What Makes Proposals Hard


How many proposals do you write a year? A month? A week?

Do you consider your internal reports and presentation decks a form of proposal?

When they're tools utilized to persuade, inform, and demonstrate, you should. Even as you do the writing or pulling together inside a department or group in an organization, you still represent that business and brand.

Which is why you would think of your proposal, report, or deck as a promise made. My definition of brand is the sum of promises made, promises kept and the unbounded expectations market.

Value is about closing the gap — reducing the cognitive dissonance between what was promised and what was delivered. Which is where social interactions are so valuable in realigning expectations.

Thinking about the promise

The part that makes writing a proposal hard is identifying the hot buttons for the person on the receiving end — your boss, prospect, client, partner, and their colleagues or bosses. Words have a way of getting ahead of ourselves, don't they?

As many an experienced sales professional and consultant knows, the key to a successful proposal is not perfection, it's being on point with qualifying the opportunity. The person or team on the receiving end makes an investment in time and attention, at a minimum.

Think about the proposal as your promise and you will do good trade.

Are you ready to submit?

Your proposal begins with the right question. When submitting for a speaking opportunity, that is more likely understanding the audience. Who will be there? What problems are they called to solve in their work? Which promises do they need to keep to make better ones in the future?

Are you thinking about the context of the event?

These are examples of questions I ask myself.

Although it's important to address audience make up and expectations, it's not a duality kind of world. Right or wrong really depends on closing the gap between promises made and promises kept.

Tracking promises is the third core business function.


What makes proposals hard is what makes good case studies helpful — the process of thinking through the promise, and managing expectations by underwriting the risk. So you can trade better and better promises and make your business stronger and more resilient.

Do you have any hot buttons when writing proposals? Where do you get stuck? Which lessons helped you get unstuck? Have you ever made a promise you knew you depended on someone else to keep? How did that turn out?

If you're a manager, investor, potential partner, buyer, what do you seek in a proposal? Are personal relationships important to even get to your door?

One more question: Should you give people exactly what they're looking for?