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The 5 Must-Have Elements of a Killer Sales Proposal

a woman sits at a desk with papers and a laptop with the word winner written on the screen

Put yourself in your buyers’ shoes for a moment.

You’ve just received a sales proposal from someone who you’re considering doing business with and this is the last remaining piece of information that will help inform your purchasing decision.

What is it that you’re going to notice about the proposal? What elements are you specifically looking for to help you make the decision to purchase?

1. Look and Feel

How does the proposal document actually look and feel when you first see it? Does the document appear to be polished and on-brand for the business? Are there dynamic elements like video, custom images, or an interactive pricing table?

Or, does the proposal seem kind of janky or cheap? Maybe the logos are disproportionate; the font choices are questionable, or the stock images seem cheesy.

A proposal should make your buyer feel like a million bucks. They shouldn’t feel like they are reviewing a proposal from a bargain basement firm whose idea of branding is the 3D cyan/magenta word art in Microsoft Word.

Furthermore, the proposal in front of them should instill confidence that the company they are about to do business with is professional, smart, and will drive results. A cheap-looking proposal reflects poorly on the level of quality your company can provide.

Need help getting started? Check out Qwilr’s free, fully customizable business proposal template.

2. Personalization

A buyer takes valuable time out of their day to meet with a salesperson and explain their unique needs, pain points, and goals.

Then, BAM!

They’re knocked upside the head with a cookie-cutter proposal that doesn’t speak at all to those challenges that they took the time to discuss. It’s essentially a template document with some pricing thrown into the mix. Talk about a disconnect.

What this communicates to them as a buyer is that the salesperson wasn’t actually listening to their needs and that they’re getting the same proposed solution as every other buyer that comes through the door.

3. Social Proof

Consciously or subconsciously, buyers are likely looking for something in the proposal that will provide legitimacy to “anchor” it. That credibility could take the form of social proof in success stories, testimonials, or performance data from other clients.

Even something as simple as bite-sized quotes from existing customers can provide the gut-check that other reputable companies have used the vendor and have had a desirable outcome.

4. Competitive Comparison

A buyer faces the daunting task of collecting as much information as possible to winnow down their purchase options and make a decision about which vendor will provide the best solution to their problem. The “best” solution may be determined by specific features, pricing, timelines, or other qualities of the proposed offerings.

Imagine how useful an objective “head-to-head” comparison between top competitors would be if it were included in the proposal. Not only would it help a buyer objectively evaluate the current proposed offering against competitive offerings, but it would also highlight where the competition falls short.

5. The Solution

Imagine it is spring and you are looking to build the perfect birdhouse for your new backyard. So you head to your local hardware store to buy the perfect drill to do the job. But when you get there, you realize you have no idea what you need.

The same challenge applies for a sales proposal. The buyer often specifically looks for details and specs about what they think they’re buying—the drill. That’s the core product or service that you’re proposing.

But in reality, and the buyer often doesn’t realize it, but they’re really out to buy the hole to make the birdhouse; the hole represents what they want to achieve by spending the money on the drill. So, a proposal should speak to both the methodology (the product/service) and the outcome.

When the buyer arrives at the end of your proposal, they should feel confident that what you’re offering them will help solve a problem, minimize a pain, or increase their revenue. Keep in mind that how you present this solution is just as important as the nature of what you’re presenting.

Learn even more elements of a beautiful proposal and how to automate your document process by downloading the free eBook: Proposal Automation – Learn How to Automate Your Proposal Workflow with PandaDoc today.


Bethany Fagan is the Partner Marketing Manager at PandaDoc. When she’s not promoting one of our integrations or amazing partners, her time is spent exploring her new Brooklyn neighborhood with her husband and two French Bulldogs, Tater Tot and Pork Chop.


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