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Four things you need to include in your sales proposals

One of my favorite TV shows is Shark Tank. If you’re not familiar, the basic premise of the show is entrepreneurs pitch their business, or idea, to “sharks” (high-profile investors) in hopes of getting funded. Essentially, they’re performing a live sales proposal. 

There are plenty of things that go wrong during these pitches. Sometimes they’re disorganized, or they have low sales. Sometimes a shark likes their product, but doesn’t think it fits with their current business interests. Sometimes the product just flat out isn’t impressive. 

However, if you watch enough episodes, one thing becomes very clear: how well the entrepreneur presents their product, or business, matters. Even those with great products and large amounts of sales can blow it with a poor presentation. 

Each time you send out a sales proposal, you’re pitching your business, and its services.. Though your prospects might not be “sharks,” just like on Shark Tank, how well you present your case makes all the difference. Sharks, prospects, and anyone really, will respond with confidence when you present with confidence.

To pitch your best, it helps to have a plan. Perhaps the most important part of your plan is being deliberate about what you include in your sales proposal.

What you should include in your proposal

Though each proposal has its own nuances and differences based on your business, product, customer base, and personal style, there are some key components to any solid proposal: who you are, how you can help, why you’re the best choice, and services and pricing

Who you are

When meeting a potential customer in person, you don’t dive straight into your sales pitch. You probably introduce yourself and give some background on what exactly you and your company do. That’s how we communicate in real life, so why not treat your digital communications the same way? 

We’re all human — getting to know you and hearing some background on your business helps create a personal connection. It makes your proposal feel less like a pitch and more like a conversation, and underscore important details upfront that can help set the tone and set you apart. 

Open with a little background on your company. You don’t have to give the entire story, but share a few important pieces like how long you’ve been in business, general services you offer, and any areas of specialty you may have. 

For example, you might mention that your company makes help desk software and that you focus mainly on small to medium sized companies. Also, if you work a lot within a certain industry, feel free to share that too.  

Pro tip: Try to make sure this section isn’t too long. Research shows that during a sales call it’s best to keep the explanation of your business to two minutes or less. In written form, that means you should keep it to 500 words or less. 

How you can help

If someone’s hiring you, they’re doing it because they have a problem that needs solving. Laying out what that problem is and how you can help solve it is crucial. It’s also important that you be as specific as possible in this section. 

For example, let’s say you make inventory software and are sending a sales proposal to a new restaurant to help with back-of-house operations. The problem is that they need help tracking and optimizing their inventory. 

With that in mind, you could talk about how your software has predictive capabilities to help estimate weekly orders. Or, maybe there’s a feature to automatically update inventory each time there’s an order. Both those items are specific and can help give them a sharper picture of the value they’ll get.

Pro tip: Make sure you’re framing all the ways you can help by also describing the outcome of that effort. If you talk about the predictive inventory capabilities, mention how much time on average it saves other customers. For example, you might say, “most current customers have a 50% reduction in overall ordering time.”   

Why you’re the best choice

Did you know that a business with a 4 to 4.5 star rating online earns roughly 28% more revenue than one with a 3 to 3.5 star rating? It all comes down to social proof. 

Social proof is the idea that if other people say something’s good, we believe them. You saying that you’re the best is far less effective than letting other people say it for you. In fact, one study found buyers need on average 40 reviews to believe a business’s star rating is accurate. 

Be sure to include customer testimonials, case studies, or details about the outcomes of your work with other customers. Don’t be afraid to add more than one, or to add these in multiple places in your proposal, and definitely include one right before your final ask.

Pro tip: Use social proof from other customers in the same industry and role as the one you’re pitching. The more similar, the better, so your prospect can very clearly see how your solution would fit their specific needs. 

Services and pricing

Every prospect has different needs and may not want all the products or services you offer. However, it can still be helpful to present them with some different options in your proposal

That way, they can choose what they want, creating an empowering experience for them and a potential upsell for you. In addition, they may have other needs over time — this is a great opportunity to educate them early on your full portfolio of offerings. 

Pro tip: Research shows that you shouldn’t talk about pricing in the first third of a sales call, so leave it for later. That way, you can focus on establishing value first.

Conclusion

Making a great proposal may seem intimidating. It takes time and energy and can be tough if you don’t know where to begin. But whether it’s on Shark Tank or in sales, presentation matters. 

Putting the time and care into your proposals will help you look your best, establish value, and show your prospects that you’re serious about their business. As you invest in your sales experience, you’ll reap the returns — as more prospects choose to invest in you.

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