Here are just a few suggestions:
1. Talk about where they are today. The proposal needs to be about them, not us. It’s about the customer and the customer’s business, not about us and our company and how great we are. This points back to the model that I teach, selling the current state, Point A, and the desired future state, Point C, before we get to selling the solution, Point B. There’s no other place that this is more important than in a written sales proposal. We should have some segments in our proposal to talk about where the customer is now. Explain that we’ve interviewed certain people who taught us some things about what’s going on in the organization today. Give them a really good overview about what we understand about their current state. This does several things; we gain some credibility, of course, because it shows that we’ve done our homework and we know what we’re talking about.It also demonstrates that we’re really interested in them, it helps us define that that we’re addressing the right concerns. When this proposal travels beyond the several people that you know and to the other people in the approval process, they’ll see that we’ve taken the time to find out where they really are.
2.Talk about where they want to be. The second segment needs to be about their desired future state, or Point C. We’re talking about their goals, their objectives, the things they’ve said that they’re trying to get done in the next two, three, five years. If we can articulate where they are now, their current state, and where they want to go, their desired future state, and it’s accurate, it feels like we’re on their side. That we’re working for them, part of their company trying to solve the business problems that they’re trying to solve.
3. Make recommendations. Once we’ve defined the current state and the desired future state, it’s time for our recommendations. Here’s where we put all the information and details about your product or service. You might want to put some of the very technical details and put them in an appendix. Talk about the solution, what it does, how it works but if there are drawings, tables, a lot of technical data, I encourage you to put them in an appendix so it doesn’t muddy up the proposal. We want them to go from A, to C, to B moving pretty quickly into the value segment. What I mean by value segment is explaining what the solution is going to do for their business; the ROI analysis, a case study of another client that saw certain returns. Make sure it has a heavy and substantial value segment to it. In this value segment make sure we’re not only talking about value we can help to add but identify ways we can help them minimize or mitigate risk. You might have heard me say before that when a customer can’t tell the difference between you and a competitor, sometimes what makes the difference is which one is less risky. If we can articulate how we help minimize risk, it makes the value segment that much more important. There may be other things we want to include such as testimonials, references, past clients, which help to further mitigate risk by showing that we’ve worked with other companies like theirs.
4. Explain how to move forward.The last section is where we define the steps for moving forward. I put a lot of care into this because the proposal is not only asking them to buy something but the client needs to know what happens after they buy something. I like to put a lot of energy into defining the things we’ll do together from Point B, where a transaction takes place, all the way to Point C, where the client starts to derive all the value that they’re expecting to see from their investment. By defining that and creating a step by step process with a table that includes dates and who’s going to be involved, we’re essentially creating an implementation plan. A customer’s comfort in transacting, or moving to Point B, is in direct proportion to their comfort and feelings of safety and their ability to see what’s going to happen between B and C.
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