As with most professional communication, it’s essential to set the stage for what you’re trying to discuss clearly and concisely.
Your proposal introduction should briefly address the audience and outline the issue at hand or the pain point you intend to alleviate.
Striking a balance between being too wordy and being too short here may very well be the most significant contributor to your chances of approval. With that in mind, you should make sure to take the time necessary to ensure your introduction is both concise and compelling.
After establishing the problem you’re trying to solve or pain point you hope to alleviate, it’s time to start work on outlining your proposed solution. If you’ve succeeded in capturing the audience’s attention in your introduction, the effectiveness of your pitch tends to increase dramatically.
Your ability to resonate with your reader here will heavily depend on the skill with which you outline the features of your offering and its ability to solve the problem or pain they are facing (benefits).
While it’s ok to go into a bit more detail on this section than in the introduction, you should still strive to be as concise as possible in delivering your message.
The last thing you want is for your reader to become disengaged because you spent too much time outlining non-critical and uncompelling details.
Plan of Action & Timeline
You should dedicate this section of your proposal to outlining the steps required to accomplish the thing you are proposing.
Along with this implementation roadmap, you should also outline a timeline, making sure to include details on how long it will take to deliver each stage of the implementation. Typically, the plan of action section of a proposal takes the form of a verbal description of a graphical timeline.
That said, depending on the formality of the situation, it may behoove you to use a graphical timeline in place of written copy here.
Now that you’ve outlined the problem, your proposed solution, and the roadmap to getting there, it’s time to address the elephant in the room: budget.
While this section is arguably the most make or break part of a proposal, it’s essential to realize the progression of thought people go through when reading through everything. Think of each section as a stage of a game that you need to win to get to the final boss.
Even though you can’t get a proposal approved without winning buy-in on cost, you won’t ever get to that stage without successfully winning the steps leading up to it (pain point, your proposal as a solution, timeline, etc.)
The silver lining to this truth is that winning buy-in on the preceding sections helps you build momentum that you can carry into the final decision.
It’s important to avoid thinking about the cost section as the only real contributor to the final decision. In doing this, you increase your likelihood of approval and avoid the pitfall of believing you need to compete on cost. Rather than try to sell on price, sell on solutions.
In other words, if a person is acutely aware of real pain, they tend to focus much more on getting relief than what that relief will cost.
By this point in your proposal, the battle has already been won or lost.
Rather than spend this section trying to interject a last-minute plea for approval, you should instead use it to thank the audience for their time and clearly outline the next steps.
A proposal call to action should create a sense of urgency in the mind of the reader, as failing to do so runs a high risk of negotiations stalling out. While finding the perfect balance between urgency and calm is often a struggle, cultivating this ability is the best way to maximize your chances of getting a yes.