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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

Sales proposal basics we all forget

A sales proposal is an integral part of closing a deal. Yet, we often forget key elements that take a proposal from okay to great. What's most overlooked?

Win rate is a standard sales metric. But did you know, on average, only 47% of sales proposals end in a sale? That means for the average sales rep, less than half of the deals in their pipeline are closed/won. 

But the research also shows a large discrepancy between the win rates of elite performers, top performers, and everyone else. In fact, elite performers win 73% of their deals, top performers win 62%, and the rest: 40%. Why is that? 

There are many factors influencing win rates. But sales reps with a significantly higher degree of success also belong to an organization with a customer-focused sales process that maps to buyer preferences. 

Your sales proposal is an often overlooked aspect of the sales process, despite being integral to closing the deal. Without a well-defined process and the structure that proposal software provides, it’s easy to forget the essential basics that take a sales proposal from good to great.

In this blog post, we explore the common aspects of sales proposal creation that teams usually forget, why they get forgotten, and why they are important.

Consistent formatting

Most buyers are talking to multiple solution providers, and likely can’t pay attention to everything they receive. Your goal is to make it easy for buyers to quickly skim your sales collateral to understand who you are, what you offer, and if your solution is a good fit for them.

Formatting is the best way to ensure clarity in your overall document and the text itself. Additionally, consistent formatting communicates your brand pays attention to details, and quality is important.

Why is this easy to forget: If teams are creating every sales proposal from scratch, it can be easy to overlook formatting errors. Additionally, as teams grow, formatting can sometimes vary by proposal creator. 

What to look for:

  • Minimal variation in font types, sizes, and colors
  • Uniform sizing for different header sizes (H1, H2) 
  • Easy-to-read fonts that match your brand’s design
  • Short paragraphs with informative subheadings as needed
  • Easily-scannable lists – using a 2-column feature can be very effective here
  • High-resolution images and graphical elements along with plenty of graphs or charts

Best ways to overcome: Even the best branding guidelines can be overlooked or ignored by fast-moving teams. Look for ways to pre-set style guidelines. Proposal software like Qwilr allows administrators to establish brand fonts and colors and enable team styling permissions, so every document is consistent and on-brand, every time. To learn more about branding and user-based permissions, our sales team is happy to provide a demo.

Coherent design 

Nothing is more disorienting to a potential buyer than opening a sales proposal, and it looks completely different from your website and other brand materials. Think cohesively across your brand; if your sales collateral doesn’t match your other assets, it might confuse your prospects or even come across as unprofessional. Design standards matter— and in fact, 36% of buyers are influenced by the quality of your sales materials. 

Why this is easy to forget: If you are using templates that have been created explicitly by your sales team for your sales team within the silo of your sales experience, your documents may not match the design standards of the rest of your brand. 

What to look for:

  • High contrast, visibly impactful imagery that reflects your brand
  • Design elements (font, colors, graphics) consistent with other brand assets
  • Legibility of text, especially when overlaid on an image

Best ways to overcome: Customize a proposal template and ask your design or marketing team to review it. The goal is to ensure that your sales collateral fonts, colors, and design presentation matches other assets, such as your blog, email templates, and any other customer-facing documents. Once you’ve created a template, it’s effortless and straightforward to use again and again, especially if you are also using sales proposal software with the ability to save it in your document library. With Qwilr, that’s super easy, and we’re happy to show you how.

Personalized content

If you’re sending 50-page PDFs or “everything we do” PowerPoint documents, you’re likely sending your buyer into information overload. There’s a solid reason to customize the content you send to prospects: 64% of buyers look for personalized content. Highly relevant content captures attention more than generic, mass-produced materials, which can be perceived as a waste of the buyer’s time.

Why this is easy to forget: When your sales team is busy, it can feel tedious to go in and customize a sales proposal— just send everything about your solution, right? 

What to look for:

  • Proposal content addresses the interests and needs of your prospect
  • Information not relevant to your prospect has been removed
  • Important points or services are prominent and capture attention 

Best ways to overcome: Look for proposal software that integrates with your CRM and then build tokens into your proposal to populate name, company, and other customer data automatically. Qwilr’s integration with HubSpot’s CRM is an excellent example of how proposal creation can be personalized and streamlined to save team time. 

Additionally, proposal software like Qwilr allows users to create a content library and organize proposal content into folders. When content is centralized and organized, sales reps know where to find current materials, can add appropriate content for each buyer, and can easily create highly relevant proposals in less time.

Reader engagement

Once upon a time, PDFs were the rage— finally, a file type that would look the same between machines and systems! But the oversight is PDFs are static documents, and the sales process is not a one-way conversation. PDFs, Word documents, PowerPoint presentations— they lack interactivity, and as a result, they fail to engage the reader. And a disengaged reader often leads to a distant buyer, plummeting your win rate. An old Chinese proverb states it best: “I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”

“I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand.”

Chinese proverb

Why this is easy to forget: How you are creating your proposals may be working against you. If you’re still using an old-fashioned methodology for generating your sales proposals, it can be challenging to integrate technology that adds interactive elements into your documents.

What to look for: 

Your proposal contains things the reader can “do,” engage with, or adds movement, such as:

  • Video greeting or company/product introduction
  • Animated GIFs
  • Configurable pricing— the buyer can select the package options
  • An interactive ROI calculator, enabling the buyer to understand product impact according to their specific use case

Best ways to overcome: If you’re using static proposals and older technology, your best option is to explore the benefits of a web-based proposal. We invite you to book a Qwilr demo and see what’s possible.

Outcome driven

Your sales proposal is the best place to focus on the outcomes that your prospects can expect post-sale. This goes beyond the features of your product they are buying; instead, take the time to explain what they are, why they are essential, and what they will help your prospect accomplish— the ROI or VOI. 

ROI is often hard to visualize, and VOI (Value on Investment) can be even harder to prove. As a seller, it’s your job to present your product’s impact in a way that the buyer understands. 

Why this is easy to forget: It’s easy to assume that, because you’ve spent the whole sales cycle focusing on what your prospect will accomplish with your tool, you don’t need to reiterate those points in your sales proposal. Do it anyway! Remember, repetition of your message is a good thing— it’s how buyers retain information.

What to look for: 

Elements that help drive outcomes and improve conversion rates:

  • A customized ROI calculator – adjust calculator parameters to show financial savings or efficiency gains
  • Timelines – visualize the length of time for implementation and other significant milestones
  • Relevant case studies
  • Proposal acceptance and e-signature features

Best ways to overcome: Your prospect should be able to look at the document and instantly daydream how much better things will look for them after purchasing. With proposal software like Qwilr, you can do that and more. In fact, Qwilr is the only proposal software tool to include a fully customizable and interactive ROI calculator. Try it for free.

Accessible from any device

Once you send off your sales proposal, you have no control over how or when your prospect will view it. It may be viewed on a desktop computer during business hours or a mobile device later at night. Your proposal must be formatted for either scenario.

Why it’s easy to forget: If you’ve been sending PDF or PowerPoint proposals, mobile responsiveness is probably not top of mind, as neither PDF nor PowerPoint is. When you use a proposal software tool like Qwilr, you don’t have to think about mobile responsiveness— it’s built into the technology automatically.

What to look for: 

  • Your proposal looks great on any screen size
  • Buyers don’t have to download your proposal to view it
  • Proposals are easy to access, anywhere and anytime

Best ways to overcome: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a web-based proposal is the only way to ensure your buyer will have easy access, your proposal can support interactive elements, and your message looks and functions perfectly on any device.

Evaluate your successes and gaps

We all forget things every once in a while. But by identifying the areas where your team struggles the most, you can significantly impact your sales proposal success rate. Ensure that your documents are consistently formatted and designed similarly to the rest of your brand collateral—using sales proposal software can quickly help standardize both. 

Include content that engages your audience, and ensure that you update the content to address the reader’s specific needs directly. Consider integrating your proposal software with your CRM to streamline personalization and proposal creation.

Pay attention to your customer. Ensure that you can reiterate the outcomes they expect and speak to what they care about throughout your sales proposal. Finally, make sure your proposals are easy to access and view. Once your buyer has your proposal in hand, you don’t want them to do any other work besides accepting and signing your offer.

In just 15 minutes, discover how Qwilr proposals can help your sales team win more business. Book a personalized demo now.

Join the thousands of teams building better docs with Qwilr.