By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2004-07-26 Print this article Print

Companies looking to simplify building sales documents such as proposals will find Pragmatech Software Inc.s Proposal Automation Suite and The Savo Groups Sales Asset Manager good tools for creating standardized, customer-bound communications.

Proposal Automation Suite 6.0, which began shipping last month, and Sales Asset Manager 3.7, which was updated earlier this month, give sales and marketing teams a set of tools for creating standard descriptions of products and services and using those descriptions to build sales proposals automatically.

eWEEK Labs tests showed that using these tools will help companies standardize marketing messages and ensure sales content is up-to-date while reducing the time it takes for salespeople to create content.

Proposal Automation Suite, which runs on a PC, is part of a set of desktop and server applications that gives companies a way to build responses to RFPs (requests for proposals), presentations and other sales communications.

Pragmatech prices its components on a per-seat basis, with the suite costing $1,500 to $2,500 per seat.

Sales Asset Manager is a hosted application with several a la carte modules for developing brochures, proposals, presentations, e-mail messages and competitive intelligence. Pricing for the full suite is $700 per user per year.

Both applications provided good tools for building robust and complex sales documents. Companies that want to retain control of their sales and marketing documentation will find Proposal Automation Suite to be a powerful application, albeit one that requires considerable training. As a hosted application, Sales Asset Manager is easy to use and gets users up and running quickly, although it doesnt provide metadata management features to content creators.

Click here to read the full review of Sales Asset Manager. Proposal Automation Suite includes Pragmatechs RFP Machine, RFP Tracking System and Proposal Assembler/ Proposal Express software. The RFP applications streamline creating responses to RFP questions, while the proposal components manage and assemble the RFP responses into proposal documents.

All these components run on a Windows-based client running Microsoft Corp.s Office, with metadata stored in an Access database. Proposal Assembler runs an instance of Microsoft Word within itself to manage document properties such as formatting.

This approach has its strengths: We liked that metadata could be easily managed in close relation to document content. For example, when building responses, we could view topics, subtopics and keywords associated with an RFP answer.

However, at companies that want to share data across the enterprise by using a SQL Server database, this will burden IT staff with the task of managing connections from client systems to back-end databases.

Because Proposal Automation Suite runs as a stand-alone application, sales operations or marketing teams will still need to build proposals and send them to sales staff via e-mail or a shared resource.

Companies that want to give sales staff the ability to build proposals on their own will need to purchase Pragmatechs e-Proposals, a Web-based front end that creates documents in the same way that Savos Sales Asset Manager does.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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