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7 Tips for a Knockout Sales Proposal

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Recently I spoke to a group of salespeople about creating a compelling sales proposal. Not everyone who sells a product or service needs to be able to write a proposal, but salespeople often hear “send me some information” from prospects. Here are seven things you can do to create a great proposal that will help you stand out from the competition.

1. Make the first page count. The majority of sales proposals I read start with the seller talking about his or her company. They usually open with details such as how long the company has been in business, who their clients are, what awards they have won, how innovative they are, etc.

But, your prospects don’t care about this. They really don’t. What they want to know is “How can this person help me solve a problem?” Address that question by putting the following three pieces of information on your first page: a brief summary of the prospect’s situation, the key objectives your prospect wants to achieve and the value in meeting those objectives.

The reason you want to place all this information on the first page is to capture your prospect’s attention. And the reason it is effective is because it is all about them, not you. This approach demonstrates that you have an accurate understanding of the prospect’s situation, what he or she wants to accomplish and how it will affect his or her business.

2. Use headings. Your prospects are busy people, just like you. Make it easy for them to find specific information by using headings throughout a proposal. For example, when I construct a proposal, I use a heading for each of the three points on the first page (“Situation Summary,” “Key Objectives,” “Value”) and headings for the remaining items (“Solution,” “ROI,” “Guarantee,” “Investment,” etc.). Headings also break up the page and make your proposal easier to read—just like a good article or blog post.

3. Include testimonials or endorsements. Ever watch an infomercial? Notice how they make liberal use of endorsements and testimonials? You can do the same thing in your proposals. Sprinkle them throughout and include them in each section (other than the first page—you don’t want anything to distract your prospect from reading the first page). Be careful not to get carried away, though. Testimonials should reinforce key points, not take over your proposal.

4. Address the risk factor. Most new prospects will have some hesitation about moving forward with your solution, especially if you are unknown to them. Be proactive and address their concerns, outlining how you will reduce their risk. (I usually do this by offering a guarantee on the services I am offering.) You can do the same. Perhaps a trial offer, money-back guarantee or some other offer that will help you mitigate any risk issues your prospect might be dealing with.

5. Keep it brief. One mistake that many salespeople make is including too much information in their sales proposals. When I acquired my first client more than a decade ago, I asked her what factors influenced her decision. She said, “Your proposal was short and easy to read, and it addressed everything I was looking for.” One sales-training company had sent her a 24-page proposal. Twenty-four pages! Who has time to read something that long? I strongly suggest that your proposals don’t exceed three or four pages. You can pack a lot of information onto four pages; the key is to include only necessary and relevant information.

6. Conclude with a specific call to action. The worst way to finish a proposal is to say something such as, “If you have any questions give me a call.” I used to do this and my re-connection ratio was brutal. Now I get an agreement on the next steps before I send a proposal and my ability to re-connect with prospects is almost 100 percent. Here is what I say in the last line of my proposals: “Mike, as discussed, I will call you next Tuesday morning at 10:15 a.m. to review this proposal and to discuss the next steps.”

7. Use a P.S. Research has shown that most people will read a P.S. in a sales letter. I typically use a testimonial here and I try to use one that relates to a prospect’s company, industry or goals. By the way, you can also use these steps when a prospect says, “Send me information.” Rather than sending them a marketing brochure or product catalogue, create a sensational sales proposal.

A well-crafted sales proposal will not only help you stand out from the competition but also help you close more business, capture more sales and make more money.

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