The Essential Sales Proposal Checklist- key to sales super stardom!

Hi readers,

I did not mention this key, actually critical ingredient which should be in the armory of every sales rep who aspires for sales super stardom!

I have been writing proposals for the last 18 years; proposals to my CEO, to my boss, to the investors, to my clients when I worked in B2B assignments.

Apart from developing the essential skills to help you CLOSE your sale, you need to possess above average proposal writing skills that hook your customer and get you to the final deal!

From my experience the following check list always works, till it became assimilated within me and I did not have to refer to it to send across proposals…but it takes effort and lots of focus to get this right , so please do not take short cuts. Believe me when I say this- that will be a short cut to a serious berating from your boss or worse!!

First things first- 

Examine the current draft of your sales proposal carefully. Then answer the following questions as honestly as you can:

  • Does the customer know who we are? ( Brief about the company, short, to the point always works)
  • Is the customer expecting us to bid on this? (Dont use the proposal as a shot in the dark, you must have generated traction to be able to send a proposal!!)
  • Does the executive summary address customer needs? ( Analyse customer’s need and then write the executive summary , customized to THAT SPECIFIC NEED…be strategic in your thinking big guy!!)
  • Is the executive summary one page or less? (It better be targeted at 1 page pal)
  • Have we replaced all the jargon that’s meaningful only to us? (Please dont assume that the client speaks your jargon and lingo!! assumption is professional sales hara kiri!!)
  • Are we sure that another vendor doesn’t have the inside track? ( Get inside the grapevine to get a hook around this one)
  • Does the proposal follow the customer’s specified format and outline? (Ask the client his preferred format- it not only gets you an opportunity to engage with the client, and develop a working relationship with him, but also puts you in a favorable light with your client, who will probably have higher regard for your professionalism than you competitor!! strategic eh…)
  • Have we removed all the meaningless marketing fluff (e.g. “state-of-the-art”)? (Again…please NO JARGON)
  • Has someone edited out other customer names from boilerplate material? ( There is no tearing hurry folks…dont assume and do a poor cut and paste job….it will be the end of you)
  • Is the writing clear and forceful rather than flat and technical? (Dispense with the tech jargon, and use lucid, clear prose and descriptions..always works)
  • Has the proposal been edited so that it contains no glaring grammatical errors? (Brush up your Grammar guys!!)
    Can the proposal convince the customer that we can actually deliver? (Use factual information, discussion points already mentioned in minuted of meeting and simple to understand graphs and charts…always works !!)
  • Does the proposal define how we’ll measure customer satisfaction? (Sales metrics, sales analytics, tools and dashboards HAVE to be a part of ANY proposal !! thats the real winner )
  • Is the proposal being submitted on time and to the right people? (Keep to the deadlines!!)

If the answer to ANY of these question is “NO” then you’ll lose the sale. It’s as simple as that.

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10 Rules for Writing a Winning Proposal

Proposal writing is often relegated to the background when sales playbooks are written. Marketing does not give due focus to this subject when they provide support to their sales teams.

Writing proposals is perhaps THE most important aspect of understanding and delivering effective sales KPIs.

I have elucidated 10 simple to follow and implement rules that you could use to deliver winning proposals

  • RULE #1. Write the proposal as a sales document. Don’t fall into the trap of making it an information sheet.  Instead, define the problem/opportunity and present a workable solution/plan.
  • RULE #2. Make sure the customer knows you. Your proposal will go straight to the circular file cabinet unless you’ve established yourself with the decision-maker as a credible provider.
  • RULE #3. Focus the executive summary on reasons to buy. Don’t just summarize the proposal contents.  Instead. summarize the basic issues and the reasons the customer should buy.
  • RULE #4. Keep the executive summary short. Here’s the rule of thumb: a single page executive summary for any proposal less than 50 page, with half-a-page added for every additional 25 pages.
  • RULE #5. Hit everyone’s hot buttons. The proposal must address the concerns of different decision-makers. For instance, engineers want technology; accountants want ROI.
  • RULE #6. Focus on the customer, not your product. Nobody is interested in the history of your firm or your product. Make the proposal about how you’ll solve the customer’s problems.
  • RULE #7. Thoroughly edit the boilerplate. If you cut and paste from an earlier proposal, there may be references to a previous customer – probably a competitor of this customer.
  • RULE #8. Follow the customer’s outline. If the customer gave you a template (even one that’s weird or awkward) use it. If you don’t, they’ll assume you can’t follow simple instructions.
  • RULE #9. Don’t discuss costs in the executive summary. Emphasize increased productivity or reduced operating costs rather than how much money you want them to spend.
  • RULE #10. Edit out the meaningless jargon. Biz-blab words that have no meaning detract from whatever value your proposal offers.  Edit them out.  Mercilessly.