Many of you have to prepare business proposals. But what is the system that you follow, and what is your success rate?

The chart above demonstrates the importance of the process to getting your ideas and proposals heard and approved. Instead of falling into the trap thinking that the quality of your idea, alone, will guarantee approval, you must understand how the approval process really works.

There are three critical points you should take away:

  1. The relationship with the decision-maker comes first. As I’ve written elsewhere a strong, trusting, peer-level relationship with the decision-maker can transform your chances of success. Take the time to understand their objectives, provide them with insights and information of value to them and help them shape your idea wherever possible.
  2. Create a proposal that gets to the point. Many business proposals are long on needless technical information and detailed implementation plans, and short on the information need to sign-off. Focus your proposal on answering these questions: How well does your idea meet the decision maker’s wider objectives? What evidence do you have that this is a big, compelling and credible idea? Do you know how you will take this idea forward? How will you manage any downside risks? Are you clear what you are asking for and what will happen next?
  3. Think of it as a conversation, not a one-off pitch. Business proposals are not generally like an edition of Dragon’s Den. You get more than one shot at success, and you should therefore follow-up soon after you’ve presented the proposal, obtain feedback to understand any objections and information needs and have another go.

Understanding and acting on these three factors will transform your approach to developing business proposals and dramatically increase your chances of success.

© Stuart Cross 2010. All rights reserved.