Tuesday, July 7, 2009

When two pages can be better than forty when you write a business proposal

When you are writing a business proposal it can be in response to a "Request for Proposal" (or "Invitation to Tender") - that is, a re-active proposal - one that is reacting to an event from the buyer. Or you can write a pro-active proposal - one that you present to a buyer without waiting for them to ask several potential suppliers for competitive proposals.

A pro-active proposal may be used to help define a business case for a particular project - the client may not have realised the benefits of changing to your particular brand of widgets, for example. But what is the best format for a pro-active proposal? Of course it depends on the complexity and nature of your products, but in many ways the pro-active proposal is there to serve one of two purposes.

1) To provide the client with a written follow-up to sales activity
2) To gain attention of a client prior to sales activity

Undoubtedly if you have had existing sales calls and the client wishes to move ahead, then you need to write a proposal that provides complete details of the product or service you offer and all the accompanying terms and descriptions of your offer - a full proposal.

But if you are sending a proposal into a business that you have no agreement with, is that going to work? No. For two main reasons.

Firstly: it's too big a document for anyone to be interested in reading. Sure, it may be interesting but it's going in the bin.
Secondly: it isn't customised to the client's situation and requirements. So how can you provide the details when you don't know them?

What can work though, is a well presented letter proposal, used as a marketing tool. Rather than sending the glossy brochure out, that's also likely to end up in the circular file next to the desk, send a personalised letter.

You may not know the customer's need, but you should be able to find out the decision makers name. And your letter can get straight to the point of highlighting the benefits you can offer. Not just the generic benefits of your solution (again, you don't know their situation, so think carefully about the client benefits?) but the benefits of having you come in and having a discussion.

A sales letter can be a powerful tool, and more people are likely to read a personalised letter than read a glossy brochure. Make it short and powerful - it's a sales tool, so why not include some proposal power words? Have a clear call to action at the end (what they can do) and also a statement about what you will do (when you will call to follow up).

A sales letter won't work every time, but in certain situations they can be a very powerful tool that is easy to create, cheap to send out and gets results.

Find out more about writing sales letters here, and if you would like help in writing your sales letter, get in touch.