Jesse • Oct 6, 2020
Take a note from pop music: Sales proposals that convert
If you’re a fan of pop music, you may have noticed that most of it follows a similar structure. The most common is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge (sometimes), chorus. Almost every song you hear on the radio follows this format, or some slight variation of it. The more interesting part is that the subject matter, genre, and type of song, don’t really affect the format. Ballads, love songs, dance songs — they all follow that same basic structure. And that’s for a reason: people respond positively to it. Now, that’s not to say that someone can’t make a hit…
If you’re a fan of pop music, you may have noticed that most of it follows a similar structure. The most common is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge (sometimes), chorus. Almost every song you hear on the radio follows this format, or some slight variation of it.
The more interesting part is that the subject matter, genre, and type of song, don’t really affect the format. Ballads, love songs, dance songs — they all follow that same basic structure. And that’s for a reason: people respond positively to it.
Now, that’s not to say that someone can’t make a hit song without following standard structure, they absolutely can. Songs like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, or a more contemporary example, Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy don’t follow standard structure, but were still wildly successful. However, these are the exceptions, not the rule.
When you see enough sales proposals (we’ve seen a lot here at Qwilr), just like with pop songs, you start to notice some patterns in the ones that convert. Though the content may vary, how the proposals are set up tends to be the same.
Using the winning proposal formula will help you close more sales. Not only that, using a template helps make your process repeatable and efficient, saving you time as well as making all of your materials consistent no matter which sales rep is sending them.
That brand consistency isn’t just something that makes marketing teams happy — it helps you show off the best parts of your company and product so that even prospects who don’t close walk away with a great impression.
With that in mind, we’re sharing five tips on how to make a sales proposal template that will help you close more, save time, and help you put out the best representation of your brand and product.
Outline the narrative
When you’re drafting a proposal, or writing a song, you’re essentially telling a story. And stories sell. We’re actually much more likely to retain information told as a story, rather than having information simply being shared as facts.
In order to tell a compelling story, it’s best to have an outline. Most stories start with exposition, which is what sets up the story and motivation. This could be your “about us” section where you cover why you do what you do and how you do it.
From there, you get into what’s called the “rising action.” This is where you build tension. Maybe you talk about the issue they have you can potentially solve. You could also give supporting details on why your product, or service, is important in this section.
Next is the climax. This should be the most exciting section. You might outline how you’re going to solve their problem and include some great testimonials and visual elements. After the climax are the falling action and resolution. Here you can summarize your early points and ask for the sale.
By starting with a strong narrative outline, you set yourself up for success. It allows you to have strong flow, make sure you hit your main talking points, and helps your presentation stick in the prospect’s mind.
Support your claims
Have you ever heard the term “puffery”? If you’re not familiar, it refers to an over-the-top claim made by a business that can’t really be confirmed or denied. For example, if someone says they make “the most comfortable pillow on the planet!” there’s no way to really verify that. Comfort is subjective, therefore no one can really say.
It can be tempting to use that type of language, but it’s really only good for infomercials and clickbait. For selling, you need to have something more substantial than puffery. Things like customer testimonials, as mentioned above, are great for substantiating claims.
If you don’t have a customer testimonial, you can also use internal, or external, research to strengthen any point you may make. In the case that you’re using external research, do your best to make sure it’s a high-quality source.
This would take “We make the most comfortable pillow on the planet!” to “99% of customers surveyed say this is the most comfortable pillow they’ve ever owned” or even “80% of consumers prefer a synthetic down pillow — and our’s are full of our proprietary down blend that can’t be beat ” The last two statements have a lot more weight.
Find the hook
You may have heard a musician refer to a song’s “hook.” The hook is generally what’s meant to be the most memorable part of the song. It’s the lyric people know, or the melody they hum to themselves when the song pops into their head.
Though the hook isn’t always a lyric, it’s pretty commonly the big idea of the song. For example, in Rick Springfield’s song Jesse’s Girl (a song my sixth grade teacher would randomly sing to me from time-to-time) the hook is “I wish that I had Jesse’s girl.” Which is also the main idea of the song.
Basically, you should ask yourself this question: if my prospect were to only have one takeaway from my proposal, what would I want it to be? Whatever the answer is, that’s your hook. It’s what sets you apart from the competition and makes you unique.
Depending on the customer, or what you’re pitching, the hook might change, so be open to updating and changing it around if you need to. You could even try to come up with a few different hooks for each vertical you work with.
Don’t fear repetition
In almost any song, pop or otherwise, the hook is repeated multiple times throughout the song. There’s actually a great piece by Vox on how increased repetition in a song can help it be more enjoyable and “sticky.”
For proposals, you probably won’t be repeating something verbatim, but make sure you repeat your hook in various ways throughout.
There are also other opportunities for repetition, like having your call to action (CTA) multiple times throughout. It’s relatively common to only ask for the sale at the end of a proposal, but that might be a mistake.
Consider placing your CTA in three places throughout your proposal. Where exactly you put them is up to you, but having them relatively evenly spaced is a good bet. If you’re using Qwilr, you can see where people spend the most time in your proposal and can put your CTA buttons at the end of those sections.
By giving your prospect more than one chance to take action, you’re upping your overall chances they will. So, don’t fear a little repetition. It can go a long way.
Having a big ending in a pop song is almost guaranteed. Maybe they double up the last chorus, or do a key change to differentiate. No matter the tactic, the goal is generally the same: to make a lasting impression.
In your proposal you have a similar opportunity. It’s relatively common practice to simply end with a standard purchase button, but what if you added in something extra to your proposal template.
Perhaps it could be something like a personalized send-off video for the prospect. Or, if you have some other type of multi-media collateral, this is a good spot to include it. In the modern world where competition is as fierce as ever, being memorable is imperative
Just like with pop songs, there is a specific formula for sales proposals that appeals to the masses. When you use this winning formula, you close more deals, save yourself some time, and turn yourself into a star.
Feel free to call yourself “The Rick Springfield of Sales,” “The Billie Ellish of the Close,” or, you know, just “Carl,” that guy who always makes quota.
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