January 26, 2009 Program Summary
Proposing to Win: Writing Winning Business Proposals
Tom's step-by-step proposal-writing process has revolutionized the way businesses write proposals and increased win ratios for hundreds of companies all over the world.
Why is this topic so important? Its timeliness can't be overemphasized in our current business climate. This presentation focused on powerful new proposal strategies for seeking clients, pitching projects, or responding to RFPs (requests for proposal).
Tom's superb book on this subject, "Persuasive Business Proposals," explains that far from being a cookie-cutter exercise, proposal writing should woo your prospective clients with a carefully focused, persuasive architecture.
When it's properly crafted, a proposal draws readers in and assures them that you truly understand their needs, have a strong and credible solution, and are qualified to deliver it.
This book contains the same key ideas that have helped Tom's clients — including Microsoft, Accenture, Dell, HSBC, and many others — to increase their win ratios an average of 27%. These keys include:
1) "Seven deadly sins" of proposal writing — which include a failure to focus on the client's business problems and payoffs, no persuasive structure to both inform and engage the readers, no clear differentiation between your strengths and those of other vendors, and no compelling value proposition that reflects the specific criteria of the individual(s) who will be making the buying decision.
2) "Best practices" for proposal writing — Proposals are complex documents, but you can improve your success by following four simple practices:
We learned techniques for out-maneuvering the well-funded, big-name companies that don't use persuasive proposal writing techniques! Whether you're pursuing technical, business, or creative projects, you can create winning proposals that stand out from the crowd, and provide high perceived value for your clients.
Read Tom's proposal-writing tips, below, and download his PowerPoint presentation, linked further down.
The Structure of Persuasion
According to an old song, “It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it.”
When it comes to persuasion, that song is exactly right. There is a way to communicate your message that will create maximum impact on the audience. I’m not talking about fancy words or pretty pictures, either. I’m talking about a structural pattern that will get the customer’s head nodding a lot quicker.
This is important for most of us, because it’s very difficult to close large deals unless you write a successful proposal. Even on small deals, the client may ask us to “put it in writing,” and we owe it to ourselves (and to the buyer) to do that as clearly and persuasively as possible. If we simply give them a price quote or a bunch of boilerplate, we may actually make it more difficult to win the business.
If we understand our audience, we can choose words and details that are relevant and easy to comprehend. And we’ll avoid focusing on things the audience doesn’t care about. And if we understand our purpose — persuasion — we’ll deliver the message in a way that produces results.
Interestingly, many people struggle with the whole concept of persuasion. Sometimes they confuse it with being manipulative or coercive. Those approaches don’t work and have nothing to do with being persuasive. Effective persuasion is a straightforward process of showing that what you have to offer will solve a major problem for the client and deliver significant value in the process.
The structural pattern for persuasion, which I call the Persuasive Paradigm but which my clients usually call the NOSE pattern (for Need, Outcomes, Solution, and Evidence), is the foundation for delivering a winning message.
A survey of several hundred of the major corporations around the world with whom I have worked found that implementing the NOSE pattern improved win ratios by an average of 27%. In some cases, clients have more than doubled their win ratio simply by changing the way they structure their message. It works because it corresponds to the way people think when they are making a buying decision.
Win the customer’s attention by describing the specific need or problem that he or she has.
For example, is the vice president of finance trying to do double duty as the head of HR? Do they lack the kind of clear documentation of policies that company needs to provide effective guidance to employees and to limit liability? Are they struggling to penetrate a new market? Or have the found that customers are not coming back for additional products or services? The more specific you can be about the problem or need, the more convincing you will be as a potential partner who can deliver meaningful value.
Spell out clearly the outcomes the decision maker seeks. What positive results will come from meeting the need or solving the problem? What are the possible consequences of inaction? The focus on results is critical because people make up their minds to take action based on the relative impact or rate of return your solution offers compared with other courses of action. People will choose to pursue the path that yields the highest rate of return, so we need to spell out exactly what the outcomes are in the form of a clear value proposition.
Most business owners and senior managers are looking for results in terms of business performance (increased profitability, reduced cost of operations, bigger market share), improved technical performance (automating or outsourcing something that is labor intensive, focusing on the core business, assuring compliance with regulatory standards), or enhanced social relationships (improved employee morale, stronger image in the community, reduced turnover).
The best outcomes are quantifiable and are linked to your differentiators.
Recommend specifically what you think the decision maker and his or her organization should do.
Link your recommendation back to the client’s needs and desired outcomes. This is the only way to make your services look like solutions.
Discuss technical details, cost details, management plans, schedules, risks, logistics, training, documentation, delivery schedules, future implications, conformance to specifications and requirements, whatever. Always link the details of your solution to the client’s needs and constantly return to the key persuasive point — how the solution components will contribute to maximum return.
Following these four steps will lead to effective — and honest — persuasion in letters, proposals, and presentations.
The rest of the work involved in delivering a winning proposal is also very important. You need to demonstrate that you understand the client’s business. You must offer a clear, compelling value proposition. And you need to write it all in language that is clear and easy to understand.
But more than anything else, if you implement the NOSE pattern in your proposals, you will see an improvement in the bottom line. And isn’t that why we’re writing them in the first place?
Copyright 2009 Tom Sant (see below for bio information)
Proposing to Win:
Writing Winning Business Proposals
|Date:||Monday evening, January 26, 2009|
Tom Sant has been called "America's foremost proposals expert" by the American Management Association and was named one of the "Ten Best Trainers in the World" by Selling Power magazine. He is the author of Persuasive Business Proposals, which has revolutionized the way businesses write proposals and has increased win ratios for hundreds of companies all over the world.
Tom's latest study of the fundamentals of professional sales, The Giants of Sales, traces the evolution of modern sales techniques, showing which techniques work and why, linking them to fundamental principles of human psychology. His newest book, The Language of Success, shows how to produce writing that informs, persuades, and gets results. Tom has helped thousands of people around the world improve their ability to deliver the right message the right way. He has been a popular keynote speaker at conferences around the world, from New York and London to Istanbul and Perth.
As a proposal consultant, Tom has written over $30 billion in winning proposals for both private sector and government contracts. Tom's clients include Procter & Gamble, AT&T, Microsoft, Johnson Controls, Booz Allen, NCR, Accenture, Dell, HSBC, Motorola, Kaiser Permanente, and hundreds more. Tom is the principal of San Luis Obispo-based Hyde Park Partners (http://hydeparkpartnerscal.com).