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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: Tag: Proposal management

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.

How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

For many businesses, the proposal process is always a scramble. Certainly, it’s understandable when working with tight time frames, a variety of stakeholders and a whole lot of information. A project implementation plan can help organize your team as you tackle complex RFPs. In addition, a thoughtful plan can improve the consistency and efficiency of your proposal execution. 

In this post, we’ll explore exactly what a project implementation plan is. Additionally, we’ll cover how it benefits the RFP response process and how to build one for your proposal team. Finally, we’ll provide templates and an example to help you get started. With these tools, you can bring order and efficiency to your proposal process.

What is a project implementation plan?

A project implementation is approach that breaks down a project into the distinct steps required to accomplish a particular goal. Within the plan, each step required to achieve the goal has an owner and a due date. Often, the goal of the plan supports larger business objectives. Project Manager offers this insight into the strategic role of the tool:

“Strategic planning is done on an organizational level, dictating the direction of the company strategy and allocating resources to make that strategy come to life. Thus, the implementation plan traces the edges of that, mapping out how to best implement a strategic plan from the outset, and how to effectively manage it as it gets put into place.”

How can proposal managers use a project implementation plan

Certainly, a project implementation plan is a helpful project management tool for nearly any process. However, it is particularly useful for proposal coordinators. The plan gives them a way to organize their team and the complex RFP response process. Similarly, a RACI matrix or proposal timeline can also serve as a guide for the proposal team to work from.

Benefits of a project implementation plan

A solid project implementation plan has short- and long-term benefits for your proposal team as well as your organization. Certainly, creating your project plan will take some time and optimization through trial and error, but stick with it.

Implementation plan benefits:

Boost buy-in

Disagreements are bound to happen in proposal management. Naturally, when it comes to allocating resources, there will be conflicting opinions. However, a project implementation plan can help when resources are scarce. This can reassure any stakeholders or team members who may have doubts about pursuing a particular opportunity.

Improve collaboration

Bring your stakeholders, subject matter experts (SMEs) and the entire proposal team together with a clear path to success. A project implementation plan can eliminate confusion about who is responsible for which steps. So, each team member knows what they are accountable for and when within the process. In addition, progress updates are clear and questions about what comes next are quickly answered.

Optimize and answer more RFPs

Because the RFP response process is clearly defined in your plan, the process can move more quickly. There’s no second-guessing or confusion because the steps are clearly defined.

Following a project implementation plan creates efficiency. Consequently enabling your team to answer more RFPs and win more opportunities. Then, with periodic reviews of your process, you can identify areas for improvement and become a well-oiled, RFP-answering machine.

How to create a proposal implementation plan

Ready to try a proposal project implementation plan? Get started here.

1. Define your goal

I get it. This may seem a little silly when creating a project implementation plan for proposal management. After all, the goal is obvious: to submit a winning bid. However, it’s so important to keep this goal in mind, because it should guide your plan and will prompt important questions.

Take a moment to consider. If your goal is to submit a winning bid, ask yourself, is this RFP winnable? Unfortunately, far too many businesses waste time and resources answering RFPs they were never going to win. Accordingly, that’s why the discussion of whether to bid or not to bid is so important.

In addition, it’s essential to know what it will take to achieve your goal. What internal resources will you need in order to submit a compelling bid on time? Who will need to be involved? Which stakeholders should be consulted? Ultimately, considering all of these questions will help you build a more complete, strategic implementation plan.

2. Map your process and resources

After asking yourself what it will take to win, you’re ready to start laying out your process and taking stock of your resources.

Your proposal timeline milestones should include:

  • Go/no-go evaluation and discussion
  • Project planning
  • Kickoff meeting
  • Collection of questions for RFP issuer
  • Search of content library by section and question
  • SME question assignment
  • Customization of knowledge library content
  • Executive summary and RFP cover letter creation
  • Review of SME responses
  • Formatting and design
  • Final reviews
  • Proposal submission

Assign due dates to each of these milestones. Remember, it may be easier to work backward from your proposal submission date to ensure you’re not rushing at the end of your process. Then, assign each task to the relevant team members. Who is responsible for ensuring the work is completed? Are they available and able to meet the required deadline? 

This step is crucial for avoiding bottlenecks and delays later in the process. As time goes on, you can revise your timeline to account for the efficiency you’ve gained. Alternatively, you may need to adjust if some steps that take more time than expected.

3. Build and publish your implementation plan

Now that you have all the information you need to include in your project implementation plan, you need to organize and present it in a clear and helpful way.

Proposal project implementation plan components:

Introduction and goal

Keep your introduction short and sweet. Generally, a paragraph or two is sufficient to outline the project. For example, your introduction should state the potential customer issuing the RFP, the value of the business and the goal of submitting a winning proposal by the deadline. Include the primary point of contact for the project for any questions or concerns.

Executive summary

Include an executive summary to give a high-level overview of your plan. What differentiators will you highlight? Why are your chances good to win this RFP? What challenges will you need to overcome to be successful?

Need an RFP executive summary template to help you get started? Find one here.

List of stakeholders and contributors

Provide a comprehensive list of who will be involved in executing the project. Also, include a brief description of their role in the process. You may find a RACI matrix helpful for this step.

Outline of milestones and tasks

Create a chronological list of milestones. Within that list, add each task and responsible party. Certainly, it can be helpful to also note important dependencies as well as work that can be accomplished concurrently. You may find a Gantt chart helpful for visualizing this process, or you may want to use a project management tool. Provide additional instructions and any required context.

Implementation schedule

Your implementation schedule will follow the proposal timeline you created in your earlier preparation. Work backward and allow some extra time; assign due dates for each milestone and task within your plan.

Background documentation and resources list

Next, include links to any background or research you’ve done. The extra information helps subject matter experts and contributors customize their messaging. In addition, include any capture planning documentation or strategic account information available.

Approval process

Define how the final proposal will be reviewed and approved. If changes are required, clearly state how those changes will be reviewed, adopted and documented so you don’t run into any version control issues. Finally, provide guidance for who is responsible to give final approval.

Project implementation plan templates and example

Basic implementation plan template – Smartsheet

Smartsheet created this helpful project implementation plan template for general project management. However, it is easily adaptable for the purpose of proposal management. In addition to the elements listed above, this version also contains sections to explore risks and assumptions as well as security considerations. 

Detailed implementation plan template – University of Illinois

For complex, high-value RFPs, more detail may be required. This is a project implementation plan example from the University of Illinois. Helpfully, it provides instructions for use and a wealth of customizable sections. As with Smartsheet’s template, some sections may not be applicable to proposal management. 

Basic project plan example –

This example from is a no-frills version of a project implementation plan. Unusually, it forgoes background information and introductions. It jumps directly into a list of key tasks and milestones. In addition, each task notes the estimated time required and the name of the team member responsible. While this likely isn’t a fit for larger RFPs, it may work well for managing an RFP lite or a standard security questionnaire.

Efficiency and organization go hand in hand. Certainly, creating and following a project implementation plan for your proposal process can deliver huge improvements. For more information about improving your proposal process, you can also check out these blogs:

Is a proposal development consultant the key to winning your next RFP?

Is a proposal development consultant the key to winning your next RFP?

When a huge opportunity crosses your desk in the form of a detailed RFP, there’s a lot of pressure to get it just right. Will you be ready to create the proposal of a lifetime and seal the deal? If you’re not quite sure, hiring a proposal development consultant may pay off in a big way.

Proposal development consultants go by a number of names. Titles of the role include proposal consultant, proposal writing consultant, strategic proposal consultant or even marketing consultant. No matter what you call them, their goal is to improve your chances of winning the business. 

In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about hiring and working with a proposal development consultant. We’ll start with what you can expect from your proposal consultant, why you might hire one as well as interview questions to help you find the right fit.

What is a proposal development consultant?

As you might expect, a proposal development consultant works with businesses to create proposals. Sometimes they are called proposal consultants or RFP consultants. These consultants offer an outside perspective, insight and expertise. 

Typically, they have years of experience in the field. Many started their career answering proposals themselves before making the move to consulting. So, your proposal consultant should have a deep understanding of your challenges and industry.

Why hire a proposal consultant?

There are a lot of reasons to consider engaging with a proposal development consultant. For example, you may need expertise in a particular industry you’re selling into, or you may need someone to finesse your responses for a particularly lucrative opportunity. Bringing in a little help to ensure your proposal hits all the right notes will help you move forward with confidence.

When it comes to small and medium-sized businesses, they likely don’t have a dedicated proposal coordinator or manager. So, creating a timely and compelling proposal is a challenge. Beyond pulling resources away from their full-time work, it’s easy to let proposal deadlines sneak up. However, engaging with a proposal development consultant will take the burden off of the team and ensure that the project stays on track.

On the other hand, large, dedicated proposal teams face a different set of challenges. RFPs are a huge part of the overall business strategy. In these cases, proposal managers must find a balance between volume and quality. A proposal writing consultant can help by managing overflow work, consulting on key projects, evaluating and optimizing processes or simply providing an outside perspective.

It’s easy to get entrenched (and a little blinded) by a repetitive RFP process. When creating proposals becomes routine, it can be easy to overlook things that aren’t clear. In addition, little mistakes can pop up here and there. But little mistakes can make a big impression. 

A good illustration of this comes from an interview with Betsy McDonald of the Chicago White Sox. When the team was looking for an advertising agency, they received more than 60 proposals and some were memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“Our stuff needs to be perfectly proofread, so typos and mistakes in the RFP response were hard to overcome.”

Proposal development consultant services

When you hire a proposal consultant for the first time, it’s hard to know what to expect. Generally, businesses seek a proposal writing consultant to help them create content. However, they can be a great resource to your entire proposal team. They’re a wealth of knowledge, so explore the services they offer beyond writing proposal content.

Additional proposal consultant services may include:

Types of strategic proposal consultants

In your search for proposal help, you’ll find a range of organizations and individuals eager to work with you. Before you engage with one, it’s important to understand your options. Your needs will determine what type of consultant you should hire and for what services.

Proposal consultancy firms 

There are some great proposal consultancy firms that are laser-focused on finding new ways to win RFPs. Often, these organizations work in a variety of industries. One benefit of working with a group of consultants is that efficiency is built into their business model. Therefore, they probably have a tried and true process. They should be highly organized, communicative and prompt. So if speed is your highest priority, this may be the way to go.

Marketing consultant or sales consultant

Proposal management often falls into the marketing or sales department. Accordingly, you may find that a marketing or sales consultant has the proposal expertise you need. Thanks to their broad focus on the marketing landscape or sales lifecycle, these consultants can offer trend and process insights. If you’re looking for a holistic approach to RFP management consulting, this might be the way to go.

Independent proposal consultants

When you need expertise about your potential customer’s industry, there’s an independent consultant out there for you. Solo proposal development consultants generally specialize in one field. Because of their experience, they are able to create tailored responses that use the right terminology and tone. More importantly, they understand the underlying need and logic behind the questions in the RFP. To leverage the full value of this insight, engage them to perform regular reviews of the content library as a part of your knowledge management strategy.

Freelance proposal writer

Almost all proposals can benefit from an outside perspective and a second pair of eyes. In this case, a proposal freelancer may be your best choice. Often, it’s difficult to make a proposal consistent. After all, proposals are frequently written by a handful of subject matter experts and stakeholders. A freelance proposal writer will review the content to make it more powerful and compelling while creating a cohesive and error-free final product.

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) offers a directory with proposal consultants of all types. APMP members can access the entire catalog, while non-members have limited access. Check it out here.

How to pick a proposal development consultant

From a full proposal consultancy firm to a proposal freelancer, there’s no doubt that the right consultant can be the difference between winning and losing. Speed is a crucial factor, so start with these questions ready when you interview candidates. Ultimately, the right answers will depend on your needs. But, remember to trust your gut. All the experience in the world can’t make up for a poor communicator or a bad culture fit. 

What is their process?

This should be your first question. The process they use will impact your entire team and your success. All proposal development consultants should be able to clearly articulate their best practices and work process. Be sure to communicate any relevant project background as well as your goals.

How will they communicate with you and your team?

Collaboration will be key to success. While the consultant will be able to provide input and advice, they don’t have the expertise about your business to complete the proposal themselves. Communication must be a two-way street throughout the process. How and when will they share updates? Will they need to set meetings with stakeholder and subject matter experts? How will they collaborate with you and your team?

What proposal technology do they use?

Speaking of collaboration, how does the consultant leverage technology? An RFP management tool delivers a ton of value when working with a consultant. Will they work with your team within your existing process or will they need you to adapt to them? Do they use a file share system to gather information?

Who have they worked with in the past?

Ask for references and success stories from previous clients. Inquire about their background in the industry and relevant experience. Did they do a little homework about your business? If they specialize in your industry or work with potential competitors, ask about confidentiality and data security practices.

What will they need to get started?

Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll want to move quickly and empower them with the information they need. After all, the proposal deadline waits for no one. How can you prepare your team and empower the consultant to be successful?

Investing in proposals

We all need a little help sometimes. With so many people, questions and elements involved in the RFP response process, there’s no question that organizing a proposal can be a challenge. Luckily, proposal consultants are experts that have worked through dozens, if not hundreds of similar RFPs. Their experience can provide important insight about what you may have forgotten and ideas you should consider as well as subtext about what the buyer is looking for. At the end of the day, engaging a consultant is an investment, but for the right opportunity, it can really pay off.

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.

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.

How a proposal coordinator keeps RFPs running smoothly

How a proposal coordinator keeps RFPs running smoothly

Want to create winning proposals? Of course you do, but how? Well, talking with a proposal coordinator is a good place to start. The person in this role has to be a flawless communicator, organizational whiz, project management master and more to get the job done. You definitely want them on your side.

This post will explore the proposal coordinator role, their responsibilities and how they whip up winning RFPs.

What is a proposal coordinator?

First things first: What is a proposal coordinator? A proposal coordinator is the person responsible for managing the creation of proposals. They often work with proactive proposals and RFP responses. Generally, they are part of the sales, marketing or revenue operations team.

Proposal coordinator responsibilities

Proposal coordinators — like the name suggests — are responsible for coordinating proposals.

A proposal coordinator’s responsibilities include

  • Managing the creation of proposals
  • Collaborating with subject matter experts, sales and other team members to write the proposal
  • Verifying proposals are formatted consistently and correctly
  • Ensuring proposals are compelling, accurate and complete
  • Facilitating the proposal review process
  • Cataloging and organizing proposal content for future use

As you can see, creating winning proposals involves a lot of moving parts … and proposal coordinators make sure those moving parts come together successfully.

Key skills of a proposal coordinator

Proposal coordinators have a hand in every stage of the proposal creation process.

According to PayScale, they must:

  • Coordinate and maintain team documentation efforts for responses to RFPs
  • Analyze requirements and ensure that proposals meet requirements
  • Edit and rewrite proposals, including creating templates and boilerplate text
  • Draft proposals and communicate across teams to get input and meet deadlines

Because of the wide range of tasks they must complete, successful proposal coordinators are often skilled in many areas, including:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Research
  • Writing and editing
  • Managing people
  • Psychology
  • Graphic design

While you’re unlikely to find a candidate who is extremely skilled in every one of the categories listed above, they should understand the basics.

In most cases, the best proposal coordinators are T-shaped employees. For those who aren’t familiar, TechTarget defines a T-shaped employee as “an individual who has deep knowledge and skills in a particular area of specialization, along with the desire and ability to make connections across disciplines.”

They go on to explain that “the horizontal bar of the T symbolizes a breadth of general knowledge,” while “the vertical stem of the T symbolizes the depth.” Put simply, T-shaped proposal coordinators have a working understanding of a wide range of categories and specialize in at least one area.

This allows them to keep the big picture in mind when coordinating proposals. At the same time, ensure they have the expertise needed to maximize their impact.

Proposal coordinator challenges

Being a proposal coordinator isn’t always easy. Indeed, many proposal coordinators feel like their job is much like herding cats. Common challenges include:

  • Piecing  together scattered responses from multiple subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Following up with SMEs multiple times asking for their input
  • Meeting tight deadlines for RFP responses
  • Finding the right proposal content from previous projects
  • Tailoring the content to meet the prospect’s needs
  • Adjusting and ensuring proper proposal formatting

It’s not exactly easy. But with the right tools, skills and support, you can master the process.

How to overcome these challenges

While getting SMEs to provide timely content is challenging, it’s absolutely critical. Proposal coordinators need to leverage their expertise, and they need to have enough time left over after receiving their content to tailor the language to the prospect’s needs.

Unfortunately, many proposal coordinators fall victim to the hurry-up-and-wait mentality. However, the most successful develop a more proactive approach.

Develop a template

Proposal coordinators have to make it incredibly easy for SMEs to give them the content they need.

A great way to accomplish that is by creating proposal templates. Templates provide clear direction that makes it simple for SMEs to answer prospects’ questions. They also ensure SMEs provide responses in the most useful format.

Create the first draft

Another great way to simplify SMEs’ involvement in the proposal process is to draft answers to request for proposal (RFP) questions and ask SMEs to review.

True, this first draft will likely contain incorrect information. After all, proposal coordinators don’t have the same expertise SMEs have. But, as long as SMEs have the opportunity to review the content before it’s published in the final proposal, they’ll iron out the details without issue.

Because the process is easier, they’ll likely be thrilled to do it. Instead of trying to create compelling content from scratch, they only have to review and provide clarification.

Reuse past proposal content

Reusing past proposal content is probably the most important component of getting winning proposal content. In many organizations, proposal teams struggle with repetitive tasks that when their time could be better spent. 

Grégory Saive, IBA global director of sales and support, experienced this problem first-hand. Many of their RFPs are hundreds or thousands of pages long and all are highly complex. Each involved multiple SMEs, often for responses the’ve given before.

Fortunately, they discovered Responsive — the leading RFP response management platform. Using their newfound technology, they’re now able to organize, store, search, and reuse past proposal content.

A proposal coordinator can quickly and easily find the answers they need. Likewise, SMEs and other stakeholders don’t have to worry about repetitive tasks.

“Responsive allows the team to spend more time on meaningful tasks…either training, reviewing answers, or improving quality. That’s where I’ve spent most of my time saved since the beginning…I cannot really measure the increase in quality in terms of answers, but I can certainly measure the increase of quality in my team.”

Request a demo of Responsive to explore how proposal software makes it easy for proposal coordinators to craft winning proposals.

3 key proposal management skills and resources to improve them

3 key proposal management skills and resources to improve them

For many businesses, responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) is a regular occurrence. Every RFP is a sales opportunity that can contribute to business growth. The success of each proposal hinges on its execution. Accordingly, the practice of proposal management makes a significant impact on the final outcome.  

If you respond to RFPs, you already know that proposal management requires a diverse set of skills. Identifying and honing each skill can quickly help improve your proposal process and your win rate. 

In this post, we’ll explore what proposal management is, who is responsible for it, the key skills it requires and resources to help along the way. With this information, you’ll be more efficient, effective and successful as you manage the proposal process.

Proposal management defined

Before we jump into the skills required, let’s quickly define what proposal management is. Proposal management is the process of overseeing and facilitating the completion of a proposal. It includes planning the timeline, hitting send on the final proposal submission and everything in between.

Who is responsible?

Large organizations typically have a dedicated proposal team. The proposal department is led by a proposal manager. They work with a team of proposal coordinators, graphic designers and writers. Their sole focus is producing winning proposals.

For small and mid-sized businesses, hiring a proposal manager is a luxury that may not be in the budget. To fill the gap, proposal management duties may fall to an individual in a variety of departments. In these situations, the person responsible for proposal management may simply be taking on the role out of necessity. However, it’s not their primary job function. Who the RFP is assigned to and why varies from one business to another.

Common roles in proposal management

  • Salesperson ⁠— They have the best insights and understanding of the potential client’s needs, they provide context that will help differentiate the proposal from others
  • Marketing team member⁠ — They have deep knowledge of the business as well as the competitive market and can present a proposal that looks professional and stands out
  • Business operations ⁠— They have close relationships with many different departments, can coordinate with subject matter experts and have visibility to big-picture business objectives

3 key skills for successful proposal management

No matter the role, if you find yourself responsible for proposal management you’ll benefit from brushing up on several key skills. Explore these areas to successfully manage the proposal process and save time.

  • Project management
  • Knowledge management
  • Content editing

1. Project management

Project management is the core of an efficient and effective proposal process. The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as “…the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.” If you have previously managed a proposal you can probably look back at the process you used and see how it might overlap with this definition. Whether you knew it at the time or not, you were project managing.

The stats about project management are impressive. An estimated 77 percent of high-performing projects use project management software. While 97 percent of organizations believe that project management is critical to business performance and organizational success. Apply project management principles to proposal management to see big benefits.

Project management for proposals can be broken down into five steps:
  1. Initiate
    Receive and evaluate the RFP request and conduct a bid or no bid analysis
  2. Plan
    Outline the proposal process and all of the involved contributors, reviewers and stakeholders
  3. Execute
    Find and reuse previous RFP answers and send updates and new questions to subject matter experts
  4. Monitor and control
    Track response progress, follow up for approvals and update stakeholders as needed
  5. Close
    Review and compile all elements, seek final approval and submit the completed proposal

Proposal management requires a great deal of careful planning and facilitation. Coordinating between half a dozen departments, making sure no details are missed and trying to meet a deadline can be overwhelming. But, using the five steps of project management can help make the proposal process more manageable.  

Project management resources:

Managing smaller and medium-sized projects ⁠— Ebook by Dr. Jim Young, PMP

This ebook is full of great insights that will help build your project management skills. It includes roles and responsibilities, terminology, templates and more. It’s free and well worth your time.

Projectified ⁠— Podcast produced by PMI

This podcast is perfect for brushing up your skills and learning the latest trends in project management. With most episodes clocking in at under 20 minutes, it’s a great way to spend your daily commute.

2. Knowledge management

Chances are you’re not the first person at your company to be tasked with responding to an RFP. Every proposal, past and future, is a significant business investment. The detailed research, business insights and skillful storytelling that go into a proposal represent hours of work. But what happens to that knowledge once the proposal has been submitted? Does it just get filed away to collect dust?

The practice of knowledge management (KM) keeps valuable information from going to waste. Author, speaker and KM pioneer, Tom Davenport, offered this succinct summary of knowledge management, “Knowledge Management is the process of capturing, distributing, and effectively using knowledge.” Davenport gave that definition in 1994 and the practice of knowledge management has grown steadily since. The Market Research Future reports that global investment in knowledge management software will soon hit $33 billion. 

Applying knowledge management to your proposal content can save hours and days of work. for proposal managers and SMEs alike. Subject matter experts trust you to ask the right questions, save that knowledge and use it again. One sign that proposal management is being done well is that over time, SMEs will need to write fewer and fewer new answers. As the knowledge library grows, it saves even more time as common questions and answers are tagged, categorized and continually updated. Knowledge management allows SMEs to focus on their day-to-day work because proposal content is easy to find and reuse.

In addition to improving efficiency, KM protects your business from loss. For example, if one of your key stakeholders leaves the business, they take their knowledge with them ⁠— unless you’ve retained it in the knowledge library. If responses are stored in the knowledge library, new, onboarding team members can find crucial information quickly.

Knowledge management resources:

Responsive RFP software

This platform is designed specifically for response management. Its robust Content Library makes it easy to collect, categorize, collaborate on and search for RFP responses within the Content Library. It also captures data about who authored the question, when it was last updated and how many times it’s been used. Responsive integrates with the most popular CRMs, productivity and communication tools. 

Five tenets of corporate knowledge management infographic ⁠—  University of Southern California

From benefits to best practices, this infographic offers a high-level view of knowledge management. The ideas can easily be applied to proposal knowledge management.

3. Content editing

The best proposals tell a story. They are engaging, interesting and they clearly express why partnering with your business will benefit the buyer. Unlike a traditional story that has one author, a proposal has many. Unifying the perspectives and voices of all your subject matter experts into one cohesive narrative is a challenge. Excellent proofreading, editing and writing skills are critical to proposal management.

Writing compelling proposal content isn’t easy. You’ll find that while your SMEs all contribute vital expertise, they may communicate it in very different ways. Some people will relay the facts in the most concise way possible, while others may add unnecessary detail that could confuse the reader. Merely copying and pasting RFP answers is risky. It can create an unprofessional, disjointed narrative with an inconsistent style and tone. 

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) offers a great editing checklist. In general, you’ll want to carefully review each answer for three things:

  1. Content
    Does it answer the question? Does it provide the required information in the requested style?
  2. Tone
    Does it sound and look like your brand? Does the tone sound consistent throughout the proposal?
  3. Grammar
    Is everything formatted, spelled, capitalized and punctuated correctly?

In a proposal with hundreds of questions, reviewing each question may seem overwhelming. However, this is where the value of your knowledge library comes into play again. If you consistently add your RFP answers to the library, you’ll have a head start with proposal content you’ve already edited. You can simply customize the answer to the customer and move forward.

Quick tips for proposal content editing:

  • Write in an active voice as much as possible ⁠⁠— it creates a more confident and knowledgeable tone
  • Create a style sheet to share with SMEs like this one: APMP style sheet template
  • Strike a balance to make sure your content isn’t too dry, but also not too fluffy and verbose
  • Format the proposal in a way that makes it visually approachable and scannable, include bullet points where possible
  • Include the proposal cover letter and any other standard documentation in your content editing review

Content editing resources:

LinkedIn Learning ⁠— Online video courses

These quick courses are great for brushing up on grammar, copy editing, identifying active voice and more. There are even quick videos that cover proposals if you’re looking for even more tips and tricks.

Online style and grammar tools: 

Grammarly ⁠— Available as a free web app or a Chrome extension, Grammarly will offer suggestions to fix spelling and grammatical errors

ReadablePro ⁠— With Readable, you can quickly check your proposal’s readability, tone and sentiment. It will also identify passive voice, long sentences and cliches to avoid

Winning skills

Proposal management is a balancing act and time to focus on learning new skills is short. However, simply improving your awareness of the skills proposal management requires will help you create more effective proposals and win more business. Luckily, project management, knowledge management and content editing skills are almost universally useful. So, spending time improving them will serve you well no matter how many proposals you manage.

If you’re ready to take your proposal management skills to the next level, request a Responsive demo to see how technology helps maximize efficiency, centralize knowledge and automate processes.

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.

How to build a winning proposal team

How to build a winning proposal team

Behind the scenes of every RFP response is a proposal team. This group of professionals works together and shares a common goal: winning new business. Together they leverage their individual strengths, talent and expertise. As a result of their efforts, they deliver consistent, complete and compelling proposals. But it doesn’t happen by accident.

Winning RFP teams are highly organized, collaborative and efficient. Consequently, in this blog post, we’ll explore the key proposal team roles and responsibilities. In addition, we’ll offer tips and advice for how to build a strong proposal team. Ultimately, equipped with a clear proposal team structure, your RFP responses will become more consistent, repeatable and effective.

Key proposal team roles and responsibilities

The first step of building a winning proposal team is to identify the players and define the proposal team structure. Then, outline the team roles and responsibilities.  The proposal team structure varies widely from one organization to another. For example, depending on the size and organizational structure of your business, you may have a consistent three-member team. Alternatively, you may have thirty people on the proposal team who all work on separate projects. Regardless of team size, these key roles will likely be present in most businesses. In addition to defining these roles, we’ll explore key skills and common challenges for g the process from start to finish. As the project manager for the RFP response, they create the project plan and keep the proposal on schedule. Before the proposal coordinator assigns tasks, they review the knowledge library and answer as many questions in the RFP as possible. Then they assign any new questions to contributors, follow up on tasks, answer questions and provide guidance as needed.

Proposal coordinator or proposal manager

The proposal coordinator or proposal manager is the coach and the leader of the proposal team. Typically, they work in the business development, marketing or sales operations department. In most cases, the proposal manager will be the point of contact for the prospective client who issued the RFP. 


The proposal coordinator is responsible for overseeing the process from start to finish. As the project manager for the RFP response, they create the project plan and keep the proposal on schedule. Before the proposal coordinator assigns tasks, they review the knowledge library and answer as many questions in the RFP as possible. Then they assign any new questions to contributors, follow up on tasks, answer questions and provide guidance as needed.

Key skills:

  • Project management
  • Collaboration and communication
  • Knowledge management
  • Content editing and proofreading


  • Collaborating and following up with subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Organizing, updating and managing the knowledge library
  • Bringing executive-level visibility to the value of the proposal team

Subject matter expert (SME)

A subject matter expert is a go-to authority about a particular subject, field or skill. An SME may be an individual contributor, manager or executive. In addition to providing expertise for the proposal, the SME themselves may be a differentiator for your business.


SMEs are responsible for contributing new content to the RFP response. Equally important, they must review and approve answers from the proposal content library as selected by the proposal manager. During the proposal process, SMEs use their specialized knowledge to help convey key benefits to the potential customer.

Key skills:

  • Collaboration and communication
  • Knowledge management
  • Time management


  • Managing workload in addition to proposal reviews and content creation
  • Communicating highly-technical and complex information in a way that is easily understood
  • Keeping the proposal content repository up to date as changes occur

Proposal development consultant

A proposal development consultant is an outside expert hired to improve proposals. Likely, you won’t require the expertise of a consultant for every proposal, but they can be a key part of your proposal team when needed. For example, proposal consultants can assist in understanding the challenges and unique needs of a particular market.


Proposal development consultants can take on a wide range of responsibilities, depending on the needs of your organization. From reviewing and polishing proposal content to optimizing your entire RFP management process, you can find a consultant for nearly any proposal need.

Key skills:

  • Highly organized and motivated
  • Deep industry expertise
  • Knowledge of proposal trends and best practices
  • Change management


  • Cultivating an understanding of business objectives
  • Building meaningful relationships with proposal teams and SMEs
  • Navigating complex corporate structures

Executive-level reviewer and approver

Before a proposal is submitted, it should undergo an executive-level review. The final reviewer should have the authority to approve the proposal. In addition, they should not have been involved in the creation of the proposal, in order to bring a fresh, unbiased perspective to the process.


The executive-level reviewer is the final stop before the proposal is sent back to the customer. Moreover, they are responsible for ensuring that the proposal is an accurate reflection of their organization. Finally, they affirm that the opportunity, if won, would contribute to the greater goals of the business.

Key skills:

  • Big-picture perspective
  • Detail-oriented and thorough
  • Knowledgeable of overall business vision and goals


  • Managing rapid review turnarounds
  • Understanding opportunity context and background

Additional players: Large proposal team roles and responsibilities

While smaller teams may have roles that take on several responsibilities, in large businesses it is not uncommon to have proposal teams made of 20-30 people. Certainly, with teams this size, roles become even more focused on specific aspects of the proposal process. These additional players would work alongside the proposal coordinator and other key roles.

  • Business development manager: This person is responsible for finding RFPs or leads. After they find the leads, they work to qualify them for your business.
  • Capture manager: The capture manager receives the qualified lead from the business development manager and begins to research the potential customer. As they research the opportunity, they create a strategy for winning the business. Then they define the business’s competitive advantages. Subsequently, when the customer issues an RFP, the capture manager receives it. They pass the information as well as their strategy and research on to the proposal coordinator/manager.
  • Cost strategist: Through capture planning, the cost strategist ensures that the proposal’s pricing is compliant, competitive and compatible with the needs set out in the RFP.
  • Proposal writers: Proposal writers bring it all together. They incorporate the proposal strategy determined by the capture manager. Additionally, they collaborate with subject matter experts to convey knowledge while maintaining the brand voice.
  • Graphic designer: From illustrations to layout and design, the graphic designer is responsible for creating a perfectly-formatted proposal.
  • Editor: Responsible for the technical accuracy and style of the proposal, the editor ensures that the brand’s terminology and voice are consistent throughout.
  • Review team leader/member: For lengthy or complex proposals, the review team leader assigns teams to review sections of the proposal. Chiefly, they coordinate and relay any feedback from review bid team members to the proposal coordinator.

How to build your proposal team

To be effective, a proposal team should be purposefully assembled. Just like any other business unit, the more organized and united your RFP team, the better off you’ll be. However, this can be a challenge. With so many people, in such a broad range of roles, not everyone will work together regularly. So how do you keep the group engaged?

Five tips to keep your team on the same page

1. Rally around your proposal process

Unify the proposal team with a clearly defined RFP management process. Creating a formal proposal process is the first step in keeping your team organized and engaged. Take time to document the process and outline the steps unique to your organization. Equally important, invite feedback from the team to ensure you don’t miss any key dependencies.

2. Set RFP team goals

The goals for your RFP team should align with your business objectives. If new customer growth is key, set a goal to increase the number of RFPs you respond to this year by 15 percent. Or, if efficiency is a high priority, document the time it takes to complete a proposal. Then, explore RFP response tools that can improve your productivity. Setting goals allows you to make incremental improvements and bring visibility to the team’s success.

3. Engage in go/no-go discussions

Unfortunately, the reality is that some RFPs just won’t be a fit for your business. However, far too many businesses have a policy to answer every RFP, leading to wasted time and a frustrated RFP team. A more strategic approach starts with a go/no-go discussion. 

Go/no-go discussions examine each RFP to decide if the opportunity is a good fit. For example, are the resources needed to respond available? Is the timeline realistic? Can your business meet all of the needs of the customer? Do you have a history with this customer? Ultimately, go/no-go decisions weigh the RFP’s potential value, the likelihood of winning and the cost of responding to ensure the best use of the organization’s resources.

4. Start with a kickoff and end with a debrief

Every RFP will be unique, and each offers an opportunity to learn and improve. However, before embarking on a new proposal project, gather the team and hold a short, 15-30 minute kickoff meeting. During the kickoff meeting, the proposal manager will walk through the project plan, timeline and deliverables. Certainly this is the best time to identify and manage any potential roadblocks or adjustments that need to be made to ensure success.

Likewise, after the RFP closes and a winner has been chosen, bring the team back together for a debrief. Regardless of the outcome, feedback from the customer is valuable. If you won, discuss things you did that can be applied to future RFPs. Conversely, if you weren’t selected you may consider additional factors to weigh in your go/no-go discussions, or ways you can improve your proposal content.

5. Hold regular team reviews

Gather your team together twice a year (or more) to share feedback, optimize the RFP process and discuss outcomes. In other words, share lessons learned, insights gained and advice for the future. As you bring the team together for these regular reviews be sure to celebrate both the team as well as individual contributions to success.

The power of a proposal team

RFPs require a lot of people with differing expertise and perspectives to work together to create the perfect proposal. With so many people involved in the proposal, it’s crucial to understand how each role contributes to the success of the team. Ultimately, when you establish clear expectations and a solid process, you’ll be well on your way to winning together.

Now, perhaps more than ever, people have multiple roles and juggle multiple projects. Responsive can help your team manage more RFPs and RFXs in less time and keep busy SMEs from having to repeat answers. A free demo will show you how you can empower your team and organization to win more bids and drive more revenue.

The perfect B2B proposal is 8 steps away

The perfect B2B proposal is 8 steps away

This guest blog exploring how to create the perfect B2B proposal was contributed by Alex Souchoroukof, a B2B expert from Moosend.

Proposals of every type can be intimidating. However, business-to-business, or B2B proposals, are particularly high pressure. Think about it … You’re sending a presentation, encouraging someone to choose you and hoping that they will see the value and why you’re the best fit for a particular job. 

Writing a business proposal requires, first of all, an understanding of the potential client’s problem. If you are responding to an RFP, you have a head start. However, that’s not always the case. If you’re creating a proactive proposal, creating personas based on the type of business you want to win can be helpful. When you find the pain point of the business you want to work with, everything becomes more manageable.

However, keep in mind that even the most well-presented solutions can get rejected due to several reasons. Today, our job is to explore the strategy to write proposals that get ‘Yes’ as an answer. We’ll start with the basic structure of a B2B proposal, then I’ll offer eight easy steps to help you build a perfect proposal as well as quick tips. So, let’s begin.

The basic structure of your B2B proposal

Getting started

To start writing a B2B proposal, begin as you would for any other writing project ⁠—  gather all the necessary information. When I say information, I mean anything you can find about the client and industry.

It can be rewarding for you to solve problems in their industry or discuss current trends as this will paint you as an authoritative industry expert. Another element to add to your toolbox is what separates your company from the market competitors. Keep these differentiators in mind throughout the proposal process to ensure the buyer knows why they should pick you. Finally, you may find it helpful to create a business proposal outline to guide your efforts.

3 things your buyer wants to know

Building a business proposal can vary based on industry, company size, and many other factors. In any case, certain elements are always crucial. The following three factors are what the recipient will focus on when receiving your proposal:

  1. Information about your company: Who are you, your testimonials and what makes you different from your competitors.
  2. Expertise on a particular problem: Show that you’ve done your research, but you are also open to listening.
  3. Methodology and pricing: How exactly are you going to solve the client’s problem, and how much will it cost?

We’ll take a look at an example of a social media agency proposal below, but remember that the basic structure applies to just about any B2B proposal.

Here are the 8 steps of a business proposal

Whether you create your proposal manually or automate the process with RFP software, following these 8 steps will ensure you cover all your bases in your B2B proposal.

Step 1. Title page

This includes necessary information, like your company logo, your company’s name, contact information, a title and your client’s name. It should be organized and have a simple design.

For example, your title page could look something like this:

Step 2. A cover letter

Introducing your business is the first priority after the title page. Your potential customer can’t dive into project specifics without knowing who you are and what you stand for.

Use the proposal cover letter to introduce yourself and your background and highlight why you’re the right choice.

Encourage your recipient to reach out with any questions. Keep it formal but personal and friendly and close your cover letter with a thank you and your signature.

B2B cover letter example

To better understand what a cover letter should look like, here is an example:

Dear David,

Thank you for considering “your_business” for your social media needs. I’m excited to have the opportunity to connect so that my team and I could clearly understand your social marketing plan and expectations.

We specialize in working with automotive companies in the Delaware area and got started when an agent asked us to come up with a social media campaign back in 2002. It was a huge success, and the owner was able to double his sales in two months.

Unlike our competition, we approach social media marketing by looking at your target market, core values, and best practices to craft a compelling message that resonates directly with your audience.

By implementing social media tactics and using procedures based on a study of social media marketing trends and extensive analysis results, we are confident in our ability to achieve great results through your social media.

Our proposal provides the complete social media marketing package to help your business grow and meet its digital world goals.

Let me know if you have further questions. I would be more than happy to discuss them with you. My contact information is below.

Thank you for your time,


Remember that each industry has unique characteristics, so you need to apply the same rules but tweak some of the content to ensure that it fits your specific needs.

Step 3. Provide a table of contents

Including a table of contents can help with your proposal’s overall structure and provide a more concise result. It helps readers understand what to expect and where to find it in the document.

If you send the B2B proposal electronically, you can have a clickable table of contents to make the user experience better. This step applies when you have a proposal on multiple pages. In any other case with smaller proposals, a table of contents is not necessary. 

Step 4. Executive summary

Here is your chance to shine by setting the proposal’s tone and purpose. The executive summary gives the customer key information ⁠— why are you reaching out, and why should the client be interested in reading it? Make it relevant, engaging and highlight the client’s problem you are about to solve.

Let’s see a brief example:

This proposal outlines a detailed plan with the intent of building your social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Our team creates brand awareness through these social media channels, drives more traffic to the website and increases your company’s reach. 

Our team helps automotive businesses come closer to their ideal customers through:

  • Creating an engaging content marketing strategy
  • Posting industry-related updates
  • Social media campaigns and promotions
  • Monitoring
  • Analytics

Your executive summary shifts depending on the industries and the customer’s needs. You can have a different approach in the tone of your summary based on the recipient. 

Step 5. The proposal

The sales proposal itself is an expanded version of the executive summary. By that, I mean that here you detail the solution you are offering and the outcome you expect from this project. Focus on the benefits to the customer. Remember to address their specific needs and highlight how you solve their problems.

Always provide a timeframe and next steps so the customer knows how to move forward with your business. Follow this structure and reiterate why you are the one for the job.

Step 6. Services and methodology

The proposal section is an overview of the solution your company offered for the potential client. This section gets into the specifics of how you will execute your plan. Take them through the process so they know what they’re signing on for when they hire you.

Describe precisely what the deliverables are and have a timetable that pairs deliverables with their expected date. This can make your proposal more visually appealing.

Example of services and methodology section of a B2B proposal

To better understand this crucial step, here is an example using our social media service scenario:

Creating an engaging content marketing strategy

Beginning with content marketing planning, our team will schedule a dynamic, ongoing social content calendar to achieve your goals.

We will grow a loyal audience with: use of keywords, hashtags, sharing/retweeting relevant news, “liking” posts and contributing content to expand reach within the industry. 

Posting industry-related updates

We will monitor industry trends, share them and engage with your audience by sharing press releases, company news, events and more. To further improve conversions, we will create a newsletter to ensure that we grow a loyal audience base via email.

Social media campaigns and promotions

Social channels connect with your follower base and engage them with promotions so they get excited about current events and the brand itself.

Depending on the campaign, they can last from one day up to six months. Then, our team analyzes the results from each campaign and provides a report of its success. All the campaigns’ data are compared so the most effective promotions, contests or offers can be replicated.


It is essential to maintain marketing activity for maximum growth. We monitor each channel and respond to any comments, questions and posts within two hours. This window of time allows us to confirm that we have accurate information for any question.


Our team provides you with daily and weekly analytics, such as follower growth, demographics, reach and more. We combine all these elements with reports summarizing all the results over each quarter. Subsequently, we hold a meeting with you to optimize our approach accordingly.

There are many ways you can craft your proposal. In fact, it may be totally different from this example. Certainly, it will depend on your writing skills and the services you provide. Having this as a framework will ensure that you are on the right track to add any necessary details for you specifically.

Step 7. About us

The about us page is the section in which you can humanize your business. People trust people, and although we covered most of our business capabilities in the cover letter, here we can expand on the team members. 

Add brief bios and photos of the people in your team that will work on this project. Include information about past successes, social proof or even awards. In addition, include testimonials from other clients or even case studies.

Step 8. Pricing

This section is self-explanatory. Create a pricing table with all the products and services you offer and pair them with a price.

If you send your proposal electronically, a great way to take it to the next level is to have an interactive pricing table. This table will calculate the total cost depending on the products or services that a client chooses.


Bonus quick tips to improve your B2B proposal writing

A well-crafted proposal needs to engage the potential client and guide them to find all the crucial information easily. Here are some tactics to help you:

Use visuals to help the reader to more quickly understand what you are trying to say. It can be infographics, pie charts, or even headshots of your team in your About Us section.

Include quantitative data that can encourage the client to diminish possible objections. Social proof is a great way to add value and create a proposal that converts. Also, figures catch the eye and help build a better relationship and trust.

Send your proposal electronically to leverage the power of the digital world. By doing this, you can include clickable links and videos about your product or service, or even help your client sign electronically.

Always check your proposal before you hit send. You want your first impressions with a new client to be ideal so avoid typos or grammar mistakes. Typos send the wrong message that you don’t pay attention to details.

The takeaway

B2B proposals are essential to get your message across to other businesses. A well-crafted proposal needs to follow specific guidelines so that the recipient has a clear understanding of what you are offering. Visuals, data and structure play a vital role in the effectiveness of a proposal.

Follow the steps above and start improving your next B2B proposal to build the best relationship possible even before the first meeting. Remember that depending on the industry you are in, you may change different elements to make your proposal more specific to your niche.

If you’d like to learn how Responsive can help you craft professional and winnable responses each and every time, schedule a no-cost demo

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.

Proposal Manager Career Guide

Proposal Manager Career Guide

Being a proposal manager is unlike any other role. Indeed, if you think about it, the position is an exercise in opposites. For instance, proposal managers work with almost every department, giving them a big-picture perspective. However, when they respond to RFPs, they must pay attention to every little detail. In addition, the role is often exciting and fast-paced when creating a win strategy and composing a proposal. On the other hand, proposal managers frequently answer the same routine questions over and over again.

Consequently, the proposal manager role requires a unique set of skills. However, for those who can balance the responsibilities of the role, becoming a proposal manager is a rewarding job. It is a great career starting point for some, while others make it a satisfying life-long career. Regardless, proposal managers play a key role in their organization’s success.

In this blog, we’ll define what a proposal manager is, including their job description, responsibilities and key skills. Then, we’ll discuss proposal professional titles and their earning potential. Finally, we’ll offer advice for anyone looking to become a proposal manager as well as useful tools and resources for ongoing career development.

What is a proposal manager?

Proposal manager definition

A proposal manager is responsible for responding to requests for proposals (RFPs). They manage the proposal process including task delegation, response editing and submission.

In some businesses, the proposal manager may go by other titles including proposal coordinator, RFP analyst, bid manager and RFP manager. Depending on the size of the business, there may be only one proposal manager or many.

What does a proposal manager do?

The proposal manager is the main point of contact for incoming RFPs. They work with a proposal team composed of contributors from multiple departments. Most proposals will include team members in sales, marketing, business development, finance, legal, IT, and subject matter experts (SMEs) from various areas of the business.

Admittedly, there are a lot of duties and responsibilities that go into their work. But, put simply, the proposal manager is responsible for creating proposals that win new business.

Who does the proposal manager report to?

Generally, a proposal manager in a small- or medium-sized business reports to the director of sales, marketing or business development. However, in large or enterprise organizations, the proposal team likely reports to an executive in finance or revenue management.

Proposal manager job description

The proposal manager job description varies from one business to another. The duties change based on the size of the business, number of proposal team members and industry. However, they always contain a variety of responsibilities that contribute to the overall goal of winning new RFP opportunities.

As a proposal manager works to create compelling RFP responses, they may face some common challenges. Luckily, their unique skill set enables them to solve these challenges, improve efficiency and ensure success. Let’s explore each of these topics in more detail.

Primary proposal manager responsibilities

  • Facilitate discussions to bid or not to bid
  • Collaborate with the capture management team
  • Identify client priorities and win themes
  • Create and execute a proposal project plan
  • Conduct market and competitive research
  • Hold kick-off and debrief meetings
  • Act as point of contact for prospects
  • Gather and send follow-up and clarifying questions to the buyer
  • Manage the proposal team (anyone contributing to RFPs)
  • Ensure proposals and presentations are brand compliant
  • Report proposal progress to executive management
  • Submit final proposal for consideration
  • Maintain the RFP response knowledge base
  • Prioritize RFPs based on the likelihood of winning and value
  • Track RFP data and win rate
  • Be the administrator for the company’s RFP software

Common RFP response challenges

  • Tight deadlines and a lack of urgency from others involved in the process
  • Translating sales feedback and the capture management plan into actionable insights
  • Confusion during the proposal process
  • Disorganized or difficult-to-find proposal content
  • Slow responses from subject matter experts who juggle other responsibilities
  • Long hours as deadlines for important RFPs approach

Proposal manager skills

Anyone thinking about becoming a proposal manager should consider the necessary skill set. In addition to general business knowledge, proposal managers must master three key practices: knowledge management, proposal project management and data analytics. Furthermore, the ability to facilitate collaboration, encourage creative problem solving and navigate conflict are also valuable skills.

Additional proposal manager hard skills

  • Data tracking and analysis
  • Writing, editing and reviewing
  • Managing proposal software
  • Optimizing and managing processes
  • Researching and presenting

Helpful soft skills for proposal managers

  • Team leadership
  • Strong communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Organization
  • Prioritization of projects
  • Flexibility and adaptability

Proposal manager job description examples

Proposal and RFP manager job descriptions vary, depending on company size, organizational setup and industry. For example, if a job is in a small company in an industry that sells industrial bolts, RFPs might not be overly-complex and the proposal manager might be part of a sales team.

Software companies likely have a more complex response process, in which they have to prove security and regulatory compliance as well as document product differentiation, onboarding processes and so on. Many software companies, especially enterprise organizations, have dedicated response teams if not departments.

We’ve put together a couple of examples:

An IT firm in the Washington, D.C. area is looking for a proposal manager. Job responsibilities include:

  • Collaborating with business development and capture managers to determine whether to respond and the best approach
  • Developing compliance matrices and proposal section outlines
  • Analyzing RFPs
  • Finding relevant content
  • Managing the proposal process
  • Compiling data and report to management
  • Enforcing editorial guidelines
  • Reviewing proposals to ensure corporate and legal compliance
  • Manage the proposal database

An educational technology firm is looking for a government proposal manager. Job responsibilities include:

  • Analyzing RFPs
  • Gathering information
  • Developing proposals by assembling information, which may include, the project narrative, objectives, outcomes, deliverables and more
  • Building proposals on company proposal software
  • Analyzing losses
  • Managing company repository

Proposal roles and salaries

Hiring a proposal professional is certainly an investment for any business. However, the value that a dedicated proposal manager delivers is clear. Indeed, they bring order to the RFP response process, ensure better proposals and enable the business to answer even more RFPs.

When it comes to proposal management, salaries vary widely based on the industry, company size, location and level of experience and education. It’s also worth noting that many recruiters say that a culture fit, trainability and talent is just as important as experience. In addition, for those just starting out, there’s a clear path from entry-level positions to advanced titles and potentially executive roles.

Please note that salary ranges vary, depending on where the job is located, the industry and so on.

Entry-level proposal positions

Many proposal managers didn’t start out in the field. Often, proposal managers are internal hires plucked from savvy candidates in sales, marketing, or administration roles. These professionals may jump straight into their role as proposal managers, or they may begin in an entry-level role.

Proposal coordinator

As the title implies, the proposal coordinator is responsible for facilitating the proposal process. For instance, they work together with sales, product development, marketing and other departments to create a proposal that addresses the prospect’s concerns. Often, they are in charge of following up with internal contributors, finding previous answers and editing the proposal.

Proposal coordinator salary: $48,000 – $71,000

Proposal specialist

A proposal specialist is responsible for conducting research, articulating key differentiators and writing responses that address the customer’s needs. In addition, they request help from SMEs, customize answers to focus on the customer’s needs and ensure consistency and compliance throughout the proposal.

Proposal specialist salary: $50,000 – $76,000

Proposal writer

As you might suspect, the proposal writer is primarily responsible for a proposal’s content. They are experts at turning general ideas and concepts into well-constructed, polished answers. Indeed, they verify that each answer is complete and relates back to the stated needs and goals. The proposal writer is  particularly good at helping the buyer picture themselves as a customer and highlighting differentiators throughout the proposal. Finally, they ensure that the proposal tells an engaging story from beginning to end.

Proposal writer salary: $60,000 – $97,000

Advanced proposal titles

With a few years of experience and growth, entry-level positions may advance to a role with more responsibility.

Proposal manager

In addition to managing the RFP response process, the proposal manager also executes the organization’s RFP strategy. They also collaborate with various contributing departments, explore process optimization and proactively manage the organization’s knowledge library. Often, the proposal manager captures feedback on both won and lost opportunities and provides recommendations to the business.

Proposal manager salary: $83,000 – $135,000

Senior proposal manager

In organizations with multiple proposal managers, a senior proposal manager is responsible for leading special projects, taking on high-stakes RFPs and administering RFP technology. Additionally, they focus on high-level management of proposal projects. In this role, they typically direct a team including a proposal coordinator, proposal writer and graphic designer.

Senior proposal manager salary: $108,000 – $182,000

Executive leadership positions

Proposal director and vice president of proposal operations

While they are somewhat rare, there are executive proposal positions in large organizations. For example, you’ll find titles like proposal director and vice president of proposal operations. These roles lead multiple proposal teams divided by products or regions and provide insight that may influence business strategy. Typically, executive proposal professionals report directly to a chief revenue officer or chief financial officer.

Proposal executive salary: $159,000 – $280,000

Where to find proposal manager jobs

Whether you’ve just started your proposal career, or you’ve been in the industry for years, there are always new things to learn. Fortunately, the proposal industry is full of helpful peers willing to share their advice and experience. In addition, there are countless resources for ongoing career development. So, remember to make time to hone your skills and connect with others.

1. LinkedIn

Odds are, you already have a LinkedIn profile. The odds are almost as good that you don’t pay much attention to it. For most, LinkedIn isn’t a typical social media site, but it is a great place to showcase your resume, highlight your special skills (like an RFPIO certification), search job listings, and connect with people in your industry.

2. APMP local chapters

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) is a worldwide organization for people who issue or respond to RFPs, RFQs, DDQs, security questionnaires and everything else that’s proposal-related. To be fair, though, most APMP members are on the response side.

APMP has 29 worldwide chapters with most on the eastern side of the United States. Both the international organization and its local and regional chapters host events designed for networking and learning about new technologies and best practices. APMP also has an active job board for proposal professionals.

3. Indeed

Indeed’s website says it’s the #1 job site in the world. We can neither confirm nor deny that claim, but the site has a massive list of job postings, company reviews and salary estimates.

A search for “proposal manager,” not filtered by location, shows more than 50,000 jobs. And, a search for “RFP” produces about 16,000 listings.

Advice, tools and resources for career development

4 tips for new proposal managers

1. Build a rapport with subject matter experts

SMEs play a major role in answering RFPs. Consequently, they are one of your most valuable resources. Accordingly, it’s important to build a connection with them and maintain a good working relationship.

To work effectively with SMEs, you must determine the best approach. Because SMEs juggle their own full-time role as well as helping with RFP responses, communicating solely through email is often inefficient.

Ways to collaborate with subject matter experts:

  • Conduct SME interviews and transcribe their answers into the proposal
  • Have the SMEs write answers and submit them to you for editing
  • Write answers yourself and send them all to the SME for review
  • Collaborate in real-time using proposal management software

2. Create customized templates

An efficient proposal manager must think strategically, which often includes taking intelligent shortcuts. Tools such as customized templates help eliminate many of the low-value tasks that hobble proposal managers who find themselves reinventing the wheel for every response.

To get started developing time-saving templates of your own, download our RFP toolkit.

3. Focus on the customer

As the proposal manager, part of your job is to be the customer’s advocate throughout the RFP response. As you review answers and build the proposal, ask yourself, ‘Does this information help the client? Is it relevant, necessary and timely?’

How to write customer-focused proposals:

  • Share your understanding of their needs in the executive summary and RFP cover letter
  • Ensure responses center around and address customer benefits and goals
  • Provide references, case studies and data that illustrate the results the prospective customer can expect

4. Invest time in your proposal content library

Finally, perhaps the most important thing a proposal manager can do to ensure success is to build and maintain a proposal content library. Far too many businesses waste time reinventing the wheel when they respond to an RFP. As a result, the process is slow and frustrating for everyone involved.

Proposal content library best practices:

    • Use the library to answer as many questions as possible before sending the proposal to SMEs
    • Store your knowledge library in a searchable system and organize your content using tags and hierarchies
    • Conduct regular reviews to update answers, remove duplicates and ensure content accuracy

Tools and resources for career development

There’s no doubt that proposal managers have a lot of responsibilities to juggle as they manage complex projects. Luckily, there are a lot of excellent RFP response tools and resources that can make the job far easier. Here are three resource suggestions for proposal professionals at any stage in their career.

Proposal software

As technology advances throughout many businesses, proposal management software experience is in high demand. Indeed, it is now common to see job descriptions that express a preference for candidates with the skills to manage these RFP software platforms.

Our pick: RFPIO

It should come as no surprise that our pick for the best proposal software is RFPIO. But we aren’t the only one who feel that way. RFPIO is the industry-leading strategic response management platform. RFPIO applies a holistic approach to solving common RFX challenges through best-in-class innovation, collaboration and automation. It leads the pack in integrations and its user-based model ensures scalability on a dime.

The biggest RFPIO benefits:

Professional association

Staying up to date on industry events and advancements is an important part of any successful proposal career. Consequently, membership in a professional association delivers benefits that are worth exploring.

Our pick: Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP)

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals is the leading professional association in the bid and proposal industry. The organization has a global reach as well as individual, regional chapters. Accordingly, they host frequent in-person and remote webinars, events and meetings. In addition, APMP offers countless resources for expanding your knowledge and exploring best practices.

Resources for APMP members:

Peer networking and new opportunities

When you have a question, are facing a process roadblock or looking for a new opportunity, peers in the industry can offer help. Generally speaking, the bid and proposal industry is friendly and welcoming to all ⁠— there’s always someone who is willing to help out.

Our pick: APMP Official Discussion Group

You don’t have to be an active APMP member to benefit from their wealth of expertise. With more than 21,000 members, the APMP Official Discussion Group on LinkedIn is a great place to crowdsource information, connect with other passionate professionals and keep an eye on trends and opportunities.

  • Problem-solve challenges by brainstorming with peers
  • Explore new proposal technology, processes and data analysis
  • Learn about new job opportunities

Networking for RFPIO users

Efficient RFX response is all about finding the process that works best for your organization. When organizations choose to automate their processes, more choose RFPIO than any other software. Perhaps you have questions that are RFPIO-specific, you want to network with other RFPIO users, or you’re hoping to find other opportunities where your RFPIO expertise will shine.

Our pick: RFPIO online user community

The RFPIO online community is a great place to share ideas and ask proposal- and RFPIO-related questions. The community is more intimate than the APMP LinkedIn group, so it’s also a fantastic opportunity to develop camaraderie and make friends.

  • Share information about proposal management trends
  • Learn about RFPIO updates and new technologies
  • Network with fellow RFPIO proposal professionals

Once you’ve landed your dream proposal manager job, RFPIO is here to help you prove your efficiency and productivity, and drive revenue for your organization. Schedule a demo to see how we can add value to your role.

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.