The art of creating the perfect proposal can be learned, but the process starts long before a template.

After spending months researching, courting and planning, your time has finally come to present the perfect solution to your client. Countless hours with an unforgivable number of meetings and resources have brought you to this point. You lay your proposal in front of your client, and as you begin to go through the carefully constructed presentation, your client nods their head in agreement. They follow along with a degree of interest… and then you see it – the flip of the corner pages as they sneak a peek past all your efforts straight to the pricing. You’re left fighting to bring their attention back to the presentation without disregarding all of the value you have carefully tried to convey page by page.

If you’ve ever experienced this situation or something similar, you may have lost sight of these 7 rules for the perfect proposal.

1. It is all about the client.

Proposals are meant to summarize the client’s core issue (1, perhaps 2) and highlight how your solution will solve that problem. Stick to what is most pertinent to the client and avoid a dissertation recapping every conversation or minute detail of the sales process.

2. They are not value dumps.

Proposals are not meant to be magical moments where you reveal the genius of why a client has already invested so much time with you. If you have failed to continuously provide value in your conversations with your client, you won’t suddenly be able to prove the value of your solution in the proposal.

3. Proposals are not ambassadors.

Always make sure you are having the right conversations with the right people within an organization. A proposal cannot convey all of the value. In the event it needs to be passed along to decision makers, sales people will often find themselves wanting to compact their entire sales processes into contrived and lengthy writing hoping it will communicate well when passed along. Keep this from happening by clearly defining who has authority in the process and by understanding how decisions about your project will be made.

4. Make your case.

I challenge you to structure your proposal as a case study where you simply present the ROI. Make it one or two pages where you provide a list of the key problems solved and a simple outline of how you will solve them. Build the Statement of Work into your sales process, and see #5.

5. Leave out the detailed itemization of the pricing.

By leaving the detailed itemizations of the pricing until you are finalizing paperwork, you will avoid the costly price war and the dreaded side-by-side comparison where your client leaves the room only to set your proposal beside a competitor’s and inadvertently compare apples to oranges simply because both items are described by something similar to “Pear”.

6. Support the pricing.

When creating a proposal template for your organization, ask yourself – is this information necessary in order to understand the structure of the cost? If the answer is “No, but…”, re-evaluate how you are handling your sales process to keep from trying to make up for those failings in the proposal.

7. Accommodate with clarity.

Of course, if a prospective client asks for certain items to be placed in the proposal, accommodate them, but always inquire for clarification to better understand why the request is being made and how it might be pertinent.

The Golden Key of Proposals: If you do not have a defined probability for the acceptance of your proposal before the moment you are in a closing meeting, try re-evaluating your sales process as a whole.

In the end, the proposal is not the moment you prove to your client the depth of understanding you have of their problem. This is done through the conversations and questions of your discovery process.

Instead, the proposal is the moment you prove your comprehensive understanding of what the real cost would be should they address it with your solution. You understand the risks. You understand the degree of cultural change it could require. You understand the full scope of impact it would have (positive and even negative), and you can offer expertise and guidance in all of these areas.

Prove yourself to be of value through your entire sales process.

Explaining your proposal simply and concisely proves your expertise by leaning on the fact that you have proven yourself to be of value through the entire process – not just when you are asking for that final commitment. If you feel that this cannot be done, try re-approaching a few conversations with your client before presenting your final solution.

It can be difficult to remove yourself from the emotional attachment of the sales process to see what processes need to be altered to make bring more value to both your clients and your own organization. To learn more about how Wild Lark Strategies can help guide you to a clearer, sustainable path, email us at or contact us here.

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