This Essential Guide is for sales professionals selling B2B Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications. It outlines a proven method for how to write a software sales proposal that will help you win business.
Selling SaaS solutions can be tough and if you’ve been at it for a while, no doubt you’ve experienced pursuing an account for months with no progress. You’ve called, sent e-mails, and persistently followed up working diligently to get your prospect to see a demo of your product.
When you finally get a break and book a presentation, you’re fired up. Your presentation has to be compelling so you start early, craft your PowerPoint, tailor your demo site, and make several dry runs.
On game day, to your pleasant surprise, almost all the decision makers are on the GoToMeeting. You jump right in. Your application is humming and your prospects are asking the right questions. You’re fielding them easily.
This is a sophisticated group and you can tell they’ve seen some of your competitor’s solutions. Excellent! You perform better when there’s competition. You know your product can help this prospect.
At the end, you ask some questions to gauge where they’re at in their buying process. But they’re pretty tight-lipped. You wrap up, thank everyone for their time, and promise to provide follow up materials and pricing. The demo ends.
No Resolution = No Peace of Mind
Your brain quickly recaps details of the meeting. You’re looking for any signal that might indicate you have a deal. You’re upbeat because the demo went well, but at the same time, you didn’t get a commitment. Without a clear next step, that voice of “uncertainty” starts to whisper a little louder.
“What did you expect? Did you think they were going to jump up and down and just shout out their credit card number? Maybe they didn’t like our solution? Maybe this opportunity was wired for someone else?”
The let-down is understandable because sales pros work for a closed deal. But B2B SaaS solution sales are complex and involve multiple influencers, champions, and hurdles. The most successful sales people recognize the demo is a critical step in the process, but it’s usually not the last one.
Table of Contents
- How to Write a Software Sales Proposal that Sells…After the Demo
- What’s the Purpose of Writing a Sales Proposal
- Do I Really Have to Write a Proposal?
- Software Sales Proposal Template – How to Write a Perfect Proposal
- Proposal Follow Up
- Best Practices for Writing a Software Sales Proposal
How to Write a Software Sales Proposal that Sells…After the Demo
After a software demo is a perfect time to deliver a magnetic proposal. Take everything you heard during the presentation, identify key pain points, construct effective solutions, and pitch a tailored offer to your prospect. Give her and other buying influencers at the target company, something to say “Yes” to.
The easy road entails finishing your demo, sending a perfunctory quote, sitting back, and hoping for a P.O. The tougher-but-more-lucrative discipline involves using a sales proposal to demonstrate how your company is uniquely better. Well-written proposals sell to the decision makers who saw your presentation, and they work “behind-the-lines” selling to those individuals who didn’t see the presentation, but influence purchases.
Send a Proposal? What’s Wrong with a Quote?
A SaaS sales proposal isn’t just a “make-work” item for sales people. And while it includes a price, it’s much more than a quote. It’s a salesperson’s chance to tell a story showcasing your understanding of the client, focusing on their problems and needs, and demonstrating how you’re going to alleviate them.
People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy!–Jeffrey Gitomer
Anyone in your prospect’s organization should be able to read your proposal, understand what’s being offered, and feel a strong motivation to do business with you.
What’s the Purpose of Writing a Software Sales Proposal
The purpose of writing a software sales proposal is to:
- Show prospects you understand their situation, their needs, and their challenges
- Describe a solution and the results you’ll deliver
- Tell them how much it will cost
- Illustrate what it will take to implement
- Reach decision makers you haven’t interacted with
- Get them excited about working with you.
In the best of cases, a proposal can get you the signoff you need to start a project…and a purchase order. If the prospect is not ready to buy or needs the approval of others, a proposal keeps the process progressing.
If the deal stalls, the proposal creates an historical record of what you discussed, what you learned about the client, and what you offered. This will help you in the future if the prospect renews her interest.
Do I Really Have to Write a Software Sales Proposal?
The answer is “yes” and “no.”
While sales pros need to be very efficient when figuring out which prospects to pursue, many will ignore the benefits of sales proposals. Sales managers take note. Your team may need some “encouraging” to get them to spend the time and effort a proposal takes. But it will be worth it!
When NOT to Write a Software Sales Proposal
During your sales discovery process and presentation, you probably learned your prospect’s budget and timeline for purchase. If the budget is not in line with the price of your solution, a proposal is probably unnecessary. In addition, if the timeline for real consideration is too far out, that’s another reason to skip writing a proposal.
If the prospect revealed something that demonstrates your solution is clearly not in the running such as, “We’ve already contracted for a competitor’s solution,” no proposal needed.
When TO Write a Software Sales Proposal and How to Stand Out
When in doubt, write a proposal. It’s powerful tool for closing deals. It’s a real opportunity for your company to demonstrate your professionalism and responsiveness.
At a former SaaS company I worked for, we made an internal commitment to turn around a proposal after a software demonstration in 24 hrs. This doesn’t seem like a monumental goal, but it helped our small firm position itself as one that was responsive.
It also helped create an impression in the mind of our prospects that we could deliver, and do so according to the timelines we presented. Given that many companies purchasing new software are deathly afraid of the amount of time it will take to get a system up-and-running, creating some credibility in this area is valuable.
We subsequently learned from prospects who eventually became clients, that our quick turnaround positively influenced their decision to buy.
Software Sales Proposal Template – How to Write a Perfect Proposal
What are the steps in writing a sales proposal? First, start with a template that organizes your information logically, flows well, and produces results.
The first time you write a proposal will take the longest. After that, you’ll have your own template and the process will accelerate.
Regarding proposal length, consider applying the “bikini rule.” Your proposal should be long enough to cover the content but short enough to keep the reader’s attention.
When you’re planning how to write a software proposal, assume that some readers did not see your presentation and demo. Here’s a proven sales proposal outline or design we recommend:
- Folder or cover page
- Cover letter or introduction
- Prospect’s background
- Your company’s background
- Prospect’s problems & paint points
- About your team
- Summary and signoff page
Depending on the complexity of your product/solution, collapse or expand these sections.
1. Folder or Cover Page
We recommend having a proposal folder professionally-designed and printed. Your book will be judged by its cover. Make sure your cover rocks!
If you don’t use a folder, have a cover page and the entire proposal document designed. The out-of-the-box design templates in Microsoft Word are ok, but it’s preferable to make a little investment here. Your printed materials should communicate professionalism and be eye-catching.
For your cover page, include:
- Client’s logo, company name, your contact’s name and title
- Your solution name and what it does
- Your company’s contact info
- Proposal expiration date.
2. Software Sales Proposal Cover Letter
How do you begin a proposal cover letter? It’s very similar to a cover letter for a resume. It’s a one-page, high-level introduction to your company and what you’re committing to provide the prospect’s organization. Consider including:
- The date
- Inside address with company contact, title, and company name
- Paragraph #1 – Tell the reader who you are and what the document describes. Example: “Attached is a proposal for [Your company] to provide [Prospect’s Organization] with [SaaS Solution Name]
- Paragraph #2 – Tell the reader what your SaaS solution is and briefly, how it will benefit the organization
- Paragraph #3 – Briefly tell the reader two or three benefits of working with your firm
- Include your name, title, and contact information.
A sample sales proposal template and letter is available here.
3. Prospect’s Background
“Now why on earth would I introduce the company to the company? They already know this information.”
While this is true, your sales proposal needs to stand on its own. This means anyone who picks it up can read and understand the project and what you’re offering. Providing introductory context is helpful. Consider including:
- Details about the client that impact your solution. For example: Company industry, locations, # of employees, # of users, etc.
- Note any software or hardware systems they’re currently using, if they affect your solution
- Highlight the company’s reasons for considering your solution
- Describe what you believe they want to accomplish.
4. Your Company’s Background
Introduce your company, but keep it brief. Your goal is to establish credibility and build trust, but the primary focus of any sales proposal should be on prospects, their problems, and how you fix them.
- Company name, headquarters, year founded
- Highlight the services you provide
- If you’re an established company, include the number of employees
- Provide summary statistics of the number of clients you have, your installed license count, or metrics that shine a positive light on your business.
What Makes your Company Uniquely Better?
And why should the prospect do business with you? This section should highlight the advantages of working with your company and using your SaaS solution. It’s sometimes referred to as a:
“Unique Selling Proposition (USP) or the unique benefit exhibited by a company, service, product or brand that enables it to stand out from competitors.”–Wikipedia
How do you position your business against competitors? Do you offer more customizability, lower prices, more responsive customer support? Do you offer an enterprise solution or a single-user focused application?
Limit this section to one or two paragraphs and don’t get hung up on your company’s achievements. Instead, explain why you’re the best option.
For example, “We currently have 55 municipalities using our enterprise SaaS solution” is not as meaningful to the prospect as, “We currently help 55 municipalities process online payments 50% faster and with less manual data entry than they were able to do prior to working with us.”
5. Prospect’s Problems & Pain Points
In preparation for your presentation and during your demo, you probably conducted a discovery process to identify the specific problems your prospect is experiencing, that your solution can fix. In this section, organize, prioritize, and clarify the impact of these pain points. Demonstrate how well you listened.
Consider including information about:
- What your prospect is struggling to accomplish
- The departments, teams, or individuals that are directly affected
- How those problems are impacting their business
- Problems you’ve identified that are affecting the organization, but that they may not have expressed. For example, maybe employees described a particular situation but they don’t realize it’s affecting other parts of the business. You know from working with similar clients that other teams are being negatively impacted, and you can explain how
- Anything described in the media, social media, or interviews that you can use to make your pitch stronger.
Pay attention to the way the organization expresses its challenges. When you write this section effectively, it should create positive pressure for your prospect to find solutions.
6. The Solution
This is the fun part. Describe your SaaS solution and how it’s going to transform the company and the lives of users.
Predict measurable impact on the client’s business. Once you have captured a potential buyer’s attention, be sure to put everything into perspective.
Detail what the customer can stand to gain by purchasing your product or what she has to lose by not signing onto your client roster.
Quantify the sorts of cost-savings you might be able to contribute, how much you may be able to increase efficiency and output within her firm, or the number of additional sales the client’s business may be able to generate after utilizing your products.–Danny Wong
- What your solution is and what it does
- The most important features of your solution that solve the specific problems you’ve described in the Pain Points section, in order of importance
- How your firm will help the organization achieve their specific goals
- What it will be like after the company installs and starts using your system
- How their employees’ lives will improve
- What the prospect’s future looks like when their team has access to your application.
Use subheadings to highlight the important aspects of your application. For example, you can break up long blocks of text using “benefit-based” subheadings such as: User-friendly, App-based Administration, Integrates with Other Systems, Supports Customizations, Scales Easily, No Hardware or Software Required, etc.
After the subheading, describe the features in your app that create that particular benefit. Avoid the inclination to list every product feature. Stick to the ones the prospect cares about.
Subheadings breakup long blocks of text and will make your proposal scannable and more readable.
Implementation & Milestones
In this section, outline what it takes to implement your SaaS solution, from start to finish. It can be helpful to incorporate a table similar to:
|Task||Responsible Party||Start Date||Completion Date|
Describe any expected obstacles. For example, let’s say you need to pull data from another system and the prospect will need to contract with that vendor. You know this process can take 4-6 weeks to complete. Call this out.
Use this section to reassure the organization that yours is a team of seasoned experts. They should feel that you’ve done this before and this software setup process will be an enjoyable, hiccup-free, walk in the park.
There’s an inherent and understandable fear that employees feel when they think of implementing a new software system. The next two sections should allay those concerns by demonstrating that your team will guide and support them every step of the way.
- What’s involved in training
- If instruction will be delivered onsite, remote, self-directed
- How long it will take to learn the application
- The impact training will have on employees’ existing workloads.
Technical Support & Customer Service
This is a key section of the proposal and your prospects will pay close attention to it. You want to explicitly describe how you will you serve them when they need help. Make sure to cover:
- How clients get technical support: phone, e-mail, chat, etc.
- Any service level agreements (SLAs) and response times you commit to
- Your escalation process if the client doesn’t feel their needs are being addressed.
Include 2-3 reference clients who will speak realistically about your company and its products. It’s better if these references are:
- In the same industry
- Located in the same geographic area
Be sure to get signoff from clients before using them as references. Include their contact information so your prospect can connect easily.
How do you write a price proposal? Very clearly and understandably. Like it or not, this may be the first section of your proposal that prospects read. Many will check your pricing to see if it’s inline with their budget, and to decide if they want to read all the details of your proposal.
When writing this section, assume the reader has not reviewed other parts of your proposal.
Make sure your pricing includes information about any options you discussed during your presentation.
If your solution requires an integration or action from another vendor, and there’s a cost associated, list the price or call out that there will be an expense.
Include the terms for getting started. For example, “To initiate this project, please sign the signature page and include a purchase order for the setup fee.”
Even though you may choose to extend it, put an expiration date on your proposal.
9. About Your Team
Describe the members of the team who will be working with the prospect on this project. Include their names, titles, and a brief explanation of their skills and expertise. If they have relevant experience with similar projects, highlight those details. Include professional headshots if possible.
10. Summary & Signoff Page
How do you conclude a proposal? The Summary section should be a compelling close that inspires the prospect to take action. Here are some suggestions:
- Remind the prospective client where she started and why it’s time for a change
- Summarize why your company and its products are the best option for their project
- Show the way forward. Give examples of what to do next
- Paint a picture of what the prospect’s life will be like after doing business with you.
If it makes sense in the context of your sales proposal, include an approval page where the prospect can sign off and start the project. You’ll probably have a more detailed Software-as-a-Service Agreement that you’ll need to have reviewed and signed, but that can be sent after you have initial approval.
11. Attachments – Case Studies, Testimonials, Spec Sheets
Be smart about what you include in the attachments section so that you don’t pepper your audience with needless, unnecessary stuff. If you have relevant case studies, datasheets, or other spec information that bolsters your pitch, include that content here.
Software Sales Proposal Follow Up
Another reason for sending a proposal is that you now have a valid reason to follow up with the prospect. In the best of cases, your prospect will accept your offer, discuss next steps, and you can celebrate the order!
Some prospects will hold. Maybe they need more time to make a decision or require the input from others in their company. Maybe there’s another reason? Be sure to ask:
- Ms. Prospect, have you had a chance to look over the proposal I sent you?
- Do you have any questions regarding our proposal?
- What do you think?
- Is your company interested in moving forward?
- If not, what are some of the reasons you’d like to wait?
Some prospects will reject your offer. While no one likes to hear that you, your company, or your product wasn’t good enough, it’s critical to the long-term success of your business to know why. Successful sales people value the postmortem because they’re focused on continual improvement. Suck it up and ask for this feedback.
Here are some suggested questions:
- Mr. Prospect I know you’ve decided to go with another vendor but our company is strongly focused on improving. Any feedback you could provide regarding why you chose Company X instead of us would be greatly appreciated
- How did our functionality compare?
- What features were missing from our solution that were important to you?
- How did our price compare?
If the feedback is valid, be sure to motivate your company to respond and make needed changes.
Best Practices for How to Write a Software Sales Proposal
When you’re thinking about how to write a good proposal, consider the following best practices:
- Tailor proposals to the unique needs of each prospect
- Prospective clients pay for performance and outcomes. Be clear about what your company can and will deliver
- As you write proposals, keep track of the content blocks that are the same in each one. These can be “repurposed” in future proposals. No need to start from scratch
- Write using an “active” versus a “passive” voice. To understand the difference, click here
- Write to be understood. Even if your audience is technical, limit your use of jargon and TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), or add a glossary
- Incorporate images that make your content more understandable and impactful
- Print the document, then proofread and edit it
- Tighten your writing. Clear and concise writing is powerful. Trim unnecessary words and substitute weak ones. Before you send, do a final edit and cut out 200 words
- Ask a colleague to read your proposal and provide feedback.
If you started this Guide with some uncertainty about the power of software sales proposals, or doubted your ability to create deal-closing documents, hopefully that’s been dispelled. Now it’s time to put this know-how to work.
After your next software demonstration, use this document as a starting point to create your own SaaS sales proposal. Keep it focused on your prospect. Solve their organization’s problems. Establish credibility and motivate prospects to work with you.
The more you write proposals, the better you’ll get at communicating the value of your B2B SaaS solution and how your company makes a difference. You’ll quickly experience just how effective this sales tool can be for winning new clients!