Monday, March 12, 2012

10 Elements of a Superior Proposal

Superior proposals demonstrate that your company has the best solution for the prospective client’s problem/program. They are simple, short, and direct sales documents. They are personalized and customized. They always show value for the prospect. Superior proposals have a number of common elements. Below are ten essentials to follow when preparing your proposals:

1. Open powerfully. Educate the prospect about his/her problem/issue. Build empathy by explaining that you understand the prospect’s mission. Be very specific. “The citizens in the Anytown area are upset with the city. Their basements flood every spring. The mayor and council are feeling pressure. When elected officials feel heat, you feel heat.”

2. Address their condition early. Use one or two paragraphs (or a table) to detail the potential client’s specific problems. Clearly state the critical success factors of the project. This information proves that your organization has a good understanding of your prospect’s problems and concerns.

3. Show the value. Clearly, simply, and directly explain what your solution does for the client. Be specific. For example: “Our approach will trim three weeks from the construction schedule” or “Our solution will qualify you for matching state funds. That means less stress from your budget.” Convince the prospect that you have the competence to deliver what is needed. Use bullet points.

4. Be clear. Superior proposals are written in easy-to-understand language. No corporate claptrap. None! No marketing gibberish. Never! Be direct and easy to understand.

5. Less is better. Decision makers are busy. Help them do their job. Long proposals almost guarantee the prospect will skim through it…and then set it aside. It takes much more time to prepare a short proposal, and it is much more effective.

6. Use the prospect’s name or “you” often. When you reference the prospect frequently, the focus is on their problem and their solution. Remember, they don’t care about you unless you can solve their problem fast, cheap, and hassle-free.

7. Use sub headlines. Headings make it easy for your prospect to find information. Headings also break up the page and make your proposal easier to read.

8. Use testimonials. Testimonials are powerful. Incorporate them into your proposals. You can insert testimony in a text box almost anywhere in the proposal. The more specific the testimony, the more powerful it is. Use real names and real language.

9. Summarize. Many proposal readers cut to the quick…they read the last page or two only. Condense your proposal into a few packed paragraphs. Superior proposals contain a bullet-point macro list of the proposed services and their benefits.

10. End with a call to action. Tell the prospect what to do next. “Let’s get started!” is a favorite.

For more tips on marketing and business development, join PSMJ this spring for our Business Development for A/E/C Firms seminar, coming to 6 locations across North America. Get the tools and confidence you need to succeed in bringing in more work for the firm – register today!

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