Are You Creating Proposals That Sell?
If you are trying to sell something, whether it be a product, service, solution or idea, you will probably find yourself creating a proposal about it that you submit to a target individual, group or company. Proposals are a sales and marketing tool that is often written by those of us who are salespeople, consultants or business owners or managers trying to convince prospective customers/clients to buy from us or use our services.
When creating proposals, you are doing more than presenting, offering, or recommending something, you are trying to induce, encourage and inspire the recipient(s) to say yes to what you are proposing. That means you need to be persuasive, but also savvy and clever.
The Description of the Current Situation
There are several important sections to include when creating proposals. After an introductory section, the first important section is the description or analysis of the current situation or problem you are addressing for the proposal recipient. This is where you start to make your case by establishing the importance of addressing that situation/problem and proving that a critical need exists for your product, service, solution or idea. You need to make sure you show an understanding of the customer/client’s goals and needs and provide a thorough explanation of the following:
- How harmful or impactful the situation or problem is (e.g. to finances, business growth or customer retention)
- How long the situation/problem has existed
- How the situation/problem has evolved or escalated over time
- What the causes are of the situation/problem
- What the results or consequences have been due to the situation/problem
- What the future effects are of not addressing the situation/problem (e.g., diminished bottom line, slowing business growth, customer loss)
To provide any of the information above, you will likely need to do some research and cite evidence, such as previous project results, reports or quantifiable data.
What You Are Proposing
When creating proposals, the next important section would provide a description of the product, service, solution or idea you are proposing. While it seems simple enough to illustrate what you are proposing (providing clear explanation without making it a marketing data dump), there are other tactics you should take in your description of what you are proposing:
- Sketch a timeline for delivering, implementing or completing what you are proposing. Knowing how long it will take before the product, service, solution or idea is implemented and in service or having impact on the company can make a difference with whether the proposal recipient proceeds. Your proposal timeline may need to fit the company’s timeline for other projects and activities, meet a specific deadline or enable use of what you are proposing to achieve a goal.
- Explain who will implement the product, service, solution or idea and their qualifications. The proposal recipient will want to see that a qualified, highly trained and experienced person or team will be delivering or implementing what is being proposed. If you are a consultant offering your services, that would be you. If you are a business offering products, services or a solution, it would be the team assigned to work with the customer’s team to deliver what is proposed and get them up and running with it.
The trick here is to pull out all the stops — don’t just explain who the implementer(s) is/are; explain why they are the best to do the job. Also, play up factors such as having a local presence, providing onsite training or assigning an executive to oversee the implementation. Consultants who aren’t comfortable with talking about themselves need to think about selling themselves as well as what they are proposing to do. Both consultants and companies need to establish credibility in order to build trust they are the best choice for addressing that problem or situation.
- Provide an explanation of the costs but fully illustrate the benefits. The proposal recipient will want to know how much your product, service, solution or idea is going to cost them, so be thorough and truthful and detail all expenses. At the same time you explain the costs, point out ALL the benefits of implementing what you are proposing. Make it personal and show how these benefits will affect them and their company. If there’s a potential return on the investment, make that clear as well. The more you show how the benefits outweigh the costs, the greater the chances your proposal will be accepted.
- Paint a “Before” and “After” Picture. Showing a stark distinction between what the situation is like now and what it will be after the product, service, solution or idea is implemented will create a compelling comparison — and argument — for what you are proposing.
Remember to Focus on Your Prospect
Before even starting your proposal, the first thing you should think about is the prospective reader or recipient of it. It will be critical for your proposal to focus on who they are and to be tailored based on their goals, needs, culture, market, financial status, etc. Those who write proposals on a regular basis can find them tiring and fall into the trap of copying one proposal to the next. But savvy prospects can easily detect a “cookie-cutter” proposal. By showing them you care enough to create an individual, custom-made proposal suited to their situation or problem, you take the first step toward winning their business.