AAM Minute: Seasoned Marketer Considering the Key Features and Comparing the Pros and Cons of Popular Proposal Automation Platforms
AAM Minute: Seasoned Marketer Considering the Key Features and Comparing the Pros and Cons of Popular Proposal Automation Platforms
Kayla Juba, Brown Schultz Sheridan & Fritz
I don’t know about you, but our Firm experienced an unexpected, unprecedented increase in the number of RFPs that we responded to this year – in fact, it has been such a significant increase that we’ve decided our team would benefit greatly from looking into proposal automation software as we head into 2023.
What is Proposal Automation Software?
Proposal automation software allows teams to automate workflows, enhance collaboration and increase efficiencies for managing documents related to the sales process, such as proposals, quotes, contracts and other documents requiring electronic signatures.
What Features Are Standard for Proposal Automation Software?
Most proposal automation tools offer a list of standard proposal automation features, including:
- The ability to create and lock custom design templates and content sections, ensuring that all the design and content components of your proposals are professional, accurate and consistent with the unique look and feel of your brand.
- The ability to set up roles and permissions related to various users who have a hand in your document creation and review processes.
- The ability to automate workflows, as well as task reminders, for creating, reviewing, editing and finalizing proposal documents.
- Essential reporting tools, allowing you to create custom dashboards of crucial metrics and pipeline forecasting for your leadership team.
- Most platforms offer integration with a variety of CRM and marketing automation platforms.
How Do Different Proposal Automation Software Platforms Compare?
In scouring the Internet and the AAM Open Forum, you’ll find there are tons of different proposal automation software options, but we found there were a few names that kept coming up: in no particular order, Proposify, RocketDocs, PandaDoc, RFPIO, Loopio, Better Proposals, Qwilr and Proposable.
Each of these platforms offers those same standard features that I outlined above – so how do you choose? Here are some of the unique pros and cons that stood out to us, as well as the pricing information we could find, for each platform.
Proposal Automation Platform: Proposify
Their Homepage Says: Say goodbye to proposal chaos forever. Proposify proposal software helps growing teams remove document bottlenecks and get visibility into the most important stage of your sales cycle: the close.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love Proposify:
- Proposify offers an easy to use design editor, allowing you to create text boxes, pull in images and arrange your design components where they snap into place logically.
- Proposify allows you to customize the sales and closing process, so each prospect can view, interact with and sign your documents to their preference.
- With Proposify, all of your proposals are viewable anytime, anywhere, on any device, and importantly, can be signed off on digitally.
The Biggest Cons We Read About Proposify:
- Some Proposify users report having lost hours’ worth of work when the system failed to autosave.
- It can be difficult to adjust pricing tables with custom line items and costs.
- Users have reported experiencing general glitches in the system, which can be frustrating to work around when you’re up against a deadline.
Pricing: Proposify offers two plan options: the Team Plan at $49 per user per month (recommended for small or growing teams), and the Business Plan starting at $590 per month (recommended for teams of 10 or more). You can view the full details of what each plan offers at https://www.proposify.com/pricing.
Proposal Automation Platform: RocketDocs
Their Homepage Says: Automated RFP Response & Document Generation Management: Streamline the entire RFP process and generate customized collateral from a unified content management platform.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love RocketDocs:
- RocketDocs offers two main products: RocketRFP and RapidDocs.
- RocketRFP allows you to quickly provide answers for RFPs and other questionnaires that are set up in more of a Q&A format. The system can identify and autofill a high percent of familiar questions based on answers you’ve already entered into the system.
- RapidDocs allows teams to create more customized documents – not just proposals, but any other marketing collateral you can think of, such as team bios, presentations, sell sheets etc. Essentially, administrative users can build custom design templates as well as customized sections of approved content. Then, other users can log in and create customized documents by filling out a questionnaire, checking off the specific design templates and content section(s) they need.
- You can give Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) access to update specific content sections as needed, giving your entire Firm immediate access to the most up-to-date, compliant information.
- RocketDocs provides customized onboarding, so they handle the heavy lifting of the initial uploading and organizing of all your content for you.
The Biggest Cons We Read About RocketDocs:
- The search engine can be inconsistent and slow to return results. There is also currently no wildcard search capability.
- The system does not currently allow for electronic signatures.
Pricing: RocketDocs offers two plan options: RocketDocs Core and RocketDocs Enterprise. Both plans include access to RapidDocs. You can view the full details of what each plan offers at https://rocketdocs.com/plans/.
Proposal Automation Platform: PandaDoc
Their Homepage Says: Create, manage and e-Sign docs with ease: Join more than 40,000 customers who make PandaDoc #1 for proposals, quotes and contract management.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love PandaDoc:
- Team members can all collaborate within the same proposal document in real time, leaving comments on specific sections or using a general chat to discuss changes.
- PandaDoc offers real-time document analytics, including notifications when a proposal is opened, viewed, commented on or completed. It also offers automatic follow-up reminders.
- PandaDoc also offers contract management software, which includes a content library you can populate with pre-approved clause choices. In addition to automating proposals, accounting firms could potentially also use this platform for managing client engagement letters.
The Biggest Cons We Read About PandaDoc:
- PandaDoc does not offer conditional logic on forms and building forms from scratch can be tedious.
- PandaDoc only allows you to copy content sections, making it more time-consuming when you want to copy entire pages from a past proposal.
- You must pay extra to integrate with Salesforce.
Pricing: PandaDoc allows you to create a free account for collecting eSignatures and payments on an unlimited number of documents. They also offer three paid plans: the Essentials Plan, for $19 per month per user; the Business Plan (their most popular plan), for $49 per month per user; and the Enterprise Plan, for teams that require more capabilities, such as Salesforce integration. You can view the full details of what each plan offers at https://www.pandadoc.com/pricing/.
Proposal Automation Platform: RFPIO
Their Homepage Says: Software that feels like a partnership: RFPIO brings together teams and increases win rates through in-app collaboration, advanced content governance, and more integrations than anyone.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love RFPIO:
- RFPIO is the industry’s first AI-enabled RFP software, featuring a content library powered by AI that learns your preferences and gets smarter each time you use it.
- RFPIO offers excellent RFP import functionality; instead of needing to format an RFP into a specific template for upload, you can import the exact spreadsheet, Word doc. that a prospect provides.
- RFPIO offers a tool called RFPIO LookUp, which allows you to create an internal knowledge base for your Firm: a central, cloud-based location that houses company information, sales materials, marketing documents, product and security information, answers to commonly asked questions and more.
The Biggest Cons We Read About RFPIO:
- RFPIO offers limited control over content formatting, and formatting can vary between opening the same proposal in RFPIO, versus opening as a Word document, versus saving as a PDF file.
- The UI is not the most user friendly, with some vital menu options hidden in non-obvious places.
Pricing: RFPIO does not currently provide plan or pricing information on their website, but you can schedule a customized demo by visiting https://www.rfpio.com/schedule-a-demo/.
Product Name: Loopio
Their Homepage Says: Easily Manage All Your RFP Content In One Single Platform: Loopio’s RFP response software makes submitting high-quality RFPs, RFIs, DDQs, and Security Questionnaires easier and faster.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love Loopio:
- Loopio allows you to develop a comprehensive content library with custom categories and tags. It also helps you keep your library clean and uncluttered by automatically detecting duplicate language.
- Loopio provides freshness scores to let you know how recently a certain content section was updated. It also has a new content detection tool to notify you if a document is not using the most current version of a content section.
- Loopio helps you cut back on formatting fixes; when you finish developing a questionnaire or proposal, you can easily export it back to the original document format, a web portal or your custom design template.
The Biggest Cons We Read About Loopio:
- Loopio does not offer inline graphics generation tools like Microsoft Word.
- The search functionality is not always reliable, even when searching by exact phrase match.
Pricing: Loopio offers three plan options: the Essentials Plan, for smaller teams just starting to streamline their process; the Plus Plan, for businesses looking to take their collaboration to the next level; and the Advanced Plan, for larger organizations with more complex needs. You can view the full details of what each plan offers and request pricing information at https://loopio.com/pricing/.
Product Name: Better Proposals
Their Homepage Says: Close more deals. Get paid faster. Modern, on-brand proposals that streamline your sales process. Sent, tracked, and signed in minutes.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love Better Proposals:
- Better Proposals offers a dynamic content library that holds proposals, quotes, contracts, info sheets, sign-offs, statements of work, agreements, brochures and more.
- Better Proposals will notify you every time your proposal is opened, forwarded, printed or signed, allowing you to follow up at exactly the right time.
- Better Proposals gives you the option to sell packages, apply discounts, use multiple checkbox options or offer different quantities when it comes to listing your proposal fees.
The Biggest Cons We Read About Better Proposals:
- Better Proposals only allows for one e-Signature, which proves a problem for proposals requiring two signatures or more.
- There is no preview function for seeing thumbnail visuals of content sections or media files you’ve created in the system.
- Some formatting changes require HTML knowledge to make in Better Proposals.
Pricing: Better Proposals offers three different plan options: the Starter Plan at $19 per user per month, for sending up to 5 documents per month; the Premium Plan at $29 per user per month, for sending up to 50 documents per month; and the Enterprise Plan at $49 per user per month, for sending unlimited documents each month. You can view the full details of what each plan offers at https://betterproposals.io/pricing
Product Name: Qwilr
Their Homepage Says: Produce beautiful proposals with impact. Close more deals by creating and sending your proposals as beautiful, mobile-responsive webpages.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love Qwilr:
- Qwilr allows you to create beautiful, interactive, web-based proposals that can incorporate things like video greetings. Essentially, instead of your proposal being formatted as a document, it’s formatted as a website with separate webpages.
- Since your proposal is a website and not a document, you can see many of the same engagement metrics that you see with Google Analytics. This allows you to see which content sections are performing well and which content sections may need some fine-tuning.
- Your proposal being a website instead of a document also means that you can go back in to fix typos and update branding, even after the proposal has already been sent.
The Biggest Cons We Read About Better Qwilr:
- Customization options are limited for fonts, colors and overall branding within the custom blocks system.
- It can be difficult to customize your pricing sections within Qwilr.
- It is difficult to export Qwilr proposals to PDF, for those prospects who are looking for a physical copy.
Pricing: Qwilr offers two plan options. The Business Plan comes in at $35 per user per month and the Enterprise Plan at $59 per user per month. You can view the full details of what each plan offers at https://qwilr.com/pricing/
Product Name: Proposable
Their Homepage Says: Smart Proposal Software for Teams. Streamline how you create, deliver, track and eSign your sales material.
Three Reasons Why Marketers Will Love Proposable:
- Proposable offers a very user-friendly, drag and drop style builder, allowing you to quickly craft a custom proposal for each prospect with ease.
- Proposable can dynamically connect to your CRM, automatically syncing contacts and opportunities between the two systems.
- Prospects can leave comments and questions for you to address directly within the proposal.
The Biggest Cons We Read About Proposable:
- The content editor can be difficult to use for anything other than very basic text formatting.
- Proposable doesn’t offer an app, and the site is almost unusable on mobile.
Pricing: Proposable offers three plan options: the Solo Plan at $19 per user per month, for users who send 5 or less proposals each month; the Team Plan at $39 per user per month, for teams that send a high volume of proposals; and the Enterprise Plan at $500+ per month, for businesses that need more flexibility and support. You can view the full details of what each plan offers at https://proposable.com/pricing