It’s been said before:
- Less is more.
- I.S.S. – Keep It Simple Stupid.
- A confused mind always says NO!
But research and buyers are saying it louder, more clearly and more emphatically than ever before.
Your proposals need to become easier to read and simpler to understand.
Gone are the days of impressing buyers with the “flop factor” a weighty, multi-page proposal could produce as it thudded on the desk.
Today’s buyers cannot and will not spend hours combing through details and long-winded narrative.
Flashy decks crammed full of 4-color graphics, eye-popping photos and stunning animation fail to impress.
Even dynamic and interactive presentations numb the senses of buyers who are time-pressed, resource-constrained and bombarded with choices.
Buyers are begging for simplicity.
This isn’t an entirely new development. Barry Schwartz wrote about “The Paradox of Choice” ten years ago, explaining why too many choices increase our anxiety. His conclusion is that the pervasive culture of abundance we all enjoy actually depletes us of our satisfaction in day-to-day living.
Since his groundbreaking research, the number of choices buyers are able to make has exponentially increased every year. Buyers have more companies to buy from, more products to choose from, more add-ons and extensions to consider, and more sellers hounding them to make more decisions.
The last thing your buyers need is more work assigned by you.
You can make your buyer’s job easier by trimming the fat out of your proposals. You can increase the chances of closing the sale by making the purchasing decision easier. Your buyers are begging you to do this for them.
One word of caution before we talk about how to simplify your proposals and make them more attractive: this requires extra effort on your part to edit appropriately. You will need to deliver quality rather than quantity and doing so requires finesse.
To simplify proposals, follow these three guidelines.
- Cut out 75% of what is embedded in your current proposal templates.
If it’s in a template, it’s generic. If it’s generic, your buyer already knows it because it was also on your website or you said it in your initial contact or online reviewers and others have already said it for you.
Remember, buyers are not talking to sellers until they are more than halfway through their own buying process. You are not starting from scratch, and you do not need to bore your buyers or waste their time with more information about you.
Strip out at least 75% of the generic drivel you usually use. Buyers skim through this part of your proposal anyway and won’t mind that you’ve edited it out.
There’s an added benefit here. Obviously, doing this will simplify and shorten your proposal. It will also increase the ratio of proposal content that is about your buyer instead of being about you. This customer-centric focus in a proposal speaks volumes to a buyer.
As you evaluate what to cut, start with this. Attachments and links inside your proposal will not be accessed unless, perhaps, the format is video or the information is highly relevant to this specific buyer. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and ask “would I really take the extra step(s) to view this added stuff?”
- Convert paragraphs to bullet points and bullet points to graphics.
Make the content of your proposal visually appealing and very easy to move through. Detailed explanations come later. First, just show a schematic of the process, for example.
Use callouts and quotes to emphasize key points and eliminate all extraneous verbiage.
Yes, this applies even if you are not going to verbally present the proposal. Tell enough of the story to pique your buyer’s interest and answer the questions as they come. If you simply cannot bear to forego the detailed explanations, make them an addendum to the high level overview that is what most people will start (and end) with.
- Offer one, and only one, solution.
Yes, you read that right. Stop hedging your bets with an A, B and C solution set.
Instead, propose the solution that is truly best for this buyer. Hopefully, that will be the one that is reasonably close to budget. More importantly, it must be the one that will deliver the results your buyer desires. It is the solution that is compelling because it solves a problem.
With just one solution to consider, your buyer’s job just became easier. You’ve taken out all the complexities related to “what if” questions and all the suspicion that clouds a buyer’s judgment when he or she has to suss out what’s being said “between the lines.”
Buyers want to rely on sellers they can trust, sellers who will truly understand them. When you deliver an array of choices, it’s as if you are saying “I don’t know what’s best but here’s a smorgasbord of choices.” Buyers don’t want the buffet line. They want the expertise you can offer and the confidence a single solution conveys.
Additionally, A-B-C solution sets are passé. Your buyers caught on to this technique long ago. They don’t want to play the game, and they know how it’s supposed to work. So if what you believe they need solution B, just offer B alone. No one has time for games.
Of course, you can keep A and C solutions in your bag of tricks. Consider them your back-up plans and be prepared to co-create those solutions with your buyer if B doesn’t work out. But don’t pack it all into a single proposal.
Less truly is more. Your buyers will thank you for cutting through the clutter and giving them the gift of simplicity.