How to choose a proposal management solution

Written by
Joe Kopyt
Joe Kopyt
Updated on
  9 min read
proposal management

In today’s competitive business landscape – where $11 trillion of revenue is won every year through RFPs – the ability to craft compelling and winning proposals is crucial for securing new opportunities and gaining a competitive edge. However, proposal management is a complex and time-crunched process, one that’s often managed by individuals or lean teams that can be pushed to their limits by the sheer amount of work each proposal entails. 

On average, proposal professionals spend over 40 hours per week responding to an RFP. When you consider that most companies are fielding multiple information requests simultaneously and that these questionnaires are only increasing in length – with some asking as many as a thousand questions – it becomes evident that traditional proposal management processes are inefficient and unsustainable. Proposal management solutions unlock much-needed efficiency by offering a centralized platform to expedite the creation, organization and submission of proposals, while improving the quality of the content.

A proposal management solution, in essence, is a comprehensive software tool designed to facilitate every state of the proposal lifecycle for organizations of any size. Whether you’re a small business with big aspirations or a major enterprise responding to hundreds of RFPs annually, a proposal management solution should stand as the backbone of your proposal process. Leading companies that leverage these game-changing platforms have a 16 percent higher win rate and generate 34 percent more revenue, according to a recent report. Operating without one means potentially losing out on valuable revenue opportunities, posing an existential threat to your business.

Navigating the various solutions available on the market can be overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a roadmap to navigate the dynamic landscape of proposal management technology and highlight the key functionality that’ll supercharge your proposal process and enable you to win more business, faster.

Is your RFP workflow broken?

In the high-stakes world of proposal management, the efficiency and effectiveness of your RFP workflow can be a make or break factor when it comes to winning (or losing) lucrative deals. Many organizations are operating with sub-optimal or completely broken proposal management processes, hindering their ability to grow.

The proposal process is certainly not simple. It’s deeply intricate, requiring the simultaneous deployment of various workflows to orchestrate knowledge-gathering across teams cross-functionally, and then crafting a compelling proposal that’ll capture attention. And RFPs are only getting more complex as issuing organizations ask for more information, extending and complicating already dense proposal processes.

With tight deadlines and a plethora of moving parts, it’s no wonder that many organizations miss the mark. Here are some warning signs that your RFP workflow may be broken:

  • Rushed responses. Many information requests require a quick turnaround. With tight deadlines applying pressure, some proposal teams may resort to hastily putting together responses without adequate research or strategic planning. After all, it’s better to submit something rather than missing out on an opportunity altogether – right? Not quite. Taking a reactive approach diminishes the quality and accuracy of proposals and can do lasting damage to your company reputation with potential partners.
  • Inconsistent deliverables. A telltale sign of a broken RFP workflow is the inconsistency in deliverables. When each proposal is treated as a one-off project, with no standardization or templating in place, it’s easy for quality control to slip through the cracks. Inconsistent formatting, tone and messaging can erode the credibility of your brand in the eyes of potential clients. 
  • Disjointed collaboration. One of the hallmark signs of a dysfunctional RFP workflow is a breakdown in communication between cross-functional teams. When the proposal process is siloed – with proposal teams, contributors/SMEs and stakeholders working in isolation – the result is often a subpar proposal that lacks cohesion and fails to address the client’s needs. A dearth of collaborative synergy can burden and extend the proposal process, leading to duplicated efforts, missed opportunities and, ultimately, lackluster proposals.

Recognizing the signs of a broken RFP workflow and identifying the specific choke points at your organization are the first steps in choosing a proposal management solution. With inefficiencies and impediments identified, you’ll be better equipped to assess the ROI of proposal management tech.

What to expect from the best proposal management software

The best proposal software solutions will give you key competitive advantages and propel your response process forward. Companies that leverage proposal management solutions see higher win rates, shorter response times and an increase in productivity, leading to major bumps in RFP volume.

  • Higher win rates. According to the latest RFP response trends and benchmarks, organizations that rely on proposal management software to fuel their response processes see significantly higher win rates. Leading companies have a 16 percent higher win rate, generating 34 percent more revenue. See how Jumio was able to increase their RFP win rate by 20% without adding any headcount. 
  • Shorter response times. Leveraging automation and AI, proposal management software will cut your average response time to mere hours. Simpler requests like sales proposals or quotes will take just a few minutes to prepare. This increase in productivity translates to cost savings: See how Microsoft saves $4.2M annually by streamlining their RFx processes with a proposal management solution. 
  • Increased RFP volume. With a more efficient proposal process, you’ll be able to significantly increase your RFP volume, providing your organization with more opportunities to win business. The best proposal management software will do more than just double or triple your RFP volume – see how Accruent responds to 5x more RFPs using Responsive. 

How to choose the right proposal management platform

There are many options out there, so choosing the right proposal management platform for your organization can be tricky. However, with careful consideration and strategic planning, you can navigate the selection process effectively. Here are the steps to take to identify the right solution for your needs. 

1. Identify pain points in your response process

Begin by conducting a thorough assessment of your current RFP workflow. Identify pain points, bottlenecks and inefficiencies that impede your team’s productivity and effectiveness. Whether it’s disjointed collaboration, inconsistent deliverables, or rushed responses, pinpointing specific challenges is crucial for selecting a proposal management solution that addresses your pain points.

2. Evaluate your current tech stack

Take stock of your organization’s existing tech stack to ensure compatibility and integration capabilities with potential proposal management platforms. As you’re assessing providers, be sure to ask about specific integrations – some offer far more than others. Consider factors like data security, scalability and how easy it is to integrate with existing systems (can the platform “plug right in”?) to ensure that your new proposal management solution won’t disrupt existing operations.

3. Gather input from collaborators and SMEs

Engage stakeholders, collaborators and subject matter experts (SMEs) in the decision-making process to gain valuable insights and perspectives. As a proposal management leader, you have a certain set of concerns, but integrating feedback from all members that’re part of typical proposal processes will surface additional factors to consider as you assess providers. Solicit feedback on pain points, desired features and workflow preferences. Plus, by involving key stakeholders from the outset, you can foster buy-in and alignment, increasing the likelihood and speed of successful implementation and adoption of the proposal management solution you end up choosing. 

4. Define your budget and calculate long-term savings

Establish a clear budget for your proposal management platform, taking into account both upfront costs and long-term savings. Consider factors such as licensing fees, implementation costs, ongoing maintenance expenses and the potential ROI and cost savings associated with improved efficiency and productivity. Be sure to pay attention to usage fees: many platforms will charge you per user, which can get expensive quickly. The best platforms, like Responsive, will offer one price with unlimited seats so that you don’t have to limit valuable proposal contributions to a select few. 

5. Request demos and try out solutions

Once you have your set of requirements in mind, request demos from the best proposal software solutions providers to evaluate their offerings. Take advantage of these opportunities to assess usability, functionality and user experience, ensuring that the platform meets your needs. Pay close attention to features such as collaboration tools, customization options, automation, AI-fueled content generation and reporting capabilities.

By following these steps and taking a systematic approach to evaluating proposal management platforms, you’ll be able to confidently select the right solution to simplify your proposal workflows, drive efficiency and, ultimately, win more business.

Features to evaluate for any proposal management solution

When assessing potential proposal management solutions, it’s essential to consider the key features and functionalities that will best support your organization’s needs and objectives. From AI-assisted automation to robust analytics, each feature plays a crucial role in maximizing efficiency to boost your proposal workflows.

Here are the must-have features to look for when selecting a proposal management solution.

AI-assisted automated responses

AI-assisted automation is revolutionizing the content generation landscape, including proposal management. With artificial intelligence, you’ll be able to hand off repetitive tasks and accelerate response times. Look for a solution that’ll not only automatically take care of repeat questions (which can be as much as 80% of an RFP), but one that will also automate mundane tasks like document generation and response prioritization. As you demo platforms, be sure to seriously evaluate the AI content generation functionality – though most providers boast about their AI features, some users discover post-purchase that the AI in their chosen platform isn’t actually that helpful and can be prone to errors.

Centralized content library

A centralized content repository or knowledge management system serves as the cornerstone of an effective proposal management solution, providing a single source of truth for all company content. Look for platforms that offer robust content management capabilities, including version control, search functionality and customizable tagging systems. The best providers, like Responsive, will even have a browser extension that’ll enable anyone within your organization to find internal information in just a few clicks. 

Collaboration tools

Proposal management is a collaborative effort – a single RFP can require a dozen or more contributors (not to mention executive stakeholders, legal and other interested parties). Look for solutions that offer built-in collaboration tools like real-time editing, commenting and automated task assignment features. These tools facilitate effortless communication and collaboration across teams, regardless of location or time zone.

Native integrations with your current tech stack

Integration capabilities are critical when selecting a proposal management solution as they ensure seamless interoperability with the apps and systems you’re already using. Dig into the native integrations offered by various platforms with CRM systems, cloud storage solutions, communication tools and project management software. Native integrations will automate data exchange between systems, eliminating manual work and bringing simplicity to proposal management workflows. 

Robust analytics and insights

Data-driven insights can prove invaluable for optimizing your proposal management process and driving continuous improvement. Look for solutions that offer robust analytics and reporting capabilities, allowing you to track key metrics like win rates, response time and resource utilization. The best platforms will also be able to automatically assess every RFP that comes in to determine your likelihood of winning and whether it’s worth your time to put together a proposal at all. 

The Responsive approach to proposal management

Responsive is the #1 proposal management solution according to G2 for four years and counting. Responsive powers RFP response processes at leading companies around the world across virtually every industry, including Adobe, ADP, Atlassian, BlackRock, Cigna, Dow Jones, Meta, Fujitsu, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, SAP and Shopify.

Empowering response teams with intelligent features like LookUp, effortless collaboration functionality, built-in analytics and a plethora of native integrations, Responsive enables organizations to win more RFPs with significantly less work. 

As a complete strategic response management (SRM) platform, Responsive equips companies to: 

  • respond with confidence to every information request (RFPs, RFIs, ESGs, DDQs, security questionnaires and more); 
  • create pre-filled documents through Profile Center with always-current company information for frontline teams to share;
  • deliver customized sales proposals in minutes through Proposal Builder;
  • and even issue their own RFPs to fuel more effective strategic sourcing.

Take a look for yourself: Schedule a custom demo here.

Joe Kopyt

Joe Kopyt is a NYC-based B2B marketing leader helping companies shape their narratives and generate demand. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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