5- step proposal process- now add a prologue to grab their attention

by admin on February 13, 2012

In the last post we talked about the simple 5 step structure we follow to write engaging, persuasive proposals for our clients.  For the important concept stuff look here too.  In this piece we’ll talk about ‘gilding the lily’.  Adding a high impact start and end to the piece that will grab the attention of the most senior (and often least ‘detail interested’) of your readers.  They’ll tend to give a proposal a minute of their hard-pressed time, so you’d better have a great start to make sure they’ll read on, or at least put you to the top of the pile. So let’s talk ‘prologue’ or Executive Summary.

Think attention grabbing

The Executive Summary is a section that provides an overview of the total content of your proposal. It is designed for those people in your client organisation who do not have time to consider any more than the “highlights”. It is also designed to be a general introduction for other readers who may well read your proposal in its entirety- if you grab their attention from the start.

Think of your Executive Summary as the equivalent of what you find on the rear cover of novels – a tempting and quick-to-read summary that provides the reader with what they need to ‘buy your story’ and enough interesting and tempting glimpses into the 300 pages of text therein, to make them buy the book to read on, even if they hadn’t planned to.

You can build your Executive Summary using the headlines of the winning structure we’ve just been through – with a few lines summarising each of your completed main sections. Think of the main points you want each proposal section to make and ensure that these are briefly covered in this summary. You can also provide references to the detail in the main body of the proposal (and hyperlink if you’re doing it in electronic form) to make it easy for the client to look in more detail if they’re tempted to.

After the ‘Solution’ section the Exec. Summary is arguably the most important section of any proposal – It should be so good that even if it is the only section that some key readers will bother to read, they’ll have enough knowledge that they could make a decision based on that alone if they had to. So it’s definitely worth investing the time in getting it right.

It’s a flexible structure too-

You can use the basic “‘Executive Summary-Needs-Solution-Benefits-Investment-Appendices’” structure for a one-page proposal for a £2000 project; and for 250 page RFP, £ multi-million type efforts. It’s infinitely scalable depending on the needs of the job and the instructions you’ve received from buyer.

I can’t promise that adopting this winning business proposal format will result in your loving proposal writing and pitching – but I can guarantee that you’ll get a vastly higher hit rate for your blood, sweat and (sometimes) tears.

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