Monday, February 9, 2009

Keys to effective business proposals: #3

Offer a customized solution

No matter how off-the-shelf your product or service may be, write every paragraph of the proposal as if your product or service was developed specifically for the prospect’s current problem/opportunity.

Practicing this habit means resisting the tendency to (a) realize that your standard offering will meet the client’s needs and then some, and then (b) going down your product brochure describing every terrific feature of your product or service in turn. Your prospect will realize that you are throwing the kitchen sink (however stunning) at them, and return the favor by throwing your proposal into the same stack as the ones that break Key #1 (Show you are listening).

To customize your solution, develop the habit of starting with the prospect’s detailed list of requirements. Then, as you go down their list, describe which feature of your product or service meets that requirement or solves that problem (and how). When you get to the end of their list, stop. End of story.

What about all the wonderful features of your product or service that were left over? You can include them as well, but before you do, I recommend that you:
  1. Be sure that they address an unstated but reasonably- inferable prospect concern or problem (“Note: If you are experiencing ….., then our system….”) as opposed to a “nice to have”;
  2. Are clear in presenting them as an added but valuable benefit of selecting your solution, not a substitute for some requirement you couldn’t meet; and
  3. Describe them in a section visually separate from the main body of proposal text, like a sidebar or text box.
No matter what your product or services looks like from your side of the fence, describe it the way you want your prospect to see it. And what they want is the “baby bear” solution – not too much, not too little. Just right.

Winning proposals are prospect-centric, and show this by offering customized solutions to prospect problems.

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