If we now look at how to structure a proposal or presentation of a solution, what we have discussed so far is the Management Summary. The most important part of a proposal document and the most important slide of a presentation is the Summary. Why, because most people only remember three things from a presentation (and many executives only read the first three pages of a proposal) – you have to be able to make your compelling sales case in a very succinct set of points:-
- Key Requirements
- Key Solution Message (we provide a solution for all requirements)
- Investment Summary (hopefully within budget)
- Company credentials (good to do business with)
OK I know it is four points and the customer only remembers three, hopefully they will remember the solution – is within budget – and from a good company.
The rest of the proposal should definitely respond to all the points in any RFP; or if it is not a RFP response should have sections describing the project that buying the solution will drive, as well as expanded sections on the Management Summary topics of Requirements / Solution / Investment / Company but I have to tell you the majority of good business I have won has been on the back of Management Summaries, or simple letters confirming previous meeting agreements, or increasingly popular, Powerpoint presentations that are 7-10 slides long.
Final word on the content of compelling proposals; we are going to look at beating the competition a little later, but one point to consider while writing the Management Summary or Summary slide. If you have identified a need to which you have a Unique Selling Point or strongly differentiated solution – it is a strong candidate for being one of the three needs / solutions you highlight. You have to be sensible here, if the customer has a need and you have identified it as one you have a differentiated solution for but it would only rank as a minor need in the eyes of the customer, do not promote it to your top three needs / solutions. Remember it is the customer who decides what the important issues are.
The key is if you have the right message, make sure you deliver it to the right people. Even when the formal RFP process makes you write a 300 page proposal, always prepare a three page Management Summary and (unless it will get you thrown out of the evaluation, sometimes a risk in government bids) circulate it to all executives that you know have a vote. This is not a risk if you met them during the requirements phase, think about it a bit more if you have not met them, but on balance I would do it.
There are many resources including good websites that will teach you how to structure Presentations and Proposals. Just Google “Presentation Skills” or “Proposal Writing” and there will be templates that you can select from. Who knows, your company standard proposal template may be a good one.