Want to know how to write proposals that win more of the time? Get the client involved in producing your proposal!
Get Your Client on Your Proposal Team!
The only way to be sure that you really understand your client’s requirement well enough, and that your initial thoughts on a possible solution are strong enough to win the business, is to ask the client – and you should do this BEFORE you write your proposal.
This is what the Pre-Proposal Review (PPR) is all about, and you should make it an integral part of the proposal process for every business proposal you write from now on.
A PPR is a formal meeting with your client, designed to ensure that your understanding of their requirements is accurate and that your initial thoughts on a solution are appealing.
With a PPR you effectively draft your client onto your proposal team.
Why Should You Always Look for a PPR?
Remember, it’s not so much what you don’t know that will hurt you, as what you DO know that’s not true – this is reason enough to ask for a Pre-Proposal/RFP review for each and every deal you pursue.
You would be surprised at the number of otherwise excellent salespeople who know how to write proposals well, but who will invest the considerable time, energy and money time to write a business proposal solely on the back of a supplied RFP – and miss the point, and the business, completely because the RFP was not accurate enough.
Regardless of the effort that has gone into the production of your client’s RFP, and regardless of the techniques the assessors will apply in evaluating submissions, there will be aspects of their requirements that they cannot fully define – and the best way of all to get an insight into these aspects (which could well help you to differentiate your offering from that of your competitors) is to meet those for whom you will prepare your proposal.
However, there are lots more reasons to justify taking the time to get in front of your client/prospect in advance of preparing your proposal; here are just three:
- To begin to establish rapport with the people involved in this deal. It can’t be stressed enough – people buy from people.
- To build confidence by demonstrating your understanding of their environment and requirements.
- To build credibility by letting the responsible individuals meet some of the key members of your team, and by describing some of the work you have done for your existing clients.
During the PPR
Your PPR is a great opportunity to show what you plan to put into the ‘Requirements’ and ‘Solution’ sections of your business proposals; and to have the client either ‘bless’ your plans – or explain the reasons why you should consider changing your approach.
Doesn’t it make sense that you have your client ‘approve’ your proposal BEFORE you finish writing it?! That’s how to write proposals that win more than their fair share of the time.
Figure 1 below is the agenda slide from the case study we’ve used to illustrate this course so far – it shows you the sort of areas you should touch upon in your PPR.
Figure 1: Typical PPR Agenda
When ‘Winning Business Proposals’ is released in eBook form you’ll be able to see the entire PPR for that case study fleshed out, step by step. The book will also include a step-by-step guide for producing your own PPR presentation, taking you step by step through how to write proposals that are conspicuously more successful.
If you’d like notice when the book becomes available please complete the contact form below and I’ll alert you in advance.
After the PPR
What you do after the PPR, and how quickly and efficiently you do it, is almost as important as what you did during the meeting Keep the momentum…
Follow Up Immediately
Your PPR will have made a very strong impression on your prospect, an impression that your organisation is consummately professional – that you really know what you are about. Copper-fasten that impression.
As soon as you return to the office, summarize everything discussed (particularly any points that appear to be of importance to any of the individuals involved in the assessment process, regardless of how minor they might seem) and any agreed follow-up actions, with responsibilities and timescales. Be explicit as to when you expect to be in touch again.
Get a follow-up letter out that evening. Not tomorrow or ‘later’.
Revisit and Update the Requirements Map
After a PPR you will have a wealth of additional information on the client’s true requirements, and an indication of the sort of solution that will appeal to them most – all of this additional information tells you how to write proposals that will blow their socks off.
Much of the additional information you will have uncovered will refer to specific aspects of the requirement, specific pains which you can easily fit into your existing Requirements Map.
If any of the new requirements do not fit comfortably into one of the existing columns, then add new columns and new headings to accommodate them.
Consider your previous Requirements Map in the light of any new insights:
- Are the headings on your columns still appropriate?
- Should any of the columns be dropped altogether?
- Which of the columns represent the most significant aspects of the requirement?
- Are any of the unstated requirements you inferred way off course?
- Have you taken account of those items which the client has made clear are mandatory in the solution? In the proposal?
When you have finished your updating the Requirements Map make sure that you have built in consideration of all of the new intelligence gathered at the PPR, and that you are comfortable that your map now reflects as complete a representation of the client requirement as possible. That’s how to write proposals that impress – get the requirement absolutely solidly defined first.
Revisit and Update the Solution Map
Now that you have much greater clarity on what your prospect client requires, you should return to the Solution Map and it update it accordingly.
Use the same process that you used to produce the first outline solution – simply map solution points onto each of your requirement points until you have built up a compelling solution outline.
Now you deserve to feel much more comfortable in your understanding of your understanding of the client’s requirement, and much more confident of the solution you have just updated to meet that requirement.
Take heart that most of your competition will not have taken the critical step of conducting a PPR before they produce their business proposals; so the first time the client will hear of their solutions will be when they deliver or present their completed masterpieces – they do not have the insight into how to write proposals that effectively make the client part of your proposal writing team. You have a vital edge.
To further cement that advantage you should now go to Module 6 of the course and look into how to write proposals with clear winning strategies at their heart – strategies that ensure that the key messages you want to get across to your client ‘sing’ off your proposal’s pages.
Now you know how to write proposals that have a distinctly unfair chance of winning be sure to make the Pre Proposal Review a standard feature of your proposal process from now on.
What are your best business proposal ideas for dealing proposals where the client has a mandated layout? Read on!
Mandated Formats Are Common
Depending on the nature of the client and the opportunity, you may find that the RFP specifies a particular layout which must be adopted by all bidders for the target business.
Obviously, in this situation, the worst thing that you could do is to write proposal in a layout other than that prescribed, without prior consultation. Proposals that sell respond to client requirements in the manner the client requests.
Don’t Give Up Too Quickly
This is not to say that you should not question your client on the reasoning behind the mandated format. One of the best business proposal ideas is to sell the logic of a “Requirements-Solution-Benefits-Costs-Proof” format as the best means of communicating your proposed solution.
If your client is not prepared to allow your response to depart from the mandated format always try, at the very least, to include a section proving your understanding of the client requirement, and a section outlining the particular benefits of your proposed solution – even if this is in a separate accompanying letter or document.
Do your body languages and gestures contradict the words that come out of your mouth?
If you ever need to communicate or persuade you need to be sure you’re not betraying yourself unconsciously with poor body language or negative gestures.
The first post in this series got you started with you with some basic gesture ’vocabulary’ you can use to positive effect. The second post presented the ‘Terrible 13′ - those negative gestures to be avoided at all costs.
Here are seven really powerful gestures and body language elements that combine the gesture ‘vocabulary’ from the first post to provide you with an extremely effective set of gestures that have a universally positive and powerful effect.. Continue reading “7 REALLY POWERFUL GESTURES” »