A Brief Overview of Sales Proposals

A Brief Overview of Sales Proposals

Sales proposals can be a valuable way to gain business. But they involve a lot of time and effort – resources that can go to waste if you’re not taking advantage of them. We provided some technical advice earlier this year (links found at the bottom), but wanted to take a step back and look at the larger picture.

Common Proposal Problems
There are two major issues we consistently see with sales proposals. First, they’re too generic and don’t include solutions tailored to the client’s point of view. Second, they contain too much information.

What happens when you’ve got a generic, information-heavy proposal? Essentially, you’ve just given the client a giant, bloat-heavy product catalogue. While product catalogues certainly have their place, and the large Sears Roebuck holiday one is a timeless classic, a proposal should not be a catalogue. They can read that information on your website or through content delivered by your sales reps.

The Importance of Sales Proposals to Winning Deals
Due to the increased competition in all sectors of today’s digital-oriented marketplace, written communication – including sales proposals – is more important than ever before in winning deals. Formalization of the buying process is happening more frequently – usually in the form of Requests for Proposals (RFP).

Additionally, more people are involved in the decision-making process, resulting in the need for an omnichannel and multi-departmental network of relationship building. This also means that the sales process is more complex than ever before, and failure to navigate the proposal stage successfully can result in your company’s elimination prior to the presentation phase.

Key Elements of a Sales Proposal
We’ve covered this in deeper detail previously, but for a sales proposal, you want to meet the following requirements as an absolute minimum starting point:

  1. Demonstrate you understand the problem.
  2. Offer a solution to the problem that clearly links to the needs and challenges – without merely giving a surface-level product overview (remember the common proposal problems above).
  3. Use social proof as evidence that you’re the right fit – ideally, it’s proof that matches the prospect’s particular problem and/or industry.
  4. Personalize, personalize, personalize – make it about the buyer, not your products.
  5. Be brief.
  6. Use visuals and use them effectively – the general rule for images is to have them explain succinctly in pictorial form what it would take several paragraphs or bullet points to write out.
  7. Consider putting the About Us section at the end – In many cases, it’s not the most important information however, most sales proposals tend to lead with it.

For a deeper dive into the technical details of a proposal, see our two-part series on writing winning proposals: Part 1 and Part 2. Using all three of these posts as guidelines will help you become more effective at crafting excellent, customer-focused proposals that increase your chances of winning deals.