Proposals are important. So as a small service provider, what can you do to increase your proposal success rate? I worked out there are 3 proposal writing myths that hold you back. But also (and maybe even more important), there are some very effective but simple things you can do to craft more effective proposals instead!
There is never one road that leads to paradise.
But you CAN make it hard … or easy on yourself.
I’m talking about winning a proposal as a small service provider.
Us small fry, we have this believe that we’re David fighting Goliath when it comes to winning clients. But that’s not entirely true.
As a matter of fact, it’s a bit of a myth.
Because, think about it… your prospect chose to contact YOU, a small service provider. NOT the big corporate you think you are up against. And they probably didn’t do that by accident.
With that in mind, as a small service provider, what can you do to increase your proposal success rate? How can you play to your strength in the proposal writing game?
I had a good think about this and figured it all boils down to 3 proposal writing myths
that hold you back. (I’m sure you’ll recognise them.)
But also (and maybe even more important), what can you do to craft more effective proposals instead?
Let’s get cracking!
Proposal writing myth #1 - Proposals need to be long and detailed to be effective
Long and detailed proposals will impress prospects and win more clients, right?
See… Everyone is busy. And we may like to pretend or even sincerely believe we are focussed 100% of the time. The truth is… we are not!
The reality is ….long-winded proposals are overwhelming to prospects, and before you know it, they lose interest. You and your carefully crafted proposal… filed in the too hard basket. Ignored.
Don’t get me wrong! I get it! We want to showcase our business; demonstrate that we know what we are doing. But you may find… it actually works against you.
So, if you want to increase your proposal writing success rate, don't include your life history and the kitchen sink in your proposal!
Instead: MAKE YOUR PROPOSALS CONCISE AND FOCUSED.
- Focus on the key benefits and outcomes that your business can provide.
- Tell your prospect what you intend to do, how it will resolve their pain points and help them reach their goals.
- Think about what resonates with them. (Do they really want to know about every business member and what your professional career looked like 20 years prior? )
How long is too long?
I really encourage you to experiment with different proposal lengths and formats. To do this, you'll need to track and analyse the results over time to determine which format will be the most effective in winning a proposal as a small service provider.
Proposal writing myth #2 - Proposals are all about showcasing my expertise and qualifications
You’re a queen at what you do! Of course you are!
You slaved many long hours to get where you are now too. Years of hard slog.
But do your prospects care about the pieces of paper on your wall? Or the many entries on your LinkedIn profile?
Very likely… THEY DON’T!
Prospects are interested in how your services will address their specific needs and solve their problems. The rest, they consider self-centred and maybe even tone deaf to their needs.
Again, I can see where it all stems from. I bet you’ve downloaded a proposal template and you’re just following the prompts. Or maybe you feel you need to impress. You want to show your prospects you’re the best person for the job.
The thing is… It talks about YOU!
And a good proposal… should be about THEM, your prospect!
Instead: PRESENT A CLIENT-FOCUSED PROPOSAL
So, instead of listing your resume, use your proposal to build a relationship. Focus on building trust by addressing your prospect’s needs and pain points. Let them know you get them.
In doing this, you'll increase engagement AND impact.
Proposal writing myth #3 - Proposals should be written in formal language and use industry jargon
Remember that big corporate you thought you were competing against?
Here’s what big corporates do: they use business jargon and formal language as the standard. It makes the relationship feel impersonal, even cold. And as a result, people (and never forget that it’s people who make a business) feel like a number. It’s alienating.
And I get it, you probably worked in a big corporate at some stage in your life. It’s what was expected. It was called ‘being professional’.
But your prospect contacted a small service provider…. Impersonal and distant is not what they want!
Most likely, people contact a small service provider because they think you can help them better. They KNOW they matter to you. They want to build a relationship. And that’s exactly what you, as a small service provider, can provide!
But you’ll have to drop the business jargon and the formal language in order to increase your proposal success rate.
Formal language sends a message (you don’t want to give). It gets in the way of relationship building. It’s not helpful!
Instead: USE LANGUAGE THAT IS CONGRUENT WITH YOU AND YOUR BRAND.
The language you use in your business proposal should be an extension of the meeting you (probably) had before they asked you to write a proposal. That’s when the relationship started. That’s what you build on.
It should also be in line with your company brand. Your language should reflect YOU.
Being yourself is the secret sauce in winning the proposal and therefore landing more clients.
If there’s anything to take from this episode, it’s that you should make your prospects the centre of your proposal. By putting the client's needs first, you create proposals that are more engaging, and have a stronger impact on your potential client.
- Proposals shouldn’t be long-winded and detailed. Prospect rarely want to know every detail of your expertise, experience, and your qualifications.
- Proposals should be personalised and focus on the client's needs, wants and goals.
- While formal language and industry jargon has a place in certain contexts, they should never come at the expense of clear, effective communication that reflects you and your business.
With that said, if you're struggling to increase your proposal success rate, and we all do at some stage in our business journey, take heart. With a few simple adjustments to your approach, you can turn your proposals into powerful tools for winning new business and achieving your growth goals.