How to write compelling proposals

HTWB proposalsProposals are often the most critical element in your quest to win new business. Writing them can be a headache for you and your colleagues, yet it’s essential to get them right. I asked Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Quotation Systems expert Pam Mannell from CRM Essentials Ltd, to share her tips on how to create a winning proposal – without losing too much sleep over it…

Quotations or proposals are a key component of your sales process and should be written with care and with consideration for recipient.  A poor quotation or proposal can put off a potential buyer even if the product and price are right.

What is the difference?

A basic quote should provide the reader with comprehensive and unambiguous details of the products and services offered along with any options, the pricing and your terms and conditions.  If the quotation is accepted it forms the basis of the contract between you and your client.

Proposals tend to go beyond being a simple statement of costs and services, and include far more backup information.  In many organisations there will be several different people each writing their own proposals therefore consistency needs to be applied to ensure they reflect the style of the business, look professional, and be consistent regardless of who produces them or how often you re-quote to the same contact.

What makes a good proposal?

A good proposal must meet the expectations of the recipient, but also be acceptable to the supplier.  Regardless of how compelling the proposal and offer is you should always make sure …

  • It is delivered to the prospect on time and in a format that they can distribute within their organisation.
  • It is accurate, not just in terms of the products and prices but the presentation layout and spelling should all be carefully checked.
  • It includes your full contact details on every page, so the prospect knows whom to talk to, even if the pages in the proposal become separated.

A proposal has to appeal to its audience – it is not just a statement of facts but has to provide the information in a way that engages your prospect and makes them want to buy from you.  Producing proposals often takes up far more time that it should due to the wide range of products and services offered by companies, maybe involving sales and technical resources.

Writing compelling proposals

Quotation software solutions can make producing quotes and proposals lot easier and faster.  Systems such as this are great for providing the facts and providing consistency, but they can’t sell. They may have templates or paragraphs that can be selected to provide the final document but someone has to write these in a way that is compelling to the reader.

This is where the writing skill comes in.

Do you know your audience?

blog,writing,news,blogging,businessYou may have met some of the decision makers but there may be others so you need to appeal to the logical, emotional, visual or kinaesthetic people – all in one document.

Keep it simple, do not use acronyms.  The proposal should be capable of being understood by anyone – some say a 7 year old.  If appropriate include pictures and images to reinforce the message.

Structure the proposal

There are various sections you will need to include in a proposal.  Some of these will form the templates or standard paragraphs mentioned earlier, which you can then use as a pick and mix as appropriate.  Some will have to be personalised for each proposal, but having a good example as a starting point will make this easier for everyone.

Front page/cover – try and appeal to the emotion here, if possible include their logo on the front page and their colour scheme.  First impressions are just as important in writing as any other situation.  The proposal is for them, not about you.

Introduction – here you can give an introduction about you/your organisation and why you are presenting the proposal.

Summary of requirements – this is your opportunity to show you fully understand their requirements, what are the key pain points they need to address and how will the view/value success.

Your offer – respond to the requirements and address the pain points identified in the previous section.  Don’t simply state you are the best; provide evidence that you can deliver the right solution at the right time.  Use case studies if you have suitable ones and details of reference sites if these have been requested.

At this point it is often a good idea to include an indication of the price.  This works better if you are providing services because the prospect will be valuing your skill in providing the solution, not just a product.  If you think the price is high and you want to hide it, it probably is  high!

Pricing – this is the full “quote” part of your proposal

Summary – restate requirements and solution

Terms and conditions – refine any qualifications to the proposal e.g. “Quote valid for 30 days”, or “This application requires Microsoft Server 2008 or later”.  Include clear terms and conditions for supply & payment. Omit this and you may be agreeing to your prospect’s less favourable T&Cs by default!

Appendices – any supporting documentation – technical info, case studies

Proofread – again

Once you have finished read it right through again – or get someone else to.  You should be checking that sentences are short and business like, there is appropriate use of paragraphs, headings and bullet points, and spelling is correct (do not rely on an automatic spell checker).

Would you buy from someone who sends out a proposal full of mistakes?  I know I wouldn’t.

proposals,CRM,quotations,how to write proposals

Pam Mannell

Pam Mannell has a corporate background which included writing responses for public sector tenders, IT training and Project Management.  Since 1997 she has worked with a range of Customer Relationship Management and Quotation systems, and for the last three years has run her own company, CRM Essentials Ltd, which provides CRM consultancy and training to small and medium sized organisations in south central UK.
Contact details:
Pam Mannell 0845 862 2150
photo credit: via photopin cc




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