Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win More Customers, Clients and Contracts
Unless you’re on the agency side of the business (which we are), you don’t think much about writing proposals. That’s for those people who have that job…you know sales.
You just missed a major point of the book that can help you land a job, get programs/projects approved by management and assist you in showing your CEO and VP of marketing that you understand one of your jobs is helping to sell the company, the firm’s reputation, the organization’s products.
At the end of the day, you’re selling. You’re helping put dollars on the bottomline.
We’ve prepared and given probably hundreds of proposals in our 30 years in the business. And we’ve gotten our hands on an equal number of competitive proposals.
Surprisingly they are all pretty similar – an intro tailored to the prospective client with industry, competitive, company facts and figures. This is followed by a fairly boilerplate offering. Then it ends with a dramatic close – the contract/working agreement.
With today’s computerized operations the boilerplate approach is all too common. About as predictable and uninviting as the recommendations lawyers spit out of their systems for several thousands of dollars.
Of course that might be a little predictable since Sant is most successful for his development, sale and support of two widely used proposal automation systems: ProposalMaster and RFPMaster.
Fortunately, we’ve never used or even seen either of the programs. And after reading Persuasive Business Proposals we wonder why anyone would use them unless they were in the cookie cutter service/product business.
By reading, understanding and practicing the guidelines Sant has put forward in the book you realize that it is pretty easy for the recipient to spot a formula proposal and know that it wasn’t prepared just for them – boss or prospective client.
This edition of his book outlines the simple, effective techniques you can put into practice immediately to organize, write and deliver your proposals.
The professional proposal consultant lays out the secrets he has learned over the years and gives you a step-by-step set of guidelines you can use to develop a proposal that zeros in on the recipient and his/her wants and needs. It spells out how you can develop and present the value proposition.
In today’s internet-centric, global economy; Sant shows how you can develop/present an effective proposal without doing it face-to-face. He guides you through the development of PDF and HTML proposals that can be sent electronically.
Once you get past the idea that “you’re not in sales,” you’ll find the actual illustrations that he sprinkles throughout the book – good and bad – to be interesting, informative and useful.
In fact these are the portions of the book that we found most useful. Concrete examples of actual proposals where he painstakingly and clearly spells out what was presented, how it was presented and the strengths/weaknesses of the presentation and messages.
If you want to be humbled in regards to your own management or prospect presentations, you’ll find his Seven Worst Proposal Mistakes invaluable.
We read this section three separate times.
The first time was in passing, perhaps even morbid curiosity just to find out what others had done to “blow a deal.”
The second time was about a week later after reviewing a proposal our staff had prepared for a prospective client and recalling some of the stumbling blocks Sant had outlined in his worst mistakes section.
After reviewing the proposal again we went through Sant’s examples sections and compared good/bad examples with the presentation we were about to present.
With two of our associates we dissected and revised every section of the proposal and perhaps for the first time in 30 years viewed the information from the viewpoint of the person sitting on the other side of the table.
We did the same for an on-going client’s program for a project we thought they should carry out over the coming six months.
Suddenly we realized that the development and presentation of programs, recommendations and ideas wasn’t just an offshoot of our real jobs but was a key business function because if we couldn’t present the idea effectively to the client, we certainly couldn’t carry it out properly!
Granted at this point in our firm’s history we do very few proposals. Our clients now come to us because of our experience in our specific industries. Most of them come because of referrals.
But even then it doesn’t diminish the importance of developing and presenting proposals that zero in on the prospective client’s business needs and objectives. Even if you have broad credibility in your field accurate, effective proposal writing helps you reinforce that credibility with tailored reader-centric messages.
The book helps you think through the entire process from the first contact to the presentation to the follow up. And it lays the foundation for a solid, long-term relationship.
Since we are each selling ourselves every day, we believe Persuasive Business Proposals is a book you’ll want to pick up and read…a couple of times.
Have a question for Andy? Ask or leave a comment below!