What Sales Proposals Do
What do sales proposals actually do for buyers and sellers? Many things. First, they allow buyers to standardize the decision process when purchasing expensive products or services. It reduces the subjective components and increases the objective. Once the criteria is established and met, just about anyone with authority in the organization can make the decision to purchase.
Second, proposals offer sellers a unique opportunity to bid on exactly what the buyer wants. Instead of helping the buyer recognize the need, the seller can focus more on solving it with specific products and services.
What is the function of a sales proposal? As you've seen, each has a different purpose: to present information, pricing, specific requirements, or all of these. Some proposals are relatively informal, while others must be presented exactly as required or the proposal will be disallowed. Before covering the components of a typical sales proposal, following are some guidelines on what proposals do and don't do.
Thousands of private enterprises do business with the federal government. You can view a wide variety of federal business opportunities online at
For many projects, the bidding process for the seller includes:
Identifying requests that your employer could bid on
Gathering the requirements for the bid or proposal
Completing the bid following the buyer's requirements and meeting deadlines
Submitting the bid
Following up with additional requests for information, as needed
Winning or losing the bid and learning how to improve future bids
Many metropolitan areas have specialized newspapers and other publications aimed primarily at the business community. Some industries, such as construction, also have publications that focus on requests for proposals or quotations. You or your employer should find appropriate publications or online sites where you can search for sales opportunities. However, be aware that some of the sites aren't the requesters or their primary publishers, but are other services that may or may not offer factual and dependable information about current opportunities.
The primary function of your sales proposal is to inform. It must respond to the bid requirements, including deadlines, informatively and accurately. That's why many proposals are reviewed at numerous levels within an organization before being submitted. A factual or mathematical error can void your proposal or cost thousands or millions of dollars if accepted.
The buyer or procurer who must make a decision based on facts will require that the specifications be accurate and comparable. That's why RFPs are specific. The buyer wants 2,807 widgets, not 2,000 or 3,000. And the widgets must have the specified dimensions, features, and applications. If some are larger or smaller than requested, the buyer probably will throw out your bid.
First rule of bidding: Meet the specifications and requirements.
You can use some persuasive techniques in your bid if it allows for explanations and notes. In these cases, you may have opportunities to educate the buyer on why your products or services offer a greater value than your competitors. However, because it is not quantitative, your persuasive efforts may be lost with some buyers.
But presenting a bid that is neat and organized and that follows requirements can help persuade some buyers that your business is substantial. That can impact their buying decisions.
The primary decision makers may not read long sales proposals in their entirety. Instead, a clerk may make sure that the bid conforms to requirements, then pass it on to decision makers, possibly with a recommendation. How can you ensure that decision makers read it?
Many proposals allow for an executive summary. It may be at the beginning of the proposal or at the end, depending on proposal requirements. If it isn't an option, some sellers will develop their own executive summary and include it as a letter or a separate document.