I have seen so many business proposals, both from internal teams asking for permission to drive forward a new initiative as well as from new and established businesses looking for external funding. A common fault of these documents is that they have lots of data, but little insight.

With business proposals, less really is more. Keep it focused, keep it pithy and keep it compelling. And above all make sure you focus on the needs of the decision-maker!

Here are five key statements you should make in your pitch. You can then build the proposal around these headings, enabling you to create a story that’s tailored to your situation.

  1. “We have a big idea that meets your objectives.” By starting with your decision-maker’s objectives you are demonstrating that you understand what’s important to them and that your idea will help them become more successful. You can then gain more interest by showing that your idea is not only relevant but is big enough to have a major impact.
  2. “Our idea is both compelling and credible.” The second stage is to flesh out the idea, demonstrate the size of the prize and support it with relevant and compelling reasons to believe. These may be customer, financial or operational insights that give confidence that the idea is built on firm foundations. Highlighting and briefly reviewing other alternative solutions that you have considered also demonstrates that you have been transparent and thorough in your development work.
  3. “We know how to make it happen.” In stage 3 you will show that you know how you will take the idea forward and what will happen next. Emphasising the idea’s technical and operational feasibility will settle concerns many decision-makers have, as will showing that your idea will fit with your organisation’s culture and capabilities.
  4. “We can manage the downside risks.” All new initiatives and ventures have risks. Don’t ignore them; tackle them head on. State what the risks are, what you will do to minimise them occurring and what you will do should the worst case happen. The key here is to be as open and objective as possible.
  5. “This is what we need from you.” Be specific in what you are asking from your decision-maker. Is it money, is it time, is it key people or some combination of all three? The more specific you are with your request, the better the chance you have of obtaining a clear decision. At this point you should also highlight how you will stay in touch with the decision maker and set out when you will come back to update them.

How well do your proposals match this simple, business-like approach?

© Stuart Cross 2013. All rights reserved