Who doesn't have making more money on their wish-list in 2013?
Unfortunately for freelancers, the self-employed, and small business, it's not as easy as barging into the bosses office and demanding a raise. We have to work hard for it.
What's it do? In short, the proposal management software helps you quickly create better pitches and track the results.
Proposals Aren't Sexy, But They Are a Time Sink
Think of the time it takes to cobble a proposal together. You get your bio together, outline the work you will do, prepare a price quote, and assemble the supporting materials like examples of videos that are most relevant to your potential client.
One problem with the process is that all of these documents are in different formats and they end up in a frankenemail with multiple attachments. What kind of impression is this? Who wants to open a proposal email with 5 attachments and various links to different websites? Wouldn't it be nice if you could package all of this up into one professional looking proposal and track whether someone has viewed it?
Well, that's basically what proposable management software will help you do. From here on in, I'm going to go into a bit more detail on how these tools work, and the benefits they offer.
Prepare Proposals Faster
One of the first challenges in writing a proposal is figuring out what it should look like. These tools take care of that by providing sample templates that can be customized with your logo, colours, and corporate branding. None of the software that I looked at had templates specifically geared towards video production, but there should be enough examples to inspire you.
You can also create boilerplate material for things like your bio, payment details and terms of service that are included in all of your proposals. These templates help you eliminate much of the drudge work and writing that is part and parcel of preparing proposals.
All of this helps you get your proposals done faster. According to Bidsketch, you can cut your proposal writing time down by 50%. While I'd take the numbers with a grain of salt, it would be hard to argue that there aren't significant efficiencies to be had.
Include Relevant Material in Your Production Pitch
When doing a pitch for video production, it's hard to email videos due to their size. As a result, many people send out a generic reel that showcases their storytelling abilities. A good reel can help, but you are better off sending examples of your work that is most relevant to your client's needs. You want to inspire them.
You can send a series of links to videos you have produced, but it can be tedious for your client to navigate. Besides, it lives outside of the sales pitch. Wouldn't it be better to integrate the videos into the body of the pitch and call out things that your client should pay attention to in each one. Yes, content and context should be in one place.
With all of these tools you can embed videos, photos, and other media that is relevant to the task at hand: winning the job.
Track Whether Your Client Has Viewed the Proposal
All the stuff above is great, but the rubber really hits the road with proposal analytics. You instantly know if your proposal has been viewed, how long your client (yes YOUR CLIENT) has spent looking at it, and what they have spent the most time looking at.
If the client who was hot to trot when you pitched the job hasn't viewed your proposal within a couple days of you sending it, you will know that you should follow up to make sure they received it. No more, conversations like "I've been waiting for that proposal for weeks, have you sent it yet". Likewise, it would be great to see that the potential client who looked bored and disinterested at your pitch meeting just had a great poker face and that they have pored over the entire pitch and watched all the videos. You might want to call this prospect sooner rather than later.
Basically, tracking what people are looking at and how long they have looked is a very helpful sales tool. You know their level of interest and potential things that are going to come up quickly the next time you speak. Why not head their concerns off at the pass? For example, if the client has spent an inordinate amount of time looking at the pricing details, they may be trying to figure out how they can rub two nickels together to make it work. In this case, when you call, you probably want to get right into talking about the value they would get from working with you. Quantify the return, and anchor the conversation on value rather than price.
As another example, if your client has spent all their time looking at the about us part of the proposal, they are really trying to gauge whether you have the credentials to pull of the job. You can then focus the sales call on other examples of jobs you have done, and testimonials that reinforce why you have what it takes to bring their story to life (thanks for this Paul).
Bottom line, the analytic tools included in these services can help you: focus attention on your hottest prospects; know when to send reminders; and know what's going to come up in your next call so that you can prepare.
Sign Off On the Job
Many of these tools also allow clients to sign off on your proposal with a legally binding electronic signature. In reality, I'm not sure how often clients would sign a contract this way. I see the benefits of using electronic signatures and getting rid of emails or faxes back and forth, but I think there is a challenge in terms of inertia and cultural change. How else to explain the fax machine.
These tools have entry level plans with everything that many freelancers and small production companies would need for $15-$20 per month. More expensive plans offer things like more customization, additional administrators, and the ability to send out more proposals.
I think the ROI of using these tools is quite high due to the time you can save. For $19 / month, if you can save a half hour or work (not to mention increase your chances of closing a deal because of your professional proposal) then you will have paid for the service. With the time saved, you can either take a well deserved break, or spend your time more productively elsewhere. These tools will also help prevent some of the procrastination that goes on with writing proposals. Put your hand up if you've ever put off writing a proposal that could earn you a significant amount of money because you were too busy working on other things.
The Client Experience
The client experience with these tools is pretty simple. They are sent a private link that they can click to login and view the proposal. If they are more comfortable with printed proposals, they can download a PDF version of the proposal. It's all quite clean and simple, so I don't think you have to worry about losing clients because you've introduced them to some horribly complex bid management software.
If you want to see an example of how the proposals look, Quote Roller has further information you can view online. Bidsketch will send you a sample if you enter your email address. I couldn't find a link to a sample from Proposable, but if you go to their site you can get a pretty good idea of what a proposal would look like. All of these tools have a free trial, so you can poke around and see what they look like for yourself.
Happy bidding! When you get more work this year don't forget who helped you :). Let me know if you have any other tools that have worked for you.