To put the importance of proposals in proper perspective, they are far more than a vehicle for conveying your message. They are your message. Sadly, proposals that could be winners are often rejected. They may be filled with information, but the message gets lost, and they fail to capture the recipient’s imagination.
To make sure your proposals get the attention they deserve, it helps to view them in three phases, before, during, and after the presentation. Each one plays a part in moving your proposal closer to winning the business.
1. Preparing Your Proposal
Proposals should be easy to follow. But watch out. What’s clear to you, can be a mystery to others. Stay away from jargon, too. The ability to explain something simply earns you points.
How you structure your proposal makes a difference. Whether someone is reading or listening to it, organize it so the main points stand out. Of all proposal outlines, Problem-Solution works well because it keeps the focus where it belongs: on the customer.
The problem expresses your understanding of what the customer wants to correct, implement, or improve. It’s your grasp of the situation, so it’s critical to get it right because your credibility is at stake. If you fail to read the problem correctly, you’re done! So, take it seriously and present a clear, thoughtful, and complete understanding of what the customer wants to accomplish. The way you handle the problem lets the customer know if you want to solve it or just sell them something.
If you’ve described the problem accurately, the customer will pay close attention to your solution. You want it to be viewed as thoughtful, efficient, and cost-effective. A good way to do this is by proposing options, preferably three. This way you avoid putting all your eggs in one basket, which makes it easy to get your proposal turned down. With options, you can argue the benefits and limitations of each one in terms of good, better and best or low, medium and high cost, for example.
Offering options has another plus. It opens the door for involving the customer in a helpful give-and-take, rather than putting you in the position of defending just one solution. That’s not all. Options can also help uncover issues the customer may not have considered.
2. Presenting Your Proposal