementation plan. This approach breaks each task down into the individual steps needed to complete the RFP response. An owner and due date accompany each step. 

While slightly less visual than the RACI matrix, a project implementation plan relies on details. Each objective is broken down into smaller objectives or sub-tasks. This allows the proposal manager better insight into progress and next steps.

Proposal timeline

Next, the visual aspect of the RACI matrix and the detailed nature of a project implementation plan approaches come together in a proposal timeline. This method uses a visual timeline to provide an overview of the RFP response process.

In addition to being useful for project planning, your timeline can also be used to quickly create a more granular Gantt chart, onboard new proposal team members, set internal expectations and inform stakeholders.

4. Review the RFP for repeat questions

Now that your team is organized, you’re ready to begin the proposal. Before you answer a single question, read the entire RFP. I know it’s tempting to answer a few quick and easy questions, but seriously, read the whole thing first.

One of the most common mistakes vendors make is not following instructions. Reading the whole RFP, uninterrupted, ensures you don’t miss anything. In addition, it gives you a better understanding of what the prospective customer cares about. 

Find responses for previously asked questions

You may feel like if you’ve seen one RFP, you’ve seen them all. While each RFP is unique, there is a significant amount of overlap in the questions buyers ask. Which is why it’s important to capture and catalog previous responses in a proposal content library.

A proposal content library, also called a knowledge library or proposal content repository, is a centralized location where past RFP responses are stored digitally. Then, when another RFP asks the same question, or one similar, you can simply copy and paste the previous response and update as needed.

An organized knowledge library saves you a ton of time and makes the response process easier on the rest of your team. With time, you’ll quickly be able to complete most of any new RFP. Some proposal teams manage their proposal content manually, using a shared document. Others leverage RFP software that automatically identifies and completes repeat questions.

5. Collaborate with SMEs to write new responses

After you’ve reviewed your proposal content library and completed as much of the response as possible, it’s time to engage with your subject matter experts to review your suggested responses and answer new questions. Assign questions to SMEs according to their expertise. Be sure to provide any necessary context as well as the date you need the response back.

6. Perfect the proposal

Next, make sure everything is perfect. To start, review your completed RFP questions. It’s important to ensure that the proposal comes together and reads like a single document, rather than answers from a dozen contributors. Then, read the answers to make sure there are no contradictions, confusing terms or inconsistencies.

RFP response best practices
  • Center responses on the customer’s benefits and experience
  • Keep responses as brief and direct as possible
  • Use plain language and avoid jargon
  • Make sure the proposal is skimmable
  • Use visuals and charts to illustrate data
Finalize your proposal design

Your proposal format and design should reinforce your brand, professionalism and reputation. In addition, the way your RFP response looks can communicate that your company is easy to work with and understands what the buyer needs.

Review for typos and revise as needed

Admittedly, you’ve probably read this proposal a dozen times at this point in the proposal process. However, don’t skip the final read-through. Grab a colleague and read the proposal from front to back one more time. Ask for feedback and keep an eye out for incomplete answers, typos and grammatical errors.

7. Create the summary and cover letter

After you’ve finished the RFP, write your executive summary and cover letter. These documents serve as a briefing document for stakeholders in the buyer’s organization who don’t have time to read the entire proposal. 

Creating these overview documents after the proposal enables you to give a true summary instead of predicting what SMEs and stakeholders will include before the proposal is complete. 

The executive summary

This is the very first page of your proposal. Indeed, it is your introduction to the buyer. As you write your RFP executive summary, consider that everyone who encounters your proposal will skim this page before deciding whether or not to read on. So, you need to make it count. Give a high-level overview of how you’ll empower their organization to meet their goals, offer your key differentiators and keep it brief.

The RFP cover letter

We all know that responding to RFPs isn’t always exciting. It’s simply the most efficient way to exchange and evaluate vendor data. Luckily, the RFP cover letter offers a way to create a human connection. Furthermore, it enables your organization to add a little personality, be conversational and make your proposal memorable. This is where you can express your understanding of the customer’s needs, share a customer story and offer your vision for a long-term partnership.

8. Finalize, submit and verify

At last, you’re done creating the proposal. It’s been proofed, reviewed (and reviewed again) and updated. Truly, it’s a masterpiece. Now, it’s time for final approval. Share the RFP response with your executive approver. 

Then, when you have the seal of approval, submit the proposal to the buyer for consideration. Remember to closely follow the submission requirements outlined in the RFP. Finally, it’s common for the buyer-side RFP contact to provide a record of receipt, it never hurts to request one. Certainly, the verification that they have your proposal in hand may set your mind at ease.

9. Debrief

Before you file away your completed RFP response, there’s one last step in the proposal process: the debrief. This final step, takes all of your hard work and sets you up for success when you receive your next RFP opportunity. 

During your debrief, review the proposal process. What worked well? How could your process improve? What new RFP responses or edits to old responses need to be added to your proposal content repository to be reused in the future? Use what you learned to make your next RFP response even more efficient and effective.

Common challenges in the proposal management process

Proposals are fast-paced, high-pressure and occasionally unpredictable. Unfortunately, that means that no matter how prepared you are, you may still run into a roadblock. Here you’ll find a few common proposal process challenges and how to navigate them.

Drawn out decisions to bid or not to bid

When RFPs come in, the clock starts ticking. Often, the only person who can hear the countdown loud and clear is the proposal manager. So, while sales, business operations, finance and executives debate the merits of participating, you’re losing precious time.

One of the best ways to combat this delay, is to use proposal management software to analyze the RFP and determine how many of the questions have already been answered previously. With this information, you can contribute to the bid/no-bid conversation and provide input regarding the amount of time and effort the proposal will take.

Lack of urgency and buy-in from SMEs

Subject matter experts are busy. Unfortunately, that means they can commonly become a bottleneck in the proposal timeline. When this happens, try to remember that they must juggle their full-time responsibilities as well as proposal team duties. 

So, try to make the process as easy on them as possible by making educated answer suggestions using your proposal content library. Even if the question varies slightly from a previous version, it’s easier for an SME to review and update than it is to create from scratch.

Competing stakeholder priorities

Creating concise and compelling answers is an art. As a proposal manager, you may need to tidy up, rework or edit the responses provided to you by stakeholders. Naturally, each of them is passionate about their area of expertise, believes that their contribution is perfect as is and will seal the deal. Often, this can result in a disagreement about what information is essential and what can be omitted.

In this situation, refer back to and lean on your established win themes. In addition, share your feedback with the stakeholder and explain why the level of detail they offered isn’t necessary at this juncture. Then, explain how the customer will receive the additional information when they need it if they select your organization for the opportunity.

Quick tips for a constantly improving proposal management process

  • Ask for stakeholder feedback and optimize to improve efficiency. Review your proposal management process to identify gaps and opportunities.
  • Make your proposal process transparent to your proposal team. Share updates throughout, review next steps and follow up with stakeholders.
  • Collaborate on proposals and answers in a centralized, cloud-based location. This avoids siloed information and tedious rework.
  • Schedule regular reviews and updates of your proposal content library to ensure confidence in the accuracy of your answers.
  • Explore RFP response tools and proposal automation to improve efficiency and empower you to participate in more RFPs.
  • Track your win rates and return on investment (ROI). Don’t be shy about highlighting your value to the company.

Admittedly, the proposal process is often complex and time-consuming. So, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Manually managing the proposal team and process through Word, spreadsheets and email is exhausting. Luckily, proposal management software, like Responsive, streamlines the process from beginning to end.

Proposal review: How to avoid mistakes in your RFP responses

Proposal review: How to avoid mistakes in your RFP responses

Will your proposal win? From your executives to the sales team, it’s the question on everyone’s mind. However, the moment you click send and submit your RFP response, the outcome is entirely out of your hands. If you’re the proposal manager in charge of the RFP response, you might find yourself suddenly wishing you’d had more time to spend on the proposal review process.

It’s a common challenge facing proposal teams. How do you move quickly and meet deadlines while also dedicating enough time to reviewing your RFP response and ensuring you’re putting your best foot forward? It’s a constant balancing act.

Luckily, this blog is all about finding a proposal review process that works for you. First, we’ll discuss what a proposal review is and why it’s an important part of the RFP response process. Then, we’ll offer an overview of common review strategies so you can evaluate which approach is best for your team. Finally, you’ll learn tips and best practices for ensuring an effective review process that helps you get your proposals as close to perfect as possible.

What is a proposal review?

A proposal review, or request for proposal (RFP) response review, is the process of examining the content, format and messaging of an RFP response to ensure quality, accuracy, compliance and consistency. Proposal review is a standard step in the proposal process that occurs near the end of the proposal timeline.

Due to the complexity of RFPs, there are many aspects of the proposal to assess. Therefore, a proposal review is actually made up of several rounds of reviews focused on specific aspects of the RFP response.

Focus areas for RFP response reviews

  • Storytelling, cohesiveness and messaging
  • Competitive positioning and win themes 
  • Compliance and completeness
  • Pricing
  • Response accuracy and consistency
  • Spelling, grammar and brand compliance
  • Proposal format and visual elements

Each of these focus areas is important to the overall success of the proposal. And, despite each of these reviews having unique and specific focus, their ultimate goal is the same: to identify any errors to be corrected, points to be clarified or improvements to be made before the submission of the final proposal. In short, the purpose of these reviews is to make the proposal as close to perfect as possible.

Who does the RFP response review process involve?

Ultimately, the proposal manager is responsible for navigating the proposal process, including the RFP response reviews. In their role, they recruit qualified reviewers, coordinate review scheduling, provide guidance for each review team, settle disputes, seek clarification when needed and ensure edits are promptly implemented.

With so many nuanced proposal elements to consider, proposal managers depend on help from other members of the proposal team as well as stakeholders and executives within the business. Indeed, after dedicating hours to collecting, customizing and writing the proposal, a new perspective and a set fresh eyes to review the RFP response is absolutely essential.

Why establishing a proposal review process is important

It almost seems inevitable. The instant you submit your final proposal to the prospective customer, you’re bound to suddenly see an obvious error or a better way to phrase a crucial answer. Indeed, this frustrating feeling is all too common among proposal professionals. The relatable sentiment was recently shared by Jeremy Brim, proposal expert from the bid toolkit on LinkedIn.

Despite our best efforts, mistakes may happen. However, the proposal review process seeks to minimize the risk of missing a disqualifying error. After all, nothing stings more than losing an RFP opportunity over a small mistake.

Common approaches to the proposal review

There are a lot of different philosophies when it comes to proposal review. Some companies use a complex, multi-level review cycle for each and every proposal, while others find a scalable review process beneficial.

Similar to other common proposal practices like discussions of return on investment and to bid or not to bid, ideally, the complexity of your proposal review process should reflect the value of the RFP opportunity. Regardless of your specific approach, every RFP response deserves some level of pre-submission inspection ⁠— after all, if it’s worth responding to, it’s worth reviewing.

Simple two-person proposal review

Suitable for small businesses and simple RFPs, a simple proposal review minimizes the burden on your team and accounts for the most important elements of your RFP response. 

This process assumes that the proposal manager also wrote significant portions of the RFP. Consequently, it calls for two outside reviewers: one to check the messaging and compliance and one to read the proposal for consistency, grammar and formatting. Consider recruiting marketing or sales team members to complete these review tasks.

Proposal compliance matrix

For short RFPs with fairly straightforward requirements, a proposal compliance matrix can easily be used to facilitate your RFP response review. As you might expect from the name, the primary focus of this process is RFP criteria and requirement compliance rather than storytelling or persuasive messaging.

Thanks to the grid format, a member of the proposal team, stakeholder or executive can perform this review quickly. To facilitate deeper discussion of feedback, consider adding a column to your proposal compliance matrix to encourage reviewers to provide comments, corrections or suggestions for improving your proposal. Then, review the feedback with your team and take action to make any necessary updates.

The color team proposal review

The most in-depth approach is the color team review process. Indeed, this multi-team, multi-layer approach contains many reviews throughout the RFP response timeline. Accordingly, it’s well suited to lengthy, complex and highly-technical RFPs. For example, color team reviews are standard for businesses that primarily answer government agency and public sector RFPs.

In this model, each team is known by a particular color and is responsible for a specific focus area. While the practice of color team reviews is common, the size and responsibilities of each color team vary slightly from one business to the next. However, pink and red team reviews most frequently appear in the proposal review process.

Common color team review assignments

Pink team review

Generally, pink team reviews focus on content. They ensure that the proposal is compliant with the customer’s stated criteria, needs and expectations. For example, they might ask questions like: Is every answer complete? Does the proposal solve the customer’s needs? Are the established win themes carried throughout the content? Consider asking a proposal analyst, customer success professional and a sales team member to participate in the pink team review.

Red team review

Next is the red team review. Focused on the customer’s perspective, this team reads the review as if they were a proposal evaluator. Specifically, they ask questions like: Does the proposal tell a compelling story? Is it clear that we understand the customer’s business? Have we clearly expressed our plan for partnership? Good candidates for the red team include veteran employees, sales and marketing leaders and customer success professionals.

White team review

Sometimes referred to as white glove, this final review team reads the proposal from front to back looking for format consistency. Are the margins, fonts, headings and bullet points uniform? Does the table of contents match the following proposal page numbers? Are reference tables and data placed and sourced correctly? Were the edits from the pink and red team properly implemented? Are there any obvious printing errors? Ideally, the white team consists of detail-oriented professionals who have not yet been a part of the proposal development process.

Additional color teams

  • Blue – Outline and gap review
  • Black (Black hat) – Competitive analysis
  • Green – Pricing review
  • Gold – Edit implementation

Proposal review tips and best practices

Review tips for proposal managers

Go digital

Avoid distributing paper copies of the proposal for review. Spending time interpreting and comparing handwritten feedback is inefficient. Instead, consider using a shared document or, better yet, proposal software to centralize review notes, clarify edit tracking and streamline collaboration.

Set a schedule and stick to it

Finding volunteers to participate in the review process is typically fairly easy. However, keeping those reviewers on schedule when they juggle other duties is not always as straightforward. So, before assigning reviewers to teams, share your deadlines for feedback and get a firm commitment from them. Then, follow up as needed and be ready to call in a back up reviewer if they cannot meet the deadline or become unresponsive.

Find fresh eyes

Our brains are trained to save time. Unfortunately, this means that if you’ve written or read something once, your brain will automatically start trying to save you time by filling in words, skipping ahead and making assumptions. This is why getting a new perspective is one of the most valuable parts of a proposal review. Consequently, don’t let anyone do double duty, working both the proposal development team and the review team. Make sure as many fresh pairs of eyes review (and improve) your proposal as possible.

Provide a guide

Because many of your reviews should be new to the proposal content, you can’t assume they’ll know what they’re doing. Therefore, it’s a good idea to create and share a guide. Include a copy of the RFP with relevant sections or instructions highlighted. In addition, provide specific directions for what aspect of the proposal they should pay attention to as well as how they should provide feedback.

Best practices for proposal reviewers

Be prepared

Effective proposal reviewing takes a high level of focus. When you agree to be a part of the proposal review process, check the deadline for feedback and block time on your calendar. If possible, request and review a copy of the RFP prior to receiving the proposal so you have some background about the project.

Regularly consult the RFP

When reviewing, the customer’s RFP should be at hand at all times. Indeed, consider it your handbook, blueprint and instruction manual all in one. Because compliance is always a concern, each reviewer must understand how their feedback enhances compliance. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the proposal manager for more information.

Provide actionable recommendations

Be kind to the proposal manager. As you review, remember that they have a big job and they’re counting on you for specific, clear feedback. For example, commenting “Need more info” on a response leaves them wondering what you mean, why you think that and how they can fix it. On the other hand, explaining “I think this question wants more information. I’d suggest we be more specific about our implementation process. Can we summarize step four here and provide our implementation guide as an attachment?” is much more helpful.

Review and win

Unfortunately, humans are imperfect, so mistakes will almost certainly make it into your proposals from time to time. However, with an organized proposal review process, you can significantly reduce risk and improve your chances of winning more RFP opportunities.

Capture Management: The Plan to Win

Capture Management: The Plan to Win

It’s no secret that the most effective proposals are highly targeted, specific and customized. But, where does the information that guides the proposal strategy, pricing and message come from? And, how can you be sure the message will hit the mark with the customer? For successful proposal teams, the answer is capture management. 

The capture management process improves your chances of winning. In this blog, I’ll define capture management and explore all of the benefits of establishing a capture management process. Next, I’ll share information about the role of a capture manager. And finally, I’ll offer helpful resources for professional development.

What is capture management?

Capture management, also called capture planning, is the process of gathering insight, building connections, developing competitive intelligence and strategizing how to win a future request for proposal (RFP) opportunity.

Essentially, a capture plan gives your company an advantage with the customer. It allows you to connect with them, demonstrate your understanding of their needs and position your company as the best solution. And, this all happens before receiving the RFP.

The timing of capture planning is particularly important. After all, when it comes to large projects, if you only start considering how to win when you receive the RFP, you may already be at a disadvantage. Larry Newman, author of the ebook, Shipley Capture Guide, explains:

“Most sales and marketing veterans agree that 40 to 80 percent of the time, customers decide whom they would prefer to buy from before proposals are submitted. 

The aim of capture planning is to position the customer to prefer your organization and your solution to the exclusion of competitors, or to at least prefer to do business with your organization prior to proposals being submitted.”

He goes on to say that the goal of the capture process is to move from an unknown position to a favored position with the buyer before the RFP process begins.

Unlike account planning or business development, which strategize how to win new customers, the capture management process is specific to a particular procurement project. So, throughout the customer relationship, you may create several capture plans. Luckily, much of the intelligence you gather in your initial capture plan will apply to future opportunities as well.

The benefits of capture management

When executed properly, capture management transforms an informal process of relying on gut feelings to influence a customer into a methodical approach based on research. Additionally, beyond the primary goal of moving from an unknown position to a favored position, additional capture management benefits include:

  • Clear opportunity qualification and easier bid/no-bid decisions
  • Increased chance to win based on research and connections
  • More focused proposals with shortened proposal timelines
  • Faster sales and a more qualified pipeline
  • Improved customer relationships and experience

When should you use capture management?

Your time is valuable, and capture planning is a long and detailed process. Naturally, not every RFP requires an in-depth, long-term strategy. For the highest possible return on investment, capture planning should be used primarily in pursuit of high-value, complex opportunities. Accordingly, the practice is common for organizations seeking to win government business. 

You may also consider creating an abbreviated capture management process. After all, even routine RFPs can yield big results. The shorter process can likewise help solidify your position without a substantial time investment. With this in mind, use the plan to focus on the customer’s needs, your competition and the best possible solution. 

What is a capture manager?

A capture manager is the person responsible for the research, analysis and strategy that create the capture plan. In a large business, the capture manager may be a dedicated role within the proposal team. Consequently, they work closely with several teams. In most cases, they bridge the gap between business development and proposal creation.

However, in small- and medium-sized businesses, the proposal manager, sales manager or business development lead may act as the capture manager. Also, many proposal development consultants offer support in this area. For example, they may help you build a specific capture plan, or they may help create or optimize your capture management process.

The bulk of the capture manager’s duties happen before the customer issues the RFP. However, they are still involved in the process as they transition the opportunity to the proposal team. Consequently, they work closely with the proposal coordinator and subject matter experts as needed. In addition to pre-RFP research and proposal planning, the capture manager sees the opportunity through to its conclusion. Even more, they may also leverage their knowledge for RFP presentations and contract negotiations.

Capture manager responsibilities

  • Opportunity and organization research
  • Competitive intelligence
  • SWOT assessments
  • Solution planning
  • Risk analysis
  • Capture and proposal team coordination
  • Bid strategy, pricing and review process
  • Capture plan creation and execution
  • Proposal review

Granted, these duties may seem straightforward, but selecting a capture manager shouldn’t be taken lightly. Carl Dickson, founder of discusses the importance of hiring and empowering a capture manager saying:

“All opportunity in your company comes from growth. This means all opportunity comes from capture. It’s a hard job. And everybody depends on it. It’s worth a quality approach.

Don’t skimp on the qualifications of your capture manager. Make the person you need available. But don’t just assume that getting the right person is all it takes. Hiring the right people is not enough. Surround your capture manager with all the organization, process and resource advantages that maximize your win rate.”

The capture management process

To be successful, capture management must begin early. Not only is a significant amount of research required, but you must also have time to execute your plan by making connections with your customer. Most capture plans take between nine and 18 months to create and complete.

8 essential steps to capture management

  1. Identify the opportunity
  2. Explore the customer’s needs and goals
  3. Determine if the opportunity is a good fit for the pursuit
  4. Create a capture plan and recruit a capture team
  5. Build a preliminary solution framework to achieve customer goals
  6. Evaluate likely competitors and develop pricing
  7. Define your win strategy and advantages
  8. Connect with the customer and position your solution

Unfortunately, not every opportunity will be a good fit for your business. Therefore, at each milestone in the process, the capture manager and capture team should evaluate any new information and critically analyze the lead. If it seems unlikely that your organization will win, abandon the pursuit. Ultimately, it’s better to move on with lessons learned and seek a more qualified opportunity in the future.

Capture plan components

So, what kinds of information should go into your capture plan? Remember to include any information that will inform your win strategy or provide background on the customer. To illustrate, think of the capture manager as a detective and the capture plan as a dossier. The plan details the organization’s key players, history, goals and challenges.

Resources and information to include in your capture plan:

  • Customer hot buttons, pain points, requirements, goals and expectations
  • Key influencers in the customer’s organization: Executives, stakeholders and procurement staff
  • Summary of any previous customer relationship or crucial interactions
  • Win team and proposal team roles (use a RACI matrix)
  • Internal and external resources required for plan execution
  • Previous RFx documents (consider uploading into your RFP management system to begin crafting responses to common questions)
  • Evaluation of market and economic factors that may influence selection
  • Competitive intelligence and advantages
  • SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis
  • Solution planning and design
  • Primary win themes
  • Proposal plan outline and key points

Even if capture management is a new concept to you, you probably already perform some of the responsibilities of a capture manager. Admittedly, winning business through capture management requires a significant investment of time and resources. But, if you’re able to improve your win rate and secure big contracts, it’s ultimately worth it.

Resources for capture managers

Of course, there’s always more to learn. Start here to explore additional capture management information and professional development tools:

How to reclaim your work-life balance

How to reclaim your work-life balance

A skilled proposal manager is invaluable to their organization. They are as persuasive as the best salespeople. They are as precise as anyone in legal or finance. They nearly match their CEOs in company knowledge. They can wrangle stakeholders with techniques that rival horse herders — sans lassos. And they can turn a phrase as elegantly as Shakespeare.

That last one might be a slight exaggeration, but the ability to craft a compelling story is vital to a proposal professional’s skill set. It’s not an exaggeration to say that proposal managers are exceptionally hardworking. In fact, APMP reports that the more experienced they are, the more hours they find themselves at their office, remote or not. 

Where does that leave a proposal professional who also has (or wants) a life? How does an insanely busy proposal professional reclaim work-life balance? 

How the work world is out of balance

  • According to a recent McKinsey study, most people spend 20 percent of their time searching for content. Proposal teams and SMEs likely spend even more.
  • Many proposal teams still use manual processes and cannot reuse content.
  • Organizations cut costs in a down economy by freezing or reducing headcount.
  • All the while, proposal requests are more frequent and complex.

What the work world looks like when it’s in balance

  • Employees work normal hours
  • There’s more time to ensure quality, including doing QA, thoroughly checking responsiveness, discriminators, and so on, before submitting proposals.
  • There’s time to collaborate and work across organizations to ensure we’re putting our best foot forward.
  • We have time to use escalation matrices and responsibility matrices to keep everyone accountable and on track.
  • We’re able to gain recognition, both from the deals we win and internally from our business partners.
  • More significantly, we’re building our careers because we have time to be great at our jobs.

How to reclaim your work-life balance

External forces, such as the economy and a faster flow of more complex proposal requests, are generally out of your control. However, efficient and repeatable processes can help you free the time to manage an increased workload without working weekends.

Content management

I am passionate about content management because I believe gold-standard content makes every part of the proposal process successful. Without that, you are just running in circles. 

Incorporate these four steps into your content management process to prevent having to spend more than 20 percent of your time searching for information, and instead repurposing that time to write compelling responses — and perhaps log off at 5 p.m.

  • Designate a championA champion is a decision-maker, typically an executive or proposal manager.
  • Clean out ROTROT refers to content that’s redundant (duplicate or similar content), outdated (expired or sunsetted) or trivial (deal- or client-specific). Content library software helps ensure your library of answers is ROT-free. 
  • Respect SMEs’ time – Subject matter experts are in demand, and there’s nothing that will make them more reluctant to work with you than having to repeat themselves time and time again. An up-to-date content library lets them simply review their previous answers.
  • Automate processes – When you automate lower-value processes, it frees humans to be more productive and create more winning responses. 

Pro tip: Style your content from the very beginning using Microsoft Word. When you’re ready to use that content, it will seamlessly export to the brandable, customizable response template of your choice, as long as the style has the same naming convention. The result is an elegant document that demonstrates polish and professionalism. 

If you keep your naming conventions consistent throughout your organization, any department can import content to their preferred templates.

Content analytics

Sophisticated, customizable reporting capabilities with digestible charts and graphs provide the insights needed to improve work processes, demonstrate value, even when you regularly sign off at 5 p.m., and help craft a path for an impressive ROI. 

  • Identify/prioritize gold-standard content – Use data to holistically audit your library of content to ensure accuracy, timeliness and relevance. 
  • Measure time – Are team members using the library? Are they spending too much time searching for content?
  • Demonstrate value – Gain executive and SME buy-in by producing data that shows less time spent on crafting and recrafting faster, risk-averse responses.
  • Craft ROI path – Analyze trends to see how your current project compares to others and compares manual responses to those using stored answers that can be automated.

Building a business case for content reviews

Reclaiming work-life balance is all about prioritizing high-value activities, delegating to the right people, creating processes that work and proving that you don’t have to work 50+ hours a week to accomplish your KPIs. 

However, in austere times, organizations expect more productivity using fewer, or at least value-proven, resources. That means that their own time considerations might make SMEs deprioritize regular content audits and RFX responses, especially since response management is not their full-time job. 

Gain executive and SME buy-in, and create champions to advocate for you, through your content review processes. 

  • Choose a review cycle cadence – Work with SMEs to determine whether to review your content monthly, quarterly or annually. It usually depends on the type of content. Corporate content changes quickly, so you might schedule quarterly reviews. Review product content every 6-12 months or when there’s a new product release. Review evergreen content every 12-24 months, because even it can change.
  • Implicate risk – Communicate and implicate the risk of outdated content through content reviews. For example, using content that was customized with another customer’s name shows a lack of professionalism. Outdated or incorrect content may even present a litigation risk. 
  • Run POC with a single team/group – Rather than lobby for an organization-wide content review, start with a single team or group.
  • Demonstrate potential value – Demonstrate to SMEs that their work matters by showing how often and successfully you rely on their content.
  • AI Assistant – SMEs wear a lot of hats but they are generally not writers. Capabilities like the RFPIO AI Assistant help polish and perfect responses by:
    • Offering suggestions to help break through writer’s block
    • Elaborating on existing content as needed
    • Creating more concise responses
    • Optimizing content readability
    • Changing verbs from passive to active
    • Writing in plain language
    • Organizing content under headings 

Note that AI Assistant trains on your content library and your information will remain private within your organization. 

Collaboration and process

A rising tide lifts all ships. By bringing your team in, including SMEs, some of your salespeople, and so on, you’re building a community to successfully work within the RFPIO platform. 

  • Unify and automate – Your content library is a single source of truth, and as it continues to evolve, you build more trust from SMEs and other stakeholders. It’s a foundation for responses of all sorts throughout the organization.
  • Breakdown silos – Having a repository like the RFPIO Content Library is a company asset and valuable in every department. 
  • Achieve partnership goals – Lean into relationships and the opportunities created by those relationships.
  • Share the proposal content (by definition, your best content) love – Keep content creators happy by letting them know that their content was a key component of a response — preferably one you’ve won.


When usable content is not available to those who might need it, you erode trust and risk that content that hasn’t passed an audit process may be sent to prospects or others within your organization. 

With a platform like RFPIO, clean, accurate proposals presented on time and in a professional, branded format build trust and demonstrate competency. A well-curated RFPIO Content Library lets you forge and maintain relationships inside and outside of your organization. It proves your value to SMEs, executives and anyone who might need to access company information. 

And more on point, AI Assistant and a well-curated content library will help you fulfill executives’ goal of accomplishing more with less, without sacrificing your work-life balance. 

Your RFPIO Content Library is about so much more than just a resource of Q&As. It helps maintain compliance, optimize productivity, generate revenue, and gives time back to you. We invite you to request a customized demo to see how.

Proposal templates, formats and tools: Create better RFP responses faster

Proposal templates, formats and tools: Create better RFP responses faster

Responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) can be stressful. There are so many questions to answer. For instance, what information should you include? How do you make your RFP response memorable? What are the best proposal templates to use? How do you make your business stand out from competitors that offer similar solutions?  What should your proposal design look like? Where will you find the time to gather all the necessary information?

These questions are common. And, in this article, we’ll answer them as we cover these topics:

Investing in an RFP strategy

Naturally, everyone understands the potential value of winning an RFP. Unfortunately, far too often, businesses don’t concern themselves with the cost.

On average, most organizations spend 30 hours on every RFP response, and their win rate is only 10%. In other words, they respond to 10 RFPs, spending a total of 300 hours, before they win a single deal.

That’s a significant investment of time and money. And in some cases, it’s a gamble that doesn’t pay off.

The average cost of responding to an RFP

Let’s estimate the cost of creating an RFP response. It’s fair to assume that the RFP response work is done mostly by a proposal manager. On average, according to recent data from, they average around $106,000 per year. Using that figure, we can quantify just how costly the proposal process really is.

Broken down by hour, proposal managers earn about $50.00. If they were the only proposal team members involved in the process, it would cost $1,500.00 to respond to an RFP.

However, you also must consider that many of those hours are worked by subject matter experts (SMEs) as well as executive reviewers and approvers. Typically, these experts and executives earn substantially more than proposal managers. With this in mind, it’s easy to create a picture of the true cost of creating proposals and responding to RFPs.

Additionally, when sales and marketing efforts are included to calculate the total cost, most organizations spend thousands more to win a single deal.

Mark Vignolo, Manager of Sales and Engineering at Viewpoint, faced this problem first-hand.

“Common RFPs we received had 200-300 questions, all listed in Excel. Issues really started to show up when we had to split those questions out to different people.” Mark said. “We tended to lose a lot of time just handing it off and bringing the information back.”

Fortunately, there are tried and true strategies for increasing the return on investment for responding to RFPs.

5 strategies to improve your RFP ROI

To improve RFP ROI, you must reduce proposal response time (efficiency) and increase proposal wins (effectiveness).

Here are the primary ways to accomplish those goals:

  1. Use proven proposal templates — RFP response templates give you a head start and a format to follow as you customize your proposal to meet your customers’ needs.
  2. Learn from RFP response examples — Sometimes, instructions in a template can’t paint the full picture. In that case, seeing a completed proposal example for a service similar to yours is helpful.
  3. Improve consistency with a response to RFP outline — An RFP outline ensures you include all the crucial elements of a proposal in the first draft. Consequently, it helps you avoid rework as the RFP deadline rapidly approaches.
  4. Leverage proposal management software with RFP automation — Proposal management software is transformative when it comes to speeding up your proposal process. Specifically, it centralizes your proposal content library, improves SME and executive collaboration, empowers RFP automation and streamlines workflows.
  5. Explore proposal tools to improve writing, design and messaging There are a lot of great (and affordable) RFP response tools that speed your proposal timeline while improving your chances of winning the RFP.

Thanks to the knowledge and experience of our founders, internal RFP experts, customers and independent research, we put together a list of the best proposal templates, RFP response examples, proposal formats and tools you can use to simplify your RFP process.

Beyond the tools covered here, we can also learn how to create a successful RFP response process from customer stories.

The best proposal templates

The quickest way to consistently create RFP responses that work is by following a successful proposal template. Proposal templates offer a strong foundation to start from when building your proposal.

However, customization is crucial. No two RFPs are ever exactly the same, therefore, no two RFP responses should be identical. Remember, the organization you’re responding to has unique needs and challenges. Make sure you tailor your proposal messaging to best showcase how your business is the perfect fit to help them meet their goals.

Free marketing proposal template

Hubspot has dozens of free proposal templates geared toward any sort of organization. This marketing proposal template stands out as comprehensive and very well put together. 

It includes:

  • Tips such as adding proposed team member headshots along with their titles and profiles
  • A pricing calculator to help you avoid mathematical errors
  • Step-by-step, fill-in-the-blank template for creating a proposal that engages your leads and demonstrates why it’s important for the client to use your company as a tool for success
  • Proven, actionable messaging strategies that improve client conversion rates (and why what you’re saying is important)

5-page proposal template

This proposal template, created by consultant Jonathan Stark, is built for entrepreneurs, but it’s perfect for almost any organization. It was designed to “show you how to write proposals in a fraction of the time, increase your close rate and stop leaving money on the table.”

Jonathan Stark, the consultant who created the template, reports that he has closed “well over seven figures of business with this exact template.”

It covers:

  • How to structure the proposal
  • How many options to provide
  • Why you should focus on benefits, not deliverables
  • How to anchor your prices to the outcome, not your hours
  • What pricing terms to include
  • What to negotiate — and what not to negotiate!

Additional RFP response templates

These sites also offer free proposal templates:
  1. OpenOffice – Proposal and RFP response templates in Word and Office Suite compatible programs
  2. – Free downloadable proposal templates that are heavily designed and primarily focus on vendors who provide professional services
  3. Smartsheet – Offers RFP response templates in Word, Google docs and PDF
  4. Fedmarket – If you’re pursuing federal opportunities, this template is designed for government RFP opportunities and popular in the federal contracting world

Excellent RFP response examples

If you’ve found a proposal template you like, but still need some inspiration for filling it out, look no further. These five RFP response examples come from five different industries. However, each of them is memorable thanks to their content or their format. For inspiration, explore these proposal examples and make note of the things that you liked or didn’t like. Then, add those to your proposal template.

LCG Pence Construction education construction RFP response example

While this proposal example doesn’t include all of our recommended RFP outline sections, it stands out for its professionalism and use of visual elements. Indeed, the cover page, table of contents and cover letter provide a good introduction. And, later in the proposal, the company provides bios with photos, project plans and charts to reinforce their expertise.

5by5 website design and development proposal example

The messaging in this proposal is what stands out. Indeed, the proposal is friendly, approachable and inspiring. In addition, 5by5 does a great job of highlighting key information like their business culture, a project timeline and straightforward pricing.

JanPro Cleaning Systems proposal example

This proposal example is very easy to read and includes bullet-pointed lists, short paragraphs and company branding. In addition, the company provides its standard cleaning contract to speed the closing process if selected.

KnowInk RFP response example for polling services

This proposal is a good example of a winning bid because we know this company went to contract with the customer. Government proposals tend to be fairly dry and visually uninteresting, so KnowInk stood out by using modern graphics in their brand colors. This sample RFP is heavily redacted due to the sensitive details included, but it still offers a good example of a proposal format that wins.

Recommended RFP outline

There is no one-size-fits-all proposal outline because some industries have particular requirements. However, there are key elements almost every proposal should have.

Below is a standard proposal outline along with professional tips and ideas to keep in mind while you’re writing. To create your outline, review the RFP and jot down a few ideas for each of these sections. Then, you can quickly work from your outline to create focused messaging that resonates with your prospect.

1. RFP cover letter

First things first — introduce yourself. Your RFP cover letter offers the buyer a first impression of your company. In addition, it can be used to create or deepen your connection with the customer, reinforce your expertise and quickly highlight your key differentiators. In the cover letter section of your RFP outline, you should include space for these main components:

  • Addressees
  • Greeting and introduction
  • Summary of RFP needs
  • Your qualifications and differentiators
  • Thank you and closing
Here’s a helpful example so you can see it in action. More info: For additional advice and a step-by-step guide, read our RFP cover letter blog.

2. Executive summary

In the second part of your RFP outline, the executive summary, you must convey the benefits you deliver while you show the client that you understand their challenge or need. Remember, the person reading this page is likely very busy, needs a high-level overview and is a big influence on the final outcome. Therefore, executive summary best practices focus on high-impact, but short messaging.

Executive summary best practices

  • Keep your message customer-centric
  • Be brief
  • Leverage your knowledge library
  • Make sure it makes sense without the help of the proposal
  • Follow instructions exactly
Here’s a good example of what your RFP executive summary should look like:

Ultimately, the executive summary helps the buyer decide if they’re going to continue reading, quickly skim your proposal or forget about it entirely.

More info: How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

3. About us

The about us section — also known as the management overview — explains your story and qualifications. Brag about yourself a little. Set yourself apart from the competition by being creative about your strengths.

You aren’t small; you’re adaptive. You aren’t inexperienced; you bring a fresh new perspective. Be proud of your accomplishments. This is your time to shine, to show the client what makes you unique.

Without tooting our own horn, we think the About page on our website can give you a good idea of how to handle this section. Just like on a website, the about us section of your proposal is all about demonstrating your strengths and how those strengths will benefit the reader.

4. Answers to RFP questions

Specific customer questions and your responses are what make RFPs such a useful tool for comparing vendors. So, in this section, you’ll work to create winning RFP responses with your proposal team.

Pay attention to the content and length of your answers. While you want your answers to be thorough and customer-centric, you don’t want to make reading this section a chore. It’s always a good idea to check your proposal content library for similar questions you’ve answered in the past to save time.

5. Project schedule

Lay out the contract schedule using milestones and key dates. This will help the client visualize where they’ll be in the future.

What will their world look like? Detail when you will finish certain tracks of work and what outcomes the client can expect. Don’t get into specifics just yet—you can sort that out in the implementation plan.

6. Contract details

How will you manage the contract in terms of supervision, communication and quality assurance? What will you need from the customer to succeed? Will you conduct status meetings? How often? What sort of specific information will you report? Will the customer’s main contact transition to a customer success representative?

Use this section to reassure your customer that you have a strong process in place. Give them the outline of your plan to keep them engaged and satisfied.

7. Implementation plan

Here’s where you can sort out the details of your onboarding and roll-out plan. The work plan should tie into the overall schedule summary and will likely include some assumptions and time estimates. A matrix is a great way to display this information. Some people like to use week 0, week 1, etc. instead of specific dates. That is especially helpful if you don’t have a firm start date mandated. Just try to be as specific as possible. Other details to cover include:

  • Risks or potential problems
  • Location of the work or team (on-site, off-site)
  • Project staffing (by name or job title)
In most cases, the project manager handles the implementation plan. Just remember to set realistic timelines and expectations that set your team up for success.

8. Price

You can’t expect to close a deal without working through the price. That’s where your proposal budget comes into play.

When creating a proposal budget, you must consider five key factors:

  • Salaries
  • Research and development
  • Travel costs
  • Operational expenses
  • Profit margin
The goal is basically to show the prospect what they can expect to pay and to justify the cost.

9. References and case studies

Your potential customer wants to see proof and examples of your past successes. Generally, they are most interested in companies that had a similar need and want to read case studies. Sometimes they also want to talk to references, so having client advocates is always really helpful.

An inside look at proposal management software

Key time-saving features of RFP response software

RFP management software is designed to make the proposal process more efficient and effective. There are a number of key features that make that possible. For example, an intelligent proposal content library to store RFP responses, a customized proposal template library, collaborative workflow tools and more.

We know that, sometimes, seeing is believing. So, below we’ll explore these features and provide an inside look at how they work in Responsive.

Proposal content management
We’ve all heard that content is king. But it’s not enough to just create it; we have to be able to find it, update it and collaborate to optimize it. RFP software can help:

Your RFP system centralizes your RFP knowledge and answers, making it easy to find and update past responses. It also tracks edits, sends reminders to update responses and provides key RFP data.

Proposal template library
Store and reuse your most successful proposals so you can quickly create consistent, winning RFP responses.

Collaborate with your proposal team and SMEs
RFP response software is cloud-based. Consequently, version control becomes a thing of the past. Multiple stakeholders and SMEs can work on answers at the same time, making it easy to collaborate on proposals.

Manage the proposal process
For proposal managers, RFP software makes tracking progress easy. RFP management dashboards provide real-time updates on each task. These are visible to contributors as well so they always know what to do next.

Ultimately, the important thing is that RFP Software should streamline the RFP process ⁠— saving you time and winning more bids.

Tips and tools for proposal writing and design

In addition to RFP software, there are a lot of RFP response tools available to make your messaging more effective and your proposal process more efficient. Below you’ll find some of my favorites.

Guides to creating great content

10 simple edits that will instantly improve any piece of writing
Let’s start with some basic guidelines for writing any kind of content. Hubspot created this post to serve as a quick reference and reminder for writers. It explores how to make your content readable, relatable and engaging.

A writing GPS: The step-by-step guide to creating your next piece of content
This infographic, by the talented Ann Handley, walks through the writing process. From setting goals to reviewing, it provides guidance to ensure your final proposal achieves your goals and is error-free.

801 power words that pack a punch and convert like crazy
Sometimes, simple word substitution makes a big difference. Rather than digging through a thesaurus, start with this post from SmartBlogger about power words. It offers a list of words that are impactful and leave a lasting impression.

Proposal design tools

Just like we dress for success, we should likewise ensure our proposals are both professional and visually appealing. Including photos and infographics engages the reader and illustrates your value and data.

Free resources for photos

  • Unsplash — A constantly growing collection of free photos
  • PicJumbo — Another great collection of photos including a wide range of subjects
  • Hubspot — Hubspot put together an exhaustive list of free stock photo sites
  • Gratisography – Unique and quirky photos
  • Smithsonian Open Access — 2.8 million historic, iconic public domain photos

Free resources for proposal infographics and editing

  • Canva — Free resource to create proposal templates and infographics
  • Venngage — Source for easy-to-create infographics 
  • Piktochart — Create attractive charts to illustrate powerful data

RFP response best practices from experts

Of course, all of the above proposal templates, tools and RFP response format examples won’t do any good if you don’t know how to use them to create compelling content that helps you win new deals.

That’s why we’ve compiled advice from sales and marketing experts to help you develop proposals that win.

Be thorough, but simple

“Companies spend a substantial amount of time and energy creating an RFP that will level the playing field for their potential vendors and garner the exact information they need to reach a decision. Give them what they ask for. When we prepared our RFP responses, we were thorough, but simple. We made our pitch early and often, providing only the necessary details to illustrate why our company could add more value than our competitors. Including information outside of the set guidelines may cause your proposal to be bypassed.”

Tom Gimbel, CEO, LaSalle Network

Address the challenges your prospect wants to overcome

“Instead of focusing on what you have to offer your prospect, your proposals should focus on the key problems your prospect wants to solve. In particular, the beginning portions of your proposals should address the challenges your prospect wants to overcome. This will effectively turn your proposals into working documents that outline specific client objectives—a powerful tool.”

Marc Wayshak, founder of Sales Strategy Academy and best-selling author of Game Plan Selling

Don’t confuse your reader

“Acronyms, technical slang and other jargon will turn your reader off faster than a sleazy pitch. Don’t confuse your reader by trying to sound smart, that’s bad for sales and bad for you.”

Mary Cullen, founder and president of Instructional Solutions and internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach

How to use your new RFP response toolkit

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry. We covered a lot — from RFP response templates to proposal format advice, expert tips and more. But putting it all together is easier than you might think.

  • First, select the RFP response template that works best for your situation
  • Then, use the formatting advice to customize the content in the most effective way possible
  • Next, evaluate which tools and technology will best support your RFP response process
  • Finally, look over the expert tips and advice to ensure your proposal content is compelling, and persuasive and positions your organization to win

Not too bad, right? Now, you have all the tools and resources to efficiently and effectively respond to your next RFP.

See how it feels to respond with confidence

Why do 250,000+ users streamline their response process with RFPIO? Schedule a demo to find out.