A sales proposal is one of the most important elements in the B2B sales process. In cases where a lot of people on the customer’s side have an impact on the decision, while the salesperson deals with only one of them, then the offer has a critical impact on whether a potential customer decides to cooperate with you or chooses a competitive proposal. It is so because the message conveyed during the presentation of the offer is distorted when passed on – in the same way as in the Chinese whispers game.
Sometimes it surprises me how many companies neglect this element and often have the same proposals from the beginning of their activities as well as for all customer segments. Despite the fact that after several years they can already talk proudly about some larger projects (case study), great recommendations from customers and a unique value proposition (UVP) developed over the years.
In order to create a good sales proposal, it is crucial to understand one basic thing: What does our potential customer expect from us? And then give it to them. When you do this, the last thing you must do is make sure that the customer sees you as reliable and trustworthy – meaning that they have no doubts that you can give them what they want and need – and that you will do it on time.
Common mistakes while preparing a B2B proposal
When we start our cooperation with many companies, we first start with a comprehensive analysis and audit of the proposal to reveal the critical problems within the proposal and verify whether the document is adapted to the character of the target audience. It turns out that most companies make the mistake even before preparing the proposal and do not score new sales opportunities (leads) or do it incorrectly. This causes such companies to lose money, waste the salespeople’s time (and any staff supporting them) to prepare proposals that won’t end in sales. As a result, the number of sent proposals grows so much that there’s no time for preparing decent and personalised proposals – even for larger potential customers.
The second critical mistake is preparing the proposal for too long. The ideal situation is when your salesperson speaks to the customer within the first 5 minutes after acquiring a new contact. Of course, it is often impossible (especially when the CEO is the only salesperson of the company), but this doesn’t affect the rule (or the invoice): the faster you respond to such a message, even just to thank them for contacting you and arrange a longer talk, the better for you. The duration of the sales proposal varies depending on the sector and specific services, but it should not take more than a few days. In case of many customers, a brick for 110 dollars delivered today is better than a brick for 100 delivered in a week.
5 essential elements of a sales proposal
There are several elements in a B2B sales proposal which must be present no matter what service or product you are selling, but a great number of companies forget about them. Here are the 5 most important:
The Unique Selling Point
How does your proposal stand out from the competition and why is your company’s solution the most appropriate for a potential customer? USP may refer both to the service/product itself or the way in which your company operates.
Case studies and Sinatra tests
Success stories illustrate in a great way how your product has helped other companies and allow to visualise the effects of using your services. Customers should be shown cases that are closely related to their sector, type of business operation (e.g. time operating on the market, company size or the method of operation) or a problem with which they come to you. The human brain has trouble with abstract concepts – it is much easier for us to memorise stories and specific examples that worked in the past.
Testimonials and customer logos
Few things are more convincing in terms of your efficiency than positive comments of your satisfied customers, especially if you have already worked with companies that are in many respects similar to the one your potential customer receiving the proposal works. It is a very strong element of making your business trustworthy, so show them as often as possible. Some customers will obviously not want to use your solution – as they are already using one from your competition, but such situations are rather uncommon – however, take this into account when choosing some logos for your proposal.
At the stage of choosing a partner, it is important to know how the further cooperation will look like. Information about the course of the project, methods of communication and steps that will take place in specific time intervals allow a person reading a proposal to gain a better understanding of the service and make a decision about the cooperation.
Except for special cases, when the pricing results from several months of talks and it cannot be put in the proposal – put it there. Do not hide the pricing nor count on the customer to ask about it – this causes unnecessary confusion and often creates misunderstandings, and yet it is one of the most important elements for a potential customer. What’s more, by enriching the proposal with details which make up for the price, you can immediately eliminate the most common objections regarding it.
How do customers perceive sales proposals?
While preparing the sales proposal, you also need to consider how the customers perceive your proposal. A good sales proposal is not limited only to an aesthetic graphic design and placing the most important elements on the top, but also to personalised communication. People perceive sales proposals in three ways:
It is limited to a holistic view of the proposal and focusing on its most important elements. Such customers will not distinguish between more or less important elements. If your customer sees the proposal in this way, you have to be clear in indicating the relationship between the solution to their problem and your solution. The proposal must be simple and understandable. Most frequently, there is at least one person among the proposal readers who does not use the jargon typical for a given sector – you should not make their life difficult. Such a proposal should mainly answer two basic questions:
1) Does this solution solve my problem?
2) Is the price adequate to the service?
It is particularly common when making a proposal to tech companies or people on technical positions, such as Engineers or CTOs. Such customers are very strongly affected by all kinds of numbers and hard facts – years of experience, number of completed projects and also effects of work on similar projects confirmed by numbers. You must also take into account that such a customer will expect different variations of your service – it is worth from the very beginning to show them a few available options along with details of what they mean, so as to let them analyse on their own which of the offered options will be the best for them. While cooperating with such customers, you should follow this principle: we select the right tools, and you choose which one you want to use.
It is the last sales proposal perception scheme which is also the most difficult to handle due to its unpredictability and spontaneity in decision-making. People perceiving sales proposals in an emotional way don’t select a partner depending mostly on the price, but they value more, among others, the opinions of other customers in the form of recommendations or testimonials of their friends. For them, a crucial role will be played by promises and describing the post-factum situation, that is, answering the question: How will my business look like in six months? These customers expect solutions here and now which means that a too long proposal process will result in loss of a customer. Such perception is often characteristic for the CEOs of small businesses who do not have time for a comprehensive analysis and are looking for quick solutions to their pressing problems.
Now your task is to determine how your customers think and make sure that the proposal contains the most important information which is valid from the perspective of a particular personality type. This saves time and therefore money by avoiding making ineffective proposals.