Versatile. Powerful. Compelling. Impressive. Really selling it. A true winner.
Obviously, I’m talking about... Meryl Streep.
Oh, did you think I was going to say proposals? I get why, seeing as this is a sales blog and not a Meryl fan club forum.
But since we’re all here, let’s talk about how to make your business proposals the Meryl Streep of sales documents.
17 ways to design, write, and send better business proposals
Even if your proposal creation process is winning, there are always tweaks you can make to increase your productivity or improve your persuasive content or inject more personality.
Your proposals should have that kind of award-winning range too. Here are some tips and tricks to make that happen:
1. Pitch to a company or opportunity that you consider “out of your league”. Targeting a new kind of prospect can help you gain new insight into the way you plan, create, and deploy your proposals. Even if you don’t technically win, you can still count it as a win if it forces you to think differently about your process and proposals. Especially if you can get feedback on your proposal from the prospect (see tip #9 for more on this).
2. Watch where you choose to save time. Is your efficiency ‘hack’ just hacky? If you are quickly throwing out pricing quotes that lack value, detail, and brand differentiation, what impression does that give about your business? It’s better to automate your internal processes to send a more robust proposal or quote than to provide something lacklustre to the prospect just to get it out faster.
3. Zoom out. What is actually necessary to get the yes and what’s fluff or just an ego boost? Do they need to know the ins and outs of your proprietary process or a minute-by-minute timeline of how you’ll execute? Probably not. Give an overview, not minute details. You can go over those once you secure the deal.
4. Start with an outline. Yeah, yeah, you’ve created a bunch of proposals and you know what you’re doing. But putting your proposal plan down on paper (digital or analog) makes sure you’re clear on what the client wants, what you’re offering, and how to structure and present all that in a logical way.
5. Clean up your proposal process. The work should show in the document, not in the process around it. Make your internal process as effortless as possible with checklists, templates, and an up-to-date content library to keep everything organized.
6. Remove any roadblocks to a ‘yes’. Optimize your proposal for your prospects. Can your recipients view your proposals on any device, no matter where they are? Can they sign off on them right away, even on mobile?
7. Put someone in charge of your proposal process. If you send out a high volume of complex proposals, having a proposal coordinator or manager to manage the process and all the moving pieces could make or break your win rate.
8. Revisit your pricing scheme. Competing solely on price is a no-win game. Someone else will always be able to quote it cheaper. Instead, show the value of what you provide for your price. Or try a flexible pricing table that allows clients to select the items or services they want. This could lead to higher-ticket projects or orders.
9. Revisit closed-lost proposals. So your client said no. Onwards and upwards right? Yes, but first figure out what kind of no the prospect gave you. Was it a bad fit? Improve your discovery/qualification. Did you show off products/services instead of solutions? Show how you get results. Did you send something generic? Listen to the prospect and make sure your proposal reflects what you heard and that you understood. You’re not sure why they said no? It doesn’t hurt to ask so you can use that learning in your next ones.
10. Don’t ignore risk. Does your proposal address any perceived risks the prospect might incur in saying yes? People automatically look for the negatives, the bad news, the downside. That’s not going to change, no matter how much sunshine and rainbows you include. Using some sales psychology and confront Negative Nancys head-on with the positives and upsides of working with you.
11. Answer the ‘why’. People don’t want information; they want insight. Does your proposal tell them what to do or why they should do it? And why they should do so with you?
12. Show them the real you. Is your company a little quirky? Your proposal should be, too. But on the other hand, there’s no need to feel like you should include, say, funny team bios if that doesn’t fit your brand. Don’t duplicate proposal examples you find online word-for-word or copycat what your competitor is doing. Make sure you’re being your brand self.
13. CYA with your T&C. Does your proposal have some? A terms and conditions page or section? Even a simple ‘Offer Valid Until’ can help you stay out of trouble and inject some urgency into the deal.
14. Include all decision makers. You don’t want someone to come in and torpedo your proposal at the last minute because you didn’t know to include them as a decision maker. Make sure you know exactly who will be evaluating your proposal. Will it need to pass through the legal department? Will IT have a say? What about a COO? Make sure you include a little something for everyone.
15. A/B test your proposals. Web design and marketing already know one of the best ways to implement changes to a website or document: test it out first. Try switching aspects of your proposals up, one thing at a time, and track to see what works. Would putting your pricing before your testimonials increase your win rate? A/B test it and find out.
16. Answer the questions the prospect will ask, not just the ones you want to answer. Make sure your proposal content is written for your prospects. This seems like a no-brainer, but it should be written to persuade, not simply inform. You want your proposal to have recipients saying, “Oh I get it,” not, “So what?” It’s a proposal, not a company brochure.
17. Know your proposal back to front. You know your proposals need to be proofread, right? But that doesn’t mean giving it the old once-over in the 30 seconds before it’s sent. Try a professional proofreader’s trick and read the proposal starting at the end. This new perspective can help you see errors your eyes might have glossed over otherwise.
Start racking up those wins
The best part of putting these tips into action? Besides a productive proposal process, and great design and content, that is.
Well, this is your chance to beat Meryl.
I mean, Meryl has *only* won three Oscars. Once you implement these tips, there’s no limit on how many deals you can win with your spiffed up proposals.