Contributors from members of the Copper team
When was the last time you updated your sales proposal? A year ago? Five years ago?
Your proposals tick all of the boxes—solid structure, on-brand with your company colors, right call-action. Isn’t it true that if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it?
However, you still have an inkling that something is off. If only you could see when and how your prospects interact with your proposals, perhaps it would improve your close rate.
If that sounds familiar, then you’re in the right place. In this post, we’ll cover seven actionable insights that can dramatically improve the success of your sales proposals. They’re based on hard data, easy to implement, and will cut hours from your current sales process.
Let’s dive in.
1. Work from a winning template.
If you only take one piece of advice from this post, let it be this: use a template!
Templates are lovely in a myriad of ways. They shave hours from the creation process and build a standardized procedure across the entire sales department. Most importantly, they enable you to repeat winning elements of previous proposals.
Some salespeople are not natural-born writers. Templates provide a safeguard against sales reps who failed to pay attention in English class. They’re a sure-fire way to make sure every proposal sent is free of grammar mistakes.
Templates are best used in conjunction with proposal software. Tools like Proposify and PandaDoc provide an array of features that enable collaboration, tracking, and integration with existing platforms, particularly CRMs.
Their built-in analytics tools allow you to experiment and measure the performance of existing templates. With this meaningful insight, you can consistently boost results going forward, crafting templates that work uniquely for you and your business.
Many of these proposal tools will also offer templates based on in-house data, which is helpful while your own data accumulates. Research shows that, on average, for every one template created, it can result in up to 10 proposals sent.
2. Add an electronic signature and payment options.
Consider the traditional approach to approving proposals, which likely exists across many organizations today:
Once a proposal is received, it has to be printed, signed (perhaps by multiple people), scanned back into the computer, and re-sent. The original sender then mirrors this process. This doesn’t even include payment, which likely has to be handled separately, with bank transfers, invoices, receipts and other laborious paperwork involved.
It’s such a headache, isn’t it?
That’s where electronic signatures come in. Adding a simple eSignature field allows your recipients to approve a proposal in seconds. What’s more, it works just as well with a dozen signatures (when numerous people need to sign).
Today, electronic signatures are more secure than paper ones, and software for signing documents is inexpensive and easy to use.
In addition to eSignatures, you can also add payment options to your proposals. A simple integration permits recipients to pay for services without having to go through lengthy bank transfers. After signing, they just click a button, pop in their bank details, and done!
Electronic signatures coupled with payments means you can decrease your close rate in no time.
3. Use rich media (but don’t overdo it).
Rich media—like videos, images, infographics, graphs and so on—are good for building engagement. Research shows that including a video or image in your proposal increases the likelihood of it closing by 32%.
Just remember one caveat. Less is more when it comes to rich media. You want to get your points across, not drown your potential clients in a sea of graphics. One or two well-chosen charts or graphs, or even a video or photo, are usually enough and will go a long way in communicating your professionalism.
Furthermore, make sure that images are included within the flow of text and headlines so that readers know exactly where they are.
Lastly, include a section with pictures about your company’s key employees and members of the team that will be working on the project you are proposing. You might even consider adding a section about your CEO to showcase your company.
4. Build trust and eliminate doubt.
One big problem with proposals is the exclusion of valuable information. You’ve addressed the client’s objectives and outlined a full-service proposal. Great! However, there are a few other sections that you may have missed.
We recommend including the following information in your proposals for optimal results:
- Company background. The “company background” section is an excellent place to develop trust and communicate your authority. Equally, you can show that your values are aligned with your prospect’s. Also, make sure to include specific contact details of the people involved in case a prospect wants to speak to someone directly.
- Client testimonials. Testimonials and case studies are incredibly useful because they paint a concrete picture for clients and are a necessity for building trust. Not including them in proposals is a big mistake. You want to give your prospect as much social proof as you can to show you are the right choice for the job.
- Contract terms (including financial and legal sections). Since you’re asking for a signature, this often requires a legal contract to seal the deal. Many prospects will have their legal team review a proposal before it’s signed, so you may want to consider adding this type of information to your proposals to accelerate your sales cycle.
- Payment terms. Be clear up-front about how you expect to be paid and which, if any, payment plans are included. For bigger projects, the possibility of staggered payments over several months can be desirable to prospective customers.
Every proposal is different, and some of these additional elements won’t apply to your organization. Include the information above whenever it’s appropriate to do so or, while not recommended, you may need to add a document or step to your sales process to accommodate these pieces of information.
5. Make it customer-centric.
From the beginning, any proposal should be tailored to the needs of your customers. This is easy enough when you’re talking about the proposed solution or the client’s goals, but what about when you’re describing your company’s history or providing case studies?
Consider these simple tips to make your proposals more client-centric:
- Go beyond technical descriptions of products and services. While it’s important to specify the features of your product, don’t get lost in the details. It’s crucial that you also talk about the needs and challenges of your prospective client. Include a specific section that recaps the challenges you discussed with your prospect before you summarize the proposed solution.
- Choose case studies carefully. Case studies represent an excellent opportunity to show your experience with similar projects and your work with clients in the same industry.
- Highlight company values. When describing your company, emphasize your mission, vision, or values. Similarly, when detailing those employees who will work on the proposed solution, ensure that you include skills and experiences uniquely relevant to the client.
Offer flexible terms. If possible, be adaptable with payment and contract terms. Overly restrictive contracts can extend the approval process unnecessarily, increasing the chances of indefinite delays and stretching out the sales cycle.
6. Use proposal software to streamline your workflow.
Modern proposal tools can dramatically boost the effectiveness of your sales workflow when it comes to jobs like collaboration, analytics, and integrations with eSignature and payment software. Proposal tools are easy to implement across the entire company and play well with existing tech stacks.
You can manage a multitude of tasks surrounding the creation, sending, and tracking of documents from a single dashboard. The resulting savings in time and money will allow your sales team to focus their attention on other crucial stages of the sales process.
Not only that, all-in-one solutions provide the analytic functionality you need to experiment and measure the success of your proposal creation process, allowing you to make changes on the fly and perfecting your model for the future.
7. Implement a solid follow-up plan.
Now that you’ve sent your winning proposal, it’s time to follow up to get it signed, preferably ASAP.
Research shows that it’s best to send emails on weekdays late in the morning. Equally, follow-up emails are better sent sooner rather than later, preferably within five days.
While research is relatively consistent, there are different results across industries and countries, so it’s important (as always) to test alternatives and find your winning mix. Results from studies are still a good jumping off point.
Many companies are wary of sending follow-up emails because they don’t want to bother clients, especially during the decision-making process. However, these emails are useful as reminders give prospects the chance to ask questions.
Simple changes can lead to astounding results.
None of the tips we talked about should come as a big surprise, many are pretty obvious and can drive serious outcomes. When effectively implemented, they foster trust, eradicate doubt, and evoke urgency. What’s more, these recommendations slot easily into existing processes with minimum disruption.
If you’re willing to test changes and work towards crafting your top-performing templates, you’ll find your close-rate will begin to increase. You’ll experience fewer prospect issues and cut down on time needed to craft winning proposals.
So, what are you waiting for? Get to writing!
About the author:
Bethany is the content marketing manager at PandaDoc. When she's not writing new content or discovering a new distribution channel, her time is spent exploring her Brooklyn neighborhood with her husband and two French Bulldogs, Tater Tot and Pork Chop. You can connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.