What Is Sales Proposal Automation? Analysis of Features, Benefits and Pricing

What is sales proposal automation software? It is a software category that streamlines and automates the creation of proposals and presentations in response to RFPs (request for proposals). It may also include preparing quotes and generally other documents that support your offer in bidding and sales pitches.

Generally, sales proposal automation software helps you increase your productivity and win rate. You can quickly pull together accurate proposals and submit them in time. Your teams or business units, wherever they are, can work together inside a cloud system for inputs on the proposal.

To help you dig deeper about this category, we will explain in details the definition of sales proposal automation software, plus more.

  1. Examples of Sales Proposal Automation software
  2. Benefits of Sales Proposal Automation software
  3. Types of Sales Proposal Automation software
  4. Features of Sales Proposal Automation software
  5. Buying factors to consider
  6. Pricing of Sales Proposal Automation software
  7. Potential issues

Automation is key to more sales

What is sales proposal automation software in relation to sales automation, you wonder. The former is focused on submitting proposals, while the latter can be considered the mother system of the former, since forwarding sales pitches are integral to salesforce processes. In a Salesforce study, 40% of traditional sales tasks can now be automated and sales proposal is one of them.

McKinsey&Company also took a look at where automation can replace human work. It found out that “data collection,” “data processing” and “predictable physical work” are highly susceptible to automation. Creating sales proposals easily include these tasks.

Source: McKinsey&Company.

Examples of Sales Proposal Automation software

To answer the question–what is sales proposal automation software? let’s take a look at some of the examples of sales proposal automation software. They give you an idea of the varying features, but also of their common functionalities.

  1. Docsend. It features powerful analytics designed to discover insights from accessible documents of a client. The solution helps sales and marketing to align their proposal along these insights, such  as the client’s needs gaps, interest or plans. The solution scans the documents and digs up insights faster than going through each file manually. It has a collaboration platform to help teams brainstorm and discuss how to approach the insights best.
  2. Bidsketch. With a few clicks you can quickly pull together a custom proposal with this app. It helps you to repurpose old bids and tweak key elements such as pricing, terms, design and content for a new proposal. You can also embed images and videos to articulate better your pitch. Instead of snail mailing PDFs, the solution lets you send digital proposals with e-signature via email, which is a lot faster than the traditional method.
  3. Proposify. Designed for small business like creative and marketing agencies, this app at once  streamlines the proposal writing process and improves the quality of your bid submissions with a slew of professionally created templates. You can also add your own template to its content library and build a rich, centralized source of future reference materials including images, logos, key messaging and layout.
  4. Quoteroller. It also features plenty of templates to help you get your bids ready in minutes. It also lets you create a central product catalog for referencing your product specs, creative elements and key messages to ensure your bids are accurate and consistent. Likewise, it alerts you of duplicate quotes.
  5. Highspot. It uses content management, smart suggestions and semantic search to help you consolidate key sales and marketing data into a solid proposal. Its CRM integration adds to your bid a more personalized approach. Using analytics, the app helps you fine tune your proposal creation and amplify best practices.

Benefits of Sales Proposal Automation software

Why use sales proposal automation software when you can write a proposal on Word? Well and good if you want to take the manual road. However, consider these advantages of sales proposal automation software.

  1. Helps create proposals faster. If your company is involved in frequent bidding, this is one of the best benefits of sales proposal automation software. You can respond faster to RFPs (request for proposals) and always make the deadline cut (this alone can at once increase your success rate). It’s easy to delegate and put a system to the different aspects of the proposal–product, pricing, supply, project management, etc.–to the respective departments, and quickly consolidate their inputs into a finished proposal. Or, you can create versions of your proposal, repurposing past documents for new bidding. You can develop a clear-cut routine out of creating proposals and, in fact, minimize if not eliminate the need to call for time-consuming meetings just to get everybody on board.
  2. Let sales sell, not search endlessly. Having a centralized place for all your proposals makes it easy for sales to search the right document when an opportunity comes, allowing them to sell at once, not lose time looking for quotes, proposals and presentations.
  3. Ensures proposal’s accuracy and consistency. In your rush to meet RFP deadlines, it’s inevitable to make mistakes. Woe to you if you have sent a wrong pricing or over estimate your supply capabilities because you didn’t consult with your own suppliers. Sales proposal automation features a multi-tier approval process that ensures stakeholders get to confirm their commitment to the terms in the proposal. Likewise, templates allow for consistent design and layout along your branding elements and that no key element is left out.
  4. Provides collaboration space for stakeholders. Busy experts in various departments can easily chime in their ideas by logging into the system at any time they have free time. Likewise, you can involve suppliers to a discussion board to ensure your proposal terms are within your vendors’ capacity. By using live chat, email, @mentions, discussion boards and activity feed, you can easily involve all stakeholders.
  5. Frees you from routine work. Except for special projects, creating and submitting proposals is routine work that can be automated using a standard process. Sales proposal automation software uses rules that match your requirements and workflows, freeing up time that you can allocate to other important matters.
  6. Makes proposal writing easy for everyone. Writing proposals is a skill in itself, but with templates and a standard workflow, anyone can quickly pull together a professional document. The solution gives you more flexibility to assign proposal writing to anyone in the team.
  7. Manage proposals easily. With a growing volume of proposals you need a centralized location to archive files. Using search filters, file retrieval is easy. You will never misplace a document again, even allowing you to build on a knowledge base of successful proposals for future reference.

Creating presentations on DocSend mimics PPT creation.

Types of Sales Proposal Automation software

Sales proposal automation software comes in various forms. Generally, they can be categorized based on the business size that they cater to.

  1. Small business system. It features off-the-shelf tools like templates, canned elements and standard workflows. Most small business have standard bidding requirements that can be addressed by this sales proposal automation software type.
  2. Enterprise system. Companies with complex or special projects need to customize the proposals to meet specific requirements. Enterprise software types not only allow for the proposal elements to be tweaked, but configure processes like consolidation, approval and submission. Advanced features include powerful analytics and built-in collaboration platform.

Sales proposal automation software can also be classified as cloud or on-premise, but most solutions today are SaaS-based.

Features of Sales Proposal Automation software

What does sales proposal automation software do? It depends on the feature set and other factors. Here are the standard features of sales proposal automation software.

  1. Proposal management. This is, of course, the main purpose of sales proposal automation software. The core module lets you create proposals on the fly using templates or repurposing past documents. It also allows you to save, archive and tag proposals for future reference using smart search filters. The module also lets you share an active proposal draft with stakeholders and have it approved for submission.
  2. RFP/RFQ automation. The solution automates proposal writing and formatting based on your settings, including your pricing, inclusions, terms and conditions. Using an advanced feature, you may even set a trigger for automatically creating a proposal, for instance, when you receive RFP or RFQ (request for quote) email. Automation can extend to sending the proposal to client via email or queuing the file for printing for snail mail. Automation can also be disabled in some parts to allow manual entries for custom proposals.
  3. Proposal templates. This helps you get started if you lack proposal writing experience. You can choose from standard proposal templates and ensure you include all key elements. This feature is important when you realize that incomplete information can lead to bid disqualification.
  4. User roles. Proposals that involve inputs from other business units require that you give them access to the system. However, the level of access can be controlled based on user roles, including “view-only,” :can comment” or “can edit.” This tool is important to keep the integrity of the proposal and avoid duplicates or unauthorized changes.
  5. Multi-tier approval. Complex proposals may need a hierarchical approval process from the ground up or across departments or a mix of both. A proposal can be vertical, for example: approval by the supervisor, manager and department head. It can also be horizontal: by marketing, sales, product and support.
  6. Collaboration and communication tools. Creating proposals is a collaboration effort among different teams, in which case they use  built-in or integrated tools for live chat, email client, document sharing, group discussions and real-time notifications. Drafts can be commented on, reviewed and approved by a team including remote members.
  7. Document management. This feature can be built-in or integrated, allowing you to create, share and send files in various formats including PDF, doc, RTF and HTML. Documents can be accessed differently based on user permissions from “view-only” to editing control. Likewise, a feature may include versioning that ensures cloud changes are synchronized and all members are using the latest file..  
  8. E-signature. Electronically signed documents are now legally accepted; thus, sales proposal automation software often comes with this tool. Sending your bid via email is faster, more convenient and a great time-saver that gives you an advantage over snail mailed documents.
  9. Centralized database for old and new proposals. Many solutions offer templates that are saved in a centralized place for quick access. This content library acts as a repository of old and new documents, that is, you can repurpose old templates–tweak its elements–and add them back to the library as new templates.
  10. Analytics. It is a standard feature in most business applications. In sales proposal automation the usual aspects that are analyzed include RFP requirements, success rate of proposal templates, consolidation of key elements and other best practices.
  11. Integration. Sales proposal automation is often integrated with CRM, which lets you use client insights on preparing the proposal. A solution can also be integrated with sales automation as the mother system. Other integration happens with business and productivity tools, such as, document management, collaboration and communication tools.

Proposify has a neat UI that gives your proposal clarity.

Buying factors to consider

How does sales proposal automation software work? This still depends on how you leverage its features. No matter how great the app is, when used improperly you’ll undermine its capabilities and, worse, your operations. Here are the common pitfalls to avoid.

  1. Must adapt to bidding requirements. Consider the solution’s flexibility to offer different types of documents to bid. A proposal differs a lot with quote; the latter is usually focused on price alone versus the more detailed propositions in the former. A bid may also be simple or complex that requires attached documents or legal procedures. If you deal with a varying degree of bidding requirements, the solution should adapt to these specific specs.
  2. Should integrate with key systems. Good sales proposal automation software should integrate with your CRM to let you personalize the pitch. CRM provides a depth of client insights that your proposal can leverage to align your offer with client needs. The solution may also integrate with sales automation as its mother system, since submitting proposals is the starting point to conversion for many businesses. Other key integration to consider include email clients and document management apps.
  3. Must be able to digest insights on your proposals. Check how powerful the analytics. Can it assess best practices so you can build on them? Some solutions even provide a feature that scans accessible client documents to spy on client needs gaps, requirements and, generally, its plans to match your bid more accurately. Take note that you might not need powerful analytics, and save money in the process, if your bids are straightforward and recurring in layout and elements.
  4. Manual intervention. While automation is a great thing to have, there are instances when manual entries have to be made to meet specific bid requirements or special clients. In which case make sure the solution has a manual override so you are not stuck with templates, lending more flexibility to your proposal creation.
  5. Collaboration space. If your proposals require inputs from your experts or various departments having a collaboration platform within the solution makes it easy and quick to share ideas, files and feedback. If you have remote teams or a large organization, a collaboration space pulls together your best minds and guarantees that you put your best foot forward for each bidding.

Quoteroller’s editing tools give you flexibility to customize the proposal.

Pricing of Sales Proposal Automation software

The cost of sales proposal automation software depends on different factors, such as, depth of features, business size and number of users. Take a look at how pricing is designed for various solutions.

  1. Bidsketch. Most products have three price tiers for small business, mid-sized business and enterprise. Bidsketch is an example, offering Solo ($23 per month), Team ($47 per month) and Business ($119 per month).
  2. Quoteroller. Often the paid plans cater to three user types: the freelancer, small business (agencies, boutique services) and enterprise. Quoteroller starts at $19 per user/month.
  3. Proposify. Some solutions do offer more than the usual 3-tiered pricing. Proposify, for instance, has five subscriptions starting at $25 per month with the premium being offered at a quote-basis term.
  4. Docsend. Many solutions offer a free app like Docsend. The freemium offers up to 5 documents and 10 visits and comes with access to real-time tracking. The basic paid plan is $10 per user/month featuring unlimited documents and visits.
  5. Highspot. It offers the typical quote-based pricing to help the vendor match the exact features and terms with your requirements.

Potential issues

What are the common problems you will face when using sales proposal automation software? Here are three issues that you should prepare for.

  1. Duplicates, wrong proposals. With more users having access to the sales proposal automation solution, things can easily get mixed up or duplicates may occur. Not only is it embarrassing to send the best proposal to the wrong client, but that can kick you out of the bidding. This problem can be prevented by putting into place user permissions and multi-tiered approval workflow, so make sure to utilize these features.
  2. Out-of-the-box vs. off-the-shelf. Off-the-shelf works great with repetitive bids with predictable elements and processes, but special projects may demand your team to brainstorm and come up with out-of-the-box proposal, which the system may impede since everything is templated. The key is to spot when to use the template and when to set it aside for the collaboration tool.
  3. Impedes client research. Automation and templates can make people lazy and, in the process, they fail to dig deeper on your client needs. Sales proposal automation software is only a tool, not a magic wand that can create compelling proposals that match your client needs to a tee. Your team should still do client research, aided by your CRM or other means.
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