Your proposal cover letter is the most important part of your entire proposal. This is how to blow your prospects away by writing one that captures all their hopes and dreams.
In general, the three pieces of your proposal that will be read and examined properly are:
- Cover letter / Introduction / Executive Summary
This isn’t a guess. Hundreds of thousands of proposals have been sent using our software (Better Proposals) and we’re able to pull together statistics from that. What we’ve learned is that the majority of the time people spend on a proposal is in those three areas.
That said, the most important thing to include in your proposal cover letter is that you understand their needs. This extends beyond simply telling them that they want a quote on a [fill in the blank].
In your meeting with them, you should be digging deep into why they really want it. What are the underlying reasons behind it? I’ve spoken about this in this video detailing why most people write their introduction or cover letter wrong.
They might say “we need a new website because ours is outdated”. Okay, but what will an up to date one do? “Bring us more leads”. Okay so what you really want is more leads.
You see? And you can go far deeper.
“What’s wrong with the number of leads you’re getting at the moment?”
“Why is that even a problem?”
What you might find is that they’re scared their new competition across the road is going to put them out of business in a year if they don’t act fast. Now you have the information you need.
At this point, your cover letter is about addressing the REAL fears, situation and options rather than at just a surface level.
Now, the rest of your proposal is going to contain details about your plan, your pricing, why you’re different and your case studies. If your cover letter addresses their real issues then you can guarantee your proposal is going to be read cover-to-cover.
What is a cover letter?
In the world of business proposals, a cover letter is the initial part of your proposal where you explain that you know the client’s situation and you know exactly how to solve their problem. The best cover letters I’ve seen weren’t written with amazing language and they didn’t have incredible design. What made them stand out is that the person writing them listened carefully to the client before sitting down and writing the cover letter.
Why do you need a cover letter?
Simply put, the client reading the business proposal needs to get engaged to read the whole thing before signing. You could just give them a detailed specification right from the bat, but that will make the client too focused on numbers and specific results.
The cover letter shows them that you’re listening and it gets them “hooked” to start reading. After they’re done with the cover letter, they can move on to the more technical bits in the detailed specification.
The connection between a cover letter and a business proposal?
In general, the cover letter is the part that comes before the actual proposal. Sometimes, this is called a cover letter but we prefer calling it the introduction. In other words, the cover letter is the first and perhaps the most important element of a business proposal.
Every good business proposal needs to have a cover letter, or in our case, an introduction. We talk about introductions quite often in our articles, but don’t get confused – it’s the same thing as a cover letter.
The elements of a business cover letter
There are several things that every great cover letter needs. Here are a few to get you started:
- You need to talk about the client – not yourself. Don’t brag about your projects, awards, portfolio, etc.
- Talk “back” at the client – use their own words and expressions from your meetings and discovery calls
- Don’t get too technical – leave that for the next section
- Keep it short and to the point – the aim is to get clients to read through to the end and sign.
The cover letter structure
This is the most important part of your proposal. I personally prefer to hit them round the head with a sledgehammer and get right to the point. Shock them into reading on and learning more. Here’s an example using a website design quote:
“You’re busy so I’ll get to the point. The purpose of your new website is to generate enough leads to give your sales team such an easy job they crush your competition without even trying. I’m aware that sounds obnoxious but the rest of this document will explain where that confidence comes from.
The website is a means to an end. Anyone can make you a new website but what you’re after isn’t just a pretty picture. You need results and that’s what we do. We’re a results based company and ultimately so are you.”
You’re saying something strange. You’re suggesting that the website isn’t important – that’s supposed to be your core skill (in this example), but what happens when you do this is you come across like you’re telling them something they shouldn’t know. Like it’s a secret.
What happens when someone tells you a secret? You trust them.
Vibe of the letter
The vibe should be direct and void of any indecision. Nothing breaks trust faster than indecision. This is why it’s so vital that you get the information you need beforehand so you’re not writing with ‘maybes’, ‘sometimes’ and ‘ifs’ in your voice.
Be sure about what you’re saying.
You are the expert. Write like one.
When you’re closing your proposal’s cover letter, always invite them to read the rest of the proposal. Without fear of it sounding generic, I always like to see people pointing their reader in the way of the case study they’ve included. It proves that you are the perfect company for the job. It’s a nice lead-on.
Writing a great cover letter for your proposals is one of the most important skills as a sales person or business owner that you can have. If you can do this effectively then you simply win better jobs, more often and at a higher price-point.
There are some great examples in the Example Proposal Templates section of our site. I encourage you to take a look and crib from them what you like.