Quote generator software that not only builds proposals but builds relationships
From Start To Finish: How CPQ and CRM Work Together
This year’s Presidential campaign season has already been full of surprises and twists, and it’s bound to get even more intense as the months roll on. It’s very early, yet candidates are trying their hardest to prove that they’re the best, most experienced, most appropriate leaders for the nation – and, regardless of your political affiliations or personal investments in the outcome of the election, you have to be impressed with the tactics they use to promote themselves.
While the analogy isn’t obvious at first glance, this process of political positioning has a lot to teach us about the best way to structure and write a proposal in a professional environment. Think about your goals as a proposal writer: you’re competing against a group of peers, you have to convince the reviewer that you’re the most authoritative and valuable candidate, and you only get a finite amount of space to pack in all of your persuasive arguments.
Let’s dig into the specifics of how political tactics can help you shape better proposals:
Have a Slogan
Politics and marketing have a lot in common. Perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to communicate large amounts of meaning in a targeted, effective way. This is best demonstrated by the political slogan, a short snippet of text designed to “stick” in a voter’s mind and accurately, concisely sum up the entirety of a candidate’s political platform. For politicians, this might be a value statement or a snappy rebuttal to an opponent’s vision for the future of the country.
For you, this is an opening statement or summary page, where you’ll boil down your main points to only those that are most relevant. If you’re successful here, your arguments are going to “stick” in your readers’ minds, and long after they’ve given the proposals a once-over, yours is the one that’s going to come to mind first. It also serves as an effective summary page: since it’s rare that companies will review entire proposals multiple times over, your summary statements are the best tool that you have to earn bonus points during further reviews.
Create a Plan
There’s something to be said for the value of rational appeal, and there’s no greater rational appeal than a point-by-point plan. For politicians, this means turning a general statement like “improve education” into a series of realistic, actionable items (which is often easier said than done). This must be grounded and convincing, or else nobody will find the plan persuasive.
Proposal writing is no different, except that you have different general statements to flesh out, and you’ll be in complete control of how you eventually execute the steps to get there. For example, you might have a statement like, “We’ll help you to increase your marketing ROI,” but that doesn’t say much unless you have a well-researched, well-documented plan on how you’re going to pull that off. It’s important to back up your plans with research and insights; otherwise, your plan steps will seem as hollow or unimpressive as your general statements. Be specific here!
Ask for Help
It’s almost impossible to create and manage a political campaign on your own. Most modern political candidates have entire teams of people behind the scenes, posting on their behalf on social media, answering press inquiries, scheduling events, and getting them ready for significant turns. The politician may be a visionary for the campaign, but the grunt work is done by, well, grunts.
As a proposal writer, you may have access to your own team, but sometimes even that isn’t enough to get your proposal written in time (or in a proper format). That’s why tools like iQuoteXpress exist – too help you get your proposals written faster and easier without sacrificing the quality of your finished piece. Think of your proposal writing software as a campaign manager, helping you keep everything in order.
Prove That You’re More Than Just Empty Promises
One of the biggest problems politicians face in the modern era is earning voter trust. All of their plans may sound good, and their rhetoric may be persuasive, but what does that actually mean? It doesn’t matter that you have a four-year plan to improve healthcare coverage if, when you get into office, you immediately abandon that plan. Accordingly, politicians are forced to prove that they’re more than just empty promises.
You’ve guessed it already: you do too. Most proposal submitters will talk a big game, so to differentiate yourself, you have to prove that you can back up those words. Some of the most effective ways to do this are through case studies and former client testimonials; show that you’ve done it before! Otherwise, you can show off measurable metrics and your company history (including team member expertise) to close the deal.
To many voters, all candidates look alike. The frontrunners are the ones who’ve managed to stand out from the crowd. In this year’s election, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – candidates on both sides of the aisle – have emerged as major contenders because of their unconventional approaches (and, in the former’s case, debatable aptitude). This isn’t to say that standing out instantly makes you a better candidate, but it does get you more attention – and attention is always the first step. Put this to good use in your proposal writing endeavors by including a unique format or position. Break away from the norm!
If you can use these tactics effectively for your proposal, you’ll have a far better chance at standing out among the crowd. Remember, one of the most important elements to successful integration is subtlety: if a voter suspects a politician of being subversive or manipulative, the politician will lose his/her vote. Similarly, if you try too hard to manipulate your readers, your proposal will come off as sales-y and impersonal. Instead, strive to incorporate these means of persuasion without losing the human approachability of your voice.
While it may seem like a straightforward process to an outsider, writing a business proposal is actually a very nuanced task with tons of different rules and requirements. If you want to experience success and increase the chances of your proposals getting accepted and read, then you need to avoid the following deadly mistakes that often set businesses back.
1. Not Doing Your Due Diligence
The biggest mistake you can make is not doing enough due diligence on the prospective client. Before sending any proposal – no matter how big or small – you should know the business like the back of your hand. You should be able to recite their mission statement, rattle off core values, name their clients and customers, and identify key decision makers.
The problem a lot of businesses have when writing a proposal is that they feel like it’s only important to understand which products or services the prospect sells. While this is certainly a component of understanding the prospective client, you need to dig much deeper. What are their work ethics? Which philosophies drive growth? What does the company depend on to meet year-end goals and objectives?
In order to understand all of this, you’re going to have to do more than run a couple of Google searches. You’ll need to do some investigative work and talk with current and former employees and clients. If you know anyone in the same industry as the prospect, speak with them, too. If you can’t talk about the company for more than three or four minutes straight, then you don’t know enough.
2. Writing a Lazy Executive Summary
Few components of a proposal are as important as the executive summary. Since many companies receive dozens of responses to RFPs – many exceeding 10 or 15 pages in length – they often rely on executive summaries to weed out the good proposals from the bad. If your executive summary is an afterthought, your proposal will essentially be an afterthought in the eyes of the recipient.
What does a bad executive summary look like, you may ask? Well, it’s long, dense, and vague. An effective summary is concise, digestible, and to-the-point. Don’t delay in getting to the main point: why you’re the right choice. This should be evident within the first couple of sentences.
3. Focusing on Price Over Value
While price is definitely an important component of a business proposal – it’s not the only component. If you’re spending too much time discussing dollars and cents, you’re obviously not spending enough time talking about value. News flash: the latter is more important than the former to most companies. Certainly mention price, but focus the majority of your proposal on value.
If you enter into discussions with the company, there will be time to flesh out pricing details. When trying to convince a company to work with you, though, value is what’s most important. How are you going to make them better? What do you do that no other competitor can do? Why are you right for the job? The answers to these questions are most important.
4. Making Grammatical Errors
Writing isn’t everyone’s strong suit, but unfortunately, it needs to be. In order to be looked upon with respect, you must be capable of stringing together coherent sentences without making grammatical errors.
According to Emphasis Training, a UK-based business-writing consultancy, careless mistakes tell prospects, “This person can’t write” or, “This person doesn’t care enough to check what they’ve written.” While it may not seem like a big deal, a proposal filled with typos is destined for the trash.
Never submit a proposal without having at least two other sets of eyes review it. Ideally, you should have a professional copywriter take a look, but this isn’t always possible. Just make sure the proposal’s writer isn’t the only one checking for errors.
5. Not Paying Attention to the Deadline
Deadline proposals exist for two primary reasons. First, businesses need to collect all proposals by a certain cutoff date in order to have time to sort through them and make a decision. Second, businesses use deadlines to weed out responsible vendors from irresponsible ones. After all, if you can’t meet a proposal deadline, who’s to say you’ll ever meet a project deadline?
In order to meet proposal deadlines, you need to avoid procrastinating. Start well in advance and keep the process moving. As the deadline approaches, anxiety and stress will set in – which seriously inhibits your ability to concentrate and produce. By knocking the proposal out well in advance, you don’t have to deal with these same problems.
6. Leaving Out Social Proof
Any proposal can make a claim. However, very few proposals have the factual information and data to back up these claims. If you want your proposal to stand out against the myriad of other competitors, then you must find a way to incorporate elements of social proof into it.
In order to avoid making your proposal’s copy too dense, include these items at the end. Attach things like spreadsheets, survey results, and referrals. The more factual proof you can provide, the more professional you’ll look.
7. Ignoring the RFP’s Requests
Companies send out RFPs for a reason. They want to receive highly targeted responses that satisfy their particular demands. They aren’t looking for generic proposals. Always review an RFP very carefully before responding. You should address each and every question/concern/issue they bring up. If they didn’t want to know something, they wouldn’t have mentioned it. Keep this in mind and be thorough with your responses.
Contact iQuoteXpress Today
iQuoteXpress is a web-based SaaS application that’s been strategically designed to enable businesses – such as your own – to automate and streamline the proposal process. Our proprietary solution lets you securely store contact and proposal information online, accelerate the writing process, and gain a competitive advantage.
If you’re interested in learning more about iQuoteXpress, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We’d be happy to provide you with a free, no-obligation online demo of our advanced software platform to show you what it can do for your business.