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How to Write Winning Proposals


Proposal Titles Question: What is the most frequently used title for proposals in the English-speaking world? The Executive Summary: ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: How to Write Winning Proposals

How to Write Winning Proposals
  • Using the science of persuasion to win more

When The Economy Slows Down, Selling Becomes More
  • People pull back from completing transactions
  • But they are eager to find solutions
  • Selling solutions requires
  • broad business perspective
  • alignment with the customer's
  • objectives
  • an ability to demonstrate value that
  • matters to the customer

Why Do Solution-oriented Proposals and
Presentations Fail?
  • Because they are NOT
  • Customer centered
  • Sales people resort to clone and go proposals
  • Boilerplate, checkbox proposals
  • Focus on the vendor or the product
  • Value based
  • No value proposal
  • No differentiation
  • Decision oriented
  • Wrong structure
  • Wrong emphasis

  • Assumptions and observations
  • What makes for a good proposal?
  • The seven worst mistakes you can make
  • Four principles to improve your win ratio
  • Persuasive structure
  • Customer-centered persuasion
  • Value proposal
  • Personalize the message
  • Summary

Assumptions and Observations
  • Whats a proposal?
  • And why are they usually so bad?

The Function Of Sales Proposals
A proposal is a sales document
  • A proposal is NOT
  • A price quote
  • A bill of materials
  • A technical specification
  • Your company overview or history

What is a Good One?
  • Evidence that you understand the customers
    problems, needs, issues
  • A recommendation for a specific solution
  • Evidence of the ability to deliver on time and on
  • A compelling reason to choose your
    recommendations over any others

Why Do These Elements Matter the Most?
  • Because evaluators are looking for three general
  • Responsiveness Am I getting what I need?
  • Competence Can they really do it?
  • Rate of return Does the pricing represent good

The Bad NewsMost People Hate Writing Proposals
  • So they start looking for escape routes
  • and it shows!

Escape Route 1
  • Cloning previous proposals

Escape Route 2
  • Data Dumps or More is Better

Escape Route 3
  • Talking about what we know and love best

Common Writing ErrorsThat Can Destroy Your
  1. Failure to focus on the customers business
    problems and payoffs
  2. No persuasive structure
  3. No clear differentiation
  4. Failure to offer a compelling value proposal
  5. Key points are buriedno highlights, no impact
  6. Difficult to readfull of jargon, too long, too
  7. Credibility killersmisspellings, grammar errors,
    wrong customer name, inconsistent formats, etc.

Four Principles
  • Using best practices to create proposals that win
    more frequently

Doctor, Doctor Give Me the Cures!
  • Use persuasive structure
  • Create customer-centered proposals
  • Focus on the decision makers hot buttons
  • Write to the audience
  • Automate

Principle 1
  • Build your proposals on persuasive structure

How Do People Make Decisions?
  • The modern assumption
  • Decision making is a rational process
  • Involves systematic weighing of the evidence
  • Franklins moral algebra

The Problem Nobody Does It That Way
  • Making decisions in the real world
  • Complex
  • Confusing
  • Huge amounts of information
  • Conflicting evidence
  • Tremendous time pressure

How People Actually Make Decisions
  • The process
  • Quick
  • Using the least amount of evidence possible
  • Seemingly impulsive or irrational, to an outside

How Quickly Do People Decide?
  • Question
  • How long does it take, on average, for a person
    to decide if a proposal is worth looking at in
  • Less than 5 minutes
  • Between 10 and 15 minutes
  • About half an hour

Factors of Choice
  • Recognition
  • Recognition is assumed to be a positive value
  • Single factor decision making
  • Use any criterion and select first options it
  • Use the last criterion that worked when making a
    similar decision
  • Use the criterion that has produced the best
    results in previous circumstances
  • Estimation
  • Estimate the probable rate of return and choose
    the option giving the best ROI

What Are the Implications?
  • Persuasion is a process, not an event
  • Continuous messaging is more effective than
    isolated documents
  • Importance of branding, advertising, repetitive
  • Structure is more important than style
  • Using the right cognitive structure will produce
    the right results
  • Put the important point up front
  • Show compliance with the customers requirements
    and values
  • This will facilitate selection when its take
    the best
  • Demonstrate a high rate of return
  • With no value proposal, there may be no persuasion

The Key to Persuasive Structure
  • Needs Demonstrate an understanding of the
    customers key business needs or issues
  • Outcomes Identify meaningful outcomes or
    results from meeting those needs
  • Solution Recommend a specific solution
  • Evidence Build credibility by providing
    substantiating details

The Trust Equation
  • Trust Rapport x Credibility

What Should You Work on First?
  • Question
  • Of the three elements of trust, which one should
    you focus on first?
  1. Rapport
  2. Credibility
  3. Risk

Principle 2
  • Create customer-centered proposals

Proposals Should Be Customer-centered, Not
  • Customer-Centered
  • Focuses on customers needs
  • Presents solutions to business problems
  • Looks toward long-term relationships
  • Partnership orientation
  • Analyzes payback, ROI, impact on business
  • Integrates value-added offerings into strategy
  • Self-Centered
  • Focuses on products, technology, etc.
  • Presents information in reaction to a request
  • Short-term focus
  • Vendor/buyer orientation
  • Builds on profit margin
  • No controlling strategy line-item selling

Seven Questions to Keep You Customer-centered
  1. What is the customers problem, need, or
  2. Why is this problem a problem?
  3. What outcomes or results do they want?
  4. Which results have the highest priority?
  5. What solutions can we offer?
  6. What result will each solution produce?
  7. Which solution is best?

The Best Place to Use Your Customer-Centered
  • The Cover Letter
  • The Title Page
  • The Executive Summary
  • Case Studies

Effective Cover Letters
  • Make them persuasive and brief
  • Highlight key points from the proposal
  • The customers most important need or issue
  • The solution in extremely high level
  • A couple of key competitive advantages
  • Ask for the business
  • Avoid closing with If you have any questions,
    please feel free to call.

The Title PageSay Something Meaningful
  • State a benefit to the customer in your main
  • Use an action verb
  • Put the decision makers name on the title page
  • Avoid letting your logo dominate the title page

Which One Would You Read First?
Proposal Titles
  • Question
  • What is the most frequently used title for
    proposals in the English-speaking world?

The Executive SummaryKeep It Brief and Relevant
  • Write simply and clearly
  • Readability should be easy
  • Focus on bottom-line issues and outcomes
  • Unless the buyer is strictly technical
  • Keep it short
  • Two pages is plenty for most proposals

Effective Case Studies
  • Tips
  • Keep them short
  • Use the PAR format
  • Problem
  • Business problems, not software requirements
  • Action
  • Focus on your unique delivery process
  • Results
  • Quantify results if possible

Principle 3
  • Focus on the decision makers hot buttons

FACT If You Dont Show Value, Winning Is a Game
of Chance
  • You must establish superior value based on
    technical, contractual, managerial, quality, or
    service differentiators.
  • Otherwise the customer will choose based on price
    or maintaining the status quo.

Maintaining the Status Quo
  • Question
  • How frequently do current vendors win on re-bids?
  • 50
  • 66
  • 75
  • 90

Showing Value Is Always Important,but Sometimes
Its REALLY Important
  • Your value superiority must be greater when-
  • You are displacing an accepted incumbent
  • Better the devil you know than the devil you
  • You are changing a process
  • People resist changing the way they earn their
  • You are relocating control of a valuable process
    or asset
  • Control power, prestige, and job security
  • Doing nothing is a viable alternative
  • Inactivity and passiveness sometimes seem safer
    than taking action

Value Improving Performance or Eliminating
Pain Where It Matters
  • Financial gain
  • lowest price, highest total value, lowest total
    cost of ownership
  • Quality
  • maintainability, ease of use, fewest
  • Infrastructure improvement
  • most flexible, most advanced, most open solution
    automating a labor-intensive step
  • Industry trends
  • keeping up with market leaders
  • Minimizing risk
  • financial stability, solid management plan,
    relevant experience, high ethical standards
  • Competitive advantage
  • simultaneous improvements across the organization

Creating the Value Proposal
Four basic principles
  • The payback measurements must be customer-focused
  • The presentation of payback is more persuasive if
    its quantified
  • The value proposal is more likely to be noticed
    and remembered if its graphical
  • To bullet-proof your value proposal, you must
    base it on your differences from the competition

Principle 4
  • Personalize the Message

Good Advice From a Noble Roman
  • If you wish to persuade me,
  • you must
  • think my thoughts,
  • feel my feelings,
  • and speak my words
  • Cicero

Get Out of the Comfort Zone
And Into the Persuasion Zone
Ciceros Three Points
  • Audience Level - Expert
  • (Speak my words) - Highly informed
  • - Acquainted
  • - Uninformed
  • Audience Type - Analytical
  • (Think my thoughts) - Pragmatic
  • - Consensus-seeker
  • - Visionary
  • Audience Role - Check signer
  • (Feel my feelings) - User
  • - Gatekeeper

Boilerplate Proposals May Do More Damage Than Good
  • How many times does your name appear in the
    Executive Summary?
  • How many times does your customers name appear?
  • Are your products features linked to specific
    customer needs?
  • Have you used the customer's terminology?
  • Have you eliminated your own in-house jargon?

Clear Messages Convincing Messages
Use the KISS principle(Keep It Short and Simple)
  • Simple words and short sentences
  • Use their name throughout
  • Refer to the customer as you, never as it or
  • Avoid using your jargon
  • Aim for the right level of expertise
  • Provide content specific to their market or
  • Use lots of graphic illustrations
  • Highlight the text so your key points JUMP off
    the page

  • Customer-centered proposals are more effective
    than self-centered proposals
  • Selling solutions require clear and compelling
    value proposals based on your differentiators
  • Personalizing the proposal to the audience helps
    get your message across

Our Understanding of the Issues You Face
  • Respond effectively to RFPs
  • Increasing sales force productivity
  • Improving the quality of your proposals