Chances are, if you stumbled into this post, you are looking to grow and scale your client base. You think that optimizing your sales proposal is one way to get there.
Here is the cold, hard truth that most blog posts about sales won’t tell you. If you have to educate and hard-sell in your sales proposals, you’ve already lost the deal.
The key to driving predictable and sustainable growth in your agency isn’t simply updating your proposals. Instead, it is to get really clear on who your ideal client is, what problem(s) you are solving for them, and then streamlining the entire sales and new client onboarding processes.
In this guide, we’re going to share what a sales proposal is, actionable strategies for writing better ones that actually convert, tactics to streamline the sales proposal process, and an alternative approach that attracts better leads, increases your close rate and can help you scale your agency.
- Do you even need to write sales proposals at all?
- How to write a sales proposal that converts
- How do you write a good proposal?
- How to integrate your proposal process into your sales process
- How to close more deals without writing sales proposals
Do you even need to write sales proposals at all?
If you follow a lot of agency founders, you might think that proposals and RFPs are the de facto standard for agencies.
While most agencies might look for some shortcuts to create proposals faster, they don’t really question if there is a better alternative altogether.
That’s problematic. Even using templates and snippets, proposals are time-consuming to write, and you are lucky to have a 50% win rate.
Moving to a productized service model where you clearly identify who your ideal customer is can help you ditch the custom proposal process altogether. This process of productizing your core offers and finding product/service-market fit takes time. So, you shouldn’t expect immediate results! (Note: We’ll share more on that later in this article.)
How to write a sales proposal that converts
If you are not convinced yet that you can get rid of the sales proposal altogether, here is how to write a proposal that converts better.
Simply put, a sales proposal is a business document that an agency uses to share how their services can help a specific business.
For example, if you are a PPC agency for eCommerce businesses, your sales proposal might outline the problems you solve for the business (better ROAS, more sales, etc) and the deliverables and process your team will use to generate those results.
A solid sales proposal typically includes the following sections:
- Your agency’s background
This might include information about your team, what you specialize in, the results you’ve achieved, and the types of clients you work with
This is where you outline the project’s goals and challenges.
This is the scope of the work for how you are going to approach (and ideally exceed) the project’s goal.
- Suggested Timeline
One way to manage client’s expectations from the get-go is to provide deadlines or timeframes for the project as a whole as well as all of the individual deliverables.
- Social Proof
Adding testimonials or case studies to your proposal is a way to highlight your expertise and credibility.
- Next Steps
Don’t leave any guesswork. Give suggested next steps for your prospect right within your proposal.
How do you write a good proposal?
Here are some best practices for how to write better proposals that convert more prospects into paying clients.
1. Pick a niche
Too many agencies’ websites look like The Cheesecake Factory menu. For those who are unfamiliar, The Cheesecake Factory menu is a small book that can make even the most decisive person spend 30+ minutes trying to decide on what to order.
For agencies, if you try to cater to every industry and offer dozens of different services, you are taking the same approach as The Cheesecake Factory. Not to mention, it becomes almost impossible for you to specialize in 1-2 two things or get more referrals since your offerings are so broad.
A better approach is to niche down and then really understand who your ideal client is.
2. Streamline your entire sales process (including your proposals)
The added benefit of choosing a niche and knowing who your ideal client is means that you can further streamline your sales process. This will make your sales process more predictable allowing you and your team to not reinvent the wheel for each new lead, respond faster, and close more deals.
Pro Tip: If you are using ProcessKit, you can set up your entire process (or use our kit) to nurture each prospect through your funnel and close more deals.
3. Use proposal software
You can use proposal software – like Proposify, PandaDoc, or Better Proposals – to make your new sales proposals look more polished and professional. It is also easier to manage the sales process, since you can integrate this with a tool, like ProcessKit.
4. Create a template for sales proposals
Once you know who your target client is, it is time to systemize your sales process. This starts by creating a template or a few for sales proposals.
This way, you aren’t reinventing the wheel and spending hours – or days – on end writing a new proposal every time.
Many proposal software options also provide template libraries with hundreds of proposal templates. Here is one example from Better Proposals. And, here is another from PandaDoc.
5. Communicate the “why” behind this project
While you should list out all of the deliverables and include a SOW, your proposal should also address the “why” of this project. It is easy to get so in the weeds of the deliverables that you forget to communicate how these things will help the client achieve “X, Y, or Z” goals. The more clearly you can communicate this, the more likely you will win the deal.
6. Don’t write a proposal unless the prospect asks for one
Even with proposal software and templates, writing proposals takes time. Do the hard work upfront via sales emails and calls to understand your prospect’s goals and needs. Then, only send a sales proposal when the prospect is ready. While you won’t win every deal, this increases the likelihood that the client will read and respond to your proposal.
7. Proofread your proposal
One way to sabotage your chance of winning the deal is to send a sales proposal filled with typos and grammatical errors. This can raise alarms with a prospect about how detail-oriented your team is.
Luckily, this is easy to address. Before you send out a new proposal, designate one person on your team to copy-edit it. Or alternatively, you can run it through a tool like Grammarly.
How to integrate your proposal process into your sales process
If you are already using proposal software and templates (see points above), you are on the right track. The key to streamlining this process even further is to automate all of the repetitive parts of this process. This is where software and having good processes in place are essential.
For example, if you are using ProcessKit, you can use our Zapier integration to automatically add a new client and kick off your new client onboarding process in ProcessKit as soon as they sign the proposal with your proposal software.
If you are ready to close more deals and ditch the proposal writing process altogether, here is how to do that.
How to close more deals without writing sales proposals
As we alluded to at the beginning of this post, switching to a productized model means it is easier to sell AND easier for your client to buy from you when the offer is boiled down to a “yes/no” value proposition.
Instead of your agency’s services resembling The Cheesecake Factory menu, your newly productized agency now resembles the menu at the award-winning food stall in Thailand where you had waited an hour on your vacation. They only had one green Thai curry dish on the menu with a few different meat options, and that was it.
It might seem risky to pair down to only one dish or service offering. Once you get really clear on the problem you solve, who you solve it for, and how you solve it, the sales process becomes simpler since you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time or haggle on scope or negotiation.
Once you’ve productized your service, you’re also able to tailor all of your marketing (your website, your content, the people you talk to, etc.) to attract your best clients—the folks who you know the experience and really feel the problem that you solve. As a result, the client’s first impression is, “Wow, this company gets me.” Then when they’re presented with the solution you offer, it’s much easier and far less risky for them to say, “Yes.”
The added benefit of this approach means you can further streamline NOT ONLY your sales and marketing processes but also client onboarding and service deliverables. This sets your business up to scale.
For example, if you suddenly got 15 new clients in a month, you already have the systems and processes in place to handle the influx of new clients without worrying about dropped balls.
This means that you can link your new streamlined sales process directly to your client onboarding process if you are using ProcessKit, ensuring no balls get dropped in the hand-off. Each new client you deliver has a great “Day 1” experience.
Pro Tip: Want more tips around building a great agency client onboarding process? Check out our guide.
In sum, it pays to question the de facto standards in your industry. Instead of continuing to spend hours writing RFPs and proposals, run a thought experiment to see if there might be a better approach for your business. You might find that productizing your agency and ditching the custom proposal process is just the thing you need to do to scale your business.
Set your agency up for predictable growth. Try ProcessKit. Start your free trial here.