How to write winning proposals

Proposals are powerful instruments of business communication. Whether it is a solicited response or proactive proposal, it should serve the purpose. Failed proposals serve no business purpose.

Winners adopt a creative approach. They spend quality time in analyzing the proposal from the customer point of view. They don’t highlight the features and greatness of the product/solution. Instead, focus on how the product/solution helps the customer in their pursuits. They reinforce the belief of customer through the product/solution currently being offered. If the customer believes the new tool will improve productivity, you have to reinforce how your product helps in achieving the same. If they believe they need a quick fix, your proposal should address it first. Offering something permanent but expensive solution might not fit a case where they may be planning to discard the entire system in a few months. Winners don’t hesitate to disclose the limitations of the solution while offering supplementary actions required to make it complete.

If you are responding to queries in a standard RFP, you may feel constrained to express your solution fully. It is mostly designed from evaluation perspective than exploration. If you haven’t got a chance to explain your solution before the RFP, make use of the question & answer window to bring out the best of your solution and the relevance of value. If you are successful, constraints in the RFP won’t come in your way to goal-post.

If you are writing a proactive proposal, it should be very specific in offering a solution for an evident issue or a latent problem. In order to win, you have to move beyond being informative. You should present facts, derive meanings and identify areas where a solution impacts significantly. You should also cover to an extent the cost-benefit analysis and the possible reasons why yours is the best solution in the market. Evaluate the proposal as if you are the customer and figure out a way to make it compelling. If your assumption base and analysis methods are weak, you run the risk of losing reputation. Guard against this by validating your assumptions with experts and good relationships at the customer place. Your experience with similar clients in similar domains helps a lot as well.

But to win, write proposals like a compelling story supported by facts, analysis, comparisons and engaged emotionally without losing focus on business needs. You may not get an opportunity to present and walk your customer through your proposal unless it meets the purpose. Use a medium that helps in reinforcing the story and in a way it can stand on its own to convey the message effectively. Followup and Follow-through gracefully. If your proposal is ahead of time, you might have to wait and reinforce with additional propositions till you get a YES!

Focus on value. Every interaction should add significant value to the customer. If your proposal adds value to the customer, even if they don’t give you the one you are proposing, your credibility builds-up and you will be invited to propose for a specific project, you didn’t know they had!

Always play to win. Keep 100% conversion as the goal. It helps to improve your game at every turn.

This method helps even when you are proposing a new idea at work, as an intrapreneur.

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