Writing a Proposal That Closes the Deal

A strong proposal places your vision, mission and client specific solution on the table to move decision makers toward a ‘yes'

Chapter 01: Writing a Proposal That Closes the Deal

Writing an effective proposal is key to a successful sale. A good proposal can help you to close more deals, offer additional elements and increase revenue. Proposal writing can be daunting and getting it wrong can be a deal breaker. BUT -- getting it right can be a dealmaker. It may not be your favorite part of the process but here are some highlights and writing hacks that will help you ‘level-up’ your proposal writing skills and finish triumphantly!

Do I Need to Write a Proposal?

While it’s true that every sale doesn’t necessarily require a proposal, creating one as a standard part of your sales process can carry huge returns. A well-written proposal provides an at-a-glance overview of your company vision, mission and product or services. In addition to documenting the details of the proposed sale, the proposal demonstrates that you listened to your client, understood the client’s needs and can provide a solution.

Presenting the specifics of your product or service in a proposal gives you some key advantages. You have the opportunity to differentiate your product offering from your competitors. You can present your services in the context of solving your client’s specific pain points. The proposal also gives you the opportunity to include a range of offerings and various price points—which can result in closing more and bigger sales than you had planned to achieve.

So, what if you’re not the best writer or you don’t know how to write a winning proposal? Some clear guidelines and a handful of proposal ‘hacks’ will give you the competitive edge.

Elements of a Good Business Proposal

There are proposals and there are good proposals—and by ‘good’ I mean the proposals that do what’s needed to inform and convert the potential client into a customer. While every proposal should be personalized to meet the client’s unique needs, all proposals should include some standard elements.

  1. Introduction: Introduce your company mission and product in alignment with the client’s needs; highlight distinguishing factors (what makes your company different and better than the competition?), credentials, accomplishments and industry recognition
  2. Executive Summary: One of the most important sections of your proposal, this is where you personalize the reasons your company is the right company for the job, state your overall case and highlight the takeaway message of the proposal
  3. Table of Contents (optional): Only needed for long proposals, a table of contents can help guide your client to specific areas of the proposal; skip this element if you’re creating a more concise (i.e.; short) proposal
  4. Body: Detail the five Ws (who, what, when, where, why) and how of your product or service offering; include data, key concepts, testimonials, links to your website and media reviews, scheduling, logistics and pricing
  5. Conclusion: Summarize and re-emphasize key points, benefits, and options with a clear call-to-action.

Writing a Proposal They Can’t Refuse

Creating a standout proposal begins long before the actual writing. Having a ‘discovery conversation’ with your client may be the most important part of the process. During the discovery conversation, listen and work to understand what your client needs. Capture the top three client objectives and address those as you write your proposal. Your proposal should carry the message, “I heard you and here’s how I can help.”

Strike the right tone with pricing and timing. Beware over and underpricing; be objective about the tangible or perceived value of your product. Value-based pricing gives you the opportunity to price your services based on value and not cost. Most clients expect to pay fair market value and you have the option of structuring your pricing to be competitive in the marketplace of value—not cost.

Craft a menu of options including upselling and cross-selling. Offer three options, which ‘bookend’ the option you’d most like to sell. Describe the benefits of each ‘menu option’ so they align with your client’s needs at each level. Clients are more likely to choose the middle option and some may opt for the premium option!

  • Basic option:Least expensive but still solves problems and is profitable for you
  • Middle option: Core offering for most prospects, this is your preferred menu item which solves problems with added value to the client
  • Premium option: Gold standard' offers premium level values and makes the middle option look like the 'easy' choice

Let the proposal double as a contract. By adding an acceptance signature option at the end of the document, you can avoid the delay of drafting a contract. Unless material costs or availability are dependent on a certain timeline, an acceptance deadline isn’t preferred. When your client is ready, suggest they go ahead and sign so you can begin to deliver their solution immediately.

Presenting the Proposal

It’s ideal to have the opportunity to review the proposal in person. Ask yourself, “How can I help this client be more successful?” and answer that question as you present the benefits of the proposal to your client.

Your presentation should be a conversational discussion of the key points of the proposal. Be sure that both your presentation and the proposal reflect that you heard your client and are ready to provide solutions to their pain points.

Briefly summarize your strengths highlighting how your product offering is different from and better than your competitors. Focus on the three client objectives you chose and how your proposal meets the client’s needs. This is your time to shine as a valuable solution.

Reserve time to ask closing questions that move your client toward a decision or action. The question, “What concerns do you have that would prevent us from moving forward with the proposal?” will identify remaining barriers. Whatever the outcome of your proposal presentation meeting, be sure to provide swift follow up to continue building that relationship.