A winning sales proposal is the most powerful tool in the sales manager’s arsenal.
With a proposal that is clear, concise, and compelling, you can shorten the sales cycle and increase your rate of securing a contract. A poorly prepared proposal, on the other hand, could kill any chances of earning the customer’s business – no matter how stellar your product or service might be.
Fortunately, you can avoid this pitfall by ensuring that you follow some important steps when preparing your pitch.
Below is your six-step guide to building a winning sales proposal.
Step One: Understand Your Prospect’s Needs
“What challenges is your prospect facing? Once you identify these, you need to figure out how your product or service can help. Then, frame your proposal in a way that shows how your prospect’s needs will be addressed.”
– Sujan Patel, Co-Founder of Web Profits
The path to a winning sales proposal begins with a strong working knowledge of your audience’s needs and wants. In particular, you need to be aware of their pain points and the factors that motivate them to buy. If you feel like you lack a strong understanding of your prospective client, here are some tips to help you learn their unique needs and pain points:
Research the Client
You can learn a lot about your audience through reading. Indeed, you can start by reviewing the client’s website, case studies, and product offerings. Further, you can also read research findings that review the buying preferences of companies in your client’s industry.
Develop a Buyer Persona
Once you have conducted some initial research on your prospect, you can develop a buyer persona or semi-fictitious consumer who possesses the demographic traits and personality attributes you expect to find in the members of your target audience.
Monitor Social Media Exchanges
You can maintain a good pulse on buying trends and behaviours of your target prospect by monitoring their social media activities and exchanges. An efficient way to follow relevant social media activity is to join groups to which your client belongs.
Attend Industry Trade Shows
Trade shows and professional meetings offer the perfect venue to learn about your client and his or her industry. You can see which products and vendors capture their attention while also keeping an eye on the latest industry trends.
Step Two: Craft a Strong Executive Summary
“The most important part of every sales proposal is the executive summary…Emphasizing what you can do for the customer and what’s unique about your solution creates a perception of value that can raise your proposal above the rest…”
– Geoffrey James, Author and Contributing Editor for Inc.
Busy decision makers appreciate concise, organized sales proposals. So presenting a succinct proposal that is scannable and easy to read is essential to securing the buy-in of your prospect. David Seibert of The Seibert Group summarizes this concept by stating, “Most people do not read a proposal cover to cover. If you want to increase its readability, make it easy to skim.”
But even if you prepare the most interesting, organized proposal in the world, your prospect may only read a small portion of it. In many cases, the executive summary will determine whether your prospect reads your entire proposal or tosses it in the trash.
Dr. Judith M. Newman notes that “many readers may only look at the executive summary when deciding on whether or not to read the entire document” so “it should be the best-written and most polished piece of the document.” Author Geoffrey James outlines some tips to help you craft an executive summary that sells:
- Take one or two sentences to summarize the prospect’s key problem or pressing need
- Describe in one or two sentences the positive impact on the prospect’s organization if the problem is resolved
- Provide a very brief overview of your proposed solution, tying it back to the prospect’s needs
- Briefly but steadfastly outline why you are the most capable of providing the solution
- Include a compelling call to action
Step Three: Make Your Proposal Readable and Aesthetically Pleasing
“Failure to make readability a priority can lead readers to abandon your copy at first sight. From using concise words and sentences to using similes and metaphors to engage readers, writers can improve the readability of their copy in a number of ways.”
– Dave Child, Founder of Readable
Designing a proposal that is readable and aesthetically pleasing is just as important as including compelling content that resonates with your prospect. If aesthetics and design are not your strengths, a good starting point is to explore some of the many sales proposal templates available on the internet.
Your proposal should also be readable and easy on the eyes. Today’s busy executives are apt to recoil at the sight of a wall of text, so breaking up your proposal into easily digestible chunks will help keep readers interested in your content. Dave Child, the founder of Readable, outlines some simple strategies that can improve the readability of your sales proposal. Here are a few of them:
- Divide your content up into small paragraphs
- Use headers and bold text to transition to one section of your proposal to the next
- Keep your sentences concise and use short words
- Steer clear of jargon and complicated language
- Use active voice instead of passive voice
- Use similes and analogies to resonate with readers
In addition to these tips, you can help keep readers engaged by supporting your key points with high-resolution color images and graphics. Quotes and testimonials can also be included to lend to the authenticity of your sales proposal.
Step Four: Provide Multiple Solutions
“Depending on your industry or type of sale, you might itemize (which gives the option of removing items if buyers balk) or offer more than one investment package.”
– Michele McGovern, Author and Editor
People love having choices when they are making a purchase. In spite of this fact, the majority of sales proposals provide prospects with only one option. You can gain an edge over your competitors by providing two or three feasible solutions that would meet the prospect’s needs.
By offering multiple solutions, you give the prospect a choice while also creating the perfect opportunity to upsell a more sophisticated, higher profit solution. Here are some other benefits of providing multiple solutions:
- Highlight your versatility: You present your company’s versatility and willingness to think outside the box for customers
- Eliminate competitors: The prospect will be less apt to visit a competitor because you are presenting several options
- Showcase affordable options: You showcase your company’s ability to work within the prospect’s budget by including a low-cost option
- Increase your profit margin: If you succeed in your upselling efforts, you will enjoy a more profitable sale
Step Five: Anticipate Objections and Overcome Them in Your Pitch
“Objections are the hurdles that keep sales people a step away from closing. The swift removal of objections invariably leads to the closing of the sale. Only the well prepared sales person succeeds in removing the objections in a convincing manner.”
– Doug Dvorak, The Sales Coaching Institute
If you have followed Step One and have a keen understanding of your audience, then you will be able to predict their objections to your proposal. Make sure that you are prepared to handle objections and resistance to your proposal. A good way to prepare yourself for this type of resistance is to practice how you plan to respond to likely objections. Here are a few examples of some possible objections to a new cloud-based training platform:
- Objection: “Our company does not have the budget to invest in a new training platform.”
- Response: “The cost of our cloud-based platform is $3,000 less than what you are spending on current training materials and expenses.”
- Objection: “We only have 20 employees, so we do not need a special cloud-based training platform.”
- Response: “Our platform is proven to reduce total training time by 50 percent for companies of every size.”
- Objection: “A new employee training platform will take too much time to learn and detract from our productivity.”
- Response: “Studies show that cloud-based training platforms are easy to learn. Also, because training can occur at any time, you can stagger employee training to ensure that there are no gaps in productivity.”
Step Six: Follow Up Regularly
“It’s persistence that increases a client’s confidence in a salesperson’s ability. It’s what makes a salesperson stand out from everyone else. And it’s how salespeople stay top of mind when the client is ready to buy.”
– Nusair Bawla, Founder at GroupTravel.org
Now that you have presented your sales proposal, the waiting game begins. It is up to you as a sales executive to make the most of the time period that follows your proposal presentation. You can use Ebsta Inbox to automate this process.
Your first follow-up measure should be a written thank you note sent within the first 24 hours after you submit your proposal for review. A brief note thanking the prospect for the opportunity to present your solution will suffice.
The follow-up process moving forward might be a bit more challenging to navigate. You may worry that you are not following up enough or that you are following up too much. The good news is that there are subtle yet strategic tactics that can help you remain at the forefront of your prospect’s mind.
Here Are a Few Examples:
- If you have not already connected with the prospect on LinkedIn, send an invitation to connect so that you can follow your prospect.
- Provide positive and supportive feedback on social media when your prospect posts an article or references a recent success
- Make a point to personally visit your prospect at industry trade shows and professional meetings
- Be sure to notify the prospect of any special promotions you are launching that will help them save money on your product
Finally, while you hope to receive a positive response, make sure that you are prepared for the possibility that the prospect will decline your offering. If this happens, make sure that you accept the decline graciously.
Then ask your prospect if it is okay to periodically touch base from time to time moving forward. Maintaining a professional demeanor is important, especially since you never know when budget dollars may become available or the competitor who beat you out may prove to be unreliable.
The Bottom Line
A stellar sales proposal can be a difference maker when trying to earn a prospect’s business. However, crafting a strong sales proposal is not always easy. By following the six steps above, you can create an organized, compelling proposal that is easy and interesting for prospects to digest.
A bonus point…
In order to maximise the impact of your proposal, it needs to go to the right person, from the right person.
Ebsta Team will automatically tell you which person within an account has the best relationship with you AND who within your business has the best relationship with that person.
Request a demo of Ebsta Team here.