5 Key Traits of Winning Sales Proposals

Mikita Mikado

You’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into the sales process, and now it's time to present your prospect with a winning proposal that will close the sale so you can move on to the next one.

But your sales proposal has the power to lose the deal, too, which is why it’s so critical that your sales proposals are on point. In fact,more than two-thirds of B2B buyers reported that a vendor’s content has a significant impact on their buying decision. Let’s walk through these five key traits of a winning sales proposal.

Key Trait #1: Your Proposal Educates the Buyer
Begin your proposal with “scene setting” to help the buyer mentally frame the need or goal that your product or service will help them fulfill.

Scene setting could be a narrative, summary, or bullet points pointing toward the positive effect of the solution you're about to propose. Use well-researched, cited statistics from credible third parties is an excellent way to show value objectively. By taking some time to set the scene at the beginning of the proposal, you focus your buyer's attention on the problems or pain points that you've uncovered. Then, you’re ready to show them how you'll solve for those pain points or objectives with what you're proposing.

Key Trait #2: Your Proposal Informs the Buyer
Sales managers will often argue that if you haven't done your job communicating your product or service's value to the buyer before you get to the proposal stage, all hope is lost.

But here’s the clincher: your buyer is busy, stressed and won’t (or can’t) remember all of the benefits and features of your product or service. That's why your proposal needs to clearly and concisely reiterate those bite-sized pieces of information, as a reminder of the educational points you touched on earlier. Proposals shouldn’t be so lengthy that they lose the buyer’s attention.

Key Trait #3: Your Proposal Persuades the Buyer
At the end of the day, your proposal needs to convince the buyer that what you're offering them will be worth more than what they will be paying. That’s the goal of a proposal: to get the buyer to sign on the dotted line and close the sale. Sometimes, that persuasion can happen with simple math. Maybe your product or service has been proven to deliver x return on past clients' investment or delivered x dollars in increased productivity. Boom.

Other times, the value of your product or service is less tangible and needs to resonate with the buyer on an emotional level. In those situations, your product or service makes the customer feel something. You need to remind the buyer of this within the proposal’s overview or scope of work summary. It can even be as subtle as the words you use to describe the deliverables or expected outcome.

Key Trait #4: Your Proposal Woos the Buyer
The look and feel of your proposal is just as important as how you write the solutions summary, pricing, or terms section. Buyers are just as affected by the visual cues in your proposal as they are by the more objective elements.

Here are a few visual-related items to be aware of when crafting your proposals:

  • Layouts should be polished and present the information in a way that doesn't interfere with the ability to digest the content.
  • The typefaces you use in your proposal should, ideally, be the same or as similar as possible to those used by your official brand identity.
  • Imagery such as photos or illustrations should feel like part of your brand and not part of a template. That means you may need to swap pre-loaded images from a template with some of those used in your brand identity.
  • It's inappropriate to present a busy buyer with an unnecessarily long proposal. On the other end of the spectrum, a one-page scope of work may not present well against competitive bids that provide more content.

Key Trait #5: Your Proposal Engages the Buyer
By allowing the buyer to interact with your proposal beyond clicking through a pdf, you will engage them with your content. Videos and interactive pricing tables are two ways that you can enable the buyer to explore your proposal outside the boundaries of a standard PDF.

Video is an especially powerful interactive element to use in a proposal because it combines action and sound which stand out against static text and images. You could open your proposal with a movie trailer-style video that will get your buyer excited and focused on the following content. Or, you could shoot a quick custom video on your computer's webcam where you’re speaking directly to the buyer and their team, and embed the video right on the proposal page, ready to be viewed by the proposal’s recipient(s).

Reworking your sales proposal is often the last thing that any sales professional or marketer may consider to be a priority. But if you make sure that your proposal embodies the key traits I just outlined, you'll put yourself in a position to drastically improve your proposal's performance and ultimately, your win rate.

Mikita Mikado is the co-founder and CEO of PandaDoc, a platform helping sales teams create, deliver, and track intelligent sales content to close deals faster. To learn more about simplifying your sales documents, connect with Mikita and the PandaDoc team on Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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