Proposal Writing and Management Tools
by Merrily Chopp | December 3rd, 2013
As customers grow to expect more technical and project details in the proposals they receive, proposal writing is also evolving. Now, the process involves more than a single salesperson. At PINT, we bring in marketing, tech, project managers, and other team members to make our proposals and estimates as accurate as possible. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a proposal management solution that could involve the necessary team members and meet other internal requirements for proposal and contract documents? Today we are exploring some of the available options.
As we evaluated proposal management tools, we developed a list of internal requirements and a wishlist of features that would add to our productivity. These items inspired a list of questions any organization may want to ask when looking into proposal writing and management software.
What is the time saved in the long term versus initial time invested in learning how to use this software?
Does it have a steep learning curve?
Does it offer small business, medium and/or enterprise solutions?
What is the cost?
Does this software offer a customizable library for content templates so our proposals are consistent in quality and tone?
Does it allow for the customization of text, tables, and page formatting?
Does the software allow for multi-company use?
Does it integrate with our CRM/other internal software?
Are multiple formats available (such as professional services agreements, invoices, etc.)?
Does it accommodate multiple electronic signatures?
Should the product of the proposal software be a web page that clients may view in a browser, a PDF, or an editable document for legal redlining?
Which format do our clients prefer?
Evaluating Proposal Software Apps
Our list of questions was somewhat small going into our first product evaluation. But over time, our considerations became more defined. This helped us eliminate some options before we invested any significant chunk of time into trying out the product. For the ease of sharing proposals within our team, we primarily looked at cloud-based applications:
“Create professional looking client proposals in half the time. Win more projects and get higher quality clients.”
⬆ We liked the way it organized sent proposals and made it easy to search for different saved content areas.
⬇ We felt constrained by the text editing limitations. It did not allow customizations through CSS, and the existing edit options were quite rigid.
“Helps you create professional proposals that save you time and money, while increasing your win rate!”
⬆ We liked the flexibility of saving and adding libraries of content. CSS could be applied to many parts of the proposal.
⬇ Customization involved trial and error, and most customizations only applied to the web version, not on the PDF/print version of a proposal.
“Use our proposal software app to create great quotes, invoices, and multi-page proposals in moments.”
⬆ We liked the quick start and compact UI.
⬇ Persistent website errors kept us from previewing our test proposals.
“Easily create, send and manage quotes. Integrate with your website and accept payments online.”
⬆ We liked the option to use this as a way to prepare invoices for software.
⬇ Seemed designed for a specific client, with little flexibility outside of that use case.
There are many other options out there. Some others that we have yet to fully evaluate include Proposable, Contractual.ly, Selectica, and Tinderbox.
An Alternative to the Cloud
Microsoft Word is still a viable alternative to cloud-based solutions, particularly when used on a drive that limits editing privileges to one user at a time. We were able to use Word to customize individual proposals while maintaining consistent branding across all documents. PDF exports of these files also looked as we expected, which is nice since most of our clients still expect a printable PDF agreement.
The Bigger Technical Consulting Picture
Researching software options and how they may work for an organization’s staff and existing systems is complex. Integrations do not always work perfectly out of the box, especially when multiple connections must be made. As a result, some of our clients have hired PINT to do this technical consulting and research. And we do this type of research and evaluation for the same reasons we do it internally: to increase efficiency. It keeps business processes as simple as possible, while bringing in key staff when necessary and meeting important internal requirements.
Have you found a killer app for making your organization more efficient? Share your recommendations with us in the comments below.