Proposals have always played a pivotal role in the sales process, but today they are more important than ever. Although in-person meetings have resumed to some degree, buyers are still craving—and expecting—a digital sales experience. As a result, your sales proposals—typically delivered digitally via email, accessed by the prospect via a shared drive, or viewed through the company website or client portal—carry the heavy responsibility of serving as the face of the company and generating the results previously delivered by sales reps through in-person meetings.
In Sales and Marketing Management, Jennifer Tomlinson and Olivia Hardy divulge the most essential strategies and tips for understanding how to write a sales proposal—and not just any sales proposal, one that delivers the same impact as in-person presentations by speaking directly to the buyer's unique challenges, needs, and goals.
If you’re wondering how to write a sales proposal that resonates with prospects and wins business, begin by focusing on the essentials. These basics form the backbone of your sales proposal and, if neglected, can seriously undermine your sales efforts.
Follow these 7 essential tips when creating a sales proposal and you'll have the foundation for a proposal that’ll set your company apart from the competition:
- Always begin with an Executive Summary.
The Executive Summary gives the buyer a concise overview of who your company is and, most importantly, how your solution can solve their problem. This succinct synopsis draws the reader in and sets the stage for the rest of your proposal as you expand on the ideas introduced in the Executive Summary.
- Include a list of clear objectives and quantifiable goals.
Buyers want to know that you're on the same page as they are—that you understand their business, their industry, and what challenges they’re trying to overcome to reach their goals. You need to be clear about how your solution can help prospects fulfill their objectives and how you will measure results.
- Describe the ROI customers can expect from working with your company.
Purchase decisions for large projects can consume a sizeable portion of a company’s annual budget. Understandably, buyers want to know that their investment will yield measurable results. You need to translate your services into tangible value for the customer.
Will your solution help your prospect do more with less—and by how much? Will they be able to cut operational expenses by 20% or double their annual revenue? Be as specific as possible about what results they can expect.
- Emphasize how your company is committed to supporting its customers over the long haul.
Prospects want to know you’re invested in their success. They need reassuring that you’ll be there to service their needs through deployment, onboarding, and beyond. Share details of your customer support and service offerings and reinforce your commitment to building a long-term relationship with the prospect.
- Introduce the team who will be invested in the client's success.
As every sales professional knows, relationships are the foundation of successful deals. Buyers want to know who they will be working with on a day-to-day basis on the implementation and who will be providing customer support and service down the road.
Explain each team member's role and describe his or her professional background and previous project experience. Consider including team members’ photos and embedding links to LinkedIn profiles to enable prospects to learn more about each person if they wish.
- Devote a section of your proposal to case studies and client testimonials.
Social proof is invaluable for showcasing the capabilities of your team and solution. Highlight success stories of customers who have reaped big results from partnering with your company. Use plenty of stats and data whenever possible.
- Conclude the proposal with sections dedicated to pricing and your terms and conditions.
While price is not the sole determinant for purchase decisions, you need to make sure your pricing and terms and conditions are presented clearly and accurately.
In addition to these seven essential tips for creating a winning proposal, apply the following best practices to help prospects engage more effectively with your proposal and simplify the decision-making process.
Establish common ground
Sales proposals should be personalized and clearly reflect that you understand the prospect's business environment. Summarize how your offering will help them achieve their specific goals. If your proposal fits into their thought process, you'll have a far greater chance of getting them to sign on the dotted line.
Do your homework before writing the proposal. Research happenings within the prospect's business and industry. Don't hesitate to ask insiders for advice: if you are fortunate enough to have a champion, leverage that relationship to find out what matters most to the people who will evaluate your proposal. What are their hot-button issues? What are the potential showstoppers? Once you've pinpointed the prospect's top challenges and goals, weave this insight into the opening sections of your sales proposal.
Another useful way of adding a personalized touch is to mimic your prospect's branding. By creating a sales proposal that tastefully adopts their color scheme, style, and tone throughout, you will subtly reinforce that your company is the ideal fit for the project and that it shares similar values to their brand.
Make it as easy as possible
Most likely, your prospects will evaluate multiple proposals and won't have the time to dive into every single detail you provide. Instead, they will skim your proposal to gather the most important and compelling information. With that in mind, you should aim to make their life as easy as possible.
Your sales proposal should be succinct, and your language should be direct and conversational. Avoid the use of confusing legalese and jargon, as this will cause the prospect's eyes to glaze over. Include callouts and pull quotes to emphasize differentiators and key benefits; use graphics to illustrate concepts. If you see that a section is becoming too wordy, break it up into smaller sections with subheadings. And, in your table of contents, include links that let the reader easily jump to different sections of the proposal.
Your goal should be to create the most crisp, attractive, and user-friendly proposal of the bunch. If it makes your prospect's life easier, they will assume your product or service will do the same for their company.
There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to creating an effective sales proposal. However, there are some best practices you can follow to shorten sales cycles and improve win rates. Cut the fluff, do your research, and focus on what matters the most: your customer's needs and goals.
Let templates guide you
Proposal templates are your new best friends. They simplify the proposal writing process by offering you a customizable content framework upon which you can quickly build your sales proposals, while tailoring them for each prospect’s unique needs.
Templates encourage repeatability and efficiency, saving you valuable time and money and enabling you to spend your time where it drives the greatest return. Plus, templates ensure you present a consistent brand across all of your sales documents.
Check out the QorusDocs Template Hub for access to a variety of templates, including various proposal options, Request for Proposal (RFP), Statement of Work (SOW), Request for Quote (RFQ), and Security Questionnaire documents.
If you’d like to learn more about how to write a sales proposal or what makes a proposal shine, QorusDoc’s resource library is chock-a-block with helpful resources and tools—from the Ultimate Guide to Mastering RFPs and Sales Proposals and helpful tip sheets like 5 Ways Proposal Management Fuels Sales to our APMP-sponsored webinar that reveals the secrets to creating winning sales proposals.