A sales proposal is your persuasive argument as to why the client must choose you now to solve their problem. Proposals need to be positively articulated with a sense of urgency and demonstrate how the client wins.
Sales people and consultants often neglect the most important part of a sales proposal, the statement of why the client needs to buy now. I have watched presentation after presentation where sales people talk about themselves, their company and their amazing, fantastic, one-of-a-kind solution. It’s the feature marathon and often leaves you falling asleep or gasping for any air left in the room.
Successful sales proposals must always begin with a conversation about the client. Those inclined to start talking about themselves before the customer are likely to fail. Why? Customers want to talk about their issues, not you!
Whether you plan to present your proposal in writing, in person or through an online presentation, every sales proposal must include the following five essential topics in this order:
1. Statement of Understanding
2. Needs Analysis
4. Pricing and Terms
5. Next Steps
The Statement of Understanding is your opportunity to showcase the research you have done prior to presenting to the client. Always start your proposal with what you learned about the client. Gather facts about the client from their web site, annual report or press release boiler statements, along with facts gathered in talking to the prospect. Make it brief and affirm that you have done your homework.
Be sure to include one or two sentences about the area of business you are targeting for your proposal. If this is a finance proposal, talk about the financial situation. If it is a technology proposal, talk about the functions in the company that will be impacted by your solution. The Statement of Understanding is a confirmation. It should be no more than one or two paragraphs (one slide) about your knowledge of the client.
Needs Analysis details all the work you have done to qualify the prospect. Here is where you make your case as to why the company needs your services or products. Whether you are a single person selling advisory services or a Fortune 500 company sales executive, you must define why the client needs YOU based on their needs.
Warning! Do not use the needs analysis section to sell. It is a series of facts of why they need your help. Think of it as your presentation of due diligence. In conclusion of your detailed needs analysis, summarize the needs in bullet form to easily reference again when the buyer reviews your proposal.
The Recommendation portion of the proposal is where you will highlight the features AND benefits of your offering. Now you can start selling. The same order that you outlined the needs of the client, is the order to present your recommendation.
Often sales people believe this is the most important part of the proposal; whereas, the buyer will still be stuck on their problems outlined in needs analysis. This is why recommendation follows understanding and needs analysis, clearly stating the problem you are solving! It is imperative to be clear and to the point in your recommendation. Use key features and benefits in one or two sentences – outline format is best. Don’t create a sales whitepaper on your product.
Provide supplemental collateral to the buyer separate from the proposal if more product information is necessary in making the final decision. Hopefully, you covered product reviews and demonstrations earlier in the sales cycle before delivering a proposal.
Remember, PROPOSALS DO NOT SELL. Proposals are affirmation to conversations you had prior in qualifying the client and getting agreement that you can solve their problem. If you are using your proposal to unveil your services or product features and benefits, you have not qualified your buyer. You will likely fail.
Now on to Pricing and Terms. This should be one page (one slide). Outline your pricing based on your recommendation. If there are specific terms to the agreement, add them to this area of the presentation. Terms and conditions should include time of agreement, dates for implementation, and milestones or KPIs to assess progress. Avoid the dreaded commission breath when talking money by making it all about you. Be steady, assertive and remember it is about the customer winning!
The assumptive closer will always conclude a proposal with the list of Next Steps. Number the steps and make them fewer than five so you do not overwhelm the buyer with the fact their decision will require more work. Be succinct and use action words. The list should show the commitment by you, the seller, and the expectations of the buyer.
Selling is creating a story that you can tell convincingly face-to-face, in writing or over the phone that addresses a customer need followed by an effective recommendation. Your sales proposal needs to be enticing and compelling to get the buyer to bite. Organized proposals that put the customer first, will get more attention than those that solely focus on what you are selling. When you focus on the buyer, you are a problem solver. People like people who help them!