1. Know which choir you are preaching to.
Every potential client has unique hot buttons and pain points that you should have a firm grasp of before attempting to pitch or sell. Information is the key to success in sales - the more you have, the better. We can’t cite specific conversion rates, but can say with relative confidence that flying in blindly without a clue of what the client wants and needs simply doesn’t work. You must be armed with information that is meaningful and relevant before you even think about sitting down to draft a proposal. If you can’t answer some of the questions below, your time might be better spent getting to know the client a bit more before chasing work with them:
What are the nuts and bolts of the business?
How does it operate?
Who are the key decision makers?
What challenges are they facing?
What is the company’s history?
Where do they want to go?
What are their current weaknesses? How can we mitigate them?
What are the expectations on the project? Are they realistic?
2. “It’s not you, it’s me.” False.
We all know someone who can (and will, if left to their own devices) talk about themselves until they are blue in the face. In business, clients are far less interested in you than what you can do for their company. One of our favorite exercises when we review a proposal is to get a count of how many times the client’s name appears versus the proposer’s name. If the proposer’s name appears more frequently than the client’s name, there is a problem. Bottom line: demonstrate a clear understanding of the client’s issues while presenting actual solutions.
3. Keep asking yourself “so what?”
Do you know the difference between features and benefits? If you are writing proposals, you should. Clients are not hiring you to give you an opportunity to practice your craft. They hire you because they want a specific outcome for themselves. Features like founded in 1980 are great, but direct benefit statements like nearly 40 years of accumulated lessons-learned eliminating potential mistakes and bringing time and money saving ideas to your project are infinitely better. If you state a feature in your proposal, ask yourself how that translates in to benefits for the client and be direct in explaining them. Leave nothing open to interpretation.
4. Be specific about what and when.
Don’t overcomplicate the solution(s) you present. Keep it simple. Provide a clear outline of deliverables along with dates the client can expect them by. Bonus points if you organize this information by challenge and suggested solution(s).
5. Show up well and with enthusiasm.
Like it or not we do judge books by their covers, so the first minute a client spends reviewing your proposal is critical. How you physically present yourself tells the client how excited you are about the opportunity and what your attitude is toward the project. Make it count. Be creative with the cover and binding. Use materials and packaging that matter. Give the document a unique title that will speak to the client and their goals. Be smart about page layout, how you organize information, fonts, and callouts. You need to make an instant and significant impact in order to keep them engaged and wanting to learn more about you and your solutions.
Need help crafting a specific message for an upcoming opportunity or honing your general proposal strategy? Let’s chat! Front & Center has nearly 15 years of experience in proposal writing and can efficiently help turn your big pie in the sky idea into a winning proposal.
(Disclaimer: We are fiercely competitive and don’t like to lose, so we are great to have in your corner.)