Which One is Right For You?
Pierre-Olivier Charlebois, CEO and Founder
The process of producing proposals and RFP responses is critical to your company’s growth and market share. However, over half the companies we surveyed still produce them using Word, Excel and manual methods. While it’s true that each proposal is unique and requires craftsmanship to become truly compelling, compliant and competitive, companies are realizing they can get an edge by augmenting the process with the right technology.
As someone who has been interested in this space for the last 5 years, I see the emergence of three main categories of software that are being developed to help you produce better proposals faster. In this article, I’ll describe the features, benefits and use cases of RFP Software, Proposal Software, and a new breed of Proposal Search Engine so you can determine which is best suited for your needs.
Proposal Software is a general category that covers the creation of unsolicited proposals presented to your customer. The trend is to have a highly automated system that can create online proposals your prospects can review, negotiate, and e-sign. Companies like Proposify and ClientPoint go further and allow you to review statistics on how much time viewers have spent on each page. Are you losing your buyers on the pricing page? Do they spend more than 30 seconds reviewing your value proposition? Knowing these answers will allow you to optimize your message and conversion rates. Here’s the flow: your reps select a template, answer some high-level questions about the account and your Proposal Management Software will assemble great-looking proposals and fill fields for company name and price in a matter of seconds. Your sales team can then send a unique link to prospects who review the offer and approve it on the spot using an e-signature. All of this information is pushed back to your CRM seamlessly. Armed with view data, your proposal team can review the message and optimize the right content to maximize conversion rates.
Proposal Software is a general category that covers the creation of unsolicited proposals presented to your customer.
RFP Software focuses on proposals in response to a formal Request for Proposal (RFP), or other similar solicitations such as RFI’s, RFQ’s or Security Questionnaires.
RFP Software focuses on proposals in response to a formal Request for Proposal (RFP), or other similar solicitations such as RFI’s, RFQ’s or Security Questionnaires. The cornerstone component of RFP Software such as Loopio and RFPIO is a centralized library of Question & Answers, or Q&A, that is curated and maintained by a team of proposal managers and expert contributors. RFP Software such as these recommend answers to each input requirement and ensure the sales and proposal teams use the freshest and approved answers. If the answer recommended is not relevant or compelling enough, you can use RFP Software workflows to assign the requirement to the right subject matter expert and monitor progress to meet the proposal due date. RFP Software is great to project manage your proposals, collaborate, and serve as a repository of curated and fresh answers.
Proposal Search Engine
Both Proposal Software and RFP Software are content management systems (CMS’s) that rely on companies to convert legacy data and on users to do ongoing maintenance and curation of content. However, for many companies, it might not be feasible to centralize all this content for a number of reasons, leaving valuable content in document management systems (DMS) such as SharePoint or Google Drive, Wikis such as Confluence, or network drives. To find content in these systems, you have to rely on the built-in search engines which are not optimized to surface valuable content for proposals. These traditional search engines find documents, not answers. Knowing that you may have a piece of relevant information in a 150-page technical proposal is of little help. As such, a new breed of specialized search engine is emerging. Coveo’s cognitive search engine helps people in need of technical support self-serve answers from an array of content repositories. reDock’s proposal search engine helps subject matter experts and proposal teams harvest relevant segments, charts, slides, project references and answers from your document management systems without the need to manage a centralized library of curated questions and answers. These systems do not manage workflows or provide collaboration. Instead, they use natural language processing to understand your existing content in its current form and location and they apply machine-learning to learn from your users.
When should you consider a Proposal Search Engine
Here are some scenarios where companies should consider a Proposal Search Engine instead of, or in parallel to, Proposal or RFP Software:
- You have a historical database of great but unstructured proposals
- Your proposals consist of more than boilerplate
- Your SME’s are only sporadically involved in proposals and it doesn’t make sense to ramp them up on a new system or pay for infrequently used licenses
- Content already exists in Wikis or folders managed by other teams
- You don’t want to spend time tagging and classifying content
- You find that you are having to rewrite content that already exists because you’re unable to find it
- You and your team are spending hours searching for reusable content, resulting in frustration and possible missed deadlines or non-compliant responses