10 Ad Sales Proposal Secrets for Success

I have a number of business quotes I’ve found to be true that I live by and share in my ad sales training. One of my favorites is, “Always be looking for repeatable patterns of sales success.”

That advice most definitely applies to the art of building an ad sales proposal that works time and time again.

So I’ve put together my top 10 ad sales proposal-building secrets!


1-Use a template

Use templates! Templates don’t all have to be generic – you can customize them for some clients, but look at what you can reuse. What can you rinse and repeat? That’s very important on proposals. You should not be leaving the client meeting to create a proposal and come back to chase people down. Not when you can use a template that’s rockin’ and rollin’ and ready to go.


2-Focus on value and outcomes

Most media sales people write proposals focused entirely on what they can provide to an advertiser. That misses the mark on where the value of the sale truly is. Prospects don’t just pay for deliverables – they’re paying for outcomes and value.

What do I mean by “outcomes?” (I’m not asking you to promise outcomes.) But think about what picture of potential you can paint. For example, what number of leads or clicks are typical? What about banner ad impressions? How many people usually come to your events?

Those dynamics are important to include in the proposal because you don’t want clients to see you as someone just there to take their money. That’s not who you are! As sales people, we are helpers, consultants on the front lines to help our clients solve their problems.

So always address “value” and “outcomes” in our proposals. (But be careful to under-promise and then OVER-deliver.)


3-Give 3 options

If you give someone one choice, the answer is yes or no. It’s 50/50. But since choices typically drive decisions, three options are the way to go.

Consider this from Lucidchart.com: “By giving your prospective client multiple options within one proposal, they’re less likely to shop around to your competitor.”

I suggest giving prospects three options in sales proposals: basic, competitive, and dominant. Then they can choose which of the three best supports their goals within the marketplace.


4-Structure the options

I call this popcorn pricing. Start at the smallest package.

Think about the counter guy at the movies. You’re buying your popcorn and he says, “For only 25 cents more you can have the medium.“ And you’re thinking, popcorn sales guy, “You got me.”

So popcorn pricing allows you to go from small to medium, medium to large, and the incremental pricing options are not that much. You want to pop your prospect up to the top. Structure your ad sales proposals so it’s not a tremendous financial leap to go from option one to option two to option three.


5-Keep the proposals to 3 pages (or less!)

The proposal isn’t the decision-making tool. It’s supposed to be pretty high level with some details (facts, stats, pricing options.) It should not give every single deliverable. Salesdriver.com says: “Beyond the fourth page, comprehension drops significantly.”

So ask yourself is your proposal just a regurgitation of the sales call or is it an outline of services?


6-Always include an Executive Summary

The Executive Summary is the purpose of the proposal – what a CEO or CFO would read. They should be able to get the gist of the proposal from without having to read every detail (because they won’t).


7-Eliminate fluff

You’re not writing a PhD doctoral paper. Your proposal should be a lot more like bullet points.


8-Make it a contract

Make your proposal the agreement. If you have legalese you need them to agree to, put it in small print at the bottom or on the last page. Make a spot for them to sign it right then, so you don’t have to go back for approval later.

Here’s the thinking: If they like the proposal, then make it an option for them to just go with it. Make it a contract. There’s no reason your proposal shouldn’t stand on its own.


9-Proofread everything

And you may be saying, “Ryan, is that 101 or what?” And yeah, it is 101. Do it. ALWAYS have someone proofread your decks and proposals.


10-Don’t negotiate against yourself

A lot of sales reps hit the discount line too quickly. Avoid negotiating against yourself by NOT going to the discount line too heavily or too quickly.

If you go to the discount knife, and you chop out a huge amount, then you have no room for negotiation at all. So offer discounts, but not too quickly.

On the same front, avoid this kind of language in the contract conclusion: “If this doesn’t fit your budget then let me know and we’ll recalculate.” Never say something like that. Do be flexible and leave yourself some room to negotiate, but if you hit the discount too hard, it leaves you no room to negotiate later. It’s worth saying one more time: Do not negotiate against yourself.


There you have it, my 10 proposal secrets for success. Use them to drum up some of your own repeatable patterns of ad sales success!



About Ryan: Ryan Dohrn is an award-winning ad sales training coach, a nationally recognized internet sales consultant and in international motivational speaker. He is the author of the best-selling ad sales book, Selling Backwards.  He is the President and founder of Brain Swell Media and 360 Ad Sales Training, a boutique ad sales training and sales coaching firm with a detailed focus on ad sales training, internet consulting and media revenue generation. Ryan is also the Publisher of Sales Training World.


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