How to Write a Sales Proposal In 2023
Crafting a winning sales proposal is part art, part science. First, an ‘art form’ in that you must succinctly showcase your understanding of your prospective clients’ needs. Part science, because you also need your proposal to stand out and help close deals without being too pushy.
It’s a delicate balance — and not easily achievable. So we chatted with our Sales Reps at Qwilr and unpacked their secrets when it comes to creating exceptional sales proposals that get the buying committee from “maybe” to “where do I sign?”
Here’s what we learned.
Before we dive into the full list though, hear directly from one of Qwilr’s talented Account Executives where they share five elements every proposal must contain to improve your odds of winning the deal:
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Your sales proposal is more important than ever
And when they do join your call, they may be:
- Distracted by a budget.
- Replying to team messages.
- Looking at the clock, ready to “jump out” (and then into their sixth meet for the day.)
And to make things even more complicated, they frequently leave two-thirds of the buying committee on the ‘outside’.
The good news? Virtual selling isn’t deterring buyers from making large purchases through digital channels. So even if you may feel distanced from your potential customers, it doesn’t mean you can’t close the deal.
You can. And a clear, compelling sales proposal will get you there by working for you – on every timezone, at any time of the day, every day of the week, for all buying committee stakeholders (even those who aren’t in the meeting.)
How to build winning sales proposals
If you want your sales proposal to act as your 24/7 delegate, you need to make sure it’s perfect.
- Clearly-defined scope of work
- Outlined deliverables
- Revenue-based outcomes
- No typos
- Spotless grammar
Most importantly, all the elements of your sales proposal need to come together and create a story that shows a clear understanding of your customer’s needs and how you will address them.
Not sure where to get started in enhancing your sales proposal experience? Dive into the 10 Key Elements of Winning Sales Proposals below.
1. Personalize the buyer experience
Personalization is one of the critical ingredients in convincing prospects you’re worth their time and money. And here’s why: everybody wants to feel ‘heard’. Your buyer is no exception.
2 out of 3 buyers are influenced by the quality and customization of your sales materials, and a quarter of them will only accept personalized materials. (SaaS Buyer Experience Study, 2021)
In our webinar poll, 80% of participants said they are personalizing their sales proposals, although 76% said it’s a manual process— typically searching/replacing or manually typing in data.
The obvious disadvantages of manually personalizing proposals include:
- It’s time-consuming, eating into valuable selling time
- It’s prone to human error
- It’s not scalable
Alternatives to manual personalization include using a proposal and sales collateral solution like Qwilr, that can plug directly into CRMs like Hubspot and Salesforce, so you can create tailored proposals with just a few clicks, pulling key customer data from HubSpot.
However, even if you don’t use a proposal solution, and decide to go the manual route, there’s a few things you can do.
First, at the very minimum, your collateral should include your potential customer’s name, company name, logo, and an image relevant to them.
Plus, ideally for high ticket-size sales you should customize your overall proposal to:
- Fit the types of narratives your buyer’s likely to engage with and
- Include hand-picked data relevant to your prospect
2. Make it visually appealing
The human brain can process visual information 60,000 times faster than the written word. Additionally, we remember only 10% of written information after three days but retain 65% of the message when presented with relevant images.
Adding relevant, supporting graphics and graphs can make your sales proposal easier to digest — and more memorable too. So while your prospects may be evaluating other business proposals, using the right visuals will help yours stand out for being engaging, comprehensive, and compelling.
Need ideas and inspiration for making your proposal more visual and engaging? Check out the Qwilr Proposal Look Book now.
3. Underline the problem statement
Research shows that 70% of buyers make a purchase to solve a problem, so it’s beneficial to understand that dilemma. Uncovering the buyer’s problem is usually part of the discovery call. However, if you discover gaps in your understanding of the buyer’s situation, it’s perfectly acceptable to go back and ask the buyer for clarification.
A problem statement reflects your potential client’s challenges and may include anything from workflow bottlenecks to resource challenges or other fundamental difficulties.
Including a problem statement in your sales proposal serves many purposes, including that it:
- Demonstrates to the buyer that you’re listening. Only 13% of buyers believe salespeople understand their needs; a problem statement shows them otherwise.
- Opens a dialogue between you and your buyer as you discuss the challenges and desired future state.
- Highlights gaps in your knowledge and if further exploration is needed on your part.
Sometimes, buyers aren’t always clear on the underlying problem, but they’re familiar with the resulting symptoms. Questions to help uncover the buyer’s root problem include:
- What’s your biggest inhibitor to growth?
- What is your most significant pain point?
- What does your boss obsess about?
- What consumes the most time in your day?
- What topic always surfaces in your internal meetings?
And, of course, never underestimate the personal side of a buyer’s challenges. Asking what would help improve their lives can uncover problems like work/life balance or professional aspirations that make for solid motivators to move forward with a purchase.
4. Bring forward a compelling offer
Your offer and pricing play a critical role in the sales process and negotiation. Deals are often won or lost based on price alone.
This came through in our recent survey, where we found that 58% of sales objections are related to price, although back-and-forth negotiations can also slow down the time to close.
Additionally, buyers want to be empowered to choose the features and optional services that benefit them. A static excel table that lays out pricing options often does not meet the preferences of buyers and may not present your price clearly.
Plus, don’t be afraid to add flair to your pricing presentation. Alternatives to the standard excel table include interactive and tiered pricing tables, which can be especially helpful for price-sensitive buyers.
Want to delve deeper into crafting irresistible offers? We wrote the Pricing Playbook on that – check it out!
5. Include a call to action (or two)
After all the phone calls, email messages, and finally presenting your sales proposal, you’ve told your buyer what, why, and how much. Now, tell them what to do about it! E-signatures are convenient, popular, and legally compliant, too.
Many businesses will split their sales proposal from the agreement, meaning you must send a separate document for your prospective client to approve. However, Qwilr offers to accept, sign, and even pick from several payment options — straight within your proposal.
This is a classic case of making it easy for stakeholders to say “yes”, thus streamlining the end of your sales process and reducing unnecessarily deliverables.
Your buyer isn’t ready to accept and sign your proposal (yet)? That might feel discouraging, but it happens, and not all hope is lost. You could, for example, include a secondary call to action in your proposal, like an embedded calendar link so they can book a time to follow-up.
6. Spend extra time on your executive summary
Writing a compelling and engaging executive summary can single-handedly win half of the battle. People are busy all the time, everywhere. They want to know what’s in it for them: how your solution will help their business thrive.
Your executive summary should, thus, include all the essential information in your sales proposal — sprinkling in ‘know how’ so that your prospect knows you’ve been listening.
Make sure your summary includes the following:
- A quick overview of the proposal
- Your customer’s needs and challenges
- Your proposed solution to said needs and challenges (how your business will help theirs)
- Your competitive advantage (why should they choose you over anyone else?)
- A clear, concise, and inviting call to action (i.e., how to get your solution — the fast and easy track, as well as the “I need to discuss more” one, if you think your prospects aren’t entirely in on it just yet.)
7. Include social proof
One of the main reasons people buy anything is… because they admire or respect others who have bought it. Social proof shows you’re trustworthy because, after all, why would anyone else sing your praises if you haven’t delivered on your promises?
Here are some types of social proof you can include in a business proposal:
- Reviews on other websites (like G2 if you sell software or Clutch if you sell services)
- Testimonials from previous clients
- Links to extensive case studies on how you solved your prospect’s problem in a different context
- Screenshots of LinkedIn or Twitter comments or reviews from happy customers
If you can show potential new clients that your existing customers are ‘true fans’, they’ll be more likely to buy from you.
8. Make your proposal structure accessible
Your prospective customers don’t have time to read endless blocks of text. Make it easy for them to understand your sales pitch by structuring the information in a way that makes it easy to read — and even easier to understand.
Some tips for this include:
- Using headings and subheadings
- Including a Table of Contents to help them navigate the information
- Using bullet points and numbered lists
- Using visuals aids like bold and italics (without overdoing them)
- Keeping your sentences short (no more than 20 words)
- Keeping your paragraphs short (no more than 4-5 sentences)
People rarely read everything, much less so when there’s no actual benefit in it for them. So make your proposal easy to skim through (without losing all the vital information.)
One easy way to structure your proposal comprehensively is to use a ready-made, sales methodology-driven template, like:
Additionally, if you prefer creating your own narrative and story arch, you can start with a simple sales or enterprise proposal template and build from there.
Grab our Enterprise Sales Template
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9. Proofread, then proofread again
Proper grammar and punctuation are essential non-negotiables for successful business proposals. For a target audience consisting of decision-makers, poor grammar can be more than just a minor blunder—it may become a deciding factor against them deciding to work with you.
Embarrassing typos may not directly say anything about your skills as a sales professional. But they can take your prospect’s attention away from all the good things you’re doing — and place it on wrongful (albeit subconscious) associations people make about lousy grammar:
- Lack of credibility
- Lack of attention to detail
You don’t want these associations, so always double-check your sales proposal before hitting “send.” If it helps, use a grammar checker like Grammarly or get it peer checked by another rep or sales leader.
10. It’s all about them (the prospect)
When writing a sales proposal, you may feel tempted to underline one too many of your product’s qualities. It’s easy to see why: after all, you do want to close the deal, right?
The thing with humans, however, is that we’re terribly bad at focusing on anything that’s less relevant to us. As such, rambling on about the various features of a product or service may not be the best way to go if you want to craft a winning sales proposal.
Instead, make it all about your prospect, position the solution as the answer to their burning dilemma.
Qwilr drives revenue for modern sales teams
Uncover how buyers are engaging with your sales assets at crucial stages of the dealFind out how
Your sales proposal reflects your brand and needs to “speak” on your behalf after the Zoom call ends. Make it easy for buyers to say “yes” by communicating your offer clearly and providing the next steps. A good proposal shares information about your product or service. A great sales proposal is memorable, rises above the competition, grabs attention, and accelerates winning the deal.
Book a demo with our team to learn how Qwilr’s web-based proposals can help you impress buyers, improve your win rates, and scale your sales team.