6 Secrets to proposals that sell (plus a proven template)

The KEYSTONE to winning over new clients is a great proposal. After all, it’s the final item you send them before they make their decision.

A lot rests on it, so you have to do it right.

Here’s the exact proposal that we use for Reliable PSD, our agency’s new “design-to-code” service. It’s been working extremely well, so I wanted to share it with you and help you put together a winning proposal of your own.

Here’s a link to it that’ll open in a new tab:

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After you give it a once-over, come back to the post and I’ll break down for you WHY it works so darn well.

The 6 secrets that make this proposal sell:

1. Re-introduce your USP (unique selling proposition) and core brand messages

Some studies say it takes 7 or more exposures to your brand before people really start to “get it” and remember who you are.

So don’t take for granted that people already have your brand internalized or memorized. People need to be continually exposed to your brand messages before they finally start to sink in.

Most people have only been to our site ONE time before requesting a proposal.

That’s a good sign.

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It means our messages resonate enough so that they’re interested – and it also means if we repeat those same messages we’ll remind them of why they wanted a proposal from us in the first place.

So we do. Pages 1 & 3 of our proposal are exclusively filled with reminders of our brand messaging.

(Need help with your brand messaging? Click here.)

2. Personalize it

We dedicate an ENTIRE page to making sure our clients know this proposal is just for them. That page has the name and date and nothing else.

Pro tip: This is subtle, but we include the client’s name and the name of the project in the file name of the proposal as well. We also include our name again for extra brand recognition.

Just an extra touch of personalization, but it goes a long way.

Example filename: Reliable-Proposal-Jim-Smith-ABC-Construction.pdf

3. Remind your client of your core benefits

Everyone comes through our website, but that doesn’t mean they read / took it all in. Or that they remembered what they read.

You want to continually remind people of why they should choose YOU and not someone else.

After the “personalization page,” there’s an entire page that re-introduces our brand’s core benefits. This means we’re now three pages into the proposal and haven’t even gotten into the “nuts and bolts” of what’s included!

Why?

Because a proposal isn’t just an itemized list. It’s a piece of marketing. Never forget that.

Also, the placement of this content is very purposeful. If we put the “nuts and bolts” first, there’s no incentive to keep reading, right?

(On the other hand, if a prospect doesn’t feel like reading through it, they can scroll down easy enough. So it’s not that intrusive.)

4. Include every. single. benefit.

And don’t forget to let your prospect know if you do something uniquely. No one’s a mind reader, so if there’s something special that you include, write it out clearly and poignantly.

Write your message in a way that makes your client understand the benefits of each feature.

Example: We custom-code the WordPress dashboard to make editing pages & special features even easier. So we explain this benefit (and more) in the proposal.

5. Give clear instructions on what to do next

Always tell the prospect what to do next if they have questions or want to proceed. At the end of a proposal, people will think one of three things:

  1. What about… [insert question here]?
  2. I’m ready to get started.
  3. No thanks!

For #3, you don’t have to do anything. But have a SUPER CLEAR answer for #1 & #2 in your proposal. If someone has a question or is ready to get started, they should know exactly what they need to do next.

6. Prepare to follow up!

Life happens. People are busy. Stuff hits the fan. There are a million and one things standing between your prospect and starting the project.

Keep following up regularly if you don’t hear back. And don’t take it personally! We’ve had people not respond for 1-2 months, and suddenly they reply to a follow up and apologize profusely and explain some crazy life circumstance that happened.

Then they get started.

Following up, when done in a cool, friendly way, is a service to your customers. Not a nuisance. (Never forget that, either!)

Want feedback on your proposal?

Post a link to it in the comments!

Or let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help.


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  1. Just used this idea for a quick email proposal and knocked it right out of the park! Thanks, David 🙂

    1. Hey Stanley, glad to hear it my man 🙂 Thanks for the kind words, glad I could help.

  2. This proposal rocks, David! Wish I had it 2 weeks ago. However, merging this with what we came up with will make ours even more awesome. Since we feel like we do SEO very different than any other shop out there, the selling was in the breakdown of our strategies rather than a list of benefits — blew the clients socks off. Again, great write up!!

    1. Darren! Way to go man. Sounds like you were already on the right track 😉 Glad this post helped you take it a step further, thanks so much for your comment.

  3. Great post, and I tweeted “the proposal is a marketing piece” but didn’t see any contact info or social media links in the sample proposal when trying to confirm your new Twitter name.
    I think it ought to be there in case a proposal is forwarded.

    1. Hey Timothy! Thanks, I’m glad you thought so. You know, we never really thought about that, but that’s not a half bad idea 😉 We just might add that info on there. Thanks for sharing.

  4. This is extremely helpful, David. Great topic. I’ve wondered what exactly these would look like from a professional. I wasn’t too far off. I think I’ve just been missing that first step, a great opportunity to separate yourself from the competition.

    Again, great, helpful blog. Thanks a million!

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