4 Things Your Sales Proposal Would Tell You If It Could Talk

Author: 
Jesse Kurth, Director of Client Success, TinderBox

The reality is, most sales organizations have little to no process to support their proposal efforts. And, unfortunately, sales proposals rarely see their full potential, because they are time-consuming tasks that aren’t often viewed as strategic and take valuable time away from actually “selling.”

So, what would your sales proposals say if they could talk? Here are four things you would hear:

“I feel ugly.”
The presentation of a sales proposal is a reflection of the tools—or lack thereof—used to create it. A salesperson’s time needs to be spent moving opportunities forward, managing negotiations and closing deals—not formatting and branding documents. After all of the work it takes to get a prospect ready to receive a proposal, sending unimpressive, generic materials is like taking one step forward and three steps back.

“I am forgettable.”
Your best salespeople are anything but forgettable. They have a way with people and tactfully navigate deals and key relationships. Getting to the point of delivering a proposal is a milestone—but, the deal isn’t closed-won yet. In the rush of the final stages of a deal, it’s unlikely that your salespeople devote the time to truly personalize their proposals. Momentum gained from other personalized sales interactions is lost, though, with nothing more than a boilerplate cover letter and pricing table in a Word document. If irrelevant content on a website is turning away online buyers in droves, why wouldn’t irrelevant content in sales materials even further into the buying cycle have the same adverse effect?

 Proposals are not one-size-fits-all deliverables. Historically, personalization has always taken a lot of time to do right, butgoing beyond a generic cover letter, pricing table and options A, B and C can help break through the noise. Personalize the cover letter based off of prior conversations, make recommendations to demonstrate an understanding of the prospect’s needs and demonstrate your expertise. Only include what’s relevant for the prospect—less is more.

“I know something you don’t know.”
The “black hole”—where proposals, quotes and contracts disappear into the dark abyss of your prospect’s inbox—is the bane of every salesperson’s existence. The proposal is emailed to the prospect, leaving the salesperson to follow up and only guess what could be happening on the other end. Your proposal knows what your salespeople don’t. Which parts are people really looking at? Who’s looking at the document? Is it being passed around internally?

Knowing who has signing authority is the single most important piece of information a salesperson needs when managing an opportunity. It’s not always clear—unless, of course, you have the same vantage point as your proposal. This is every salesperson’s wildest dream. Technology is available to sales teams today to make this a reality.

“They weren’t ready for me yet.”
Timing and sequence are everything in sales. Sending a sales proposal at the wrong time can kill momentum. Sending it too late results in a delayed decision, or worse, losing a deal to a faster competitor.

Defining stages in the sales process and what’s expected to be completed in these stages drives sales execution. Process complements salespeople’s intuition—it also allows for a more consistent customer experience. Look at the sales proposal as a step in a repeatable process, instead of an isolated deliverable.

Overcoming these four proposal faux paus is possible. Simply mapping your proposal to your sales process and applying focus will improve outcomes dramatically. Don’t overcomplicate it, but invest in defining the steps that need to occur before a proposal is delivered. This will ensure proposals are accurately delivered and extend the personal touch you’ve invested so heavily in creating.

Jesse Kurth is Director of Client Success at TinderBox. TinderBox transforms how companies sell with a cloud-based sales productivity suite that powers personalized sales presentations, proposals and contracts entirely online. Jesse can be reached at Jesse.Kurth@GetTinderBox.com.