lifestyle PR + digital media

Sprocket's tips for nailing your next new business proposal

February 25, 2020

At Sprocket, we’ve retooled our new business proposals more times than we can count. Usually these proposal updates are because the needs of the potential new business demand a different kind of proposal, or because conversations with the potential client inform the order of the presentation. 

And, yes, sometimes it's because we've just decided we hate the old layout. Let us live!!!

And, after hundreds of proposals and dozens of layout designs, we've learned a few things about what tends of work and what doesn't.

First, though: we think it’s important to note that a crucial element of any new business proposal is to understand the potential client and speak to their needs. If the client is the type who wants to cultivate a personal connection with their agency, you’ll want to spend more time talking about who your team is and what your values are. If they seem more interested in cutting to the chase, maybe you'll want to provide a one-slide overview about who you and your team are, and allow the potential client to ask questions if they need further information. As with most circumstances in business, reading the room is crucial. 

Read on for our tips to optimize new business proposals. 

  1. Do your research. Beyond the obvious Google search into the company and the news hits they’ve received, it’s a good idea to look at their past social media or marketing campaigns. What do you think worked? What didn’t? Not only will this help you as you put together the new business proposal, but it could also help you answer Qs in the presentation. Potential clients have posed questions like “here’s what we did last time—how would you recommend we do better next time?” in proposals, and it’s easier to answer that question honestly if you know what they’re talking about. 
  2. Make them feel special. Look, we all want to feel special sometimes, right? You can make this potential new client feel most special by tailoring the proposal to them, directly addressing the problem they need solved. Show that you were listening to them in your initial meetings by answering the questions they asked. Lead with the information that’s specific to the potential client. Don’t just copy/paste slides from every other proposal–trust us, they’ll be able to tell. 
  3. Show them you’ve thought about it. Demonstrate the amount of thought you’ve spent on their problem, and get as specific as you can about how you would solve it. Show them that you have already devised a framework for how you’ll attack it. Of course, it’s important to reiterate that the proposal is high-level, and that you will get more specific after your discovery session with them—that what you have in the proposal isn’t the final plan. But help them understand how much time your team spent developing ideas for the proposal, which will let them know you’re willing to do the work to help them succeed.
  4. Don’t waste their time. Just like you and everybody else on earth, they’re busy. We tend to start our new business presentations off with the most important information first; that way, we’ve had a chance to talk through that if the meeting gets cut short or if the main executive has to run to another meeting. We know it can be a fine line between making them feel like you’re rushing them and going too slowly. 
  5. Give it to them straight. Overselling sometimes feels unavoidable in a new business pitch. But talking a big game that you won’t be able to pull off (because of budget constraints, size of your team, or any other reason) isn’t worth it in the long run. Winning the business doesn’t mean as much if you don’t satisfy the client. So take our advice: while it’s important to talk about exciting, bold strategies, only include those you believe are actually doable. Same goes for the Q&A portion: be honest with the client if they ask you questions about what’s realistic. 

What are your tips for winning new business?