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  • Linda Pophal

How to write a proposal that wins more business

A good sales proposal contains certain standard elements— most salespeople are already familiar with the common components. Here, though, we provide an outline of the type of content to include in your proposals to boost the likelihood of making a sale and improve your closed/won ratio.

How many times do you typically have to interact with a prospect before making a sale? 

If you’re like most salespeople, the answer is eight times! Eight touchpoints represent the sweet spot for turning a prospect into a customer.

You aren’t, of course, the only salesperson the prospect is probably talking to. Multiply your conversations by four, five, or more other sellers, and a lot of potential clutter begins to emerge.

Your goal: break through that clutter in a way that sets you favorably apart from other competitors and leads to a sale. So how can you create a sales proposal that stands out and leads to a buying decision?

Here we take a look at how to write a proposal that looks good, reads well, is easy to distribute, and incorporates automation to streamline the process of getting to a “yes.”

Elements of a winning sales proposal

A good sales proposal contains certain standard elements— most salespeople are already familiar with the common components. Here, though, we provide an outline of the type of content to include in your proposals to boost the likelihood of making a sale and improve your closed/won ratio.

Introduction: tell buyers who you are

People don’t buy from people they don’t know. You want to put yourself, your company, and your product or service forward in a positive way to prospects by first letting them know who you are. 

You can do that with words, of course, and proposals have traditionally been primarily text. But why stick to tradition? Today’s video technology offers an opportunity for you to introduce yourself in a more compelling way. In fact, 93% of marketers say video is an important element of their marketing strategy. Savvy salespeople say the same! These days it’s not necessary to produce a high-end video with expensive and lengthy production timelines. Tools like Loom provide a very user-friendly, cost-effective solution. Pick a nice background with minimal visual (and audio!) noise, and you’ll end up with a great-looking video produced in minutes.

In your video, introduce yourself plus your company. You don’t need to get into excruciating historical detail—just hit the high points: what do you offer, what do you specialize in, how do you stand out from others who provide similar solutions? Your video introduction is also an opportunity to personalize the information you present to match your prospects’ needs and interests.

For example, if your customer is in a large, multinational organization, mention that you work primarily with this type of organization or within their industry—you get the picture. The goal is to clearly convey how your company and what you offer perfectly fit your prospect.

Don’t get carried away, though. Sales experts tell us that your “all about us” part of the proposal should be brief—two minutes or less in person (or video) or about 500 words in writing. Common marketing wisdom applies here, too. You don’t want to make it all about “me, me, me”—you want to make it all about your prospect and their needs. 

Problem statement: targeting the pain point

Why do people buy anything? To solve some need, to make something better—to target a pain point.

Your sales proposal should identify the problem that your product or service is designed to address. Again, focus on the prospect’s specific needs—even repeating back to them the pain points that they’ve shared with you in your discovery calls and conversations. 

Prospects aren’t interested in being sold to—they’ve come to you to help them find valid and valuable solutions to their problems. Our 2021 SaaS Buyer Experience Study supports this point. The ability to clearly state a prospect’s problem demonstrates that you understand them and their needs. They’re not just “another prospect”—they’re an individual with a specific problem that you can uniquely help them address.

Keep in mind that research indicates only 13% of buyers feel salespeople understand their needs. What better way for you to stand out from those other salespeople! Always include a problem statement.

Values: present your purpose

Why do you do what you do? Both you, and your organization? What’s your passion? What’s your purpose? Your passion and drive may resonate with your prospects.

As Simon Sinek, a well-known author and speaker, tells us, buyers don’t buy what we do; they buy why we do it. Sharing your “why” helps build emotional connections and helps prospects understand more about you and your organization. 

Don’t make the mistake, though, that this is about your mission statement. It’s not. It’s just a few sentences, in your own words, that convey your passion for your product and what it can do for your prospect.

We live in a very values-driven society. Research suggests that the vast majority of consumers—71%— like to buy from companies that share their values. For millennials, that percentage is even higher—83%. 

Share your “why” to make the kind of emotional connection that builds trust in you and your solution.

The body: communicate your benefits…specifically

“We’re the best.” “We stand head and shoulders above the competition.” “We offer superior performance.” Although all too common, broad, general statements have little-to-no meaning to prospects who are considering what you have to offer. 

Buyers want details. They want to know, specifically, how your product can meet their needs—  their needs. While your company likely has boilerplate copy that explains product features and benefits, avoid the urge to use generic text.

Instead, think about what you’ve learned about your buyer’s needs and values, and personalize the details of what you have to offer to make a real impact. Skip the boilerplate. Avoid the fluff. Be real. Be relevant. (Enough said!)

Price: tackling the topic of investment

Price is a fact of the sales process. Budget is often top of mind for prospects, and the first question they may ask: “How much does it cost?” Research suggests that 60% of buyers want to talk about price during their first conversation with you. Yet almost half of potential deals are lost based on budget considerations or concerns. Clearly, you need to present pricing with finesse. 

While you may not present an exact price in your discovery call, what you can and should provide is a relative price range. Remember that neither you nor your prospect wants to waste time in discussions only to learn that there was a significant mismatch between your price and their budget. 

That said, you also don’t want to introduce the price topic too soon. Studies suggest that you shouldn’t venture into pricing discussions during the first third of a sales call—the same holds true for your sales proposal. Instead, pricing should appear after you’ve conveyed what you’ve learned about your prospect’s needs and the value that your product offers relative to those needs. 

Another interesting consideration related to pricing, especially for more complex products and services, is that buyers like to control package features and the price they pay. Our 2021 Buyer Experience Study shows that about two-thirds of buyers prefer to see how different features or options would affect pricing. What if they were to add on optional features? Or added more users? 

Configurable pricing is often misunderstood. Great sales proposals allow buyers the option and the ability to consider different pricing scenarios, and with proposal software like Qwilr, it’s easy to include in your sales proposal. Configurable pricing empowers your buyer to right-size the package to their specific needs and budget, and saves time vs. traditional back-and-forth pricing negotiations. 

Configurable pricing can also be a tremendous competitive advantage that really makes you and your organization stand out. Request a Qwilr demo to see configurable pricing in action. 

Validation: what other people say about your product

Making a purchase decision, especially when the price point is high, is a risky proposition for most organizations. What if they make the wrong choice? What if the product or experience isn’t what they expected?

That risk can be minimized by providing prospects with some trust indicators—information about what other customers say about your product or service after using it over time. This might come in the form of testimonials, awards, or reviews on various credible third-party review sites—assuming you receive high ratings, of course. Research indicates that companies with ratings of 4-4.5 stars earn almost a third more revenue than those with only a 3-3.5 star rating. 

Don’t do what most salespeople do, though, when writing your proposal—drop testimonials all in one place or bury them in a sea of copy. Instead, create more interest and engagement by sprinkling testimonials throughout your proposal. Two great places to include a testimonial, customer quote, or information about an award are in front of your price section, and after your accept button—they reduce that anxiety around making a decision. And make them visual, too.

Social proof is a big deal these days. Buyers look to others to help them decide whether to move forward with a transaction. Don’t make them look too hard. Give buyers the trust indicators they need to decide to go with you.

CTA: the accept button

Everything that has led us to this point was all designed for this final critical step—getting the prospect to accept your sales proposal. But, despite how critically important this last step is, it’s even more important to keep your call to action (CTA) simple! 

There’s ample research that tells us that buyers will pay more for more simple experiences—55% of buyers, in fact. But, perhaps even more compelling—companies, and salespeople, who don’t provide a simple experience are losing out on about $98 billion in sales. Have we convinced you yet?

So keep your proposal acceptance simple.

Proposal software with e-signature integration (like Qwilr) can be a big help here. E-signatures make saying “yes” extremely easy— they streamline the entire process and are legally compliant, too. Your prospect simply hits the “accept” button, e-signs the document, and boom— you’ve sealed the deal!

E-signatures are also quite a bit simpler than a traditional PDF contract, which is usually sent independently of your proposal, so the prospect has to watch for the email, then print, sign, scan, and email the document back to you. When e-signatures are integrated into your proposal, you build momentum throughout your sales pitch, culminating in the final “accept” button.

Secondary CTA: keeping the conversation open

Of course, while it would be wonderful if all, or most, prospects would simply hit that “accept” button after reviewing your powerful proposal, the reality is that many don’t. That means you need to include a “secondary CTA” to close out your sales proposal. If your prospect isn’t ready to sign, keep the conversation open by providing them with your contact information for additional questions, etc.

Final thoughts

Buyers have many solution providers reaching out, not to mention their other work responsibilities, so you’re competing for their time and attention. Make the purchasing process easier for buyers by keeping your sales proposal focused and relevant. For best results, keep your message simple, and use these tried-and-true tips for how to write a proposal that converts prospects into customers. To jumpstart your efforts, also see the Qwilr library of proposal templates.

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