As someone who sells their services, you need to present your company in the best possible light. The best way to do this is by presenting a world-class proposal.

Every. Single. Time.

If you’re thinking right now “Well that’s ridiculous, proposals are a nightmare to write”, I would agree with you, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m going to explain to you in this article exactly what your proposal should consist of. Now, for context, I run a software company that helps businesses much like yours create and send online proposals.

This puts us in a unique position. We have access to data that no-one else in the world has access to. We can draw commonalities across tens of thousands of signed proposals to bring you the conclusive list of what yours should include to best position your company to win the job.

This post is going to teach you all the things you should have in your proposals as well as dismissing some common things people include that you don’t need. Let’s get started!

1. Length of your proposal

Proposals in our system are web based, they’re not split up by actual pages in terms of paper size, so what we’re really talking about here is the number of sections. The average number was 6 looking across all proposals that were signed. So keeping your proposal to 6 web based pages is statistically the best length.

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2. Sending time

The time you send your proposal to your client matters. In email marketing terms, you don’t want to be sending your email campaigns to a bunch of people who are asleep so you wait until they are most likely to be awake and at their computer. Generally mid-morning or mid-afternoon are optimal. Yet, people routinely send proposals at 2am and wonder why their potential client just opens it and scans for the price. Think of your proposal like a big-time email campaign and send it at a logical time. 60% of the proposals that were signed were sent originally during working hours.

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3. Case studies

In a survey we conducted, we found that 82% of people said that including a case study and seeing real, meaningful examples of previous work that was done would lean them towards buying from a company. What this means, is don’t just list out a bunch of testimonials or work you’ve done. It’s meaningless. Just give it some thought, if you’re pitching to a hotel then what other hotels have you worked with, or maybe restaurants or travel companies? Get a library of relevant case studies built up so you can choose the most relevant 1 or 2 for each company you pitch work to.

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4. Beautifully designed cover

Proposals without covers don’t perform very well. Design and visually impressing your clients is vital. It just gets you off to a great start. 53% of proposals sent without a cover were marked as lost within 90 days. If you have to invest in a designer to get this right, then do it because your proposal document/content is hands-down the most important asset your business has.

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5. Including videos

Now, because these are data-backed statistics and not us snooping around in people’s proposals, I can’t tell you what the content of the videos are but proposals containing a video are read for an average of 62.4% longer than proposals without. Using my best judgment and based on what I’ve seen with permission, videos that work well are usually either client testimonials, before and after videos or personal introductions.

6. Personalised Introduction

We recommend this in much of our marketing but personalising your summary/introduction, or whatever your first page is to each client is absolutely vital. It’s read first and properly nearly every single time so use that built-in attention and try to really capture their imagination. The introduction is the first page they see, so make it count with something that is personalised and meaningful to them.

So that’s a list of everything you SHOULD include, what about things you shouldn’t do when writing proposals?

Here’s what NOT to do:

Here’s a list of things people tend to include naturally, but are usually pretty detrimental to your success.

Jargon

If you are selling something that requires you to have any technical knowledge, it’s common to include jargon in your proposal. It’s natural to do it because it demonstrates that you know what you’re talking about. The problem with this is that the poor person reading it can’t understand a word you’re talking about.

It’s not your document, it’s theirs. If you were writing a children’s book, you wouldn’t use complicated wording would you? Why? You’re respecting your audience. Do the same here. The key thing you want is for someone to read all of your proposal and understand it all.

Prices in the email

To your client, 95% of the time, the ONLY thing they want to know is how much it’s going to cost and how long it’s going to take. If you give away the costs in the email then it’s one less thing for them to hunt for. Let them read your proposal properly then discover the cost in the order you designed it for them. If they skip right to it – fine but at least they’ve browsed the thing before getting to the cost then judging it purely based on that.

Bad design

Nothing is more off-putting than bad design. It displays absolutely no confidence at all and ultimately doesn’t make the reader feel good. Bad design typically has no cover, no real brand identity, clearly written in Microsoft Word, perhaps even using the default fonts and colours. This is the most important document your business has. Spend the time and effort getting it right. It’s so important, we built an Automatic Designer into Better Proposals (that’s our product) to make sure that it was near impossible to send anything that looked bad.

Not justifying the cost

This is massive and super common. It’s also massively misunderstood. When I say justify the cost, I don’t mean with YOUR costs. I mean in terms of the value they get in exchange. For instance, say I’m quoting £10,000 for a re-brand. I’m not going to justify that by saying my designer’s time is ABC or our overheads are XYZ. I’m going to explain to them how their conversion rate will go up on their website, how they can increase their prices, reduce the number of clients that leave each year therefore making the re-brand worth £87,300 over the first year alone (numbers made up). You see the difference. It’s about what the 10k spend means to them not how you actually arrived at that figure. You can’t use this kind of logic with everything but you can do it on most B2B services.

Conclusion:

Your proposal should be the ultimate confidence sledgehammer. You want your client to open it and think “Oh wow! I don’t care how much this is, these are the people for us!”. When writing your next proposal, use these suggestions and give yourself the best chance of winning the job.

If you find proposal writing a time consuming exercise then it might be worth checking out Better Proposals. Using simple web based software to design, write and send your proposals means you can spent more time doing what you’re paid to and win more projects in the process. Learn more at betterproposals.io