How to Craft a Concise and Effective Sales Proposal

Author: 
Jennifer Tomlinson and Olivia Hardy

Proposals have always played a pivotal role in the sales process, but today they are more important than ever. With in-person meetings on the decline because of the coronavirus pandemic, your sales proposal now serves as a frontline sales rep. It should appear just as a sales rep would at an in-person meeting: clean, composed, organized, and smiling.

Too often, companies use sales proposals as opportunities to talk about themselves. But at this stage of the sales process, potential customers already know who you are and what you offer. Now is the time to translate your services into tangible value for the customer. Use facts — not hyperbole – to differentiate your company from the competition. Illustrate through data and real-life examples why you are the best option in the marketplace.

Don't bog down your prospects with redundant details and unsubstantiated claims. Instead, support and facilitate their decision-making by providing relevant information. Follow these three tips when crafting your next sales proposal:

1. Include the essentials

Every sales proposal should include several necessary core elements, such as:

  • Always begin with an executive summary that provides an overview of the project and opportunity.
  • Offer a list of clear objectives and quantifiable goals.
  • Describe the ROI customers can expect from working with your company. By focusing on goals and outcomes early in the proposal, you will excite your prospects and motivate them to continue reading.
  • Emphasize how your company is committed to supporting its customers over the long haul.
  • Introduce the team who will be invested in the client’s success.
  • Explain each team member’s role, and describe his or her professional background and previous project experience.
  • Devote a section of your proposal to case studies and client testimonials.
  • Highlight success stories of customers who have reaped big results from partnering with your company, and provide plenty of stats and data whenever possible.
  • Conclude the proposal with sections dedicated to pricing and your terms and conditions. By now, your prospects should be blown away by the potential ROI of working with your company, so they should have few to no qualms about your fees, rules, and regulations.

2. Establish common ground

Sales proposals should be tailored and personalized. Show your prospects that you understand their business environment, and summarize how your offering will help them achieve their unique goals. If your proposal fits into their thought process, you have a much better chance of getting them to sign on the dotted line.

Do your homework before writing the proposal. Research happenings within the customer’s industry and within their specific business. Also, don't hesitate to ask the insiders for advice. If you are in the fortunate position of having a champion, leverage that relationship to find out what matters most to the people who will evaluate your proposal. What are their hot-button issues? What are the potential showstoppers? Then, once you have identified the prospect’s top challenges and goals, weave this information into the opening sections of your sales proposal.

Another useful personalization tactic is to mimic your prospect’s branding. If you tastefully adopt their color scheme, style, and tone throughout the proposal, you will subtly reinforce that your company is a great fit for the project and shares similar values to their brand.

3. Make it easy

Your prospects are likely evaluating multiple proposals and do not have time to dive deeply into every single detail you provide. Instead, they will skim your proposal in search of the most important and compelling information. With that in mind, your goal should be to make their life as easy as possible.

Your sales proposal should be succinct, and your language should be direct and conversational. Avoid using confusing legalese and jargon, as this will only cause the prospect’s eyes to glaze over. Also, use graphics to illustrate concepts, and include callouts and pull quotes to emphasize differentiators and key benefits. If you find that a section is becoming overly verbose, break it up into smaller sections with subheadings. Also, in your table of contents, include links that allow the reader to easily jump around to different sections of the proposal.

Ultimately strive to create the most crisp, attractive, and user-friendly proposal of the bunch. If it makes your prospect’s life easier, they will assume your product or service will do the same for their company.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating an effective sales proposal. However, everyone can follow some best practices everyone to shorten sales cycles and improve win rates. Cut the fluff, do your research, and focus on what matters the most: your customer’s needs and goals.

As executive vice president of marketing at Qorus Software, Jennifer Tomlinson works to identify business needs and help her clients generate revenue more effectively and efficiently. With extensive experience working for and with enterprise companies, and small and medium businesses, she is adept at leading successful, scalable strategies across product, audience, and industry-specific marketing.

Olivia Hardy is founder and owner of Catalytique Consulting. She has managed dozens of successful content management, proposal automation and sales enablement software projects, and is an experienced content creator, proposal writer, and APMP member.