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Golden Rules for writing proposals

~ by Alan W & Candice R

The humble proposal carries great responsibility in business. Its misuse is damaging to your business not only in how it drains the business in terms of resource, time, and effort in its compilation but also when we under/miss-sell in our proposals.

The proposal, when tackled correctly, has the potential to move your business in a different direction. It can aid your expertise positioning, and hook the RIGHT clients for your business.

Our 5 Golden Rules:

1. Consultation is a prerequisite

Never start a proposal without a consultation with your potential client. Why? Because you are relying on their self-diagnosis. They have come to you for your area of expertise, how can they be spot on with their problem resolution if you are the expert in this domain? A consultation (which can be as simple as a 15 min call) pre proposal gives you the opportunity to ask those why’s until you get to the ACTUAL challenge they are facing and if you are best placed to help them address this. A consultation assists in reducing proposal re-writes and even client post-purchase dissonance when they realize the solution isn't addressing their business problem as they thought it would (this happens with misdiagnosis!).

2. Refrain from solution mode

Do NOT give your ideas away for free. See why some clients want long proposals? You’re a business, your ideas are charged for. Your proposal is about showcasing your expertise on the challenge they are faced with. A high level, succinct explanation of what they are buying.

3. Establish value

A well articulated challenge, linked to associated benefits that can be realized through solving the challenge is how we begin our value conversation in the proposal. The client assigns value to these benefits, and this feeds into your pricing positioning.

4. Give options

Always give three options where each option builds on the previous. When we push ourselves to do this, we start to interrogate what we are offering, and most times we realize we were going to offer our client EVERYTHING in one investment (probably undercosted). When we start to detail three incremental options, the client can more clearly see what they are paying for. Rather than dropping your initial proposed cost that was “too expensive”, from the onset you are giving your client the freedom to choose the cheaper option or the more expensive one with all the bells and whistles. They CANNOT have all the bells and whistles for a cheaper price, something has to give.

5. Less is more

Heard of a one page proposal? This is a skill well worth acquiring. Longer does not mean better (and a client that thinks this is not the ideal client you want, you’re in search of clients who want expertise and quality, not hours and stuff!). In 1-2 pages you should be able to hook your client into your core offer on the table.

Proposals set the tone for our client engagements, so getting this right from the onset is crucial. It will take the pioneers among us to be the early-adopters that lead the new way we offer our business services to the world, and it starts with the humble proposal.

Work with Alan W

Work with Candice R

"Solving niche challenges founders face”.

Illustrator: Lisa Williams (Instagram: @artist_llw)


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