In many ways, creating proposals is like being an artist. A lot of people think it’s easy, but few have any idea what it takes to do it well. They think, “How hard is it to write a persuasive sales proposal or a compelling RFP response?”
One reason for this opinion is that many sales professionals think of proposals as purely informational documents. They view sales proposals as just a way to inform a prospect about your company’s qualifications, products, and expertise. And, in the case of RFPs, sales is under the impression that prospects just send over a bunch of questions, and your organization answers them with a collection of canned answers. From there, if the fit is right, the deal progresses quickly to the next phase of the sales cycle.
That’s not quite how it works.
Sales proposals and RFP responses are both sales assets. There’s nothing rote or routine about them. They’re a crucial opportunity to position your organization well and nudge out the competition. And there is always competition—even if that competition is simply the status quo. You can’t waste this opportunity to deliver a persuasive business case through your proposal, especially if you’re selling into large buying groups over long, complex buy cycles.
What’s the goal of RFP responses and proposals?
At first, it seems obvious, right? Many folks would say that a proposal’s job is to highlight your solution to a potential customer and give them everything they need to make a purchasing decision. This isn’t technically wrong, but there’s another significant goal to strive for: a proposal should always persuade a prospect to act.
If you’ve properly vetted your prospect before deciding to submit a proposal, then you should be confident that your solution can deliver value to the organization. Now, you need the decision-makers in the account to see what you see. You also need to earn their trust and captivate them with the outcomes they can expect if they decide to take you on as a business partner.
Four features of a persuasive proposal
There’s no one-size-fits-all template for persuasive proposals or compelling RFP responses. But before you send out your next proposal, make sure you’ve put in the effort to make it as effective as possible. Start by following these four key steps…
1. Empathize with customers
You don’t have to jump into solving problems right away. In fact, you shouldn’t. First, pause and make sure you let the prospect know that you’ve truly heard them. What does this organization want? What does
it need? Who are the key influencers in the account? Do they have any unique pains, concerns, or aspirations?
It’s imperative to prove that you honestly listened to and heard everything the prospect told you and understand the business and personal challenges they’re facing. After all, how can you hope to solve their business problems if you don’t understand what they are?
2. Focus on outcomes
Your impulse for the next step may be to dive into presenting solutions, but not so fast! Instead of getting into the details of how you’ll get them to a better state, show them what that better state looks like and how it will make them feel.
Paint a picture of the benefits the prospect can expect to see when they do business with you. Be optimistic without promising anything you can’t deliver. Help the decision-makers envision what their life going forward will look like with you in it.
Not only does this approach engage your buyer and make them feel positive, but it also builds anticipation. I’ve seen the promised land! Now how do I get there?
3. Spell out a solution
Now is the time you’ve been waiting for: specify the details of how you can help your prospective customer reach their desired state.
What products and plans will you offer? What differentiating and unique offers will be especially valuable? Finally, what strategic approach do you recommend they take to achieve their desired outcome?
So many organizations mistakenly lead with this information. By holding back and taking the time to empathize with your prospective customer and focus on outcomes first, you already set your proposal apart. You’ve taken the time to built a connection, so when you convey your solution, the prospect is ready and excited to read about it.
4. Provide evidence
Finally, provide facts to back up the arguments you’ve presented throughout your sales proposal or RFP response. What stats and numbers support the emotional decision you’re enticing the prospect to make? How have you driven outcomes at similar businesses? What proof can you point to that your offering is as good as you say it is?
In addition to hard statistics, consider including relevant testimonials or quotes from satisfied customers who faced similar challenges as your prospective customers. Through everything, keep in mind that you’re not trying to convey you have the best solution overall, but that you have a solution that is uniquely the best for this particular prospective customer. Always tailor your evidence to be relevant and relatable.
Take your RFP responses and proposals to the next level
Before you sit down to write up your next proposal, take a minute to consider what you’re trying to achieve. Are you merely trying to inform? Or are you looking to inspire your prospect to act?
If you’re ready to consider upping your sales proposal and RFP response game, be sure to check out Upland Qvidian. For more than 25 years, the experts at Qvidian have been helping mid-size to enterprise organizations across industries from healthcare to manufacturing (and everything in between) do just that.
Qvidian automates away the tedious and frustrating in RFP response and proposal processes. With Qvidian, sales and proposal teams can collaborate effortlessly to quickly deliver polished and compliant proposals, presentations, and sales documents. More than 1,000 companies and 200,000 users worldwide rely on Qvidian to meet deadlines, tame proposal content chaos, and win more deals
For more information or a tailored demo, don’t hesitate to contact a Qvidian RFP response and proposal expert.