How to Create Winning Proposals

Best Practices, Proposals, Sales Effectiveness, Sales Process
August 4, 2016

This is a reprint of Michael Schmidtmann original blog article.  Used with persmission. Michael leads Trans4mers, an organization of peer groups for Sales Leaders in the technology field.
Win_baby-310x204.jpgIt’s easier than ever to create a beautiful proposal that nobody reads. Today’s buyer scans the cover page, then immediately flips to the back, where the price is. Does this happen to you?

Why are they bypassing all the boilerplate you’ve so artfully cut & pasted? Why do they skip the pretty pictures you’ve downloaded? Why don’t they care about how long you’ve been in business and how many happy customers you have?

Persuasive Tools

A proposal is your chance to influence, persuade, and ultimately convince your prospect. That means you need to appeal to the thing they most care about and are interested in. I’ve got a one-word clue for what that is: “Themself”. Not you, not your products and services, and not your marvelous NOC. Your proposal should totally focus on the challenges your customer is facing and your solution to fix them.

A Proposal is NOT

  • A Bill of Materials
  • Page after page of “Vendor Vomit”
  • Boilerplate about the wonderfulness of your company

Reading your vendor boilerplate is like reading the dietary information on a tub of popcorn. Nobody eats popcorn based on the amount of B-12 you get in each serving. You buy it because it smells great, tastes great, and you want it. Nobody buys based on boilerplate marketing material. Nobody except a government official even has the time to read it.

A Test for You

Take a typical proposal, and take this short test to see how effective it is.

The “I / U” Ratio. Highlight in RED every time you talk about your company, your capabilities, your service, your solution, and your wonderfulness. Next, highlight in GREEN every time you talk about customer issues, challenges, and the business outcomes of implementing your solution.

If you are like most companies, your pages are a sea of RED . Most proposals I see are at least 10-1 “I to U”. Your most persuasive, successful proposals will be a sea of GREEN, with far more “Us than I”.

Masterpieces of Boilerplate

A short proposal is actually harder to create than a long one. With modern quoting tools, creating Masterpieces of Boilerplate can be simple and easy. Crafting a short proposal, at least a short executive summary is much harder. Mainly because real thinking and editing need to go into it.

The Hard Part

To be persuasive, a proposal needs to be targeted and specific to each customer. You should address two or three really big challenges the customer is facing, and how you will solve them. Your proposal should address these questions:

  • So what? Why should the customer do this?
  • How will your solution address and solve the problems?
  • How are you different from other Solution Providers?
  • What outcomes can they expect by investing in this solution?

The Really Hard Part

If you really want to get good and deliver killer proposals, try taking your customer through “The Buyer’s Journey” right on the first page, in the executive summary.

  • Overview of the Current Situation
  • Description of the Customer’s Desired Outcomes
  • List of the Obstacles & Challenges they are Facing
  • An Overview of Your Solution
  • The Expected Results of Your Solution

Earning the Right

95% of salespeople can’t answer the questions above, and therefore are completely unprepared to deliver a winning proposal. The only time they win is when the other competitors are even worse.

To differentiate yourself and win more business, do the spadework to uncover your customer goals, challenges, and needs. Then, let your proposal take them through the buyer’s journey in a compelling, persuasive way.

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For more information on this blog post and to learn more about creating proposals that win, please email us.