Most people have a love/hate relationship with proposals. On one hand, proposals bring clients, work, and money into your business. Without proposals, you have nothing. Winning proposals is awesome.
However, creating proposals is an entirely different beast. Creating proposals can be extremely time-consuming - writing the proposal, designing the proposal, pricing the proposal, proofing the proposal, and then finally getting the darn thing out the door and into the hands of your sales lead who, hopefully, hasn’t gone cold in the days or weeks it’s taken you to get back to them. Creating proposals is painful.
But here’s the thing: proposals that get to clients faster, close faster, so you don’t have time to waste. You need to get that proposal out before your big deal moves on to your competition.
How can you create proposals faster?
Know what you’re selling before you sell it
Make sure you know exactly what you’re going to propose before you start working on your business proposal. You should already clearly understand what your sales lead needs and what your solution is before you type a single word.
I’ve worked with people who made up their strategy as they wrote the proposal, which is incredibly inefficient. It increases the amount of time you spend writing because you’re busy thinking and strategizing.
Your services should already be set and easily articulated; you shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel for every proposal. Whether you sell digital marketing services, architectural design, or solar panels, you know what you offer, and, if you’ve done your homework, you know what your client needs. Put the two together.
This isn’t the time to let the ingredients simmer on the stove - this is time to plate the food and serve it up.
Use online proposal software, period.
OK, obviously I work for Proposify, which is online business proposal software. The BEST online business proposal software in my oh-so unbiased opinion, but definitely not the only one in the market. While it would be fantastic if you checked out Proposify’s free 14-day trial, I’m not here to sell you on our solution specifically.
However, I am here to sell on the fact that if you want to create proposals faster, you must use some type of online proposal software.
Online proposal software is designed to streamline your whole proposal process. From writing to design to sending and tracking, online proposal software unites all your separate tools and steps under one efficient roof. No more juggling Word docs, Google docs, InDesign files, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint slides.
Here are a few ways that online proposal software can help you create proposals faster:
Business proposal templates
Most proposal software products offer templates as part of your subscription. Proposal templates are professionally written and designed to help kickstart your proposal process.
Often, writing a proposal can be the most time-consuming part of the whole process, and writer’s block can plague even the most seasoned writer. With a template, the provided sample text can unlock your ideas and provide a guideline for what you might want to express in your proposal.
Don’t worry that you might submit the same proposal as your competition - most proposal templates are customizable so you can tailor them to your specific service, brand, and client project. The template just gives you a running start.
The same for proposal design. The great thing about templates is that they’ve already been designed so you don’t have to wait around for your designer to be free, or hire a freelance designer who could take even more time to do the job (not to mention money). Online proposal software makes it easy to swap images, change fonts, and add colour, without needing a professional graphic designer. You can do it!
Templates often cover a variety of services and industries so before choosing online proposal software, have a look at their selection. But if they allow customization, you can choose any template you want and fine tune it to quickly create your winning proposal.
During my agency days of writing business proposals, the most frustrating and time-consuming part of the whole process was pulling together the content.
Maybe we wrote a great description of our branding services for our last proposal - or was it the one before that? But now no one knows where it is. Is it on my computer? Is it on someone else’s computer? Is this even the final version that was used in the proposal? And how about the description of our digital marketing services? I think that was in a proposal from a few months ago. Can’t find it? Guess you’ll have to start from scratch.
Good online proposal software offers some type of content library where you can store all of your different proposal sections in one place so anyone on your team can access them at any time.
No more hunting for the team bios, the ‘About Us’ description, case studies, or fee tables. Much of what you’re selling to potential clients is repeated from proposal to proposal so why recreate it every time? Yes, you’ll need to customize some things to fit the particular needs of a client, but that takes far less time than going back to the drawing board to rewrite every proposal section every time you have a new proposal to create.
To maximize the time-saving benefits of a content library, you’ll need to do some work upfront to create the sections and input them into the library, so they’re easy to find. But, once they’re in there, you can drag and drop each section into your proposal where you need them, significantly reducing the time it takes to write a proposal.
Online proposal views
Can we all agree that snail mail is great for birthday cards, but it’s not so great for closing deals quickly?
If you’re printing proposals, assembling them, and then dropping them into the mail, you’re adding days - or maybe even weeks if something goes awry with your printer or the postal service - before your clients receive anything. And every day they don’t have a proposal from you is one more day they could receive a proposal from your competition.
Even emailing a PDF can be troublesome as large attachments get caught in spam, so the client doesn’t even see your proposal, or something goes wrong with the file and they can’t open it.
With online proposal software, you email your client a customized link to view their proposal online on any device, at any time. It arrives quickly, with no issues, and looks professional. There’s no faster way to get your proposal in front of your client.
Online signatures and payments
You want to get a proposal to your client quickly, but it doesn’t end there. What you really want is to close this deal quickly and to do that you need to make it easy for your client to say ‘YES’ right away.
Adding online signature buttons to your proposal will help get 60% faster approval, according to our analysis of more than 20,000 proposals. Good online proposal software products have an online signature tool that lets clients sign your proposal right in the browser and makes the contract legally binding.
Better yet is the ability to add an online payment request to your proposal, so you get paid as soon as your client signs off.
While online proposal software helps you create and deliver proposals faster, some products like, ahem, Proposify, go a step further by providing metrics to keep you informed of everything that’s happening with your proposals.
Proposal metrics let you see when your client opened the proposal, which sections they spent the most time viewing and how long they looked at it, along with close rates broken down across teams and individuals so you can track success.
All of this information gives you insight into what’s working and what isn’t so you can improve your approach for your next proposal, making it easier and faster to create a winning proposal.
"Every moment you waste getting a proposal to your client is an opportunity for your competition to get ahead of you"
Practice makes perfect proposals
Overall, if you want to improve the time it takes to create a proposal, you need a system and you need to stick to it. That includes online proposal software, but even the best tools are worthless if you don’t use them consistently or correctly.
Be as prepared as possible before you start so you can snap all the pieces together instead of wasting time creating the pieces as you go. Look for as many ways to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies as possible.
The more proposals you create, the easier and faster it will get over time. But be sure to learn from each proposal - if it won, why did it win so you can repeat the same formula. If your proposal didn’t win, find out why so you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
And one last piece of proposal advice: don’t procrastinate. Remember, every moment you waste getting a proposal to your client is an opportunity for your competition to get ahead of you.