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  How Proposals Work

Proposals are a crucial part of the sales process. In essence, a proposal is a plan for what you are going to do. It lists out the key parts of a project, and allows a client to see at a glance what the project will entail. And it doesn’t have to be long (4-5 pages max). But it should cover the main points.

So how does the proposal process work? It can seem a lot at the start, but it isn’t bad. Let’s break it down. First, you need to talk to the client. You need to find out what they are struggling with. Find out what keeps them up at night. Also, find out what problems eat up their time or cost them money. So find out what they struggle with and think about what they really need. Then, you’ll be ready to propose the right solution for them.

And that is what a proposal is. It simply lists out what the client is struggling with, and how you plan to fix it. But it is more than that, so here are the key parts of a good proposal”

  1. What problem does the client have?
  2. How bad is that problem?
  3. What is the benefit of solving that problem?
  4. What solutions will fix the problem?
  5. Why should they choose you?
  6. What terms, deadlines, or legal clauses do you need.

The Problem

You need to find out what the client is really struggling with. And in your proposal you need to list that in the beginning. Make the problem fresh in their mind so they can start to hope that it will be fixed.

How Bad

And how bad is this problem? How much does it cost them? How much potential revenue are they losing. Without knowing this you won’t be able to ‘anchor’ the project cost against the benefit of the project. If you don’t know how bad the problem is then you don’t know how important this is to the client.

The Dream

What would happen if the problem were fixed? How good would life be for them? By talking about the dream you help the client to be excited about the possibilities of having this problem fixed.

The Solution(s)

Always give multiple solutions. Always. Make each option different, but make them build off each other. By having three options you increase the chance of them working with you. Why? Because they get to choose how to work with you, not if. Plus, you increase your chance of getting more revenue and you get to give them more value. (There’s even more detail on this in the ‘Default Contract’ lesson in the contracts section.)

Why You?

You need to also show why you are the best for this project. This is a good place to note impressive projects, testimonials, and other forms of “social proof”. The key here is to help the client feel that you are a good choice.


Finally, we list the terms. The terms don’t have to be long or complicated, but they should at least describe the following: How long the project will take. When it is due. When you can start. Who owns the project. And how and when they should pay you.

What's Next?

And once you’ve customized your proposal, all you need to do is to sign it and email it off. You can sign it electronically (I use the preview app on Mac to sign my proposals) and send it off. Then they just need to sign it, send it back, and pay you.

And that’s that! You now will have a signed proposal from a client that wants to pay you money! Then, you can start to schedule the project and make sure that all your documentation is in order.