Qocreate’s 3 steps to writing a winning business proposal include organization, development, and articulation. In this post, we’ll focus on part two: developing your message.
This is a majority of the work in putting together a coherent solution and responding to a client’s Request for Information, Request for Proposal, or Request for Quote. It is important to organize your information and ideas before you begin the development process. As you work at developing your solution, you may change how things are organized, but it’s essential to have a basic framework before you start building out your solution.
The key to developing a successful message is knowing which problem you are trying to solve. When you know this, you can easily identify the clients who need the type of help your company can provide. Knowing the problem you are solving for also helps to identify competitors in the marketplace who are working to solve the same problem.
You can see how the picture builds. You identify the problem you are going to solve, and then answer the basic questions involved: who, what, when, where, how, and why, though not in that order.
Answer the Question Why. For the client, answering the question why trumps all others. It is ideally the driving force behind your solution.
Clients want one thing: to increase profitability. Increasing profit means improving performance and better utilizing resources. Including why up front matters.
Tell the client how you are going to help them increase profit and improve performance. And prove it to them by providing quantifiable results from other client engagements. Facts can often drive the sale if your solution is as good as you claim it to be.
Answering the why first may seem counter intuitive, but it’s the sole reason your clients will keep reading your proposal. The why is comprised of three things in particular:
Most people can tell you what a client’s problem is, and they can tell you how they will solve the problem. However, when it comes to benefits, people tend to talk in terms of features. So let’s be clear: benefits are quantifiable returns the client will recognize related to two things: profitability and performance.
A project manager with 25 years of experience doing similar work is not a benefit. Neither is a seasoned team of experts. Those are features. A benefit is 20% reduction in overall operating costs, or automating a process to increase speed and remove human involvement and error, or improving an information systems availability or up time.
In answering the question why, you need to tell the client that they are going to benefit from your solution in a way they will not with other providers. Use comparisons if you have them. Or, talk about how what you do is different than what industry does, or how your approach exceeds standards or the norm.
This may be as simple as offering the lowest price. Or, it may involve creating value through quantifiable and measurable benefits. Be bold. Stake a claim. Show that your solution matters.
This alone will differentiate your proposal.
Take the Time to Show How You Will Do the Work. After you tell the client why, tell them how you are going to do the work. Pique their interest and then give them the goods. Show them: here is the benefit, and here is how we are going to deliver the benefit.
If a client wants to increase profit and better utilize resources, you need to show them how your solution does this for their particular organization. Here is Qocreate’s approach to developing your solution when writing a winning business proposal.
Sixty percent of writing, and maybe more, comprises thinking about writing. It begins with organizing ideas and ends with the story. The process in between takes the most time, and requires thinking.
In this series we focus on the age-old questions of who, what, when, where, how, and why. Developing your solution requires answering all these questions. Take the time to write them down on a piece of paper and think through the answers to each of them. When you do this, take your perspective and the client’s perspective and work them together, along with any other critical staff or organizations who may be involved in your winning solution.
Who. Include people in your organization, the client and any influencers within their organization, and then others. Others could include the general public, client customers, standards organizations and governing bodies, and any other people who may be affected by the solution. Benefits extend to these others as well, where clients may be particularly interested in passing on benefits to customers or a specific group of people.
What. The what comes from how you organized your information. Is your solution a process? Is it a series of actions categorized under major tasks? Is it a system configuration? Answering the what means telling the client your approach.
Sometimes the what presents best in a graphic. Graphics, tables, charts, and schematics benefit proposals because they show the client how things work. Putting time into developing good graphics and graphical elements will benefit you many times over in articulating the what of your solution.
When. With when, you provide a time frame in which you will execute the what. Answer, as far as possible, when the work will begin, how long it will take, when you will do what steps, and when you will complete the project.
Setting a time frame around the solution helps to create expectations for performance. It also operates as a benchmark for quality, and demonstrates to the customer that you know what you’re talking about.
Where. Sometimes where may include simply “at the client site.” But other times, clients want you to generate the where -- for example, if you are putting together a national marketing plan. Where may also include certain elements of the proposal, for example which buildings, servers, networks, or systems will be affected by an information technology solution.
Where helps to ground the solution by giving it a spatial representation. It follows with when to see how the what fits into space and time.
How. How tells the client the method, approach, and means by which you will deliver your solution. When you articulate the how, write in and include as much detail as you can. It is always easier to cut content then to create it. So, create the content in how with as much gusto and attention to detail as possible. Include every step, every working part, every consequence and resulting action.
How uses the who, what, when, and where, and tells the client exactly the means by which you will accomplish the goal. The how of a business proposal is second only to the why.
Answering these questions allows you to build out and put flesh on the bones of your structure for the solution. You first organized the content, and now by answering these questions, you have information to fill in your structure. Now it is time to create a draft and begin to iterate your solution into a final format. This involves articulating your solution.
Qocreate is expert in helping companies organize, develop, and articulate their solutions. Check out more resources here, or contact us for help in writing your next business proposal.