Why Your Sales Proposals Suck and How to Fix Them

The sales proposals that you present to prospects have the power to make or break a deal. The problem is that most sales proposals suck harder than a Hoover that’s fresh off the showroom floor.

Here’s why your sales proposals suck and how to fix them:

1. Your Proposal Is So Ugly, Its Own Shadow Ran Away From It

Why is it that marketers and salespeople put so much effort into the entire process of attracting and pitching a prospect, only to drop the ball five yards shy of the end zone?

Your proposal needs a cover page and professional formatting. The ‘look and feel’ of your sales proposal may sound like window dressing, but your sales proposal is the last impression that you’ll make on a prospect before they make a purchasing decision. Your cover page will set the tone for the proposal and the deal itself. Invest time into a sharp, on-brand cover page with the prospect’s name and company as well as the name of the rep who is presenting the proposal. Also, make sure that the fonts and style are uniform throughout the proposal. Nothing says “chintzy” like mismatched type styles.

2. Your Proposal Is So Generic, Its Own Mother Wouldn’t Recognize It

There’s an art to the preparation of a sales proposal. To master this art form requires the preparer to personalize and customize the sales proposal template.

First, you’ll want to personalize the proposal to reflect the discussions you’ve had with the prospect. This is your chance to demonstrate that you actively listened to the prospect during discovery calls by proposing products or solutions that align directly with the prospect’s needs. The key to doing so is in how you describe your proposed offerings. Explain the value of the proposed offerings as to how it relates to the prospect’s unique needs and you’ll help the prospect better connect with the proposed offerings.

Secondly, you’ll want to customize the proposal so that it’s as specific to the company you’re presenting it to as possible. For example, use terminology that’s germane to the prospect’s business.

3. Your Proposal Is So Analog, It Might As Well Be A Stone Tablet

The proposal itself is only one facet of the sales proposal stage. The other angle you must consider is how to manage the process of delivery and closing. If you’re using a standard-issue analog sales proposal of yesteryear, you won’t have visibility into whether the prospect has received, opened, revisited or accepted your proposal until you actually (hopefully) receive a signed agreement. By using a document automation solution with analytics, you can monitor the prospect’s engagement with your delivered proposal so that you’ll have insight into the optimal time to follow up and keep the process moving.

Additionally, your ‘stone tablet’ PDF is a pain in the neck for the prospect to wrangle with. He has to download your attachment, squint at it on his mobile phone, forward it to his boss who has to do the same thing, wait for his boss to approve it, then he needs to get to his computer to sign the darn thing, reattach it to an email and send it back to you. That’s a ton of friction to add on to the tail end of your sales process, especially when you’re flying blind and don’t know where in that process your prospect may have stalled out.

4. Your Proposal Is So Bloated, Its Idea Of Dieting Is Deleting Cookies From The Browser Cache

The proposal is your final fourth quarter field goal attempt to win the game and close the deal.

To this end, it’s a good idea to preface a sales proposal with supplemental content that reiterates the highlights of your brand and your solution/products. Supplemental content can help reinforce your company’s positioning in the case that your proposal has to go head to head with other proposals. Including content like a brief corporate overview, client testimonial quotes and logos is appropriate and in doing so, you can set a positive tone for the presentation of your proposal.

However, it’s best to err on the side of being conservative with extra content. Presenting a fifteen-page whopper of a proposal is tone deaf. In doing so, you’re telling the prospect that you don’t respect their time — a very dangerous message to send. Don’t overcompensate for a lack of confidence in the effectiveness of your sales pitch by adding bloat to your proposal.

In summary, if your proposal is ugly, generic, dated or too lengthy then there’s no way around it… your proposal just sucks.

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