The sale is made before the proposal is written…almost.

The sale is made before the proposal is written…almost.

Written By Jeffrey Gitomer

KING OF SALES, The author of seventeen best-selling books including The Sales Bible, The Little Red Book of Selling, and The Little Gold Book of Yes! Attitude. His live coaching program, Sales Mastery, is available at

Editors note: this is the first of a two part series.

“Sounds good, send me a proposal.” How many times have you heard that? Too many. So you run back to your office, put together a proposal, send it to the prospect, and start the follow-up process (and the prayer vigil)…Or do you?

The sale should be solidified BEFORE the proposal is written. Your proposal should be the essence of what has been decided by you and your prospect. It should solidify the sale. It should be the image of your business. It should be a window as to how business is conducted by your company…Is it?

Here’s a five part “proposal package” that will lock in more deals…

Part One: The Preparation…
When the prospect says, “Send me a proposal,” you should have 25 standard questions that completely tie down the deal so that the proposal is more of a formality that a deal maker.

Be sure that you have every fact of the deal written down before you leave the prospect’s office.

Get the price right the first time. Go in with your best price.

If you have a standard proposal, ask someone impartial to look at it. Is it the best you could possibly give? Does it reflect the quality of your company and product? If it’s not the greatest, change it.


Part Two: The Content…

State the purpose of your proposal in the first sentence. You can even use a headline.

Define the present situation. Paint a clear picture that implies the necessity of this sale. Just state the facts.

List all the objectives. If you’ve done your information gathering up front, then you know what your customer’s needs are and you have a solid plan to help that person. State the objectives of the purchase using the customer’s exact words, if possible. Your customer knows that you cared enough to listen.

Give your background if needed. If other decision makers will be looking at your proposal use this background information to clarify who you are. Write your background in terms of how you help others – not in terms of how great you are.

Define how the process will take place. List exactly who will do what and when it will be done. Reference dates of when these commitments were initially made. Include copies of other documents if necessary.

Have an itemized list of all products and/or services. List these items in an order that makes sense.

State the cost, and the value attached to the cost (return on investment or productivity payback).

State the terms. Be sure they are stated exactly as you discussed them before the proposal was written. Leave no room for misinterpretation. Misunderstandings about terms can kill the sale or otherwise cause you indescribable pain later. Have a big, bold “Thank you” at the bottom of the page.

Have an approval page for the prospect to sign with your signature already on it.

Put your mission statement on the last page of the proposal.

Testimonial letters and references should be attached if others, who did not hear your sales presentation, are going to be involved .


Part Three: The Format…

The format makes your proposal outstanding or ordinary. It’s totally up to you how you choose to present the final step of your sale. It should be somewhere between mind boggling and memorable. It should be able to get the person who gets it to call someone from another office to, “come look at this proposal.”

The cover: Should be the graphic grabber that leads to a great proposal. Make me want to open it and see what’s inside. Get a copy of the prospect’s logo and put it on the cover. It a small touch that adds a lot of punch.

The graphics: 14 point type is ideal for body text. Serif (with little squiggles) fonts are easier on the eyes and thus easier to read. My favorite font is Garamond. It’s the most readable font and it looks nice.

The paper (if printed): must be heavy enough that the type does not show through.

Use a high quality binding: Don’t just staple it. It’s too easy for the thing to start coming apart, and awkward to flip back and forth between pages. Use a clear, heavy plastic on the front, and a piece of cover stock on the back.

Laser printing is a must: If you don’t own a laser printer, get to know someone who does. Many quick copy places will do laser printing for you too. Don’t look at this proposal with your eyes. Look at it through the eyes of your prospect.

Why all this attention to detail? Two simple truths:

1. You want the order don’t you? Why chance it with a less than great proposal?

2. The image created by your proposal is the image your prospect has of your company.

Your proposal is the last step of a long courtship. Put your best foot forward without stubbing your toe.

Part two next week: The writing style and the proposal delivery.



Get a free table of contents for the ultimate sales proposal. I’ll be happy to sent you a powerful table of contents page from a sales proposal that won a $250,000 contract. Just go to, click Access GitBit, register if you’re a first time user and enter the words PROPOSAL in the search box.