Effective proposal writing will help you win request for proposals (RFPs). What are some strategies for writing winning proposals? Hire a RFP writer, use a free RFP template (or create your own template from previous successful proposals), or develop your RFP database and use that data in your proposals.
Interestingly, writing proposals often gets little attention when developing a selling strategy or even a pricing strategy.
However to be successful in small business sales, particularly in selling products, it is critically important to have a strong proposal writing plan.
Requests for proposal, requests for quotes, and requests for information are just some of the proposals you need to be able to write.
There are advantages in outsourcing your proposal writing. You can hire an experienced and competent RFP writer.
Or you can build your own RFP database and use it to help build a proposal efficiently. Or you can use free RFP templates to help develop a winning bid.
You can also look at comparable or competitive industry bids. Many buying organizations will provide a debrief on why you did not win a bid.
For example, a construction management RFP resulted in a loss for a small business owner who bid on the business.
The owner asked for a debrief and the buyer reviewed the construction management RFP in detail; and the owner learned what the strengths and the weaknesses were of his bid. His win ratio improved by 25% after he worked on improving his proposal writing.
This is a how-to for focusing on writing a proposal as a tactic to increase your sales success rate. This step-by-step action plan is written for product proposal writing but can be easily adapted for project proposals and would need to be somewhat adapted for service proposals. Also consider following a RFP template or RFQ Template if appropriate (if you write bid requests on a regular basis following a free RFP template or using data from a RFP database that you've built can save you resources - time and money).
The Selling Concept: your client or potential client needs to approve of you before making purchasing decisions
Our Strategy as Sellers
For effective proposal writing, we need to understand the situation to develop a strong selling strategy solution.
Some typical questions:
Questions are developed for each proposal based on the proposal inquiry and the circumstances surrounding it. Some other questions might be:
For a first inquiry:
For repeat jobs (previously bought elsewhere)
When you are the incumbent supplier:
Price is an important factor in the selling process but most often winning the proposal writing process is not based only on price (but price can be the tie breaker between two or more 'equal' bids). There are many pricing strategies to consider and use; to name a few - loss leader, psychological pricing, price skimming, and market penetration pricing.
More important than price is what more or better offerings your proposal has when compared to your competitor. The more you have strongly valued attributes the more you can tip the decision in your favor. Your product must be highly differentiated and well positioned.
The proposal is ready: should we fax , email it, or deliver it?
Always try to deliver it in person. Try to get an in-person appointment to do the show and tell on the proposal. Try to be the last appointment; the last is usually the best remembered.
First try to ensure that your proposal is not shared with other bidders.
Your script to the client might be: I'd be really disappointed if the hard work I've done on this proposal is shared with others (and if they tell you that they still plan to do so: I hope you reconsider).
Why don't you want the client to share your proposal? Because it is likely you may meet those competitors again in the bidding process; you do not want the hard work you put into writing a proposal to be copied or imitated by your competitors.
Use your selling window
Ask for the order
What if your price is too high?
It takes time and practice to build a proposal selling strategy that helps grow your small business sales.
Marketing plans must make proposal writing a key part of your selling strategy: keep track of your winning and losing proposals and focus on what helped your proposals win sales or lose sales. Then develop your own winning strategies.
Why is Sales Negotiation Training so important to closing a sale?
Or find out about the importance (to selling) of developing an effective Pricing Strategy.
Return to Small Business Sales.
Successful selling experiences require using more than one technique.
Yes, face-to-face selling (particularly through relationship building) is often one of the more successful tactics.
But other techniques and strategies include building touch points and sharing information.
In other words, educating your customer or prospect on your products and services and also providing information that will help your customer in their business; making sure that your products or services are highly differentiated from competitors' offerings and communicating that differentiation effectively; and clearly understanding what your customers need in terms of value and delivering it.
Communicate with your customers and prospects in person; over the phone; through the mail (yes, letters, cards, coupons and order forms have high response rates if well designed and well executed); over the Internet through blogs, emails, social media, webinars, and your website; through print materials such as catalogues, coupon books, brochures, business cards, flyers and more.
Build your sales approach as a campaign:
Plan to make contact on a regular and frequent basis (not too frequently to the point of irritating customers or too infrequently to the point of being forgotten) and align your campaign with a strong identity program that is consistent with your brand.
Customer loyalty is built by giving value first in all aspects of your business. As a small business owner or manager, you need to commit to offering the best products and/or services.
Ensure that you regularly ask your customers for input and feedback (and both listen to it and act on it) to continuously improve your processes.
Your customers will respond to the value that you add, not only to the solution you propose but also to the relationship you build together.
What do customers want? Market research says that customers have an expectation of good quality, good price and good service; that is the minimum requirement for doing business today.
What more do you need to provide?
Knowledge. Reliability. Consistency. Communication. Discover what your customers value, and provide it.
Note: customers have unique and individual needs; they do not all value the same things. Make sure you clearly understand what each individual customer or market segment wants or needs.
In a business to business selling environment, it used to be that it would take between seven or eight touches to make a sale (or not, since not all contact means that a prospect will buy).
In this Internet age, it takes more touches.
Why? Because we have become both 'ad blind' and somewhat 'insensitive' to touches.
What this means to the small business owner is that your communication (and touches) need to be different from others (not imitations or copies of what everyone else is doing), it needs to be believable and sincere, and it needs to be memorable.
In a business to business sales environment, the selling cycle takes longer to close (and is often more complex) than ever before.
To effectively grow your sales, you need build a plan that will help you to optimize your efforts.
Focus your planning efforts on a lean sales process that: will solve your customer's problem or challenge; has value (i.e. reduces time and/or cost); provides not only what the customer wants but more than has been identified (over-delivering); and that provides a solution that offers convenience, high quality, a price that is acceptable, competitive and covers the business' costs, and exceptional service.