By Mikita Mikado

Today’s small and medium-sized businesses face major challenges – not the least of which is crowded, noisy markets. When Google announced their new mobile search algorithm just a few weeks ago, many small businesses went into a panic, knowing that revenues and profitability live and die by search rankings.

These days, breaking through the clutter – and ultimately securing customer interest and sales – comes down to personalization and service.

Below, we discuss how sales documentation can most effectively be used to raise an SMB’s voice above the din, engage prospects and drive sales.

Owning the Sales Lifecycle

From initial CRM entry to sales close, you want to deliver customized content that educates potential buyers about the value you offer and motivates them to purchase your products and services. Materials you can share to differentiate your brand include:

  • Product presentation
  • Price charts
  • Case studies
  • Competitor comparison
  • Customer testimonials
  • Legal information

The smartest salespeople often consolidate all relevant information into a single document — the sales proposal. This drives the buyer’s journey and helps to shorten the sales cycle by providing prospects with all of the information they need to make an educated purchase. It also helps avoid leaving customers to their own devices. Instead, make sure you are deeply involved with clients as they progress through the different stages of the sales lifecycle.

Therefore, salespeople — those on the front lines with prospects — should have direct access to marketing materials that help advance their cause. Use a collaborative marketing-sales folder or a shared content library, otherwise 90% of marketing collateral will remain unused.

Identifying and Influencing Prospects’ Thoughts

According to Lori Wizdo at market research firm Forrester, “today’s buyers might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out for a sales person.”

Shoppers are savvier than ever. The Internet makes it easy for empowered consumers to quickly discover information online through vendor websites, Quora, Wikipedia, and dozens of other places. In some cases, the information they find may paint an unfavorable picture of your brand. Although potential customers may also read articles and reviews that speak highly of your products and services, do not leave anything to chance.

Spend time interacting with sales prospects to identify their needs and understand their thought processes. Gauge their interest and confirm the problems they want to solve. Then, present your pitch and an initial sales proposal. Most importantly, remember that their actions speak louder than their words.

Leverage document analytics to track when your proposal was opened and discover which sections a customer cared about the most. Knowing those things, you are able to tailor future conversations, follow-ups and proposals to effectively address buyers’ unique concerns and demonstrate how well your offerings complement their business.

Streamlining the Contract Generation and Closing Processes

For busy sales teams, business templates simplify the creation, customization and delivery of critical sales collateral. With standardized copy, sales representatives never have to worry about producing new documents from scratch. This enables salespeople to focus on what they are good at — selling. In minutes (not hours), sales reps are able to share personalized contracts with clients in a quick and timely fashion, keeping warm leads engaged and reducing unnecessary lag time in the sales process.

When building templates for sales materials, actively involve marketing (to provide brand-safe copy), sales (to insert client-specific data), accounting (to manage pricing and quotes), and legal (to ensure contracts are fair and foolproof). Provide each department with their own permissions to access and edit specific sections in each template. Once the templates are finalized, lock the ability to edit the branding, legal and pricing sections to guarantee that documents built from those templates are accurate, consistent and compliant with company policies.

Of course, strong documentation alone does not guarantee a sale. But it may prompt buyers to take action. At the end of each sales proposal, include a strong call-to-action in addition to tools that help the buyer close the deal for you. Three important elements are:

  • A paperless contract
  • An eSignature option
  • An instant payment solution

Make it easy for clients to review your proposal with their team, sign on the dotted line and issue payment.

Smart sales documentation will help you cater to customers’ needs and win more deals, faster. To capture and convert clients, you need to empower your sales team with the right content. That way, your sales reps can impress buyers, increase their close rates and shorten the sales cycle.

How do you cut through the noise and make your brand stand out in a crowded market? Let us know in the comments.


Mikita Mikado is a software engineer and entrepreneur from Belarus, now based in San Francisco. He is the co-­founder and CEO of PandaDoc. His passions are business process automation and surfing. Follow him on Twitter @mikitamikado.