Some proposals are "Boilerplate Bombs". These proposals tend to be long,
boring, and tedious to read. Often these proposals are written under the assumption that
"bounce factor" (how high objects on a desk bounce when the proposal is dropped
on the desk) is what makes a proposal effective.
The proposal category that is the focus of this article is EFFECTIVE SELLING
PROPOSALS. These proposals are lean, highly focused, customer-specific documents
that are written to sell anyone that reads them. How can a written document accomplish
this feat? Through text that invokes EMOTION and provides COMPELLING
REASONS that support a buying decision.
Before we go any further, let's review the single biggest mistake in proposal
generation - lack of proper opportunity qualification. Companies waste incredible
amounts of time and resources preparing proposals for poorly qualified opportunities.
These proposals have little chance of producing sales.
When you are armed with the necessary opportunity qualification information and you have
made a conscious decision that the opportunity warrants the investment of time and
resources required to generate a quality proposal, you are ready to write an effective
selling proposal. To aid you in this undertaking,
here are brief descriptions of nine suggested proposal sections:
This is usually a single paragraph where you thank the people that provided the
opportunity qualification information and set the stage for the proposal. The last
sentence of the paragraph should list the primary value the prospect will receive by
making the proposed investment.
Your prospects know a lot about their own companies. They don't need you to provide
them with a chronological history or a bunch of unnecessary facts. The bulk of this
section should focus on selected facts concerning the SPECIFIC business functions or
departments that your solution will impact.
3. Current Situation
This is where you really start selling. In this section you lay out the prospect's
business problems and the impact of the problems...in painful detail. Your goal should be
to invoke your prospect's NEGATIVE emotions (fear, frustration, pain, etc.).
4. Desired Results
Your goal for this section should be to invoke your prospect's POSITIVE emotions
(relief, joy, satisfaction, etc.) by helping your prospect visualize the "desired
state" for their business.
5. Business Impact
This is where you justify the acquisition. What impact will your solution have on your
prospect's business? How will their operations and financial results change for the
6. Decision Criteria
If you don't have a comprehensive list of the criteria that your prospect will use to
make their decision, you probably shouldn't be writing a proposal. List all of their
decision criteria here.
7. Decision Process, Time Frame, and Budget
The purpose of including this information in the proposal is to make sure you and your
prospect share the same expectations.
8. Next Steps
There should be specific next steps (and related time frames) that are expected to take
place after you submit your proposal. List them here to make sure you and your prospect
are "on the same page".
Close with a final paragraph that summarizes why your product or service is the best
solution for your prospect, plus a positive statement of expectation.
- Do you see the power of this type of proposal?
- Do you see the benefit of eliminating volumes of boilerplate that do not address your
prospect's SPECIFIC and IMMEDIATE needs and concerns?
- Do you see how an effective selling proposal can influence the thinking of decision
makers and influencers, even if you have had limited (or no) personal contact with them?
If you construct your proposals in this manner, you will maximize your return on
proposal writing time and resource investments.