Proposals in the Time of a Pandemic: A State of Proposals Bonus Section

Get the data behind the latest trends and strategies helping top sales pros adapt and find new ways to win during COVID-19 in a new bonus section to Proposify’s State of Proposals.

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6 min. read

It’s safe to say the state of proposals has changed in a big way.

And while I can think of a lot of colourful words to describe 2020 so far, in an effort to keep this blog family-friendly I’ll stick to the one that perhaps best describes the year in sales: unpredictable.

For teams around the world, pipelines are frozen, forecasts are a mess, and sure-thing deals that were on track to close are now uncertain.

Which is why the team at Proposify jumped back into our proposal database to see if we could attempt to remedy some of that unpredictability. We analyzed and searched and poked and prodded to identify trends and strategies that might help top sales teams navigate uncharted territory and adapt to this new normal.

And we published what we found in a special updated bonus section to the State of Proposals 2020 report.

Get the data behind the latest trends and strategies helping top sales pros adapt and find new ways to win during COVID-19.

The key to landing your next deal (and the one after that) may just be right here.

In this special bonus section, we analyze how the practice and process of high-performing sales teams are changing as they find new ways to win. We detail how top reps are adjusting their approach to selling, how sales leaders are encouraging team morale and productivity, and how high-level proposal metrics stack up against historical data.

You can get the full report here, but read on for insight on how we collected this data, and a brief overview of some of the things we found.

How did we collect this data?

The findings in our updated section are based on original research and data analysis conducted by Team Proposify in early May 2020.

We analyzed two different types of data for this report:

  1. Proposal data from the Proposify database
  2. Survey data from a questionnaire completed by Proposify customers

To get the most complete picture of recent proposal activity, we set various date parameters around the data to assess, compare, and contrast exactly what changed. These include the first day of 2020 to early May, 45 days before and after March 16 (the day much of North America went on lockdown), and March 16 to May 5, 2020.

We also compared this new data against the data from more than 2 million sales documents from our original analysis to see how COVID-19 has impacted certain vital proposal metrics.

The data we used to obtain our insights is entirely anonymous. All proposal text, personal and competitive information, pricing and financial data, and other identifiable information were removed from the dataset before it was analyzed for this report.

You can see all of our findings here, but read on for a peek into some of the things we cover.

2020 so far: a look at the big picture.

So, what exactly does the state of proposals look like right now?

This is one of the most pressing questions concerning business proposals at the moment, and so it was the first thing we set out to investigate.

The majority of what we found tended to mirror the dips and downwards trends we’ve seen across the market in general. But, there were some unexpected bright spots, too.

One such point was the surprising correlation between send rates and close rates as the year progressed. While the number of sent proposals dipped, overall close rates remained relatively steady at around 30%—a slight drop from the year prior, but steady nonetheless. 

Check out the report for a detailed breakdown of the proposal stats for 2020 so far.

How did the new data stack up against the original dataset?

Proposal data from this year provides insight into how things look as we slog through 2020.

But what happens when we compare proposal performance against a time when, well, there wasn’t a global pandemic going on?

Here’s a quick look at what we found:

  • The overall proposal close rate is down, but the open rate is up
  • The number of sent and won proposals dropped, but…
  • Proposals that were sent went out, and closed, faster

One of the only predictable things about sales right now is the unpredictability, and among the countless lessons 2020 is throwing our way is a stark reminder of how fast things can change.

All that to say, it’s almost certainly too early to say for sure what the extent of the impact on sales and business in general will look like. But, although no one really knows what’s next, the decisions sales leaders make to help their teams succeed are informed by data. 

We think this breakdown of how proposal activity is evolving provides some of that data.

The state of proposals has changed.

So we updated our State of Proposals report. Discover how sales teams are finding ways to adapt and win in the time of COVID-19.

I'd like the report!

Sales processes are changing and adapting.

We asked our Proposify customers how they’re changing their sales process to adapt to the new normal.

Their responses spanned the spectrum from ‘we’re slowing things down’ to ‘we’re full steam ahead’, and ‘we’re rethinking certain parts of our strategy’ to ‘we’re overhauling our entire process’.

But even among the wide variety of responses, certain recurrent approaches and strategies appeared.

We tracked these trends to assess how sales reps are managing productivity and staying in close contact with their prospects, and how sales leaders are managing morale among their team while rebuilding pipeline and rethinking their process.

Of all the responses we received, managing the shift to remote work was the most common. Our report looks at how sales leaders are managing this transition, including tactics ranging from levelling-up their tech stack to make working from home easier to revisiting how to best manage communication both with their team and with prospects.

Which brings us to how...

Sales teams have changed when, where, and how they sell.

Are face-to-face meetings still happening? How are reps meeting with prospects now? Have all teams gone remote, or are some still in the office?

These are some of the questions we set out to answer, and what we discovered offers an interesting glimpse at how the way sales teams work is changing.

For some, the fundamentals have undergone a major shift—96% of sales teams are working remotely, with the majority of those having only recently transitioned to working from home. Understandably, face-to-face meetings are practically non-existent, and reps are communicating with prospects virtually.

And changes aren’t only limited to the logistics of selling. We also identified a shift in both attitude and approach toward how sales reps are selling in a precarious time.

A strong theme that emerged was the shift toward leading with empathy and adopting a position of understanding and compassion towards clients and prospects who may not be in buying mode. An increased focus on outreach and nurture campaigns, sharing helpful content with prospects, and an increased participation in industry webinars are a few of the changes emblematic of this shift in perspective.

To see the full picture, check it out in our report.

Sales leaders and top reps are finding new ways to stay productive.

It’s no secret that sales activity is down.

But uncertainty now doesn’t mean that every deal that’s gone quiet will stay that way. While no one can say for sure when business and the economy will begin to resume operating with some kind of normalcy, we can say that we’ll come out of the other side of this thing eventually.

Forward-thinking sales leaders understand this all too well. And for those in the fortunate position to do so, they’re taking advantage of downtime to simplify and optimize their process.

As weird and crazy and unsettling as this situation is, it is also an opportunity to take a step back, reevaluate, and get around to doing all of those (potentially) boring, but important, things that make your business and your team more efficient.

We investigated how sales leaders are using this time to improve their content, proposal workflow, and sales process, and the steps they were taking to do so. You can see what we found by downloading our report.

Get the data to help you navigate a new normal.

No matter if you’re predicting Q3 performance or tomorrow’s weather, accurate forecasts rely on one thing above all else: solid data.

There’s not much of that going around right now. And that’s a problem, because sales leaders are making major decisions with not much intel to base them on.

We jumped back into our database in an effort to provide some of that data.

This bonus section to the State of Proposals report is designed to help sales pros make more accurate decisions concerning their business proposals, sales activity, and rebuilding both pipeline and process.

Download the report now and get a glimpse into how the way we do business is changing, and how high-performing teams are adapting and finding ways to win.

Proposals in the Time of a Pandemic: A State of Proposals Bonus Section

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