How to Win Proposals (with examples!)
How to Win Proposals: A Comprehensive Guide for Agencies and Small Businesses
In any competitive business niche, mastering the art of winning proposals is the difference between success and failure. Just go and ask any creative agency or SME with a sales pipeline! This guide offers no-nonsense, practical tactics which any business leader can use to refine their approach to proposals. If you have an active sales pipeline, here’s the actionable tips you need to bring in more sales immediately.
Understanding the Importance of Winning Proposals
Why Winning Proposals Matter
At the risk of sounding obvious, here’s a very brief explanation of why the rate at which you win proposals is important. Know this already? Just skip to the next section ;)
- Increased Revenue: Quite simply, securing proposals equates to business growth and higher revenue.
- Brand Credibility: A track record of winning proposals bolsters your industry standing and provides you with more marquee clients.
- Broader Client Base: Converting proposals can diversify your client base quicker and reduce turnover volatility
Step-by-Step Guide to Winning Proposals
Step 1: Understand Your Client
Understanding your client is the foundation of a winning proposal. This means not just knowing their current needs but knowing both their history and anticipating future challenges they may face. Diving deep into the client's industry, their competitors, and the market trends can provide valuable insights without robbing your potential client of any time. If you can jump on a call with them, use the time wisely. It will help you tailor your proposal to address specifics that demonstrate you understand what will add value for them.
Research research research!
Depending on the worth of the potential deal, conducting thorough research might include examining the client’s past projects, press releases, social media footprint and even annual reports. This research will reveal who they are relative to the market, their strengths, weaknesses and business strategies. Once you know this you are in a strong position to align your solutions to their objectives.
Offer Tailored Solutions
Avoid boilerplate solutions that look too generic. Instead develop client-specific solutions by identifying the unique challenges they face. This bespoke approach ensures that your proposal speaks directly to their needs and sets you apart from competitors. Remember, you don’t need to send the world’s best proposal but you do need it to be better than any other proposal they might receive!
Step 2: Create a Clear Value Proposition
Your value proposition should clearly explain why your particular service or product is the best choice for the client. This isn’t just about what you offer, but how it benefits the client in terms of efficiency, profitability, and competitive advantage. In other words, what is the value that you bring?
Unique Selling Points (USPs)
Identify and articulate your USPs clearly. Whether it’s your innovative technology, exceptional customer service, or industry expertise, make sure these points are both compelling and relevant to the client's needs. Tip - think carefully about your USP, if you’ve never given it much thought it is deceptively difficult to pin down and get right!
Your proposal should focus on the benefits that the client will receive from your services. In particular these should tie in with the challenges they are facing. Whether it's streamlining operations, enhancing brand recognition, or driving sales, make these benefits tangible and measurable.
Step 3: Develop a Persuasive Proposal Template
A well-structured proposal guides the client through your narrative, leading them to the conclusion that your offering is the best solution to their problem. You don’t need to write a novel but there should be a clear line of thought that runs through your proposal. Below is an overview but if you want to explore how to create a proposal template, be sure to visit our proposal templates page.
Cover & Title
It’s your first impression and sets the tone for the rest of the proposal.
Problems & Goals
You should present a clear understanding of your client’s needs and an enthusiasm for addressing them. This section should also highlight the innovation and thought leadership that your company brings to the table and how this aligns with your client’s goals.
Provide a step-by-step plan on how you will implement your solution. This might include resources needed, and any potential risks or considerations, with strategies to mitigate them. Detail the solution you’re proposing, emphasizing its feasibility and how it aligns with the client's goals.
Be clear about what is and isn’t included. Get ahead of scope creep by defining your limits and what your deliverables are.
They may be obvious to you but don’t forget to state the benefits that your solution brings to the client. We think it’s great to place this right before the pricing section.
Offer a clear and detailed breakdown of costs, ensuring there are no hidden fees or surprises. We strongly recommend offering optional pricing which usually comes in the forms of tiers or bundles which the client can choose according to their budget.
Timeline & CTA
Produce a realistic timeline that demonstrates a solid understanding of project management. Finally make sure the call to action is clear. If you are using proposal management software it should include an e-signature.
Step 4: Utilize Proposal Software like Nusii
These days your proposal game is only as good as your proposal software. Leveraging technology can greatly enhance the quality and efficiency of your proposal management. Proposal software like Nusii help you in a number of ways:
Nusii streamlines the proposal creation process, saving you time and resources. Its templates and automation features ensure that you can focus on content rather than format.
With Nusii, your proposals will have a consistent, professional look and feel. The content library and variables which automatically pull data from client profiles helps reduce the number of typos and other human errors. This will reinforce your brand identity and maintain or even enhance your reputation.
Tracking & Analytics
Nusii's tracking features allow you to see how clients interact with your proposal, providing insights for follow-up conversations. This also lets you monitor open rates, win rates and proposal success rates.
Nusii’s e-signatures accelerate your client’s ability to sign-off by making the whole process possible from inside the browser. It also makes the experience a pleasant process. Similarly having live chat inside the proposal allows resolving issues on the fly and moving quickly to sign-off.
Step 5: Personalize Your Proposal
Personalization is key to standing out. Each proposal should feel as though it was crafted specifically for that particular client. It should always reflect the needs and goals of that company as they perceive them.
Tailor each proposal to the client by reflecting their brand, using their industry's jargon.
Tailor each solution to address their specific business case instead of offering a generic solution.
Incorporate testimonials form the most relevant past clients not necessarily the most recent or the most famous. Read the next step for more on testimonials!
Step 6: Quotes and Case Studies
Trust is built on experience or proof. In this case we don’t have any work experience with the client so we must show proof. Testimonials and relevant case studies are the easiest way to convince them of your past successes and therefore of your ability to follow through on your proposal.
Include testimonials from past clients that speak to the quality of your work and the positive impact you had on their business. It’s always better to use a genuine quote than a made up one which will come over as fake (and be counterproductive!)
Select case studies that are relevant to the client’s industry or challenge, illustrating your experience and success in similar situations. It’s fine to include the headline figures and provide a link to the full case study.
Step 7: Follow Up Strategically
Tracking and following up is as important as the proposal itself. It shows the client that you are serious about your offer and willing to engage further. If you’re using software you should be able to track whether your client has received their proposal, if they opened it and, of course, whether they signed.
Schedule your follow-ups strategically. Again, if you’re using proposal software it should allow you to send automated follow ups to clients who have not yet accepted or opened the proposal. Whether it’s a day after submission or built with a delay, make sure your follow-up is not too pushy.
Real time feedback
Proposal software like Nusii, has a live chat function built right into the proposals which means you can chat to your client just when they are viewing it.
3 Examples of Winning Proposals
Now we’ve seen how to win proposals, let’s look at how all of this might look like in real life.
Example 1: Personalization Wins the Pitch
Scenario: In a highly competitive pitch, an advertising agency was bidding to win a performance marketing contract with a national retailer. The agency gathered extensive data on the retailer's customer demographics, market position, and sales trends. They analyzed this data to create a bespoke marketing strategy that was both realistic and detailed.
Outcome: The agency's proposal stood out because it demonstrated a deep understanding of the retailer's target market and presented a clear, data-driven path to increased conversion rates and ROAS. Customization to the retailer's specific needs and goals was the biggest factor behind the agency winning the contract.
Example 2: Nusii Proposal Software brings it home
Scenario: A boutique IT consultancy proposed a complex cloud infrastructure project for a regional logistics company. Knowing the importance of clarity and professionalism, they used Nusii proposal software to present their technical solution in an intuitive, easy to understand format. The proposal included optional pricing, timelines, and an option to e-sign the proposal right from the browser.
Outcome: The proposal's clarity, attention to detail, and smooth presentation made a big difference. The logistics company was impressed with the use of tech to simplify complex information, which gave them confidence in the consultancy’s ability to deliver the project. In the end they won the contract, partly due to the ease of signing off their Nusii-written proposal.
Example 3: Automated follow-ups Pay Off
Scenario: After delivering a comprehensive proposal for a major rebrand, a design agency didn't forget about their potential client. Instead, they automated a follow up email to check in on their client. Two weeks after the initial submission, they sent out additional insights and a reminder of the proposal's key points, reinforcing their eagerness to collaborate and go the extra mile.
Outcome: This proactive approach paid dividends. The client was in the process of making their decision when the agency's follow-up arrived. Impressed by the agency's commitment, the client decided to move forward with them, resulting in a lucrative contract for the agency.
The key to winning proposals is a mix of understanding the client properly, the strategic use of digital tools like Nusii, and knowing how to communicate your own strengths. Hopefully our guide will empower agencies and small businesses alike to improve their proposal success rates, super powering growth and revenue.
Note: While this guide is comprehensive, personalizing these strategies to fit your unique industry and client needs is necessary for it to be effective.