A key mistake often made in business writing, is to follow the process used for personal story telling. People, by nature, are used to telling stories and jokes by slowly building up the storyline, establishing characters and background, leading up to the final punchline. We take the audience on a journey, building momentum and anticipation – much like we experienced it. And this is a fantastic way to tell a story or a joke. But it’s a terrible way to pitch to a business prospect or partner.
In most cases your audience will have stopped reading well before you get to the point of your pitch.
Companies wanting to present an idea to a prospective partner or to take advantage of an opportunity in the market often come to us looking for advice on how to present the information. Time and time again we see the same common errors preventing business owners from getting what they need. They ask for too much up front without establishing credibility and rapport. Or sometimes they forget to ask for anything at all!
We’ve collated a list of the seven elements we believe should be in every business proposal.
Problems – what drives the decision making?
Before you sit down to write, think about who will be assessing or reviewing your proposal. They will have their own key issues and problems that they are looking to solve. Things that keep them awake at night. Your job is to work out what these are and align the response to meeting their needs. Outline your understanding of this problem (or opportunity) and show them that you understand.
Results – what outcomes are they looking for?
What outcomes will the prospect enjoy as a result of a successful outcome? What will the situation look like for them after you have implemented your proposal? When you’re presenting a business opportunity to your audience, this needs to be a ‘win win’. They win, and you win. Everyone is happy.
Make sure the results you articulate are measurable and exact. By clearly describing the results you lead the prospect to picture themselves in the new scenario – to see themselves or their company in the future state, free of their current problem.
Experience – where have you done this before?
What examples can use to illustrate where you have solved a similar problem for a similar client? Outline your experience including work with similar customers or clients – where you have successfully navigated a similar situation to the benefit of a customer or client like them.
Concept – what are the details of the offer?
The concept should be carefully crafted to articulate an offer to the prospective client. This section will aligned directly to the problems and results, the concept should provide a high level model of the offer and how you intend to meet the RFT requirements. It should show the prospective client what you hope to deliver and achieve, without giving away your methodology.
Issues – Is there an elephant in the room?
During a proposal strategy workshop I always run the team through any issues or concerns that may arise in the mind of the audience. There is always a ‘but’; a hesitation in someone’s mind that they need to work through. The PRECISE process encourages identification of these issues within the proposal. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room – address it and help to allay any fears, hesitations or concerns your audience has.
Savings – what value are you providing?
As you develop the pricing structure and think through the full concept, you should be able t identify opportunities for improvement for your prospect. You may be offering them an opportunity to save time, money, or resources. Outline the value of this savings. Quantify it in terms that make sense to them.
Execution – how do we make this happen?
Many business proposals fall down at the last hurdle. After thoroughly outlining the amazing concept and how it will solve the prospect’s problems, don’t forget to tell them how to enact the offer.
Will you call them? Should they arrange a meeting with your head of department? Is there a trial period they can sign up for? Do they need to process the first milestone payment to commence the service? Is there a transition period?
Outline all of these steps. In some cases you might like to include a detailed Gantt chart or timeline. List all of the steps that need to be undertaken, and who holds responsibility to make each of these happen.