Business proposals are one of the key parts of a modern sales process.
Unfortunately, unlike the other parts of the sales process, they’re not nearly as fun to do and getting them right takes patience and hard work.
At Better Proposals, we analyze all the proposals sent through our system every year and we use it create the best tips on how to write, format and send your proposal. This year, our research is based on almost 190,000 signed proposals.
Here are our key findings for 2019.
Use proposal management software #1
The reason why proposals get a bad rap is that they’re not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do.
You have to take several hours of your time, sit down and stare at a screen, hoping you’ll write up an offer the client can’t refuse. The solution is to spend less time writing and more time focusing on the offer, which you can do by using proposal management software.
Here are some of the reasons why you should opt for software instead of writing manually:
- The look. You can use beautiful templates and never worry about making a Word file look pretty again. A great piece of proposal software will have standard templates for different industries, such as marketing, design, web development, etc.
- The integrations. Hook up your CRM with your proposal software and you can create business proposals much more quickly. Our research showed that connecting your CRM with your proposal software makes you write proposals 86% faster.
- The payment. You can get paid directly through the proposal itself by using software instead of manually sending out invoices.
- The optimization. Documents look different across devices. When you use proposal software, your proposals are optimized for mobile, tablets and any device you can imagine.
Ultimately, it’s much faster and more convenient to use software because you’ll spend less time writing and more time focusing on your ideal offer.
You absolutely need to be mobile friendly #2
With every year, the number of proposals opened on mobile devices increases. In fact, our recent research reveals that 34% of all sent proposals first get opened on some type of mobile device, whether it’s a phone or tablet.
That’s not to say that desktop is lagging – it’s still in the lead with 41.4%.
In the future, it will be of utmost importance to have a proposal that looks great on mobile devices, besides having a great offer.
If you send your proposals in document formats such as .doc or .pdf, they will get stretched and look different on each device they’re opened. If you want to ensure your proposals are optimized across devices, make sure they are web-based instead of document-based.
The most important sections of the proposal #3
How long should my proposal be?
That’s akin to asking how long a piece of thread is. It depends on your industry, the client, the product/service you’re selling and much more.
However, our research has shown that the best performing proposals are 8 pages long and contain 6 sections. Anything more than that and you risk boring the reader while having fewer pages means they won’t take you too seriously.
While the structure of the proposal will vary from case to case, there are two sections that are a must for every proposal, regardless of the industry: the introduction and the pricing.
The introduction is by far the most important part of the proposal, where you show how you can solve the client’s problem.
On average, clients spend 34.6% of the total time on the introduction. The second most important section is, of course, the pricing, where clients spend 27.1% of their time.
Absolutely no printing #4
While doing research on hundreds of thousands of proposals, we’ve come across a few things that affect conversions. The most surprising one was that if a proposal gets printed, it is 78% less likely to get signed.
There is no scientific explanation for this phenomenon. However, it’s possible that once a proposal is printed, it goes around a room full of people who need to make a decision, which lowers the chances of it being signed.
In other words, make sure your proposals are web-based and as difficult to print as possible.
No choices = no problems #5
Traditional marketing logic says that if you present an offer, it’s also a good idea to provide several choices. After all, if you can offer an upsell and sell more, why not take the chance? It turns out, this rule doesn’t apply to proposals.
If you only give clients one choice in your proposal, it’s much more likely to get signed. In fact, it will allow you to sell at 20.6% higher when selling upfront and 33% higher when selling with a monthly fee.
Of course, you need to make sure your offer is irresistible since the client only has one choice.
Don’t take your time – send the proposal immediately #6
If you wanted to take a few days from your initial call to the time you send out a proposal because you didn’t want to appear desperate, you were wrong. Turns out that you need to send the proposal immediately for best results.
Our research data says that sending out your proposal within 24 hours from the initial call will increase your chances of conversion by 14%.
More interestingly, sending the proposal quickly also means it will get signed quickly. If you send within 24 hours from talking to the client, the proposal will get signed in an average of 6 days. If you send within 3-4 days, the time to sign doubles to almost 12 days.
Remember, you won’t appear desperate – send your proposals as early as possible.
Many parts of the sales process have been automated in 2019 and proposals have been slow to catch up. By using proposal software and applying some of the tips mentioned here, your proposals will not only look great but also convert well.
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--- AUTHOR’S BIO ---
Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals, simple proposal software for creating beautiful, high-impact proposals in minutes. Having helped his customers at Better Proposals win $120,000,000+ in one year only, he has launched the first Proposal Writing University where he shares business proposal best practices.