Coach to Creatives

The Clarity Journal

Tactics, Tools, and Truth for Creative Entrepreneurs

3 Ways to Make Your Proposals Irresistible

I’ve never considered myself to be a good sales person. I’m not always 100% comfortable “selling myself” or pitching to new clients – in fact, I think its terrifying. I don’t have a fancy, well-designed proposal template or sophisticated CRM software or formal sales training or that slick-yet-aggressive style I associate with good salespeople. 

In spite of all of this, I converted 100% of my new client proposals in 2017.

To accomplish this, I was forced to learn an important lesson: Being a successful “salesperson” has nothing to do with being awesome at talking about yourself or having an aggressive, go-getter personality or using sophisticated tools. On the contrary, it’s about forming a genuine connection with someone, developing an understanding of what they want or need, and confidently communicating how you can give it to them.

Whether you have had a lot of success converting new clients or have experienced your fair share of rejections, here are three ways that you can make your proposals irresistible.

If you’re feeling intimidated already, don’t worry. I’ve already done a lot of the hard work for you.

Understand Your Client’s Goals

Writing a killer proposal begins before your fingers ever strike the keyboard; it begins with understanding the client’s goals. What do they want to accomplish? What problem needs to be solved? What end-result are they seeking? 

Understanding the client’s goals gives you a significant competitive edge for a few reasons.

  • The client feels understood. If you show the client that you really “get it,” they will want to work with you over someone else.

  • It makes it easier to position your work. If you understand what your client really wants, it is much easier to show them how your work can give it to them.

  • You elevate your status. When you work to understand your client’s goals, you rise above your status as a vendor and become a true, collaborative partner with the client in achieving their goal.

Once you understand the client’s goals, summarize them in writing and place them as the very first item in your proposal. Don’t worry if you aren’t a strong writer; a simple list or bullets will work fine. It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare to be effective.

Establish Your Value

After you have demonstrated that you understand the client’s goals, the next task is to establish the value that your work will create. And, I'm not just talking about how good you are relative to your peers in the industry. I'm talking about creating value in ways that are meaningful to the client. It is critical for your clients to understand your work in light of the value it will create so that they can justify the dollars that it will cost.

If you can define value in financial terms, that is always ideal. But, it can be difficult, and sometimes near impossible, to quantify the impact of creative work. If that is the case for you, demonstrate the value of your work in qualitative terms. What positive impact will this work have on your client? How will their business results be improved? What benefits will they experience? Or, to put it in negative terms, if they decide not to move forward and hire you, how will that affect them?

Summarize the value of the project in writing just like you did with the goals. Again, it doesn’t have to be polished prose to get the job done.

Uncover Roadblocks

Remember that time that your new client seemed super enthusiastic and interested in working with you? And remember that other time that something came out of nowhere and the whole thing fell apart? 

It’s impossible to identify every possible roadblock that could get in the way of your client hiring you. And, you certainly don’t want to be paranoid or overly pessimistic when you are assessing your chances. At the same time, it's helpful to be open-eyed about the things that may derail your client from signing.

Here are some common roadblocks to be aware of as you talk to your prospective clients.

  • Your contact doesn’t have final say. Who else will need to approve your proposal besides your contact? Does the business have a board of directors that will need to provide approval? Does the person’s business partner, or even spouse, have a say? Don’t fall into the trap of focusing all of your attention on your primary contact and ignoring others who may have veto power.

  • The project isn’t a priority. You need to understand the relative urgency of the work in the client’s eyes. Is this a “nice to have” project or a “must-do” project? What other things are on your client’s plate that may take priority? Does the client have significant personal distractions or obligations that could derail the process?

  • They have budget constraints. If your client has budget constraints, you need to understand them and whether you can work within them. If their budget isn’t realistic for the work they want, they need to hear that feedback from you.

  • They are considering alternatives. Is your client collecting other proposals? Are they considering a do-it-yourself or internal solution? Are they considering doing nothing at all? You need to understand what you are up against so that you can emphasize how your work meets their needs better than the alternative.

All of this negative thinking has a positive up-side. If you know ahead of time what might prevent the client from hiring you, you can take steps to address their concerns before you deliver the proposal and in the proposal itself.

Start Writing Killer Proposals Today

To write proposals like this, you have to ask great questions. I’ve already done the hard work for you: download my New Client Interview Template and start writing killer proposals today.