Productive sales teams are all alike; every unproductive sales team is unproductive in its own way.
This line is never truer than when it comes to proposal management strategies for remote sales teams. (With apologies to Leo Tolstoy.)
There are three major approaches to proposal content management that we see all the time here at Proposify. We’ve found that unproductive, and therefore unhappy, sales teams tend to use a variation of one of the first two strategies. I’m calling them The Silos and The Free-For-All and I’ll explain more about them below.
But we find that happy and productive sales teams are the ones that move to a third hybrid approach as they implement proposal software that combines all the best parts of the Silos and Free-For-All workflows.
Why does The Hybrid approach work so well? It’s organized. It’s scalable. It increases productivity. It’s easy for sales reps to use and provides sales leaders with the insight they need to keep the pipeline flowing.
What kind of sales teams is The Hybrid effective for? It’s hard to keep control of proposal content, quality, and consistency when everyone’s under one roof. That challenge increases when your sales team works remotely. That’s why while a hybrid strategy like this works for most sales teams, it’s ideal for remote sales teams or sales teams working out of multiple offices.
In this post, I’ll outline these three main strategies that sales teams use, including some real-life examples, then I’ll talk about why the first two will leave you and your remote sales team frustrated and wasting time, plus why and how you can implement the third with your sales team using proposal management software.
3 strategies for remote sales team proposal content management (and why only one of them actually works)
Let’s take a look at these three strategies and the hallmarks of each approach. To illustrate these strategies, I’m going to use two Proposify customers’ ‘before’ proposal processes and one customer’s process after they digitized their workflow.
No, I’m not talking about Chip and Jo’s store and venue in Waco, Texas. This is about the silos that are created when there is little collaboration and oversight in the sales doc creation process.
Here are the hallmarks of The Silos approach to proposal content management:
Each person on the team is making their own proposals.
Starting essentially from scratch (or close to it) to create each proposal.
Proposal content stays with individuals (in email inboxes or on computer desktops) instead of with the team.
No quality control because team leads don’t have insight into what’s going into proposals and what’s going out to clients.
Design and build firm Dimensional Innovations was once trying to work through a siloed sales doc workflow. Though their team needed to collaborate on proposals, there was no central library or easy way to share information across departments. Misplaced content would lead to duplicated effort and then managing those multiple Word docs via email meant proposals would get buried or lost.
This one is just like it sounds—a disorganized process with lots of people and moving pieces involved. With the free-for-all approach, it can take a sales team a long time to create proposals but the extra effort is rarely reflected in the finished product.
Here’s what that looks like:
Multiple versions of Word- and PDF-based proposals floating around.
Time wasted by sales reps as they search for previous documents to copy and paste from.
Everyone has access to all proposal content, which creates an opportunity for errors.
With everyone grabbing different versions and pieces of content, the finished product is inconsistent.
SaaS company Orlo’s previous proposal process was like the sales doc version of a game of Telephone. With no set template, the proposals going out were so pieced together that they didn’t resemble the original starting-point document anymore. But all that copying and pasting actually ate up more time and the sales team struggled to hit their goal of sending out 20 proposals a month.
The Hybrid approach takes the best of the processes above and throws away the inefficient parts. Controlled collaboration and freeing oversight sound like oxymorons but they’re actually hallmarks of a hybrid proposal content management strategy.
Here’s how that plays out in practice:
Documents, content pieces, and assets are shared in a controlled way using user roles and permissions.
Collaboration is made easier with a central content hub and approval workflows help sales leaders enforce consistency in sales docs.
This strategy is able to scale as team headcount or proposal volume increases.
The Hybrid strategy is effective for most sales teams but particularly so for large sales teams, remote sales teams, or sales teams with multiple offices.
As landscaping company Yellowstone Landscape found out, moving to a hybrid approach as they switched to using proposal software allows for collaboration, customization, and consistency, but also control. Since their sales team is spread out over numerous territories, they created groups within their 50 salespeople and then set up roles and permissions so each sales rep can access and share specific content while restricting the aspects they’re able to change.
Why you need a proposal content management strategy that scales
Harsh truth alert: The Silos and The Free-For-All systems outlined above aren’t content management strategies.
They’re ad-hoc, inefficient ‘workflows’ that don’t actually work. Or they only work in very specific circumstances, like if there are only one or two people in charge of putting proposals together or a low volume of proposals going out each month. But for most sales teams (and especially remote sales teams) no-strategy approaches like these mean proposals are inaccurate, inconsistent, and take a ton of time to prepare and send.
And they don’t scale. Big sales teams, remote sales teams, teams who are sending out heaps of proposals—they all need an efficient proposal content management strategy that scales.
Why do you need an efficient, scalable proposal content management strategy? Well, the statistics don’t lie:
Consistent branding increasing revenue by up to 23%. Consistency creates trust and trust is key to closing bigger deals.
Effective tech tools save time. B2B organizations that leverage technology effectively prepare their sales documents 47% faster.
And, since more than half of proposal creators say they collaborate with between 6 and 100 colleagues on a single proposal, it’s in your team’s best interest to make sure it’s easy and efficient to work together on proposal content.
What does a good proposal content management strategy include?
- A central content hub that contains up-to-date information, pricing, images, and branding to pull into proposals.
- Set roles and permissions so everyone can access what they need from that central hub to build proposals, but nothing more or less.
- And a workflow that effectively uses these elements to collaborate on and create custom proposals quickly and accurately.
Let’s get into how to implement a strategy that includes all these things.
While we’re talking proposal process…
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How to implement a scalable proposal content management strategy for your remote sales team
Okay, so you’re ready to move your remote sales team to a hybrid proposal management strategy, complete with workspaces, roles, and permissions. Great! Where should you start?
I’d argue your first stop should be adding proposal software like Proposify to your sales tech stack. Most proposal software will come with the features you need to implement the Hybrid strategy, like workspaces, roles and permissions, a central content library, and collaboration workflows, including approvals.
There are ways to implement a Hybrid strategy without proposal software, but it will likely involve multiple tools and apps. And some of them may need hacks or workarounds to configure them the way you need. For example, you could use a tool like Dropbox as a central content hub but that wouldn’t solve any issues around duplicated or overwritten content. Or a project management tool like Basecamp could keep your proposal creation workflow on track but you’d probably still be working from multiple Word doc versions of your proposals.
For this overview, I’ll assume that you’re using proposal software. Let’s start with the basics and define a few of the terms we’re tossing around so everyone’s on the same page, why these things are so important, and then get into how you can implement them as part of your team’s proposal content management plan.
What are workspaces?
Sometimes called groups or user groups or teams, this is where users share a proposal creation space and can see and share each other’s content and templates.
Within the Proposify app, workspaces function as ‘sub-accounts’ of the main account. Each workspace can contain its own content, branding, contact details, and template designs.
Workspaces are great for franchises that have many independent, yet connected, businesses under the parent brand, as well as companies with multiple branches or product lines. For example, an event company that does both private and corporate events might want to separate those two sides of the business into their own workspaces to streamline proposal creation.
What are user roles and permissions?
Bear with me while things get a little circular: permissions to perform certain tasks or access certain information within a system or software are assigned to roles. People are then assigned to roles to use those permissions to perform their tasks.
I’ll illustrate how these work together as part of a proposal content management strategy later in this post.
Why use roles and permissions as part of your proposal creation process?
There are three main benefits of roles and permissions in proposal content management:
- Security: Only authorized users can see, access, and use your proposal content.
- Peace of mind: Team leads can have confidence about what reps are sending out in proposals because they can control what’s going into them.
- Organization: When users only have access to what they need, they can find things fast so they don’t waste time sifting through content and templates that aren’t applicable.
Roles and permissions are why having an individual seat in proposal software for each user is so important. Without individual log-ins, robust roles and permissions settings are moot. When Proposify moved to a seat-based pricing strategy in 2019, security and organization implications played a part in this decision.
Think about it—if your team shared one account, you wouldn’t be able to get granular with your access control because that one user account needs to be a universal administrator role with complete access. So anyone signing in under that account would be able to access everything.
How to design roles and permissions to fit your team’s needs
The most common framework for roles and permissions is role-based access control (RBAC). This approach comes from the world of computer security systems but you can apply RBAC with any software tool or system where you want to protect and segment information and access. RBAC is most commonly employed by large enterprise companies but that doesn’t mean that small or mid-sized companies can’t benefit from it.
Here’s how to do it:
Permissions are based on each role within the team that will be using the software. What jobs or tasks will each person or title be trying to accomplish with the tool? For example, consider that a marketing coordinator who goes into proposal software to update a template would need different permissions and access than a sales rep who is creating proposals using those templates.
How much access is too little, too much, or just right, though? A best practice here is the principle of least privilege. This means setting up roles and granting permissions in a way so that your team members have the ability to do their jobs but provides no more access than is required.
Using the example above, you would want to grant the marketing coordinator access to edit templates but you probably wouldn’t give that same permission to the sales rep. You would want the sales rep to make their own copy of the template that the marketing person set up and customize that duplicated version for their client.
A roles and permissions system based on these principles protects your content and data from inexperienced users and avoids costly accidents, like overwriting or deleting information.
It may be tempting to try to plan ahead and give a user a role or set of permissions based on an ideal situation or the job you envision them taking on in the future. For example, in a perfect world, all your sales team members would be tech-savvy. The reality is that some may not be completely comfortable with a new software tool. Scaling back on permissions for those who are less comfortable with a new software tool might make better sense.
Since most software allows for roles and permissions to be updated quickly and easily, it’s better to implement settings for how users use the software now and then make changes later. Be sure to double-check, though, that all users can still perform their job functions within the software with more restricted permissions in place.
How to use roles and permissions for a better proposal creation workflow
You may have applied software roles and permissions in the past, but since each software tool might set these up a little differently, I thought an overview of how the user roles and permissions are organized within Proposify would help you envision what’s possible for your proposal content management.
(Keep in mind that this a high-level look; in-app, admins can get more granular with settings in each of these areas, either by user or by role.)
General Roles & Permissions
These include account-wide access control settings, like which role is considered an admin or has team lead access to do things like making changes that affect other users or create or alter other user roles.
Content and Templates
These permissions control the amount and type of content that each user can access and what they are permitted to do with the content. These roles and permission settings would govern whether users could add, remove, and/or edit individual pieces of content or templates.
Proposal-level permissions provide control over what actions users can take with proposals within the account. It could grant or remove the ability to see proposals teammates are working on, sign proposals, or delete or make edits to a closed-won proposal.
If a user’s proposals require approval before sending, these permissions would limit the ability to send a proposal without proper vetting. A specific user or role level can be designated as the approver with a corresponding approval workflow.
Roles and permissions with integrations
It’s important to think about how the roles and permissions you set up around your team’s proposal content will also impact any add-ons and integrations in your sales tech stack. Will connecting the tools in your tech stack affect the roles and permissions you’ve set up? Or will they be retained?
For example, if your team is editing proposals using one of Proposify’s integrations, like our Salesforce Appex and our HubSpot widget, existing roles in Proposify are respected. That means people working on proposals in opportunities linked between your CRM and your proposal software will continue to only be able to access what you want them to.
Example proposal content management roles and permissions system
Being deliberate about user roles and permissions usually leads to better results, but it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why many people default to simply giving everyone a ton of access and deciding to “sort it out later.” Except later never arrives and roles and permissions remain a muddled mess that errs on the side of too much access.
You can learn a lot from companies that have already solved for the problems you may be experiencing. So I tracked down some Proposify customers who have increased their proposal productivity thanks in part to an efficient roles and permissions system.
To protect the organized, I’ve amalgamated the org charts into one example of how to achieve organized controlled access and collaboration for proposal success.
So, this is a media company with 10 people using proposal software. Let’s run down everyone’s roles and permissions, starting at the top.
This person has full administrative access but isn’t involved in the day-to-day proposal workflow. They check in on pipeline and proposal metrics. Think VP or Director of Sales.
This person has access to both workspaces but can only edit images and copy in the content library and add, delete or edit templates. They can’t view or edit active proposals. This person could have a Marketing or Design position in the company.
The sales team lead is directly in charge of their sales team and needs full access to their team’s proposals, pipeline, and metrics. They have view-only access to proposals in the other team’s workspace (good for sharing ideas and successes). They also approve proposals before they’re sent.
The sales reps have access to their workspace’s content and templates. They can only access the proposals and clients they are working on. Need to get approval from Sales Lead before they are permitted to send a proposal.
Keep in mind, this is simply an example of a roles and permissions hierarchy. There are many other ways to organize users and your sales team might require something different.
For example, in your set-up you could call those in the sales rep tier 'proposal creators' instead or combine the account owner and admin roles into one role. You could add more workspaces that include fewer people or vice versa—whatever works best for your team.
The beauty of flexible roles and permissions systems is that you can customize it to allow the exact right amount of access to each user or role and this example is meant as a jumping-off point.
Remote teams, role management, and proposal software
Proposal content management for remote teams doesn’t have to be a study in opposites. It doesn’t have to be completely siloed to maintain quality and consistency. It doesn’t have to be a free-for-all to keep the lines of collaboration open. Finding that middle ground, with some help from proposal software and a roles and permissions system, can be the best of both worlds.