The moment has come: your dream client has submitted an RFP (request for proposal). Now all you have to do is win them over, close the deal, and make their dreams come true. Easy, right?

Whether this is your first or thousandth RFP, there’s no denying that the proposal process is a little harrowing. Part-art and part-science, a lot of elements have to come together at the right time to turn your prospect’s consideration into a resounding “yes!”

Let’s look at seven tips for agency proposal creation that’ll help you nail your next RFP.

Know how your proposal fits into your sales process.

If you haven’t established a repeatable, tested sales process yet, now’s the time to do it. Creating custom proposals from scratch might’ve worked when you were a burgeoning organization, but as you grow, an established process will prevent waste and burnout.

Plan your packages and pricing, know what you will and won’t do (your niche), and create a template for your proposal that includes different pre-written copy blocks that perfectly communicate your brand messaging.

Make it about the client, not you.

It may be nearly a reflex to hype up your agency in your proposal — sharing every award, testimonial, and data point that supports how awesome you are. And while these are nice to have, if a prospect is requesting a proposal, it’s likely that they’re already sold on your expertise.

What most prospects want in a proposal is reassurance that you understand their problems and have a solution for them. This means putting things into the clients’ terms, and focusing on them, rather than you.

Don’t overshare.

Although you should, indeed, keep that story about your wild Saturday night out of your agency proposal, we’re actually referring to the kind of overshare that leads to a novel-length document. More information isn’t always better, and too much detail this soon in the game can confuse your prospects and make them worry that they’re missing something.

Keep your proposal as short as you can without eliminating key details. At a minimum, your proposal needs:

  • An indication that you understand your client’s objectives and concerns
  • A clear, concise path for helping them get what they want with a timeline and budget for achieving it

Of course, every agency is different, but these really are the two key elements that prospects want to see.

Appearance is important.

Most agencies know this, and while it seems like a shallow truth, it’s true nonetheless: a proposal that looks good will be more memorable than a bland document. Whether you brand your proposal with your own style or your client’s style (or a mix of the two), its appearance should serve as a preview of what your client will get if they choose to work with you. An error-riddled, poorly formatted proposal — no matter how compelling the content — doesn’t reflect well on your organization.

Don’t send it too soon.

If you’ve only just met a prospect, sending your proposal right away is a recipe for disaster, even if they’re the one who asked for it. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • You don’t know if they have the budget. So your prospect is sold on your ability to deliver: great! But if they can’t afford your services, the time you spend on a proposal is a waste for both parties.
  • You don’t have the full story yet. Does your prospect only need a couple of services, or an end-to-end solution? Have they worked with an agency before, or do they have no idea what to expect? Your proposal is likely to be totally off-base if you don’t get the answers to these types of questions upfront.
  • You don’t want to agree to something you can’t deliver on. On the surface, your prospect might seem like exactly the type of client you work with. But what happens when you realize they’ve had bad experiences with five other agencies because their expectations are unrealistic? Sending a proposal too soon may wind up locking you into an agreement that hurts your bottom line and reputation.

When your client requests a proposal, read between the lines. Chances are, they’re not looking for a fully-fledged statement of work with bells and whistles. They may only want an idea of your fee range, a better understanding of your process, or an idea of how long an engagement might last — all of which you can provide more effectively in a phone conversation or meeting.

Get help.

Not psychological help, that is (though everyone needs it from time to time, especially when you’re in the agency business), but help from technology. A proposal management service like Proposify, PandaDoc, or can save you immense time and frustration — and whose added functionality can serve as a value-add in the eyes of your busy prospects. Shop around for different proposal software options before you make the leap, as some can be a bit pricey.

You can also get help from agency coaches, uh-hum… yours truly.

You can swipe my $10k audit and strategy proposal template here. My only request is that you customize it and make it your own to “wow” your prospects.

Follow up!

It’s not enough to create your proposal, send it, and then sit back and wait. Your prospect is likely considering other options, and if your competitors are a bit faster on the follow-up, they may win the opportunity simply because they took more time to build the relationship. Your client wants to know that you’ll be attentive to their needs when you work together, so now’s the time to “wow” them with your responsiveness.

Author Bio

Mandy McEwen is Founder & CEO of Mod Girl Marketing, a digital marketing agency based in California. She is the creator of 8+ digital marketing courses where she helps marketing consultants and startup agencies scale faster. She was listed by Search Engine Journal as a top 12 SEO expert and was named a top 10 agency growth coach by BloggerLocal. Mandy’s Facebook group, Mod Agency Insiders, was named a top marketing group to join by Inc.