Red-hot prospects getting cold feet? Your sales proposals could be the culprit. 

Red-hot prospects getting cold feet? Your sales proposals could be the culprit. 

Whoah! You just wrapped up a Zoom call with a burning-hot prospect.

Let’s call her Prudence. 

The chemistry was electric. And she couldn’t hide her excitement about you – and your business. You even went all in and told her your prices during the call. She didn’t flinch. 

‘It’s in the bag!’ you gloat to your colleagues. 

Now all that’s left to do is get her to sign off on your sales proposal – and the deal is done. So you whip it up and send it across.

But then…

Silence. Deafening silence. 

‘I’m sure she’s just super busy,’ you rationalise. ‘It’ll be fine!’

Two weeks on, when your emails and phone calls are still going unanswered, you have no choice but to face reality.

Prudent Prudence has gone icy cold. That ‘done deal’ you thought you had? It’s somehow slipped through your fingers. And you can’t fathom why. 

If this scenario sounds all too uncomfortably familiar, it’s a good thing you’re here. Welcome. You’re in the right place – because I’ve been helping business owners and managers improve their sales proposals for many years now. And I always find myself addressing the same problems.

So here they are: the top five issues that freeze out hot leads: 

1. Sales proposals that are old school.
2. Sales proposals that are confusing.
3. Sales proposals that don’t sell.
4. Sales proposals that are painfully generic.
5. Sales proposals that are cold and cliché-ridden.

Now let’s dive into each – and explore how to turn your sales proposals from ‘Meh…’ to ‘YEAH!’

1. Sales proposals that are old school 

Are you still creating your sales proposals in Word, PowerPoint or InDesign, converting them to PDF – and sending them off as an email attachment?

If so, allow me to introduce you to the world of digital proposals.

Digital proposals offer endless benefits – which is why I’ve been forcing encouraging my clients to transition to this format for many years now. 

First and foremost, digital proposals look slick and professional. And they tell your prospect that you’re a modern and progressive business. (That is, of course, if you’ve invested the time and resources upfront to get your templates looking good.)

On top of that, digital proposals:

  • Are quick and easy to create and reproduce (once your templates are done).

  • Allow you to make edits and additions in real time (which is convenient if you need to adjust your scope or pricing… or you spot a pesky typo). No need to amend and resend. 

  • Give you big brother insights into if, when and how your prospect interacts with the proposal. When they first viewed it. How many times they’ve viewed it. How long they looked at it. And what sections they spent the most time reading. 

That leaves one more thing to decide: which digital proposal tool should you use? 

Here at RM, we use Qwilr – and I love it. But there are countless others out there. Before we transitioned to Qwilr in 2020, we used a less fancy option called Quotient. I’ve also had experience with Proposify, PandaDoc and Better Proposals.

2. Sales proposals that are confusing

Simple, clear proposals win the race. Every time.

Think of it like this: your sales proposal is your final opportunity – before crossing the finish line – to prove to prospects like Prudence that your business is easy to work with.  

And what better way to show her this than with a proposal that’s easy to read, understand and engage with. In other words – show, don’t tell.

So be sure to:

  • Include lots of white space and a clear heading hierarchy so specific sections and information are easy to find.

  • Remove the clutter and delete anything that’s repetitive or irrelevant.

  • Include a specific scope and crystal-clear fee structure so she knows exactly what she’s buying. Any whiff of vagueness or murkiness will plant seeds of doubt in her mind.

  • Keep your pricing and package options to an absolute minimum to simplify and hasten the decision process. 

As Tony Robbins famously said: Complexity is the enemy of execution. 

Make it hard and you can bet your bottom dollar that Prudence will avoid, evade… and ultimately, disappear. 

3. Sales proposals that don’t sell

You got on great guns with Prudence. Go you.

But did it occur to you that Prudence may not be the ultimate authority in the selection process? Or, even if she is, that she may be compelled to consult with her colleagues before clicking that ACCEPT button?

Chances are, Prudence will be forwarding your proposal to other influencers and decision makers in her business. People who’ve never had the chance to be charmed by you. People who know nothing about you or your business.

That means your proposal has a lot of heavy lifting to do. It must establish credibility, confidence and conviction.

So don’t skimp on things like testimonials, case studies and relevant credentials to build business-wide credibility. (And even if Prudence is the only decision maker, you’re at least reminding her why she was impressed by you in the first place.)

But don’t go overboard either. If you talk too much about yourself – and not enough about your prospect your sales proposal will become a big fat yawn. So keep the boast-fest relevant, pithy and focused. 

4. Sales proposals that are painfully generic 

Let me be clear: I’m a huge fan of templates. They allow you to create enormous efficiencies – and turn around quality proposals in record time.

BUT, they also make it all too easy (for the lazy salesperson) to overlook the critical value of tailoring proposals to a prospect’s specific situation.

What does Prudence want above all? To be seen and feel heard. That means your proposal needs to show her that you understand:

  • Her reasons and goals for coming to you in the first place
  • Her key pain points and likely objections
  • What information and details are most important to her

So place a ‘Your situation’ section early on in your document to show that you get your prospect. And tailor that section completely. This will capture her attention and prove that her needs are your primary focus from the get go. 

(Too many proposals are written back-to-front. But by placing your prospect’s challenges and objectives upfront, you’re implying that the rest of the proposal is attuned to her needs – rather than generic waffle.)

5. Sales proposals that are cold and cliché-ridden

If you thought all sales proposals should be written in a formal, conservative tone, think again.

In fact, it’s surprisingly easy to differentiate your business by using personable, conversational language. 

And the reason is simple: it makes your brand more likeable and relatable.

One easy way to inject humanity into your writing is by using first-person language. So instead of writing:  ‘Rockford Consulting Group is pleased to present this proposal to Bluebank Homes.’

Go for the more personal: ‘We’re pleased to present you our proposal.’

And wherever possible, opt for more positive, emotive terms such as:

  • ‘Investment’ instead of ‘cost’
  • ‘Happiness’ instead of ‘satisfaction’
  • ‘Empower’ instead of ‘support’

Finally, keep clear of buzzwords, cliches and jargon like:

  • Our next-generation solution…
  • In today’s competitive market…
  • By following industry best practice…
  • Our highly experienced, qualified and flexible team…
  • Intuitive, turn-key and agile…

… and replace them for more familiar, everyday alternatives.  

Feeling inspired to bring your sales proposals into the modern age? Then get in touch. We can help you create well-written and professionally designed templates using your preferred digital proposal tool. 

And if your sales team lacks the skills to write clear, compelling proposals that put your business in the best possible light? Our business writing course could be for you.