Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Perfect proposals (by Clayton)


Do you read Mike Clayton? You probably should.

Here is his idea of the 12 points of a perfect proposal:

What are the elements of a perfect proposal? Here are 12.
 
You
No one wants to hear all about you. See the next subtitle. That's who your audience wants to hear about... themselves. But (and it's a big 'but') they do need to know enough about you to know you are worth paying attention to. So, for a cold proposal, this means using the introduction or cover letter or some other means to establish your credibility - what my dad used to call your bona fides.

Them
This is what they want to know... What's in it for them? Show how you have their best interests in mind with this proposal. You understand their needs and desires and know how to satisfy them better than any alternative solution can.

Focus
Keep your focus on the specific situation. Any sign of standard 'boilerplate' descriptions, arguments, or evidence will make it look less about 'Them' and more about 'anyone'. 

Value
How will your proposal deliver and maximise value to them? The vast majority of business decisions revolve around the capacity to either make money or save money.

Benefits
But there can be other benefits too. Describe the non-financial value your proposal offers - and what this means to them. This, of course, means you need to take time to understand them and their requirements and priorities. 

Emotions
All that hard evidence gives them a reason to make the decision to accept your proposal. But it won't motivate them to do so. For that, you need to tap into their emotions. Find emotional hooks into pride, fear, duty, desire, ambition, loyalty, passion... Emotions drive decisions: reasons justify them.

How
So, you also need to show how your proposal will solve their problem, deliver their joy, or enhance their reputation. Make the link between what they want and what you are proposing as clear, simple, and short as you can. A 15-step sequence from the cause (your proposal) to the effect (their outcome) won't cut it. 

Process
Next they need to know what will happen if (when) they say yes. What will you do, what will they do, and how long would it all take? For confidence that your is the right choice, they need to see a plan that clearly works.

Context
This section lets them understand how your proposal fits into your life and theirs - your business and their own. This shows that you and they are compatible and is the equivalent of the more traditional (cheesy) 'how we are different to the competition'. Of course this differentiates you. It shows how this proposal is right for them and for you.

Business
Don't go all techy on a technical proposal. Remember who you are speaking to. If your audience is a business person or a group of businesspeople, focus on the business. If your audience is software engineers, focus on the business of software engineering: not the hardware. What is their business? That's how to frame your proposal.

Structure
I get it. You have a lot of ideas to get down. But, before you start, develop a structure that makes it compelling for them to follow. If they asked six questions in a sequence, then a great structure is to answer those six questions... in the same sequence. Make it easy for them to say 'yes'.

Quality
Finally remember Mark Anthony's advice: 'The evil that men do lives on. The good is oft' interred with their bones'. People remember your mistakes and easily forget all the good stuff. Make sure you check the quality of your proposal, not once, not twice... Better still, get the pickiest, most pedantic person you know to do it for you. You invested all that time. Now add a little more investment, to avoid throwing it all away!



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