Does this sound familiar?
Everything for our proposals is done manually and it takes way too long.
We know we need to be more efficient with our proposals but we don’t really know where to start.
Proposals take so long to prepare and then we spend even more time on damage control when the wrong info gets sent out.
We’re doing okay now, but when business picks up again I’m concerned that our process isn’t going to scale with it.
Formatting our proposals in MS Word is time-consuming, up to a week to turnaround if it has to go to marketing to wait for them to fix.
Every revenue team is unique, yet their proposal problems are usually very similar: too much time spent on inefficient, inaccurate, non-scalable, and bottlenecked document creation processes.
Those quotes above are from real Proposify prospective customers and the sad reality is that I could’ve added dozens more that all express concerns along those same lines. Why is the “proposal creation takes too much time” problem so wide-spread?
Let’s look at the biggest issues facing proposal creation today, some “solutions” sales teams and marketers are using as stop-gaps for them, and the two things that *actually* solve them.
The 2 biggest issues sales and marketing teams have with their proposal creation process
So, let’s boil this down to the two main issues at the root of these problems:
- First, proposal creation takes too long.
- And second, no one wants to take on the pain of addressing issue #1 (or knows where to start).
Everyone seems to agree that proposal creation is way too inefficient. Missing content, tricky formatting, manual data entry, bottlenecks in design or approval. But little is done about it. Why?
Sales reps are concerned about interruptions to their sales cycles. Sales leaders worry about getting or maintaining visibility into the pipeline and individual deals. Sales ops wants to make sure that implementation is smooth and that people will actually use it. Marketing wants to be able to control the look and feel and branding of the docs.
All of which leads to sticking with the slower-than-molasses-in-January status quo way of doing proposals. But not anymore! We’ve got solutions your whole team will may love.
5 crowd-sourced “solutions” to speed up your proposal creation
When we’re talking to prospective customers here at Proposify, we usually ask them what they’ve been using to create proposals and what they like and dislike about their current process.
The “suggested solutions” below come straight from these sales and marketing pros’ answers. See if you can tell if these are from the ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ column.
1. Hire or pull people off other high-priority tasks
Bring on extra people (and perhaps a proposal manager) or authorize more overtime to get all the proposals done. No budget for that? Pull current coworkers away from their own work to focus on proposal creation.
2. Eat any costly errors
When your workflow is chaotic, mistakes are bound to slip through the cracks and into your team’s proposals. Let your fulfillment and accounting teams know that they’ll need to honour any errors in pricing, scope and SOWs, terms and conditions, or overzealous discounting.
3. Sacrifice quality on the altar of speed
Abandon all branding and personalization as too time-consuming. Resign yourself to the fact that your proposal won't reflect your brand or the sales discussion. Customers don’t care about professional, comprehensive, and customized documents anyway.
4. Stay stuck in the past
That ‘90s nostalgia is all the rage right now, so why not keep rocking your grungy proposal process? I’m talking static PDFs, phone-tag follow-ups, and time-consuming print-sign-scan-send-back signature processes. Maybe you can bring back the fax machine while you’re at it!
5. More proposals, more problems? Not anymore!
Proposal creation taking too much time? Simply reduce the volume of proposals going out. Walk away from some potential deals, create fewer proposals, and voila—your team gets hours back in their week.
Obviously, these so-called ‘solutions’ are all things sales teams do that either don’t help get proposals out faster or, if they do speed the process up, create other problems elsewhere. If your sales team is still approaching proposals using these band-aid solutions, then you’re not addressing the root of the problem.
So, let’s address it.
2 real solutions to your ‘proposal creation is a time-suck’ woes
While I was being a little (or a lot) tongue-in-cheek with those proposed solutions, they’re not 100% made-up bits of silliness either. (For the record, we don’t endorse them as solid business tactics.) I simply paraphrased them from what we hear from prospective clients coming to us with their proposal creation problems.
Yup, while they might not put them in those exact terms, they’re the same “solutions” that sales teams everywhere seem to cling to. And they’re doing it all in the naming of avoiding additional costs, without thinking about what all the wasted time, redundant efforts, lost business, and hits to their reputation are truly worth.
Because make no mistake, just because something like “employee burnout from working evenings and weekends to get proposals prepared” isn’t a line-item in your budget doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a cost attached. If you think implementing new tools and workflows seems expensive, just think about the hefty price tags intangible stuff like reduced sales productivity, lost deals, low team morale, simmering resentment, and employee turnover have.
So the real problem is usually some variation on this theme:
Using hacked-together processes that rely on outdated and disconnected tools that are not purpose-built and require too much human intervention and manual work.
Now we’re talking. It’s not a not-enough- or too-many-people problem or a workflow bottlenecking issue. It’s not really about speed vs. customer experience. And, for the love of Gmail, you should be able to send out as many proposals as you have demand for!
So, what to do? Luckily, there are two simple fixes for this issue.
Integrations and automation are your best friends
Luckily, this problem can be TRULY solved with sales tool integrations and automation. Here’s how:
Maintain your CRM as a single source of truth
The majority of salespeople spend up to an hour a day just on data entry and connecting records from different sales tools. But if they’re using proposal software with a Salesforce, HubSpot or other CRM integration, salespeople don’t even have to leave your CRM to manage their sales documents and pull correct deal details into their proposals.
Pre-approve your sales doc content
Pre-set proposal content means that your marketing team can focus on marketing activities without creating a bottleneck in your sales team’s proposal workflow.
With proposal software, templates, pre-approved content, and locked-down branding elements mean everyone can be confident that all sales docs go out looking good and containing the most up-to-date, correct information.
Include time-saving modern features at scale
Client forms, electronic signatures, automated follow-up, in-proposal chat and other modern proposal features help your sales reps avoid time-consuming back-and-forth. And, they not only free up time for your sales team but are also more convenient for your customers.
- Proposals with client forms close 65% faster.
- Proposals with electronic signature are 3.4 times more likely to close.
- In industries like SaaS and event services, using a payment processing integration like Stripe to include a payment option within the proposal makes it up to 90% more likely to close.
Invest in the most important part of your sales process
Yes, proposal software is an investment. There’s no getting around that, especially when so many sales teams are hacking together a proposal process using free or sunk-cost tools.
But when you consider that many of the things sales teams already do are costing the company and wasting valuable resources, the outlay to do things right (and reduce burnout, increase productivity, and close more deals) might be minimal.