What goes into a winning proposal? Or, put differently, what do buyers really want?
In today’s ever competitive selling landscape, marketing and sales need to write more (and better!) proposals than ever before. As industries become more complex, customers have become both more confused and more demanding. As a result, they are likely to listen to a presentation, nod their heads, and utter those familiar words, “Sounds good! Why don’t you put that in writing for me?…
While every proposal is different, there are specific techniques you can incorporate to ensure that your materials are on point, selling effectively to each unique buyer.
Your proposals must be more than a compilation of data, tables and boilerplate text. They need to focus on the prioritized business issues the client cares about, the key strengths you bring to the business relationship, and the value-added benefits of selecting your company.
Here are 4 categories of content that winning proposals must contain:
Prove you understand the client’s business problem or need. People view major buying decisions with anxiety. Reduce anxiety and minimize any perception of risk by demonstrating that you understand their problems, issues, needs, opportunities, objectives, or values. Whatever is driving the client’s interest, show that you understand it and have based your solution on it.
A recommendation for a specific approach, program, system design, or application that will solve the problem and produce positive results. Surprisingly, most proposals contain no recommendation at all, and instead contain descriptions of products or services. A recommendation explicitly links the features of a product or service to the client’s needs and show how the client will obtain positive results.
A compelling reason for the client to choose your recommendation over any others. This is your value proposition. Remember that you may write a proposal that is completely compliant with the customer’s requirements, that recommends the right solution, that even offers the lowest price, and still lose. Why? Because a competitor made a stronger case that their approach offered something that happened to matter more to the customer. NOTE: Most proposals don’t contain any value proposition at all. They contain pricing but no estimation of the rate of return the client will get from choosing you. Failing to address the client’s needs and failing to present a compelling value proposition are the most serious mistakes you can make in writing a proposal.
Evidence of your ability to deliver on time and on budget. You want to show the substantiating evidence that answers the question: “Can they really do this?” Good evidence includes case studies, references, testimonials, and resumes of key personnel. Avoid throwing in everything -stay focused on the areas the customer cares about.
Every scrap of data and carefully chosen phrase must contain proof you understand their needs, unique recommendations, your unique value proposition, and evidence you can deliver on time and within budget. You’re now equipped with the key ingredients of a winning proposal.