Of all the documents you write, for many businesses, there’s nothing more important than your sales proposal. This is your gateway to more work. Many businesses hate the thought of putting together another quote or sales proposal, but if you design them well, you can have a format that will bring in new customers and revenues, and that you can reuse time and again.
I’ve spent a lot of time working on and perfecting our sales proposals in the various businesses I’ve worked with and have found there is a fairly simple formula that will boost your success.
Here are the 8 essential components of a simple, practical and highly effective sales proposal;
1) Cover Letter or Email
Here, you should first thank the client for giving you the opportunity to quote. Let them know that it means a lot to you and that you’d be honoured to help with their project. Make sure you sound enthusiastic, professional (but not overly formal), and confident. In fact, at the end of this section you could say something like “I trust you’ll find the attached quotation suitable and we look forward to getting confirmation from you so that we can start your project soon.” You might also want to include here directions on what they should do to get started.
If you’ll be emailing your proposal, just make this the actual body of your email (and then attach the rest as a PDF document). On the other hand, if you’ll be presenting your proposal in person, make this an actual letter on your letterhead.
2) Situation Analysis
You could also call this section the “Current Situation” or “The Basis for this Proposal”. Here you need to demonstrate that you really understand the client’s needs. Depending on the context, it could be a simple sentence, or it might need to be a thorough analysis of the current state of affairs.
You should be able to state the problem in an articulate way that makes it clear that the client needs to take action. Obviously you will highlight the issues the client is experiencing or has voiced to you, but be careful not to sound to derogatory. Include any positive aspects of the current situation and also include what you know about the client’s priorities (eg durability, modern design, low cost, etc).
3) Proposal Overview
This could also be called the “Proposal Summary” or just “Summary”. Here you give an outline of your proposed solution and the rationale behind your recommendations. Explain exactly what you’re proposing and why – eg certain products/materials/services etc. This could include photographs, detailed project information, and may need to have sub-sections depending on your industry. Of course, include the features of your recommendations, but be sure to focus more heavily on the actual benefits the client will receive.
For this section, it can be good to include your proposed recommendations in a graphical form as well. A graphic designer might be able to help with creating infographics that can really bring to life the message you’re trying to convey.
You could name this section “Pricing” or “Quotation” as this is where the actual pricing information is contained, but I prefer to name it the “Investment” to steer the client towards thinking about the long-term benefits (and not just the costs).
This section is usually in a table format where you list the items (possibly matching them up to the ones you’ve described in the Proposal Overview), and listing the pricing next to them. Be clear about whether you’ve included any sales tax or not. Also make sure you include separate pricing for any optional extras.
5) About Us
This is the section where you give the sales pitch for your business. Include anything about your business that usually helps you to win over clients. For instance, you can explain how you work, your business philosophies (about customer service, your team, the quality of your work), how long you’ve been operating for, the types of work you specialise in, any awards you’ve won, any certifications you’ve earned, and basically anything that sets you apart from the competition. You could even include photos of you and/or your team.
Don’t skip this section thinking that it’s not important or that your clients already know all about you! This is where you really give your client reasons to choose you (even if your price is not the most competitive).
6) Our Clients
Arguably, this could fall under the “About Us” section, but it is so important it deserves it’s own section. Remember, there is nothing more convincing that evidence that other clients are happy with your services (see our article on Social Proof here). In this section, you have a few options and ideally, you’ll include a few of these.
If you’re selling something technical or B2B, try to include a few case studies. These should be only a few paragraphs each and should include a photo of the client or the work performed.
If your work is visual in nature, you should include a selection of photos showing the range of your capabilities (and listing the client names and locations).
You can also include testimonials – again with a photo. These can be incredibly powerful.
If you have customer reviews, you can include excerpts from these and then include a link so that the client can see these reviews live on the website(s) where they originated from.
Also include a statement at the start saying something like; “Customer satisfaction is the most important metric to us and we’re proud to have many extremely happy clients. We hope you’ll soon become our next happy customer!”
Alternatively, you could choose to scatter a couple of testimonials (or review excerpts) throughout your proposal – perhaps one at the start and one at the end.
This section serves both to protect your interests, and also to demonstrate that you’re a bona-fide business with robust policies and procedures in place. Include here information about your payment terms and any requirements for working. Try to keep it brief and only include the necessities though as an overly long list of terms and conditions can scare customers off. Try to write it in a natural writing style too – avoid the legal jargon if you can!
To finish off, you want to give simple and easy instructions on what the client needs to do to accept your proposal. You could start this section with; “To get started, all we require is ….. ”
While you may just require a simple reply email, it can be a good idea to also include here a form that allows them to sign their acceptance. Some businesses find that just including a section like this can have a big impact on you conversions (even if you don’t insist they use it).
Again, repeat your enthusiasm for starting this project, convey your confidence that your client will find this quote suitable, and reassure them that they won’t be disappointed.
So that’s it! It might sound like more than you’re doing now, but remember sections 5, 6, 7 and 8 can usually be exactly the same for all of your clients. Once you’ve prepared them, you’ll just reuse them over and over again. Spending a bit of time on your next proposal can have huge payoffs – not just for that particular project, but for all of you future quoting opportunities.
Good luck and let us know how you go!