Without the right proposal management tools, responding to RFPs, RFIs and other information requests requires tedious, manual and inefficient work. Proposal management tools bring much-needed efficiency to this convoluted process. By leveraging features like automation, AI-enabled support, collaborative workflow integrations and intelligent insights, they dramatically reduce the time spent responding to RFPs, RFIs and other information requests while boosting win rate and revenue generation.
In today’s fiercely competitive and globalized economy, developing a mature proposal management process is essential to staying ahead. Globally, $11 trillion of revenue is won every year through RFPs, making them a critical gateway to new sales opportunities, partnerships and high-value revenue streams. Yet, most companies manage this complicated and often time-crunched process with lean teams. On average, proposal professionals spend over 40 hours per week responding to an RFP: a complicated process that involves wrangling subject-matter experts (SMEs), finding relevant content in disparate, disorganized databases and rushing to prepare a visually impactful proposal to meet a tight deadline.
Leading companies are instead using strategic response management (SRM) software packed with proposal management tools to reduce the time spent putting together a winning proposal to just a couple of hours – without sacrificing quality.
Keep reading to find out which proposal management tools you need in your stack to ensure your business doesn’t just keep up with the competition, but rises to the top.
What’s holding your proposal management back?
At many companies, proposal management teams are strained – at no fault of their own. The response management process is a complicated one, requiring the orchestration of cross-functional knowledge gathering. And it’s only getting harder. Issuing companies are putting out RFPs and RFIs that are lengthier and more complex, adding onto an already burdensome ask.
Here are some of the most common proposal management challenges that response teams face on a daily basis:
- Disjointed collaboration. RFPs, RFIs and other information requests often ask for highly detailed information about various aspects of not only your core offerings, but also your business. To successfully answer these questions, response teams must seek out internal SMEs, which is often a manual, cumbersome process that’s especially complicated at global enterprises where workforces are distributed across varied time zones.
- Siloed knowledge. You’d be hard-pressed to name a single organization that has a streamlined approach to knowledge management. Even if most files are stored in a single cloud solution, each team has their own processes and naming conventions, making it difficult for proposal management teams to find the information they need on their own. This creates a siloed landscape that severely complicates the knowledge gathering required to craft an optimal response.
- Inconsistent deliverables. Even if your organization has iron-clad brand guidelines, designing a visually impactful RFP response takes time. Whether you use an in-house creative team, freelancers or a combination of the two, ensuring consistency across deliverables is a challenge – one that’s manual and only delays your response time.
- Rushed response processes. The challenges described above coalesce to create a critical time crunch for response teams. Manual and disjointed processes elongate the time it takes to craft a winning response – and the pressure’s only intensified as more information requests roll in. This results in a rushed response process that sacrifices quality, negatively impacting win rates.
Operating with an inefficient response management process is a recipe for disaster. Without the right proposal management tools, you thwart the efficacy of your response management team, meaning fewer RFP responses, lower win rates and decreased revenue generated from responses. This can pose a serious existential threat to your organization.
Leading companies leverage proposal management tools to significantly improve their response processes. Responsive’s 2023 Strategic Response Management Maturity Report surveyed 718 executives and managers responsible for strategic response management and found that leading companies use proposal management tools to yield a 16 percent higher win rate and generate 34 percent more revenue.
Operational factors to consider before you go looking for tools
Adopting proposal management tools to bring key efficiencies to your response processes is a clear-cut move. Before you go looking for tools, there are a number of operational factors you should consider:
- Manual processes. Take an inventory of your current response processes to identify steps that would benefit from automation. Locate choke points that are hindering response times.
- Existing proposal management tools. You’ll want to make sure that the proposal management tools you add to your stack won’t be duplicative of existing tools. Additionally, if you plan to retain some or all of your existing tools, you’ll want to ensure that whatever proposal software solution you end up adding will integrate seamlessly with your current tech.
- RFP response volume. Responsive’s 2023 Strategic Response Management Maturity Report found that response leaders handle over 25 responses per month, while lagging companies complete just five to 9 responses per month. As you assess different proposal management tools, make sure you get an understanding of how significantly they can increase your response volume, along with other response benchmarks.
- Number of collaborators. Each RFP or RFI response can include over a dozen different collaborators. Some proposal management tools structure their pricing around the number of collaborators, which can get costly fast, especially considering that collaborators are likely to change depending on the information request. If you anticipate needing many collaborator seats, look for solutions like Responsive that include unlimited collaborators.
- Integrations. Not all proposal management tools are compatible with all software. Before you seek out and assess solutions, make sure you complete an inventory of your organization’s existing tech stack, including CRMs, productivity software, communication apps, cloud storage solutions, SSO authenticators, etc. You’ll want to ensure that the proposal management tools you onboard will be able to simply plug into your existing stack.
Proposal management tools to consider
The ideal strategic response management (SRM) software will have a slate of proposal management tools to improve the response process at your organization. The best proposal software solutions offer all of the following functionality to boost the efficiency and productivity of response teams while increasing win rate.
Intelligent content library
Crafting a compelling proposal can feel like a frantic treasure hunt, requiring response managers to dig through folders, emails and scattered repositories to find relevant information. A vital proposal management tool is an intelligent content library. Standout SRM solutions will offer a centralized knowledge base that houses all company information in a single place.
With an intelligent content library, pertinent documents are readily accessible instantly, boosting productivity and response times. A response manager just has to type a few words into a search bar to locate the right information and source document.
The rise of game-changing generative AI tools like Open AI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard has constituted a true paradigm shift in the world of content production. In the fast-paced world of response management, this can translate to a significant competitive advantage.
Look for proposal software solutions equipped with integrated AI writing tools. With AI-enabled support, the platform can sprint into action with just a simple prompt, diving into your knowledge base, synthesizing key messages and then crafting compelling customized responses to complex questions. These tasks typically take hours when manually completed by response teams – with AI that time can be reduced to a matter of seconds.
Collaborative workflow integrations
Cross-functional collaboration is a must when it comes to building a successful response. Yet, successful collaboration is often complicated because SMEs are scattered. At the largest companies, response managers may not even have the same working hours as some necessary collaborators.
SRM software enables users across your company to access RFPs, RFIs and other information requests from dozens of applications, enabling company-wide collaboration through existing communication apps like Slack, Google Hangouts, Jira and Microsoft Teams. When input is needed from a colleague, response managers can seamlessly tag the right person to add their expertise directly into the draft proposal.
A central advantage of proposal management tools is automation. For example, when it comes to cross-functional collaboration, automation can unlock smoother processes by analyzing and organizing RFP requirements, sending automatic reminders and scheduling reviews without the need for any manual intervention.
Another key advantage is the ability for proposal management software to leverage past proposals and responses. With the best software, every response you produce will be automatically integrated into the intelligent content library. That way, AI can identify repeat questions and create a first draft using your past responses – all on its own. This produces massive time savings that enable response teams to work more quickly, without sacrificing quality.
Vendor security questionnaires (VSQs) can be repetitive and time-consuming, requiring the participation of IT, InfoSec, product development and other subject matter experts. Yet, their importance is monumental given that they’re often the last step before a new business relationship is sealed.
Proposal management tools can complete as much as 80% of a security questionnaire automatically, writing a first draft using your content library. The best tools will even enhance your VSQ responses with tables, images and rich text.
Branded templates and visual support
The difference between a good proposal and a great one can often come down to presentation. Even if your product is objectively better than what the competition has to offer, a visually subpar proposal may cost you the contract.
SRM platforms automate key processes of visual content production to enhance any proposal with relevant tables, charts, images and other visualizations so that your proposal is scannable and impactful. The best solutions will also allow you to easily export proposals into a variety of source files, branded templates (that are generated automatically) or even website pages.
Reporting, analytics and insights
Gauging the success of your organization’s response management function is more than just calculating your win rate. Proposal management tools come equipped with a full suite of analytics and reporting tools that give you valuable insights to improve the efficacy of your response management.
With this functionality, you’re not only able to retroactively assess performance, but you’re also able to leverage insights to make strategic decisions. Not all information requests are created equal: some are more complicated than others and your chance of winning is not necessarily always the same.
The top proposal management platforms will deliver automatic insights that help you decide whether to respond to each RFP and RFI that comes in using built-in intelligence that analyzes not only each request, but also your past success rates for similar requests. That way, response teams can focus their efforts just on the opportunities that’ll have the greatest payoff.
What the right proposal management tools can do for your team
Adopting dedicated proposal technology gives your organization a clear competitive advantage. With a stack of proposal management tools, your response teams will effortlessly adhere to RFP best practices on each and every response.
The positive impacts on both your proposal management function and your business will be almost instantaneous. You’ll unlock:
- Higher win rates: Leading companies using proposal management tools have a 16 percent higher win rate on average than comparable companies with more manual processes.
- Increased revenue: This higher win rate translates to more cash flowing in. Companies with mature response management functions generate 34 percent more revenue, according to a recent Responsive study surfacing RFP response trends and benchmarks.
- Redundancy elimination: Many information requests are repetitive. Proposal management tools eliminate the tedious tasks of responding to the same types of questions with automation.
- End-to-end transparency: Proposal management can be an opaque process, especially for SMEs, one-time contributors or executives. SRM software with in-platform collaboration makes the entire process transparent, streamlining communication and knowledge sharing.
- Scaled RFP responses: Proposal management tools can reduce the time it takes to craft a winning response from 40 hours to just a few. This mind-blowing efficiency boost allows your organization to significantly scale your response function to generate more revenue with less work.
Companies of all sizes benefit significantly from proposal management tools. To get some real-world inspiration for your own team, see how various organizations maximize the ROI of a strategic response management platform.
How Responsive gives you the competitive edge with proposal management tools
All of the proposal management tools discussed above make up the core functionality of Responsive, the #1 RFP software solution according to G2 for four years and counting. Responsive is trusted by leading companies across virtually every industry, including Adobe, ADP, Atlassian, BlackRock, Cigna, Dow Jones, Meta, Fujitsu, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, SAP and Shopify.
With a robust content library, intelligent features like LookUp, effortless collaboration, built-in analytics and a plethora of native integrations, Responsive enables organizations to win more bids with significantly less effort. See how Jumio has been able to increase its RFP win rate by 20% and double response volume without adding headcount – all with Responsive.