Writing proposals that win you projects

How To Use Packaging To Win More Proposals

By Brennan Dunn

Today I want to focus on helping you win more proposals.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: if there’s one part of your sales funnel that you should optimize, it’s how you write and deliver proposals.

How much time do you spend finding prospective clients, qualifying them, meeting about their project, and then writing a proposal? For the average freelancer, it’s about 5 hours per project.

That’s a lot of time. And that’s time you could be billing clients and making money.

OK, so let’s talk about how this article can help you make thousands of dollars by increasing your proposal conversion rates.

Over the years, I’ve seen (and have written) a lot of proposals.

Here’s how 99% of proposals are structured:

  1. Here’s who we are (trust us, we’re legit.)
  2. Here’s what we’ll do for you.
  3. Here’s what it will cost.
  4. Pay us, stupid!

From a purely psychological perspective, there’s a lot wrong with that formula.

But the biggest problem with most proposals is how the price is communicated to the client. For those of us who bill for time, it’s usually something like:

This project will take between 30 to 40 hours, and at a project rate of $100 will cost between $3,000 and $4,000.

And for the rest of us, it’s just a single price.

How to create a compelling offer (and be your own competition)

The first order of business is to realize that you’re not selling time or your experience, but instead selling products that accomplish some sort of solution.

Once you’ve done this, and you begin to look at yourself as a “solutions provider” (pardon the cheesiness), you can then create offers in your proposals that reach a solution with varying degrees of efficiency and totality.

I’ve used the “rain” example before, but it’s really effective at helping make sense of what I’m talking about when I use words like “problem”, “solution”, and “offer”.

Imagine you’re walking through town and it begins to rain. The rain is coming down heavy, and it’s really stinkin’ cold. You’re freezing and want nothing more than to dry off.

The PROBLEM is that you’re wet and cold. The SOLUTION is not being wet. Let’s continue…

Directly in front of you, you see an umbrella store, a cardboard box store, and a lodge, equipped with a roaring fireplace, fluffy towels, a change of clothes, and all the hot chocolate you could ever want.

The umbrella store sells umbrellas, which is one way of getting out of the rain. But you’re still going to be pretty wet, and probably cold. But it works.

The cardboard boxes are cheap and can be broken down and made into a makeshift cover… but it’s really not going to work. It might stop the rain temporarily, but it’s a pretty lame attempt at a solution.

But that lodge… not only will they help you get out of the rain, but the fire, towels, change of clothes, and piping hot drink will solve your problem — and then some.

These are all paths to the solution, or OFFERS.

There are multiple offers to every solution, but most of us present one offer (what we’ll do) and one price (what it’ll cost to do that), which has a lot of limitations. First off, if the client wants more or less of a solution that we present, they might go elsewhere — even though it’s obvious to us that we can do less or more (duh!), it’s not always something your clients consciously realize.

And if they go elsewhere, you lose their business for good. But if you owned the umbrella store, the box supplier, and the lodge, the question becomes, “How much does the wet guy or gal out in the rain end up paying me? A little, or quite a bit more?”

So when coming up with your proposals, think about why someone is coming to you. Ignore for a second what the prospective client said they want, and think about what they really need — the problem they’re looking to solve. What other offers could you present that would accomplish the solution, with varying degrees of effectiveness?

Pricing and packaging your offers

When presenting your offers, you want two things to happen:

  1. Make buying from you a no-brainer. You want the prospective client to walk away from your proposal thinking “how much do I pay?” and not, “should I hire him?”
  2. Maximize your profit by presenting premium offers for clients who want the most complete solution possible.

My friend Ryan Delk is in charge of growth at Gumroad, a company that helps thousands of sellers (myself included) deliver digital goods and services to buyers. And they have a ton of data.

After doing a bit of data mining, Ryan found that the optimal pricing multiplier across all of his sellers is 1x, 2.2x, and 5x. So if the offer that the client is expecting to receive from you in your proposal is the middle-tier, the 2.2x, determine what you could offer at 1x, and what you could offer at 5x.

If your client is expecting you to build a full-featured website because they want more customers, and you quote this at $22,000, what less complete solution could you achieve (that will probably deliver more customers, but not as much as your higher offerings) for $10,000? And could you include marketing or other services that get more customers for $50,000?

Like most of us, your average client doesn’t have infinitely deep pockets. And while a $50,000 budget might be way out of range for them, $22k and $10k start looking pretty cheap in comparison.

To recap, when writing proposals you want to offer varying degrees of completeness for the problem that your client is looking to have solved. And to do this, you should — using the project that was brought to you as the centerpiece — come up with one or two alternative offers that allow you to aim for the optimal 1x, 2.2x, and 5x pricing structure.

If you do this, you’re pretty much guaranteed to close more proposals. More price sensitive clients will gravitate to your lower tiers; less sensitive clients who want more value will opt for your premium offers.

And ultimately, you get more business. And you get it by exploiting human nature: people like choice. No one wants to be backed into a corner and told, “here’s what you’ll get, pay $X”.

If getting serious about growing your consulting business is high up on your radar, then I’d really encourage you to checkout my course, Double Your Freelancing Rate — it’s pretty much 100x this post.