Building and presenting a proposal is an important part of any sales process, and for manufacturing companies with $100k+ opportunities on the line, it's an especially big deal. By the time you're ready to write a proposal or complete an RFQ for a potential buyer, you've already invested a considerable amount of resources into the sales opportunity and it's much too valuable to lose. Getting it right can mean the difference between winning and losing a sale — and hitting your company growth goals.
If you're involved in creating your sales proposal format and/or content, consider these 5 tips to building a better manufacturing sales proposal:
1. Determine Your Essentials
There are nuances with all industries and companies that’ll shape the format and flow of your sales proposal. You'll want to keep your proposal as short as possible, without missing any of the essentials. Getting input from both sales and marketing to identify those essential pieces is a great starting point. Here are a few to consider:
- Set the stage. Start your proposals by setting the stage for your idea or proposed solution. A title page (and table of contents if needed) goes without saying, but also consider a cover letter or executive summary. This may be as far as your proposal may go when it's being read by top leadership, so don't underestimate the power of these pages. Next, clearly state the objectives and goals of the potential buyer for your project or solution. Be as specific and quantifiable as possible. Last, recap what you've learned and show a deep understanding of your potential buyer's needs with a needs assessment or list of project specs.
- Propose the solution. Continue to be customer-focused and get right to the point. How will you accomplish the goals and objectives of the potential buyer? Share your idea first, then how you'll execute. Consider diagrams, flow charts, schedules/timelines, plans, design, implementation details, technical requirements, analysis, testing, etc. Don't forget to always focus on and outline the benefits of the proposed solution.
- Show your credentials. Now that you've told them how you’ll solve the problems and what specific solutions you recommend, it's time to show why your team is the best one for the job. Include a brief and relevant company overview, an introduction to the team, testimonials, customer results, and any awards, certifications, etc., that demonstrate your expertise.
- Outline the agreement. Here's the moment everyone has been waiting for: What are the costs associated with the project? Summarize the services provided, the associated costs and return on investment. Include any terms and conditions and required paperwork for signatures.
It’s tempting to rush through the creation of the proposal and get to the cost quickly. But don’t overlook how important it is to clearly illustrate the ROI. John Dering, Senior Director of ABM Technology & Strategy at Demandbase, says, “They (organizations) need to understand the return they’re going to get...as well as the impact it (the project) has on the rest of the organization.” (source: 2018 Demand Gen B2B Buyers Survey)
Make it easier for buyers to evaluate your solution during the proposal or RFQ stage. Give them the information they need to make the decision. Many variables come into play during the decision making process, including your ability to solve a pain point and time to deployment (which 77% of survey respondents said was at or near the top of their evaluation). So make sure you know what your customers are looking for in the final solution and reinforce your ability to deliver when creating the proposal.
2. Flow Matters
Once the components of your proposal template have been identified, it's time to work on the flow. Your proposal should tell a story. But if it's a story that is hard to follow, you don't have the right sequencing. Test out your proposal deck with someone who's unfamiliar with it. Is it easy to understand or does it veer off into different tangents, making it hard to digest? Although simple and concise is best, also make sure you didn't miss any essential information your prospect needs to be convinced of your value.
3. Take Your Time
As a manufacturer of highly considered purchases, you know that one size doesn't fit all. Your solutions are unique to your customers' needs and your proposals should be too. The Demand Gen survey revealed that 66% of respondents rated the vendor who won the business demonstrated a stronger knowledge of the solution. Just swapping out logos and performing a "find & replace" for the company name isn't going to cut it. And just because you have a template, it doesn't mean your proposal may not require a few changes or additions for each potential buyer. Put the extra time into the proposal with components that are right for the situation. It shows you care, and that may be a point of differentiation enough to win the sale. Of course, have your proposal proofread and make sure it looks professional.
4. Make It Easy to Close
What are the next steps once you've delivered your sales proposal? Make it easy to close by making it easy for the potential buyer to get started. Sales enablement software, such as PandaDoc, can make the process easier for the seller and the buyer with electronic signatures for your proposals and contracts.
5. Track, Analyze & Adjust
If you've gotten to the point where you've decided a proposal or RFQ is worth writing, it's worth doing well. The proposal is a sales tool that should be tracked for performance and continually optimized, just like many of your other sales and marketing efforts. Is your proposal-to-close ratio increasing with changes to your template? Consider your proposal another piece in your content library and align your marketing and sales efforts to make improvements to it as opportunities arise.
Make a Great First Impression
A great sales proposal can make a great first impression. Take your time to identify the right components and put them in the right order. You'll have a great story to tell and an opportunity to impress your potential buyers. Not to mention a better shot at closing those high-valued leads.