You’re not the only one: All businesses, large and small, put a lot of energy into creating proposals, pitches, and decks in order to secure new business partners, contracts, and clients.
It’s the lifeblood of any company, keeping you afloat and helping you grow. But it also takes up a lot of time and manpower—and of course, there aren’t any guarantees that you’re going to see results. But you can improve the odds. As small business marketers ourselves, we’ve been around the block. We’re happy to share a few of the most important lessons we’ve learned.
Here are a few tips for how to create the business proposal that they’ll choose:
1 Color Inside the Lines. There’s a time for you to think outside the box, color outside the lines, stand out from the crowd. But when it comes to your first proposal with a new prospect, it’s time to follow the guidelines that they’ve set forth. It’s easy to disqualify yourself from the process at the very start by seeming like someone who’s going to be difficult to work with, or who can’t follow simple instructions. Maybe your potential business partners will simply feel undervalued because you couldn’t spare the time to read their request all the way through—which is never the beginning of a beautiful relationship. If they want a 5-minute presentation, don’t give them 10. If they want a one-pager explaining your pitch, don’t give them two. It’s as easy as that.
2 Know Your Audience. Sometimes the right way to impress your audience is going to be with a flashy deck that shows off your creative and technical skills. But sometimes you’re talking to busy people who would like concise, short bullet points. When you’re preparing your materials to submit or your real-time presentation, learn about the actual people and company who you’re talking to and try to personalize your materials or at least think about what they specifically want while you’re also focusing on what you have to offer and what the project is all about.
3 Know Your Competitors. The fastest path to the finish line requires passing your competition. Knowing their best moves and favorite routes is how you can outmaneuver them. It’s common in niche industries to come up against the same companies again and again, and you can do basic research just by visiting their website—or looking into previous clients they’ve worked with and the types of projects they do. Another way to get better than the competition is reaching out to clients where your proposals weren’t picked and politely ask for any feedback about why they went with someone else, so you can learn about other strengths they were seeking or areas where you can improve. Remember: At the end of the day, you aren’t just being judged on your own merit. Whatever you submit is being directly weighed and held up against a handful of other proposals, and it’s how yours looks next to theirs, not how it looks on its own, that matters most.
If you’ve noticed that you could use some improvement when it comes to your sales presentations, short pitches, marketing decks, or business proposals, we can review what you do or start from scratch to give you the best tool kit to help you seal the deal.