What would it be worth to you and your company if, almost overnight, you significantly increased your new-prospect sales proposal conversion rate?
That’s easier than you think when your product or service description is ‘outcome focused’.
Following on from the one page, Executive Summary covered in part three of this series, here in part four you create the compelling main body section of your proposal or quotation document. This details the various features of your offer – but with a difference.
Most companies already produce a document that sets out the details of their product or service offer, which may also include information about your company. However, a cold listing of the different elements, for example a detailed breakdown of the product or service features, installation, delivery, training, service support and warranties, does little to stimulate a customer to buy. Most senior decision-makers won’t even bother to read it.
So how do you turn a boring list of information about you and what you sell, into a competitor-crushing weapon?
First make sure you include everything the customer needs to know
The majority of proposals tell prospective customers what the supplier considers important. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always match what the customer needs to know.
Every customer has a mental checklist of things they wish to know about a potential supplier and the product or service they plan to buy.
Imagine you're choosing a plumber to replace the central heating system in your house. What do you want to know about the system and your prospective installer?
Are they a reliable, trustworthy and honest? Do they have the right experience, qualifications and approvals? How long will the job take? And what about the central heating boiler? Will it be reliable and economic to run? Does it have an extended warranty? Are the radiators, fixtures and fittings of the highest quality? How about servicing and guarantees? And the list goes on…
It’s not difficult to imagine that the plumber who satisfies all your information needs is more likely to win your order.
How do you ensure you include everything the customer needs to know?
Get together with a few colleagues (who understand your customers) and imagine that you are the buyer. Now brainstorm everything you want to know in order to be confident about a supplier and what they sell. Don’t assume anything or take anything for granted. For example, because a supplier knows that their service contract includes materials, don't assume the customer knows this. Make a meal of it. Put it down on your list. Don't be surprised if your list has twenty or thirty points.
When you're confident you've got everything covered, rearrange your list into priority order. (This may vary for different markets and customers). The eight or ten most important points go into the two or three pages of the main ‘body’ section of your sales proposal; the minor point can go into a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page/s at the end of your proposal or into an Appendix document.
Now turn your attention to the most important task.
Turn every point into a reason for the customer to buy from you.
If every point on your list is important to the customer, then it must confer a valued outcome or advantage. For example, if the boiler uses lean-burn technology then it will use less fuel and the customer will have lower fuel bills.
Don’t just write, ‘Lean-burn boiler.’ Expand the description to include the advantages to the customer of lower fuel bills. Make your boiler more desirable. Even if your competitor offers exactly the same boiler, your added information shows you care about the customer.
Using the same approach, brainstorm the valued outcome or customer advantage for each point on your primary and FAQ list. Make every point sell its heart out.
Whenever your competitors fail to do the same, you gain an advantage and damage their chance of winning. When you do that ten or twenty times you build a compelling advantage.
Here are two examples of body-copy points expanded to include the valued outcome.
Example 1: A professional service
Imagine you are an accountant writing a proposal for a new start-up business. On your list of things you believe the customer wants to know is, ‘What records do I need to keep and how much time will they take each month?’
In the body section of your proposal, you write:
‘Your accounts are quick and easy to maintain
Your priority is to build your business so we make it quick and easy for you to maintain your accounting records.
We set up an easy-to-use accounting system for recording your monthly trading activities. This also gives you key financial information that tells you what you need to set aside each month for VAT payments and annual corporation tax.
You’ll always know what you can safely spend or invest to grow your business, without risk.’
Notice how the heading directly addresses the customer’s concern and raises curiosity to read the copy. The first copy sentence then explains why this point is important to the customer. The remainder of the copy explains, in an appropriate level of detail, how and why the client’s finances will be easy to manage.
Example 2: A technical product
Imagine you sell a CNC (computer controlled) cutting machine for manufacturers.
High on the list of the ten most important things the customer needs to know is how accurately your machine cuts. Why? Because every manufactured component that fails quality control is a wasted materials cost, compounded by a loss of income. An inaccuracy in a cut may also create problems for customers and the components may be returned under warranty – a double cost and a cause for customer dissatisfaction.
In the body section of your proposal, you write:
'Precision cutting is achieved through two technical innovations
The repeat accuracy of the B21 CNC Table Cutter reduces your production costs by eliminating cutting errors, resulting in higher component output, less waste and a lower component cost.
The unique mounting frame of the B21 Table Cutter is uniquely designed to ensure precise component cutting. The machine table and cutting head mounts are constructed from double thickness laminated frames, triangular-braced to eliminate flexing during operation, giving complete three-dimensional rigidity. This, together with a system of continuous laser measuring during cutting operations, enables the B21 Table Cutter to repeatedly achieve industry-leading accuracy.'
Do you see how it works?
Every valued outcome or advantage that you add to a feature becomes a nail in the coffin of your competitors that fails to do the same – even if their product offers exactly the same features.
Now get writing! Add valued outcomes to all the other points listed in the body section of your proposal and in your FAQ document.
If you are worried about the amount of time and effort this will take, consider it an investment. You only need to write each point once for each of your main markets, then repeat the same descriptions in all your proposals, varying the list order to match a customer’s individual priorities.
It’s an investment that boosts your proposal and quotation conversion rate continuously, for many years to come.
Coming up in the final part of “How to stop ‘We-ing’ on your sales proposals and quotations and increase your conversions by 200% or more!”…
Part 5: Crafting your sales proposal into the winning proposition. In this final article, we pull together all the elements we have covered so far, with the help of a few extra, very effective tips used by top salespeople, to boost conversion rates even further. Don’t miss it!
Review previous articles in the “How to stop ‘We-ing’ on your sales proposals and quotations” series here: