A Decent Proposal Here's how to write proposals your just can't refuse By John Fellows When a sale is just inches away from a signature on the contract and the prospect says, "Give it to me in writing," don't panic. Even if you lack confidence in the writing that's an important part of the sales process, you can learn the basic keys to writing a professional, get-the-order proposal. There are seven basic parts or section headings; these guidelines will help you incorporate them into an appealing proposal that generates sales and profits. Defined as a specific plan of action based on a presentation's facts, assumptions and supporting documentation, the effective proposal may increase your closing ratio, decrease selling cycle length and set you apart professionally. It represents your recommendation as to the next steps your prospect should take to get the most from the product or service you sell. Winning Proposal Formula Creating consistently solid proposals requires the careful use of a proposal-writing formula or checklist. The list of seven proposal parts shown below helps ensure that your proposals are complete and address all of your prospect's concerns or questions. When you prepare your next proposal, use the list to make sure you've "covered all the bases" and that the proposal clearly states your plans for the prospect's account, cost estimates and how the prospect will benefit by buying from you. Write concisely and try to limit the paper to a single page. To increase your closing ratio, bear in mind that your proposal - not your product or service - often determines whether you get an order. A carefully devised plan of action designed to achieve the prospect's specific goals helps to increase customer confidence in your ability and willingness to satisfy their needs. Quality proposals reassure customers that you know where you're going, and how and when you'll get there. Compose And Propose 1) Budget and Overview This first proposal section should let prospects know up front how much it will cost to follow your recommendations. Consider the prospect's finances and remember that it's your job to offer prospects exactly what they need - no more or less. This section should also feature a general mission statement tailored to the prospect. 2) Objective The objective section should clearly define Me goal your proposal is designed to achieve. You might wish to offer one tangible and one intangible objective, i.e., Cut production cost and increase customer's business by 10 percent. Help customer gain competitive advantage with greater product reliability at competitive price." 3) Strategy How do you plan to meet your objective? Take two or three lines to give the prospect a "rough sketch" of your plans. Without going into painstaking detail, reveal the means by which you'll fulfill your proposal's obligations. 4) Tactics Whereas Me strategy section discussed what you're going to do, the tactics section should describe how you're going to do it. Outline Me specific actions that will accomplish Me objective. Walk your prospect step by step from the proposal to its fulfillment, and show how you intend to tailor your product or service to the prospect's unique needs. 5) Schedule Your recommendation should lay out a schedule for action. Establish a time frame for decisions leading to your objective. Specific contact or shipping dates allow prospects to collect their thoughts and questions before you call, and to plan their own business agendas. 6) Results Show your prospects how your action plan translates into personal benefits for them. How will meeting your objectives have a positive impact on the prospect's business? Make sure your results section shows your prospects exactly what they'll get for their money. 7) Rationale The rationale section should present "closing arguments" that use both logic and emotion to convince prospects to buy. Use benefits - not features - to summarize why the prospect should buy now.