The Future of Sales Proposals is Interactive. Here's How to Do It Right

It’s a new decade. Do you know where your proposals are? They might be totally stuck in the ‘90s. And annoying your customers more than your Discman skipping while you do the Macarena. In this post, I’ll show you the five interactive tactics you need to move your sales team’s proposals firmly into the 2020s and impress today’s prospects. Plus a look at the tech that got us here and where Proposify co-founder and CEO Kyle Racki thinks proposals are headed next.

in-person business proposal presentation

7 min. read

It’s 1995. Bill Gates is a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman and they’re discussing the new thing everyone is talking about: the Internet.

David Letterman is skeptical. He says he heard that a baseball game was going to be broadcast online for the first time. He adds, sarcastically, “Does the radio ring a bell?”

“Yes,” Bill Gates replies, “but you can listen to the game any time you want.”

Watch their whole exchange here:

It’s easy to have a chuckle here in the 21st century about the late-night host’s reluctance to embrace the possibilities of the world wide web. But even now, in the roaring 2020s, there are still people out there creating, presenting, and sending proposals using things from when this late-night TV moment was recorded.

Back then, they were shiny and new. I’m talking about quick-and-dirty Microsoft Word-based proposals with tons of text and no images. Saving and sending as a PDF. PowerPoint pitch presentations with ‘funky’ word art. Printing and physically signing contracts and faxing them back.

These were all revolutionary at one point and top-of-the-line at the time. But their time has passed. The hard fact is that you can’t be a successful, scalable, modern company with a stuck-in-the-’90s proposal that uses any of these tools and tactics.

It had to be said.

An up-to-date proposal makes it easier for your sales team to create proposals, which gets them in front of prospects faster. Prospects are impressed by the proposals and it all combines to increase the likelihood that the deal will close.

So why are we so reluctant to adopt new technologies and adapt to how prospects expect business to be conducted today? Well, you might say it’s always been that way.

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The ghosts of proposals past: a sales doc technology timeline

Sales proposals are not new. People have been signing and sealing documents, contracts, and agreements for hundreds of years.

But things move slowly in the world of commercial documents. Much like Letterman, we tend to resist change. For example, using signatures to seal contracts and agreements hasn’t changed much between its emergence in the 2nd and 3rd centuries and today. (Except people don’t tend to include a lock of hair or fancy wax seal with them for added authenticity anymore.)

When it comes to business technology, we adopt new tools and software slowly and hold onto them for a long time. We’ve been trying to kill the fax machine for at least 10 years and yet it still persists in many companies and industries.

How did we get here, where sales teams tend to have an interesting mix of technologies new, like CRMs and call insight, but still hang onto outdated ones like PDFs and PowerPoints.

This timeline gives us a look at all the technologies that influence how we sign, seal, and deliver modern sales documents like proposals from the past up to the present.

5 behind-the-times proposal features, tools, and tactics and how to modernize them

1. Dated: Text-heavy, boring proposals
Updated: Image-filled, well-designed proposals

What well-designed proposals mean for your prospect:

Good design is effective communication. B2B prospects buy with emotion, so images and other compelling design elements (like strong branding and a beautiful layout) can convey a lot about your company and offering.

What they can do for your sales team:

Images increase close rates by 23%. Plus, a well-designed template means sales reps aren’t starting from scratch each time, which means proposals get created and in front of prospects faster.

2. Dated: Static PDFs
Updated: Interactive fee tables and client input forms

What interactive elements mean for your prospect:

Interactive features that offer a menu of packages or an a-la-carte offering so prospects can build their own package, which gives prospects direct control over their spend.

What they can do for your sales team:

Proposals with client input forms close 65% faster. Plus, interactive features increase customer spend and average contract value (ACV) since optional fees or components are easy upsells. A fillable form gets the additional info your team needs to facilitate a faster and smoother delivery or project kick-off.

3. Dated: PowerPoint presentations
Updated: Presenting your actual proposal in presentation mode

What presentation mode means for your prospect:

No more sitting through a long, boring pitch with outdated graphics and Word Art. When everyone is looking at the same proposal document, the prospect’s edits and changes can be made and represented in real time.

What it can do for your sales team:

Even Bill Gates' own Microsoft estimates that more than $250 million is wasted by business every day on creating and presenting ineffective PowerPoint presentations. However, using proposal software with a presentation mode option means you can present your proposal with its already-approved content and branding. No need to spend time transposing the info into a different presentation tool.

4. Dated: Playing phone or email tag with prospects
Updated: Instant in-proposal chat

What in-proposal chat means for your prospects:

People love chat—eight out of 10 customers prefer the immediateness of live chat to get their questions answered faster than via phone or email.

What it can do for your sales team:

More quick, unintrusive follow-up and less sales rep time spent on the back-and-forth of emails and playing phone tag. Reps can answer questions and follow-up with prospects while they’re viewing the proposal.

5. Dated: Physical pen-and-paper sign-offs
Updated: Easy—and legally-binding—electronic signatures

What electronic signatures mean for your prospects:

No printing, no scanning and no emailing back, which saves your prospects time, money, and other resources (like paper and filing space).

What it can do for your sales team:

Using a tool that allows for easy placement and assigning multiple signees helps close the deal quickly with a full signature or ensure important pages or passages have been read with initialling. Proposals with electronic signatures close 23% faster and are legally binding.

What does the future hold for business proposals?

What’s next? What’s trending for proposal creation? What will prospects want out of the proposals they receive? How will sales teams create the proposals of the future?

Here’s what Proposify co-founder and CEO Kyle Racki had to say:

“For as long as commerce has existed, people have been formalizing their agreements in writing. But as organizations sell over the globe, it has been increasingly challenging to do it at scale. 

As AI and automation become standard, technology will continue evolving to allow for personalized, accurate, and highly engaging sales documents to be created with little to no work needed by a human. 

This future vision is what we at Proposify are working to build.”

The Future of Sales Proposals is Interactive. Here's How to Do It Right

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