Proposal development

There is nothing more frustrating that putting in the hard yards only to have prospects leak after receiving your proposal. As with all the tactics that have come before it, your proposal needs to be built with a specific progression in mind – in this case, that the buyer will make the decision to buy from you.

A good proposal needs to summarise the journey taken to that point clearly and concisely, so content is very important. Likewise, timing is crucial – you should only ever propose if you’ve established an agreed need with your prospect. If the need has not been defined and agreed, your proposal – regardless of how good it may be – will probably fail to progress your buyer.

Content

Quality content arranged in a logical sequence is a vital component of any proposal. Your proposal should contain the following sections, in order, to honour the journey taken by your buyer to establish you as the logical choice to meet their need:

  • A title page
  • Table of contents
  • A cover letter
    • A warm, well-written letter communicates your excitement about the opportunity and your desire to form a business alliance with the prospect. It also shows your personality and helps humanize your company.
    • Acts as a personalised Executive Summary, and concludes with clear next steps.
    • The proposal body will corroborate your claims and will provide the detail.
  • Situation & aspirations
    • This section demonstrates that you understand who they are, their particular situation and their aspirations.
  • Impediments
    • This section outlines the impediments that are preventing them from achieving their aspirations (ie. their problem(s)).
  • A clear need
    • This section explains what they need to solve that problem(s), as agreed in the previous sales meeting.
  • How we propose to help
    • This section summarises how you will meet that need with your solution.
  • Outcomes
    • This section documents the results they will see should they choose to proceed with your solution.
  • Credentials
    • This section credentialises your company's experience in providing the solution(s) outlined and should include a logo board or list of companies similar to the prospect the proposal was written for.
  • Fee Proposal
    • This section clearly covers the costs associated with your solution.
  • Terms & Conditions
    • This section clearly and concisely states the terms of your solution. If unfamilar with the legalities of your solution or service offering, ensure the appropriate person in your business approves this section before you submit the proposal.

Most of these sections should be able to follow a templated format, with varying levels of customisation for each (eg. ‘Situation & aspirations’ will be entirely customised, but ‘How we propose to help’ may be the same in most instances – depending on your particular product or service).

Building a proposal- tips

Sales training company, The Brooks Group, have some handy tips to building quality proposals:

  • Once built, share it with an Internal Advocate: Getting feedback on the proposal before formally presenting allows you to tweak it in a "safe" environment. You're able to go back and adjust anything that's changed or that you missed it.
  • Test it: Don't accept, "Yeah, this looks fine." from your internal advocate. Instead, test the proposal by asking questions like: "If this makes sense, what would keep us from moving forward?" "Has anything changed?" "What do you think [Joe] will think of this?"
  • Go over the Proposal in Person: This is so key! Don't simply email the proposal to your prospect and wait. Instead, arrange a time to go over the document in person, on the phone, or on the web with them and use this time to build value.


Appearance

While quality content in a logical sequence is the most important element you can't overlook your proposal's appearance. Submitting a poorly packaged proposal is kind of like walking into a meeting in a cheap suit - it can make the prospect question the quality of your offering or ability to meet their need to a high standard. Everything matters, from punctuation, spelling, and grammar to noun/verb agreement and sentence construction. If you're printing it hard copy use high quality paper stock, cleanly divided sections, and well designed graphics and charts that will, like a quality suit, give you the credibility to be a contender.

Delivery

Proposals are usually presented in Word Document/PDF or PowerPoint format – with both having their own positives and negatives. We recommend using a Word Document/PDF as your primary proposal (as it allows you to capture the level of detail required), and to use PowerPoint as a secondary tool should you be required to present your proposal face to face.

Word Document/PDF- the standard

  • Presenting your proposal as a Word Document/PDF enables you to include as much information as you require.
  • Build the document in Word and then save and submit as PDF so your message and offering is locked down and won't be altered accidentally
  • Once built, share it with someone who has both a keen eye for formatting/spelling and knowledge of the ideal proposal content sequence. Attaining eedback on the proposal before formally presenting it allows you to tweak it in a "safe" environment
  • Present the proposal, do not email it. Arrange a time to go over the document with the prospect(s) either face to face, on the phone, or via an online meeting tool
  • If presenting the proposal face to face leave behind printed and bound copies of your document proposal so that stakeholders can go away, digest the details, and return to you with any further queries.

PowerPoint- good for face to face presentations

  • A PPT proposal can be an engaging way to present your solution offering as they are largely reliant on visual prompts rather than lines of text (the general rule of thumb is no more than three lines of text on a slide and no more than 6 words per line)
  • Even if you are presenting a PPT proposal you should still have an extended Word Document/PDF write up that fully documents all items. These should be given to your prospect(s) after the presentation so they can digest the details, and return to you with any further querie
  • Allow time for a Q&A at the end of your presentation. You may have stakeholders who are new to the journey, and it is important to resolve any concerns or queries in order to get these stakeholders on board.

More info http://www.ceriniandassociates.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=254:10-steps-to-a-winning-b2b-proposal&catid=49:published-articles&Itemid=106 Example of a B2B Proposal Built into an Ipad Application