If you’re a small business that creates proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and requests for bids/tenders, it’s time to take a serious look at business proposal software.
Why should you invest in AI-enabled proposal software? Because proposals are mission-critical revenue generators for companies who prioritize them and optimize their response process.
Compared to enterprise organizations, smaller teams have several advantages when responding to RFPs:
- Your team is closer to the proposal content, so you really understand what the ask is
- With fewer cooks in the kitchen, you have a more consistent voice
- Collaboration is close, and you are in tune with what each team member brings to the table
Add technology to the mix, and you’ll be unstoppable. Business proposal software provides quick access to proposal content, simple ways to collaborate, and built-in project management features that make it easy to keep proposals on track.
If you’re ready to automate your RFP response process to save valuable time and increase revenue, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to find out how business proposal software gives small businesses like yours a competitive edge.
In this blog, we’ll cover:
- What is business proposal software?
- Benefits of business proposal software for small business
- How to select the best business proposal software
- Frequently asked questions about business proposal software
What is business proposal software?
Business proposal software is a cloud-based program designed to help businesses develop proposals, presentations, and responses to RFPs, RFIs, and bids/tenders. It can also be used to respond to security questionnaires (e.g. VSAs, CAIQ, SIG), create proactive proposals, write SOWs, and manage company knowledge.
The key to business proposal software is that it simplifies the proposal creation process with a few core functionalities:
- Storing and organizing internal knowledge
Just like the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, a content library is essential to any good business proposal software.
The content library consolidates subject matter expertise in one place. Then, the next time a new RFP opportunity pops up in your inbox, you’ll be able to tackle commonly seen questions in one fell swoop.
The more efficiently you can respond to RFPs, the more time you and your team have to work on other projects—be it building relationships with customers, creating sales collateral, or responding to more RFPs.
2. Keeping projects on track
RFPs and other business proposals are often the most collaborative activity an organization undertakes. When you’re working at a small company, it’s possible that everyone at your organization will be involved, in part, in a response to an RFP.
When your team adopts business proposal software, it means you’ll no longer be managing proposals via email, Teams, Slack, or spreadsheets.
Most business proposal software comes with built-in project management features, including:
- Importing RFPs onto the platform in Word, Excel, or pdf format
- Assigning questions and/or sections to key collaborators
- Automated reminders
- Sequential review cycles
- Exporting to source file
3. Seamless collaboration
In addition to project management features, business proposal software also streamlines collaboration with in-app commenting and @mentioning.
When all proposal-related conversations are in one place, you can make sure your organization stays aligned on proposals (and declutter your inbox in the process).
When you’re ready to evaluate vendors, be sure to demo the various platforms. You’ll want to find something that’s powerful enough to suit your needs, but intuitive enough to make sure your small team can get ramped up in no time.
4. Make data-driven decisions
Top-notch business proposal software comes with built-in dashboards and analytics, giving you the insights you need to minimize risk and enhance efficiency.
If you do it right, data-driven management helps sales teams sell smarter. It can also provide insights into how proposal teams can identify—then either avoid or plan around—process challenges, such as resource management challenges, reduced ROI, missing deadlines, and inefficient content development.
5. Integrate into your existing tech stack
The final component of business proposal software is the ability to integrate into your sales tech ecosystem.
Since responding to RFPs is a key part of the sales process, it’s critical that the business proposal software you choose is able to smoothly integrate into your tech stack.
This is especially important when working on a small team that doesn’t have the bandwidth to manually update your business proposal software to work in-sync with your CRM, like Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics 365, or Hubspot.
Benefits of business proposal software for small businesses
When you’re working on a small team, business proposal software can be an absolute game-changer. Instead of spending your time on menial tasks—like tracking down RFP answers in emails and old drafts—business proposal software makes it easy to respond to commonly-seen questions.
“Auto Respond is absolutely brilliant. We click on it and RFPIO answers about 80% of an RFP in a few seconds.”
-Paul Taylor, Vice President of Solutions Engineering at Crownpeak
Here are real results we’ve seen from customers after automating their response process with business proposal software:
- Crownpeak increased efficiency by 1000% and saw a 6x ROI in just a few months
- HALO Recognition is up 25% over their average volume for the last six years, and their staffing is down 50% at the same time
- A 2-person team simultaneously responded to 16 RFPs
Calculate your ROI here to see how much time and money your team could save with business proposal software.
Making the case for business proposal software to your boss
Maybe you know that you need business proposal software—you just need to convince your boss.
A good way to start is by finding a way to align business proposal software to a stated business imperative. Anything related to revenue or margin impact is a good thing, like the following:
- Revenue growth: A recognition company doubled its RFP win rate, while increasing the number of projects worked on by 10%
- Penetrating new markets: Celtra used proposal software to develop a new enterprise market for its ad creation platform
- Customer retention: Proposal software is essential to the customer renewal process, especially for SaaS companies
- Scaling your business: TeamDynamix tripled their RFP volume, while tracking down-selection rates 2x as high as best practice benchmarks
Proposal value isn’t always obvious to an organization’s stakeholders. When you align it with your business imperatives they can more clearly see the value.
How to select the best business proposal software
Here’s a secret. There is no “best” business proposal software. It all depends on your specific needs.
This being said, the decision to implement business proposal software shouldn’t be taken lightly. You’ll want to make sure the software you choose helps you and your team achieve your goals and save time.
As you’re making your decision, here are some software selection steps you can follow:
1. Meet with your team
Before you commit to an annual subscription to business proposal software, schedule a meeting with any stakeholders in the proposal process. This includes subject matter experts, sales reps, and bid writers.
Leave the meeting with a clear understanding of the main goals you hope to achieve.
Your final list could simply be a bullet list, like:
- Improve collaboration on business proposals without relying on color-coded Word docs
- Consolidate answers to common RFP questions in one place, so SMEs aren’t answering the same question over and over again
- Create visibility, so leadership can easily check on proposal status
2. Do your research
Once you determine key goals for your proposal program, you need to prioritize business proposal software features. Divide features into two columns—”must-have” and “nice-to-have”.
If you want to make it easy for everyone to get up-and-running in the tool, an intuitive user interface might be a “must-have”. If your sales team lives in your CRM, an integration with Salesforce or Dynamics might be “nice-to-have”.
3. Read customer reviews
Just like you might check Yelp before you head to an unfamiliar restaurant, reading through reviews from verified customers on platforms like G2 should absolutely factor into your decision making process.
On G2, you can also sort reviews by company size, user role, industries, and region—so you can find reviews from users just like you.
Here is a screenshot of comparing four of the most popular business proposal software solutions:
Check on the full comparison on G2.
4. Understand the product and services
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of business proposal software providers, schedule a demo to see the solution in action and meet the team you’re considering partnering with. Bring your priority feature list, along with a list of questions you want answered.
Answers to frequently asked questions about business proposal software
We hear common questions from proposal teams at small businesses every day. Below we’ve answered these questions to help you feel more at ease with RFP software implementation and learn a few ways to improve your RFP response process along the way.
What should my proposal team look like?
If you’re a small organization, you might have 1- or 2-member proposal team, or sales reps could be responsible for creating their own sales proposals. Either your proposal team or your sales rep should own the proposal process, and reach out to subject matter experts on other teams (e.g. product, engineering, security, marketing, legal, etc.) for help on specific questions.
How do you write a good business proposal with software?
Writing a good business proposal starts with a strong process. Business proposal software simplifies that process, making it easier to collaborate with an extended team. With automated processes for scheduling, collaboration, and completing wide swaths of massive RFPs using answer libraries, you can blaze through the first pass of a response faster than working without software.
Here’s a quick overview of how you can write a good business proposal with software:
- Qualify the bid — Check data from past similar RFPs. What took weeks without RFP software may only take hours with it. All things being equal, is this RFP winnable?
- Understand requirements — Let the tool create a checklist of open items based on what remains after the automated first pass conducted at intake by your Answer Library.
- Answer commonly seen questions — RFP technology consolidates all your previous Q&A pairs into an intelligent answer library, so you can automatically respond to repeat questions in just few clicks.
- Assign due dates and tasks to key collaborators — Assign each RFP question or section as a task to individual collaborators from the project dashboard in RFPIO. They’ll then receive a notification from where they’re already working (e.g. email, Slack, or Teams).
- Assign questions for review and approval — Simplify the review and approval process with automated reminders and cues across multiple platforms.
- Polish — From intake, work within a branded template and support answers with approved content that’s always up-to-date according to the SME in charge of that content.
- Proofread — Still important, but working with already-approved content will decrease how much you have to proofread.
- Submit to issuer — Push send from RFPIO or your integrated CRM
How does business proposal software support my process?
Business proposal software supports your proposal process and makes it easier to manage your RFP project and review everything in one place. With the right software in place, you’re able to assign tasks to authors and reviewers, assign content owners, and keep content organized and up-to-date.
If you’re a 1- or 2-person proposal team, software helps you provide enterprise-level support to your sales team. If you’re a sales rep responsible for managing your own RFPs, software helps you automatically respond to commonly seen questions—so you can focus on building customer relationships and closing deals.
How does business proposal software provide efficient collaboration?
Since fewer people are involved in the response process at smaller organizations, each person’s time is extremely valuable. Proposal software gives you the ability to share information across various platforms. Content and assignments are seamlessly integrated into one platform, without the need for cumbersome reformatting, converting, and importing/exporting tasks.
How do I get started with business proposal software?
Joan Dolence, Proposal Architect at Finastra, recommends that proposal teams plan for RFP software implementation, just as you would with any new technology you bring into your business. Do the prep work and housekeeping before jumping in. Then, teach everyone how to use the proposal software by managing each proposal like a project.
How long does it take to implement business proposal software?
The answer everyone hates: It depends. If you’re a small team with a lot of bandwidth to upload and organize your content, you could be up-and-running in less than a month.
But the more bells and whistles you add on—things like integrations with Salesforce, Slack, or SSO—the longer it takes. The more users you have, the longer it takes. The more complicated your process is, the longer it takes. The less bandwidth your team has to upload and organize your content, the longer it takes.
Is business proposal software really worth it?
In our 2021 Benchmark Report: Proposal Management, we learned that organizations leveraging RFP-specific technology respond to 43% more RFPs than those who don’t. We also discovered that organizations not using RFP software instead used, on average, nine solutions to compose their RFPs, compared to only five for those with a dedicated RFP tool.
One study found that workers estimate switching between apps wastes up to 60 minutes of each day. By consolidating proposal management efforts into one place, you and your team can stay focused, aligned, and on track.
Strengthen your business proposals with the right software
The only thing missing between you and your next winning proposal is the right software. If you’re ready to uplevel your business proposal process, schedule a demo of RFPIO today.