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How To Choose the Best Proposal Software

Business proposals are your reps’ best, and sometimes final, chance to seal the deal. They help prospects see the value in your offering, explain why your solution is the best one, and lay down a clear path towards a successful working relationship. With so much hinging on getting them right, sending proposals manually is no longer sufficient. In 2021, there’s no excuse not to be using proposal software.

How To Choose the Best Proposal Software

12 min. read

Proposal software takes the guesswork out of the proposal creation process, giving your reps the control and visibility they need to keep deals moving. Plus, it makes the closing process infinitely more consistent, predictable, and scalable. With the right proposal management software at their fingertips, your team can stop spending so much time on proposals and start spending it on winning more deals.

But finding the right solution is easier said than done: like many industries over the past few years, the competition in the online proposal creation space is heating up. There are dozens, if not hundreds of providers that all claim to have the best proposal software on the market.

While there are options for everyone, finding the right one can be tough. Here’s how to cut through the noise and choose the best proposal software for your business:

Step 1: Explore the possibilities

You already know that proposal management software makes sending proposals easier, faster, and more consistent, but you might not know how. While the exact capabilities can vary from provider to provider, there are a few key ways proposal software makes your (and your reps’) life easier. In order to get the most out of your search for the best proposal software, you’ll need a strong understanding of what it can do.

Proposal templates

Whether your team uses Microsoft Word docs or an online proposal maker, there’s a good chance they’re starting each proposal document from scratch. Which is fine. If you have all the time in the world. But most teams don’t. With proposal management software, reps get access to proposal templates that give them a head start on their proposals. So instead of starting with a blank page, they’ll already have the layout, relevant sections, and other important details in front of them each time they start a proposal.

Automation

If your reps aren’t already tailoring their sales proposal to each new potential client, they need to start. But pulling contact info from old documents and emails, pricing info from the product team, and meeting availability from their calendars into a new proposal is time consuming and prone to errors. Proposal automation can help your team skip the manual inputs by automatically pulling information from other areas of your organization right into proposals.

Content library

If your sales reps are left to run free, it’s hard to know what’s going into their proposals. Outdated information and incorrect pricing info are just two of the many common culprits, but there are plenty of other things that can go wrong if reps don’t have a central place to pull content from. With proposal management software, you can create a library of pre-approved, up-to-date content so that you can be sure that all reps are using the right info.

Deal management

Struggling to track deal progress after proposals are sent? Proposal software can help. It gives you a birds eye view of your pipeline, helping you see where deals are at, who’s involved, what needs to be done next, and when to step in to push the deal along. Plus, it gives both sales teams and prospects a way to check in on the status and progress of projects to ensure they’re on track for goals, launches, or other timelines.

Approval workflows

While we don’t know the specifics about your proposal creation process, if it’s anything like ours, there are multiple stakeholders involved. From securing the signoff on pricing to getting the green light to get the business proposal out the door, there are plenty of steps that can cause delays if your team doesn’t have an efficient deal approval workflow.

Proposal software helps you create a streamlined approval process that doesn’t involve digging through multiple document versions, chasing down input from managers, and bouncing documents around different departments. Instead, your team will collaborate on a single live version that only gets presented to relevant “approvers” when their input is required. With proposal management software, your deals are always moving instead of bottlenecking your process as you wait for approvals.

Electronic signatures

Did you know the eSignatures can increase deal close rates by as much as 465% while helping them close up to 66% faster? Neither did we, until we dug into the data behind them. To nobody’s surprise, electronic signatures significantly reduce friction in sales by making it easier for your potential client to officially seal the deal. And the best part is that you don’t need to go outside your proposal app to take advantage of them; the best proposal software solutions have eSignature functionality baked right into the platform, meaning your reps can close deals as smoothly as they send proposals.

Analytics

We’d be willing to bet that you use analytics to measure almost every aspect of your sales and marketing efforts. But do you use it for closing?

Proposal software rounds up all of the sales data generated every day, organizes it, then breaks it down to review actionable insights. Gone are the days of wondering what went wrong, what went right, and how to replicate the process in the future. By putting your data to work, sales analytics gives you and your team the knowledge to make better informed decisions.

Integrations

We could probably name 10 popular tools for each stage of the sales funnel. But in the interest of time, we hope you’ll just take our word for it. What we’re getting at is: in the leadup to the proposal stage, sales teams often use a number of other applications to guide them through the sales cycle. Through integrations, proposal software can connect directly to those applications to create a seamless link between the two. Whether that’s Hubspot CRM to streamline deal stages or Stripe to accept payments directly from proposals, integrations can help your sales team leverage tech to their advantage.

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Step 2: Identify your needs

It’s no secret that proposal software is a secret weapon, but with so many options at your disposal, it can be tough to pick the right one for the situation. The truth is, every business has different needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to proposal software.

Knowing what proposal software is capable of, you’ll want to identify your needs before you start searching for a provider.

Features

Not all proposal software is created equally; features and functionality can vary significantly from one software solution to another, but that doesn’t mean you should have to compromise.

The best proposal software should offer all the features you need right out of the box, or with the help of integrations. If things like consistent information, faster proposals, and visibility over your deals are important to you (and they should be!), look for proposal software that offers a content library, proposal templates, and an activity feed. If you want to incorporate videos, interactive pricing tables, eSignatures, or any other feature that helps you create that winning business proposal, hold out until you find a solution that has it all—like Proposify.

Pricing

Like most SaaS products nowadays, many online proposal creation websites charge a monthly subscription fee to use their service. That said, there are still some providers that offer standalone proposal software that can be purchased outright. In any case, you’ll want to compare pricing (and pricing models) between providers in order to find the most cost effective solution for your budget.

Usability

At the end of the day, the best proposal software is the one that works best for your reps and organization. After all, your reps are going to be the ones using the software most often. Be sure to look into the user experience and usability of each proposal software you consider, otherwise you risk reps wasting time or making mistakes on their proposals. If possible, book a demo with the provider to get an inside look at how the software works and find out if it would be right for your team.

Fit with existing tech stack

If your team uses a number of other applications throughout the sales cycle, the best proposal software is one that offers all of the integrations you need. Without them, reps will be stuck pulling information manually between spreadsheets, proposals, project management platforms, and any other essential tools. In your search for the right proposal tool for your sales team, ask potential providers if their solution integrates with other popular softwares, and if so, which ones.

Support

In the event that your business requires support from your provider, you should choose a solution that makes you feel confident that you will receive the help you need. Whether you need additional guidance with your new software solution, help resolving an issue related to the software, or just an open line of communication, be sure that the proposal software you choose offers adequate support.

Knowledge base

Hands-on support and customer service are important considerations when choosing a proposal tool for your team, but some providers go above and beyond. If you're looking to level up your proposal process, look for a provider that offers additional resources designed to help your reps create the perfect business proposal. Reach out or dig into your potential provider’s website to find out if they have a community forum, best practices, blog, ebooks, or other resources that can help take your proposal creation process to new heights.

Analytics

Do you want to see the data that’s driving your deals (or lack thereof)? If so, you’ll need proposal software that offers analytics and reporting capabilities. Without it, you’ll be almost entirely in the dark as soon as proposals go out the door. If you’re interested in taking back control of your deals, choosing proposal software with robust analytics is the best place to start. Armed with insights and data to back their decisions, your reps can focus their time and energy building a winning proposal.

Custom Services

Custom professional services are a less common feature some proposal software providers offer. If you’re looking for something a little more bespoke to suit your business and your process, this can be a fantastic place to start. A small investment gives you access to professional designers and business proposal experts who deal with deal docs day in, day out. They can leverage their expertise in proposal creation to develop completely custom proposal templates, optimize existing templates, or transform your most important PDFs into an editable format. With their help, you’ll be able to ensure that your branding is always on point and your processes are seamless so that you can focus on closing.

Step 3: Compare your options

Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to start comparing your options. There are so many proposal software solutions out there, each with their own features, perks, benefits, and drawbacks, so it’s important to choose wisely. To help you narrow down your search, here are some of the best proposal software options available in 2021:

1. Proposify

    Now, we’re clearly a little biased. But we think our proposal software is pretty great. (Don’t just take our word for it, though! Our fans on G2 have us blushing by consistently ranking us among the best sales software on the market.) In 2013, our founders created Proposify to address a simple, frustrating truth: creating proposals sucked. So we set out to make it suck less. Over the years, we’ve developed our platform to include the can’t-miss features and functionality any sales rep, team, or manager would ever need to send impressive proposals and gain insight and control over the most critical part of their sales process: the close.

    Learn more about Proposify here.

    2. Better Proposals

      Better Proposals is based on the mantra that less is more. It's all about simplicity—you can edit proposals just like you would a Google Doc or Microsoft Word document, then send them off to your prospects. While it doesn't offer as many proposal templates as some of the other options, the templates it does have are well-designed, easy to tweak, and can be saved to a library for later use. However, the UX leaves a bit to be desired; there are multiple menus and an interface that some users find “clunky.”

      Compare Better Proposals vs. Proposify.

      3. Qwilr

        Like the other solutions on this list, Qwilr empowers users to create proposals and other sales documents more efficiently. But instead of sending prospects a PDF or live document, proposals are delivered in the form of an interactive web page. This allows sales teams to create more immersive experiences with embedded elements such as Google Maps, calendars, videos, and more. But as impressive as the final result may be, some businesses prefer to send their prospects a simple PDF proposal. And if you choose this solution, you won’t have that option.

        4. BidSketch

          As you might have expected, BidSketch makes it easier to create and send proposals. Packed with proposal templates and an interactive interface, it promises to cut proposal time in half. It allows users to embed images, videos, and links, and even offers the option to create dedicated landing pages for each proposal. But despite its many upsides, it has far fewer integration options than the other solutions, and lacks a way to manage proposals that have been sent.

          Compare Bidsketch vs. Proposify

          5. PandaDoc

            PandaDoc is another proposal software company that aims to take the work out of document workflow. It offers a suite of tools designed to help sales teams create, send, and manage proposals and other sales documents. It’s an affordable solution for sales teams looking to streamline their proposal process, but it does have one major drawback: Unlike Proposify, proposals created with PandaDoc are pretty simple—they look just like regular documents as opposed to interactive, enticing proposals.

            Compare PandaDoc vs. Proposify

            Final thoughts

            Proposal software is a powerful tool that can help you level up your sales process and close more deals. The solution you choose can be the difference between win or lose, so make sure to pick wisely. While there isn’t a single best option, the best proposal software is the one that meets all of your needs and works with your existing tools and processes. Try Proposify for free to find out if it’s right for you.

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