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What do you think chief revenue officers would say is their key strategy to increasing sales? Chances are, you won’t hear them say written proactive proposals. However, recent research conducted by Strategic Proposals found that 78% of buyers said written proposals are the most important part of their evaluation process. This means that proposals are, in fact, critical to selling, and making them part of a strategic, proactive sales process could lead to better results.
Proposals of any kind, especially proactive proposals, are underused tools in furthering the sales process. By not making proactive proposals an inherent, planned part of your process, you could be potentially undermining the impact of other sales enablement investments.
Proactively delivering proposals gives you a way to challenge customers to let go of old assumptions and look at new methods that align with your products and services. Changing long-held attitudes across an organization takes time. Proactive proposals give you a chance to showcase your unique insights and value proposition early on to a much broader audience.
A good sales proposal also articulates how well you understand the customers’ underlying needs, how you will address their requirements and solve their business problems, and ultimately why they should choose to work with you. And by proactively sending personalized selling documents, you can get ahead of the competition, recalibrate existing assumptions and drive your sales cycles to a close faster.
With the right tools and processes in place, you can make proactive proposals an integral part of how you go to market. Here are three tips to develop high-quality proactive proposals and take your sales to the next level:
1. Ensure consistency.
When sales reps are trying to pull together content from across the company, they often land on outdated content or may try to create their own in a pinch. This not only creates inconsistencies that can’t be monitored, but it also creates the risk of misinformation. A centralized knowledge library is a critical resource because it gives teams a head-start on developing consistent, on-message proposals that can be tailored and branded for each customer. The best part is that since the content has already been vetted, the content’s quality and consistency remain high, whether it’s coming from a new hire or a tenured subject-matter expert.
2. Proactively design.
Like any proposal, a proactive proposal needs to be easy to read and tell a compelling, engaging story. An attractively designed proposal helps your advocates within the buying company discuss your proposition to other decision makers and demonstrates how serious you are about winning their business. It needs to lay out why existing methods and assumptions are no longer sufficient. Like any other proposal, it should include the basics such as an introduction, executive summary, recommendations, ROI analysis, proposed next steps and more. Generally, proactive proposals will not include tons of project details such as scope and timeline.
What often makes proactive proposals stand out are extras such as an infographic showcasing the latest industry research, or you could include bios and headshots of your team to help your prospect see the face of your brand. Perhaps you could offer a featured case study to show that you are the type of company that will fit with their culture. Also, proactive proposals tend to be a little flashier, so create a customer-centric cover design that flows throughout the document.
3. Embrace automation.
Whether you’re on a proposal response team or you have other duties as part of a broader marketing or sales team, it’s likely that you don’t have the bandwidth to create proposals for every opportunity that crosses your desk, and you may not be able to refine and polish each one.
In addition to this, buyer expectations are at an all-time high. The Strategic Proposals study reports that 74% of buyers said they thoroughly read every proposal from cover to cover, so deliver a quality sales proposal.
Automation is key because the proposal process is a classic time drain for sales organizations and proposal teams. The most direct benefit of proposal software is to buy you more time. The use of proposal management software will reduce many of the manually intensive activities involved in creating proactive proposals.
Pulling together compelling proactive selling proposals can set you apart from the competition and engage more key decision makers. Finding ways to generate proactive proposals faster and with less effort as part of a strategic sales process can make a difference in outcomes. Ask yourself if your proposal development process is where it needs to be. If not, making improvements to allow consistent, efficient creation of proactive proposals should be a priority.
Ganesh Shankar, CEO and co-founder of RFPIO, strives to improve the RFP response approach with cloud-based automation technology that helps businesses increase close rates through quality responses and intelligent processes. An experienced product manager, Ganesh has successfully implemented software at Fortune 500 enterprises.