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Design basics: Utilizing color to make better proposals

Growing up we all probably heard the phrase, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover.” It’s an often-used metaphor to caution the listener against the failings of letting a first impression be the only impression. When it comes to people, and any number of other facets of life, it tends to be really great advice. 

Though we all generally know better, we still tend to judge books by their covers (metaphorically, and literally, speaking). In fact, did you know people generally decide whether or not they like a product within 90 seconds? Even more shocking, 90% of that decision is based solely on color

If someone makes a judgement of a product that quickly, why wouldn’t they do the same for your sales proposal? Based on the evidence above, it seems one of the best ways you can positively influence that first-impression is by paying attention to color. 

In this article I cover some color basics and offer a few tactics you can implement to make your sales proposals better. Read on to learn more. 

Color basics

Humans are naturally very visual, so it should come as no surprise that color is such a big consideration for many. So, to start I’m going to show something you’re probably pretty familiar with: the color wheel

The color wheel shows the three main groups of colors.

  • Primary
  • Secondary  
  • Tertiary 

Primary colors, as you may remember, are red, yellow, and blue. Secondary colors are colors made by mixing primary colors, like orange, green, and purple. Last, there are tertiary colors, which are colors made by mixing primary and secondary colors. 

Outside of being aesthetically pleasing, different colors help you better communicate certain feelings or moods. For example, warm colors (red, yellow, orange) are more commonly associated with passion, vibrancy, and enthusiasm. They demand the viewers attention and can be great to use when you want a certain item to really stand out

Whereas cool colors (bule, green, purple) tend to be more calming and evoke ideas of nature, relaxation, or luxury. Cool colors tend to be more reserved when compared to warm colors. They can be a good option for an early part of a pitch to ease the viewer in. 

Last, there are neutrals. These are beiges, browns, blacks, and whites. These colors are often associated with a more modern, or professional aesthetic. Black, whites, and grays, tend to go with most colors, so they work well for backgrounds and text. Browns and beiges aren’t quite as versatile but can work well as background colors.

Applying color theory to your sales proposals

Knowing how color works and the mood it can create is a great starting point. However, the truest value comes from taking those ideas and concepts, and putting them into practice to make a real-world impact. Below I offer three suggestions on how you can use color to make your proposals stand out. 

Draw them in

Have you ever had something catch your attention while walking down an aisle at the grocery store? If you have, the thing that usually draws you in is a vibrant color, or other design element. Did you know 42% of shoppers base their opinion of a site solely based on the overall design? Further, 52% won’t return to a site if they don’t like the design.

Though when someone views your sales proposal it’s not arranged in a wall of others, you still need to make it attractive. Remember, these days attention is as valuable a commodity as any, so you need to make the most of any interaction you have. Even when you’re not physically there. 

As we mentioned above, colors are generally associated with different emotions. Using that knowledge you can make adjustments to your proposals to better engage the viewer. Using bright, vibrant, colors in the beginning of your proposal can be a great way to initially catch someone’s attention. 

Also, using a neutral background color like white, or grey, makes it easier to include some bolder colors. Remember, the idea is to entice, not overwhelm. So you should have restraint, especially when using bright and vibrant colors. 

Set the tone

When you walk into an Apple store how do you feel? The minimalist design, and finely appointed furniture gives a sense of sophistication and luxury to many. Their use of a very minimalistic color palette of white, and grey, contribute heavily to that feeling.  

If you can set a certain mood using the color of a room, it stands to reason the colors you choose for your proposal could also set a certain tone and mood. In fact, showing someone the color red before taking an exam can actually hurt their performance because it primes them to think about being graded harshly with red ink. 

As mentioned before, colors are generally associated with different moods and feelings. So, if you want to set a more calming mood, you might go with a shade of blue. If you want to have a proposal that has more energy and vibrance, you might consider using yellow, as those are the feelings it’s commonly associated with. 

You could either use it as a background element, or a consistent highlight color. By presenting it consistently you should be able to set the tone you’re after. So, when setting up your sales proposal ask yourself, “what mood would be most ideal for my prospect to be in when reviewing my proposal?”  

Encourage action

Having a very beautiful sales proposal that draws someone in, and sets the right mood is great. But, unless people are deciding to buy at the end of the proposal, it’s hard to say that it’s a successful piece. 

With that in mind, a lot of research is focused on how you can better entice someone to take the final step. It seems there are a few key variants, one being color. For example, HubSpot ran an experiment and found a red button outperformed a green one by 21%

Generally speaking, the research consistently points to the same conclusion: warm colors perform best. Red and orange tend to do the best as they’re quite bold colors and encourage action. Also, it’s better to have the text of the button be white as opposed to another color. 

Yellow can also be a good option for your CTA button. For colors to avoid, neutrals seem to be a no-go. Cool colors like blue can work in some cases, but you’d need to have a very neutral color palette so it stands out and using a more vibrant shade also seems to be advisable if you go that route.   

Final thoughts

Making the best sales proposal possible means taking all aspects into consideration. One you may not have given as much thought to are the colors you’re using and how they could impact the viewer’s perception. It’s nice to think people will value substance over aesthetic, but that’s not always going to be the case. 

Think about how you want someone to feel when viewing your proposal and let that help guide your choices. Remember, every color has a mood associated with it and how you choose to use them can have a big impact. And when you’re wanting someone to take action, don’t shy away from vibrant, eye-catching, colors.

If you’re interested in learning even more about making the best sales proposal possible, be sure to check out our Ultimate guide to modern sales proposals.

Ultimate Guide to Modern Proposals

Learn what you need to have in your proposals to close deals.

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