How to think outside the fishbowl in proposal templates, and how an online sales proposal tool helps make it happen.
What is CPQ? It’s a software platform that provides a better way of getting the right sales quote to the right customer at the right time
When you’re trying to design the perfect sales quote, chances are you begin like many of the rest of us sales people do: “let’s see what Google has to say about it.”
What you’ll find is that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of companies offering hundreds, if not thousands, of free quote templates. And if you download one, you’ll also find that you get what you pay for. (To be blunt, most of these proposal templates are not worth the kilobytes they consume, the digital version of “not worth the paper they’re printed on.”)
Proposal automation software makes these kinds of searches completely unnecessary as it can come complete with pre-configured sales quote templates that have all the elements in place, and — more importantly — are YOUR templates reflecting and building your brand, while you properly set customer expectations.
Here are three simple ways to improve sales quote design and efficacy by using proposal automation software.
Targeted from top to bottom
There’s a phrase marketers use when dreaming up campaigns to sell a product or service: make sure the party matches the invite.
If what you’re selling is IT security services, for example, you’re not going to send an overly colorful sales proposal with copy in it about “realizing your dreams.” Your sales quote is going to be simple and straightforward. Colors: maybe one or two (ideally, that reflect what you have in your logo). Words: nothing but the facts. We’re talking about security, so be direct.
Ensuring that your sales quotes are “invites that match the party” is far easier if you’re using a proposal automation software solution pre-populated with vertically targeted and on-brand templates. Not only can the software help you create better proposals and a better customer experience, but it can improve the speed with which you create and send proposals.
Centralized product & pricing configuration
Let’s keep that “party/invite” idea rolling: most every party you go to is, in some way, preconfigured: e.g., birthday parties have cakes and goodie bags and you bring gifts; NYE parties have booze, and lots of it.
The party that you’re hosting is your products and services; the invite is your proposal. Most proposal automation software is built on a product and pricing configuration engine that lets any rep — regardless of how well they may know your product line — populate every proposal with the ideal products and pricing for both the customer’s needs and your bottom line.
These configurations, and reps’ permissions, are centrally administered, which means you have control over what any given rep puts into any given proposal. You can also tie certain proposal templates to certain product and pricing configurations, thereby always ensuring “party” and “invite” are a match.
In sales, things change, and fast. Sometimes, Joe Salesguy in location X will be in the middle of creating a proposal selling Widget A at the lowest possible price. But earlier that day, Steve Salesperson in location B did a very similar proposal finding that Widget A could be sold for higher margins as part of a bundle.
With a sales quote automation solution, you can in effect, make a mid-stream adjustment to a proposal, adjust its pricing on the fly and always be certain you’re getting the best possible margins on all your products.
Too often, products and pricing and the sales analytics tools we use to further and better understand a sale are discussed retroactively: “If only we’d known the customer would have paid 20% more, we would have offered the bundle in Joe’s proposal.” But with proposal automation software as part of your sales quote process, you can make changes in real-time to improve both closing rates and returns.
So make sure your party is all it can be (targeted, optimized products and pricing) and that your invites (targeted, optimized, and branded sale proposals) both capture customers’ attention and let them know what they can expect when they reply “Yes.”
A successful sales proposal has many moving parts: there are the products and pricing, of course, but there are also elements such as timing, being able to demonstrate a complete understanding of the problem your prospect is trying to solve, proposal design, and so much more.
While some of the preceding are solved by a sales rep’s expertise and experience (and good ol’ communication!), many of the steps in your sales proposal process may be improved by intelligent application of price quote software.
In this article, we’ll explore a few ways you can optimize your overall sales proposal process by using the full set of features found in best-in-class sales proposal automation software.
Formatting your proposal
The best sales proposal formats are those that are “customer-first.” You’ll see some old-school approaches out there, recommending you lead off with a lengthy “About us” section, where you detail how long your company has been in business making widgets. WRONG.
Imagine your prospect needs CPR. You don’t start off by telling them, “Well, I was CPR-certified in 2010 by the Red Cross. Since that time, I have successfully given CPR to…” NO. Just give them what they need — a solution to their problem.
Format your proposals so they start with a problem/solution approach, always. And if you’re worried some reps might do otherwise, price quote software can help. Simply ensure the only proposal templates in your system have this customer-first formatting. I.e., don’t give reps the options to go it alone.
Pricing and product configurations
Business moves fast, which means products come and go and pricing changes at an often-breakneck pace — sometimes, in pursuit of the deal, reps will take it on themselves to offer discounts and unique product configurations to get a quote signed.
While “doing whatever it takes to make the customer happy” is an admirable pursuit, it can be a nightmare on the fulfillment side, as your product and finance teams have to scramble to deliver on every rep’s wild promises.
However, if you’re using configure, price, quote (CPQ) software, your pricing and product configurations are centrally administered, which means you need not worry about reps offering deeper discounts on the fly, for example.
You can ensure the only products and prices that can be added to any sales proposal are ones you have vetted. You can even set approved discount levels for each individual rep, giving them appropriate and approved “wiggle room” to use in their pitches.
Report and repeat
Perhaps one of the most powerful ways price quote software can impact your overall sales proposal process is by enabling a repeatable process. This goes beyond a template that can be reused and into being able to repeat and improve upon every client interaction between the time a quote is sent and the time it’s signed.
In most every CPQ system, you’ll find sales analytics and quote tracking tools that give you data about both the efficacy of each proposal and the overall process itself. What proposal template do customers typically respond to? What “nudge” emails work best to drive a signature? What is rep A doing well that you can share with reps B, C, and D?
It’s like that platitude about learning from the past, but in the case of your sales proposal process, and real-time reporting, you can learn from the present, too (e.g., a perfectly timed and written email that helped drive a customer signature can be added to another quote in progress).
You can improve your sales proposal process without price quote software, of course, but it requires a lot of hands-on attention. Leave the hands-on work to where it can’t be automated (your discovery process, meetings, etc.) and leave the rest to business tech like CPQ.