Category: Sales Closing


How to Identify and Fix A Sales Bottleneck

Sales is a critical function – without it, your company wouldn’t bring in revenue. While every member of your staff carries out an essential function, none of them would have jobs if your sales team isn’t closing deals.

Knowing how important your salespeople are, you’ve put a great deal of effort, time, and money into hiring the best and training them. You’ve even put time into crafting your sales process, ensuring that customers are guided gently and intentionally through their journey — a journey that leads them directly to signing on the dotted line.

Yet lately, something has been off. Your salespeople aren’t closing the number of deals you expect. The leads for potential customers start out great, yet they aren’t making it through the sales process. You can’t help but feel frustrated with your team. They’re obviously doing something wrong, something that is jeopardizing your company’s ability to grow and thrive.

Or are they?

Sure, your salespeople may have areas they can improve upon, but there’s an equally good chance that your company is experiencing a sales bottleneck.

Whether you’re new to business or a seasoned manager or salesperson, you’ve probably experienced a sales bottleneck. Just like a bottleneck during rush-hour traffic, a sales bottleneck is a part of the selling process that slows down the flow and has the potential to bring your sales to a screeching halt.

This situation can be caused by two different issues. Either there is a problem with your sales process itself, or your salespeople are not carrying out that process correctly. Either one of these will cause the same issue — slow or no sales.

If most of your sales team is crushing their goals, except for one salesperson who appears to be floundering, the issue is probably with that individual. However, if there is something wrong with the sales process itself, you’ll see the impact across your entire sales team. Some may be affected more, but all will see signs of slowing.

When you see signs of slowing that aren’t related to seasonality or other justifiable factors, you need to identify the bottleneck quickly and take steps to fix it before the situation becomes worse.

How To Fix a Sales Bottleneck

There are a number of issues that can cause a sales bottleneck, however before you can fix a bottleneck you must be able to correctly identify it.

Let’s go through some general guidelines for fixing a bottleneck, then we’ll take a look at a few of the common sales bottlenecks and provide some tips for how to correct them.

In order to correct a sales bottleneck, you must:

1. Understand how your sales process works.

While you may not have consciously created this process when you began selling, it may have developed over time without your input. If you are familiar with the steps a customer goes through when purchasing your product, write them down.

If you are not familiar with these steps, ask one of your reps to role-play with you and take you through the process step-by-step. Write everything down to review after.

2. Review the process as it currently functions.

Now that you’ve got your process down on paper, do a quick review for any issues that jump out right away. Sometimes, the problems are so obvious, you’ll be surprised you didn’t see them sooner.

3. Get input from your reps.

Your sales reps are working in your sales process day in and day out. Ask them to identify how far they get into a sale before they hit a roadblock or it falls apart completely. Make note if they are all experiencing issues at the same step.

4. Ask your customers for feedback.

Talk to your existing customers, and if you have access to a potential customer that chose not to buy, check in with them too. Find out what was difficult for them and what encouraged them to buy anyway or walk away.

7. Create a plan.

Gather your data and create a plan. The solution may be obvious depending on the issue, or it may take a little bit of trial and error to fix. Reevaluate after every few sales attempts until your sales process is running like a well-oiled machine.

Types of Sales Bottlenecks

Now, let’s take a look at some common bottlenecks and how they can be fixed.

1. Too much time spent on non money-making activities.

Do your salespeople have other (non-sales related) responsibilities that take time away from what they are there to do? Or are they required to keep redundant logs or run reports that could be handled more expeditiously or by someone else?

Consider re-thinking your sales enablement approach to streamline tedious tasks for your reps, and free them up to focus on money-making activities.

2. Too many steps (and hands) in the sales process.

Does your sales process make it difficult for your customers to buy? Perhaps they have to jump through hoops or the deal must pass through multiple hands (whose entire focus may not be closing deals) before it can be finalized.

Examine your process for unnecessary steps and consider a trial run of removing a few that appear unnecessary. If possible, empower your salespeople to handle more steps on their own so others don’t need to be involved.

3. Complex pricing structures.

Quoting (or understanding) a deal should not require a degree in rocket science. If there are too many factors that play into a proposal, your salespeople will be frustrated and your potential customer will be tired of waiting.

Consider simplifying your pricing structure so proposals can go out quickly and are easy for your customers to understand.

4. Not utilizing technology properly.

Businesses today have so much technology at their fingertips. From CRMs to collaboration tools, there’s no excuse for time wasted using old methods of data collection or communication.

If you have multiple systems that don’t work well together or require endless integrations that are always breaking, it could be a good time to streamline the systems your team uses.

5. Approval delays.

Your salespeople may be doing everything in their power to facilitate a deal. However, if there’s another department involved (perhaps one whose compensation does not depend on their output), your sales process may hit a wall when it reaches them.

You may want to consider motivating that department with bonuses or eliminating that step for deals below a certain amount.

6. Lack of post-sale communication.

Just because money has been exchanged, doesn’t mean the sales process is over. If you handle follow-up correctly, It’s much easier to get an existing customer to buy more or buy again than it is to attract a new customer.

Make sure customers are being contacted after the sale has closed. This may include thank you cards, automated emails, survey requests, or a follow-up call a few weeks later to see how they are enjoying your product. Without this, you may be creating a bottleneck to your next sale.

How To Prevent a Sales Bottleneck

Like anything in life and business, prevention is the best medicine. If you can prevent a sales bottleneck before it starts, you’ll lose less time and money than if you have to fix one already in play.

Here are some ways you can prevent a sales bottleneck:

  • Take the time to craft your sales process and your sales funnel, rather than letting it happen organically.
  • Prequalify leads so the wrong “potential customers” don’t end up in your funnel.
  • Keep your list clean by removing inactive leads who show no promise of becoming customers.
  • Avoid creating redundant steps by streamlining your process whenever possible.
  • Provide your sales team with support in the form of systems and proper training.
  • Utilize technology whenever possible to maintain your leads, communicate with your team, and follow up once the sale is complete.
  • Investigate an issue the moment it occurs instead of chalking it up to something else or assuming it will fix itself.

While sales bottlenecks are painful at the moment, they present the opportunity to revitalize your sales process, identify ways you can coach your salespeople, and improve your business in the long run. For advice on refining your sales process, check out this post.


10 Sales Proposal Templates to Automate the Closing Process

You’re at the final stretch, and the prospect you’ve been talking to for the past month and a half is nearly ready to pull out their wallet. They just want a final proposal that lays out the terms and conditions of working together, how much the agreement will cost, and what services they should expect from your company.

No problem — until you create the proposal document, that is.

You just need to pull up a previous proposal. Make a copy of it. Replace all mentions of the old company with the new company. Update the document with all the custom details of the project. Update the cost of the project. Replace your coworker’s name with yours. Then quadruple-check it before sending it out.

Perfect, that only took two hours.

Thirty minutes after you send it, you realize that you forgot to update one sentence with the new client’s company name. Crap. What if that silly mistake costs you the deal?

Let’s hope the client still closes.

In reality, that entire process of creating a proposal can be streamlined and mistakes like the one above can be avoided.

Sales teams at HubSpot and our customers have used templates to create proposals, accelerating the way they transact and close deals. Here are several of the most popular proposal templates our customers use, as well as a couple of templates we created for you right here at HubSpot.

Sales Proposal Templates

1. Marketing Proposal

Selling marketing services can be tough. On one hand, you have to put forward a strategy that will generate revenue for the client. On the other hand, there’s a lot of implementation and deliverable work to execute that strategy. If you don’t set clear expectations and start the relationship out in alignment, the relationship could go sour before the performance starts to speak for itself.

When you have a marketing prospect that’s about to close, this template provides a loose outline of what to include in a final proposal including:

  • An executive summary
  • Situation analysis
  • Proposed marketing strategy
  • Goals
  • Implementation plan
  • Costs and conditions

2. Sponsorship Proposal

sponsorship proposal template from pandadoc

If you’re hosting events, it’s likely that you’ll want to get sponsors to help cover the costs of the event and generate revenue. This template is especially helpful if it’s your first time hosting the event or getting sponsors. (I wish I had this when I was hosting events.)

It includes all the aspects of sponsorship for you to think about, including:

  • Number of attendees (and percentage of attendees that are the sponsor’s ideal client)
  • The keynote speakers that are booked, which help convey the prestige of the event
  • Examples of a three-tier sponsorship structure, giving the sponsor options
  • Terms and conditions of the sponsorship

Note: A great thing about these templates is they provide in-line tips to make sure you’re optimizing for a solid proposal.

3. Website Design Proposal

If you’ve ever sold web design services and coordinated with the client while the services are being rendered, you know all too well about scope creep. A five-page design can easily turn into twenty-five pages as the client gets inspired… along with endless revisions. That’s why it’s important to have all your project specs laid out right from the start.

This template will help you lay out all the expectations of your agency and of your client to make sure that communication is clear on both sides. It includes: 

  • The responsibilities of the design firm (such as number of pages, etc.)
  • The responsibilities of the client with regard to providing necessary and timely input
  • How hosting will be arranged for the website

4. Public Relations Proposal Template

Hired to handle public relations for a company? Here’s a public relations proposal template to help you finalize the details of the agreement. This template will help you suggest a PR plan for an entire company or for the promotion of a specific product, service, event, or brand. It includes: 

  • Analysis of current consumer attitudes toward the brand
  • How competitors are currently performing
  • What the brand’s weaknesses are in terms of public relations
  • What goals are being set

5. Bid Proposal

bid proposal template from hubspot

Do you need to hire contractors for your project? This bid proposal template will present the project to these contractors and solicit responses. It will help you outline parameters such as: 

  • Timeline
  • Budget
  • Deliverable schedule
  • Payment schedule

The template can be used in one of two ways. You can either send the bid proposal to several contractors, review the responses to the bid, and select one contractor to work with. Or, the proposal could be sent to one contractor, requesting their best offer.

6. Real Estate Proposal Template

With real estate becoming a more popular source of side income, more people are learning what goes into an agreement. This is a simple agreement for Realtors out there to use when closing a deal.

Real estate has a lot of moving parts, so this template covers: 

  • Total purchase price
  • Closing date
  • Contingencies
  • Escrow and closing fees

7. Software Development Proposal Template

software development proposal template from pandadoc

Since it can get very technical, software development agreements can be tricky. This template outlines all the things to consider when discussing a software development project including: 

  • A project overview
  • Expected obstacles
  • Risks
  • Reporting milestones
  • Testing
  • Documentation
  • Support

8. Sales Proposal Template

general sales proposal template from pandadoc

This simple template is appropriate for service-based businesses that need a simple, general way to lay out:

  • Scope of work
  • Proposed solution
  • Terms

I’ve learned from personal experience that it’s easy to end up doing more work than proposed if these details aren’t in writing. This template is flexible enough to customize to your unique situation and won’t overwhelm you with too much legalese.

For clients that you’re working with on an ad hoc basis rather than a project basis, you can use the consulting agreement template instead.

9. Construction Proposal Template

Construction is another one of those industries where projects get complicated and costly fast. You need an easy way to breakdown costs of material and labor as well as spell out what happens in the event of project delay or complication. This template includes construction-specific considerations such as: 

  • Scope
  • Schedule
  • Permits
  • Logistics
  • Unforseeable conditions
  • Warranty
  • Arbitration

10. Consulting Proposal

consulting proposal template from hubspot

Let’s say you’re an expert in your field, and you have advice to share with other professionals. But, how do you win contracts with new customers? This consulting proposal template will help you pitch your solution to potential clients. Plus, it will demonstrate your credibility and present the price of your work.

It includes:

  • Objectives
  • Approach
  • Schedule
  • Investment terms

When you have a process down for the repetitive aspects of your business, you can improve efficiency and focus on the tasks that you’d rather devote your attention to. Customize these templates and close deals quicker without ever writing proposals from scratch again. 

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.


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