Why Your Proposal (Probably) Isn't a Special Snowflake

5/25/17 5:43 PM Anna Duin RFP Responding

Proposal Isn't a Special Snowflake.pngAs a millennial, I hear a lot of digs about my generation. How we all think we're so much more "special" and entitled than everyone else. The term "snowflake generation" has actually become a derogatory slang term used to describe the young adults of the 2010s. 

And I can definitely appreciate why. (Though I must admit this Yale University professor saying "My students aren’t snowflakes, and they don’t melt" made me happy.)

But today we're not talking about millennials. We're talking about the problem with thinking your proposal is a super-special-snowflake. 

Too often we don't invest the time or resources into digitizing our proposal process. Because we're convinced it's impossible -- each of our proposals is too unique.

But are they really? Or are you making your proposals harder than they need to be?

Special snowflakes? Or Could Proposal Software Actually Help? 

It's interesting. Many of the proposal writers we talk to initially say they don't need proposal management software. It could never help them because each of their proposals is a work of art.

And for some, that's true. Some of our colleagues in the design space even create custom proposal covers for each project. Intricate pieces made out of engraved metal, carved leather, etc.

But that's not the case for the majority of us. Even if certain elements of our proposal are custom made for each proposal, we're still likely reusing several responses. Which means if we want to be successful we need to have a great content management system. 

But does that really mean you need actual proposal software? Well, that depends. 

See our What is Proposal Management Software eBook here. 

Key Components of Responding Software.png

The primary benefit of proposal software is it helps you easily find and reuse past content. Whatever system you use, it should help you manage: knowledge, tasks, and people. Below are some practical guidelines for figuring out if it would benefit your team. 

Your proposals are special snowflakes (probably don't need proposal software) if:

  • If the kinds of RFPs you're answering require drastically different/tailored proposals each time
  • If you're a one-person team and can quickly find past content, and know exactly when it was last updated
  • If you offer creative services and each proposal is 100% unique each time 
  • If you never have to ask a SME (Subject Matter Expert) the same question more than once

If those are all true, then you might be good. Your current content management is likely working just fine. But if they're not, a proposal-specific tool could be very valuable. 

The purpose of good proposal mangement software is to help you make sure you're using your best responses consistently.

Your proposals are not special snowflakes (probably do need proposal software) if:

  • If you're recreating the wheel or writing similar responses over and over
  • If you're not sure which responses were written and/or approved most recently 
  • If it's difficult to assign and track tasks/sections
  • If you're not sure which responses are your top responses and are being used most 
  • If you don't have a way to easily check which responses are expired and/or out of date 
  • If you're sending a lot of emails, asking questions, requesting edits, reviews, or approvals
  • If you're not sure when your content was last edited, or who edited it 
  • There is version confusion -- your team isn't sure which proposal version to use
  • You're unclear about proposal progress, what's been done, and still need to be done
  • You can't see the history of each response, including what was edited, how it was changed, etc. 
  • You can't revert to previous response versions in case you don't like the edits
  • You can't partition knowledge according to categories, product lines, or permissioning
  • It's not clear who "owns" content (who wrote it, who should in charge of maintaining it) 

If these problems sound familiar you may to start shopping around and see for yourself how a proposal tool could make your life easier. 

Suggestions on how to find the best RFP software here

Because while tools like Word, Excel and InDesign are great, they're tricky for proposals. Why? Because it's not clear who wrote what when. It's not easy to track progress, or time frames. 

What happens if IT decides to make some changes to technical details? What if the product team updated the feature set? How do you make sure the information you’re sending out is accurate and up to date?

See real examples of how we manage content and flag & filter to find outdated responses. 

If you want to learn more about proposal management software, check out our eBook. It covers what any platform should do and how it differs from using the traditional Microsoft Word and Excel.

What is Proposal Management Software Ebook

If you're hesitating to try proposal management software because: 

  • You have hyper-specific export formats
  • You still write a good portion from scratch each time 
  • You have a small team 
  • You're afraid it won't really help, that it will be a waste of money

Don't worry, because: 

  • Specific formats: you can still use the Knowledge Management even if the final version is in another format
  • Custom content: you're probably still reusing a lot of content, like technical SME responses
  • Tiny team: 2+ people gets confusing fast -- who wrote what, if it was approved, last updated etc. 
  • Won't work: ask providers for a free trial, that way you can see for yourself how good/easy it is 

It's worth your time to find out if there are better options. Because Word documents and Excel spreadsheets are easily corrupted, or simply vanish. And you've worked too hard on your content to let it go to waste. 


Additional Resources