Skip to content

We're celebrating 40,000 sites built in Zoomforth and counting! Want to get started? Request a demo.

The ultimate guide to digital sales proposals: top FAQs

Sales proposals are essential tools for winning clients. How to write a good sales proposal? You must communicate your value as clearly as possible. The aim is to be memorable and differentiate yourself.

This guide to creating digital sales proposals gives you the tools to do just that.

Introduction

What is a sales proposal?

A sales proposal is a physical or digital document used to pitch products or services to potential clients or customers.

Traditionally delivered in hard-copy or as presentations, the age of digital information has greatly expanded the forms a sales proposal can take.

In the early days of the office computer, sales proposals changed very little. Various forms of digital media (such as embedded audio and video) have existed since even before the Internet hit the mass market. However, sales techniques were slow to take advantage of them.

A sales proposal is a physical or digital document used to pitch products or services to potential clients or customers.

Although email replaced fax machines and sales proposals were increasingly created digitally, the assumption remained that these documents would be printed onto paper to be read. This didn’t change until well into the new millennium.

As a result, sales proposals continued to persist as often extremely long text documents consumed linearly, much as one would read other business documents outside of sales and pursuits.

These documents, still common even today, usually take the form of an emailed PDF, rarely making concessions to the needs or role of the individual reader. This still relatively widespread practice of delivering one-size-fits-all sales proposals overlooks the fact that such documents are circulated around various departments and stakeholders within recipient organizations, for whom only a small fraction of the information contained may be actionable or even relevant.

Fortunately, documents in this style are gradually being replaced by sales proposals in far more customizable and engaging formats. While the emailed PDF is still commonplace, innovative sales and pursuits teams are increasingly embracing the microsite or landing page as their preferred solution for digital sales proposals.

Microsites have a number of advantages over traditional proposals such as easy navigability, engaging, varied, and interactive content, as well as access to detailed analytics. It is this kind of digital sales proposal that is the focus of this guide.

Browse more sales proposals

The sites in our inspiration gallery demonstrate the wide range of use cases for which you can leverage Zoomforth.

View sales proposals
Main differences

Traditional versus digital proposals: what are the differences?

  • Traditional client pitches often take the form of multiple emails with large attachments or linked sources, each of which could lead a client to any one of numerous online docs. These pitches frequently lack built-in security and can make it difficult for the prospect to try and track down information they’re looking for through multiple email chains or PDFs scattered throughout their inbox.
  • Digital proposal pitches are often single websites where all relevant information can be accessed, such as all downloadable attachments. Proposals can be secured with multi-factor authentication and analytics and data insights are readily available. With digital proposals, you know where to find the information you’re looking for and you can feel confident it’s well protected. The content can also be much more engaging.

What information do sales proposals contain?

While the specifics of sales proposals differ based upon the product or service being offered, as well as the intended recipient, the majority of quality proposals include the following elements:

blue square

An executive summary

blue square

Specifications of the service to be delivered

blue square

A clear sense of urgency or reason to take action on behalf of the reader

blue square

An outline of the next steps, should your proposal be accepted

While the executive summary is the last thing you should write, it’s arguably the most important. It contains the essence of your sales proposal and is the first place most people start when reading proposals, let’s consider how to prepare one effectively.

Executive summary

How to write an executive summary

In a traditional sales proposal, an executive summary is the first thing anyone reading the document will come across, except for perhaps your company logo.

The executive summary is important because it distills the most important take-aways from your proposal into just a few sentences. This means that your time-strapped prospects will likely check it first before deciding whether the rest of your proposal is worth reading.

1.

The purpose of your sales proposal. Capture the reader’s attention. Why is this important for them?

3.

The issue that the products or services you’re pitching address from the perspective of your potential customers or clients.

2.

A brief statement of why your solution is the most effective option for this particular client. This could be your general USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or the feature most relevant to this specific prospect.

4.

A call to action. What do you want the person reading the executive summary to do now? Tell them. If your sales proposal has been issued in response to an RFP on the other hand, you can expect them to take action by a specific end date. The next step will likely be an oral presentation.

Creating a great proposal

What makes a good
sales proposal?

Effective sales proposals generally share certain features. A well made proposal has the following characteristics: (click each heading to learn more)

  • Attention grabbing
  • Captivating
  • Memorable
  • Quick to make and send
  • Professional aesthetics
  • Demonstrates understanding
  • Convincing
  • Contains relevant contact information

Attention grabbing

There are only so many hours in the day and deciding how to spend them is as thorny a problem for your prospects as it is for you. While it’s important to remain professional, it’s also vital to be distinctive and engaging. While gimmicks should be avoided, differentiate your offering with clear language and engaging visuals.

Captivating

Getting attention is one thing but holding it is another. There are multiple routes to captivating content. Options include providing easy access to the most relevant information to each stakeholder, making navigation as easy as possible, using a variety of content types, and maintaining a high standard of visual design throughout.

Memorable

This goes beyond prospects being able to recall having accessed the sales proposal. The important question is, ‘Can they remember your key messages?’ Clearly identify crucial information, separating it out from areas of text to highlight its importance. If you’re able, deliver your most important messages through your most engaging content types, such as video or interactive animations.

Quick to make and send

Upon the issuing of an RFP (Request for Proposal) a race begins. Rare is the company that sends an RFP to only a single vendor. By adopting a content experience platform that allows you to quickly create and edit new brand-compliant sales proposals based upon pre-prepared templates. By having template sites on hand that you can quickly populate to suit the prospect, you can gain a head start.

Professional aesthetics

The attractiveness of your sales proposal should at least equal its substance. Don’t let the desire for flashy designs or animations obscure your message.

Demonstrates understanding

The best sales proposals indicate that the person or business pitching understands the needs of the prospect. If you’ve researched your target clients carefully, show them.

Convincing

It’s entirely possible that you’ll design a beautiful sales proposal that shows you know your market, engages the prospect, and achieves memorability but that doesn’t close the sale. Avoid this by communicating the urgency of your offering towards the end by making it clear what prospects have to lose by not taking action soon.

Contains relevant contact information

Proforma information can be easy to forget when preparing a sales proposal in a hurry. Make adding important items like contact information part of your project plan.

Sales proposals software

Why use sales proposal software?

Now we’ve covered what to include in sales proposals and some key steps you can take to improve your own, it’s time to consider your options on where to create them.

We’ve established that digital proposals are the modern solution for winning new business. They can make interactions with prospects more informative, relevant, and efficient.

But why use specialist sales proposal software such as high-end microsite builders rather than preparing a PDF in an old-fashioned word processor?

The days of in-person pitches, emailed PDF proposals and even standalone PowerPoints are numbered. As much as we may hate to admit it, round table client meetings followed by cocktails are becoming things of the past.

Today the most secure and customizable way to pitch a client is with a digital proposal. Your client’s digital proposal would include everything valuable you’d find in a traditional pitch, but with the following additional features:

More creative design opportunities

The traditional sales proposal is typified by large blocks of text and little else. In contrast, content experience platforms and similar software allow users to arrange content creatively to introduce variety into the reader’s experience.

Prove your digital credentials

Text is valuable and still has a part to play. But it can be supplemented with complementary content of other types, putting a much more digitally-forward stamp on the proposal overall.

Connect in your audience’s preferred medium

Sites featuring rich multimedia offer an experience much closer to the preferences of most digital consumers today.

Insightful analytics

One of the strongest selling points of content experience platforms and comparable software is the ability to see how users are interacting with sales proposals. That’s something a PDF can’t provide.

Tailored experiences

Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, building multiple landing pages or special areas of microsites for specific types of stakeholders allows for a more focused, relevant message.

Enhanced security

Features like SAML and Single-Sign-On (SSO) allow you to have greater confidence that confidential data and potentially sensitive information is only being shared with those who should see it.

Speed

Platforms such as Zoomforth allow users to get their sales proposals to market quickly as a result of features such as their ease of use (with WYSIWYG editing, for example) or easily customizable templates that allow you to work at scale.

The business case

How can digital proposal microsites boost your bottom line?

The business case for digital sales proposals built on microsites is financial. Digital proposals can help to increase sales by:

Differentiation - In a crowded marketplace, it’s important to stand out. A well-made microsite-based sales proposal gives far greater scope for creativity in this area while demonstrating digitally forward-thinking.

Data-driven decision making - Objection handling is a crucial sales skill, and by understanding your prospects’ priorities through analytics by seeing where they focus their attention on each page you have a greater chance of successfully anticipating their interests and addressing their specific objections.

Instant responses - Among platforms for digital sales proposals, Zoomforth in particular gives you the power to approach prospects at just the right moment by letting you know when a potential client has viewed your proposal.

Leveraging branding - A well defined brand communicates certain values that help potential customers connect with the associated company. A microsite-based digital sales proposal offers greater opportunities to integrate brand elements with the rich variety of content that can be displayed along with the overall on-page design. Templates help ensure that content remains customizable while brand compliance is adhered to.

Digital proposals: moving beyond PowerPoint and PDF pitches

Many firms are still submitting bids using older digital business tools that arrived on the market long ago; PowerPoint presentations and PDFs.

Why?

The answer is complex. Ask some professional services firms and they’ll tell you it’s to do with legacy policies and systems, custom and practice, and a historic lack of enterprise-ready tools to enable more eye catching solutions. But things are starting to change. And the digital proposal is the fastest way for your company to react to this change. A digital proposal allows you to provide rich content experiences that integrate different types of media in engaging ways—well beyond what an emailed PDF can do.

Benefits of going digital

What are the benefits of digital sales proposals?

Any new business proposal will be looked at by multiple people while under review. Herein lies the problem with existing solutions like PowerPoint presentations and PDFs. Sales proposals in their traditional, PDF form contain all the information that could be pertinent to every stakeholder. But, because every stakeholder has to review a PDF of 50+ pages, many will lose interest as they struggle their way through a one-size-fits-all document of which only a few pages may be relevant to them. They risk missing key information.

The benefits of digital sales proposals

  • 1. Detailed analytics mean you can see how your proposal is being received at the other end. Unlike with a PDF, you can see which parts of the site recipients are engaging with, whether or not they read through your key points, and gain similar useful insights.
  • 2. Each stakeholder can quickly find and review the information that is most relevant to them.
  • 3. They may not even have to do that, as individually customized sites or subpages can be sent to each specific stakeholder containing only the information that they personally need.
  • 4. You can embed any necessary documentation right inside your proposal where it can easily be found and accessed.
  • 5. By hosting your digital proposal on a microsite you avoid it getting lost in an inbox.
  • 6. Combine materials so they don’t feel dry or one-dimensional - a greater variety of digital content types (such as video, audio, or flashy animations) allows for a powerful experience.
Customizable mini-website

What is a microsite?

A microsite is different from a standard webpage on your website because it stands alone, separate from your primary URL.

In simple terms, it’s a customizable mini-website used to convey specific information to a particular audience.

These microsites are usually associated with a particular project, event, launch, or similar highly specific activity with an expiry date.

For example, a large professional services firm might be trying to win the business of a specific financial institution in response to an RFP.

In such a case, it may make sense to have a dedicated site specifically for hiring in that market. It would be written in the local language, contain advice to help potential candidates decide between different positions they might want to apply for, and information about the application and hiring process.

Of course, there’s nothing to stop all this information being delivered piecemeal across the firm’s main site. However, a microsite allows for it to be concentrated in a single, easily navigable location with only relevant content to prevent the user having to sift through and find that which pertains to them.

Although your microsite will likely be brand compliant (in fact, it almost certainly should be), that doesn’t mean it has to be a carbon copy of your main homepage. The freedom of a microsite gives companies room to experiment with new ways of presenting their message.

But why do this?

A microsite can be a terrific opportunity to experiment with new types of content delivery and communicate with your audience in new ways. You could test out a new approach on a microsite before rolling it out more widely.

A key advantage of doing this with a microsite is that you can make use of detailed analytics to test your audience’s response to your new approach to communicating with them. You could even perform a split test, with two microsites reflecting different philosophies and see which performs better.

Microsite vs. landing page

How is a microsite different from a landing page?

There are several differences between microsites and landing pages.

First, let’s look at the general characteristics of microsites that distinguish them from landing pages:

  • 1. Often more than one page (although some single page and continuous scroll sites can be considered microsites).
  • 2. Often features a navigation menu.
  • 3. Generally distinct from the main site of the owning brand.

By contrast, landing pages are different for the following reasons:

  • 1. One page only.
  • 2. Often published under the URL of a parent site.

However, it’s worth noting that there are similarities between the two:

  • 1. Both are usually made for a single, specific purpose.
  • 2. Microsites and landing pages are both generally smaller than a traditional website.
  • 3. Each is quite often temporary, with a clear expiration date (usually at the completion of a particular project), but not always.

Why host on a microsite VS a landing page

As digital sales proposals often contain a considerable amount of information and microsites are usually larger than individual landing pages, it can make sense to devote an entire microsite to the task as you work to establish and build a productive relationship with your client.

A landing page, by contrast, is more effective as a marketing tool since it’s primary function is to attract the attention of new clients, often with the more limited goal of collecting email addresses.

Despite the higher page count, creating a microsite can be just as easy as designing a landing page while also offering certain other advantages.

Here’s a quick rundown of the relative advantages and disadvantages of both microsites and landing pages:

Use Case Microsite Landing Page
Provides your audience with a customized experience across multiple pages Check Cross
Able to address the needs of multiple types of stakeholder with differing priorities Check Cross
Differentiate your offerings from your competitors Check Check
Adds opportunities for adding personality and color to your communications without changing your main site Check Check
Extremely simple user experience that’s optimized for conversions Cross Check
Deliver a broad-brush marketing message or a small amount of detail in a highly focussed way Cross Check

With a microsite builder like Zoomforth, there's an easy handoff of brand guidelines (fonts, colors, etc) after which we build into the site for you.

Another advantage microsite platforms with real-time analytics such as Zoomforth offer is the ability to track user engagement in real-time, both at a high level (to inform future content decisions) and at a granular level (so you can refine your follow up).

Memorable client content experiences

Create a memorable client
content experience

It’s important not to waste your company’s time and money by creating content that acts as filler and doesn’t offer additional value or information to your potential client. You need to have high-quality content targeted to your specific audience if you want to increase the chances of success—especially when it’s for a new client acquisition (as opposed to expansion to a new firm operating as part of a branded network where you already have a presence).

Here are some of our best practices for creating content with the power to differentiate you from the competition:

Invest in high-quality video content like an “About Us’ video in lieu of a static ‘Meet Our Team’ page or PDF.

Instead of over relying on the written word to make your case, create unique imagery that lays out a solution to their problem visually.

Limit all but the simplest of communication with your client to a single site that gives them everything they need at a single location. This just might make you easier to work with than your competition.

Speed! With saved templates you’ll be able to turn around proposals much more quickly.

We live in a time when building strong relationships with clients remotely is more imperative than ever. Thanks to microsite technology, this is eminently possible.

But the technology won’t do all the work for you. To make the most of the opportunity presented by branded microsites, you must inject personality, emotion, and take prospects on a journey from your initial bid onward.

A microsite empowers you to work on relationship building throughout the process. Seize this opportunity to delight your prospects with a truly memorable content experience.

Increase your revenue

How to increase your revenue with digital sales proposals

The ultimate goal of creating a sales proposal is to win more clients. Digital sales proposals are a tool to help us achieve it. But how?

Design a custom experience for every stakeholder. Send the COO directly to an implementation plan, rather than letting them dig for it through a document stuffed with information that, while no doubt useful to other members of their company, is of no direct value to them. You could also create a section of secure financials for the CFO and a direct link to the strategic value of your product for the CEO to look at.

Appeal to the senses. A microsite allows you to appeal to visual, audio and kinaesthetic learners to give clients a really memorable experience that may give you a leg-up on your competition.

Appeal to distinct personality types. For those that love to see the ‘big picture’, offer summaries and outlines, clear, purposeful headlines, and interactive design that foregrounds core messages.

For detail-oriented stakeholders, add overlays that reveal additional detail when you click or even hover over them. This can add depth and valuable detail to higher-level points. Cater to analytically minded clients with clearly identifiable outcomes, deliverables, figures, and targets.

Stop guessing about your client’s interest. With insights gained from built-in analytics tools, you won’t find yourself in the dark after hitting ‘send’. Microsites can track a potential client’s interaction with each page, allowing you to adjust your pitch to their needs.

With Zoomforth, you can see real-time analytics on what your client is clicking on, what pages they are spending their most time on, and if there is any important information that they simply haven’t checked out for you to call to their attention.

By combining these strengths, microsites are powerful tools for achieving increased revenue.

Common mistakes

Common mistakes to avoid with sales proposals

The upside to receiving an RFP is that there is clear interest in your company. The downside? Plenty of other businesses also likely received the same and are eager to close the same deal.

You can increase your chances by avoiding these common RFP pitfalls and increase your revenue, by sticking to the following principles.

  • Don’t make it about you:

    Don’t just list all the great things you’ve done for your other clients. Instead, talk about your potential client’s challenges and present some clear ideas on how your company can help overcome them.
  • Don’t bury the lead:

    Make sure you use succinct messages, beautiful visuals, and exciting graphics whenever appropriate so that a quick scan is all it takes for your clients to absorb your core messages.
  • Don’t be afraid of empty space:

    Clear navigation with easy-to-read information and compelling subheadings will make it easy for prospects to scan and digest all the relevant information.
  • Don’t use jargon:

    Be clear in your messaging. Avoid terms that you may use internally but that might not be familiar to your potential clients.
  • Don’t delay:

    Fast doesn’t have to mean generic. Once you have a template you believe will be effective, you can duplicate and easily customize it for every potential client going forward. It can take just minutes to get a new microsite up with drag-and-drop features to add in your client’s logo, custom graphics, or links to relevant news articles. Submit your custom proposal first.
Secure content experiences

How to build secure content experiences

When sharing sensitive data, especially if that includes financial or other confidential information, you have a responsibility to make sure it’s as secure as possible.

A digital sales proposal hosted on a microsite platform can help achieve this by allowing for encryption and multi-factor authentication.

For most companies, the thought of a major breach is truly scary, which is why platforms like Zoomforth have taken big steps to ensure information is protected and not retained unnecessarily. While you don’t have the option to un-send an email attachment, microsites give you more control by allowing you to deactivate sites on a certain date and even delete sensitive information entirely.

Collaborative sales proposals

How to curate sales proposals with a team

Strong collaboration leads to strong sales proposals. One key step you can take to achieve this is to make sure everyone has clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

Once your roles and responsibilities for creating the proposal are laid out, make sure your proposal covers six major points.

Strong executive summary:

AKA the attention grabber - where you give your prospects a rundown of what to expect in a brief overview. This is where expectations are set, so make sure you sell it while being accurate. Avoid overpromising for best results.

Address client challenges:

What you’re selling has value. Make sure prospects can see yours by tailoring this section to address their unique problems, challenges, and opportunities.

Demonstrate solutions:

Highlight the ways you can deliver for your potential client with as much credibility as possible. Provide examples and when in doubt, provide specifics.

Set milestones:

Outline how success will be measured over time and the stages you’ll move through to get there. This is an excellent opportunity to set reasonable expectations and get on the same page with your prospects.

A clear call-to-action:

You want the people reading your digital proposal to do something. Make it clear to them what that is. Bold, eye-catching CTAs will let your prospects know how to take action and move forward with your proposal.

Showcase your team:

Why is your team the best for the job? Show the prospect who your company leadership are and what they’re about. Let your team members explain the prospect’s problem along with the solutions they bring to the table through their own skills and experience.

Analytics

How to leverage sales data

Insights in the form of data on how your prospects interact with your proposals help you refine your pitch.

Detailed analytics can help you answer the tricky questions that come with any B2B sales process What pages are being looked at the most? What pages are being skipped over? Have they even visited your microsite? Knowing the answer to each of these questions can help guide your follow-ups.

Data analytics can be as granular as needed, even down to a second-by-second recap of what a client did on their visit to your site.

High-level insights: Establish your most popular pages and content, any referral traffic, and site visits.

Granular insights: View visitor names, time and location of your visitor, how much time was spent watching a video, and even if they spent most of their time on a specific page.

With access to this type of information, your pitches to prospects will get better each and every time you prepare one.

Brand identity

How to protect your brand identity

A solid brand helps your company mark itself out as unique. It differentiates you from your competition whenever you submit a bid.

Strong brands do the following:

Create consistent client experiences: be consistent in your branding elements from fonts and colors to visible logos and design standards.

Increase authority and trust: create thought-leadership content that your audience will want to read.

Builds awareness: the most consistent your brand appears across all channels, from your company website to bids to clients, the more recognizable.

Distinguish yourself from the competition: without a doubt, you will run into a competitor trying to sell the same product as you do. Determining your differentiating factor will be a crucial step.

With a microsite platform staying true to your brand is easier than ever with saved brand guidelines, saved templates, multimedia options and more.

How to achieve digital transformation

A digital approach to sales proposals and RFPs is one clear way of making sure your sales team is ready for future market changes. But for many companies, making the transition to submitting sales proposals in a new way can feel like too big of a step.

We’ve made it easy for you to implement everything you’ve read so far with our digital framework that can be applied to any company.

The four key areas to focus on are:

  • Strategy
  • Customer proposition
  • Operations
  • Culture

By investing in a microsite platform like Zoomforth, making these changes on a company wide level isn’t a massive restructure, it’s simply a restructuring of your team’s habits in how they submit proposals.

If you’re interested in getting started with microsite-based sales proposals but need more information, you can contact us here.

Glossary of terms

  • Call to action: An instruction used at the conclusion of an ad or sales pitch that guides the reader towards a particular action, such as the decision to purchase.
  • Content Experience Platform: A site builder/builder that allows users to create rich digital experiences for visitors incorporating multiple kinds of media such as audio and video.
  • Encryption: The act of protecting data by converting it into some form of code to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Landing Page: Either standalone pages or pages of a larger website with a specific purpose arrived at after clicking a link or performing some other predefined action signalling interest.
  • Microsite: A small website with a specific purpose either created separately from or as an adjunct to an existing website.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): An authentication method requiring users to provide at least two different kinds of types of information to prove their identity in order to access restricted material.
  • Request for Proposal (RFP): A document or website used to advertise the details of a project to potential service providers with the intention of soliciting proposals.
  • Sales Proposal: A document or website used to pitch services or products to potential clients or customers.
  • Single Sign-on: An authentication system that allows a user to log onto an electronic service by providing a single form of ID accompanied by a password.
  • Template: A type of site designed to help you easily and quickly create customized variations of a site by being simple to duplicate and modify.
  • URL: An abbreviation of ‘Uniform Resource Locator’, the URL is the address of a webpage. It appears in the address bar of a web browser.