Proposal management is the process of streamlining and optimizing the creation, review, and submission of proposals in a sales cycle. For B2B SaaS companies, effective proposal management is crucial to convert leads into customers, turn RFPs into revenue, and drive sales growth. In this blog post, we'll explore why proposal management matters, best practices to follow, and tools to implement an efficient proposal process.
Why Proposal Management is Vital for B2B SaaS Sales
A proposal is often the final step before closing a deal and onboarding a new customer. It requires careful planning and alignment across sales, marketing, product, and leadership teams. Proposal management ensures all stakeholders work collaboratively towards creating client-focused proposals that clearly communicate value.
With disciplined proposal management, sales teams can:
- Accurately capture complex customer requirements
- Build proposals that speak to the client's specific needs and challenges
- Reduce time spent creating and reviewing proposals
- Increase win rates by submitting high-quality proposals
In short, a structured proposal process is invaluable for securing deals in competitive B2B software sales.
How Proposal Management Fits Into the B2B Sales Funnel
Proposal management comes into play during the later sales funnel stages when working to close an opportunity. After prospecting and qualifying leads, the general flow is:
- Discovery call: The AE explores the prospect's needs, pain points, and technical requirements.
- Demo: The SE showcases capabilities and aligns product benefits with the prospect's needs.
- Proposal: The team documents product fit, pricing, and project scope based on discovery and demonstrations.
- Negotiation: Pricing, contract terms, and implementation details are finalized.
- Closed-Won: The client formally agrees to purchase by signing documents.
Effective proposal management connects the demo and negotiation stages by presenting a compelling, client-centric proposal.
Key Players in Proposal Generation
Creating B2B SaaS proposals requires tight collaboration between roles:
AEs manage the sales process and own proposal generation. Their responsibilities include:
- Conducting discovery calls to fully understand customer challenges
- Determining proposal scope and structure
- Writing benefits-focused content that speaks to the client's needs
- Securing leadership, Sales Engineering, and other stakeholder reviews
- Maintaining version control as proposals go through revisions
SEs ensure technical alignment between proposed solutions and the client's infrastructure. SEs:
- Advise on technical requirements during the discovery process
- Explain technical aspects during demonstrations
- Review proposals to validate technical accuracy
- Assist with pricing and licensing recommendations based on usage
Sales managers oversee proposals to ensure they ultimately support revenue growth. Responsibilities include:
- Providing templates, tools, and training to optimize proposal creation
- Reviewing proposals with a focus on executive messaging and solution selling
- Managing cross-functional collaboration and aligning on proposal strategy
- Analyzing proposal performance to identify areas for improvement
Executive sign-off brings leadership perspective on high-value, strategic opportunities. Founders and CXOs:
- Ensure alignment with long-term company vision and messaging
- Provide input on deal structure for large, complex sales
- Add credence when included in proposals for senior buyer-level stakeholders
Modern Proposal Management Methodologies
Traditionally, proposal management has been an ad-hoc process with inconsistent practices across sales teams. However, leading SaaS companies now follow formalized best practices:
- Maintaining centralized templates and content resources
- Collaborative writing in document editing tools like G Suite or Office 365
- Establishing stage gates and mandatory stakeholder reviews
- Tracking proposal metrics like conversion rates and cycle times
- Continuously optimizing based on win/loss analysis
These modern methodologies enable scalable, efficient proposal management as organizations grow.
The Power of Proposal Management Software
Given the complexity of coordinating sales teams, many SaaS companies leverage purpose-built proposal management software. These tools provide:
- Centralized templates and assets - Sales can easily find approved content to build proposals quickly.
- Collaborative editing - Stakeholders can provide real-time feedback in a single document.
- Automated workflows - Software guides proposals through the review process.
- Visibility into status - Managers can see where proposals are in the process at a glance.
- Analytics for optimization - Data reveals how to improve proposal performance.
Examples of popular tools include DocSend, PandaDoc, Qwilr, and Qorus.
Develop Proposal Management Skills
Given the impact of proposals on sales results, smart SaaS companies invest in developing proposal expertise across their teams:
- Formal training - Structured courses on value selling, persuasive writing, and technical content development.
- Certifications - Programs like the Association of Proposal Management Professionals certification.
- Coaching - Manager and peer coaching to share best practices and feedback.
- Win/loss analysis - Reviewing past proposals to improve future win rates.
Continuous skills development ensures proposals remain compelling as customer expectations evolve.
Helpful Proposal Resources
Beyond software and training, useful proposal management resources include:
- Templates - Reusable frameworks for consistent structure and messaging.
- Content libraries - Catalogs of approved value statements, customer quotes, and ROI calculators.
- Checklists - Stage gate requirements to ensure quality.
- Analytics dashboards - Centralized visibility into proposal volume, cycle times, and win rates.
- Playbooks - Documented guidelines for effective discovery, writing, review, and handoff.
Centralizing these resources enables greater consistency and efficiency.
Overcoming Common Proposal Challenges
Of course, there will inevitably be roadblocks in the proposal process. Some frequent challenges include:
- Misaligned stakeholder feedback causing revisions backlogs
- Approval delays from busy executives
- Inaccurate or incomplete discovery leading to poor scoping
- Lack of content reuse, causing redundant drafting efforts
Ways to overcome these challenges include analyzing performance metrics to prevent recurring issues, establishing clear responsibilities and SLAs, and investing in automation tools such as RFP automation.
Most importantly, taking a step back to simplify and refine proposal management practices can get things back on track.
Final Thoughts: The Future of Proposal Management
As buyers become more informed and sales cycles lengthen, proposal management will only become more critical for B2B SaaS success. Companies should continuously examine their processes and tools to improve efficiency and win rates.
If your company struggles with disjointed proposal creation and review, it may be time to step back and optimize the process. Start by aligning stakeholders, centralizing resources, implementing technology, and training team members to turn proposals into an competitive advantage.