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  • Aaron Beashel • Dec 4, 2014

Winning more work: Presenting a winning quote, proposal, or pitch

An accountant could never send a quote where the numbers don’t add up. Nor should a visual brand send a proposal that isn't as stunning as the work they do. It all matters. Often, it is your sales proposal that introduces your brand to decision makers who are signing-off on the expenditure. We think it’s important to make sure you’re wearing your Sunday best.

“I’ve won enough deals,” said no salesperson ever.

Of course, you want to win more business and build your brand. And in this article, we discuss what you can do to make your sales proposal as successful as possible. Full disclosure: we’re biased and think the best way to close more deals is by using Qwilr to create and share your proposal— but that’s actually only a small part of what we want to talk about. We promise. 😉

What does team Qwilr know about winning sales proposals?

Qwilr’s business is about helping people win more work and our team spends countless hours each day thinking about just that. Most of our Qwilr staff previously worked in a range of roles that encompassed proposals, marketing, and sales. Our founders are a great example.

Dylan worked as freelance web designer for clients including Saatchi & Saatchi and the Victorian Government. Mark worked in business development at Google, working on partnerships with education publishers in the US. Both felt there was a better way to create and share sales collateral, tapping into the power of the web. And Qwilr was born— and we’ve been learning and growing ever since our humble beginnings.

(Re-)Frame your customer’s problem or objective

We’ve previously written about how important it is to frame your client’s problem or objective. And we’ll share a practical example, too.

In our early days, we attempted to buy business cards. We initially asked for quotes for embossed cards, as we thought that would give us a professional and elegant look. (Read: style is important to us!) But, the quotes we received weren’t in our budget. In the end, we didn’t buy embossed cards, and we didn’t buy cards from any of the printers we contacted.

What our printers missed, was that our objective wasn’t really about embossed cards, but rather it was that we needed cards that looked professional and were within our budget. BIG difference! As a result, the printers who just responded to just our stated need didn’t win our business. But, the one printer that showed us that they could solve our objective differently, won the deal. This printer made an attempt to understand the ‘problem’ – not just the request— and helped us solve it, which won our work.

Be willing to challenge your customer’s view of their problem and your role

Implicit in the anecdote above is this: a winning proposal doesn’t just answer the customer’s question, it sometimes challenges either what the customer wants or what they think your company can do.

A winning proposal doesn’t just answer the customer’s question, it sometimes challenges either what the customer wants or what they think your company can do.

This can seem challenging— after all, we’re (too often) told that the customer is always right. But as we wrote in part 1 of this series, knowing what your company does, why it does it, and at what price is important to having a successful business. In other words, you have to re-frame the customer’s question.

Consider this: your customer will be coming to you for help with a problem they face rarely (e.g. printing new business cards) but you face every day (printing business cards). You probably do know a lot more about what the customer needs than they do. Once you’ve figured out the problem you need to solve, you’re well-positioned for a winning proposal and sales quote.

An effective, professional quote should do three things…

1. Explain how you’re going to solve the problem

As we discussed above, it might be the case that you need to help re-frame the problem you’re solving. Once that’s done, then your first priority is to clearly explain how you’re going to solve the problem.

When solving a problem, present your solution as a deliverable. This is true, though in different ways, for any type of problem. While a massive consulting project proposal might be 100 pages long, it will most likely outline detailed workplans for multiple modules of work. But too often, the smaller projects— our business card example— fail to clearly explain how you’ll solve the problem. In fact, we had one quote for business cards that we had to email back and forth three times to confirm they were quoting the right number of designs! The moral of the story: do your due diligence for a more successful outcome.

A good rule of thumb is this: assume the recipient of the quote doesn’t trust that you’ve understood them. In fact, only 13% of buyers believe that a salesperson understands their needs.  Use your problem statement as a chance to assure them that you get it. Another benefit of doing this well: you define a clear scope and avoid being asked to do further ‘out of scope’ work to keep the customer happy. Being clear about what you’re going to do up front will save you in the long run.

2. Let your customers know how you’ll work with them to ensure delivery of the work

Once you’ve said what you’re going to do, it’s not enough to go off and just do it. Take the rule of thumb above: your customer is skeptical that you’ve understood them. To put them at ease, make sure your quote tells them what they can expect by way of communication from you. There’s no need to feel you have to pin yourself to an unrealistic timeline. Instead, it’s important to be open about how you’ll engage while the work is underway.

Considering adding an implementation timeline to your sales proposal, to visualize what’s going to happen and when. And post sale, schedule a progress check-in a week from estimated delivery or give buyers a precise date that the project will be ready for pickup. If your project delivery is more complex, schedule regular meetings to review progress and agree on next steps. Make a committment and stick to it, as it communicates to your customers you have a plan and are reliable.

3. Make it clear what your price is, and what’s driving the price you’ve presented

Of course now it’s time to get to the meat of the quote: the price. You can’t beat around the bush here— you’ve got to put down a number. Now, unless you say otherwise, your customer is going to assume the price you quote is the start of a negotiation. If you won’t budge on the price, make it clear upfront to avoid wasting everyone’s time. Successful salespeople know that there’s an art to bringing price into the sales conversation— and they understand the differences between price and cost.

If your price is flexible and open to negotiation, the way you present your price can steer the negotiations to your advantage. One of the best ways to justify a price is by sharing the factors behind your pricing. Having said that, it would be foolish to be completely transparent about your costs and margins, but breaking down the quote into a few key components can help you negotiate a good price.

A configurable pricing table can show base and optional features, allowing the buyer to select which options to move forward with now, right-sizing the price for their budget today. Configurable pricing helps to avoid a situation where you only give a final price and face a customer who asks for a 30% discount straight off the bat.

Another pricing option is to offer a discount for early (or upfront) payment. You want cashflow, and the customer wants 10% off. Straight away you’ve given them the tool to secure the discount, but in a way that helps your business, too.

The best proposals do another thing: look great and champion your brand

We talked before about the importance of branding and presentation, not just in generating leads for your business, but in what your business has to offer. Before starting Qwilr, Dylan was a freelance web designer and developer. He felt that sending quotes as PDFs attached to emails did a disservice to the aesthetic and tech sensibility that was core to his company’s brand. In response, he built Qwilr.

The goal of Qwilr is to let businesses send quotes and proposals that look great and strengthen their brand. Qwilr proposals create a ‘wow’ experience for buyers and help brands to stand out. But we’re not here to plug Qwilr (not too much 😉). The more general point is that the way you present your quotes can be as important as their content. If design and aesthetics are part of what you’re selling, you want a proposal that reflects who you are and is visually appealing.

To prove our point: an accountant could never send a quote where the numbers didn’t add up. Nor should a visual brand send a proposal that isn’t as stunning as the work they do. It all matters. You want to start what will hopefully be a long-term relationship with your client on the right foot. In many cases, it is your sales proposal that introduces your brand to higher-up decision makers who are signing-off on the expenditure. We think it’s important to make sure you’re wearing your Sunday best. If you agree, we invite you to book a 15 minute demo now.

Recap: Create a winning quote by:

  • (Re-framing) the customer’s problem
  • Explaining clearly how you’ll solve it
  • Making it clear how you’ll stay in touch while you’re working
  • Presenting a price that frames the coming negotiation
  • Putting forward a quote that looks great and champions your brand
  • Using best-in-class proposal software like Qwilr

This post was originally published on Dec 4, 2014, and was updated for relevancy and accuracy on October 14, 2021.

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