At Proposify, we’re part of the 10 million people worldwide who are active on Slack every day. We use the popular team communication app to send birthday wishes and celebrate Proposi-versaries, share funny gifs, and occasionally discuss work-related topics, too.
There’s also a subcategory of Slack messages we like to call One-Minute Mysteries. You know, the kind of thing Encyclopedia Brown would charge 25 cents to solve: The Case of the Missing Amazon Order. The Case of the Kidnapped Office Keys. The Case of the Wandering Webcam.
Our Slack-based Sherlocks have a 100 percent close rate (since the “culprit” usually “confesses” fairly quickly).
But you’re not here to track down wayward laptop chargers or to catch the Unwashed-Dishes-in-the-Office-Sink Bandit. That’s because there’s a bigger mystery afoot in Slack channels around the world: the Case of the Crappy Collaboration Habits.
The suspect: Slack-based sales collaboration
Team collaboration can be mystifying. How much is too much or not enough? What’s the best way to do it? What happens when you need to collaborate on a specific project or a bunch of smaller projects, like proposals?
Eight out of 10 businesses use social collaboration tools to enhance their business processes. However, more than half of those who implemented collaboration tools experienced challenges while working with them.
So, the majority of companies are using collaboration tools like Slack, but it’s not always an open-and-shut case.
According to Slack, their tool creates smoother sales handoffs, speeds response time to leads by 21% and shortens the sales cycle by 13%.
There are lots of Slack bots and integrations, including upcoming email bridging, more calendar connection, adding If-This-Then-That (ITTT) automated workflows and shared channels for enterprises. And Slack also just bought Troops.ai, a slackbot that interacts with Salesforce.
This is all great for internal sales stuff. Your sales team can talk about the sales process, share info on leads and meetings, celebrate success, and track their progress toward their targets.
But using it as your main organization tool for external-facing sales activities and projects, like proposals, isn’t its best use. In fact, Slack could be killing your close rate.
Its first victim?
How does Slack affect productivity?
All these Slack use cases and integrations sound very productive. After all, communication is at the heart of great business processes.
In fact, clear, effective communications can solve many business woes. In a survey conducted by the Economist, respondents “overwhelmingly indicated that poor communications at work can lead to stressful work environments, stalled careers, missed performance goals, and lost sales.”
So we try to fix our communication challenges with tools like Slack. But the communication technology we use can also open up avenues to decreasing productivity in other areas. Like how much time we spend in our inboxes.
What Slack really wants to kill is internal emailing. Back in the day, we were spending too much time on emails and meetings (and meetings that could’ve been emails). Instead of dispatching email, collaboration tech has added another communication channel we need to pay attention to, one more time-eater.
Research shows that business productivity actually goes UP when Slack is down. When Slack is unavailable, workers spend more uninterrupted time in more effective apps that tie directly to company and team goals, like reporting in Excel or creating documents in their online proposal software.
People can now default to using Slack as a defacto collaboration tool where it doesn’t make much sense to do so, like for proposal collaboration. Productivity takes the first hit and then more chaos seeps into your proposal process.
4 more casualties of using Slack for your proposal process
Your proposal process needs to be on point and a tool like Slack has the potential for creating more chaos than it’s helping to avoid.
Everything about your proposal process needs to be efficient. When it comes to proposals, you need to get them out quickly to stay ahead of your competition. Hot leads won’t stay hot as they wait and wait for a proposal.
In addition to the potential productivity pitfalls, if you use Slack to organize your proposals, watch out for these hazards as well:
1. Approvals and Sign-Off
Without the structure of proposal software, it’s hard to know when a proposal is good to go out AND when the client is ready to sign-off, too.
The roles and permissions structure within proposal software makes it easy to set up a well-defined approval process for your proposals. When a proposal is marked as ready, the designated authorizer receives an email. Using the link they can view the proposal, leave comments, and mark it as rejected or approved to send.
2. Edits and Version Control
Slack can be chaotic with different channels to keep tabs on and notifications popping up everywhere. In all that confusion, it can be easy to miss an important proposal project note or edit.
Proposal software keeps your comments organized and on-topic. You can comment directly on a proposal document so there’s no misunderstanding.
Since the average proposal has seven pages, nine sections, and eight fees, version control can get out of hand fast. Instead of passing a Word doc back and forth on Slack, with proposal software everyone can be working on the same document (one at a time) to keep everything organized. And a quick look at document history makes it easy to see who changed what and when.
3. Content and Cleanliness
Your proposal is your first and best chance to impress your prospective client. So why would you send a document you’ve cobbled together on Slack?
Proposal software with a central content library makes finding text snippets, images, and other proposal pieces easy. It eliminates the need to hop on and off Slack, requesting and re-requesting content from subject-matter experts and other team members.
And, using pre-vetted content ensures that your proposals won’t go out with an embarrassing typo or outdated information that can put your deal at risk.
4. Progress and Metrics
It takes a proposal an average of 7 days to go from creation to client but proposals delivered in 4 days are 11% more likely to close.
You, or another sales leader or proposal manager, will have to constantly stay on top of where every proposal is in the pipeline while juggling the rest of your duties, whereas a proposal software dashboard gives you those metrics at a glance.
Once the proposal is in front of the client, how will your sales reps coordinate and collaborate on follow up if they can’t see what the client is doing? Proposal software lets everyone see when a lead views the document, which pages they lingered on, and allows the lead to ask questions right in the proposal.
3 research-backed ways to keep sales collaboration effective
So once you have a strong collaboration tool like proposal software in place, how do you keep your internal collaboration efforts alive and well?
Yes, like Slack, collaboration has a dark side, too.
Collaboration can be a force for good in business proposals, whether it involves working together with sales team peers or sharing knowledge from subject matter experts (SMEs) from other departments. But, when done wrong, it can cost you.
Management professor and author Morten T. Hansen found when he studied sales teams at a big IT consulting firm that they would often collaborate with SMEs on high-value proposals. The sales team wanted to provide prospects with comprehensive information, which needed to come directly from their in-house experts.
Seems logical, right? But guess what Hansen discovered.
As the amount of collaboration a sales team received on a proposal increased, the chances of that proposal winning the contract went down. The knowledge gained from collaborating on the proposal was overshadowed by the extra time it took to work on it together.
It’s not that collaboration in itself is bad; it’s ineffective processes, siloed knowledge, and Instead of collaborating more, or pushing collaboration in all instances, effective collaboration is about figuring out when, where, and what level of collaboration makes the most sense.
Here’s how to build a collaboration process that creates value, based on Hansen’s research.
1. Set your team up for collaborative success
Think carefully about the level of collaboration each proposal receives. How will you determine how much collaboration is beneficial? For example, some bigger deals might need custom content from SMEs to close, while smaller ones could use boilerplate content. And online business proposal software can help keep everything organized.
Are there internal silos you’ll need to remove to facilitate your collaboration efforts? It’s important to open those lines of communication, particularly on high-value proposals. High-performing salespeople are twice as likely to collaborate across departments when chasing important deals.
2. Consider the true value for the client
Make sure you have a solid understanding of how collaborating with an SME will add to the value of your proposal for the prospect. Can they provide valuable information that the prospect needs during their decision-making process? Will it showcase your company’s expertise or leave the client confused?
For example, you might think that more technical content in your proposal will be the thing to clinch it so you enlist an engineer to collaborate. However, the client gets turned off by all the jargon and goes with a competing proposal instead.
3. Don’t forget about opportunity costs
Though there’s no upfront fee to collaborating with internal experts the way there would be if you brought in an outside consultant, there’s still cost involved.
When you’re considering bringing in SMEs from other departments to work on a proposal with your sales team, don’t forget that more of their time spent collaborating on proposals means less time to focus on their own tasks.
There’s no real mystery to sales collaboration. Use the proper tools to keep processes running smoothly and productivity high, calibrate the ideal amount of collaboration each proposal needs, and keep closing those