This is a guest post by Mikita Mikado, the Co-Founder & CEO of PandaDoc.
It’s frustrating. You spend hours building the perfect proposal, send it to the client – who seemed invested – and hear nothing back.
I know this frustration firsthand. Before founding PandaDoc, I ran a web development company together with my co-founder Serge Barysiuk, handling contracts and proposals on a daily basis. The process was tedious: copying and pasting client data from CRM, looking for relevant testimonials and case studies and dealing with Excel to calculate development costs. After spending hours on those documents, we didn’t know if the clients had spent enough time reading them, or if they had even opened them.
Yes, we’re selling into a marketplace flooded by sales messages and advertisements. It’s no wonder some sales proposals languish in inboxes while “more urgent” matters are addressed, and others are dragged straight to the trash.
Here’s what’s holding your client back from signing, and what you can do about it:
Sometimes, while trying to be concise, proposal writers can be too vague. They forget to mention important details like why their product/service is better than any other option available, or how the product/service works specifically. Clients need to see a clear path from A to Z – they want to know the steps they need to take to receive the value the proposal promises.
If you fear being too wordy in your sales proposal, use videos and images to get your message across. Include a demonstration or testimonial video that clearly expresses the value of what you’re offering and how clients can obtain a similar experience. People love videos; be sure they’ll watch the one you’ve put in a proposal.
No matter how stunning and well-written your proposals are, if they don’t reach the eyes of the person in charge of purchasing decisions, they won’t come back signed. Many times, the decision-maker employs someone else to collect bids for a project, then present them to him or her later.
It’s understandable. The decision-maker is busy and might not have time to sit through several proposal meetings. But, relying on the bid collector to communicate all information to the decision-maker creates gaps in the sales process.
Instead, ask the bid collector to provide the contact information of all parties involved and copy the decision-maker on the proposal. Send the proposal electronically tracking opens and views with a document analytics tool.
A proposal assessments study measuring data from more than 340 proposals collected by Shipley Associates from 1999 to 2014, identified key best practices and areas of opportunity in creating proposals. The study found, on average, proposals scored marginal in a category called “responsiveness,” meaning they barely addressed the client’s underlying needs.
In today’s marketplace, clients are overwhelmed by the number of voices saying, “look at this,” or “purchase that.” Clients are sharp enough to see that many of these salespeople only care about selling, not whether the client actually needs the product/service.
Distinguish yourself from the crowd by thoroughly researching each client to learn what they really need. Then customize and personalize your proposals based on those needs. Use the names of key decision-makers on the cover page and throughout the proposal. Address pain points you see them struggling with, and clearly state why and how you can help.
Let’s fast forward to a common blockage that can occur at the low end of the sales funnel. The client has decided to sign and/or purchase but doesn’t know how to proceed. The proposal might be too wordy and the payment process appears to require an extra step, such as calling a representative, which the client doesn’t have time for.
Instead, build your proposals electronically to help walk your client through a signing order. Highlight all areas and specify whether you need initials, a printed name, or a signature – and let them sign electronically so there’s no printing or scanning to disrupt the process.
Then, with the right software, you can embed a billing section right into the PDF so the client doesn’t have to worry about waiting on the phone to pay, or going to a website to fill out another form for payment. All steps of the sale can occur in one place.
Remember: Clients want to work with people who have their best interests at heart, not money in mind. Beyond that, they just need the right tools to eliminate extra steps that get in the way of meeting the solution to the problem your product/service will provide.
At what point(s) in your sales funnel do you notice your clients disengage? What do you think is stopping your clients from signing the business proposal right away?
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