Sales Proposals: What Modern Sales Teams Need to Know

November 24, 2021

sales proposal

Sales proposals are an essential part of the sales process. They communicate the specific value your product or service will bring to a customer based on their unique needs. 

B2B buyers have more information than ever at their fingertips, so sales proposals need to go above and beyond a prospect’s expectations to win them over. Proposals are one part of the many steps modern buyers take before making a purchase. 

Creating a winning sales proposal requires internal teams coming together to craft a meaningful experience for your buyer. Learn more about what defines a sales proposal and how to create a great one.

What is a sales proposal? 

A sales proposal is a piece of sales content that provides specific company information about a potential transaction with a buyer. Sometimes referred to as a business proposal, a sales proposal includes details about the company’s product or service that can be tailored to a potential customer’s specific needs and use case. 

Sales proposals go beyond the basic costs listed on a website pricing page. They usually include details about the scope of work and deliverables. Like many business processes, proposals used to be a pen-and-paper process. Now, digital options for proposal creation and sharing make it easy for sales teams to get the right information to the right people. Sales enablement software is especially powerful for streamlining the sales proposal process.

The length of a sales proposal depends on different factors, such as the seller’s industry and the size of the deal. Most sales proposals, though, include a few important pieces of information:

  • Basic company information
  • Executive summary of the business proposal
  • Statement of value or a unique selling proposition
  • Descriptions of the products or services
  • Detailed pricing information
  • Timeline for deliverables
  • Additional terms and conditions
  • Your contact information
  • Draft of the sales contract for review

Sales proposals differ from other types of sales collateral, even though they contain information found in other internal collateral such as battle cards and pricing matrices. Because sales proposals are external, customer-facing documents, they need to be accurate and on-brand for your business.

How sales proposals fit into the sales cycle

Within the sales cycle, sales proposals usually come in after a sales team has had a chance to present the product through a sales pitch or product demo.

stages of sales cycle

At this point in the sales cycle, the sales proposal can serve as a point of reference for both the buyers and sellers to begin the negotiation process. At this point in their journey, the buyer evaluates different solutions and uses proposals to make a decision.

Sales teams can send out proposals in response to a formal request for proposal (RFP), which is a call to service providers that buyers make when they are in the market for a specific business solution. Individual account executives also often send out a sales proposal immediately following a pitch or demo meeting for stakeholders to review and share internally.

Who is responsible for a sales proposal?

Because sales proposals contain such a wealth of information for prospective buyers, the proposal creation process can involve many different stakeholders from sales, revenue and operations teams. Marketing and design teams might also need to be involved to ensure a cohesive brand experience.

Why a good sales proposal matters

A great sales proposal is one that differentiates your product by making the most important information easy for your buyer to understand in one source of truth. Successful sales proposals help prospects envision how your product will add value to their organization.

How to craft a winning sales proposal 

Done right, a sales proposal can be the difference between winning and losing a deal. Crafting a winning sales proposal requires a lot of planning, care, and dedication. Here are 8 steps to follow to create a high-quality proposal for your buyers.

1. Understand your prospect

Your sales proposal is a time to show your potential buyer how much you understand their needs and care about the challenge they need to solve. To start crafting a tailored proposal, you first need to retrace your steps in the sales cycle and revisit the research you did during the prospecting and qualifying phases.

Start by revisiting your initial research about the prospect. Open up a conversation with your sales development rep (SDR): What problem did your SDR identify initially? How has the solution to that challenge or pain point evolved since the initial point of contact? Your proposal will need to align with these needs and challenges.

Your sales proposal should be, above all, accurate. You don’t want your prospect to respond to the proposal pointing out inaccuracies or missing information. Fortunately, sales engagement tools such as Chorus allow you to record, categorize and analyze sales calls after they happen.

chorus sales engagement

Source: Chorus

Machine learning-powered call transcriptions can help you revisit the finer details of your sales pitch or demo and add those key points to your proposal. 

Understanding your prospect’s specific challenges will help you craft a tailor-made proposal that keeps their needs in focus.

2. Review current customers for similar use cases and accounts

After reviewing the current deal in detail, you can use current customers’ use-cases to identify past examples of success for your prospect. 

Start by going over existing customer case studies. Do you have any current customers in the same industry as your buyer? What solutions were they offered? 

Collaborate with your customer success team to review these similar accounts. A few questions to ask your customer success team can include:

  • How long has this customer been with us?
  • How does this customer’s current package compare to their initial proposal? 
  • What features or perks have been the most useful for this customer?

Finally, check your CRM or system of record to find any old sales proposals for current successful customers. Those proposals might contain valuable information about packages or offers that can inform your current business proposal.

3. Use technology to your advantage

Creating a sales proposal doesn’t have to be an analog process. Use software to help you work smarter, not harder when building your proposal.

Design tools in particular can help you structure your proposal and include branding elements to make your proposal visually appealing. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to experience the benefits of design tools. Many design platforms, such as Canva, have built-in templates for proposals to help you get started.

canva proposal templates

Source: Canva

Proposal-specific design software also exists to help you create, send and track your proposals. These tools combine elements of design tools and sales automation to make the entire proposal process easier for sales teams

Using technology throughout the proposal process can help with template creation and version control internally, while also providing a seamless experience for the buyer receiving the proposal.

4. Find your sales collateral templates (or create some yourself)

Sales collateral is a powerful way to communicate your business’s unique value to prospects. Great sales content allows you to speak directly to a buyer throughout the sales cycle. 

Company size, industry, and team structure can all impact your business’s process for creating sales collateral. A small business with only one or two dedicated sales professionals might have those professionals be solely responsible for creating their collateral. Larger companies, however, likely have close alignment between sales and marketing teams to ensure brand consistency throughout the sales funnel. 

Whether you’re creating sales collateral on your own or working with a marketing team, templates can help you keep your brand stay consistent and save you time when creating important content like sales proposals. 

getaccept sales proposal

Source: GetAccept

If you don’t have any templates for sales proposals, it’s not too late to start! Find and clone a few examples of business proposals your team has sent in the past to serve as a starting point in your proposal creation. 

5. Outline the most important points of your sales proposal

Using your template, whether a formal document or another proposal you’ve copied, create a detailed outline of the business proposal itself. Creating an outline will provide structure to your writing process and help you prioritize important information, such as your unique selling proposition and timeline of delivery.

A basic outline of a sales proposal could include placeholders for:

  • Scope of work and solution
  • Visual aids such as pricing tables and timelines
  • Pricing details
  • Other terms and conditions
  • Draft of the contract

Using the structure outline in your template, start to organize the information you’ve gathered about the buyer and previous customer cases. Outlining your proposal in a previously used template will also present opportunities to customize the content for the intended audience.

6. Draft the sales content

Your outline should make it easy for you to start the writing process. Use your template and any company guidelines you might have to start populating the different sections with information.

Your marketing team may already have a standard copy they use for information about your company. Consult with your marketing team and sales leaders to make sure you fully understand your company’s brand and writing style guidelines. 

Sales proposals should be just long enough to provide the most important information to your buyer. Creating a proposal that’s too long risks overwhelming and potentially confusing your recipients. When writing your proposal, be succinct and specific about your product. 

Remember, the proposal shouldn’t be a word-for-word recap of a previous sales conversation. Use your writing and the proposal’s formatting to make it easy for the buyer to find the most important information quickly.

7. Edit and review your proposal

Just because you’re done writing your proposal doesn’t mean it’s ready for your buyer’s eyes. Don’t send a proposal to your prospects without proofreading yourself and securing necessary approvals. 

Proofread your proposal and cross-reference it with your research on the buyer and the sales cycle so far. Ensure all information about the solution and pricing aligns with any previous discussions you’ve had with the buyer to avoid any surprises when they receive your proposal.

Seek out necessary internal stakeholders to review your proposal before sending it out. Your sales operations team can check that your pricing is accurate. Your customer success team can confirm your timeline for onboarding the buyer. Enlisting the help of other teams can help catch any errors in your proposal you may have missed.

An accurate proposal helps present the best version of your business to a buyer. Allow time for feedback on your proposal to create a better buyer experience.

8. Send the proposal out to the customer

You did it! You’ve crafted a high-quality proposal that will show your buyer that your solution is the right one for them. Now, it’s time to send the proposal.

How and when you send a proposal matters. Make it as easy as possible for the buyer to open and review your proposal and use a sending method that aligns with their expectations. Some buyers will prefer an email attachment, but others will appreciate the ease of a digital document tool. Using a digital tool will also make it easier for your team to update the proposal if the buyer comes back with changes.

No matter how you choose to send over your business proposal, make sure you’re including the right people in the communication, including your internal sales team and your prospect’s buying team.

Finally, include a personal note with your proposal thanking the buyer for their time and making yourself available to answer any questions. 

Avoid common sales proposal mistakes

With so many steps and so much information to gather and consolidate, there are a lot of places where sales proposals can go wrong. Here are a few common proposal mistakes to avoid.

Not customizing proposal content 

Your buyer will notice if the proposal you send them isn’t tailored to their unique needs. Reusing text from your terms and conditions is one thing, but your value proposition and proposed solutions should be written with a specific buyer in mind. 

Modern buyers expect customized experiences. By the time you are sending the buyer a proposal, you’ve already had at least one conversation with them. A proposal that’s too templated could send a message that you’re not interested in helping them solve their problem.

Avoid this by studying the specific business challenge and using the buyer’s own words and terminology to communicate the solution in the proposal. You can take your customization to the next level by including a video or live chat link with your proposal to reinforce the connection with your buyer.

Centering your business too much 

At the proposal stage of the buyer’s journey, your buyer has already had plenty of time to get to know your company. A proposal that’s too focused on you and your business doesn’t add value for the buyer and takes up valuable space better spent on solutions to their pain points.

Review your proposal and get a rough estimate of how often you mention your business without making a connection to the buyer. If a section or paragraph feels unnecessarily promotional, it probably is.

Not knowing when to ask for help

Business proposals require a lot of moving parts to come together. Sales professionals, while usually fluent in their business’s product and pricing, may not always have all of the answers to the nuances of pricing packages, discounts, and product updates.

Avoiding asking for help can have terrible consequences. Communicating the wrong information to the potential customer creates a poor experience and could even put the deal in jeopardy. When in doubt about information in your proposal, ask your sales, product, or even marketing teammates for insight and expertise.

Using unclear language

A sales proposal is the time to be specific about your offering. Don’t use vague or unclear language when describing your product or pricing at the proposal stage.

Your buyer has already reviewed your marketing content and seen your product in action. They know how it works at a high level. Instead, your business proposal should be a detailed, but succinct, summary of your solution to the buyer’s problem. 

You should also explain your terms and features in a way the buyer can understand. Avoid internal terms and technical jargon in your proposal. You want the content to be approachable and an easy reference point for negotiation.

Finally, always proofread your proposal before sending it out. Frequent small errors in your copy and content add up to a negative buyer experience over time. Use automated spelling and grammar tools such as Hemingway or Grammarly to identify errors as you work, and review your proposal for accuracy before sending.

Creating a great sales proposal template 

A sales proposal template is a digital selling tool that saves sales teams time and effort when moving deals through the pipeline. Proposal templates help sales teams ensure their brand and company information is represented accurately when creating sales content at scale. A fillable template also allows account executives to customize the proposal where appropriate, so the customer still feels they are getting a tailored experience.

Source: GetAccept

Here are some of the most common parts of a sales proposal that you can use to create your own sales proposal templates:

  • Cover page: include a cover page that includes your company name, the buyer’s name, and your company brand colors or images helps give your proposal a professional look
  • Introduction: introduce your company and its mission and values while leaving space for the buyer’s name and unique use case
  • Unique selling point: block space for your unique selling proposition in your proposal template. This can be a standard selling proposition, but leave room for a few sentences about how your solution fits the buyer’s needs
  • Terms & conditions: include standard information about your company’s terms and conditions for the sale
  • Executive summary: provide a high-level overview of your previous discussions with the buyer and summarize their main pain points
  • Pricing table: create a fillable table to include your proposed solution and its pricing

Use these components to create your own sales proposal template, or download one of the many available proposal templates around the web to make your proposal process quick and easy.

Use sales proposals to win more customers

Sales proposals are a vital piece of sales collateral that outline your proposed solution to a potential customer. The best sales proposals help your sales team win a deal, but they take time, effort and collaboration to get right.

Proposals combine forces of sales, marketing, customer success and product teams to present the most accurate information to a potential buyer. Proposals arrive after a pitch or demo to summarize past conversations and provide a clear roadmap for a solution to the buyer’s challenge.

Creating a winning sales proposal starts with gathering information about the prospect and similar use cases. Then, sales teams can use past proposals or proposal templates to outline and draft the content itself. Finally, the proposal gets approval from internal stakeholders before finally being sent to the buying team.

Sales teams have to work quickly to get proposals out after a pitch or demo meeting. Common mistakes to avoid when creating a proposal on a time crunch include centering the business instead of the customer, using unclear language, and not knowing when to seek outside expertise.

Digital sales tools can help businesses create, send and track sales proposals in one comprehensive digital sales environment. Next time you need to create a proposal, consider a digital solution to create an intuitive and seamless buyer experience.

Creating winning sales proposals is just the start. Learn more about sales enablement strategies that will make your sales team even more of a powerhouse than it already is.

sales enablement software
Close deals more often

Utilize sales enablement software to make the sales proposal process easy and effective.

sales enablement software
Close deals more often

Utilize sales enablement software to make the sales proposal process easy and effective.

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