There was a moment that my life was changed.
Around 2011 or so, Kevin Flauhut sent me a document to sign. He’d signed his portion. We were agreeing to do more business.
I’ve left EchoSign behind because it was more concerned with signature authentication than presentation & memorialization.
In the meantime, I’ve everything that I know of. I’ve sold $250,000 or more in services using Echosign, PandaDoc & Proposable. So these are the ones I have experience with both as a business…and in general.
PandaDoc vs. Proposable Vs. Proposify
I’ve just switched (for now) to Proposify. My friend Chris Lema recommended it because I groused online about how ugly the PandaDocs were when you printed. Total disaster. A customer had printed one, scanned it and then sent it over to me and it was humiliatingly ugly.
I’m recommending (by a hair) Proposify for almost all circumstances. They have a product lead. I have worked with 200+ product CEOs and I had the most negative reaction I’ve ever had to ordinary feedback. He’ll have to develop restraint in order to lead Proposify to the next level.
In any case, the criteria I used were:
- Pipeline & Followup: Can we see what we have in the pipeline? Can we easily follow up?
- Pricing Tables: Can we make flexible, beautiful pricing tables?
- Completions: Is it designed to get actual signatures?
- Printability: Can you print it, and will it look good?
- Flexibility: Can you put your own variables in the proposal? Does it make it easy to present things YOUR way?
- Stability: Is the front end clean, or does it respond unpredictably?
- Support: Is the support responsive and courteous?
I’m picking a 3 point system There can be a tie (as in: Proposify and Proposable both have excellent support), but we’re trying to pick a winner and a loser. While this is heavily influenced by Chris Lema, I had to pick a way to rate.
Think “golf score”. The lower the better.
3rd Place: Panda Doc (Review Follows).
I left Proposable for PandaDoc in March or April of 2015.
I was getting increasingly frustrated with Proposify’s lack of an ‘optional item’ button and that caused more-than-necessary friction in our proposal process. Having someone “check or uncheck” a box is more elegant (by far) than redoing the doc and hoping for a signature. Panda Doc had some elegance around pricing tables. (Note: Proposable has since fixed this issue, so it’s now possible to have optional items.)
PandaDoc had an elegance and robustness around creating docs. It was quite simple to create something and the drag-and-drop interface made sense.
The Drawbacks: PandaDoc lacks an automated follow up system. I know that EchoSign’s automated follow up has created gross revenue of $20,000++. PandaDoc had didn’t have the hyperlinks that others have (we got a poor answer from their support team). You can control delivery with Proposable & Proposify by generating a link and sending it in your own email. That amount of control feels better, and you can circumvent the (truly ugly) emails they send by default. Not so with PandaDoc, and when I asked their support, they said something not accurate and probably disingenuous about signature authentication.
PandaDoc support, in general was slow. I had a few issues, related to documents acting strangely. I would “send” something and it would give me “r fields” errors intermittently with different proposal templates. Generally, we’d rebuild the proposal and that would then go way. Support was not particularly curious as to why this may have been happening, and somewhat dismissive.
The numbers for PandaDoc
- Pipeline & Followup: 3 of 3. Third Place. There is no pipeline, just a rudimentary dashboard. This doesn’t tell us much info, as all of the others had dollars in their dashboards, and a closing percentage. You can extrapolate, but this isn’t perfect.
- Pricing Tables: 1 place Tie With Proposify. The only tie in the review, you have a lot you can do with pricing tables, options and qualities.
- Completions: Is it designed to get actual signatures? 3: There was a lot of weight around the PandaDoc branding. There is no “whitelabel” feel to it. This obviously distracts customers and salespeople have to have conversations about PandaDoc, instead of “sending a link.” The lack of a URL is a huge, fundamental defect in the product and I don’t recommend it.
- Printability: Can you print it, and will it look good? 3. This was so ugly that in a boxing round it would be scored 10-7. There were really awful choices made all around.
- Flexibility: Can you put your own variables in the proposal? (2) their tags were elegantly handled and it’s hard to make a mistake.
- Stability: Is the front end clean, or does it respond unpredictably? (2) This was buggy around some template building.
- Support: Is the support responsive and courteous? (2) Yes. They were generally available within a day, and would start conversations with a search term.
Overall I liked my time on PandaDoc. It is fine, and probably not worth moving off of if you’re on there. They have a solid product, and I am only reviewing the best 3 proposal engines.
Total Score: 16/21 (lower scores are better)
Second Place: Proposable (Review Follows)
I don’t want to cop out. Proposable is an excellent choice in a crowded field. I love their ethos, I’ve loved interacting with Gabe and his group. I would recommend investing in them. I believe in them and their mission and culture. But there are things that are a little wonky.
Specifically, the app feels “laggy.” Even now.
The front end is behind the back end and so you wind up in a “bold/unbold, bold/unbold cycle sometimes, and that’s true – to an extent- with all browser based front end aps, but I “felt it” more with Proposable than the others. This may be “just on my machine” but I don’t have the same problems as often with PandaDoc or Proposify.
The best thing about Proposable is their amazing – amazing – support. I am probably a little harder on support than I might be (go figure). I know from my own experience with a product I built how your queue can beat you up. They were always right there patient to the last. From onboarding to candor and honesty, I was very impressed (and sad to go).
Why I left? I left because of the “optional pricing” checkboxes. I lost a deal that was “in the bag” because I had to resubmit a proposal. He changed his mind, rather than unchecked a box. No, that didn’t cause the deal to go, but that was the last straw. I couldn’t express my sales values in the proposal engine. (This has since been fixed).
He moved on, and never got a video made. We wound up selling the inventory, of course, but that particular deal (which I wanted) was lost, so I left Proposable. Since then they’ve made tables possible, and I think they did just about 60 days after my exit.
Their pipeline feature was nifty. They manage the pipeline about how I would. Not exactly, but close enough.
The score for Proposable:
- Pipeline & Followup: 2 A hair behind Proposify. Almost a tie, but they have a little better data organization p
- Pricing Tables: 3. Even though they’ve improved they are behind Proposify & PandaDoc.
- Completions: 2/3 The follow up that Proposify does is a little better.
- Printability: 2/3. Not bad, but not the best.
- Flexibility: 1/3 I really loved the SMS notifications added to the mix. It was always great to get a text that a deal was done. This is close because the $50/month plan on Proposify has nice account sharing features.
- Stability: (3) I had issues around accounts expiring and some general unpredictability. Proposable
- Support: 1. Gabe’s got the patience of Job. He’s a huge advocate for his product and mission and yet, he teaches and works hard.
Total: 14/21 (lower scores are better).
This company is interesting. They’re making great software.
Their CEO was overzealous defending his team with me over 2-3 complaints nested in a bunch of praise. That was uncomfortable for me, as the proposal engine is an important and intimate relationship. I get that you defend your team, but man, if someone says “I love Baskin Robins, but they should just stop selling Mint Chocolate Chip…” you can just choose to take the feedback and move on.
On my same Twitter Feed I had this in (more) public view:
— Chris Johnson (@genuinechris) January 20, 2016
Still believe it. Because it has the whole package: urls, Printing, price flexibility, signatures. Hopefully we just have a small sample size and caught Kyle on a bad day.
- Pipeline & Followup: 1st place. They have a dashboard that just kills it.
- Pricing Tables: 1st place tie. PandaDoc has a better way of dealing with categories, but Proposify has more predictable typographical controls.
- Completions: 1 URLS, automatic follow up, the rest of it. (EchoSign does a fairly good job with this too, but lacks URLs).
- Printability 1: The best. By a wide margin. People still print and pass proposals around.
- Flexibility: 2/3: Not the best, they need some more business logic to
- Support: 3. Had an unpleasant interaction when the CEO was overzealous about defending his team. This left me feeling less comfortable trusting the platform.
What’s Special About Proposify:
- Design-friendly layout. Looks good and easy to make look good.
- Pricing looks sharp, and it’s clean
- They have good layout options and do smart things.
- Default copy for proposals is well thought out.
Overall – including the ding for support – we put Proposify at 10 total points – a solid lead over Proposable, and leaving PandaDoc in the dust. I can see the business use cases for all three engines, with PandaDoc a great place for people selling a lot of catalog items as an optoin.
Still, this space is tempting. I’ve thought a lot about what a proposal should do, and there’s still time for some new provider to enter the space and win.
What They All Need (Feature requests for Proposable, Proposify & PandaDoc)
Like I said, someone will have a billion dollar outcome in this space. It’s going to be the one that has the most elegance and execution.
Nested Agreements: Having change orders be part of an initial agreement, and having them be able to modify existing agreements.
Smarter Printing: Have a checkbox “include this section by default on printed proposals.” That would allow us not to print videos, for example.
TypeKit Support: Google Docs is the Hydrox of fonts. Get us our Oreos.
A self service engine: I’d love to be able to create a link to a proposal, have clients fill out some info and then get back to me with it.
Counter Offer Engine: There’s haggle risk. We have clients use the comments section and hit “accepted with changes”. We can minimize this risk wi
Payments via square/stripe: Going right to a payment page would be very handy.
Scheduled proposals: Being able to work overnight but send the next morning (or at an optimum time) would make life better. They have the automation in follow up, so why not have the automation available otherwise.
(Why do they all start with “P”?)
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