A Proposal in One

by Chris Arlen on December 2, 2011

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A Proposal in OneWhat do you propose?

We make proposals to:

  • Get a meeting
  • Qualify as a bidder
  • Make a sale
  • Start a business
  • Form a new division
  • Offer a new service
  • Get a date

Proposals ask something of the person(s) with the authority to grant the request.

Why not succeed more often?

In One

Those you’re proposing to are like you, too much to do and too little time.

“In One” means concise and crisp.

If your proposal is in a document – that’s one page total. The document could be on letterhead, or a full page format. But it is only one.

If your proposal is in an email – it’s one crisp, condensed puppy. Five sentences plus the subject line. Then your signature line.

If your proposal is in a voice mail – it’s 30 seconds or less. It’s shaped along the lines of a Personal Positioning Statement, but with more meat in it (see the outline below).

The Outline

Here’s an outline for a proposal that gets you what you want, and more often.

1) Title it with a hook
2) Set the stage
3) The opportunity fulfilled
4) Your proposed solution
5) The financials
6) Call to action

1) Title it with a hook

This is the most important part of your proposal.

And though its the first thing presented, it’s best created after you’ve developed everything else in the proposal.

The hook is the compelling reason your audience should give you their time and attention. Fail here and there is no proposal.

The hook is the uber benefit – what they’ll receive. The sexiest, most attractive result your proposal will deliver.

LENGTH: And you have to distill it down to a single line, five to seven words max. It’s poetry.

2) Set the stage

Briefly describe the burning platform – the reasons action (your proposal) must be taken now.

Identify a big pain that needs to be fixed. Describe a desirable want that can be realized.

LENGTH: Do it in two to three sentences. Specific, factual and illustrative.

3) The opportunity fulfilled

This is the vision of the perfect future. When everything has worked out the way it was promised.

No guarantees, unless you can. Paint this picture using terms that truthfully describe this future having a high probability of occuring.

LENGTH: Keep it to two sentences, one is better.

4) Your proposed solution

This is what you’re going to do. The high-level process, program and resources.

Call out your unique approach, capabilities, or expertise.

LENGTH:  Stay lean here too. Three to five sentences max, two to three paragraphs total. Hit only the high points. Stay out of rabbit holes and the weeds.

5) The financials

There’s always a cost. Don’t pretend there isn’t.

This is either what they’ll need to spend in money, time, or action.

State it here. As a price, cost, or even better a Return on Investment (ROI).

LENGTH:  One sentence. Numbers make it better. Dollars even more so.

6) Call to action

What is it you want them to do? Now, this moment.

  • To pick up the phone and call you?
  • Email you a request for a meeting?
  • Put you on the bidders’ list?

State the one thing you need them to do. The next step. The action to advance towards fulfillment.

No ambiguity. Blindingly crystal clear so there is no doubt whatsoever of what you want them to do.

LENGTH: One sentence, one call to action, few words.

Sign off

After your call to action, end your proposal. Sign off  with your name, title, company and how to be contacted. Repeat that last bit about how to be contacted (say it twice on the phone, spell out your email in your signature line, or write your phone number next to your name and title in the document).

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