When it comes to connecting with prospects and moving them through the sales funnel, proposals play a key role. Unfortunately, the majority of salespeople have no idea how to write an effective proposal. As a result, they seriously limit their chances of finding repeatable success.
Simple Steps to Better Proposals
Writing proposals is half science and half intuition. It requires a certain understanding of technical components, as well as firsthand experience and feel. And while nothing replaces the latter half of the equation, you can better master the first half by implementing these simple proposal writing tips:
1. Keep It Short
Human attention spans are short. Science suggests that they’ve become shorter over time. If you believe this study, the average attention span is now just eight seconds (shorter than that of a goldfish). As someone who requires focus and attention out of prospects, this is a little disturbing. But rather than fight this natural progression, it’s important that you adapt to account for how your prospects digest information.
We’ve all received a long-winded email before and quickly glazed over. The tendency is to read a few words, scroll, and then read the last couple of sentences. A lengthy proposal is no different. Your average sales prospect simply won’t have the mental tenacity or willpower to stick it out.
If you’re in a B2B industry, you’re pitching your product to very busy professionals who are managing companies and people. They don’t have time to sit down and spend 20 minutes with a proposal. The more you can distill information into a brief proposal, the better your results will be.
2. Address Relevant Pain Points
It’s one thing to know what your prospect’s pain points are. But in order to capitalize, you have to let your prospect know that you understand their issues.
“A sales proposal should communicate early on that you understand exactly what their pain is, and that you have a great solution for that pain,” explains Proposable, a leading provider of proposal software. “Maybe even cite an instance where your solution solved another similar customer’s problem.”
Be direct and personal. Generic case studies and generalized claims won’t get you very far. Dig in and be bold.
3. Provide Options
Unless you’re certain that you know exactly what your prospect wants, a proposal should offer multiple options (three is preferable).
Options do a couple of things for you. First off, it allows you to satisfy any budget. When you don’t know how much a prospect has to spend, presenting a few choices ensures at least one product will be affordable. Secondly, you give prospects a sense of optionality. This lessens the likelihood that they’ll look for alternatives from your competitors.
4. Avoid Extravagant Claims
We live in a world where everyone wants to be the loudest and the best. As you craft proposals, you’ll feel tempted to do the same. But contrary to popular belief, it’s best to avoid these extravagant claims.
“Be wary of hyperbolic language—phrases such as ‘the most extensive,’ ‘the most authoritative,’ ‘unequaled,’ ‘the undisputed leader,’” sales consultant Bill Rosenthal advises. “Tone claims down to the point at which you can support them with facts. Include published books and articles, survey results, test data, testimonial letters, or sample products. Overstatement begs readers to be skeptical.”
People want honesty and transparency above all else. When you’re able to quantify a claim, it adds credibility. And credibility is something your competitors can’t squash – even with extravagant claims.
5. Know When To Follow Up
The follow-up is extremely important. You don’t want to follow-up prematurely, but you also can’t let too much time go by before contacting the prospect. Consider investing in a proposal analytics solution, which will allow you to see when a proposal is opened up, how long it was read, and whether it was passed along to other people. This will allow you to be more strategic with your follow-ups.
It’s Time To Start Winning
Make no mistake about it – successful proposal writing is an art form that takes lots of work to perfect. But if you don’t do anything else, putting the techniques mentioned above into practice will allow you to enjoy some quick successes that would otherwise require years of experience.