Ask Me Anything: Professional Proposals AMA - 11 to 18 June 2021 - live each day.

Contributor | Gold Partner

Hi, my name is Pete Nicholls CF APMP, HubSpot Certified Trainer, member of the Professional Pricing Society (PPC) and Proposal Certified by the APMP  and host of The Proposal.Works™ Podcast where proposal experts share real stories of how they win.


To my knowledge, I am still the only certified business proposal specialist in the HubSpot Partner Community.

My company HubDo is a HubSpot Partner since 2015 (Reviews are here)

Please also connect with me on LinkedIn


With 23 years in Sales and Business Development, my focus on business proposals stems from “really disliking” doing proposals 🙂 until I learned how professionals write proposals. Now I quite enjoy them. I created the Proposal.Works™ Grid which is a proposal platform powered by PandaDoc, supporting hundreds of companies to create proposals integrated with HubSpot.


Our Proposal.Works™ Grid generates thousands of agreement per month, so I get to see and help with hundreds of proposals across many industries and sales scenarios. Unfortunately, most proposals that I see are fundamentally not very good. They are written by talented, passionate people, who simply never learned how professionals write businesses proposals. This means that you do not have to be remarkably better to stand out with a great proposal, you only need to 5% better, to be the 100% best proposal that the customer sees.


Welcome to "ask me anything" about how professionals write proposals and the overall sales process, especially those proposals integrated and automated with HubSpot CRM.


This “Professional Proposals AMA” runs from Friday 11 June to Friday 18 June 2021.


I’ll be monitoring regularly for questions and will be online each day for 30 minutes at 8 am, Pacific, 10 am Central, 11 am Eastern, 4 pm UK and 5 pm Europe


If you are not sure what to ask, here are some ideas:

  • What do professional proposal writers do, that others don’t?
  • How do most people do proposals well, in HubSpot?
  • How and what can I automate in HubSpot to handle proposals?
  • When should I use HubSpot Quotes versus 3rd party proposal tools?
  • When should proposals have an executive summary?
  • Why do professionals focus on discriminators more than differentiators?
  • How do you write a proposal for both the economic buyer and line manager?
  • How do you write an executive summary?
  • Can proposal software really save time? How much is typical?
  • Why do professionals use a content library? What should it contain?
  • When is the right time to submit a proactive proposal?
  • How can I sell value in a proposal?
  • What is Value-based Pricing?
  • And anything else that comes to mind about how to write proposals that win.
9 Replies 9
Community Manager

Thank you for hosting this AMA @HubDoPete! 🙂


Hey  @AdamLPW @Josh @karstenkoehler @UDas @jgoodwyn @EbarakHossain @FBuguet @CMayer @DBritt @GeorgeThomas @Edyta7510 @BriMackey @mikekrkljus @KHollinger @NManning I want to bring to your attention this AMA, I think you would be interested to ask any question related to Sales Strategy, sales process, especially those proposals integrated and automated with HubSpot CRM.!


Thank you


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Community Manager

@HubDoPete ,

Can I cheat and ask you to answer all of the questions you offered?  They are really good questions!

And because you have been in the trenches for a very long time, I am curious on

A:  what you consider to be the bedrock components.  The things that don't change with time.

B:  what has changed with time.  I imagine that over the last 20years, there has to have been quite an evolution of what a proposal is, how it is delivered and how it is perceived by the potential customer.


Lasty and unrelated, how are you enjoying the podcast world 😀  I poke around in that area, too. 



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Contributor | Gold Partner

Thanks @dennisedson 🙂 

For your A/B questions:

(A) Bedrock Components that do not change:

  • Consider the different readers of the proposal.
  • The Economic Buyer who has ultimate approval, wants to see outcomes and be assure that the proposer can deliver those outcomes. 
  • Outcomes are often not represented very well, as proposals often focus on deliverables. 
  • Deliverables are important to those who report to the Economic Buyer.
  • So a Bedrock Component is to consider each of those who will read the proposal and to cater to each.

(B) What "has" changed in 20 years: is a reduction in trust, better-informed buyers and an increased need for customer focus.

  • Current proposal writers need the sales process to uncover customer hot buttons, so the proposal can address those hot buttons within the "win theme".
  • Each hot button is met in the proposal with customer benefits, ideally the value of those benefits, and then differentiated deliverable features which deliver those benefits.
  • Boilerplate-text sticks out like a sore thumb because of email spam. Always use boilerplate only as a starting point.
  • Things that anybody can claim without validation, like "world-class", are just fluff and are best left out.
  • So to address reduced trust, each combination of hot buttons, valuable benefits and deliverable features, is backed up by independently verifiable proof. If there is no proof to back up a claim, then consider leaving it out, or if it is an important hot button consider addressing it another way.

I hope that helps!

Asking all the questions... haha that might take me a while 🙂

Are there one or two example questions that stand out for you, so I can answer in context for you?




Community Manager

Thanks for the answer!

These 2 questions standout to me (again, they are all good)

What do professional proposal writers do, that others don’t?

When is the right time to submit a proactive proposal?



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where we feature our Community driven developer podcast and how to content
Contributor | Gold Partner

Hi @dennisedson , thanks for coming back to me on some key questions.


What do professional proposal writers do, that others don’t? 


Here are some key differences I see when often comparing proposals with those prepared by a proposal specialist or team:

  • Pros use proposal software to... Save Time and Respond Fast; Look Professional; Send Track and Manage (they don't email a PDF 🙂 an streamline the process.
  • Pros expect the sales team to know the top hot button wants & needs for the opportunity (and cold buttons perceived barriers) to develop win themes.
  • Pros focus on the Sweet Spot crossover between hot buttons and the differentiated value that the company offers, these become "Discriminators"
  • Pros back up each positioning statement with Independent Verifiable proof, or consider leaving it out.
  • Overall Pro-proposals talk much more about the customer, their goals, objectives, outcomes and focus on value, with proof of ability to deliver that value - whereas other proposals often talk a lot about the bidder, use boilerplate copy, make unsubstantiated claims like "world-class" and "innovative", focus on deiverables and leave the customer to determine how relevant any testimonials or case studies are to their specific goals challenges and objectives.

When is the right time to submit a proactive proposal?

  • Firstly the sales process has established peer-level agreement on goals, outcome and value, agreed on a recommended approach, and established price options.
  • Method of approval has also been established including who signs as the economic buyer to approve the agreement. Objections are already dealt with.
  • That is the perfect time to codify this agreement right away in a proposal, with no surprises, to represent what has been agreed in principle.
  • The proposal contains several price options starting with the highest value package, so that downward price negotiation is already built-in with trade-offs at each level.

Naturally each situation can be different and present its own challenges, but these are some of the general best practices, especially for pro-active proposals.

I hope that helps Dennis!



Hi @HubDoPete 


Thank you for hosting this AMA, I think this topic is really interesting. 


What would be the first steps to take into consideration to start with a good proposal? Would you say investing in proposal software will make my team save time? and when would you recommend using quotes? 


Thank you for your time




Contributor | Gold Partner

Thanks @Rosita44 I hope some of the tips shared here will help!


First steps for a good proposal:

  • I like to challenge each business owner to tell me the top seven reasons their clients decide on them. Many struggle to answer that, so discovering those hot buttons across all existing good-fit clients is a good place to start.
  • For your proposal, make sure you are clear on this client's priority hot buttons. Their wants and needs (especially wants) and why they matter.
  • Each priority customer hot button that aligns to a differentiated benefit from your organisation, is a potential "discriminator" in your favour.
  • Decide on one of more "win themes" that tie your discriminator to their want or need, and weave it cohesively through the proposal.

Investing in proposal software typically does save time. Most companies that we support, report time savings of 5 to 20 hour per month.

By valuing your time, the saving alone might be enough of a payback to give you a strong return on investment for the software.

Other benefits that proposal software users tell me about are professionalism (look the part); ease of getting sign off & payment; and a streamlined sales process.

Proposal software usually includes a content library, which is a perfect repository for drop-in discriminators with benefits, features and independent verifiable proof.


HubSpot quotes are great if the client's decision is made and they just need the price confirmation to place the order. If however, you are supporting the case for a transformation (before vs after) for the client, then a proposal is a stronger framework to present that investment for their transformation.


I hope that helps, let me know how you go!





Top Contributor

Hi Pete, I appreciate you're having the time to host this event.


All the questions that have been answered make so much sense, I think this is so valuable. I'm wondering how and what can I automate in HubSpot to handle proposals? what strategy would you recommend? 


thank you in advance

Contributor | Gold Partner

Thanks @Rubee !


HubSpot makes it simple to create and send a quote, and you have the ability to add some custom text.

HubSpot is also developing an enhanced version of quotes, with a template like you would use with HubSpot Emails.

That extra flexibility will allow you to send a more extended quote as a proposal. It is still a manual step though, for the sales team to do.


A popular way that we set up proposal automation in situations where it suits very well, such as a private school application, is to:

  1. Integrate PandaDoc with HubSpot
  2. Create PandaDoc templates to suit each type of customer (I recommend segmenting by customer needs)
  3. Use Zapier to trigger when a deal reaches a certain stage, like "Proposal Stage", to automatically create, customise and send a proposal
  4. PandaDoc can then handle the automated reminders to the recipient to sign it off before it expires
  5. Then when the document is signed and/or paid, have Zapier detect that, update HubSpot and move the deal to the next deal stage
  6. At that point, HubSpot automation can take over any next steps for activating that client's service.

We usually create the working system as proof of concept and if it meets the objectives then the system can take care of itself 24x7, which gives you that sweet feeling of "automation Zen" 🙂

I hope that helps!