As a busy and all-too-short February draws to a close, I’ve been thinking about what make client proposals stand out and really deliver. Proposal writing demands patience, care and a genuine desire to understand and interpret what your client needs. Love it or loathe it, there are some simple steps you can take to make your proposals compelling, effective – and exactly what you client wants to see.
Here are Wisdom London’s top tips:
1. Preparation is all
Before you even put pen to paper, have you completely understood your client’s requirements? Have you taken the time to re-visit project objectives with your client to make sure you mutually agree what the deliverables are, and what success will look like? This is a must.
2. Clarity is the key
Make life easy on your client – ensure that what you are presenting them with is concise, clear and easy to understand. Once you’ve presented the proposal, they should be able to go back to the document, in whatever format, and easily pinpoint the key elements of what you propose to do, the deliverables, timeframe and cost. Creating a final, brief overview with these key elements is worth the time and will be appreciated.
3. Differentiate yourself by personalising your proposal
The chances are that you use a standard template, or overtype old proposals for similar projects. It may be reassuringly familiar, tried-and-tested or simply quicker than reinventing something, but just sanity-check with yourself that this is the best format for your client. But everyone is different – think about the person to whom you’ll present this: Are they a details person? Are they visual thinkers? How can you translate that to your proposal?
I heard once of a winning proposal accepted by a totally cut-to-the-chase CEO, which simply said:
“We will deliver XXXXX project for you by XXXXX at a cost of XXXXX.”
Yes, the voiceover went into more detail, but the CEO connected with the bold approach of an agency who had taken the time to understand what he wanted to see and hear.
4. A proposal is a proposal – not a project plan
Don’t fall into the trap of being too operational in your proposal. You should know at this point what the operational model for the project looks like, but this information is not for a main proposal document. Refer to tip 2 above – too much operational detail gets in the way of what you need to get across, which is: What kind of value you will deliver, when and for how much.
5. Present with love
Spend as much time at least on preparing to present your proposal as you did writing it – don’t let your proposal down! Needless to say, you must inject authority (“we know what we’re doing”), passion (“we love what we do”) and energy (“we’re ready to do it”) into your presentation style – even if it’s simply a conversation rather than a full-on presentation scenario. Make sure that your client understands all of what you have presented. Take time to ask whether you have covered all that they need you to cover. Ask for initial thoughts, and be prepared to re-work elements that don’t hit the mark. Use the opportunity to work collaboratively with your client to make the proposal exactly as your client needs it to be.
6. Don’t leave it there
Every proposal provides us with a learning opportunity – make sure you use it! What did you get exactly right? What parts of it did your client really connect with? What did they find confusing? What needed to be reworked? Recalling all of this, and taking the time to consider ways in which you can use this learning in the future is a truly worthwhile exercise.
Do you have any proposal-writing tips to share? What has worked for you in the past? Any unusual approaches that resulted in success? Tell us what you think!