8 Crucial Tips to Win Every Business Proposal You Ever Send
Winning as many proposals as you can is vital to the growth of your business. But, let's be realistic -- you can't win them all. At the same time, there are simple things you can do to stack the odds well in your favor. Part of the battle here is realizing you do actually have control over whether you seal the deal or not.
With proper research and a better approach to your proposals, chances are you'll get more clients at the door. Someone needs to win the deal anyway and it might as well be you. Now, let's dive in and get you winning more business than before.
1. Find out the true meaning of what they're after.
Before you start writing the proposal, you'll probably meet with your client on the phone or in person. Most people lose it already at this point. They fail to find out the true reason why the client wants to buy. Only when you have this reason sorted out can everything else fall into place.
Do your clients want more leads in their business? Find out why. Even if the answer is simply, "We want more sales," say, "Okay, but there are easier ways of getting more sales than generating more leads." This is when they'll reveal the true reason they want more leads or accept that they want, in fact, more sales.
If you dig deep enough and get to their core incentives, next steps come naturally. Just like in medicine -- as soon as you know the right diagnosis you can prescribe an appropriate treatment. In our case, the clients might, in fact, need some improvements to their website or some training for their sales team. But, if you take their first answer you'll never know this. Always find out the true reason by asking in the meeting.
2. The proposal is won and lost in the introduction.
You only get one chance to make a first impression and the introduction in your proposal is your chance. It is usually read properly and sets the tone for the rest of the proposal. If your introduction is a success, the rest is easy.
The best practice for writing an effective introduction boils down to one simple piece of advice -- use your clients' words back to them and simply describe the problem they are facing. Remember the bit where you found out exactly what they wanted? Now dig out those words and repeat them back to your clients. Just keep in mind not to talk about yourself -- the introduction isn't the place for that.
3. Be clear about what you're providing.
Moving on to the rest of the three P's of business proposal (problem statement, proposed solution and pricing), it's crucial to clearly explain how you suggest to solve the client's issue.
In large-scale technical projects, this can be split up into a separate document called a Statement of Work. In most cases, though, you can just be detailed in what you're going to provide. It will prevent scope creep, client disagreements and keep the relationship solid as everyone knows where they stand.
If what you sell is on the technical side, try to use the "which means that" trick. Mention the technical thing, put "which means that" and answer that question. Here's a simple example: "We're going to make your new website SEO friendly" becomes "Your website will be found on Google when your customers are searching for a company like yours." Whenever you are writing anything technical just have this thought in the back of your mind.
4. Include social proof.
This is especially relevant when dealing with a new client who doesn't necessarily know what you can do yet. You must prove and show you can do what you say you will. The more a client knows you and the smaller the risk of buying, the less social proof you need.
Conversely, the less they know you and the higher the risk of buying, the more social proof you need. This is anything from testimonials and before and after photos to case studies and client stories.
The best way to do this, in my opinion, is by telling stories and showing results. Yes, it's nice to see a portfolio but it's better to know what that portfolio did. Only then can your potential clients know what you can truly do.
5. Tell your client what to do next.
It's so important that you explain what happens next and how clients should proceed. Tell them in simple terms what they need to do next. Fail to do this and they'll be scrabbling around wondering what the next steps are. It's not that they won't email you and ask how to buy. It's just that keeping your clients in the dark about what to do next is a poor experience and may put doubt in their mind.
Make it easy to understand and tell them in plain English exactly what to do and what will happen next. For example:
- Step 1: Sign this proposal by typing your name in the box below.
- Step 2: Pay the deposit on the next page (we automatically send you an invoice).
- Step 3: We'll be in touch to book your consultation.
Keep it simple and easy to understand. Anyone can get their head around typing their name, typing in card details and booking a call.
6. Make it easy to sign and pay.
Use digital signatures where you can and watch your sales cycle speed up dramatically. Most proposal software has this built in so all your clients need to do is type their name and press a button.
The benefit of the digital signature rather than just using a contract is the entire proposal becomes a part of the contract. The terms, the pricing, the services you'll provide -- all of it. This covers you and your client from miscommunication down the line and keeps the relationship on solid ground.
Related: Turn More Prospects Into Customers
7. Include your terms and conditions.
Always keep the contract and your terms and conditions part of the proposal and get them signed together. This binds them. If you put them separately you might have generic terms in your contract which could cause confusion.
When the content of the proposal is used as the basis of the agreement, it's far more clear for everyone involved, but most importantly, for your client. The contract is then used in addition to the proposal. If you're working with larger companies you'll probably need to be flexible with this as the legal department will often want to tear the contract to pieces. At a small business level though, I recommend keeping them together.
8. Send it quickly.
According to Better Proposals' 2017 Proposal Report, you're 25 percent more likely to win the deal if you send the proposal within 24 hours. Moreover, if it does get signed it'll be four days sooner on average than if you take just 48 hours to send it.
Getting the proposal in front of your clients when everything is fresh in their mind is vital and it makes a huge difference to conversions. Find ways to simplify and speed up the proposal writing process. Using online proposal software will certainly help because it will do the heavy lifting for you.
One way is to factor in time immediately after the meeting to get the proposal written (at least the introduction). You can do this after meeting with clients even if it's simply staying in a hotel lobby after they've gone. It'll be so much easier to write if you're doing it immediately. Leave it until later and distractions will get in the way.
Proposal writing is somewhat of a dark art. Get it right and it's almost a license to print money; get it wrong and you'll forever be scratching and clawing your way to safety. It's very much worth investing in because it's such a scalable skill. Learn it once, get your method and systems sorted and it's plain sailing from there on.
In the end, remember to stay honest. It's better to under-promise and over-deliver.
Good luck with your next proposal!