6 Tricks for Writing a Sales Proposal That Wins Business

Do you have a great product or service, but can't seem to close the deal? Turn things around by incorporating these 6 tips into your next sales proposal.
Author, Profit First
April 17, 2014

Whether you’re selling something that costs $1,000 or $100,000, putting together a compelling sales proposal is time consuming and can be intimidating. Writing that proposal, though, and taking the time to do it right, may be the most productive use of your time. Don’t make the mistake of carelessly throwing a whole lot of facts and figures at a client and hoping you will magically walk away with a sale. Consistently using a formula for building a compelling proposal will improve your sales and make you much more confident.

1. Use the power of comparison. Try this experiment: Find one of those ads that uses before and after pictures to demonstrate the effectiveness of a product and cover up the before picture. You’ll discover that the after picture isn’t nearly so compelling without the comparison. That contrast—the shock value—is incredibly compelling, and you can use that to your advantage in every proposal you write. How? Say your client needs to spend $9,000 to update his computer system, and you know that he’s going to think $9,000 is a lot of money. Show him exactly what a cut-corners-to-save-a-few-bucks computer network looks like (the "before" picture), then show him how much better, and more productive, the system that costs $9,000 will be (the after).

2. Offer three choices. Customers want to feel as if they’re in control and they have choices. If you give them just one or two options, they feel backed into a corner, and they may decide to wait, rather than selecting from the option or two that you provide. If you offer too many choices, though, your client may suffer from analysis paralysis—the inability to meaningfully differentiate among a confusing array of options. Three is the perfect number of choices. Your client will be able to feel good about their decision, and they’re more likely to be satisfied when it’s all said and done.

3. Start high, and go lower. Always start with the highest priced option and work your way down. Odds are that no matter what price you start with, your client may experience some sticker shock, and what you don’t want is to build unpleasant anxiety by escalating prices. When you start with your highest priced option and decrease prices, you’re creating a sense of relief. By the time that your client gets to your second and third options, they sound like a great value compared to the higher priced first option.

4. Watch your words. Use “investment” rather than “cost,” “fee” or “charge.” Choosing your words carefully means evaluating the connotation of words and using them to your advantage. “Investments” pay off. “Fees” are money you never see again. The differences are subtle, but very important in terms of client satisfaction.

5. Never use price ranges. When you tell a client that it’ll cost them somewhere around $100 to $150 to have their office cleaned once a week, you’re setting up yourself and the client to be disappointed. You feel like you’ve just landed yourself a $150 job, but the client hears that it’s a $100 job, and if you come in $1 over that $100 price, they’ll be disappointed. Rather than using a range that makes both parties feel less than satisfied, throw out a specific price and be prepared to negotiate it. If you quote the client at $150 and they talk you down to $125, then they feel they’ve gotten a good deal, and you’re better off than you would have been if you’d charged $100.

6. Personalize the benefits. Use the word “you” when you talk about the benefits your client will receive, and distance them from the “investment” portion of the proposal by discussing the cost to their company. For example, “You’ll have a sparkling clean workplace, and the investment for ABC Company is only $125 per month.” Or, “Clients typically invest about $125, and you'll be amazed at the difference you see.” Make the benefits personal and the investment impersonal.

The more you practice this formula, the more adept you’ll become at creating a proposal that both wins clients and makes those clients feel good about having given you their business.

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Photo: iStockphoto

Author, Profit First