Reputations are funny things. They can be developed in a matter of minutes, destroyed in just seconds, and often mean the difference between being ultra-successful and going out of business. And while there’s something to be said for wearing fancy suits and polishing your shoes, your appearance isn’t the only thing that determines your reputation. Business proposals play a crucial role in your image – especially early on in the relationship.
Why Does the Proposal Matter So Much?
“If an organization has a good reputation in the marketplace, consumers may have a preference for that company even if there are similar businesses offering the same products or services for different prices,” explains Leon Bracey, a leader in business development. “The reputation of an organization can enable a company to differentiate its product in highly competitive markets, allow it to have premium pricing, and can become the ultimate factor in whether a customer decides to patronize one business over another.”
In other words, your organization’s reputation is the key to remaining competitive in crowded industries. And while we often think about reputation in terms of appearance-based characteristics like clothing, jewelry, and cars, it’s not always this shallow.
In a world that’s driven by virtual communications, the suit you’re wearing doesn’t hold nearly as much value as it may have 20 years ago. Your reputation may already be established before you even have the opportunity to shake a prospect’s hand.
In 2016, a business proposal is often one of the first touch-points a company ever has with a prospect. While it’s possible that you’ve built up some credibility with a prospect prior to sending a proposal, this isn’t always the case. Many are sent without any prior communication. Thus, the proposal determines what prospects think about your brand and the possibility of doing business with you.
5 Ways to Improve Your Business Proposals
It stands to reason, then, that you should channel all of your reputation-building energy into developing better business proposals that highlight your business in a positive light.
With that being said, here are some tips and best practices for stepping up your proposal-writing game.
1. Nail the Cover Page
Just as your sales proposal establishes your reputation, the cover page/letter sets expectations for the prospect. While many people look at the cover page as an afterthought and simply throw together a logo and some text, don’t be so hasty. This is the hook to your proposal and it needs to be well developed and designed.
While you may want to assume everyone reads your proposal, the reality is that some will simply toss your proposal directly in the recycling bin. However, in 99.9 percent of all situations, the cover letter will be read. So, apart from including your logo, you’ll want to include a one-paragraph summary – or a value proposition, if you will – to convince the prospect to stick around.
2. Craft a Good Introduction
While you should include a concise synopsis on the cover page, your introduction is the place to go more in-depth about who you are, what your business does, and how you can help. It should set the stage for the proposal without rambling or boring the reader.
You definitely want to frame your business as the solution to your prospect’s pain points, but don’t make it all about you. Focus on the client, their needs, and the value they’ll get from working with you. This helps you build a client-centric reputation.
3. Be Transparent and Forthcoming
It’s possible to overcome just about any initial perception of your reputation other than a lack of transparency or honesty. If a prospect feels like you aren’t being truthful, they’ll never consider working with you under any circumstances. This means you have to aim for clarity in every aspect of your proposal.
Transparency looks like providing data points to back up claims and references to support various points. It also means being honest about shortcomings and not exaggerating strengths simply for the purpose of appearing a particular way. The truth always comes out and it’s better to adopt a policy of transparency.
4. Cut Out the Fluff
Remember that your proposal isn’t the only proposal a prospect will receive this week. In fact, it’s probably not the only proposal they’ll receive today! Large organizations constantly get bombarded with proposals and don’t have time to read all of them. In most cases, they’ll quickly scan and look for ones that are brief and direct. You can establish a no-nonsense reputation by cutting out the fluff and focusing on the facts.
5. Deliver Reasonable Quotes
When sending out proposals to prospects, you have to remember that your reputation is largely determined by the quality and relevancy of the proposal. If you’re delivering inaccurate quotes and crafting proposals that don’t resonate with the prospect, then you come off looking unprepared and unprofessional. With that being said, you can’t afford to “wing it” when developing quotes.
You need to establish a system for developing consistent and accurate quotes every single time. Ideally, you’ll want to hone in on a reputable CPQ solution that makes this process as easy as possible.
Get Your iQuoteXpress Demo Today
There are many unique challenges associated with developing professional proposals and accurate quotes on a daily basis. When it comes to drafting dozens of proposals every month, it’s hard to provide the dedicated attention that’s needed for each and every prospect. Unfortunately, the quote is one of the first things a prospect looks at after receiving a proposal and a bad figure can ruin your reputation.
At iQuoteXpress, we want to help you improve quoting accuracy and relevancy by streamlining the process and automating mundane tasks. Our customized, integrated, and fully supported sales proposal and quoting solution is one of the premier CPQ tools on the market and we believe that you’ll extract a lot of value from it.
Contact us today to get your free demo!