Do your letter proposals generate business? Or do they often miss the mark? I've learned that letter proposals must do four things. Incorporate these four steps into every letter proposal and you'll see improvements.
1. Focus on your prospect's need, not your abilities
Get to the point. Name a problem that is hurting your prospect's bottom line. Concentrate on their need and not on your company. Establish credibility not so much by demonstrating your expertise as by showing your understanding of the prospect's business. Be specific. Claude Hopkins and George Gallop proved years ago that prospects are interested in themselves more than they are in your product or service. Show me I have a problem that's costing me money and I'll read to the end of your letter.
2. Show the benefits of solving that need
Hold your reader's interest by demonstrating how they gain by addressing their need. Don't confuse the benefits of meeting the need with the features of your product or service. Instead, spell out how the prospect will improve productivity and profitability by addressing their need. Describe possible consequences of inaction.
3. Recommend your solution
Make a clear recommendation accompanied by action steps. Don't describe the solution-recommend it! Present your recommendation so persuasively that the prospect believes that only your solution will meet their need. Example: "We recommend that XYZ Corporation hire The Gordon Writing Group to conduct a customized, one-day, on-site, hands-on workshop on Effective Proposal Writing." Always link your solution to your prospect's need. And stress what makes your solution unique.
4. Provide details
Prove that you have the qualifications, experience and resources to deliver your solution on time and on budget. Show that you understand the costs involved, particularly the return on investment to your prospect. Provide a budget. Provide an implementation schedule. Always return to your key selling point-your recommendation presented in terms of a quantifiable benefit to the prospect. Close with confidence-ask for their business.
Some free writing tips:
- keep letter proposals under 5 pages in length
- arrange everything in the order that's most important to the client
- accentuate the positive with underlining, fonts, headings and bullets
- don't recycle resumes and corporate profiles from other proposals; customize them
- be specific; quantify benefits whenever possible
- write in the active voice
- if you can cut a word and keep your meaning, cut
Finally, avoid hackneyed openings and closings that clients read every day. Instead of: "I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for considering the enclosed," write: "Here is our proposal." Also, "If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call" has been done to death. So give it a funeral.
About the author
Alan Sharpe is an executive speech coach and business writing trainer. On-site, online and over the phone, Alan teaches executives and managers how to express themselves clearly, concisely and convincingly using the written and spoken word. Receive a free tip like this each week by subscribing to Alan Sharpe's column,The Confident Communicator
© 2008 Alan Sharpe. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the "About the author" message).