You know that getting the right technology in place for your team is essential to ensuring success. But how do you choose the best proposal solution for you? There are a number of things you are going to need to evaluate, ranging from the profile of the company you are shortlisting, down to the features it offers that nobody else can beat. You also need to consider how you are using proposals. Regardless of if you are looking for a proposal software to automate your RFP responses or to build proactive proposals, there are a few key criteria to consider before signing that contract. Here are a few qualities that will set the best proposal software apart from the rest of the pack.
How Long Has the Company Been in Business?
When evaluating automation software for your business, don’t take a risk on anything unproven. Instead, look for a tenured software company that’s demonstrated it can adapt to changing compliance requirements and market pressures. There are a lot of brand new tech companies in the RFP space. But longevity is important when choosing a proposal software. This sends a clear sign that the organization is here for the long haul. It also means the software is built on the many learnings and expertise of decades in the proposal software space.
How Many Customers Does the Business Have?
A company that has experience with a plethora of customers from various industries will have a more holistic approach to product roadmap than smaller RFP proposal software providers. Many small RFP proposal software companies specialize in a few “bread and butter” clients. Although these clients might be large enterprises, they are still just one specific business with one set list of needs. A more established company with plenty of customers will take a wide range of customer challenges and needs and blend them into one consistent approach to product road mapping.
The Best Proposal Software Provider Will Be Your Partner
Ever heard the expression “thick as thieves”? When you work with a proposal software company that cares about your success, that’s what it feels like. They’re with you through thick and thin, walking with you each step of the way to make sure that you are set up for long-term success. In today’s competitive proposal software landscape, too many solution providers don’t invest in long term, customer success. Instead, they opt to being more just proposal tools – there for you to use, but not putting themselves on the line. Think of your decision to invest in a proposal software provider as a long term business relationship, not purely transactional.
Does it Integrate with Your Technology?
The best proposal software will integrate with the tools you are already using to drive success. For example, the browsers the software supports, an effective integration with Microsoft Office, and working seamlessly with Salesforce are a few of the integrations that are going to play a critical role in choosing a software. Make sure that the software you are evaluating works flawlessly with your existing tech stack. If your organization uses Microsoft Office, for example, be sure to verify the software integrates with Word and Excel. This way, authorized content managers can edit and format content with the full power of Office at their fingertips, instead of trying to use a watered-down editor that’s built into the software.
Does it Offer Granular User Roles?
While many of the best proposal software solutions out there will show you all the bells and whistles up front, only the best of the best really have what you need to succeed both in responding to RFPs and in proactively proposing to businesses. One key feature to ensure productivity and success is user roles. Granular user roles will give each and every team member exactly the permissions they need and nothing more. This deters security exploits while keeping your team productive.
The Best Proposal Software Offers Real Time Collaboration
Especially when working with a remote team, you need software that supports virtual collaboration. In-application workflows and comment threads go a long way. Also, look for software that allows you to work together in real-time through Office Online, Microsoft Teams, and SharePoint. (Ideally, you’ll get these integrations at no extra cost.) Additionally, you will want to ask yourself: how easily can you collaborate with others, and what visibility do you have into the finished proposal? Many proposal software solutions limit your view to only one question at a time. But when you are limited in this way, how can you ensure that you are answering RFPs in one consistent tone? Instead, you want a software solution that gives you insight into the entire, completed proposal, no matter who you are, or where you are at, in creating a proposal.
The Best Proposal Software Makes Formatting Easy
What do you prefer? Real time, professional formatting as you go, or manual, tedious formatting at the end of the proposal creation process? The answer to that question seems pretty straightforward. The less time your team spends formatting the more time they can spend on more important tasks, like winning bids, and selling. When evaluating a potential proposal solution’s formatting capabilities, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Does it honor MS style templates?
- Does it do essential formatting in real time?
- Does it enable automatic importing?
Automatic importing, supporting MS style templates, and giving you visibility into what the finished document will look like saves you a ton of wasted time that would otherwise have been spent manually formatting documents.
Automation Makes Your Team Work Faster and Smarter
There is a ton of work involved in creating a professional proposal. RFP automation should help with that. While many RFP tools promote automation as an integral part of their feature set, the best RFP proposal software delivers real, customizable automation. The software you choose should track user activity automatically— everything from logins to who did what when. Similarly, the software should automate version control by recording content updates and archiving previous versions by default. With this level of automation, audit trails build themselves, and reverting to earlier content versions is a breeze. Lastly, you will want to consider a solution with AutoFill capabilities to filling in the best answer based on content previously created by SMEs and learned search terms, saving the amount of time it takes your team to get to that first draft.
Does it Deliver a Searchable Content Library?
How easy is the solution you’re evaluating to search and customize will play a major role in choosing the right solution for you. Does the software you are considering offer flexible search options with custom metadata? Or does searching for the right content piece feel like operating within a straitjacket? The best proposal software will make your life easier by helping you find what you need, when you need it.
- Make sure you can organize content by folders and tags.
- Content expiration dates and review reminders can help you keep content current.
- Look for the option to link related content.
Does it Offer Reports and Analytics?
Finally, your RFP proposal software should deliver plenty of reports, dashboards and key insights into the success and potential in your proposal strategy. This is because the best proposal software won’t stop working for you after the document is created – it will continue to gather meaningful data and metrics to better inform you and your team on what content works, and what doesn’t. The more visibility into your proposal process, the more bids you will win. The right software will help you with that.
How to Choose the Best Proposal Software – A Guide
Now that you know the steps involved with choosing a software solution for your proposal process, it’s time to learn more. Focused on the financial sector, businesses across a variety of industries can benefit from the five steps to choosing the best proposal software for their unique use cases, with an added focus on the heightened security and compliance concerns especially important to financial organizations.