Something was keeping Kyle Racki up at night.
Proposify had a problem and, as our company’s co-founder and CEO, Kyle needed to find a solution, fast. When a very viable option landed in his inbox via a cold email, he thought he’d stumbled across an answer to the issue that was haunting him.
He visited the outreaching company’s website, then responded to the sales rep and requested a demo. Liking what he saw and heard, he asked for a proposal. A week later, something arrived from a name he didn’t recognize. He opened the attachment and...
Cue the spooky music. He’d been cursed with a terrifying contract.
After taking one look at the indecipherable wall of text that explained much about legal obligation blah-de-blah and nothing about the product’s value proposition, Kyle closed it, forgot about it, and moved on.
This might seem like a harsh example—after all, Kyle is a former graphic designer who runs a proposal software company, so his sales doc standards are high. But receiving an agreement that was so out of line with the rest of the sales process really soured him on a product that he actually needed and was fully prepared to purchase.
The dreaded sales doc disconnect
How often are your ‘dead-no decision’ deals actually the result of proposals that deliver a jarringly poor customer experience like this? Probably more often than you think.
That sales rep Kyle spoke with likely had this deal in his forecast as a sure thing. Which, to be fair, that’s exactly what it was looking like—right up until a crappy proposal brought the whole thing crashing to a halt.
Why was the proposal agreement so disconnected from the rest of the sales process? There are three main ways that sales docs can go astray in the customer experience they provide. I like to call them the 3 Vs: voice, value, and visuals.
Let’s take a look at what they are and how to get them right in your proposals.
The 3 Vs of scary-good proposal customer experiences
1. Voice: Make sure your proposal is speaking your language
Brand voice and tone is how your company speaks to folks. It’s a big part of how prospects encounter and engage with your company, so when there are inconsistencies throughout your sales process, your prospects may become confused or start to distrust you.
Sometimes voice and tone are hard to grasp so I’ll show you a few examples.
Proposify’s brand voice is helpful and friendly with a side of humour. Our tone is informal and clear.
Here’s how I would write this sentence in “Proposify Voice”: It can be distracting—and even down-right off-putting—when companies don’t keep their brand voice consistent throughout their sales docs.
Now, I’ll re-write it in the voice of some other well-known brands.
Brand Voice Keywords: brash, straightforward, casual cussing
It’s an absolute mind-f*** when companies confuse the s*** out of their customers because they’re not making brand consistency a core pillar of their sales content.
Tiffany & Co.
Brand Voice Keywords: witty, elegant, classic
Don’t be all flash and no substance. Brand voice consistency should be the jewel of your sales content.
Brand Voice Keywords: aggressive, individualist, confident
Why try to be anyone else? The path to true freedom and success is found by using your brand voice consistently in your sales docs.
It’s all about communicating the information in a way that’s true to the brand and that will resonate with their target audience. If you were among the target audience for Tiffany and received sales messaging in the voice of one of the other brands I mentioned here, would that appeal to you? Probably not. It would feel out of place with the brand image that Tiffany has cultivated, right?
Brand voice is specific and it’s important to stay true to it. That said, it can be hard to master, especially in writing and particularly if you’re not a trained writer.
One solution is to create proposals using proposal software. Your pro writers can set up standardized, reusable content in your content library that reps can simply pull into their docs. That means reps don’t have to spend valuable time trying to recreate that content and your marketing team doesn’t have to worry about inconsistencies.
2. Value: Display your valuables
Pretend your proposal agreement exists in a vacuum. The client didn’t visit your website or engage with your sales team. Would anyone looking at your proposal alone be able to understand your company's unique value proposition?
Unless you compete solely on price (and there’s a lot of literature out there on why this isn’t a good look), your proposal needs to be persuasive and communicate clearly the why of the deal. Make sure it answers these seven questions:
- Why is the client looking for help?
- Why should they choose your business?
- Why shouldn’t they choose the competition?
- Why is your solution the right one for this client?
- Why should they trust you?
- Why are you the expert in this situation?
- Why should they give you their money?
You may be thinking, “We go over all that in our sales process, during discovery, demos, and other sales collateral and conversations.” But that assumes that everyone who is making the purchasing decision is privy to all this information.
Not only are buying committees bigger than ever, but the make-up of that group is also constantly changing. The more junior person you demoed with now needs sign-off from a higher-up. They decided to loop in someone from marketing at the last minute. Legal got wind of the deal and has some questions.
Wouldn’t it be great if your proposal was prepared for all that?
Think about Kyle’s ‘spooky’ story. Yeah, he’s the CEO and the buck stops there, etc. etc. But even he still needs to get buy-in on company purchases. Maybe he needs his co-founder Kevin on board. Perhaps Leslie in finance is unsure. Or what if Kyle’s not the only one around here who will be using this product?
There was no way he could put the agreement he received in front of anyone else and use it to get them on board with either the product or the expenditure. And, as a busy entrepreneur, he doesn’t have time to walk them through everything he learned during the sales process.
But not every deal demands a completely custom proposal, full of personalized deal details. So, how do you do that at scale?
Templated proposals allow your sales reps to quickly add in the stuff that doesn’t require much editing, like terms and conditions, pricing packages, and your About Us page, so they can spend time on the places where some customization will really seal the deal—executive summary or statement of work/timeline.
3. Visuals: Keep up the design consistency
Imagine that the vacuum from the previous example sucked your company logo off your proposals. What else would prove that it was your proposal and not your competitor’s?
Good proposal design is more than slapping a logo on a Word doc and calling it a day. And it’s not just marketing that cares about this stuff. Your ideal customer does, too.
Buyers get behind brands.
What drives B2B buying decisions more—brand, price, or features? Yup, 39% of B2B buyers are driven by brand, while it’s only 27% for price and 34% for features.
Buyers like things that are familiar.
If your website, demo, and other sales touchpoints have strong, cohesive branding and design but your proposals don’t, you have a problem. Consistent branding increases revenue by 23%.
Buyers like proposals that are easy on the eyes.
To put it plainly, visuals sell. When we analyzed the more than 2 million proposals in the Proposify database, we found that proposals that include images have a 23% higher close rate.
So, to take advantage of any of these aspects of branding in your proposals, you can’t have dozens of templates out there, sales reps taking brand assets into their own hands, or branding dropping out of the equation entirely. Proposal software makes it easy to keep branding consistent and include the design elements that buyers want and need to see.
Night of the living dead deals?
If voice, value, and visuals sound more like they belong in B2C selling, you’re not wrong. They have a huge impact on success in consumer sales. But they need a place in today’s B2B deals, too.
Your prospects start the sales process with a certain experience expectation. If your sales process doesn’t deliver all the way up to and including your proposal and final sign-off, it’ll be like the night of the living dead deals. Every. Single. Day.
Now that’s some scary stuff.