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A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Winning Proposal Conversion Strategy

A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Winning Proposal Conversion Strategy
Sending out proposals and hoping for the best is a common approach, but it’s not the most effective. If the client says no (or worse, if they don’t say anything at all), it can be hard to pinpoint where things went wrong. Having a strategy behind your proposal takes the guesswork out of things, and sets you up for crafting proposals that are much more likely to seal the deal.

Picture this: you’ve successfully courted the client, and now they’re ready for a proposal. You close your eyes, hit “send,” and cross your fingers. The hours tick by and you find your heart racing as you stare longingly at your phone, hoping that your client will call you to say, “YES!” 

chris hemsworth yes GIF

You just know they’re gonna love your proposal like this guy.

Sound familiar? That’s how I used to approach sending proposals. I’d hop on discovery calls with clients, slap together a super stylish proposal, then send it into the wild and hope for the best. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time waiting to hear back.

I had no way of measuring how effective my proposals were, and no strategy beyond “make it eye-wateringly cool looking.” The guessing game of whether my proposals were converting potential clients was gut-wrenching.

Thankfully for my sanity levels, over time I learned that there is a science behind sending proposals that win — and it all starts with your proposal conversion strategy.

What is a proposal conversion strategy?

Glad you asked! A proposal conversion strategy is a step-by-step plan for using your proposal to convert your client from being interested in your service to sealing the deal.

Having a plan is crucial because you can have the best looking proposal in the world, but it if there isn’t a strategy behind it, it’s not likely to close. That’s like driving a Ferrari without a steering wheel — it looks slick, and you certainly hope that it takes you where you want to go, but your odds aren’t great.

Do you ever feel like your business is going around in circles?

The true purpose of any proposal is not just to inform your client about your service, but also to convert your prospects to paying clients. Here’s how you can do that effectively.

Step 1: Focus on one goal

Just like a road trip, you need to decide where you’re going before you plan out how you’re going to get there.

The same goes for creating a proposal conversion strategy. The first step to reaching your destination is to focus on one goal.

Seriously, grab a piece of paper or your favourite note taking app right now, and write down what you want to accomplish by sending that proposal. Again, you’re only allowed to pick one goal!

Usually, that goal is to get a client to sign off on your proposal as swiftly as possible so that they can continue zipping down your sales pipeline.

the bold and the beautiful wedding GIF by CBS

Keep them zipping!

Many proposals fail at this. Proposals are sent to the client, and then they stagnate. They sit in proposal purgatory for an excessive amount of time — or they fail to close altogether.

Often this is because proposals lack focus. If you cram every detail about your company, the project scope, and your process into the proposal, you may end up giving your client information overload. When you tackle too many goals at once, it’s more likely that you will end up failing at all of them.

Thankfully, there’s a simple fix: decide which sections of your proposal help you achieve your one goal, and remove the rest. Here’s how you can zero in on your goals like a champ:

  • Look at the one goal you wrote down and ask yourself, “If this were the only thing my proposal accomplished, would I be happy with it?” If your answer is yes, you picked the right goal.

  • Audit your proposal by looking at every section and ask yourself if it pushes your client towards that one goal. If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, remove that section from your proposal and decide if it would work in a different document.

How this worked for me

I used to get hung up on the information I felt compelled to include in my proposal. I believed that my clients needed to know everything about my process and timeline for their project so that they’d feel confident about signing up.

Unfortunately, my clients would get bogged down in all of the logistics of the project before we even started. Proposals stalled because I had to field their questions on the nitty gritty of the project.

Then it hit me: my clients didn’t need that information until after they’d decided if they wanted to work with me in the first place.

jennifer garner oscars GIF

That moment when you discover your proposal strategy.

So I removed the process and timeline information from my proposal and created a separate welcome kit document that I send to my clients after they sign off. This cut my time to close in half, but more importantly, my clients didn’t feel overwhelmed with information.

The best proposals give exactly the right amount of information to guide a client towards sealing the deal. No more, no less.

Step 2: Create your strategy outline

Everybody loved creating outlines in school, right? Now that you’ve focused on your proposal goal, the next step is to concretely define how each section of your proposal moves your client towards that goal.

Don’t overthink it as you’re writing your outline; you should be able to summarize each section’s purpose in one sentence. Simple is best.

Here’s what that outline could look like:

  • Introduction letter: Outline the client’s pain points to show that you understand their problem.

  • Project overview: Showcase how your service will help the client achieve their goals faster than they could have imagined possible.

  • Pricing: Help the client visualize how their investment in your services will give them a high ROI (return on investment) within six months.

  • Case studies: Provide social proof that you’ve delivered results in the past.

  • Acceptance page: Give the client a prompt to sign so that they can get results ASAP.

The point here is to outline the strategy behind each section and to make sure that every page of your proposal pushes your client towards your one goal. Yes, every page!

If you’re struggling to summarize what each section’s purpose is, it may be time to review, clarify, and simplify. If you’re not 100% certain of what you’re trying to say, you can be 100% certain your client won’t understand either.

Take your client on a journey

Once you’ve established what each section of your proposal accomplishes, it’s time to think about how you arrange and present each section.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes. Imagine what questions and concerns they have, and then arrange the sections in your proposal to address those concerns in order of importance.

It’s you, not me

The most effective proposals talk about the client first, so don’t put your “About Us” on the second page. The first few pages of your proposal should push your client’s pain points, and then you should demonstrate how your team is the group of superheroes they’ve been looking for.

Don’t do this in your proposals.

Step 3: Nail your delivery

With an optimized proposal in hand, you’re almost ready to send! But before you do, plan out how you’ll knock your client’s socks off with an expert pitch.

It’s all about the personal touch

Take the time to include a personalized note in your email to your prospect. Don’t write them a novel, but be sure to touch on their key pain points and inject some personality into your message with personal information you picked up on in your conversation.

And… hit send. That’s it, right? Not quite, but you’re almost there!

Just because you’ve sent your proposal doesn’t mean that you’re done. A crucial step to closing a deal involves what you do after you send your proposal.

The final step of every great proposal conversion strategy is follow up

That prospect that you’ve worked so hard to send your proposal to in the first place is inevitably going to have questions. It’s your job to address them, and there’s no better way to do that with a good old-fashioned phone call.

If you really want to be a champion closer, call your prospect while they’re reading your proposal. The best window of opportunity is after they’ve had enough time to read it most of the way through. Call them, ask if they have had a chance to read the proposal, and then offer to walk them through each section.

“Oh, you were just reading my proposal? It must be meant to be!”

Lucky for you, Proposify makes it super easy to follow up with your clients by sending you notifications when your client is reading your proposal. Once you’ve been notified, wait a bit and then give them a call. The precise amount of time you should wait depends on how long your proposal is, but a good baseline is about 15 minutes.

Next Steps:

The great thing about having a proposal strategy is that you do most of the hard work up front. Take time to focus on your goal, outline how each section pushes your client towards that goal, and plan out your smooth delivery. All you have to do after that is put your strategy into action.

You’ll probably notice an improvement right away. As you get better at executing your plan, you’ll only need a couple of reminders each time you send a proposal. Eventually, it becomes second nature.

I have my strategy written on a sticky note on my desk so that I’m reminded of it each time I send a new proposal. It doesn’t matter where you put your plan, but keep it in a place where you’ll see it often so that you’ll remember to follow through with it!

proposal conversion strategy checklist

It might take a couple of trial runs before you find the perfect system. The best way to test and perfect your proposal strategy is by trying it out and seeing what works. Now that you’re armed with a strategy, get on out there!

You’ve got this.

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