Table of Contents
What is a Sales Proposal?
Sales proposals are documents used to win new business which outline a company’s products or services, costs, supporting content, and terms of sale. Proposals are solicited or unsolicited. A solicited proposal is one that a potential customer requests. This could be in the form of a Request For Proposal (RFP), which is a formal document that outlines what the customer is looking for. Or, it could be a proposal sent after a sales presentation or a call with a sales rep.
An unsolicited sales proposal is not requested but may interest the potential customer. This type of proposal is a way to introduce your company and products or services to a new potential customer.
- Price quotes
- Sales pitches
- Project proposals
- Business proposals
- Executive summaries
Sales Proposals: What Sales Teams Need to Know
Proposals play an integral part in the sales cycle and ultimately accelerate an organization’s revenue. Loopio reports that organizations win 44% of their RFPs. A company’s success in winning new business is due to, in part, its use of technology to generate proposals. According to a report by Qorusdocs, “Companies that use proposal software report a higher share of revenue coming from new businesses than those not using automated tools (51% vs. 39%).”
Let’s take a closer look at how sales proposals drive revenue.
Where Sales Proposals Fit in the Sales Cycle
Sales proposals are an essential part of the sales process and can be sent at different stages of the sales cycle. The sales cycle can be generally divided into four stages: prospecting, initial contact, evaluation, and closing. Proposals usually fall into the evaluation stage, but there are some exceptions. For instance, if you’re selling a low-priced item or service, it may make sense to include a proposal in your initial contact with the prospect. This can help save time later on in the process.
In most cases, proposals come after you’ve had a chance to meet with the prospect and discuss their needs. This allows you to understand their situation better and tailor your proposal accordingly. It also allows you to build rapport and trust, which can be critical when asking for a sale.
The evaluation stage is when prospects compare your solution to others on the market. This is where your proposal can shine. A well-crafted proposal can highlight the unique features and benefits of your offering and help prospects see why it’s the best fit for their needs.
Once a prospect has decided to move forward, the closing stage is when they finalize the purchase. In some cases, a proposal may also be involved in this stage. For example, if you’re selling a high-priced item or service, you may need to provide a detailed proposal outlining the terms of the sale.
Knowing where proposals fit in the sales cycle can help you better prepare for each stage. By understanding the role of sales proposals, you can ensure that your proposal is always well-timed and relevant to your prospect’s needs.
Who is Responsible for Generating Sales Proposals?
The answer to this question depends on the company and the sales process. In some cases, it may be the responsibility of the proposal professional, sales manager or director. According to a study by RFPIO, “organizations with dedicated proposal professionals submitted 3.5X more proposals in 2020.” Organizations without a dedicated proposal manager are missing out on revenue.
In other organizations, it may be the sales team’s responsibility. Ultimately, it is important to clearly understand who is responsible for generating sales proposals within your company so that the process runs smoothly.
If you are in charge of generating sales proposals, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Make sure you have a clear understanding of the products or services you are selling. You should be able to speak confidently about the features and benefits of what you are selling.
- It is important to understand the needs of your potential customer. What are they looking for? What are their pain points?
- You need to put together a strong proposal outlining the value of your product or service and how it can solve the customer’s problem.
If you are working with a team, you need a clear understanding of each person’s role in the proposal process. Who will be responsible for gathering information? Who will be writing the proposal? Who will be presenting the proposal? By clearly understanding everyone’s role, you can ensure that the proposal process runs smoothly and everyone is on the same page.
Ultimately, the success of a proposal depends on its ability to sell the product or service. A strong proposal will be well-thought-out, clearly written, and persuasive. It should be tailored to the customer’s specific needs and show how your product or service is the best solution for their problem. By taking the time to create a strong proposal, you can increase your chances of making the sale.
Sales Proposal Mistakes to Avoid
As a sales professional, you know that the proposal is key to landing the deal. But even the best salespeople can make mistakes when crafting their proposals.
Here are four Sales Proposal Mistakes to Avoid:
1. Not doing your research
When creating a proposal, it’s crucial to research and understand your potential client’s needs. Creating a proposal that meets their needs will be difficult without this knowledge.
2. Not tailoring your proposal
A generic proposal is likely to be less effective than one that is tailored to the customer. Include information relevant to the client’s industry, company size, and specific requirements.
3. Underestimating the competition
Your proposal needs to show why you are the best choice for the job. But first, you must research your competition and understand its strengths and weaknesses. Only then can you highlight how your offerings are superior.
4. Not proofreading
A proposal with typos or grammatical errors will reflect poorly on your company. So be sure to proofread your proposal before sending it to the client.
By avoiding these mistakes, you can create a sales proposal that will likely win the client and close the deal.
Eight Elements Every B2B Sales Proposal Should Include
When creating proposals, pay attention to your structure. Organize your sales proposals to steer the reader towards purchasing by including the elements listed below.
1. Title Page
This is an opportunity to stand out from the competition with a branded title page.
2. Executive Summary
Start with an executive summary. This is a brief overview of your proposal, including the main points you will address.
3. Company and Product Overview
Next, give a brief overview of your company and your products or services. Include information on why you are qualified to provide these products or services and how they will benefit the client.
4. Problem Statement
In the next section, describe the client’s specific problem or opportunity and how your products or services can help address it.
5. Price Quote
Next, provide details on your products or services, including pricing information.
6. Sales Content
Include supporting sales content to help the buyer learn more about your products or services. This can include a list of features and benefits of your product or solution.
7. Call to Action
Finally, close with a call to action, urging the client to take advantage of your offer. If you are using proposal software, ESignature capability allows the customer to agree to the proposal or sign the contract easily.
Don’t forget to include imagery to keep your reader engaged and moving through the document.
Recommended Additional Elements
In addition to the core parts of a sales proposal, some optional elements add value to the potential customer’s experience.
- Request for Proposal– If the prospect sent you one, include it in your proposal, which should address the specific terms the potential customers included in the RFP.
- Terms and Conditions– These critical documents can be deal breakers and are therefore worth including (if short) or linking (if long).
- Your Services– This is a more business-centered version of your “About Us,” and it is where you can emphasize how your services fit the client’s needs best.
- Case Studies and Client Testimonials– Social proof is a powerful purchase motivator; no matter how good an offer you provide, buyers will still seek the opinion of others. Examples of past clients achieving their business goals by using your services may help close more deals.
How to Write a Sales Proposal
Including the elements above will get you started, but let’s dive into how to write a sales proposal that helps close deals. Follow these steps.
Too many people insist they don’t require an outline before writing. But an outline keeps you organized and your point focused, eliminating the extraneous and including the vital information. It also allows for “faster failure”; editing an outline is much easier before it becomes a written proposal.
Tailor Content to Your Audience
A cookie-cutter proposal will not deliver in today’s competitive market. Nor will a polished document that doesn’t speak to your prospect’s specific needs. Do careful research, not just into your prospect—their business, their pain points, their concerns, etc.—but also into the market in which they play—their competitors, market trends, and so forth. Remember: a customized experience is expected nowadays. You must show how much you care for the client and their problems; do this through careful research and cut to the heart of it in your executive summary.
Include Market Research
Including market research in a sales proposal helps demonstrate how the proposed product or service meets customer needs. Market research involves gathering data on target customers, competitors, industry trends, and other relevant factors that can affect a product or service’s success. By incorporating market research into a proposal, it’s possible to craft compelling pitches explicitly tailored for target audiences based on their actual preferences rather than relying solely on speculation; this makes for proposals that resonate well with potential buyers.
Draft the Proposal: Solution and Deliverables
Demonstrate your understanding of the client’s needs by offering a tailor-made solution. Make the deliverables explicit, but save the details for later in the negotiation process.
Be Upfront with Pricing
While pricing discussions should have begun before proposal submission, including pricing information in the proposal centralizes information for the prospect. It may be beneficial to include several pricing options with what is included in each package so the buyer can see the value in each and choose the best solution for their budget.
Never talk in terms of price ranges; sellers tend to assume the high range and buyers the low, which can lead to conflict. A three-tiered pricing summary is a common strategy. This way, the prospect may compare for themselves the value you offer for the cost. American Express seconds this, also recommending replacing the word “cost” with “investment,” emphasizing the value of your services.
Select Social Proof
Carefully select the most compelling social proof for each prospect. (This may be a challenge initially, as you build up your file of testimonials and case studies.) Consider factors like industry, market problems, and type of deal when selecting testimonials. For example, sharing the case of a software enterprise company with a small insurance business may be ineffective.
Include as much detail as the case study client permits, and emphasize how your solution solved their pain points.
Including a call to action in a sales proposal can be a powerful way to move potential buyers closer to making a purchase decision. A well-crafted call to action can generate more leads and help close deals faster. It should be clear, concise, and easy for readers to comprehend. Additionally, it should be related in some way to the main topic being discussed in the proposal. Focus on how it will benefit the customer by providing an incentive to take the next step. For example: “Sign up for our service today and get 30% off your order!” This type of language is specific and motivates customers by offering something that adds value.
Branded Professional Design
The proposal should be presented in a professional, branded document (either paper or digital). Using templates is very effective here and saves time. Create a branded template with a cohesive design and engaging elements such as a custom font generated from a font generator and a unique color palette. This will keep the buyer moving through the document to the call-to-action.
Sometimes a Request For Proposal (RFP) will also request specific formatting, but not always. At the very least, your proposal should use consistent formatting (e.g., fonts, headings, etc.), but visual communication can be very persuasive. Visuals are essential to break up text and communicate with buyers faster and more effectively.
Keep your language simple and clear. Generally, a proposal should be between 8-20 pages, considering the needs of the particular deal. It’s harder to write concisely, so make sure to give yourself and your staff plenty of time to prepare excellent content.
Fair or not, humans naturally judge, and high-stakes mistakes could cost you a sale. Perfect content is spoiled by typographical and other errors. Even if untrue, typos suggest carelessness, which diminishes trust, slimming chances for a sale. Share your proposal with colleagues or a paid proofreading service to ensure an error-free document.
Meet In Person and Follow Up
In our virtual business landscape, meeting in person isn’t to be taken literally. Think of this not as in-person conversations but as “face time.” People, especially business decision-makers, are often very distracted when reading proposals. Face-to-face meetings (even digital ones) increase the “personal touch” and decrease distraction. And don’t forget to follow up! The prospect may be one of your top priorities, but odds are that you are not one of theirs. You can begin this process in the proposal document by ending with a clear call to action that invites follow-up.
This advice may be stated in other ways, but it remains the same: client-centered, compelling proposals close more deals.
Questions to Ask When You Write a Sales Proposal
You now know the parts of the proposal and how to write one. This section offers best practices for what needs to be in a good sales proposal.
Answer the Right Questions
Canada’s Bank of Entrepreneurs says there are seven questions every proposal should answer, which they state are:
- What is the client’s problem?
- Why is it a problem?
- What outcome is the client looking to achieve?
- Which outcome is the most important?
- What are the potential solutions?
- What are the probable results?
- Why are we the right choice?
How do you Write a Sales Proposal that Improves the Revenue Impact of your Pipeline?
Sales proposals are created to get to closed won more often. Increasing their revenue impact on your pipeline requires building processes around them to input accurate, personalized information for each buyer. Sending generic or inaccurate proposals, or spending a lot of time getting them right with personalized messaging, will cost you revenue.
Sell smarter, not harder
Automating sales processes eliminates wasted administrative time and ensures proposal accuracy. By streamlining administrative workflows and eliminating manual entry tasks, all levels of your organization can spend more time on revenue-generating activities. For reps, that means more time spent selling instead of creating documents or filling out paperwork.
Personalize the buyer journey
Account-based marketing programs focus on creating personalized experiences for buyers. Following up with a generic sales proposal ruins that experience just when you have the opportunity to leverage your brand and distinguish yourself from the competition. Delivering relevant, personalized content at every stage of the buyer journey gives you the benefits of your brand image at a critical moment.
Increase your responsiveness to buyers
Speed is a critical factor in your sales proposals’ impact on revenue. Fluid, on-demand communication with buyers maintains momentum. You should strive to respond to buyers’ requests within minutes. One of the best ways to achieve this is a DealRoom, which puts everything relevant to the deal in a single place, where it is easily accessible, visible, and interactive for both the buyer and your organization. Delivering continuity in the sales process increases your responsiveness so that you can answer buyers’ questions quickly.
Every deal is an opportunity to learn. Collecting data from your sales cycle empowers leadership to discover friction points in the sales cycle and make adjustments. For reps, getting an empirical basis for how they approach accounts leads to better communication and higher closed-won rates. By centralizing the quote to close process on a single microsite, DealRoom provides insights that empower organizations to learn how to increase revenue from the collective data set.
What are the Best Examples of a Sales Proposal Template?
Examples are often the best instructors. Here, we assess four sales proposal templates—and as a bonus, two sales process templates. A template can be a helpful tool as your staff finds a format that works for your team.
Remember that a template should be a guide only. Using boilerplate language, images, social proof, etc., may cost you sales, as customers seek a personalized experience and customized content from sellers.
The Bank of Entrepreneurs (BDC)
BDC offers a downloadable template that includes a cover letter, quotation, client testimonial, company information, team bios, and the proposal itself.
It is a very basic template, neither fancy nor memorable, but it has the templated elements for all the most important pieces of your proposal. It downloads as a Word document, which allows for immediate editing, but which could be a drawback for organizations without a Microsoft 365 subscription. You should not send your proposal to clients in Word format (use PDFs instead).
Qwilr‘s template is based online, making it expansively multimedia. You can embed spreadsheets with the details of your proposal, include videos, and more.
This template is much more memorable, but it is unclear how customizable it is. Unlike BDC’s simple template, you must have a Qwilr subscription to use this template (though a free trial is available). And this template obviously prefers the visual over the written, making the economy of words even more imperative.
Proposify‘s templates look like a true eBook, extremely professional-looking and navigable. The combination of online and highly stylized may result in a “heavy” document, slower to load on poor Internet connections.
Like Qwilr, Proposify requires a subscription to use their templates but also offers a free trial. The templates are 100% customizable, which can be a blessing or a curse, depending on the skill level of your staff (there is little point paying for a visually stunning proposal template if your team cannot take advantage of it).
Lucidpress offers hundreds of templates for sales proposals and more. The drag-and-drop interface makes this a more approachable design option for beginners, and you can include what sections you like. While they do offer a free option, it is limited to three documents, each a max of three pages, and with no access to premium templates. This would limit the amount of space available for text using free accounts.
How Do You Write a Sales Proposal Email?
Before you get to the sales proposal, you may need to cold email potential buyers. Cold sales prospect emails are a low ROI business activity if done by hand. Using a template reduces the initial investment significantly.
A common method is to follow a four-line structure for a sales proposal email: a direct opening, a clear offer addressing the pain point, a closing with a clear call-to-action, and your signature line. Cold email software allows you to personalize these templated emails without much additional work. They also offer copy-pasteable templates on their blog.
After you deliver a sales proposal, you must follow up. These emails are more comfortable to create (you’re writing to a known contact, after all), and they also have a higher ROI for your business. And they are extremely important to avoid a sale going cold. You should be patient but consistent, with alignment between sales and marketing departments, to avoid too many or too few contact points.
Sales Proposal Software
Also known as proposal generation or proposal management software, sales proposal software automates the proposal process and generates sales proposals for you. Whether through an integration with your CRM and CPQ or using sales proposal templates and inputting information manually, the ultimate aim of sales proposal software is to shorten the time it takes to create sales proposals.
Sales Proposal Automation
Sales proposal automation uses software to streamline the creation and delivery of sales proposals. Sales proposal automation software can help sales teams improve efficiency and win more business by automating repetitive tasks, such as creating templates, gathering customer data, and generating proposals.
Businesses can improve proposal quality, speed up the sales cycle, and close more deals by automating the proposal process. Sales proposal automation software can also help sales teams track customer interactions during the decision-making process and better understand customer needs.
Digital sales rooms are the next evolution of sales proposals. They are essentially mini-sites that include all of the elements of a traditional sales proposal but in a virtual environment for easy sharing and collaboration on deals.
There are many benefits of using a sales proposal software package, including:
- Access to pre-made templates for easy writing
- Saving time which your sales team can use to generate new leads
- Allowing for interactive collaboration between departments
- Allowing the entire team to track the process behind the creation of a sales proposal, cross referencing results to see what works and what doesn’t
- Faster lead response time
- Better results from your sales proposals since they can be created quickly, yet personalized to the customers’ needs
- Keeping everything in one place and easy to access again for future reference
- Being able to potentially use electronic signatures for authentication, saving even more time
The main features of most sales proposal software packages include:
- Data and template sharing
- Multi-tier approval capability
- Simplified proposal writing
- Grammar and spelling checks
- Access control based on user roles
- Tracking time/investment in each pitch, allowing for you to calculator ROI
- Cloud-based document storage, allowing you to edit on the go
People Also Ask
How do you write a sales proposal?
A sales proposal is a document you create to sell your product or service. It should include information about your product or service, your company, and why the customer should buy from you. To write an effective sales proposal, you’ll need to do some research on your target customer and what their needs are.
Once you have that information, you can start writing your proposal.
Your proposal should start with an executive summary, a brief company overview, and what you’re offering. After that, you’ll need to include details about your product or service, including how it will benefit the customer. Finally, you’ll want to include pricing information and any other relevant details.
By taking the time to write a well-crafted sales proposal, you’ll be putting your best foot forward and increasing your chances of making a sale.
What is the purpose of a sales proposal?
Overall, the purpose of a sales proposal is to generate sales and accelerate revenue. Within that main goal is to let your potential clients know what you do and how you can help them with your products or services, inviting them to look further into buying from you.
What is the format of a sales proposal?
Successful sales proposals come in all shapes and sizes, but there are some common sections that every good proposal should have, including:
5. Next Steps