Are you winning 75% of your proposals? If
not, why not? It might be because you are
not applying the fundamental rules of how to
craft powerful proposals that get you
business the majority of the time.
What's the secret?
Proposals win when they create confidence
and urgency--confidence in you and your
organization to deliver the promised goods
and enough personal urgency from the client
to make (sometimes painful) organizational
and personal change. To get the client to
act on your proposal requires both elements.
Without them, you'll hear the (often
contrived) excuses that stop selling
momentum dead in its tracks: "The timing
isn't right just now." "Let's look at it
again in six months." "We need to study this
further." Or "your price is too high." Do
any of these masked attempts to tell you to
go away sound familiar?
Good proposals develop
confidence and urgency by:
understanding of the client's situation.
responses to meet your client's needs.
Demonstrating your understanding of the
Best Practice: First
them, then you.
This is the place to
start every proposal, showing a clear
(hopefully insightful) grasp of what is
going on in the client's world. Without
establishing upfront that you have listened
and learned, you will not have earned the
right to react and recommend. A simple but
powerful approach is:
Start with Issues:
The first words the client reads should
reflect your understanding of his
business issues. Clearly state either
the problems that must be addressed or
the opportunities that should be
leveraged to improve the client's
Importance: Next show that you
understand why these issues are
priorities that are vital for the client
to take action on.
End with Impact:
Depending on the situation, you have two
choices. The first is to point out what
the client can gain by appropriately
addressing his issues. The second
approach is to point out what the client
will lose if he/she doesn't handle the
situation appropriately. Of the two, the
second is much more powerful
psychologically. Remember, people will
work for gain, but they will fight to
Articulating your responses to meet your
Best Practice: Buyers buy
Yes, you need to lay out
a methodology, a step-by-step plan to
accomplish engagement tasks, a timeline, and
so forth. Those are the easy parts. Even
though it is a fundamental law of
persuasion, many proposals don't make it
clear how the proposed actions benefit the
client (the planned positive result directly
related to the business issues discussed
earlier). Always link what you are
recommending to what's important. This is
not the place to assume that the client will
connect the dots, as often they will not.
Best Practice: Perception
trumps reality every time.
When addressing the
complex and sometimes gooey issues that are
so often a part of professional services,
your clients often lack the experience and
the sophistication required to make
"logical" decisions based on facts and
figures. This can be a scary, risky
situation from a client's perspective.
Hence, your clients will look for anything
that will help them relate and rationalize
their business decision-making process. That
is why the brand is such a powerful asset
when selling professional services--how many
of you have had the best solution, faster
delivery potential, and a better price, but
were still beaten by IBM Global Services or
another 600-pound gorilla in your space? Of
course this is (or should be) a strategic
issue of your PSO, but there are other
things you can do to tactically address risk
mitigation in developing your proposals.
industry/domain expertise relevant to
the client. Yes, you want to keep the
proposal succinct, but when facing
gorillas, don't monkey around!
Demonstrate that in your space, you are
the expert. A little name-dropping, a
mini-case example, and some testimonials
proclaiming your worth are important
components in easing clients' anxieties.
Always provide the
credentials of the actual people who
will be working on the project. Point
out that they are very highly qualified
and have done this type of work many
times in many organizations just like
the client's. Emphasize that these are
the actual people who will be involved,
as some clients may have been burned in
the past when an organization's partner
sold the deal, but then green beans
arrived on the yellow school bus to do
Always provide a
guarantee and make a big deal out of it.
If you are an expert, if you know the
client's business and what he is trying
to do, why wouldn't you guarantee your
work? Depending on the situation, you
should guarantee specific measurable
results, client satisfaction, or, at
least, the quality of your work compared
to best-known methods. A guarantee with
some teeth suggests your competence and
demonstrates your confidence--both will
lessen the client's perception of risk
in choosing you and improve your chance
of winning the work.
Here are a few other
proven ideas to add power to your proposals:
A winning proposal acts as a
confirmation of earlier conceptual
agreements between you and the client.
The probable methods, possible time
frames, and potential investment
requirements should have been talked
about prior to creating the proposal.
Introducing new elements at this late
stage can easily bog down decision
companies, buy. Yes, you talk about
how you can address the client's
business issues, but don't forget about
the client's personal needs. How can you
mitigate the personal risk (someone's
credibility or even their job may be at
stake) or minimize the hassle of buying
your recommendations? Well-crafted
proposals address (sometimes very
subtly) this important component.
Use the client's
language. If the client calls an
assessment an audit, fine, use that
term. If EBIT is senior management's
main metric of profitability, then use
it when discussing their financial
issues. Simple things like this confirm
that you listen and show that you care.
choices. You want the client to
decide which of your proposed options to
go with, not whether to go with you or
someone else, so always provide choices.
In most cases, three options are best,
with the second option offering more
value than the first, and the third
option offering more value than the
second. Of course, client investment
increases as the option moves up the
value curve. Following this approach
will not only help you win more deals,
but larger, more profitable ones as
well, as about 70% of the time the
client will choose the second option.
recommendations above will pay off by
putting more power in your proposals and
increasing your win rate and profitability.
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