It’s those smaller details that can inform a prospect’s ‘gut’ reaction about the actual deal on the table. That’s why paying attention to the less obvious details can make a big difference in your closing ratio.
So, here are some of the perception-related details that you want to make sure to get right in your own proposal.
Skip the ‘once upon a time’ story.
You may be inclined to tell your company’s origin story at the beginning of your proposal. It seems like a natural way to start the proposal, right? No. The prospect doesn’t care where your company came from or why you started it. They care about how you can help them and why they should choose you. Use this section to firmly underscore why your company is credible from the perspective of the client.
If you’ve got a longstanding track record as an established business, say that. Or, if your proof points might be high profile clients or compelling projects.
There is one exception, however. If your origin story is built around solving a widespread problem that your prospect likely faces, then it’s certainly appropriate to include that. For example: I started my own content studio because of pains that I felt as an in-house marketer. When I’m pitching to marketing folks, I include this tidbit because it’s relevant to them and it connects to a pain that they likely feel as well.
Anchor your offering to the expected return in the Project Summary.
You might think of the ‘Project Summary’ section as frou-frou window dressing that serves only to paraphrase your proposed solution. Thinking of it that way is a mistake.
This section is your opportunity to carefully position your proposed service or product, making it one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in your proposal. Use this section to reconnect your proposed offering with the pain points or goals that you uncovered during the sales process. Articulate how what it is you're proposing will help the prospect solve a known problem or achieve a desired goal that they’ve shared with you.
The goal of your summary section should be to align the proposed offering with an expected outcome so that the prospect can attach the value they’ll receive to the investment you’re asking for.
Customize at least 5% of your proposal.
Your proposal is not your grandmother’s muu muu, and as such, it is not one-size-fits-all.
As mentioned above, it’s a great idea to tailor your proposal to your audience. Even if 95% of the standard content sections stay the same from proposal to proposal, making small tweaks based on who is receiving it can make a tremendous difference in your close ratio. Swap out social proof points, examples, even your boilerplate ‘about’ copy and it’ll feel a lot more relevant to any particular audience. Believing that why you are proposing is what will solve a problem or achieve a goal is what helps close deals. Panda Tip: Use content blocks to create different versions of the same section (such as your About Us) for varying audiences. Then you can ‘plug and play’ when you’re crafting your proposal.
Be ruthless with your language.
Avoid fluffy or self-important language at all costs. Crisp, objective language shows your prospect that you mean business by letting your proposed solution speak for itself. It’s easy to want to pimp out your proposal with fancy words that seem to speak to the prestige of your company and offerings. But in reality, prospects can perceive boastful language as too self-complementary or even slimy. Stick to the facts and use concise verbiage and you can’t go wrong. Don’t be tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater by moving to a pricing-only estimate if a full proposal is what’s required to articulate the proposed solution and its value.