You know you need to write a proposal, but do you know how to do it and get the maximum result? With these need-to-knows, you can create proposals like a pro. Below you find the chapter shortcuts to navigate to a section quickly.
What is a proposal
A proposal is a proposal or offer with a proposal for the provision of products or services. Tenders are made for companies, government agencies as well as for individuals (consumers).
The reason for a proposal is a need anyway. For example, a need for a solution of a particular problem or help with a specific situation or event. The purpose of a proposal is the same everywhere: to give a (potential) customer or client insight into what a service or product includes, what the costs are and how it works. A proposal is sometimes confused with an order confirmation. In an order confirmation, however, you do not give options but confirm what has been agreed and at what price.
Today, we pay much more attention to making proposals. Where used to be enough with just a proposal, we are now making a lot more work out of it. This is mainly because tenders are now seen as an opportunity and a possible start to sustainable cooperation.
There are several types of proposals. You can make a proposal at the request of a potential customer, but also send a proposal unsolicited. In case of proposals on request, a conversation takes place almost always first. This could also be a phone call. In case of unsolicited proposals, it is the other way A proposal is more like a mailing and only after sending it is tried to get in touch with the recipient.
In addition to service and product proposals, there are also tenders. In public institutions, they do not speak of offering but of tendering. The client then gives an order description, the suitability requirements and the grounds for exclusion. Only companies (tenderers) that adhere strictly to all the rules and requirements have a chance to get through the first round. After that, price and quality are weighed.
The advantages of a proposal
There are organizations that doubt the value of making offers. However, in many cases, proposals play an important role in the sales process. A proposal is a powerful sales tool. Many sales or transactions take place on the basis of proposals. It may not always be experienced this way, but (allowed) to make a proposal has many advantages.
Proposal as a starting point of a collaboration
After a first interview, making a proposal is a second opportunity to work on a sustainable relationship. This is the time when agreements can be fulfilled. Timely delivery and the imitation of proposals foster confidence. A good start is half the work and therefore a proposal is a great starting point for a good cooperation.
A proposal is a perfect tool for companies and organisations to profile themselves. Even if the order or order fails, a proposal can impress. This increases the chance that a customer or prospect will make a proposal request another time.
It happens more often that buyers are pleasantly surprised by an offer. Moreover, a proposal with a resourceful custom solution is appreciated significantly higher than giving a competitive price.
In some cases, in a first conversation there is not enough room for convincing the interlocutor. It may also be that the tender should be sent to other parties with decision-making power. In such cases, a proposal can emphasise the solutions, the working method and the efficiency of these solutions. Moreover, objections may have been raised which can be removed in the offer. In short: with a proposal one can convince customers.
A proposal provides the opportunity to show the customer or prospect that the needs, challenges and experience of their customers are understood. That creates trust and increases the chances of profit. By the way, there is a clear shift when it comes to experience. Where they used to be satisfied with an extensive proposal, customer experience is now highly valued.
Proposal gives room for the Why
People want to do business with people and are therefore interested in the faces and stories (storytelling) behind a logo. A strong why-presentation can cause the customer or prospect to decide to award a contract or order. The why is part of Simon Sinek's Golden Circle model. The Golden Circle is about the way of thinking, acting and communicating between organisation and target group. This model demonstrates that the “why” is the most important element in communication. It distinguishes it from others.
Making a proposal is an opportunity to stand out in the grey mass and give the competitors a check. With online proposal tools, it is quite easy to introduce a customer or prospect to, for example, his future supplier, contacts or customer service agents in a contemporary way.
The sales process or sales process is an essential part of the business. It is a framework of carefully planned activities that promote sales and achieve goals.
The activities begin with research and then a first contact. The process ends with the conclusion of a deal and after-care (after-sales). A sales process has several activities. Below you can see the most important activities from the beginning to the end:
- market research
- create customer profile
- make sales funnel
- do acquisition
- first contact
- customer call
- inventory and analysis
- make proposal
- close deal
- transfer and execution
Capturing the benefits of sales process
The sales process is a framework, a coat rack and some call it a road map. It provides insight into the target group, their interests and their issues. Companies and organisations that have mapped their sales process well increase their efficiency, creating a consistent and uniform working method that drastically reduces the risk of errors. Such a structured approach helps sales people - including newcomers - to apply the right tactics and activity at the right time. Working with a defined sales process means that sales goals are realised faster and companies and organizations can actually grow. In addition, this way of working ensures a better customer experience. For each phase in which the potential customer is located, there is an appropriate activity. This way customers are always optimally supervised.
One of the ways to optimally serve and guide customers is to work with a sales funnel. A sales funnel is the English term for a funnel. It is a (marketing) model that describes the process how and with which prospects eventually become customers. It is, as it were, the path that precedes a proposal request. Why a funnel? Because during this process people will also lose weight. People compare and search for information in order to come to a decision. The purpose of the sales funnel is to serve potential customers with information and activities from the beginning to the conversion: closing a deal, purchasing a product or hiring a service. The underlying idea behind the sales funnel is that by offering the right information at the right time, buying behaviour is positively influenced.
Guaranteeing sales process: key to success
Having only a nicely elaborated document or roadmap is insufficient. Bring it to life by integrating the process into a customer relationship management system (CRM). This visualizes the sales process, makes performance and goals clear with concrete figures, saves time and improves productivity within a sales team. Anyone can see the status of leads and deals anytime, anywhere via a clear dashboard. Good for the team spirit and the results.
The following article discusses the sales process and how to secure it in your organization: All about the sales process
We communicate every day, also with customers and prospects. Communication is often targeted during a sales process. A sales process is the complete process that a prospect takes to an order or order. Communication plays a prominent role during each phase of this entire process. From proposal request and customer call to after-sales communication.
Communication at the initial stage
At the initial stage, it is important to arouse the interest of prospects. A sales funnel (marketing model) is an excellent tool for attracting prospects through carefully chosen content (sales communication). Providing Prospects knowledge creates trust, brand awareness and authority. Especially in the early stages, providing valuable knowledge through webinars, blog posts, whitepapers, podcasts or tutorials can lead to interaction and proposal requests.
If a prospect, without personal contact, makes a proposal request, it may be tempting to respond directly by e-mail. However, a personal phone call creates much more confidence. In addition, a proposal request via e-mail is often very concise, making an appropriate and convincing proposal almost impossible. During a telephone sales call a lot of information can be obtained. Information about, for example, the situation, cause, request for help or need. Therefore, always contact us and find out if the prospect already needs an orific conversation at this stage.
Sitting with the prospect (or customer) at the table is an important and risky step in sales process. Now it comes down to it. At this stage, it is extremely crucial that no assumptions are made. This is prevented by asking questions until everything is clear. After that, summarise it and ask closed questions to check that everything is well understood. The advantage of this conversation technique is that it provides relevant input for proposals and, in addition, unasked, often valuable questions arise.
The proposal is an important link in the sales process. Everything that is communicated in it must be drawn up with relevant and understandable language. Professional jargon should be omitted unless all parties involved know and use these terms. A proposal provides a nice opportunity to bring the prospect or customer into the yes mode. Trigger the subconscious of the prospect by describing in the right words the solutions and the results. By using striking images (with high quality), the message is visualized and strengthened.
Follow up the proposal
In order to maintain control, it is advisable to make the offer an appointment about when the follow-up of the proposal takes place. The imitation of proposals can be decisive. Many companies and organisations appreciate the attention and the follow-up strengthens trust. However, it requires good communication skills especially when the prospect or customer still has doubts or concerns. Listening is the key factor here. Remove doubts and objections or come back to them later. No customer is the same. It is therefore also said that following up proposals is a continuous learning process.
The contact with the customer during and after an order or assignment is called aftersales. In a structured and integrated sales process, this is an increasingly important part. This form of communication provides more customer experience and satisfaction. Thus, the accent shifts from the transaction to the relationship. Retaining existing customers costs less energy than recruiting new customers. Continuous aftercare and after-sales contact prolongs the 'life' of a collaboration, customers return and in some cases even become valuable ambassadors.
Timing & convincing
The following two blogs tell you all about the perfect timing and how to convince doubters.
Legal aspects in proposals
The law does not speak of proposals and a proposal agreement but about 'offer' and 'acceptance'. There is only legal offer if this offer contains core clauses. Core clauses are essential parts on which an agreement is based. For example, information regarding the customer or prospect, the company details of the author or provider of the proposal, the offer, the price, delivery agreements or how the offer can be signed and within what period.
Legal validity digital proposal
Due to the increasing digitisation, digital proposals are increasingly being used. In accordance with Dutch law, any agreement that has been found oral, written or digital agreement is legally valid. An agreement issued by telephone is in principle valid but is not recommended because of the difficult burden of proof afterwards. On the other hand, an email in which an agreement is given and referred to a proposal is legally valid and safe. The legally most secure, but above all the clearest way, is to have the proposal signed online.
(Digital) signing of proposals
A proposal can be signed in several ways. The best known way is traditionally the handwritten (offline) signature. Today, the digital signature is the most common. There are several types of digital signatures:
The electronic signature
An electronic version on a handwritten signature and consists of electronic data linked to a digital document (online proposal).
The (advanced) digital signature
Here, cryptographic mechanisms are applied to the content of a proposal document to prove to the recipient that the sender of the message is genuine (authentication).
An image of a (printed and scanned) signature.
Create & write a proposal
Despite the many advantages of proposals, writing a proposal is sometimes underestimated. A good proposal consists of more than just a text and a proposal. There are also legal requirements that a proposal must meet and it is advisable to maintain a certain structure.
Proposals and legislation
Proposals are legally bound by the content of it. In order to avoid discussion, it is therefore important to clarify the scope of a proposal. The legislation therefore also lays down a number of minimum requirements for a proposal, namely:
- a full addressing of prospect or customer
- your own data such as name, address and the Chamber of Commerce number
- a proposal number
- a date and a period of validity
- a description of the services or products concerned
- the prices excluding VAT, the VAT rate and amount plus the price including VAT
Vat in proposals explained
- the main conditions under which the offer is provided
- a reference to the general conditions and/or add them to the proposal
- a description of how an agreement can be given
Structure of proposals
A logical structure of proposals increases the chances of success. Prospects or customers quickly draw a chaotic proposal with chaotic business operations. A logical structure of, for example, a service offer consists of:
- an introduction or cover letter
- a description of the current situation
- a description of the desired situation
- a description of how to achieve the desired situation
- the results of the offer (return)
- the method
- a planning
- the cost
- naming specific agreements and general terms and conditions
- a closure
The ideal structure of a proposal varies per company, but also has similarities. Discover the most important parts of a successful proposal construction.
Writing styles in proposals
There are many types of writing styles, including proposals. The most famous are: formal and informal. The choice of a formal or informal writing style in proposals depends on the manner of communication chosen by the author in general (tone of voice) and what is appropriate to the client or prospect. A customer conversation can also be decisive for the choice. If there was tutoyering then it is very common to use 'je and you' in the proposal. The idea that an informal writing style would be taken less seriously, partly due to the arrival of social media, has long been outdated. Much more important is that the chosen writing style is consistently maintained and grammar and spelling are correct.
Neuroprinciples in proposals
Of course you want to win beautiful orders or orders with your proposals. You do your best to offer the customer or prospect the best possible offer. If only you could get into his head right now to turn on the yes button. The yes button is invisible in everyone's brain. Only neuro-investigators can see him. Read more about the 5 most effective neuroprinciples that revolutionize the win chance of proposals!
Create proposals in Word or Excel
Proposals created in Word or Excel are considered traditional proposals. The proposal is then usually saved in PDF format after which it is sent to prospects or customers. Nowadays there are online proposal tools that give an extra dimension to sacrificing. Attractive digital proposals appeal to the imagination and have a positive effect on people's subconscious. Another advantage is that these proposals can be accepted online. This works threshold lowering and is significantly less cumbersome than approving Word or Excel proposals. Learn more about creating proposals with Word.
Social probative power is the application of both influences techniques. Robert Cialdini,
Professor, social psychologist and writer of world-famous books on the principles of influence, has done a lot of research over the years showing that social evidence influences people in making (buy) decisions. Perfect to apply in your proposals.
Write a good proposal
Making a winning proposal is difficult and has a lot of nuances. The following article will go deeper into how to make good proposals. When you make a proposal for existing customers, other things play a more important role: Creating proposals for existing customers
Making a proposal is in the middle of the sales process. Find out what an agreement or a rejection for the retention period of a proposal means.
Externally also plays a role in proposals. The appreciation for and the positive effect of nicely designed proposals, partly due to the focus on customer experience, has even increased significantly in recent years. With the advent of online proposal software, a new era has come for, among other things, the design of proposals. In a short time, proposals comply with the corporate identity including colours and fonts. The layout and layout invite and hold the attention of prospects and customers.
Corporate identity in proposals
A proposal could also be compared with a business card. A business card is clear, clear, professional and inviting - everything a proposal should be. For the right appearance, business cards spend a lot of time on the design and color use. After all, a business card must have personality and must be in line with a corporate identity. That's the way it is with proposals. A good design combined with the corporate identity strengthens the image and/or brand of companies and organisations. Such proposals have a professional appearance that awakens interest and increases confidence.
Convince with visuals in proposals
Images and videos can be easily added to digital proposals. Thanks to the automatic formatting, a proposal with a few simple actions turns into an attractive and convincing offer. Images can be used to illustrate, for example, a desired situation for a prospect or customer. Numerous studies show that people make 95% choices based on emotions. Adapting to these emotions with visuals in proposals can therefore be advantageous. The same applies to the use of infographics. Infographics are images that give text and information. Dry figures are tantalizing eye catchers. A table with comparative figures is usually kept until a later date. With infographics, the information is not only read directly, but also better recorded and remembered.
The end goal is to display the right experience that matches your company. If you are in a more traditional market, don't be too extreme, but choose something that is a step forward and creates a distinction from your competitors without losing the target audience completely. Start making inspiring proposals today.
Use of color
Color plays an important role in business as well. There are numerous studies that show that a color or combination of colors has a major impact on customers, prospects, and audiences. Conscious use of colors and color combinations results in demonstrable conversion. Our advice: Pay attention to the design and specifically the use of colour in proposals!
Send & Present
When a proposal is ready, it can be offered to the customer or prospect in different ways. For example, send by e-mail or simply by post. Proposals can also be presented, both in an online and offline form. However, a growing number of companies opt for an online proposal program and some organizations even offer via whatsapp.
When you choose to deliver the proposal by e-mail, this usually means that the proposal itself is sent as an attachment. The proposal with any cover letter are then saved as a PDF document. In the e-mail message, it is sufficient to read 'Attached you find... '. A proposal e-mail is a very common way of proposal shipping. However, this can also be a drawback. For example, there is a chance that a proposal will not stand out in the full inbox of the customer or prospect. In addition, there is a risk that the proposal will not be accepted by the customer's server or prospect. Some companies and organizations set up their servers more stringent. As a result, they do not accept attachments or only to a certain size. However, this can be overcome by using special programmes for this purpose. These programs, such as WeTransfer are designed specifically for sending larger files. It is still advisable to announce the arrival of the proposal via regular mail to the customer or prospect.
When you send an online proposal, please send a link to the online proposal next to the cover letter. Via this link you can directly view the proposal and download the pdf yourself if desired. So that saves you a lot of hassle.
Proposal by post
Sending a proposal by post can be described as 'the old-fashioned way'. However, the downside is that a proposal might stand out because of this. Where we are flooded with mail, letter post has become almost an exception. Sending a proposal by mail also gives you something else. A customer or prospect gets something tangible in their hands. Today, people companies are increasingly digitally furnished and a paper proposal is perceived as clumsy and old-fashioned. In these times of remote work, you cannot share that physical proposal with your colleague without sending it back by post or having to scan it. Let alone show that nice new company video.
Present the proposal
A presentation is an interesting way to highlight an offer. This can be done both online and offline. An online presentation, for example via an online proposal program, is visually very attractive. One of the other advantages is that follow-up actions can be timed very precisely because each customer or prospect opens the proposal, a notification is sent. In addition, these digital proposals are interactive and online according works minimally.
A presentation usually takes place at the request of a customer or prospect. All parties involved, from procurement to management, participate in the presentation. This allows the presenter to prepare himself well for possible questions and objections. After all, a financial director assesses the offer from a different perspective than a commercial manager. During the presentation it usually becomes clear whether an offer leads to a possible collaboration. Because questions can be answered directly during a presentation, any doubts or objections are more quickly removed.
The best way for sending a proposal
This depends on what is offered and to whom. Some customers or prospects want a presentation while others prefer digital proposals that they can approve directly online. Make sure you always followup the proposal at the right time.
Cover letter example
Find out why an accompanying writing is so important, what forms are available and what is best put in an accompanying e-mail. Read the article and take a look at the examples for inspiration.
Winning and sometimes losing
If a proposal has been found that is a reason for a congratulation but certainly no reason to think that the biggest job has been done. On the contrary. After all, a proposal is the beginning of hopeful and sustainable cooperation. It therefore requires more than just the execution and an invoice. No matter how long and intensive a proposal process has been, winning a proposal is still at the beginning of the sales process. For example, customers in the first phase after a proposal agreement are especially in need of confirmation. Confirmation that they have made the right choice. Communication therefore plays a crucial role in this phase.
First step after a proposal agreement
Especially when a proposal is signed, customers want to know where they stand. Confidence is built through good communication and the fulfilment of agreements. Therefore, involve not only the customer but all who participate in the assignment, order or cooperation. Furthermore, provide important information including a plan of action with control or reporting moments, a time schedule and contact details of the responsible employees. Then follow the steps according to the sales process.
Thank the customer
No matter how good a product or service is, it is unwise to take the award of contracts or orders for granted. A simple thank you, on the other hand, strengthens and extends the experience of both new and existing customers.
A lost proposal is not yet a lost customer. Also when losing a possible order or order, it is important to thank a customer or prospect. This leaves a positive final impression. This significantly increases the chances of a new application. At the same time, this contact moment provides an opportunity to find out the reason for rejection. With the possible improvement points, the sales process can then be further optimised.
Never consider yourself a loser if the customer refrains from your proposal. The listening attitude and the effort you have made may lead to him choosing us for you next time.
Build a partnership after agreement
When an order or order is approved, this does not mean that one has done the most. On the contrary, there is work to be done and not only in terms of the order or order. With the discussions and the proposal, a foundation has been laid for a nice and long cooperation. Learn more about how to grow towards a partnership with your customer.
Proposal examples and templates
Not everyone who regularly makes proposals has all the skills to draw up a nice offer smoothly and quickly. In certain cases, a proposal template or quotation template then provides outcome. That also applies to an example accompanying writing. Lack of time and inspiration usually lead to work with a proposal template and/or sample letter. A proposal is made once as a template and it will be used as a template. Even when proposals are made in Word, there are several proposal templates to use and modify.
Advantages and disadvantages of proposal templates
A proposal consists of a number of fixed elements, including basic information about the products, services and Unique Buyer Reasons (UBR) of the company issuing the offer. In addition, a proposal contains customer related information such as: a proposal number, the (help) demand, the total cost, the validity period of the offer and a reference to the general terms and conditions. Because a template does not have to be reformatted every time and the author knows for sure that the basic and other fixed elements are already in it, it saves a lot of time. Working with a proposal template also prevents any copy-paste errors. However, there may also be disadvantages to the use of templates. A customer or prospect may consider it impersonal and therefore take the proposal negative. By cleverly automating your personalization and incorporating a personal piece into the proposal, you can avoid this easily.
Working with a proposal tool
With a proposal program, the most benefits can be enjoyed. This allows proposal elements to be stored as favorite building blocks in a content library. This allows personalised, customer-oriented proposals to be prepared in a short time. With smart automatic reminders and notifications, a proposal process is optimally guided. All customer information is clearly displayed and via a dashboard it becomes clear how the proposal pipeline is filled.
Check out different proposal examples here and be inspired. All examples can be used as a template with the proposal software.
This is really the time of automation and digitization. It is the way to stimulate and realize growth. Customers and prospects expect suppliers to go along with this. This also applies to the submission of proposals. In the past, customers and prospects were satisfied with a proposal or proposal by post. That time seems to be over. Customers choose speed, they choose proposals where everything shows that they are understood and that are easy to share when working remotely. They want to be able to make their own choices and, of course, digitally sign.
An automated proposal is made quickly with the right proposal software. A proposal program offers a range of functionalities that require less time to make proposal. Custom templates, text blocks, company presentations, videos or customer cases are available to everyone in a content library. Sales departments can draw up their proposals based on best practices.
Additional functionalities proposal software
In addition, there are proposal programs that support sales teams with automations and notifications. These automations and notifications optimise the guidance during a proposal process. With every automation such as sending a proposal or a friendly reminder, the date and time of execution can be determined. Notifications will also be sent when a customer or prospect has opened or signed a proposal. With the notifications, follow up activities always take place exactly on time.
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