A Few Reasons Why Your Sales Proposals Suck

by | Mar 14, 2020

One of the most underrated aspects of sales is the actual proposal process. As sales professionals we always read about turning leads into customers, closing deals and the best strategies on how to keep a healthy pipeline. Although all these are important steps throughout the sales process, none of this matters if we have awful proposals that actually hurt our chances in closing a deal.

Let me start off with a personal experience where I was the “hot lead” that was ready to buy, but the proposal and follow up process was so awful I will never do business with this company.

How A Bad Sales Proposal Stopped Me From Spending $30,000.

A few weeks before my son was born, I received a cold call mid afternoon. The call was from a woman that said she was an assistant for one of my LinkedIn connections (who I’ll leave unnamed), and this certain LinkedIn connection wanted to learn more about my business and set up a meeting with me.

I was caught a little off guard, but more than anything, it sounded genuine and I scheduled a time to chat with this woman’s boss. This woman did a hell of a job at “selling the meeting.” Her approach worked, we set a meeting even though I wasn’t exactly sure what I was being sold.

Fast forward a few weeks, my wife and I welcomed our son Greyson, so I rescheduled the meeting.

After getting settled as a new dad, I called this guy back and apologized for dodging our meeting. He understood, congratulated me on my new family and insisted we reschedule again for a later date- because family was more important. I was impressed. He sounded genuine, and honestly I was now eager to hear about what this man was selling.

So here we are about a month later and I’m finally having a meeting with this guy. He told me about how he was a small business consultant and he worked directly with CEO’s and helped these businesses grow by getting them inbound leads.

Long story short, this guy had a good pitch. I listened carefully every step of the way and took notes. I knew I was now approaching the middle of this guy’s sales funnel and I was amazed at how elegantly he was selling me on his service. Not only was I intrigued by his service, I was amazed as a sales professional myself at how he was getting me to “the close.”

So here we were, time to talk money. I was ready to see the price of his services and ready to make a decision. I even told him I’d give him the yes or no once I received a proposal and had a day or two to think about it. Of course, at this stage, he told me he’d get me a proposal in 24 hours. It took him about a week (not a big deal but… come on man!) Quick side note: Many people don’t realize how time consuming quality proposals can be. It takes thought, you have to be exact on the numbers, and it takes time to craft/design. Proposals are extremely time consuming for many salespeople, and this is a real issue that’s rarely talked about in sales.

Okay, back to the story at hand. Here I was a week later and I finally received this guy’s proposal. Again, I was excited about this. I thought this guy had a valuable service I wanted to buy. My ONLY concern was it might not fit into my budget for 2017. I was afraid the price might be a little high, and rightfully so, if this guy was legit and could get my company leads like he said, he should charge a premium.

The worst thing happened for this sales guy. I opened the email proposal and there was a TON of confusing content I could tell was copied and pasted from a horrible script he must have. None of it was relevant to the prior talks we’d had up until that point.

Second, his proposal was sent in a WORD DOCUMENT. Are you kidding me? What is this? 1997? I was underwhelmed before I even read the proposal. Not only that, I had “edit” access on this document. I could change whatever I wanted if I truly felt the need to do so.

The content in the proposal was a lot like his email. Very long and confusing and all the messaging and sales points were copied and pasted. Awful. It was a five page word document just to tell me that I’d have to sign a year contract for $30,000/annually. This was the worst proposal ever and because this guy had done such a GREAT job setting the stage, I was still considering his services at a later date.

Like I promised, I wanted to give him directional follow up. I told him I wasn’t in the position to buy right now, but to follow up with me in six months and I could probably fit this into our 2018 marketing budget. At this point I was expecting a ‘thank you’ follow up with him setting a follow up appointment in six months. Instead, what did I get? NOTHING. AT ALL. Literally, I’ve never heard from this man again – That’s how bad it was. It was such a turnoff I was almost pissed.

This was a long story, but I had to make my point clear. It was a great lesson for me. There can be great tee-up sales people out there that don’t understand how to close a deal. I now believe the proposal sent is one of the most critical parts to closing a deal. This guy failed horribly at it. Below are a few more takeaways I’ve learned through the proposal process.

Lets Be Honest: Are Your Sales Proposals Confusing?

We all know the last thing we ever want to do to a prospect is confuse them. I’m learning more and more that companies don’t have a solid proposal process. Most proposals come across as confusing, long and very overwhelming.

When we finally get a prospect at the “buying” phase, I want to make sure my prospect feels like they have a clear understanding of what I’m selling and what the next steps are. I want them to feel like this is an easy decision for them to make.

Most prospects ONLY care about a few different things while looking at a proposal:

  • A CLEAR understanding of product or services being sold

  • FULL price point – (Keyword is full) No hidden fees, be clear with the final number

  • Commitment and risk level

  • What the next steps are, especially if they give you a “yes”

Believe it or not, the longer the proposal the greater the chance of losing the sale. It’s been reported that the average proposal has about six slides. Anything longer than that, and your conversion rate substantially goes down.

I’d even argue your proposal can be substantially less than six pages. I’ve closed over $100,000 in sales with simple bullet pointed email proposals. Take that for whatever it’s worth – but let’s not confuse the proposal process. Keep it simple.

How Do Your Sale Proposals Look?

Most proposals are sent in PDF form, which is 100% old school. Not only is sending PDFs outdated, it’s reported that a PDF proposal actually gives you a 45% LESS chance of closing the deal. I don’t know about you, but that’s way too high of a chance for me to miss out on a sale.

If you get to the proposal phase in the sales process, you’re about to cross the finish line. You’re close to the deal. It’s critical we don’t squander ANY opportunity with our proposals. We literally have to “run through the finish line” and the proposal process is the last obstacle before we get a commitment.

Don’t let outdated and ugly designed proposals hurt your chances of getting a new client. At the end of the day, people want to feel good when they buy something. A simple and clean designed proposal can help make the buyer experience that much easier. When your new client views their proposal for the first time, we want them to understand they’re dealing with a top-notch company/professional, and something as simple as a nicely designed proposal can do just that.

Proposal Reporting That Influences Timely Follow Up.

If you’ve read my blog before, it’s no secret how strongly I feel about the importance of follow up throughout the sales process. What if you had a proposal that gives real-time reporting once you send a proposal? A proposal that actually allows you to see what pages your prospect is spending the most time on? Would that impact your follow up? Hell yeah it would!

About a year ago I discovered a software that’s changed my proposal process entirely. It upped my game and has actually been a key differentiating factor that has allowed me to close more deals.

Let me introduce you to BetterProposals.io – Yes, if you click this link and sign up we get a small commission. That’s not the point here. The point is I’m endorsing this software because it’s made me thousands of dollars and I’m confident it will do the same for you.

When I started using this platform for my proposals it solved many of the issues I listed above. BetterProposals.io gave me the ability to have a much cleaner designed proposal, with real-time reporting. Which sky-rocketed me into the 21st century with a cloud-based proposal process. These proposals give my clients a good/easy user experience, which in return means they feel good when they decide to buy from me.

Again, the proposal process is the final step to closing a sale. Investing in nicer and more effective proposals is a key investment in your business and bottom line revenue.

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Author: James Harper – Founder, AgencyFlare