Proposal

The test of a really good sales proposal is whether anyone within the organisation it
was created for, can pick it up and understand what it is all about. It is the only definitive statement of a supplier’s total offering and so should encapsulate the
entire sales process that has led to this point and clearly illustrate their desire for winning the business.

Given their critical importance in the sales process, it is astonishing how often sales proposals are hastily created using a ‘cut and paste’ approach using pre-existing content and focusing solely on the features and benefits of a supplier’s product or service. Multiple contributors with misaligned language styles and a diverse range of knowledge, focused on their own separate specialities, can result in proposals that are clunky, complex and hard to comprehend.  Potential buyers are left struggling to decipher the true value of the proposed solution, the genuine impact on business outcomes and whether the supplier has even clearly understood their needs. To cap it off, they are often delivered as bland, boring Word documents converted to PDF which are neither aesthetically pleasing nor enticing to read. Hardly the best impression to give to a prospective customer.

Here, we take a quick dive into what best practice sales proposal creation should look like in a commercial environment, in 2021 and beyond. Driven by the need for persuasive documents that stand out and win business, this is a big picture look at some key areas to consider. 

Content

Anyone worth their salt working in Sales or Account Based Marketing (ABM) will recognise the importance of addressing different personas and engaging them with messages, content and formats that are personalised to their specific interests. Proposals take this to a whole new level, requiring a shift from broad personalisation into true 1:1 tailoring.  For a decision maker to successfully navigate the buying process, proposal content needs to offer a customer focused narrative that reflects their own unique set of requirements, is compelling to read and thoughtfully presented.

While there is always a temptation to repurpose content in every proposal; executive summaries, win themes, benefit statements and of course, solutions and commercial cost models, should all be carefully tailored based on information gathered through an extensive discovery process with each prospective customer.

Technology

While structure and content is always king, when it comes to proposals, format and visual excellence is a great way to make your documents more readable, lift you above your competition and make you stand out. You want your proposal to be read, re-read and shared. We are certainly seeing a lot more creativity in this area, with the likes of interactive graphics and video embedded within super sleek, cleverly crafted text. 

In this context, Turtl offers a creative and comprehensive way to design visually engaging proposals which also support effective content tailoring. Thanks to its intuitive drag and drop interface it has the capability to create templates for ease of use (and centralised control) across teams or multiple individuals, but still offer flexible spaces for hand-crafted content like your killer exec summary. 

And it’s not just about looks. We all know style over substance never truly works and here is where you can really leverage the technology to create impactful proposals. The ability to incorporate interactive content within Turtl crucially allows it to become something to be really engaged with, rather than passively consumed. Even better, its analytics package offers the type of insight invaluable for any salesperson including; focused data to show you where readers are spending time, which parts of your proposal they are revisiting and what type of content most appeals to them.


 “The big question for selling in the digital age is: how are you selling when you are not in the room? We know from research that if you get the medium wrong, your message will not resonate. A study by the attention experts at Lumen Research found that 90% of engagement is lost, brand perception is damaged, and people are more likely to forget key information when it is sent in common proposal formats like the PDF. Turtl uses proven psychological principles to deliver proposals and other sales content which are more engaging and memorable so you can sell better when you’re not in the room.” 

Sam Parker , Associate Director, Partnerships EMEA, Turtl

People and company culture

A major blight on the proposal process is often the amount of people that either need or want to be involved as contributors. The endless drafts of the complex ‘tech spec’ that gets plonked in amongst the copied and pasted ‘why us’ section with detailed project management scenarios and some hastily added in costings at the end. OK so this is perhaps a worst case scenario, but it happens and it is usually pretty obvious to the reader. This disjointed approach to creating a proposal from multiple contributors has to become a thing of the past. 

Businesses need to become more streamlined in cultivating effective proposal development. 

Company values and environments can be vital in influencing how well this works. To genuinely deliver well-produced winning proposals requires a strategic approach integrated across an organisation. It is necessary to foster collaboration across and within the departments and teams that work on business development, sales, marketing, consultancy, delivery and customer success. This may require a closer look at business vision and goals, company culture and talent dynamics, investment in technology and relevant training.

In summary

The point at which you submit a proposal is, within the whole sales process, the most expensive time to lose deals. A supplier will usually have spent a lot of time, effort and money to get to that point. Producing business proposals that win business requires not only competitive differentiation, but authentic brand positioning and a clarity around the alliance between their problem and your solution. A proposal must feature not just your voice, telling them how good you are, but that of your customer, reflecting back to them that you’ve actually been listening and thought carefully about how you can best help them.

Akin to a romantic partnership, you’ve flirted, dated and now this is the bid for marriage. Be sure to use all the tools and intelligence at your disposal to woo them and be sure to put a ring on it. A bright, shiny, beautifully designed, well-chosen one, to reflect how much you value the partner who will wear it.

Watch this space for further insight on each of these business proposal topics and more cheesy metaphors.