Business Coach Column by Ruben Anlacan, Jr. (President, BusinessCoach, Inc.) from the Manila Bulletin
The business proposal is very crucial to a company. It is the primary tool to solicit a sale. Very often, the salesperson is not allowed to personally present her / his proposition and may be asked to just leave their business proposals for consideration. In other cases, after a brilliant presentation, the salesperson is then asked to submit a business proposal to close the deal. Either way, the business proposal plays a significant role.
There are two types of business proposals: solicited proposals and unsolicited proposals. There is a big difference between the two, but both are used by companies, as each is necessary depending on the situation.
Solicited proposals are called as thus because it was the customer who asked you to submit them. Solicited proposals have a better chance of being accepted because the customer here has already signified interest in your product or service. This also means there is already an existing demand. The client is already expecting your proposal, and anticipates finding the benefits of conducting business with you.
If you are writing a solicited business proposal, you have the advantage of being able to communicate easily with your customers. Before writing the proposal, interview them. Ask them what in particular they wanted to be included in the proposal. If they specified a needed feature, then write it down in your proposal. If they are concerned about the delivery schedule, then include it. If they want to see the detailed specifications of the project, then you must incorporate that as well. There is no better way to write a business proposal, than to prepare it the way the customer wanted to read it.
Unsolicited proposals are called such because nobody requested them but you submitted them anyway. Because they are unsolicited, the risk of not being read, or worse, being thrown in the garbage is high. Unsolicited business proposals fall into two types. The first and most common treats the proposal as a brochure in letter form. They are generic, as no specific company is addressed. In this case they are often used as giveaways at trade shows—not designed to immediately close a sale, but to maintain interest. The other type of unsolicited proposal addresses a particular party’s needs. For example, a construction company sends out an unsolicited proposal to a landowner to engage in a joint venture.
Writing a business proposal is hard work as there are so many things to take into account. The following are some Do’s and Don’ts in writing a winning business proposal:
• Research abot the company. Find out as much as possible about your target company. Learn not only the hard figures but also soft information that can give helpful clues to their corporate culture. This will prove to be an invaluable guide in drafting your proposal.
• Write a title page. Write the name of the project. Include the name of the client, your business name and address, and the date.
• Personalize your proposal. Write the name of the manager who would decide on the project, and include her/his title.
• Use the proper font size. Fonts used should be large and readable; 12 points is strongly suggested. Do not sacrifice legibility for aesthetics.
• Emphasize the suitability of your product or service. Immediately after the paragraph introducing your company, go into why your offering will be best for them.
• Include brochures to your proposal. Prospects are impressed with companies that have a good portfolio. They will want to see how your products look like.
• Indicate a follow-up time. Specify when you will call or drop by to follow up on your proposal.
• Never use jargon. Most of the time, the proposal will be read by a committee. Make sure you do not use jargon or overly technical terms, as they may not be understood. If you must use jargon, immediately explain the meaning of the term in one sentence. You may also opt to include an appendix after the proposal so the non-technical persons may refer to it later.
• Do not make unsubstantiated claims. Make sure you have evidence to back up your claims. This applies not only to your products but also to claims of market leadership. Do not say you are the leading company if you are just one of the pack. Your credibility could be irreparably harmed if you engage in misrepresentation. Even worse, a disgruntled customer or competitor may bring on a lawsuit.
• Do not be too fancy. Print proposals on a white or beige high quality paper, and then bind the proposal nicely. Do not let the packaging distract from the content of your offering.
• Do not beat around the bush. Introduce your company, and then present the needed information immediately. Respect the time of your reader.
• Never omit requested information. This often happens when a price quotation is requested. While some advise you not to give the price until you can personally explain the benefits; omitting your price usually results in your proposal being automatically rejected. A compromise may be to give a price range instead of a fixed price. This allows flexibility so that you can determine the proper price after you have better assessed your client’s needs.
Even after you have done everything right, only a few business proposals are eventually accepted. There will always be factors beyond your control that prevent the closing of the sale. Nevertheless, by remembering the tips mentioned above, you could improve the number of your winning proposals.
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