Small Details that Make a Proposal Stand Out: Biz Proposals that Work

Small Details that Make a Proposal Stand Out: Biz Proposals that Work

Business proposals are a crucial part of getting more upscale clients. However, I am yet to come across a business owner who enjoys writing them. They can make or break a deal; therefore, entrepreneurs end up in a sort of analysis paralysis. The core framework for a convincing business proposal hasn’t changed. In this article, I will show some little touches you can add to make your proposal stand out and win more business.


How to Make a Proposal Stand Out


1) Understand what the client wants

While at school, I didn’t like to ask questions. I felt it made me seem stupid. On the other hand, I had a friend who loved to ask questions, even if she had an excellent idea of what the answer was. In the end, she did much better than me in a vital Maths exam, and I had to resit. What people think about you doesn’t matter. All that matters is the result. I am yet to meet a client who was upset that I asked too many questions. They often complained that other service providers felt they knew it all. The result is that they aren’t able to deliver as promised, and the contract is cancelled.


I like to print out project briefs and annotate them. This gets my brain thinking deeply about what the client wants and how to deliver the best work. Secondly, I look at similar projects and make notes. Finally, I send my list of questions to the client, meet them in person to discuss, or arrange a video call with their team. Going this extra mile shows potential clients that you are a professional. This gives them a good idea as to what it would be like to work with you.


2) Less is more

A typical problem entrepreneurs face is that while they have a good marketing system, their client acquisition rate is poor. And often, it comes down to how they convert leads. In some cases, a simple video explaining the problems, and how you plan on solving it is enough. A boring business proposal doesn’t excite potential clients into taking the next step. Once you finish writing it, read it out loud to spot any errors. It is also a good way to monitor the rhythm and tone of your proposal. Next, use the Hemingway app to check your work. This web app lets you know whether your work is easy to understand. Next, use Grammarly to detect any spelling or grammatical errors.


As part of the editing phase, check to see whether parts of your proposal can be replaced with a diagram or video. In some cases, pages are easily explained using video, and you could incorporate things like video testimonials and explainer videos. A tool like Qwilr will also incorporate tracking and analytics. For instance, I can see how much of my proposal was read, and how long prospects spend on each page. I then use this information for a more effective follow-up.


3) Persuasion

Dr Robert Cialdini has a groundbreaking book titled “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”. The teachings have been used to create successful political campaigns, ad campaigns and help boost sales figures at the world’s largest companies. Here is how to add 3 super components to your proposals:


A) Authority

We respect those in authority and find their words to be more believable. If you are starting out, it can be challenging to show authority. However, writing a short guide about your industry, or a report on key data, can make you seem more authoritative. Holding industry-specific qualifications will raise your level of authority even further. Add a link to your guide or report on the first page of your proposals.


B) Liking

We love doing business with people we like. This is why relationship building is vital in the world of business. Some people are naturally good at getting people to like and trust them. However, this can be learned.


Firstly, you need to find something the other individual is passionate about. This could be a sports team, tv show or hobby. Once you know what it is, make a note of it, carry out research and bring it up in conversation. Most of the time, the individual will talk endlessly about their passion. The aim is to put them in a heightened state of happiness whenever they converse with you so that they relate those feelings to you. For example, if I know that a potential client supports a certain team, I would mention their latest victory, or transfer speculation. This helps to lighten the mood and build some common ground.


Secondly, people feel like their opinions and insight matter. Therefore, instead of just nodding as they speak, make insightful comments at the end of their statement. This helps to boost their ego and increase the likelihood of them liking you.


Informal statements are best left out of your proposal, only use them during follow up calls, meetings etc.


C) Reciprocity

This is by far the most powerful technique. We feel obligated to give back to those who have offered us something for free.


For instance, in my proposals, I would often draw my clients’ attention to something which can improve business performance. Sometimes I would spend hours on analysis because I know that it can make a big difference.


For example, a client contacted me about writing a sales page for their range of health products. We had a chat and they requested a proposal. I checked out their website and noticed that they weren’t using video to attract more customers. I added a one-page analysis to the proposal on how video could increase sales. I linked out to studies on the subject, and even how they could structure their videos for maximum effect. It took me 2 hours to write this analysis. However, thy stated that after contacting much larger agencies, that one page was what showed them that I was the best person for the project.


Mention something nice about them, such as their professionalism and/or responsiveness, then use that as the basis for why you decided to offer them a ‘gift’.


4) Solve problems

The bigger the problem, the larger the cheque. Therefore, you must showcase how your work can solve many issues. This is why I strongly recommend taking some time to have a long conversation with your prospect. They will air out frustrations which aren’t in the brief. This can be used in the proposal. This shows that you understand their issues on a deep level. Proposing an action plan helps you to stand out from other entrepreneurs.


Most proposals given to me for editing involve a lot of ‘chest beating’ and use many words to hide the fact that they don’t know what they are doing. They showcase their educational accomplishments and “strength’ of their teams. Every statement you make needs to be backed up. Otherwise, it will simply pass over your prospects’ heads like the wind.


A common question service providers have is “How do I show clients I can solve problems without having much past experience?”. The key is to have side projects and document how you took them from A to B. For instance, an SEO ‘expert’ could start a blog and get it to page 1. Along the way, they should document what they did into a case study. This acts as a calling card. This will take some time, but it is worth the effort.


5) Make on-boarding easy

Imagine leading the pack in the Olympics hurdles finals, and then tripping over the last hurdle to finish last. You can have the best marketing plan in the world, but it would all be for nothing if you don’t know how to get them past the finish line. Often, the onboarding process leaves clients confused.


In your proposal show what you need from the client in order to get started. This might be a deposit, files or a meeting.  The easier you make it, the better.


Final thoughts

I hope you found this article useful, and it helps you to grow your business. Use the tips to develop a template which will have clients looking for the dotted line. To recap, here is what I covered in this article:


1) Understand what the client wants. If you are unsure, ask.

2) Edit your proposal to make it as succinct as possible.

3) If your plan lacks certain elements of persuasion, it will fall flat. The components you should add to every proposal are:

  • Authority
  • Liking
  • Reciprocity

4) The more problems your proposal solves, the better. Businesses pay for problem-solving. The bigger the problem, the more they are willing to pay.

5) Make it easy for clients to get started. Tell them exactly what you need from them. This helps to avoid arguments down the line.

Francis Nwokike

Francis Nwokike is a Social Entrepreneur and an experienced Disaster Manager. I love discussing new business trends and marketing tips. I share ideas and tips that will help you grow your business.

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