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How To Make Your Proposal Persuasive

Writing a persuasive proposal is not about finding the magic words that will make the evaluator accept your proposal. Writing a persuasive proposal is about making the evaluator want to accept your proposal. This requires eliminating the barriers to them accepting your proposal, convincing them that your proposal delivers or achieves what they want, and motivating them to move forward. Writing a persuasive proposal is not about knowing the right way to say things to make them persuasive, it’s about discovering what it will take to persuade the customer.

What does it take to persuade the customer to select your proposal? What technique can you use that will make the customer like your proposal better than those of your competitors? Should you focus on a special offer or discount? Or a deadline? What should your message be? Is price more important than features? Should you focus on benefits and sell the sizzle instead of the steak? What will best persuade the customer?

It depends on the customer.

What is vital to convince one customer may be completely ignored by the next.

To write a persuasive proposal, you must start by recognizing the many things that different people find persuasive. Then you must determine which of them applies to your current circumstances and customer.

What you need is a way to categorize the elements of persuasion so that you can figure out which apply and which don’t. How to phrase your words is secondary. First develop your strategy, then figure out how to present it.

We have developed five categories that can help you develop the win strategies you need to be persuasive. These five categories represent hundreds of persuasive topics. Instead of remembering the hundreds of ways to be persuasive, you can use these five to help you identify what will be the most persuasive for this particular proposal.

  1. Value. This category represents everything related to pricing, including things like cost/benefit analysis, return on investment, and budgets. It helps to know how this particular customer approaches the concept of value, how they set their budgets, and how they approve funding. You need this information to develop a value proposition that will be the most persuasive to this particular customer.
  2. Emotional Considerations. Some decisions aren’t rational. Most include an emotional component. But which emotion? Is it trust? Is it anxiety or fear? Is it an emotional bond based on a relationship? What about personal taste? Or bias? What a person believes is often based on emotions. Appealing to the evaluator’s aspirations for the future can have a stronger impact than simply meeting the specifications of an RFP. However, the way one customer emotionalizes may be very different from the next. Ask yourself what emotional considerations this customer has and how should you position yourself in relation to them.
  3. Goals. Someone within the customer’s organization was sufficiently motivated to initiate the procurement. They were motivated because the procurement is necessary for them to achieve their goals. So what are those goals? Do they reflect the mission of the organization or are they a bit more personal? Are they functional or related to accomplishing a specific job? In pursuing their goals, some people will take a short term perspective, and some will have a long term perspective. They may also be concerned about things like the compatibility of your offering, whether it meets the specifications, and compliance with requirements, rules, regulations, and policies. Write to the customer’s goals and you are writing to the reason they went to the effort of initiating the procurement in the first place.
  4. Process Considerations. Does the customer have a formal evaluation process? Do they have rules, regulations, and policies to follow? What do they have to do to reach a decision? Are they consensus based? Who are the decision makers and influencers? What can you say in your proposal to facilitate the process of them accepting your proposal?
  5. Competitive Considerations. If the customer will receive more proposals than they will accept, they need to decide why they should select yours as opposed to one of the others. In some cases, you may be competing against the customer doing nothing instead of moving forward. Your proposal should show the customer what makes you different and how you are positioned against your competitors. It’s not simply a matter of submitting a good proposal; you must submit a proposal that is better than the other options.

Ask yourself which of the above will have the most impact on this particular customer’s decision. Then explore all the different considerations that a customer might have within each category. Use this to formulate your strategy. Then you’ll know what to write about. And because it will be targeted to a particular customer, it will be far more effective than someone else’s magic words. offers step-by-step guidance for everyone involved in winning proposals

Including how to gather the information you need and how to turn it into a persuasive proposal

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By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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