February 13th, 2012

6 Ways to Create a Winning Sales Proposal

By David DiStefano, former President and CEO of Richardson

Your sales proposal may be your only foot in the door to a potential client. Here are 6 tips to make sure your sales proposal engages, educates and convinces from start to finish.

1. Begin with a killer Executive Summary
Decision makers might only read your Executive Summary, so rather than summarize your entire proposal, briefly explain why the client should buy from you. Focus on your potential client’s problems, then the solutions you can provide. Articulate expected outcomes from your solution. And don’t forget a call-to-action. Compel your reader to get started ASAP.

Think of your Executive Summary as your proposal’s CliffsNotes. If your contact reads nothing else, he or she should still be sold on what you’re selling.

2. Keep it short & simple
People skim. Buyers probably won’t spend more than 30 seconds reviewing your proposal the first time around, so give them reasons to come back and read more thoroughly:

  • Grab their attention with short, boiled-down sentences.
  • Use bullet points to highlight important features or benefits.
  • Don’t be redundant. Say things once—clearly. Your reader is intelligent. You don’t need to rehash the same point.

3. Speak to the decision makers
It’s not enough to address your proposal to a generic audience. Target the decision makers. Do your research. It’s important to know your audience and the problems they’re concerned about. Just make sure you don’t tell them what they already know. Don’t recount their organization’s issues. Focus instead on how you’ll improve them.

For more, read Tinderbox’s insightful advice on Research: The Key to a Great Sales Proposal.

4. Speak the language
Always use your prospect’s jargon. If he or she works in the dog food industry, it’s your job to speak “dog food”! Use their terminology, and they’ll be more engaged with your proposal.

On the flip side, avoid jargon the reader won’t know. For example, if you work at a Pharma company, don’t bog down your proposal with acronyms and medical terms. Spell out acronyms and define unfamiliar phrases.

5. Customization is king
While you’ll reuse some boilerplate information, tailor each proposal for the intended recipient. Appropriately address how you can solve your prospect’s issues with your product or service. You won’t close the deal if you offer the same solutions you provided your last customer.

6. Summarize all key points
Your conclusion should reiterate the key points of your proposal. Again, hone in on benefits to your potential client. Wrap up with a call-to-action. There should be no question about what to do next.

In today’s real-time economy, hypothetical or abstract ROI is dead. Value-based selling must articulate individualized ROI. Your sales proposal is the beginning or the end to a business relationship. What side of the fence do you want to be on?


To learn more about Richardson’s comprehensive sales training and performance improvement solutions, please click here.

About The Author: David J. DiStefano

David DiStefano is a seasoned executive with nearly three decades of successful senior management experience with both early-stage and global organizations. Over his career David has managed finance, operations, sales, and demand generation functions. For the last 17 years, David has been instrumental in leading Richardson to its place as a premier global sales performance organization.

David J. DiStefano

One Response to “6 Ways to Create a Winning Sales Proposal”

  1. February 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm, Isaac Pellerin (@isaacpellerin) said:

    Thanks for the reference David!

    Couldn’t agree with you more that hypothetical ROI is dead. A phrase we’ve been using often here at TinderBox is “Selling through the proposal”. We’ve seen success with our clients who understand that a proposal is a living document that will be passed around an organization.

    This makes the executive summary so crucial and must be viewed as an opportunity to tell each person who views your proposal how your organization is going to provide value to theirs. Some are now taking advantage of embedding short videos into sections of the proposals and seeing that it helps personalize their organization as the proposal makes the rounds.


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