Best Proposal Software in 2021: Where Automation Meets Community

Katie Flood
Katie Flood

According to G2, there’s more than 160+ proposal softwares on the market right now, which means there’s literally thousands of features to go through.

Top features include automation, collaboration, and project management insights—which all help you submit proposals faster and earn millions of dollars in revenue. But there’s a catch: With so many options to choose from, it can be tough to determine which tool is actually the best fit for your team.

That’s why we’ve done the research for you. Read on to learn about new automation breakthroughs, must-have features for 2021, and how to crush your deadlines using proposal software.

In this article, you’ll learn: 

  1. What is Proposal Automation?
  2. What is the Best Proposal Software? Must-Have Functionality
  3. Beyond the Features: Community, Support & Strategic Training
  4. How to Manage Requests for Proposals (RFPs) Using Software
  5. Checklist: What Proposal Software is Right for Your Team?

What is Proposal Automation? Understanding Artificial Intelligence

Proposal automation uses machine learning (a subset of artificial intelligence) to help teams streamline the RFP process. In fact, research shows that using proposal software speeds up the sales cycle by 10% on average.

But how exactly does it speed up sales? Through machine learning, proposal automation can:

  • Auto-populate documents with pre-approved content
  • Handle tedious tasks like formatting proposals
  • Provide reusable, branded templates for RFPs and other sales documents
  • Offer a smart content management system that stores reusable answers (no more scrolling through email threads…)

Basically, automation is the engine that can supercharge your efficiency. That is, if you choose the right tool for your team.


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What Is the Best Proposal Software? Must-Have Functionality

Not all software is created equal. But, there are similarities across platforms.

When choosing the best software for your team, look for a tool with three key capabilities: a searchable content library for storing answers, automation features that scale your work, and collaboration tools to simplify how you work together.

Customizable Answer Library

The ideal proposal library is customizable above all else. You’ll want to organize it using categories and tags that align with your company’s product or services. The tool should also maintain the accuracy of your content, so pick software with automated review cycles, which get your team in the habit of reviewing answers on a regular basis.

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Streamlined Project Management Tools

Project management tools are vital to the success of any proposal team (especially if you’re working remotely). Choose a tool that provides a birds-eye view of the entire project, so you can keep things progressing on time. Plus, insightful reporting capabilities and dashboards are a bonus.

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Intelligent Features That Auto-Fill Answers

Having a tool that auto-fills or auto-suggests answers is a huge time-saver. Loopio’s RFP software does this through an automation tool called Magic ✨  which takes a first pass at every proposal. It’ll automatically suggest answers from your library, so you can fill questions in a couple of clicks.


Think Beyond the Features: Community, Support, and Training

Features are vital, but they don’t tell the whole story. Here are a few more key considerations to keep in mind when assessing the best proposal software for your team in 2021.

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Ongoing Strategic Training

Whenever you introduce a new system, you’ll want to ensure your team understands how to use it to the fullest advantage. Does your software vendor offer an onboarding team to get you up and running? Will you have an account manager to help with advice and tips? Look for a tool that provides access to a dedicated team who you can successfully partner with on an ongoing basis.

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Technical Support

What happens when you (inevitably) need help with your new software? Choose a platform with a stellar support team that can help you untangle any tricky problems down the line. Be sure to keep an eye on review websites to get an accurate picture of the support available.

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Create Community Connections

As wonderful as support from your software company is, discussions and tips from actual users are even better. Look for vendors with educational webinars, networking events, or a customer community that can help you make the most of your experience.

Having a wide-range of support beyond features pays off. In fact, a survey of 150+ teams that use Loopio shows that response quality has improved by 86% since using an RFP tool. So the question becomes, can you afford not to use proposal software?


How to Manage Requests for Proposals (RFPs) Using Software

The process for handling RFPs through a tool is very straightforward. With cloud-based software, it’s all about working smarter, not harder. Here’s how the right solution makes the proposal process more efficient.

1. Import Your RFP into the Proposal Software

When you receive an RFP, import details into your proposal software. Once imported, the software should help you identify questions that need answers within the document (pictured below). If you’re accessing the RFP through a portal or website, you can use an extension like Google Chrome to fill in the RFP directly from the browser.

2. Create Your Project Timeline

Next, map out your project timeline within the RFP software. Highlight the sections of the proposal that will need special attention and decide which experts in your team can help with the details. Create a schedule with deadlines so everyone knows what’s expected and when.

Timelines in Loopio | Proposal Automation Software

3. Kickoff With Your Team

Even with software, you should still kickoff the project relevant subject matter experts (SMEs). Whether you meet in person or through a video call, it’s important to gather everyone together to lay out requirements, assign responsibilities, and set expectations early. Clear communication is essential to making the entire process go smoothly.

Kicking off a Proposal | See the Best Proposal Software Now

4. First Draft: Use Automation to Fill in RFP Answers

Now that your team is on board with the project plan, it’s time to fill in the proposal itself. Some proposal tools use automation to fill the first pass of the proposal for you (which saves a ton of time). The tool will simply pull past RFP answers from your custom content library for each proposal, so you don’t have to start from scratch.

Loopio’s RFP Automation Tool, Magic | See the Best Proposal Software Now

5. Second Draft: Personalize Your Answers

The draft is done, so next it’s time for your SMEs to shine. Ask them to review the first draft for accuracy, because this is their opportunity for feedback. Then, send the draft to your legal/compliance teams, as well as executive sponsors to get their sign-off on the second draft.

Collaborating with SMEs | Proposal Software Preview

Tip: Be vigilant against over-editing. Too many edits can actually introduce new errors, weaken your argument, and make your proposal story less compelling. Editing for clarity, spelling, and grammar is always good, but if your SMEs are adding new points, ensure you have time to review them thoroughly before the deadline.

6. Export Your Final Proposal

Once you’ve reviewed and proofread your proposal, it’s time to export and submit it for consideration. (Yes, it’s really that simple.) You can even use templates, so the final exported document looks consistent and on-brand for every submission.

Checklist: What Proposal Software is Right for You?

Whatever your needs, you should seek software that helps you respond to proposals faster and provide better quality responses. Platform features (like automation and artificial intelligence) will help you get there. But peer-to-peer support and a stellar account team set you up for success in the long-term. So now that you know what you’re looking for, how should you compare proposal softwares?

Use a software checklist to help you:

Examine your current process

Define the biggest needs you have for a software solution

Create a vendor shortlist

Evaluate each product on your list

Get internal stakeholders onboard

Implement your chosen solution

You can either create your own list of criteria, or download the six-step checklist now.

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