Proposal Acceptance Rates: How to Achieve an 18% Higher Win Rate

If you’re like most sales professionals, you probably feel a twinge of fear when it comes time to FedEx a proposal, or even email it.  

Man with Note Pad and Sale Concepts

Your fears are valid — national proposal acceptance rates for paper proposals are much lower than online proposals.

Online proposals have a whopping 18% higher win rate than their paper counterparts. Recent surveys also show that online proposals typically close in 18 days, whereas paper proposals take 29 days to close.

Here are 3 ways to boost your proposal acceptance rate, immediately. If you carry a $1.5M sales quota per year, following these three steps can mean the difference between being 15% under quota and 15% above quota.

1. Scrap the hard copies. The numbers simply don’t support it — paper proposals typically take nearly 50% longer to close and have a substantially lower win rate.

2. Use a “series of yeses”: I first learned about this proposal technique in Alan Weiss’s “Million Dollar Consulting” workshop. There’s no reason to give a customer a binary “yes or no” proposal that only offers one item at one price.

When you use a “series of yeses,” you give customers who reject your initial proposal (Option 2 or 3 below) a chance to choose (drumroll, please) Option 1. 

This typically happens when a hidden economic decision-maker on your customer’s team vetos the original option.

When you use a “series of yeses,” you can prevent sales professionals from losing a deal altogether, without sacrificing profitability.

Option 1: Lowest price, lowest ROI for customer

Option 2: Medium price, medium ROI for customer

Option 3: Higher price, highest ROI for customer

3. Stick to a firm 48- or 72-hour window: If you’re looking to suss out any hidden economic decision-makers on your proposals, this is the way to do it. It’s also a great way to find out if a customer is completely not ready for the proposal at all. Sales management may need to get involved if you’re planning to change the duration of how long your proposals are good for.

Here’s what to say to the customer over the phone or in-person. Don’t do this over email.

“Ms. Customer, our proposals are valid for 48 hours. Just to make sure that your decision-making team has enough time to discuss the proposal, would you like it to arrive on next Monday, next Friday, or one week from Monday?”

About half of the time, the customer will blithely reply, “Oh, well, next Monday won’t work because Rick won’t be in.”

At that point, you’ll realize you’ve missed a key economic decision-maker in the selling process. You’ll need to back-track and get this person’s input before moving forward with the proposal.

Two steps forward, one step back, indeed.

4. Use proposal analytics: Just like many sales professionals use inbox-analytics solutions like Yesware and Cirrus Insight, many smart sales professionals, including your competitors, have access to proposal analytics.

Proposal analytics will show you which pages of your proposal your prospective customer viewed, when, and for how long.

Proposal analytics can show you which piece of content led a customer to sign or help you understand why a deal didn’t close. You can even see which client-side decision-makers never even opened your proposal.

Whether you win or lose any given deal, proposal analytics can help you understand more about your clients and your own sales process.

Speaking of winning proposals … have you tried PandaDoc’s proposal analytics with Nimble yet? Why not get 3 free documents to start with (you can even get 3 more with a tweet). No credit card is required, and you’ll be up and running in minutes.