If you are ever tasked with responding to a request for a proposal or with submitting a proposal for your services, this article is going to help you pay attention to things that make a winning proposal.
The challenge is this: We are too close to our own expertise. We can see the problem and solution long before the client can. You have to meet the client where they are. You have to understand the client’s perspective before you can create a solution. And sometimes, many times, the solution that they need to hear in the proposal isn’t the solution that you know they need. Be patient, and take them down that path. That’s your job.
Here are five key things that I see over and over that businesses miss when it comes to preparing a winning proposal. Pay attention to these five things, and you’ll be far ahead of the game!
1. Knowledge of the Pain or Challenge that Your Prospect Is Facing
Here’s what happens: We are the experts, and we can see what our clients can’t. We have oodles of experience that tells us what is really going on. The problem is, we have to meet the client where they are. We have to start with what they believe their immediate need, pain, or challenge is.
Far too often, we jump in and start shoving our solution in their face, based on the future of what we can see. The client can’t relate to this. You’re moving too fast for the client. Meet them where they are. Address the challenge that they believe they are facing. It’s your job to start there, and then to guide them to discover what other things may be going on.
2. A Solution-Focused Approach
Hear this loud and clear: the client doesn’t care about your product or service. They care about the solution to the problem, challenge, or pain that they are experiencing in this moment. Listen to me again: your prospect does NOT care about YOU. They need a solution. That’s what they care about. Be very solution-focused in your proposal, and it will grab their attention.
3. A Promise
Just as you should have a brand promise for your overall business, each proposal should have a promise. Your promise is what you will deliver with this particular solution. Although super simple, it’s one of the hardest things to do. Why so hard? Because you need to narrow down into one succinct statement what the promise of your proposal is. Most businesses don’t do this because it’s hard and it takes time, energy, and serious strategy. But this promise will guide everything you do within that proposal. And you will stand out from the competition, no doubt about it.
Another thing that is very hard for businesses to do is to keep it simple. We like to posture and show our expertise, and talk ad nauseam about all the great things we’ve done, how involved our process is, and how we know more than our competitors. But the person reading this proposal isn’t the expert. You need to keep it simple so that your audience can understand your process. You need to keep it simple so your reader can see the path to freedom. If you confuse your reader, they won’t buy. There’s plenty of time to show off your experience and knowledge, but do not pepper the entire proposal with this information. Keep the content simple, hold your reader’s hand through the process of addressing their challenge, and they will see that they can trust you.
5. A “What’s in It for Them” Focus
This. Is. Not. About. You!!! The quicker you get that, the more success you’ll have. The “how” and the “why us” content is completely secondary to the discussion around the solution. How the solution will benefit the client; how the solution will make their lives easier; how the solution will solve their problem. What generally happens is a business starts their proposal out of the gate talking about itself. The client doesn’t care until the client is ready to care. Meaning, the client will care about that once they see that you can solve their problem. But you’ve got to get to first base before you can move on to second.