September 22, 2021

Sending proposals the 2021 way: 4 major trends & tips

Howdy! 👋 Times are changing, and so is the world around us. Most folks have ditched taxi services for Uber, DVD rentals for Netflix and CDs for Spotify. The digital revolution affected businesses as well, forever changing basic concepts such as support, marketing and sales. Let's take a quick look at current proposal standards.  

1. Hoard data

The startup culture and IT companies constantly underline that you need data to win. Ads are now customized per users, so why wouldn't your proposals be?

In general. there are a few types of data used for making proposals, bids and quotes:

  • Mass data of external origin (industry reports, competitors)
  • Mass data of internal origin (all your past and current projects)
  • Scoped data of internal origin (your history with a given project type/customer)

A good proposal is much more than a good price with some profit for you - it's an answer to the customers needs and preferences. You should always gather all available data and digest it heavily before creating any proposals and happily sending them away.

pile of garbage
"Why, yes, I will definitely find all this customer's ideas in our 150 e-mail threads from the last 5 years"

As an example: I used to work on a big project used by most of Fortune500 companies worldwide. We had many competitors and weren't cheaper than them. As for features, let's be honest: sometimes we were better indeed, but other times not. How we have gained most of big corps from around the world was actual, heavy research and a lot of data gathering - both telemetry and asking for feedback. In the end it turned out that for that specific industry and product price and features were important, but not crucial - support was. The better and more quantitative it got (reply times, guarantees of fix, time of fix releases), the more deals were closed. In the end we dominated the market in less than 2 years, leaving competitors in the dust. 

It's absolutely critical to know not just if your proposals are accepted/rejected, but also WHY. Most websites have HotJar or similar services embedded to track how customers look, scroll and click at each pixel. Ideally, you want the same for your proposals and business documents.

Customer session recording is a major feature of our tool, Apropo. Think HotJar for Sales.

Even if you're operating on a small scale, treat data like guns: it's better to have it just in case and not use it, rather than need some and not have any at hand.

2. Polish to hell

The market is getting more and more crowded, especially for IT and tech companies. Competitors pop up every single day. Ravi Parikh recently made a great summary of a startuper's point of view and also underlined the change in sheer scale.

Less and less customers will be coming on their own. Less and less still will accept mediocre processes. Sending an e-mail with some ballpark Excel estimate attached and hoping for the best is usually not enough anymore.

You need processes in place - when and how do you ask for feedback of proposals? Is it an e-mail after 3 days, a call next day? What if the customer does not answer?

land surveying
"The customer's office is 1 degree off! They will take 0.567 more seconds to pick up the phone."

Most companies have the sales process broken down into extremely small chunks, and proposals are but a part of the process. Furthermore, the proposal itself is also divided into sub-steps, each with assigned analytics, monitoring and best practices attached.

I highly recommend really drilling into what exactly is proposal making in your case and then taking a deep, long look at every step. As an example:

  1. Gathering customer needs and preferences
  2. Market & competitor research
  3. Breaking down what the customer needs into modules and tasks
  4. Team estimation
  5. Time & costs
  6. When and how to deliver the proposal
  7. Gathering feedback
  8. Negotiations & proposal updates
  9. Closing the deal and signing a contract

That's 9 steps for one of the simplest models possible. As you might have already noticed, each of these creates additional questions, and none of them are easy.

Map and think your process through, aiming for excellence at every single step.

3. Make sales work with marketing

I have seen this way too many times by now: companies with full marketing automation solutions in place, focusing on conversions and looking 4 times at every penny spent on ads. Then the sales team takes over, and it's basically a black hole of information: some random dude will get the customer...or not. Depends on his mood.

Modern marketing operates on the principle of MQL - Marketing Qualified Leads. Despite scoring systems, sophisticated AI and many data points you really can't tell if a lead is Qualified or not without feedback from sales. Validation is needed, otherwise you end up in the dreaded situation where marketing whines at sales ("we delivered 50 leads and they closed none!") and sales hates marketing ("they deliver crap leads!").

How cooperation between sales and marketing usually looks. Definitely.

For small teams, having a single daily stand-up/call of both sales and marketing is very beneficial. In larger organizations, you will need some sort of a ticketing system, CRM or other tool that will allow (properly trimmed down in terms of permissions) access to sales data for marketing people as well.

Veteran salespeople are usually a treasure chest - they know what works and have the best gut feeling. Imagine how successful your ad campaigns would be if the texts & multimedia were optimized based on that.


4. Automate to scale

The first and foremost goal of any company is to stay alive and generate revenue. Once you achieve this, you need to scale in order to grow further.

With more and more competitors and hard access to good experts (the market salaries are going crazy and offers appear all the time), you need automation to help with the burden of processing large quantities of customers. Automating support with chat systems, ticketing solutions and bots is already widespread, so why not automate sales as well?

A robotic citrus squeezer with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is not sales automation, despite being awesome

Ideally you want to spend the least amount of time possible on creating proposals and still maximize conversions. The best way to achieve this is to cut down on specialist input. What I mean here is: salespeople are great at their own job, which is sales. They don't always have full knowledge on the product, though. This is especially common in IT companies, where sales usually does not code and often needs to validate their estimates with developers.

Developer hours are CRAZY precious and expensive, and if they are busy you have to choose: lose working hours on getting more customers, or make estimation much longer (and less effective) to deal with current tasks. Both choices are terrible.

This is why Apropo strives to provide automatic estimates based on market and your past projects' data. We wish to help you by making your specialists validate ready-made proposals, instead of slowly creating them together with sales. The end goal is to save time & money so you can process more leads and potential customers, with no loss on quality or your team's morale.

apropo online proposal automation tool. Why not try it, eh?

If this sounds good, check out . A 14-day free trial will tell you if the tool helps, and we guarantee satisfaction.  In case you encounter any questions or problems, feel free to comment or shoot me a message at

Stay tuned for the next time 👋

Michael Grubka
CEO at Apropo

Professional Salesman and Negotiator. 7 years of experience in IT sales with more than 70 deals closed and 500 estimates done. Co-owner of award-winning software development company.

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