There’s an art to winning business through perfect business proposals or RFPs. Responding to RFPs takes a lot of time, but done right, good business proposals shows your prospective customers that you know what makes your company unique — and how you will use these strengths to solve their problems. The very nature of a business proposal also gives your team a built-in opportunity to evaluate all the elements that determine your company’s success at sales in the first place: the ability to communicate clearly, brand yourself effectively, and differentiate yourself from the competition. In short, a proposal is your chance to hone your craft and step up your sales game.
But how do you take what’s great about your company and distill it into a concise, compelling document that shows prospective clients that you’re the team for the job? Below are three tips for crafting perfect business proposals.
Start Winning Before You Start Writing
In a sales world where sales are made increasingly via the power of people’s networks, the best proposal is the one you never had to write. Many RFPs are simply a checkbox formality, and the deals are already foregone conclusions. That means one of the most important things a sales team can do is to reach out and constantly build a database of referrals that you can pitch before the proposal request process even begins. Getting to know prospective clients before they make requests allows you to learn their needs and pain points and show them how your company is uniquely suited to addressing them.
But reaching out doesn’t happen by accident. Schedule a regular time each week to reach out to prospective contacts, lock in deals, and avoid busywork.
Create an Experience, Not a Proposal
Understanding what drives customer loyalty can also help you craft a proposal that connects with your potential customers. In a survey of over 6,000 customers, the Sales Executive Council found that the most important factor of driving customer satisfaction was the sales experience itself. In other words, how the customer felt about the interactions was more important than branding, delivery, and even price points.
But what does this look like in a business proposal format? First of all, it’s vital to remember that people are reading all of the proposals you write — and people hate two things:
1) to be bored, and
2) to be ignored.
Write your proposal using language and formatting you’d want to see if your job was to sift through stacks of mind-numbing documents. And make sure to keep the document centered on the client, not your company. You might be interested in when your company was founded and how many offices it boasts, but the client wants to hear about themselves — their needs, problems, and how you’re going to solve them.
Try reading over your proposal quickly. If your eyes start to glaze over, or if you mention your company more than the client, start over.
First Things First
Most people make one common, but fatal, error in writing their business proposal: they start with the basics and build up to their strongest arguments. But people’s attention often goes the opposite way, starting high and declining over time.
So what’s the solution? Put your most important arguments first — at the top of the doc and the top of each paragraph. Don’t waste precious attention spans talking about your history or making vague platitudes about why you’re the best person for the job. Start with a bang by clearly and compellingly showing your prospective client what you will do to solve their problems better than the competition.
In a 2019 Revenue Collective (now Pavilion) Slack thread, D’Andre Crump DFW and Harrison Wold SFO both suggested providing your template, weighted in favor of your strengths and offerings, if given the opportunity, and pointing out gaps in their current RFP to position yourself as an expert. Johana Fartouh MIA also noted the importance of getting ahead of the RFP by piquing interest (in a way that only your organization can solve) before the prospect decides to run any RFP. This demand creation can help you win faster, often without the need to face a formal RFP or competition.