8 Simple steps to writing a winning sales proposal
Write a proposal? Oh no…… not me!
Are you one of these people who hate writing proposals? You don’t know where to start and get confused about what to put where? Follow this simple process and proposal writing will become instantly easier.
Where to start?
By the time you have to write a proposal, you have already met with the prospect, built rapport and taken them through the buying and selling process (Bi-Sell-Cycle™). You are at the pointy end of the sales process where you are trying to lead them to a commitment. So where do you start?
1. Executive summary
Contrary to what you might think, the executive summary comes at the front of your proposal but is not written until the end once you have completed all the other sections. What the executive summary does is tell the reader what they are about to read. I know that sounds weird. The executive summary needs to be enticing enough for them to want to read the whole proposal, if not, they will skip straight to pricing. Ouch not what you want.
The executive summary helps build rapport with the reader and provides a brief overview of what’s in the proposal and why they should read on. This is important because the reader might be someone you haven’t met before.
2. Credibility statement
Consider this. When you meet with a prospect for the first time in a formal sales meeting, you have to build rapport and gain trust and confidence. You also need to do this in a sales proposal as well because you don’t know who else will be reading the proposal. It could be a partner, consultant, banker, spouse, employee or any other person that might have a stake in the business. They may not have had the opportunity to meet with you personally so they need to know more about you and your organization.
Building rapport in a proposal is not like building rapport face-to-face, it’s more about building credibility. One way to do this is with a credibility statement. It doesn’t have to be a fancy document written by a specialist or a formal glossy brochure, it can simply be your value proposition and/or an expanded elevator speech along with a few testimonials.
The credibility statement puts the reader at ease knowing that if they choose to do business with you, you have the capability and capacity to deliver on your promises.
Again, the people reading the proposal may not know why you met or what the prospective customer’s needs are. It’s important to provide a background of why you met in the first place and what you uncovered in the way of problems or opportunities. What you are in effect doing is following the first two steps of the buying and selling process (Bi-Sell-Cycle™) which is to uncover buyer needs and explore the impact or consequences if problems are left to get worse or opportunities not realized.
4. The requirement
The requirement is simply a summary of the prospective customers target goals. Their vision for the future which is essentially to take away their problems or help them realize an opportunity. It’s an outline of their goals and objectives which in effect is their dominant buying motive.
5. The proposed solution
Once you have set the scene, talked about the prospect’s problems and opportunities, explored what would happen if they didn’t take any action and assessed their target goals, you are now ready to present your solution. At this point you have taken the reader through a process where they now understand why they need your solution. You have taken them on an emotional journey that is more likely to lead to a sale. They understand the reason why they need to buy your products or services and that is to avoid the pain of their problems getting worse or to gain the rewards that come from realizing an opportunity. If you don’t relate the solution back to problems or opportunities, then they will focus on costs and won’t see the value in your solution.
The proposed solution outlines your strategy to help them avoid the pain of allowing problems to persist or gain the rewards they will receive from pursuing an opportunity. Your proposed solution will outline some or all of the following:
- Their objectives
- Your strategy
- The products and/or services you will provide
- The qualifications and experience of yourself and your team if you have one
- Success story of the results your solution gave another customer in a similar situation
- How your solution will help them avoid pain or gain rewards and achieve their goals and objectives
You must tie your solution back to the prospective customer’s needs and target goals which is their dominant buying motive. This creates the tension to buy.
6. The implementation plan
The implementation plan outlines exactly how you will go about implementing your solution. It could be very simple or far more complicated depending on the solution you are providing and the magnitude of the problem or opportunity.
Specify how you will work to achieve the outcomes outlined in your proposed solution and how long it will take. In some cases you might be providing a solution that’s ongoing. Outline specific KPI’s and benchmarks you need to meet if appropriate.
Investment is another word for costs except it infers a partnership. This is where you need to sell the value of your proposed solution. It’s not just about costs, it’s about taking away the prospective customers problems or helping them realize an opportunity. Where you can, offer more than one option. A solution that’s on par with their budget, one under their budget and one over their budget. It gives the illusion that the prospective customer is in control and that they have options. It also sets you apart from the competition because the prospective customer clearly knows what is included in each option. It makes the prospect think about what may or may not be included in your competitor’s proposals. In other words, it helps them understand they get what they pay for.
You would also include cost breakdowns, payment terms and any other conditions along with guarantees if relevant.
The conclusion is a brief recap of the prospective customer’s needs, the impact if they allow the problem to get worse or opportunity to slip through their fingers, along with the solution. You tell them again what you have already told them. It lets the prospect know why they should buy from you. It should end on a positive note, be strong, confident and assertive. You could also include an acceptance form for the prospect to agree to your terms and conditions.
On a Final Note
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