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Proposal Management for Professional Services Series: Must-have Features of Proposal Management Software

We can all agree that proposals are critical to any business development or sales cycle, whether proposing an idea or a project or responding to questions from clients or prospects in order to help them validate that you’re the right firm for the job.

These proposal documents come in many shapes, sizes, and formats. You may need to create a pitch in PowerPoint that you present to stakeholders and then leave behind for your customer. Perhaps you’re writing a short proposal for an existing client or a lengthy in-depth proposal for a new prospect. Today we see a large number of proposal documents in the form of RFx requests: RFI, RFQ, RFP, DDQ if you’re in financial services. These questionnaire documents serve as a way for potential clients to ascertain whether they should buy from you or engage your services.

How does proposal management software help? 

Whether you’re responding to an RFx or engaging with a new prospect, winning new client business and building a steady flow of revenue is a serious challenge without impactful proposal documents. To tackle this issue, professional services organizations (e.g., law firms, management consultancies, accounting firms) rely on proposal management software to help produce a full range of professional, personalized pursuit documents and proposals with ease.

Indeed, an automated proposal management solution increases the efficiency of your response process, while ensuring you’re using the best content and following a correct process to put your best foot forward in your pitch, proposal, or RFx response to your client.

As a professional services firm, what capabilities should you be looking for in a proposal management solution? Let’s review some of the key features of proposal management software for professional services that you should keep top of mind when selecting the proposal automation tool for your firm.

  1. Content at your fingertips
    At the baseline, effective content management is a critical feature of any proposal management software, ensuring you’ve captured the best content that's going to help you win that deal. For professional services firms, this content comes in the form of:

    • Marketing content
    • Practice areas
    • Biographies and CVs
    • Experience and relevant matters
    • Awards and other credentials
    Making sure your content is captured in a way that's easy to locate and access is absolutely fundamental to an efficient response process and pursuits workflow. Is your content showing up in the right places for you to use in an intuitive and practical way?

    When you’re responding to an RFP, having the best bio or an answer to a question at your fingertips—and then being able to insert it seamlessly into your response document—is a key feature of effective proposal management software. Leveraging that ability from directly inside of your Microsoft Office application takes content management to another level; you're able to quickly get to the content you need the most—without the inconvenience or time wasted jumping between different applications.
  2. Personalize, personalize, personalize 

    A rule to live by: never send out a generic proposal. Personalization is the key to engaging prospects and making them feel like you understand their business and unique challenges; your response documents should be tailored for each customer's request or use case. Accordingly, a proposal management system needs to be able to automate the fields and the personalization of your proposals and RFx responses to create a strong winning document, every time.

  3. Easy collaboration

    Proposals are seldom written just by one person. Instead, a proposal or RFx response is typically written by a team of people. In the surveys we've conducted, we've noticed an increase in the number of people involved in the proposal management process. As a result, the ability to tie in subject matter experts (SMEs) and enable them to contribute content and coauthor the document with you is another very important feature to ensure your proposal process is efficient and streamlined—and that you're getting the best responses into the document. 

  4. Insight into what wins

    The days of sending out a PDF and hoping somebody reads it (and not knowing where in the document they focus their attention) are long gone. When you're sending out a proposal or a pitch, it's important to know if your proposal is actually being viewed, while also being able to identify which content or topic areas are important to your prospect. Are they lingering on the pricing pages or spending more time on the implementation schedule or your bios and past experience?

    AI-powered proposal management software tracks prospect engagement within your proposal documents for smarter, more relevant follow-up activities and communication with clients. Built-in measurement tools can help you discover what drives a successful proposal by tracking how long the reader stays on each page, what they click on, and what is shared—giving you visibility into what drives success and, ultimately, win more business.

  5. User experience is paramount

    All business development, sales teams, marketing teams, and fee earners are repeatedly bombarded with new systems. We've seen, particularly through the pandemic, adoption of software has been a real challenge. Consequently, ensuring that proposal management tools are embedded into familiar environments (e.g., MS Office or a CRM tool) is key for a smooth rollout and widespread adoption.   

    In addition, proposal management software for professional services organizations must be easy to use for all members of the team. The system should be intuitive to learn, without requiring any specialized computer skills or knowledge, to ensure swift and straightforward implementation across the organization. 

  6. Security focus

    Security is such a hot button topic these days. Is my software secure? Is the data private? Is the data being stored in the correct place for optimal privacy and security? When selecting proposal management software for your firm, pay close attention to the security features of the tool:

    • Does it run on a secure platform (e.g., Microsoft Azure)?

    • Who has access to the data?

    • Does it abide by the laws of the jurisdiction you’re operating in?

  7. AI for RFP response

    Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere these days and is making an impact on everyone's jobs. Making sure you choose a proposal management solution that has, or plans to have, AI embedded directly into the tool is vital for ensuring an efficient and accelerated proposal and RFx response workflow today, but also enables you to future-proof your organization for what's coming down the track.

    AI-powered proposal automation tools are going to have an increasingly significant impact on the response process. Today, the AI features in proposal management software use natural language processing to select the right answers to questions, while proposal automation tools with generative AI offer the exciting prospect of rewriting those answers, tailoring them to the specific question and the specific opportunity you're working on. These capabilities will be a gamechanger for bid and proposal teams!

Check out Part 1 of our Proposal Management for Professional Services video series to gain additional insight into which software features and capabilities you can’t live without when choosing a proposal automation solution for your professional services organization.

Published by Jennifer Tomlinson January 11, 2024
Jennifer Tomlinson