7 ways to make your business proposal anything but boring
After so much technological development, one thing that hasn’t changed much is the ‘traditional’ business proposal. Most still use big words and images of their staff looking like they are in a police lineup or hostage situation. In this article, I will show you 7 ways to make your proposal stand out and excite prospects into taking the next step.
1) Make it about them
It is common for business owners to only focus on the goal, instead of gathering enough information to write a convincing proposal. Businesses pay to get their problems solved. The bigger the problem, the more they are willing to pay. Before writing a proposal, I take the time to have a meeting with the prospect. With their permission, I record the conversation on my phone. I ask open questions and pay particular attention to their experiences working with other businesses. All of this information gets fed back into the proposal.
In most cases, your proposal will be discussed by multiple people. Therefore, it is important that you simplify it for them. Technical terms and latest developments might seem like general knowledge to you, but always try to view your proposal from another perspective. This isn’t an opportunity to show that you have a wide vocabulary… or own a thesaurus. Your proposal isn’t persuasive if it can’t be understood.
I like to plan my proposals using pen and paper. I know this is ‘old school’ but it makes editing a lot easier. Plus, studies show that planning on paper helps us to think more deeply. Once you finish the first draft of your proposal, read it out loud. If it doesn’t sound convincing to you, it won’t to them.
2) Please, no “War and Peace”
Proposals tend to be skim read. They are looking for something that will jump out at them, and encourage them to read the details. You can break up the text using graphics and charts. Corporate executives love data. One of my clients claps his little legs and lets out a squeal whenever he sees a pie chart. It made his job easier because he could easily explain the potential ROI to staff. You can also break up text with lists. They are easy to understand and also help to form a convincing argument. For instance, you could list the various reasons why you are the best person to work with.
Editing proposals is one of my favourite things to do. In fact, I like to revisit a draft after a day or two so that I can see it with ‘fresh eyes’. When I finally have the finished proposal, I like to read it out loud for flow.
3) Seeing is signing
Humans are visual creatures. Instead of telling them what you can do, show them. Tools like this one from Qwilr helps incorporate videos and audio into my proposals. Plus, using this tool, I can see how much of my proposal prospects read and how long they spend on each section. This has enabled me to develop them over time, so that I now get an 85% acceptance rate. Clients are more than happy to send in their testimonials in audio form.
I like to start off each proposal using video so that I can fully expand on their challenges plus solutions, and use examples to back up my points. My analytics dashboard shows that most clients finish watching the video and skip straight to the page with my fees and terms. Using tools such as Loom (free) making a video is very quick and easy.
You could be great to work with; however, first impressions are everything. Your proposal should be attractive and show your level of professionalism. Choose colours which complement your brand. There is such a thing as too many colours. You don’t want your proposal to look like a 3-year-old’s art project. Personally, I like to use no more than 3 colours throughout the proposal.
4) Show some personality
Unless your prospect has the personality of a bag of salt, they will appreciate some humour. Remember that they are humans much like yourself. Most of my clients mention that my odd sense of humour encouraged them to keep reading. Plus, it was a nice break from their corporate lives. I use the Hemingway app to check my work and aim for a 12-year-old level of understanding. As I previously mentioned, your proposal will get passed around. Therefore, it is vital that everyone understands it.
5) Give them a taste
This one thing has doubled the size of my business over the past 12 – 18 months. Just before the page with my payment terms, I produce work which gives prospective clients an idea of what I can do for them. For instance, I add the first page of a case study, breakdown their website to show how they can increase conversions, etc. You can babble on about how great you are, but giving them an idea of what you can do based on their brief… is crazy powerful. I have also noticed that since I started doing this, I face minimal price rejection.
6) Pricing and terms should make sense
Businesses don’t care that you used to knock back a cold one with Barack Obama during your times at Harvard, or how “superb” your team is. All they truly care about is a return on investment. Fast-growing companies make smart decisions with how they spend their money. Therefore, your pricing should reflect the size of the problem you are trying to fix. For instance, if they are trying to attract more customers, provide a rough idea of how many customers you can help them to attract. Then calculate the potential return on investment so that it is very clear in their minds.
Some business owners, such as freelancers, opt for hourly pricing; however, that can bring about problems down the line. For instance, business owners might argue about how long it took, or state that your hourly rate is too high. In my opinion, the time it takes to solve a problem should be none of their concern, so long as the goal is achieved. From experience, so long as you are able to explain the potential return, most clients wouldn’t accept your proposal.
7) Write an effective call-to-action
Your call-to-action should explain the advantage of working with you, and what you can deliver, and how to take the next step. Notably, after sending your proposal, it is wise to follow up. Businesses are bombarded with emails; therefore, your proposal can get buried. I use Qwilr to send out proposals; therefore, I receive an email when one is opened. I can also see how far they read. For instance, a customer who reads the pricing page for a few seconds, exits probably doesn’t like my terms. I like to follow up every 7 days for 3 weeks.
I hope you found this article useful, and it helps you to win more business. Just to recap, here is a ‘Cliff Notes’ version of what I covered:
- Make your proposal about your client and their unique needs.
- Keep your proposal short and to the point.
- Use images, charts and videos to show what they can expect.
- Keep things interesting by injecting some personality. This helps to make your proposal stand out.
- Showcase what you are capable of, based on their brief.
- Aside from stating how much the project will cost, show the potential ROI. This makes accepting your proposal a ‘no-brainer’.
- Your call-to-action should invite them to take the next step. In one paragraph, summarise why you are unique, why they should accept and the potential return of working with you.