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  • Mercer Smith-Looper

6 Do’s and don’ts of writing a proposal

When you’re getting ready to close a deal, it can feel like you’ve already done most of the work. However, writing a proposal is just as important as the rest of the sales cycle. Here are six best practices to keep in mind.

After your sales team has put in a ton of work during the sales cycle, there’s likely lots of pressure for the sales proposal to perform equally well. Writing a proposal can be highly stressful for any salesperson, especially if the deal is significant. While the proposal may be the end of the cycle or just the beginning of another stage, it can make or break your deal. 

In this post, we offer a few do’s and don’ts to make writing a proposal a breeze. Additionally, throughout this post, we reference our free Proposal Look Book, filled with trending designs for more inspiration.

Writing a proposal: best practices

Your team likely already has some learnings around writing a proposal that they’ve gleaned from past clients. Take the insights from your specific industry, and combine them with these tried and true best practices to optimize your proposal writing.

Do speak to what the buyer has said

When writing a proposal, try to include the same language your prospect uses to talk about themselves. For instance, if your prospects used specific vocabulary around their needs or goals during the discovery call, you should reiterate those words within your proposal. Beyond that, be sure to include their name, department, information about their company, and anything else that you feel is relevant. People love reading and hearing about themselves and want to feel like you’ve listened to them. In fact, 46% of buyers agree that “active listening” is the number one skill they expect from sales professionals. Put all of that information that you’ve aggregated to work in your proposal.

A high level of personalization will also put you at an advantage over your competitors. Not only does it prove that you were listening to your buyer and understand their needs, but it also shows that you understand their problems from their perspective, rather than just superimposing your own. If you start your proposal right away with this level of customer focus, you’ll hook them right from the start.

Do use proposal templates

Writing your proposals from scratch every time your sales team needs to send them out is a waste of time. Similarly, copying and pasting the same content over and over is a surefire way to end up with errors in your sales collateral. Instead, consider using proposal software to create templates and content libraries, to streamline your proposal creation.

While templates provide a head start, before sending out your proposal, go through and customize it. This can mean doing as little as modifying the price points for the product you are proposing, or it can be as in-depth as using their specific KPIs, or inserting an ROI calculator to prove your product’s impact. Use the time that your team has saved in writing up a new proposal every time to customize the individual, specific pieces of the template. For even more time savings, integrate your proposal software with your CRM to create personalized documents with a single click.

Do create aesthetically-appealing documents

Your customers expect a beautiful, professional, impactful document when you send them a proposal. Give it to them! One of the benefits of proposal software is the ability to set fonts, brand colors, and design layouts to ensure that the information you’re providing stands out. We demonstrate what’s trending with 26 design ideas in our Proposal Look Book.

Further, 36% of buyers are influenced by the quality of your sales materials and a study by McKinsey shows design-driven companies outperform the competition consistently. The bottom line? The look of your proposal matters more than you may realize.

Writing a proposal: potential pitfalls

While there are many ways to write a beautiful, deal-winning proposal, there are also a number of ways that a proposal can fall flat. Here’s what to avoid to ensure that none of your prospects are ever disappointed when your sales collateral ends up in their inbox.

Don’t make it too complicated

While it can be tempting to try to pump your proposal full of helpful information and reasons why your prospect should buy, the longer it is, the less likely they are to read all of it. Rather than filling your proposal with paragraph after paragraph of text, consider breaking your points into digestible and easy-to-read sections. 

A few different ways to do this are:

  1. Use expandable accordions, to visually condense and organize information
  1. Use video
  1. Make copy eye-catching and skimmable 
  1. Break up paragraphs of copy with images

For more examples and ideas, view our Proposal Look Book or request a personal demo of Qwilr to discuss transforming your collateral.

As you create your proposal, remember that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text. Rather than assuming your prospect will read every word, create a document that is easy to skim and brings forth your key points. If you make your customers wade through a sea of words to understand your message, it will kill the deal and move your proposal to the bottom of the pack. Video, images, and gifs make for a much more exciting and compelling proposal.  

Most proposals, too, center around a narrative with a theme— engage your reader for best results, which is easy to do with web-based proposals. 

Don’t forget to proofread your materials

It sounds silly, but make sure you’re giving your materials a final read before sending them off. Grammatical errors and typos in sales proposals communicate sloppiness and a lack of attention to detail to your prospective customer. 

You should always proofread your collateral, both the copy and your numbers, to avoid embarrassing mistakes. It’s also horribly awkward if you accidentally pull outdated pricing— do you honor it or own up to your mistake? The good news is that proposal software integrated with your CRM can pull in pricing directly from your CRM, mitigating human typos. Additionally, by using a content library, you can ensure only current information is available to your reps and can also control whether or not they can edit that information. 

Should you discover a typo after you hit “send,” with web-based proposals, it’s not a problem. Since your proposal is a live web page (vs. an email attachment,) you just update your document and your prospective customer is never the wiser. They see only the current version, which has been corrected.

Don’t forget about mobile devices

Mobile’s share of web traffic has regularly increased over the past five years. Given that, the likelihood of someone viewing your proposal on a mobile device is relatively high. Don’t take a chance of your proposal looking anything less than stunning, no matter where it’s being read. If you have ever worked to create beautiful, compelling proposals as a PDF, you know if a prospect opens it on a mobile device, they’ll be frustrated and unimpressed. Proposal software like Qwilr makes it easy to create mobile-friendly documents, without any adjustments on your part. 

Remember your do’s and don’ts when writing a proposal

Writing a proposal can be stressful and time-consuming for any sales team member. With the help of proposal software, it can be made easier and more automated, but even so, remembering your do’s and don’t will ensure your proposal gets noticed and acted upon. 

Always have the buyer in mind as you write: use language that mirrors what they have used in conversations. Create templates, so reps aren’t recreating the wheel every time. Remember you can’t control where your prospect will view your proposal— make sure it can be easily read on mobile devices. Finally, design proposals that engage your reader, incorporating video, gifs, and visually appealing elements. The more focussed you are on your customers when writing your proposals, the better your outcome.

For more on how to create visually appealing sales proposals that engage and convert buyers, we invite you to book a demo and see how Qwilr can impact your sales success.

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