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Business Proposal

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How to write business proposals that persuade clients and win contracts

Your Proposal Must Persuade

Business proposals are written for one reason - to win business. You win business when your proposals persuade clients that your solutions are better than your competitors. So, as you start to write your proposal, bear in mind that your main objective is to persuade the reader to buy your service.

Persuasion takes four steps

Your proposal will persuade the reader if you do four things:

1. Understand the client's need

You get the reader's attention by stating a specific need or problem they have and explain how you can solve this. Every client-centred proposals show that you understand their need. Show clients that you recognize their need. State it clearly.

2. Show the benefits

Use the RFP to show your understanding of the benefits they can expect from what you are proposing. Discuss the solution at a later stage. For now, focus on explaining how client can improve their productivity, profitability and success with the solution you're offering. To support your argument, explain the consequences of inaction or selecting inferior products. You'll establish credibility not so much by demonstrating your expertise, but by showing your understanding of their business needs.

3. Recommend your solution

Make a firm, clear recommendation accompanied by action steps. Avoid any vague statement. Make sure that the reader clearly understands what you are proposing. Ask yourself - can they summarize in one sentence what you are proposing.

Recommend a specific approach or application: "We recommend that the use your company to design, write and produce its corporate marketing brochure." And present it so well that the client believes that your solution will meet their need.

4. Give details

Give the reader technical and other details needed to show your qualifications and competence to deliver the solution on time, on budget and to specification. These materials must demonstrate your credibility and ability to provide such a solution.

They will also show that you understand the costs involved, particularly the Return On Investment to the client. Discuss related issues, costs, management issues, schedules, risks, future implications. Always return to your key selling point your recommendation presented in terms of a quantifiable benefit. Give convincing reasons that the client should choose you over all others.

Focus on the Client. And Re-Focus.

Seven steps toward a client-centred proposal

Before you start writing, answer the following seven questions. They'll force you to develop a client-centred proposal.

1. What is the client's main problem?

State for yourself the client's need or problem - in one sentence. Use the RFP, but keep an open mind. The client may not have included every reason for soliciting proposals.

2. What makes this need worth addressing, or this problem worth solving?

Look beyond the obvious, and ask yourself: Why must the client meet this need now?

3. What goals must be served by whatever action is taken?

Before you decide what to propose, find out what the client wants to accomplish. The more specific you are about the client's goals and how they impact his or her business, the more convincing your proposal will be.

* Business goals

Capturing market share; increasing profitability; reducing overhead; promoting product

* Technical goals

Automating labour-intensive processes; enhancing quality with automated machining

* Social goals

Enhancing employee morale; reducing turnover; increasing brand recognition; changing consumer attitudes

* Personal goals

Include issues of career and prestige that the client is dealing with in trying to solve the problem

4. Which goals have the highest priority?

Rank what is most important to the client, and write your proposal in that order.

5. What products or services can you offer to achieve these goals?

Brainstorm. Be creative. Consider anything. The more creative you are in combining what you know with what you have to offer, the more likely you are to produce a client-centred solution that stands out among the competition.

6. What results are likely to follow each of your recommendations?

Make an educated guess. Will they lead to the client's most important goal? Will they provide competitive leverage? What will they cost? How long will they take?

7. What should you recommend?

Choose the course of action from the client's point of view. Avoid the solution that simply offers the largest profit margin. Write your proposals for the long term.

Proposals Must Sell a Solution

Thirteen questions to establish that your solution is NOT a product

Focussing on the client's need instead of your abilities and experience demonstrates that you are trying to sell a solution, not a product. Keeping the client at the centre is the essence of a consultative proposal. As you start putting together a proposal, especially an unsolicited one, consider the following.

1. What do you need to establish about your company before the client will trust you?

2. What are your key recommendations? What is the strategy?

3. What are the opportunities for improving the client's productivity and profitability presenting in this proposal?

4. To what line of reasoning is this proposal an apparent conclusion?

5. Will the client understand all the proposal



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