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Here’s a question to consider: If you took the logo off of your sales proposal, how would it look to your client? Would it stand out? Or would it look like your competitor’s?

In competition, we often hear the importance of a “level playing field.” But one place that term doesn’t apply is in sales. Your sales process and sales proposal should aim to “uneven” the playing field. But too often, we don’t stand out, we look just like our competitors in the eyes of the client.

Modern selling requires us to think beyond the basic features, benefits, and pricing data that is in most proposals.  Sales proposals are an opportunity to take what you’ve learned about the client’s business and position your product or service as the best choice to help them realize outcomes and value. Proposals are an opportunity to differentiate.

This article shares several dos and don’ts for your proposal approach to help you rise above your competitors and win more business.

3 Sales Proposal Don’ts

  1. Don’t make your sales proposal a resume of your firm’s capabilities.

If you were to take the logo off your proposal, would it look like your competitor’s? Sales proposals tend to be inwardly focused on us and our solutions, rather than outwardly focused on the client and what they want to most accomplish.

Instead, reverse the order of focus. Begin with the prospect’s outcomes and the value created in getting to those outcomes. You’ll accelerate trust, because your prospect or client will view you as their strategic problem solver. They’ll clearly see that you understand their business and goals, and that your proposed solutions align with them.

  1. Don’t oversell and overcomplicate.

Richard Branson said, “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to make something simple.”

When you oversell and overcomplicate, you risk the decision being delayed. Or worse, you risk them sticking with the status quo and making no decision.

A strong proposal simplifies the complex, provides clarity, and tells the story in a concise way. Simplicity helps your prospects and clients see a clear path forward, giving them confidence that you’re the one to help them get there. To avoid unnecessary complexity, make sure each element of your proposal clearly refers back to creating the client’s outcomes and value.

  1. Don’t negotiate price as the first option.

Fee concessions should be used rarely and strategically.

The first option I recommend is to understand the motivation behind the request. You may ultimately need to negotiate the solution, and not simply the fees. If you’re ever asked for a fee concession, or to quote a price on the spot, your first reaction should be to mentally stop. I might say something like, “I’d like to get your perspective in a little more detail, and then we can work through what our options might be.”

3 Sales Proposal Dos

  1. Do uneven the playing field.

Your sales process and proposal should aim to uneven the playing field and set you apart from your competitors. Making the playing field uneven isn’t about doing anything that lacks integrity. It’s thinking differently, anticipating what a competitor might do, or paying attention to details. In one proposal situation I requested interviews with the decision makers and influencers. I was granted those interviews. My competitors never thought to make that request, and consequently I was better able to position outcomes and value – and win.

  1. Do use the Rule of 3.

You will improve your odds of winning with three proposal options that build on one another. Too many option choices can introduce complexity that risks turning off the buyer. The Rule of 3 shows our ability to understand outcomes and value in the eyes of the buyer. When a buyer can’t see and collaborate on a clear path forward, you will stall your momentum.

  1. Do focus on outcomes and value.

Can every solution element of your proposal point to the outcomes and value and the client is looking to accomplish? If not, you’ll need to revisit and revise. Know your goal for the proposal. In some cases, your goal is to close on that proposal and next steps. In others, you may be looking for collaboration, and the proposal is the natural progression. If you can keep to the true north of outcomes and value, before introducing solutions, you will create a standout proposal that wins.

More strategic selling tips are available in the first two articles of this strategic selling series: Four Skills to Grow Your Client Base and how to Identify and Build High-Impact Relationships.

The Strategic Selling for Professional Services online sales training program is here.

If you’re in professional services, or selling complex solutions into B2B environments, this program is ideal for both individuals and teams. The vision is to provide a platform and experience, where you can learn and apply these modern selling skills, anytime, anywhere.

It’s easy to get started, and you’ll have access to two free preview lessons. These lessons are teaching skills, they aren’t fluff introductions! You’ll take something away just in the preview that you can apply today.

Head out to to get more detail and your free previews.

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