Proposals are a game of SHOW, not just tell!

A convincing proposal is one that makes the buyer sit up and take notice. Once you’ve proven you can do everything that the buyer is asking for, you’ll want to explain how things could be done better. This, however, is easier said than done.

As early as 1981, Prof. Valerie Zeithaml of Texas A&M University identified professional services as existing “on the extreme intangibility end of the tangibility spectrum. Their ‘product’ is the result of many years of specialised study and training and clients have difficulty evaluating these ‘products’”.  

Your team will often be pitching to customers who have a much lower level of technical expertise than they do themselves.

For proposals to be convincing, proposal leaders and subject matter experts need to be able to work together to illustrate and translate their technical knowledge into commercial insights that will resonate with the customer.

They also need to go beyond the brief, address the customer’s concerns and issues, and show a thoughtful approach to the work that sells your firm’s expertise (particularly innovative ways to achieve technical outcomes), all the while reassuring them of your experience (strong credentials in similar engagements or projects).

The poster child that sells your firm's expertise is the way you present your methodology. In professional services, this is often the major proof that a firm can do the job.

It's not enough to present methodologies in words only; you need good quality visuals to illustrate complex concepts and help the buyer understand the journey you will take them on. Do this better than competitors, and you’ll get much closer to the mark.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more about it here.