If you’re involved in the sales process in your company, you probably know about the value of business proposals. They let you show what you do, how you can help the client, and how much it’s all going to cost them. The problem is, business proposals aren’t that fun, at least not the process of writing them.
The good news is that much like the sales process, business proposals have come a long way from writing Word documents for each client. You can now write, send, and manage your proposals using insights from thousands of other companies that rely on proposals to win new clients.
Here are some tips we’ve gathered for proposal writing, based on hundreds of thousands of proposals that go through our system every year.
1. Start with a Template
The reason why very few people like business proposals is that they take a lot of time and work. For most people, this happens because they write each proposal from scratch. Considering that the majority of your proposals have the same content, this is a major drain of time. Instead of writing everything from scratch, you should use proposal templates.
There are two main types: industry-based proposal templates and your personal proposal templates. For the first type, these are templates for specific industries, for example, marketing proposal templates, web design proposal templates, SEO proposal templates, etc. The advantage of these templates is that they come with a lot of industry-specific elements, expressions, pricing methods, etc.
On the other hand, you can create your own proposal template based on your own most successful proposals. If you combine the two template types, you get the best of both worlds and something that will save you lots of time and money.
Proposal templates are a true game-changer because they whittle down the writing time from several hours to 15 minutes, improving your productivity and sales. Thanks to proposal software, your template is a blank that you can fill out – within seconds even if you have your CRM hooked up to your proposal software.
2. Grab their attention with an amazing introduction
If you have a good offer and you’re not getting conversions from your proposals, one of the major reasons could be your poorly written introductions. The fact of the matter is, the introduction is one of the two most-read elements of each proposal. Most people read the introduction and the pricing section only, so give this section special attention.
So, where does everyone go wrong? They talk about themselves and their company, instead of focusing on the client and their needs. The reason why this happens is that they don’t know enough about them, mostly because they haven’t talked with the client. The lack of good discovery calls and meetings before the proposal writing takes place is why proposals go wrong
In short, this is the part where you explain that you know what the client needs and how you’re going to solve it. Now that you got them hooked, it’s time to move on to…
3. A detailed specification
Just what it sounds like, a detailed specification explains what you will do for the client in detail. Depending on what you’re selling or doing, this section can be fairly simple or pretty complex.
The number one rule for this section is – keep it easy to understand. Just because a client is purchasing something from you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they understand the industry language. And what they can’t understand, they won’t buy.
The biggest blunders are often made on the simplest matters. This section is one of the shortest and its main purpose is to let the client know when you’ll finish their work or deliver the goods. It doesn’t matter if it’s something as broad as 3-5 weeks or something as precise as 17 days. Make a promise and stick to it. The rule of thumb is to be generous with your deadlines to have more wiggle room and be able to finish earlier.
5. The proof
If you’re using templates, this is going to be one of the most important parts you need to include. The proof is the section that is essentially a miniature case study – where you show what you’ve done for similar clients before. Describe your success story and show the situation before the work was done. If you have some testimonials, reviews, or any other form of social proof, this would be the section to add them to. If there’s someone (besides you) to share a good word about your business, they need to be included here. Of course, the more relevant the proof is to the specific client, the higher the chances of getting a conversion.
6. The pricing
To be completely honest, this is one of the two sections that your clients will end up reading, so make it count. There are a few basic rules when it comes to pricing if you want to ensure maximum conversions.
First, the pricing structure has to be super simple. No upsells, cross-sells, package offers or anything similar. The more options you give, the more difficult it is for the client to understand and the tougher it gets to get paid. Since it’s a SaaS product, a tool like Better Proposals comes with a variety of pricing methods, including billing per hour, per project, per unit and much more.
Second, language matters greatly. If you use titles such as “investment”, “ROI” or “return on investment” instead of pricing, you’re more likely to get a signed proposal. Simply put, the client will consider the money spent as an investment in their business rather than a cost.
Third (and optional), you can include a short testimonial about your pricing. Ideally, a word from a past client that says how much value your service/product brings compared to the amount of money spent.
7. The guarantee
Many people don’t use guarantees, but our research shows how effective they can be. Just as the title says, you need to guarantee the client that you will deliver the goods or the services described in the earlier sections of the proposal.
The best part about this section is that you can go crazy and offer something really unconventional, or keep it more traditional and offer a discount if you don’t make your deadline. For example, you can offer a complimentary day at the spa if you don’t hand in your deliverables by the due date. Or you know, a discount works just as well.
8. The next steps
You may get the impression that we treat clients as complete idiots by now. The truth is, we’ve seen (from actual data) that proposals need to have great user experience and clear instructions. Most of them don’t.
This section outlines what the client needs to do in order to get the ball rolling. It can be something as simple as:
– Sign the proposal
– Pay the first half of the sum through the proposal software
– Schedule a kick-off call
– You start the client’s project
No matter how barebones this section is, it really helps in nudging the client towards signing.
9. Terms and conditions
Note that in case of any legal issues, this section won’t protect you in front of a court. However, it’s good to have it there, just so that the client has a general overview of what you (don’t) do and what they can expect. There are quite a few generic terms and conditions which you can grab online and include in this section. It’s a good idea to let your lawyer look over this section if you want to be fully certain that you haven’t accidentally shot yourself in the foot. The good news is, you can include this section in your templates and just copy and paste to your heart’s desire.
These are the 9 necessary elements for a well-written, high-converting business proposal. No matter your industry, niche, or specific client, this is everything you need to impress your clients and get them to sign your proposal. While not all of them are necessary to include, the more of them your business proposal includes, the better the chances of landing a new client.
About the Author: Adam Hempenstall is the CEO and Founder of Better Proposals, simple proposal software for creating beautiful, high-impact proposals in minutes. Having helped his customers at Better Proposals win $120,000,000+ in one year only, he’s launched the first Proposal Writing University where he shares business proposal best practices.