A sales proposal is sometimes a mere formality—the customer has already made up his or her
mind whether he or she is going to buy. At other times, a sales proposal makes all the
difference. It will be reviewed by all decision-makers and influencers involved in the purchase.
Since you never know for sure if your proposal is a formality, you should craft it as if the sale
depended on it. A polished proposal can never be overkill, but one that’s sloppily put together
could talk you out of an order.
Here are five elements your sales proposal should include making it persuasive and powerful
1. An executive summary
Whether your proposal is one page or 20 pages (we’ll talk about length in a minute), always
lead with an executive summary. Diving right into the technical aspects of your proposal is
tempting, and it will probably appeal to hands-on buyers and influencers.
However, some buyers and most high-level influencers are not interested in the details and
want a quick answer to the question: “What’s in it for us?”
Accordingly, the executive summary briefly outline:
A description of the product/service to be purchased
The key benefits of the product/service
Why the product/service should be purchased now
Mention of any warranties, guarantees, special terms that apply
Some sellers err by putting the executive summary at the end of the proposal rather than
making it the lead. Although a summary conclusion is logical enough, the problem is that some
customers are so impatient they never make it to the end of the proposal.
2. The appropriate level of detail
Generally, the shorter a proposal is, the better. However, problems arise when sales proposals
are too long or too short. If you are too sketchy on details, customers may worry you’re hiding
something or a poorly organized company. If you are overly detailed, customers may worry that
if anything goes wrong, you’re the type of company that will hang them on a technicality.
The best tool to pinpoint your proposal’s ideal length is common sense. If you are selling a
highly technical, high-value, and/or expensive-to- implement product or service, then your
proposal naturally needs to spell out specifications, terms, and warranties in some detail. If you
are selling a commodity, less detail is required. High tech, low tech, or no tech, it’s always wise
to avoid industry jargon and acronyms without defining them.
Once the proposal is completed, give it a thorough editing. Most proposals can be shortened if
a second set of eyes takes a hard look. Good editing enhances your proposal’s persuasive
power by making your message more clear and concise.
A helpful editing technique is read the text aloud or have a voice tool read it back to you; you
are more likely to catch missed words and awkward phrases by listening.
3. A reason to buy now
It’s human nature to delay making a decision, especially one that involves spending money.
Unless they have a problem they are desperate to solve (which is rarely the case), customers
will look for reasons to table your proposal. This is why it’s crucial to give customers a reason to
Sellers often think their product/service value speaks for itself. But even if the proposal conveys
that value with the eloquence of Shakespeare, many customers still need the extra nudge of a
tangible, tantalizing extra.
Here are several “extras” that have been proven to work over and over:
A discount of “x dollars” on the initial purchase
One free with 10 purchased
Extended billing terms
A generous cash discount
Free or discounted accessories
Additional warranty coverage
A free block of hours for consultation, training, or maintenance
Free, no-questions- asked return policy
Some sellers fear that such offers will somehow cheapen their brand—but in my experience
selling to small businesses up to Fortune 100 companies, these extras are always appreciated
and more than occasionally turn a maybe into a yes.
4. An outline of next steps
A great proposal not only includes extras that make it easy to say yes, it includes instructions on
how to say yes. Think of your proposal, whether digital or on paper, as a bridge in the sales
process. If the customer loves your proposal, he or she shouldn’t have to look anywhere other
than at the proposal to take the next step and get the order rolling.
Thus, the final page of your proposal might lead with language such as, “When you are ready to
proceed, please contact us at (phone number) or (email address).”
You can take the closing a step further by essentially turning the proposal into a contract by asking for
acceptance and requesting the following information:
A signature line noting acceptance of the proposal
A check-box list of features/options to be included
A check-box to confirm pricing
Fields for credit card information
Other information necessary to start fulfilling the order
This proposal element is even more effective when you review it in person with the
customer—you may be able to walk out of the customer’s office with an order in hand.
5. Easy to read, persuasive design
So far, we’ve talked about proposal text. The design is just as important—and depending on
what you’re selling, it may be more important. A slipshod layout and design deter people from
reading your proposal, and even worse, convey a very negative brand image.
These are the elements of a strong design:
Easy-to- read fonts—avoid Comic Sans and scripts
As little variation as possible in font types, size and color—stick to one format for section
headers and one format for the text underneath those headers
High contrast—black type on a white background is ideal
Short paragraphs with persuasive subheads
Bulleted and numbered lists for easy scanning
Plenty of white space (conveys expertise and efficiency)
High-resolution images and graphical elements
Images and graphics used to enhance readability, convey complex ideas, or draw attention to
key features and benefits
In terms of formatting, PDFs are preferable to Word documents, as they are more difficult to
alter and yet can be designed to incorporate form completion
If digital, easy to read on mobile devices
On this last point, don’t underestimate the need for easy mobile phone reading. Even in the
most traditional B2B industries, customers have been liberated from their desktops and ponder
proposals on mobile phones wherever they may be.One final point: Make sure your proposal does not include any bad surprises—any substantive negatives or “fine print” should be discussed with the prospect in advance of sending the proposal. Overcoming objections before the proposal is delivered often makes the eventual order a foregone conclusion.
(Author – Liveplan )
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