By popular demand, I want to share the truths I know about writing proposals. A CV is indeed a kind of proposal. While I am preparing this post, I realized that we first need to know the “Principles of blowing one's own trumpet”. So I went ahead to sample public opinion on if, how, and/or when is good to blow one’s own trumpet. Read the post here…
What is a proposal?
Let's go over the responses by some individuals that to the question. Sharing their view on what they think proposal is.
Mr. Bello Idris Olakunle (Ikorodu, Lagos, Nigeria) opined that:
"A proposal is a document expected to capture in details the plans one set aside for a particular project"
Ms. Sherri Correll (Las Vegas, USA) said:
"When you propose an idea you want to put into action via word, writing, action or deed"
Isaac Daramola (Ibadan, Nigeria) made quite simple, that:
"A proposal is simply how you intend to solve a problem"
Patrick Olakunle (Ekiti, Nigeria) said
"A proposal is simply a master plan for a business"
Mr. Olayemi Ogunkanbi (Lagos, Nigeria)
"A proposal is a document that clearly explains how you want to solve your client's problem planned objectives"
Mrs. Funmi Akinyoola (Lagos, Nigeria):
"Its how to solve a prospect problem that is why its called proposal"
Olugbenga Enoch (Ibadan, Nigeria) made opined that:
"A proposal is a formal write-up stipulating the methods or ways of solving problem. It's often a way through which a service provider or seller communicate his ideas to the prospective client or buyer"
Hadiza Jessica Lolo, (Kaduna, Nigeria):
"A suggestion that hasn't been confirmed"
Mrs. Funmi Akinyoola (Lagos, Nigeria), after making her own contribution tried to ask what my own definition of proposal is. Here is mine:
A proposal is an EXPRESSION of an IDEA of how a NEED could be ADDRESSED.
Do you agree? Or do you have an alternate definition? That's just a few I could share right now but, back to you; what is your own definition/description of what "proposal" is? Or which one do you agree on the most?
My definition fits most usages of the word "propose";
1. The business "proposal" you send to a client for possible consideration.
2. The résumé and cover letter you make for a job application.
3. The "proposal" you make when you want to marry your significant other.
What makes a proposal?
What other cases do you know that fits our definition of proposal? Note the keywords in our proposal definition,
Question: “Why do you think those keywords matter in defining an ideal proposal? Is there any of those keywords that isn't really important?“
A better understanding of the meaning of the word will take us a step forward in building a winning proposal.
Question: “Can you describe different ways that an idea could be expressed?”
Furthermore, my goal for doing this post on "How to write a winning CV or business proposals" isn't to advertise the proposal service. My goal is to facilitate our knowledge on writing proposals by ourselves. Everyone should be able to develop their own proposals. But blame the education system (or Dasukigate?), he's the reason we were not taught in school. :(
Yes! I develop stunning proposals; YES, I offer the service to clients, but I'm trying to facilitate a discussion on the basics of developing a proposal. So that some of us that isn't biologically related to the billionaires (those are my favorite clients) can prepare proposals ourselves.
But if you know you have the "doh", bring it inn, I'll gladly save it towards my Bentley Car project. ;) DEAL?
We make propositions daily; maybe we just didn't know we were actually making proposals. In proposals, there's always an IDEA that must be EXPRESSED and then, there's also a NEED that must be ADDRESSED; that's when a proposal is made.
What formats could proposals be?
Some people dread proposals because they think it's just too 'official' for people like them. They think proposal is synonymous to a Ms. Word document with some technical jumbos (=terms) crafted to get a contract or job.
Question: “Can you identify other means of making a proposal apart from a Ms. Word document?”
"A proposal even though formal can be done in a nice simplified power point presentation or even as a video and submitted depending on what it’s about" - Oiselene Michael (Lekki, Lagos, Nigeria)
Good news is that: Michael is right; proposals could come in any form of expression. Yours could be an audio, video or even image; you could express your idea in any form you comfortable with. Slide shows, Web page and Voice Notes are also creative means of making proposals.
The recipient is king – Have him in mind all through the proposal development
Your knowledge of the recipient of this proposal will determine what options you have to choose from.
If you want to propose something to my grandmother, you don't want to put it on the web page; reason is that my grandmother isn't tech savvy - I don't think she's ever been on the Internet. In the same way, if you make a video proposition to my grandmother, you need to get someone to play it for her because she can't operate the television. It's good to have the recipients in mind when choosing what format to make the proposal.
How best can you express your idea?
Remember that we are trying to express an idea, so anything that best showcase our idea is the best platform to use. Some ideas are better presented on an excel sheet that on a slideshow; some may be better presented as a video than audio. So it's important to choose the method of expression based on the kind of idea.
When that's done, you need to note another important thing. Whenever you need a proposal, you need to 'blow your trumpet'. You need to use "all means necessary" to EXPRESS to the recipient that you have the perfect (best) IDEA of how their NEED could be ADDRESSED. You want to ensure that you are not leaving any doubts on the mind of the recipient that you know what you are doing.
Components of a winning proposal
A message: There must be a clear message, stating the IDEA you are pitching. Using the right medium for ease of access and understanding, the recipients of your proposal must fully understand the main part of your idea.
Not saying you should tell them your trade secrets, but the message should summarize the NEED, and how your IDEA comes to play.
A call-to-action: After going through your proposal, your engagement with the recipient expires and the destination of your document may just be the dustbin; but what's that action you would like them to take after?
Do you want them to call you? Do you want them to pay some money? Do you want them to go on a date with you! :)?
You need to state your expectations clearly. This helps you to make the recipients accountable for going through the proposal. You don't want to assume the recipient should know what's next; just state the process clearly in a simple way, that's easily understandable.
E.g. "Speak to Ayoola now", "Call us now to make a reservation", "Pay 200 naira" etc. Call-to-action should be an actionable step that one could be held responsible for.
Win-Win Scenario: The best kinds of proposals are the one that isn’t raising any suspicion about ulterior motives of the developer. Describing how the proposition helps both the recipient and the developer helps to put this in check.
Even when you are writing to solicit for charity, you need to tell the recipients what’s in it for them. I’ll make examples of WIN-WIN propositions that are working till date.
TITHE – In the holy bible, it says and I am not quotingJ. I am only describing “bring tithe to my house, so that there will be food in my house” – in this part, the developer gains. Then “I will rebuke devourer for your sake” – some kinds of blessings for the recipient of the proposition.
JOB – “Commit your time, expertise and effort to this vision” – in this part, the developer gains. Then, “I will compensate you with so, so and so benefits”. Though this kind of proposition is usually informal, it works every time; isn't that why we have fewer entrepreneurs today? :). WIN-WIN sounds very good to every ear, except the selfish. And people (even the seeming selfish) don’t even want to seem selfish – do they?
Proposal is a promotional material.
Remember that I tried to link this post with “Principles of blowing one's own trumpet”. You may want to check that out; but it is good to note that when we are making a proposition, we are trying to speak good about ourselves and/or what we do. I wrote a post about “Composition of a winning promotional content”. You may want to merge this post with that, so you have a more comprehensive material on building a winning proposal.