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I’ve spent 19 years in advertising and the last six of those years as an agency matchmaker and consultant. My company’s collective includes hundreds of agencies, so needless to say, I’ve seen my fair share of proposals from agencies of all shapes and sizes. Part of matchmaking involves facilitating the sales process and often evaluating the agency’s proposal before it is submitted to the client. Time and time again, I see critical elements either missing or in need of improvement.
In my experience, getting these key areas right can make all the difference in winning business. Brands get anywhere from three to five or even a dozen proposals these days. To stand out from the rest, you must have clear positioning, a compelling story, a beautiful look-and-feel factor, scope alignment, an out-of-the-box pricing strategy and evidence of your experience.
Additionally, taking advantage of modern proposal platforms and only presenting your proposal in person or online, rather than simply emailing it over, can impact the deal. Ultimately, you want to paint a picture and provide enough context and clarity to reduce fear and risk, a top business to business (B2B) decision making factor.
Here’s a set of five actionable elements to implement in order to fine-tune your next proposal and win the deal:
You’d think agencies would have their positioning perfected, but it’s a big challenge for agencies to plant a flag in the sand. I suggest creating a positioning statement by using this format: “The only [product or service category] that [differentiation characteristic] for [customer profile] in [geographic location] who [pain point or need] during [underlying trend]. Tell brands upfront who you are by leveraging your positioning statement and ensuring your brand positioning is reflected in all of your messaging.
Everyone loves a good story. Most proposal writers talk in a cold and corporate tone about capabilities, category experience and cost — then provide a bunch of boiler-plate text. There’s no story. Stories don’t simply inform; they engage and build emotional connection. Your story can address: Why are you in business? What do you believe in? What have you done that’s remarkable? Consider how your agency’s story fits with the brand’s story. For example, maybe you’re an influencer marketing agency that got its start in the music industry and you’re pitching to a record label. Tell the story of what music means to you and why your agency is so uniquely suited for the account.
If your proposal is poorly designed, you might as well as save yourself the time and bow out. If you’re an agency, having a beautiful proposal is a must, especially in light of the competition. You can have the best content in the world, but without a branded and beautiful look and feel with visual assets to enhance the messaging, you’re a fish out of water. Great design demonstrates your attention to detail, shows you practice what you preach, builds an emotional connection with your prospect and reduces the perception of risk. Invest in designing a proposal template and assets.
Proposal Delivery Platforms
If you haven’t checked out proposal platforms like PandaDoc and Proposify, you’re missing out. Both streamline the proposal process, allow you to create beautiful proposals and leverage templates and provide tracking and online signatures. Additionally, they allow you to embed video in your proposal, which can be a game-changer if you invest in a video overview or testimonials. Finally, these platforms integrate with popular CRMs, enabling you to get smarter and more efficient with your sales.
Never, ever, ever send a proposal to your prospect via email for them to review on their own time. Always use the assumptive approach and automatically schedule a proposal review session. Then, get together or get online and walk your prospect through the proposal. Throughout the process, pause and give them time to respond and weigh in with negative or positive feedback. Don’t just drone on. Tell them the goal is to use the session to get on the same page. Once you’re finished, establish a clear next step and then fire away on the proposal so they can digest it further.
There’s more to writing winning proposals, like scope alignment and pricing strategy, but I’ll save those for another day. The five things I focused on will give you the most bang for your buck right now. It’s simply a matter of taking the steps and making the investment. Don’t delay — your win rate can skyrocket based on your ability to present a proposal with clear positioning, a strong narrative and beautiful design on a cutting-edge platform.
May 9, 2019 at 08:45AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs