What makes for a magical proposal?
(We’re talking about sales, but for a moment, imagine you’re getting married.)
Let’s say your partner takes you to a gorgeous beach and offers you a ring set with your favorite stone. In thoughtful words, they share all the reasons you’re a great match, and everything they’re excited to create in your new life together.
Now, imagine you were in the middle of getting ready for work. They tap you on the shoulder, show you a basic band, pop the question, and that is it.
All other factors aside, the first proposal would be much more exciting to say yes to.
Of course, sales is (very) different from getting married. You aren’t proposing a price to the love of your life, and pricing proposals definitely shouldn’t be romantic!
But these two kinds of proposals have more in common than you might think. Sales is all about building relationships. It’s about showing potential customers that you understand—and can meet—their needs.
With pricing proposals, you aren’t just sharing a cost. You’re proposing a way to improve your customer’s life, and showing them how you’ll create it. Like a marriage proposal, you’re taking your relationship to the next level, and asking for a commitment in return.
There’s no reason you can’t put this level of care into all your pricing proposals. With some careful listening, thoughtful strategy, and a little technology magic, you can create proposals that sweep prospects off their feet.
💸 Use our pricing proposal template: If you want to skip our proposal advice and jump right into making one, get our free pricing proposal template here.
What is a pricing proposal?
A pricing proposal is one of the last steps in your sales process. Once you know your prospect is interested in working with you, you propose a price for your product or service, along with the terms of the deal and what’s included.
If the prospect accepts your cost proposal, they’ll become a paying customer. So getting this right is pretty important.
Generally, pricing proposals are used for higher-priced deals and projects, especially if they mean the beginning of an ongoing relationship. SaaS providers, contractors, consultants, and agencies all commonly use pricing proposals.
That’s why, just like a heartfelt proposal, a good pricing proposal is personalized.
The better you know your prospect, the more you can tailor your proposal to their needs. That means fine-tuning the actual offer, but also including extra content that will show them why it’s a good fit.
Pricing proposals vs. quotes
How is a pricing quote different from a pricing proposal? The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they’re pretty different in scope.
A good pricing proposal contains much more context and supporting detail than a quote does.
A quote might contain some extra cost information, like taxes or direct costs vs. indirect costs—but that’s it.
Every proposal contains your pricing quote and related details, from the deliverables to the timeline, but to woo your prospect and seal the deal, it’s best to approach it more holistically. Personalization, supporting content, and interactive or dynamic features will set your proposals apart.
Think of your pricing proposal as an informative tool that emphasizes the value of your product. It will guide your buyer, and help you along in your sales journey.
What makes your offer so amazing? Why should they choose you over their other options? To continue our marriage metaphor, why should they say ‘I do?’
Requests for Proposals (RFPs)
Sometimes, pricing proposals are submitted in response to a Request for Proposal (RFP).
RFPs are often shared by enterprises and large organizations, such as government bodies, who want many different pricing options to choose from. In this context, a pricing quote or proposal is sometimes called a ‘bid.’
While the intent of these proposals is exactly the same as any other, you’ll probably have to follow strict formatting guidelines when responding to an RFP. There are also likely to be many other responses—which translates to stiff competition!
How do you write a pricing proposal?
The actual process of creating a proposal is fairly simple. In Dock, creating a beautiful, professional proposal just means adding the right content and information to our pricing proposal template.
But the goal is for your proposal to be convincing—to get you an enthusiastic YES! You need to propose a solution that’s so effective, it would be foolish for your client to say no.
That starts with knowledge. Let’s run through the groundwork you’ll need to create a compelling proposal, then cover the critical information you’ll need to include.
Know your client
Remember, you aren’t just sharing a price. You’re proposing a solution to your client’s problem and explaining how you’ll improve their life. That means deeply understanding their needs, their values, and the unique challenges and pain points they’re dealing with.
It’s also important to be clear, but clarity to your client might not be what you’d expect. Keep language clear and simple. Use terminology they used in your sales calls rather than overwhelming them with jargon.
Know your offer
Armed with this personal knowledge, you can finalize the solution you’re offering, and what it will cost.
Of course, many elements of your offer will already be set. But if anything’s up for debate, you’ll need to get clear on your approach internally and discuss it with any relevant stakeholders on your team.
For example, if your potential client is price-sensitive, you might offer an hourly pricing structure or a small discount. If they want a best-in-class solution, you might upsell to a premium plan, or highlight your reputation by linking to work you’ve done for well-known companies.
For complex deals—like six-figure SaaS proposals, it’s best to create a scalable quoting process with your Sales or Revenue Operations team.
Use a pricing proposal tool
To deliver a proposal your client’s excited to say yes to, most sales reps leave behind static PDFs, Word documents, and spreadsheets. These slow down your process, devalue your brand, and even hurt your results.
Instead, use a pricing proposal tool that makes life easier for your customer, not harder.
These are responsive, collaborative digital workspaces that save you time while bringing your customers clarity and a premium experience. There are many options depending on your needs. You might try:
- Digital sales rooms like Dock are best for small or mid-market companies
- Configure Price Quote (CPQ) tools like Dealhub are best for enterprise sales
- RFP response tools like RFPIO are great if you manage a lot of RFPs
The right tool makes it fast, easy, and efficient to create beautiful, professional pricing proposals with all the information your client needs. It’s popping the question on a tropical beach—instead of in your laundry room.
What should you include in a pricing proposal?
You’re armed with knowledge, and you’re using a tool that will make your proposal shine. Now, here’s the specific information every pricing proposal needs to contain.
To illustrate what makes a great pricing proposal, let’s walk through Dock’s pricing proposal template.
Here's a quick preview of our template:
1. Contact information: Put a human face on your proposal! Lead with your contact information to make sure prospects know exactly who they’re talking to.
2. Project overview: Provide a brief overview of what you do (and what your client does, if applicable).
3. Pricing options: Provide multiple options, if possible, to give customers a more personalized experience. Include an overview of what’s included in each option. Dock allows you to flag one option as ‘recommended.’
4. Itemized prices: Include pricing for your recommended plan and any other costs involved in the proposal. Share the frequency of billing and any recurring costs.
5. Subtotal, Taxes & Discounts, and Total Cost: Sum it all up, and don’t let your clients get surprised with hidden fees!
6. Terms and conditions: Payment terms, payment methods accepted, valid-until date
Along with pricing details, add extra material that makes it undeniably clear how much value you’re offering. That context and detail are what elevate your proposal to a two-carat kind of experience!
Consider adding different types of sales content, like video, graphs, or even audio below the line items above.
“People respond better to visual cues than paragraphs of text,” says Will Yang of fundraising platform Instrumentl. “Create clear graphs or charts that make complex data easier to digest at a glance.”
Consider adding content like:
- Demo videos
- Case studies
- Differentiators from your competition
- Social proof and testimonials
- Results you’ve achieved for similar clients
- Features that will be especially useful to the prospect
In Dock, this is effortless, because your pricing proposal is an integrated part of your workspace. For example, you could put your proposal beside case studies, testimonials, or other bottom-of-funnel sales assets.
Integrating this content is also important because buying often happens in teams, especially in a B2B context. You want to make sure that anyone your contact shares the proposal with sees the same proof of your value, so they can make an educated decision.
A strong proposal is personalized and detailed, providing both crucial information and supporting context.
But what if you aren’t exactly sure how to price your offer? There are many different pricing strategies you can try out, best-suited to different business models, price points, and products.
Here are a few to consider.
1. Cost-based pricing
Also known as markup pricing, this strategy is most often used for physical goods. The seller calculates how much it costs to produce the item, such as the cost of raw materials and labor, then marks it up, often by 100%.
Example: If you’re proposing to provide a set amount of wholesale goods on a recurring basis, you’d probably start with their cost.
2. Demand-based pricing
In this pricing model, the price of a product or service fluctuates in periods of high and low demand. If you’ve ever been shocked at Uber’s super-high ‘surge pricing,’ you’ve seen demand-based pricing in action.
Example: If your agency is near or at capacity, you might take on new work only at a premium price.
3. Competition-based pricing
In highly competitive niches, you’ll want to pay close attention to what your competitors are charging and set your rates relative to theirs. That could mean undercutting their rates, positioning yourself as a premium option, or holding close to industry standards.
“Unless you’re offering an uber-bespoke or never-seen-before service, you should be able to find similar services online with pricing you can compare to,” says content agency owner Rebecca Hey. “Don’t be afraid to request quotes if pricing isn’t immediately available online.”
Example: If $20 monthly per user is the standard for your kind of SaaS tool, you could charge $16.50 to gain a competitive edge.
4. Value-based pricing
In this model, what your product costs to produce doesn’t matter—the focus is on how much it adds to your customer’s life. It’s a good fit for products that cost very little to produce, yet offer substantial value.
Example: A bundle of administrative templates for small business owners was only produced once, but can be sold over and over again.
5. Hourly pricing
If your offer is highly dependent on the time you spend working, hourly pricing might be a good option. It’s often used in employer-employee relationships, but it can also be a good way to price products or services if your client is very budget conscious.
Example: A freelance accountant or web designer might offer their clients packages of varying amounts of hours each month.
6. Project-based pricing
If your proposal concerns one specific project—and you want to know exactly what you’ll earn—this could be an excellent strategy. You’ll charge one flat fee for the project, no matter how long it takes. This can be a good choice if you work quickly and efficiently but still provide serious value.
Example: A management consultant might charge one project rate to analyze a company’s management structure and suggest how it could be improved.
Pricing proposal best practices
You don’t need to wonder what makes a great pricing proposal. Here are the tried-and-true best practices we rely on.
Be upfront with pricing in the sales process
It’s best to be upfront about pricing well before you send your proposal.
“I provide a range in the beginning, using language like ‘typically customers of your size spend around $X-$Y/year for one of our packages,” suggests Andy Sietsema, Lead Account Executive at Dock.
By sharing these ballpark estimates early in the process, you avoid sticker shock when the prospect does see your proposal. You’re also weeding out clients who aren’t the right fit, so you don’t spend valuable time and energy nurturing bad leads.
Get a soft yes first
You wouldn’t propose to someone if they didn’t want to get married.
The same is true for pricing proposals. They’re best saved for clients who understand your product’s value, have indicated they want to use it, and are ready to talk specifics.
Waiting until this stage also gives you a better sense of their needs and situation, which will inform your quote. For example:
- Which products will they need?
- How many users or how much product will they need?
- What length of contract are they looking for?
- Which teams will be using your product?
Show off your professionalism
Your pricing proposal is your chance to make a good impression, delight your customer, and give them a taste of what it’s like to work with you.
A slick, professional-looking proposal shows that you put care and attention into every part of the client relationship.
Using a dedicated proposal tool—rather than relying on Google Docs or emails—will give you the flawless design needed to wow your prospect.
Ditch static PDFs for dynamic, interactive documents
We said it before, and we’ll say it again. Moving away from static PDFs is the fastest way to upgrade your proposal game.
Imagine trying to edit a piece of writing by sending a saved PDF back and forth. Not only is it cumbersome and time-consuming, but now there are a bunch of outdated document versions out in the wild. Why risk your client sending an inaccurate version of the proposal to their team?
To really wow your customers, choose an interactive tool that lets them experiment with modifying elements of the proposal themselves. For example, with Dock, you can set pricing options to be adjustable by certain parameters, like the number of users.
Not only do these dedicated tools create an impressive, premium experience, but they reduce confusion, ambiguity, and back-and-forth.
💡 Tip for Dock users: Move your pricing proposal higher up in your workspace once you advance to the quoting stage to make it the first thing your customer sees.
Make it scalable with templates
Customizable proposal templates don’t just look good—they’re much more efficient.
If sales reps need to ping a designer, but doing so means waiting for days for a finished proposal before even sending it to the client, the resulting downtime can slow down your entire pipeline.
Instead, Dock empowers reps to complete the whole process on their own. You’ll be able to create one or multiple pricing proposal templates, then allow reps to quickly copy and personalize them as part of their sales workflow.
Personalize, personalize, personalize
Are you seeing a pattern here? A proposal that’s personalized to each unique prospect is much more likely to get the response you want.
But personalizing a proposal to every buyer is hard to scale.
To get around this problem, Dock lets you start from a proposal template, which you can then lightly personalize with information like each company’s name, contacts, and a summary of their needs.
This step will take your rep just a few minutes, but goes a long way towards creating a thoughtful, personalized experience for the prospect.
For example, you could include pricing cards for various plans, rather than a static table. You could highlight one as your personalized recommendation, and even attach a special discount for the client.
Offering options like this also lets you take advantage of the psychology of choice, where having multiple options makes people more likely to feel they’ve found the right one for them.
Your proposal is a sales tool
Remember, your pricing proposal isn’t just about numbers. It’s telling a story about why the prospect should accept your quote.
In Dock, it’s easy to show the value of your product alongside its price. Add all the context and collateral content, like case studies, ROI analysis, and demos, right into the proposal, where not just your prospects, but anyone making decisions with them, has access to it.
Make the next steps clear
You want your proposal to get a resounding YES, so make it as easy as possible for your prospect to move ahead with the deal.
Dock’s Order Forms use a DropboxSign integration to let clients sign your contract directly within the proposal, eliminating separate contracts and the distracting legal language they’re often loaded with.
You’ll also get analytics and insights into how your customer is interacting with the proposal before they sign. That eliminates the ‘dead zone’ that can happen between sharing the proposal and acceptance and can give you a sense of whether you need to follow up with the prospect.
Most importantly, make sure your prospect knows exactly how to move forward. If they need to ask you for clarification, you’re delaying a critical moment, and decreasing your chance of success.
Ask for feedback
No one likes hearing ‘no,’ but if your proposal isn’t accepted, it doesn’t need to be the worst-case scenario or even the end of the road.
Always ask your prospect why the offer didn’t work for them. If it’s something you can change, great—you may have a shot at reopening the discussion. If not, you’ve gained some valuable information about customer preferences to inform your sales process.
Get Dock’s free pricing proposal template
Pricing proposals are that moment you’ve been waiting for—the big question that will take your client from prospect to customer.
There’s no reason to slow down your customer relationships with clunky, one-off business proposals.
Dock is a collaborative workspace that handles proposals for what they are—one part of the integrated pre-sales, sales, marketing, and customer success process.
Dock is free for up to five customer workspaces. Try out our pricing proposal template today—or join and create your own. It’s the perfect way to build strong, supportive customer relationships that last.