Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Recently, I considered a partnership with a new vendor. Miraculously, the process kicked-off with an email I received. I replied (it happens). The follow-up email was good enough to convince me to agree to a “ten minute” assessment call. The call lasted nearly two hours.

Well done phone salesman guy.

Time to sell.

He gave me an online demo. Not brilliant, but not bad. I understood roughly 60% of what he said about his highly specialized field. Before we got off the phone, I asked if he could send me more information to help me understand how his company would solve the issue at hand. His answer was “most definitely.”

He followed-up in fairly short order—with a sales proposal—which stunk.

I’m not saying his tactics were bad, but I was a bit surprised. I was expecting something of the “free and informative” variety. It seems he felt it was time to close the sale. I can respect that, but though I wanted to buy, I wasn’t sold. His proposal wasn’t the least bit persuasive. In fact, I wanted my two hours back.

Proposal pointers.
I propose your sales proposal should sell me on your company. Earth-shattering, I know. In the interest of persuasion, here are some pointers for making your proposals more effective:

  1. Start with the problem—Get right to it. What does your reader need know? What should they do? Tell ’em how to accomplish X, Y, or Z. This is a basic principle of marketing communications you can never afford to ignore.
  2. School your prospect—You’re the expert. Provide some objective insights. Give some free advice. Offer valuable resources. Help the prospect understand what they do and don’t need to understand.
  3. Serve up the solution—If you’ve done numbers one and two effectively, you should have a prospect hungry for some answers. Give ‘em up.
  4. Use persuasive prose—So, your sales people are great writers? If the answer’s “yes,” you’re excused now. Still with me? Okay, please make sure the writer’s the real deal. You need to craft killer copy to make your proposal persuasive. Please. please, please don’t retort you can’t afford to hire a professional writer for a measly sales proposal. Remind yourself of how invested you already are in this prospect.
  5. Make the design shine—Am I saying hire a graphic designer too? I am. If your team has the talent to make your proposal pretty, they get the gig. If not, I want to wrap up with the point I’ve been trying to make from the get-go, pointer number six…
  6. You can set yourself apart with a killer proposal—I propose your sales proposal is a piece of collateral, the most important one, actually. Everything in it should be crafted by pros. It’s likely to be delivered online. The recipient is likely to pass it along to higher powers who may have never heard of you.

If it’s not persuasive, it’s likely to go from the inbox to the trash in the click of a mouse. The only upside of that I can think of is you might have saved a little paper and ink.