The 8 elements to include in your sales proposals to ensure you make a profitable impression

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Creating professional and personalised presentations and proposals can sometimes be a challenge. It’s something that needs to be personalised but also done at scale and at speed. To do that, there are key elements that every great proposal should have as well as some technologies that can be used to create quick, effective, and personalised presentations and proposals. The significance of this is because these assure clients that the company will deliver on all the marketing promises made, and the proposal needs to reflect the brand’s best qualities and be aligned with the public relations, advertising, events, or signage of the company. One of the main interactions a customer will have with a business is when they’re being made an offer. This applies not just to potential customers, but also to potential partners and staff as well.

The key elements

First of all, the presentation or proposal needs to be personalised, possibly with a cover letter or some sort of welcome address. Bonjoro is an app that sends a video along with the presentation. Loom is another option, which can record a presentation and then send the video link along with the file to a client or prospective client, so that instead of them going through the presentation on their own, it’s actually being explained to them without the need for a face-to-face meeting. However, the presentation should not take up too much time; otherwise, people might not read it. But then again, if it’s too short and too brief, there could be missing details so it has to take just the right amount of time to read or watch that the client gets all the information they need yet doesn’t get bored doing so. In-person presentations have the benefits of charisma, character, and chemistry. But when it’s virtual, how does one communicate and send the energy that reflects a willingness to work for the client? The answer is personalisation, and using video is one of the ways this can be done.

Another key element to a great presentation is knowing the customer’s motivation. In consumer PR, people buy products and services, because it solves a problem for them. Whether it’s a car, a piece of clothing, food, or travel, it meets a personal need. In business-to-business, it’s very different. On many levels, people are buying a good, a service, or a person in order to accomplish something else, and they’re spending company money, not their own. They’ll often have to justify that expenditure, so there may be two or three people involved in the process. Understanding the different people inside the organization that are going to be involved in the purchasing decision is important, and so is understanding their motivation behind actually buying the good or service being sold.

The third aspect is the executive summary. This involves making the body of the proposal, which can not be done without performing some research. It’s always good to include a little bit of background about the company and the market they operate in, such as information or news about their competitors. Internally, they’re focused on their own work, and they may not be researching their competitors, which is something an agency can do for them. So, the executive summary can be include research on the client, the market, the market trend, and their competitors. 

Photo from Second Nature

Another element of the presentation is the outcome. In consumer, the outcome is happiness for oneself, their children, or whoever the service or product is for. In B2B, the outcome is the integration within an existing process, and companies often look for either time or money. They’re buying something to make them either more money directly or to save them time or cost, so outcomes for B2B can be narrowed down to efficiency or profitability, and how the company can translate their service into doing that for the client. The next element is about interactive pricing tables, which means offering options that fall within the range of the client’s budget. There’s a school of thought in negotiation that says, “Name price first,” because by going in with a price early, that sets expectations. This also saves a lot of time, because from there, one can tailor the proposal accordingly based on how the client reacts to the price given. As attractive as it is to give a lump sum, clients often are afraid of it. It has to be profitable on both sides, or the relationship won’t work. With interactive pricing tables, both the agency and client can modify how much the project is going to cost, and it’s already then creating teamwork and building trust.

The next is compelling imagery. Data from 3M has found that people access and process images up to 60,000 times faster than text. Steve Jobs was always the proponent of one large picture on the screen and then a narrative. That’s great if everyone is one room and it’s a theatre-style presentation, but not so much if you’re just showing something on a screen. Compelling imagery involves the use of infographics, of which Canva has some really useful templates. It also helps to include pictures of the client, because naturally, people like to see themselves.

Canva infographic templates

The next part is about making an action plan, so that what the client is being shown is what they’re going to get over time. Then, one needs social proof or evidence that the service has worked for someone else. Having case studies can help convince a client that they need you, and it removes the element of risk. This is taken from public relations content, and this is the intersection between sales and PR. If the PR was done correctly, then the client will have already heard or read about the product or service. So in a proposal, media coverage that validates the performance of a product or service can be included, and clients can also be given link to view them online. Another element is creating a couple of calls to action. Adding a timeframe or validity period for which the quote is available creates a sense of urgency on the client’s part which could work to your favor. The final key element is including contact details such as phone numbers and emails.

Tools that can create proposals

Building templates each time off of Word, PowerPoint, or Excel is cumbersome, and because most people are now working remotely, it’s not as easy anymore to have someone inspect work. Zoho Quotes is one option. Zoho is an extremely powerful and cost-effective platform, especially Zoho One. It’s $40 a month with over 50 apps, and it has a signature feature in that as well also within the Zoho framework. In terms of displaying graphics and embedding video, Zoho Quotes doesn’t have that. It seems to have come much more from the manufacturing and production side of things, so the fields one can enter focus on products, units, and boxes, which can easily be customized. It’s great for the quote in the sense of actually delivering information like the pricing and the terms, but it’s not so great for making it all look beautiful, as graphics would need to be uploaded as a separate document. 

Another platform is called Proposify. It’s an online SaaS service with branded and marketing approved templates that can be used directly and again and again. The beauty of this is that one can create standard templates like in a Word document but with Proposify, this is done in the cloud and with graphics embedded. They also have the ability to add in video, and they can also translate the interface into 15 different languages, which is great for companies with international teams selling to different countries. Proposify integrates with Salesforce, HubSpot, Stripe, QuickBooks, Xero, and Zoho. Aside from that, using a Zapier integration isn’t necessaryAnother great feature is that it allows the preparation of a proposal by a marketing team but the sending of that proposal by the sales rep. The date, the currency, the location, and the owner can be changed. It also has an embedded live chat function, so it’s possible to take the client through the proposal using Zoom and have this live chat on the dock. It comes with an analytics function that identifies who’s viewing the document and for how long, and it can easily go from proposal to quote to contract. They have the ability to take the key data and move it across the workflow, which is really useful. All in all, it’s a really well-connected and well-integrated app for making dedicated proposals.

One thing you should know is that none of these proposal apps are free. Proposify has a Tall plan which costs $19 a month per user. That could add up to $60 a month, because they allow three users maximum per account. But if proposals are being made everyday, it could easily pay for itself, however, one can only have up to five active proposals at a time, but it’s not specified whether it’s five per account or five per user (which would mean 15 active proposals). They have a Grande plan, which offers unlimited proposals for $49 per month per user, which is billed quarterly. Alternatives to Proposify include iQuoteXpress, which is $39 a month, PandaDoc, which is $19 a month per user, and Proposeful, which is from Brazil and is also $19 a month. 

In summary, from the proposal, preparation, and distribution, that’s followed up by the quote, the contract, then the invoice. Now, it can be automated. It’s centralised online, and it enables the creation of proposals that are personalised at scale. A big part of public relations now is about personalised communications, and in the SPEAK|pr program that talks about Storification, Personalisation, Engagement, Amplification, and Knowing, it only makes sense that once someone’s seen and read the mainstream media and gone online, when they receive a proposal, it’s branded the same, it has case studies that have come from the public relations to give reassurance, and it’s got all the key messaging of the public relations.


This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Business News Daily

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