As a consultant, you probably understand the value of a proposal more than anyone else. Even if you’re being matched with companies who can make the best use of your skills and resources, you understand that this is a competitive world in which the best proposal wins. As this article from Forbes points out,
Great leaders are not interested in how many mail pieces you will “create;” how many press releases you will “develop;” how many sales calls you will “make;” how much money you will “invest;” or how many people you will throw at the “opportunity”…what leaders want to know is how many leads, public relations “wins,” signed contracts, and-god forbid-actual revenue you are going to generate.
The bottom line for most companies is sales. How do they go about increasing sales? And how are you going to help them to do so? Here are the top seven tips for preparing a captivating proposal.
1. Remember The Bottom Line. Whether you’re working in technology, marketing, finance, or innovation, the final aim of your services is helping the company to increase sales. Even if you’re working in human resources, keep in mind that they’re looking for the types of employees that will help them to increase sales. If you help companies to improve company culture, remember that they want this because it will increase employee productivity, which will result in increased sales. This is not to say that companies don’t want to innovate or keep employees happy, but companies are also cognizant of the fact that employee happiness will result in increased sales. When you’re preparing a proposal, this is the first thing that you want to mention. How exactly are you going to help your client to increase sales?
2. Be Specific. It’s not just enough to tell a company that you’re going to help them to increase revenue. You need to be specific. If you think that the changes you recommend will increase their sales by 25 percent, then say so. Creating this type of proposal does require quite a bit of confidence. You need to be absolutely sure that you can deliver the type of results you promise your clients.
3. Do Your Research. This article from Entrepreneur points out that it’s necessary to understand your client thoroughly. You can do this by speaking to people within the organization, or by looking them up, using all of the resources available to you. If you have the option of speaking to people, try and get them to talk about exactly what they’re looking for, what they’ve already tried, what their final goals are, and how fast they’re planning to get there. An organization that’s already established may be looking for something quite different from one that’s growing quickly.
4. Interact With Clients. According to this article from Huffington Post, you should “regurgitate back exactly what your clients tell you” and “ask for feedback on your proposals.” Regurgitating content might seem somewhat childish, but according to Chris Paley, author of Unthink, waitresses who repeat their customers’ orders always get larger tips than those who don’t. The human mind is wired to notice and reward those who imitate us. Or, as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. By repeating what your clients have already told you, you’re assuring them that you’ve heard them and that will do your best to fulfill their needs. The same goes for asking for feedback. Plus, when you get feedback from many clients, you can compare, to see if there are any commonalities between them. If a number of clients are suggesting the same type of change, it might be a change worth making.
5. Write Well. You’d be surprised at how many proposals are dismissed immediately because there’s a typo in the first paragraph. You may understand that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but most people can’t help doing so. And it’s easy enough to make sure that a proposal has no spelling or grammatical errors. If you’ve looked it over from cover to cover, give it to your partner or an employee with good writing skills. Sometimes, a fresh pair of eyes can catch something that you’ve missed
6. Don’t Use Jargon. Jargon has only one benefit: it makes people think that you know more than you actually know. However, if you’ve done your research, you already know a lot and you don’t need to rely on this crutch. Jargon turns most people off because they can’t understand it and they might feel like you’re trying to make them feel small. It’s always a good idea to have a healthy respect for your audience. Keep in mind that they may not know the ins and outs of your field but they are intelligent people who can understand these things if they’re explained in a simple and logical way. So don’t write things like, “The value of jargon in a business-centered vocabulary lies in its ability to disclose your high-level expertise in an exclusive sphere.”
7. Trust Your Gut. According to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, people make up their minds about a person, an idea, and yes, even a proposal, in the blink of an eye. The first few moments are the deciding ones for anyone. Although this idea has become somewhat controversial, we all know it’s important to make a good first impression. Whether the other person realizes it or not, he’s going to make an unconscious, split-second judgment about what you’re offering. He’s going to go with his gut. So this makes it important for you to also trust your own gut feeling about what he might be looking for.
Writing a compelling proposal is as uncomplicated as focusing on what the company’s bottom line is (increasing profits, most of the time), doing your due diligence, speaking the company’s language, and going with your gut. Always be sure that you’re putting your best foot forward by writing well and proofreading carefully, and by showing respect for your audience by not using too much jargon. A straightforward and candid proposal is often the most effective one.
Author: Helene Laffitte
Civil Engineer by training (Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees), our CEO has held several Executive positions in Operations, R&D, and Procurement and Industrial Strategy for one of the biggest Energy Companies in the world. She left Europe for the US in 2011, and, after completing an MBA at Columbia Business School, launched her 1st consulting practice. After exchanging with peers and customers, she launched Consulting Quest, a global performance-driven consulting service platform. “The idea, at first, was to provide disruptive solutions for both clients and providers. I combined the experiences of my co-founder and mine to start Consulting Quest, a disruptive start-up that leverages big data to improve the performance for both clients and consultants.”