Octiv’s Kelsey Briggs On How To Improve Those Critical Documents

Collin Stewart, CEO

01 Feb 2018

Sales reps, regardless of their seniority or the product or service they sell, juggle many responsibilities as part of their day-to-day. Emails, calls, presentations, follow-up meetings, negotiations – there is no shortage of activities available to fill the day.

That said, as a sales rep marches his or her way towards closing a deal (without a doubt, their most important responsibility), there is one important stage no salesperson can avoid: producing, and sending, a proposal.

Sure, getting to the proposal stage is a positive – you’re one step closer to bringing in some revenue! – it can be a challenging, time consuming task.

Does your sales org keep track of the content needed for proposals, and make them available in a centralized place? If not, where is that critical content kept? And, are there any guidelines for how to best draft a proposal? What does a (hopefully) winning proposal look like?

All essential questions, to be sure.

And according to Kelsey Briggs, engagement manager at Octiv, an Indianapolis-based software company working to streamline document workflows such as proposals, many companies are struggling with these issues.

“The first mistake we often see is that people don’t have an established proposal process. Sales reps are often asking about what templates they should use, and where those templates are saved. Often, we are finding that those documents are just saved on sales reps’ desktops,” says Briggs, on a recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.

“When that is the case, we recommend companies use one master document for proposal templates, so everyone has the exact same terms and conditions and branding. We also suggest companies bring together a library so reps have content when they need it. You don’t want people just copying and pasting stuff from previous proposals. That content could be out of date.”

Why You Should Take Your Proposal Process Seriously

As mentioned above, proposals are a key component of any sales process. And, like any sales process, adds Briggs, there are likely efficiencies you can find in that process, if you take the time to audit it.

For instance, the faster you can turnaround a proposal, the better chance you have a closing the deal.

“The average seller takes 3 days to turnaround a proposal. But, the most efficient sells take less than a day,” says Briggs.

“That metric is pretty meaningful, we think, because 35-50% of sales go to the seller that responds the quickest.”

Once a proposal is submitted, how quickly a deal closes depends on the deal size. For deals less than $10,000, the time to close after delivering a proposal is 11 days. For deals between $10,000 and $50,000, deals close within 19 days, post-proposal. Finally, deals over $50 take 30 days to close.

Interestingly, most prospects (75%) agree that sales content such as proposals are extremely important is making buying decisions. But, in contrast, prospects spend only two minutes and fifteen seconds reviewing those proposals.

“So, content is really important, but they don’t spend a ton of time reviewing it,” says Briggs.

“So, we need to get in front of them and impress them.”

What To Include in a Sales Proposal

According to Briggs, proposals can (and should) vary from company to company, and from vertical to vertical. But, on the whole, proposals should contain some form of these six sections:

  1. Cover Letter: this page gets the most view time (almost 10X than any other page in the document). As such, it should be considered first page of the proposal. Briggs says don’t skimp on time, craft a message and put it on.
    Give your prospects something to take away from the cover letter – offer solutions / benefits, for instance. Finally, provide what you want the next step to be (call? Follow up meeting? Close?) and avoid putting any mention of price on this page.
  2. Why? (Alternate title – Why Should You Buy?). This page should focus only on why you are uniquely positioned in the marketplace.
  3. Case Studies / Testimonials: display your credibility and the results you’ve achieved with other customers. You can also provide a link to G2 Crowd as well, so you prospects can read reviews of your product.
  4. Pricing and Proposal Details: make this as straightforward as possible with full transparency into pricing / packages, says Briggs. If you need to add project scope or deliverable of timelines, include it on this page.
  5. Terms and Conditions: if proposals are a method to close deals, then include your terms and conditions.
  6. Closing Call to Action: what are the next steps you want? To sign? A final meeting? A meeting with other executives / team members? Be clear and put it in the proposal. If you want them to close, include e-signature option.

As for the length of the pages: the shorter the better, adds Briggs. And, the entire proposal should be about 5 pages long, as that length will force you to select only the best information.

Best Day to Send a Proposal

So, you’ve designed your proposal. And it’s killer. When should you send it, then, to make sure your first in line and you get every second of your prospect’s attention?

Sadly, there isn’t.

Briggs says she has yet to see any trend in proposal delivery days. That said, she has seen an uptick in prospect’s reviewing proposals on weekends or after hours. In those cases, the proposals are being read on tablets or mobile phones.

During office hours, however, proposals are overwhelmingly being consumed on desktops.

“When is the best time? The sooner the better,” says Briggs.

“The best time to send a proposal is when your customer is ready for it.”

For more on Brigg’s best practices on sales proposals, check out her recent edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast.