Drafting a new proposal, especially for one of your hot prospects in a day might just feel like a daunting task. What should the proposal have? How long should the proposal be? Finding answers to these questions might make you feel the urge to have a cup of coffee!
However, two things that can make your task a little less overwhelming are the use of a proposal software and a well defined structure that you can use.
To help you get rolling, we would start from scratch - what is a business proposal software?
Before we get started, we must realize the importance of a proposal. A proposal for your prospects deserves more respect than it already gets, it represents your organization, your team, your expertise, and reputation. Would you like to send your prospect a boring one-page word document with the details of your price in the proposal? Do you think they might even get excited to work with your organization?
To bring color and life to your business proposals, software like Zomentum comes into picture, that are equipped with customizable proposal templates in accordance with your requirement and your clients.
Most sales organisations though still use a word document or any other default writing software available on their computers to build a proposal. Which, usually are nothing more than just a list of products, their pricing and a sum of all the costs.
These are useful when you are in negotiation with your customer over price, not when you just gave them a demo , did an evaluation and now are trying to show the benefits of investing in your services.
Proposal softwares like Zomentum breathe life into your proposals and sales documents, they make it interactive and dynamic, sharing detailed information about your product and services in a form that your clients would understand.
Using the dynamic pricing features, a customer can now choose the product or service that they think would add value to them and see what that would cost them; all from a single document built using a proposal software. This saves both time and effort in creating proposals for you and your customers while speeding up your sales cycle and optimizing your sales teams productivity.
Now that you know how important a proposal software is. Pour yourself a cup of coffee, take a breath and let’s tackle the main agenda of this article, “how to structure a proposal”. In this post I would define a structure along with essential sections of a proposal that you must have in your document when you build one for your customer.
Here we go,
The cover of your proposal is the first thing your prospect will see, so you need to make a good first impression. Your proposal cover doesn’t have to be flashy, it can be simple and creative, and well-designed.
Certain obvious details that must be included in your proposal cover are,
Your proposal cover must have the company’s logos, yours and the prospect’s. And sending across a proposal with bland and dis-interesting logos and the cover is not something that I would suggest. Include sharp, prime quality images of the logos. In short, avoid being fuzzy in the proposal cover!
Contrary to the famous belief, an executive summary isn’t the summary of your organization. In fact, it summarizes the solution that you can provide to fix the problem. Your executive summary convinces the prospect to believe in you, your organization and the reason to outsource their projects.
This area needs to be persuasive, focussing on the benefits of your organization, product and service. Don’t be descriptive and highly focussed on your offerings and features, rather explain how and why your features and offerings can aid in your prospect’s long-term development.
Your executive summary must include the following topics,
Suppose you read a book, the first page is interesting and when you flip to the second page, you realise the story is not that great, what would you do?
Similarly, if your introduction is a mess, then consider your prospect gone. Your hard work on the proposal cover goes negligible if your introduction is ugly. So, try to grab those eyeballs!
PS: Don’t script the introduction glorifying your organization, rather, outline the problems of your prospects and your efficiency in solving them.
If you don’t understand your prospect’s actual problem, you are not even efficient in solving a problem. Therefore, DO NOT mess up this section. Explain your grasp on the situation and, if possible, include some research or experiences in handling a similar problem.
PS: Focus more on your prospect’s problems, rather, highlighting your team’s efficiency.
This is the section where you must express your organization and team. Highlight the problem for which your prospect needs your help and how efficiently your team plans on solving the situation.
Keep this section top level so that your prospects can have a sense of relief and get excited about the results to come.
Everything you claim about yourself, your company or quality of your service must have some proof for your prospects to believe in. Therefore, this section is to prove what you have portrayed above. Explain why your organization and team is the right choice for your prospect, and what makes you qualified.
You might have some experiences in solving problems in the past. It can be a skill that you possess, or a technology that you have built, or an approach you might have taken. Analyse the requirements of your prospects and explain the one they are looking for.
The sole purpose of having an executive summary is to convince a prospect to do business with you without having to flip to page 2 of your proposal. Interesting, huh!
Well, your prospects have already listened to your sales pitch and are now awaiting the RFP. They either know your organization well enough to sign the proposal within minutes of receiving it or are studying (or getting to know) you through the proposal you just sent.
In either case, your executive summary must be that flattery that your prospect signs it without getting to the next page. So, talk about your organization’s stance and their happiness to work with the prospect in solving their problems.
PS: Don’t have an executive summary that goes 10% of your entire proposal. In fact, keep it short and limit the content to 1 or 2 pages maximum.
The next section of your proposal outlines your approach to solving the prospect’s problems, and the process involved. You must be specific when explaining the details about the client project and the challenges. Don’t let them have thought of sending a generic boilerplate proposal, swapped from a previous client’s agenda, with a different name.
This is a section where you need to list things in detail and what the client can expect you to solve in every genre. For every deliverable that you list, write a detailed description. Don’t just assume that the prospect already knows about the deliverable and would not be interested to read. Even if that’s true, you do your part to make your proposal look good.
As easy as it sounds when you break down a proposal into smaller sections, a project is very similar and easily understood when its milestones are broken down into smaller agendas. Outline the deliverables into multiple sections, define the timeline for every section, teammates responsible to attend to a section of deliverables, and the details of what will be accomplished under every milestone.
An obvious section that gets both the parties interested and intrigued is the budget.
It’s not just an important section for you, it is also an important section for your prospects, so avoid making any mistakes in this section of your proposal.
It is great when your prospects have options. When you give a single price, even if they might want to bargain, their efforts might seem impossible. It is best when you present your prospects with two fee options. Now, don’t make it three! (as too many choices of the fee are bad again)
Now, that you have given your prospects two fee options, now define what they get in each one of them. We give you three options like,
Your proposal is never complete without introducing your team and the company. This is the only section where you get to talk about ‘yourself’. What do you do, how do you exist, why do you exist, what’s your expertise, what’s your team’s expertise, what is your USP?
Touch down on all the various services and products you offer; this way you can cross sell to your prospects or at least plant a seed in their minds.
Once this over, it’s time to introduce your team who would work hard along with the prospect to give them a full-proof solution. Having said that, we suggest to not pen down an 2000 word essay here, however, write the best of the things about your team so that the prospect is mind blown of their choices and feel satisfied to work with you. Include pictures, biographies, social media links to virtually introduce the team.
Remember, about us is not just a section to elaborate on your skills to complete the project or come up with a solution. The About us section must define your company values and believes so that the prospect feels reliable to work with you for an extended period.
Don’t you want to show your prospects how your existing client rates you? Of course, you want to! And this section comes viable, not just for you, but also to convince your prospect of your capabilities.
Testimonials walk the talk in your proposals. Therefore, don't forget to include that brilliant project of yours that gained you traction, also include reviews from customers. And to help you better frame the content, we break down the section into four elements,
A gist of what your organization is into, what is the reason for the existence of your organization, and your industry.
Here you describe the reasons the client approached you, how you solved the problems of your prospects, what is your strength or the type of challenges you love to find answers to, and why did they choose you.
You explain the original methods your team designed to get the prospect out of the problem, the process you felt would shake the problem off the ground, and why did you go with the solution to sort things out.
An obvious section that you must not miss explaining. Of all the hard work your team has put in, pen down the solutions delivered to your client, what were the hard-hitting numbers. To get your prospect’s attention, describe how your team improved the current situation and how helpful it was to your client.
Write more about the results under the case studies/testimonials section over the others. Because RESULTS ARE CRITICAL. Results help prospects decide. Results give your prospects the hope to choose you as their problem solver.
This section doesn’t need an explanation.! However, this section sometimes is as important as your product and budget sections. If used right it can lead to faster closures and a budding user community right under your company’s wing.
Having said that, this is an optional section. If you wish to include your client’s list, with contact information for reference, you may do so. It will help you gain confidence with your prospect and in most cases lead to sales.
Remember to check with your existing clients on revealing their details before including the information in the proposal.
As you proceed towards the end of your proposal, don’t lose track! Be as determined as you were in penning down this last section.
Show your clients how they can close the deal. It could be a statement of work, a digital sign off, or just a name or phone number to call.
However, get in touch with a lawyer to frame your terms and conditions content so it is legally acceptable.
Business proposals define the functionality and efficiency of your organization. We agree, business proposals differ from industry to industry. However, the outline and the structure of business proposals mostly remains the same. After reading through thousands of business proposals for MSPs, we have carefully outlined the structure of the proposal that you must implement while approaching your prospects.
If you wish to keep your prospects close, then keep the formatting of your proposal closer.
Follow the structure of a proper business proposal and maintain the flow. Sometimes, a good proposal is all that stands between you and your customer.