What proposal automation software does (and doesn’t)

There’s no silver bullet in sales. Proposal automation software can do a lot to help, including:

But your CPQ (configure, price, quote) solution’s on-board tech can only take you so far.

Everyone knows sales is about relationships; what everyone forgets is that most sales relationships don’t start with a handshake or include a three-martini lunch. Most sales relationships start with an email, and include another email, a phone call or two, and then a quote.

How do you make the most out of every customer contact when you’re often just another email in the inbox, another message light blinking, another sales quote to be reviewed alongside a dozen others? The key is customized communications.

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Deliver the data

“Dear friend…” If you’re like us, any email sales pitch that opens like that finds a short path from the inbox to the dustbin. It’s the furthest thing from a customized communication. It says right out of the gate that you don’t know who you’re talking to.

Whenever possible, start your pitch with data relevant to your prospect — and this approach extends into every proposal you send, too.

For example, suppose you’re creating security software proposals. Instead of “Dear _____,” try opening with, “According to a report delivered at Infosecurity Europe, a great majority of mobile apps in banking and retail — 83% — have a mobile backend (web services and APIs) that is susceptible to a security breach.”

A custom communication with prospect-specific data will grab attention far more than a tired “Dear friend” every day of the week.

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Build your brand — and reflect theirs

Custom communication goes both ways, and here’s where your proposal automation software can get involved.

Ensure you have templates in your CPQ solution that reflect the vertical markets you target. E.g., if you’re in the candle shop supplies business, your templates can be ornate, canary yellow, and loaded with eye-catching, Bob-Ross approved imagery. If you’re in the enterprise software business, a template like that would make you a laughing stock.

Your sales proposal templates should also reflect your brand, which can be presented in everything from the kinds of fonts used to infographics to boilerplate.

If you’re like most sales organizations, the ability to create diverse, eye-catching, consistently on-brand templates is not within your skill set. And that’s ok. Because this is where you hire the pros.

Kick down a few hundred dollars and pay a designer for some custom templates, a couple for each vertical you serve.  You don’t need to go to an agency, even. Typically, you can find these folks through job boards like craigslist

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“Prospecting — find the man with the problem.”  

Ben Friedman

Naturally, your proposal automation software can’t help you much until it’s time to build, send, and track your quotes. And your sales pitch — the thing that gets you to the point when it’s time to send a quote — won’t matter if there are no prospects ready and willing to hear it.

Think about how you’re filling the top of the funnel: events? ads? networking? However you’re prospecting, make it as targeted as the quotes you send.

If you’re a California-based security company, don’t go on Google and spend a gazillion dollars on “security” keywords; target locally, “CA home security provider.” And make your keywords “long-tail,” because the more specific you are (which usually means lengthy in the keyword world), the less you pay per click, and the more targeted your audience will be.

Same goes for prospecting via events. Don’t go big unless you have to. Regional trade shows typically result in more actionable leads than the national ones (as the latter can have a lot of looky-loos and vacationers in attendance).

Remember: there’s no silver bullet in sales, no magic tech that ensures you close every deal. But if your communication is customized — in look, feel, and content — and your prospecting approach is localized, you’ll already be a step ahead when it’s time to send that quote.