Make Your Proposals Stand Out (and Win)

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If you find your prospects aren’t taking action, or aren’t moving forward with you, here’s how you can make your proposals stand out and win more often (and at higher price points).

Last time we looked at who is the hero of your proposal. Now let’s focus on if and why the hero needs you. In Star Wars, Luke wants to escape the drudgery of moisture farming, but only after Imperial stormtroopers kill his adoptive parents (“only Imperial stormtroopers are so precise”) does he agree to go to Alderaan with Obi-Wan. (It’s a compelling pitch at that point. I hope your sales pitches are *less* compelling and involve less desperate prospects.)

When we try to make ourselves stand out, we can come across as narcissistic (“we are an industry-leading firm with 8,000 PhD years of thought leadership…”), and we can completely miss the point.

So what should we do instead?

Just ask.

Why are you talking to us? What are you looking for in your partner or vendor? This is on top of establishing why the project itself is important enough to do, and do now, and why the prospect hasn’t been able to solve it before.

This is where you establish the “why work with me” part of the proposal, which is just as important as nailing the problem statement. If you just get the problem part right, but don’t have a compelling reason for the prospect to work with you, they may go with a competitor, or even get stuck in “no decision.”

If you’re worried about budget and pricing pressure, you can even ask, “we’re definitely not the cheapest option in this market– what are you looking for from us?” If they are going to make a decision based on price and you won’t win anyway, you’ve just saved yourself a bunch of time and opportunity cost. But if they care about other things (“we wasted a lot of money on the cheapest option we could find last time, and we’re still stuck in the same place– we need to get this done before the middle of the quarter or we won’t be able to make our numbers”, or whatever), you can learn what’s critical to them. If you don’t actually fit what they need, tell them and move on. But if you do, you’ve got key to standing out against the competition and making the prospect feel comfortable selecting you.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking these questions, practice. As Jason Cohen mentioned in the first episode of the Sales for Nerds podcast, “Knowing that you need to ask shows that you know exactly what you’re doing.”



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