106: 4 Things Every Business Proposal Should Say
Posted on: August 23, 2012 /
Even if you haven’t watched reality television or romantic comedy movies, you know some of the standard visual and verbal ingredients of a marriage proposal. There’s a guy (or sometimes a gal) on one knee. At some point, he goes through an awkward narrative around the following four basic points:
1. “I love you.”
2. “I want to spend my life with you.”
3. “I got you this ring.” [usually non-verbally communicated]
4. “Will you marry me?”
These steps prove so common, they smell of cliche; but there aren’t too many ways around that outline. That’s just how marriage proposals work.
Believe it or not, those same four steps work well for business proposals, especially auction proposals to sellers.
“I love you.”
Translation: “I value what you bring to this relationship.”
Sellers know we want a commission and that we wouldn’t be offering our services without a price tag. What they’re hoping is that we care about their assets—and not just another pay check—and that we’ll handle their sale with the care we would give our own sale.
One way to communicate this is to discuss the attributes of their assets that will interest buyers—what makes them unique or valuable. Follow this with explaining what part of your plan is connected to these attributes. Here are some examples:
“Due to the location of your property, signs will be more critical to the advertising campaign than our typical campaign. We recommend spending a higher percentage of the budget on banners that cover your building to attract attention.”
“Because of how new your restaurant equipment is, we will reach out to our list of restaurant chain developers in addition to our recent bidder lists of three similar Outback restaurant auctions that we held last year.”
“Not all auctions are newsworthy; but with your recent interstate PowerBall win and now famous tweet about your move to a private island, the human interest part of this auction’s story can be leveraged for maximum exposure. We’re going to bring in a public relations consultant to help us craft a press release that will attract members of the media.”
“I want to spend my life with you.”
Translation: “This could be an ongoing, mutually-beneficial reality.”
Clients, like spouses, crave long-term security. Sellers want to know that we’ll stay attentive to their project amidst our others during the marketing campaign—especially for absolute/no-reserve auctions.
Put them at ease by describing all the expectations to which your willing to be held. Show them a detailed timeline of what you’ll do and when. Note when or how often you’ll communicate with them about market response and the progress of the campaign. Explain specific actions you’ll take to make their situation less stressful, less complicated, or less prolonged.
Empathy is huge for trust. That means letting people know that we realize that this is their treasured collection, their lifetime achievement, or their financial security that’s at stake. Each situation will determine what is professionally appropriate to say; and this doesn’t have to be a verbose section of a proposal, but intentionally moving into this perspective for even one sentence can be enough to separate ourselves from the competition.
“I got you this ring.”
Translation: “Here’s my indicative deposit on good things to come.”
I remember a dude in college going room to room in our dorm building, asking for donations to help him buy a $500 engagement ring. He must have gotten enough donations. She said, “Yes,” and he’s still married to her more than a decade later; but it wasn’t the ring that sold her on life with him. Sometimes, we get the auction in spite of the proposal instead of because of it.
If our proposals look like cheap and easy templates—especially Word documents with a few variable data mentions bolded like a mail merge letter—we communicate to sellers that they are just a number, a transaction, another notch on our belts. The amount of time and effort and even financial investment our proposal connotes (whether real or assumed) reflects on the level of individuality, creativity, and professionalism we’ll bring to marketing their assets.
One sentence that regularly makes its way into my clients’ proposals reads something along the lines of, “We hope this proposal illustrates our level of commitment not only to book your auction but also to get you the most bidders and highest sale proceeds possible for your asset.” Would you be confident enough to make that statement in your cover letter?
“Will you marry me?”
Translation: “Does this look like a good deal to you?”
A difficult reality of business proposals is that we’re asking a seller to marry us on a first, second, or even blind date. Because a history with us can’t inform the future with us, we need to build the case that it will be a good deal. By using graphs of past results, samples of advertising from similar auctions, and pull quotes from people in their shoes you’ve served in the past, you can establish a track record that casts for them a vision for the future.
Unlike a résumé, though, this all needs to be framed by their benefit. Only a fool would drop to his knee and tell his girlfriend, “I was voted ‘Least Likely to Divorce’ in high school. I graduated from college with both academic and humanitarian honors and got the lone internship offered by Mark Zuckerburg this year. I have written over 450 love letters in my dating career and have attended the Certified Lover Institute. I’m a member of the National Association of Romantic Beaus. You can trust your married life in my hands.”
How many times do auction proposals read like that?
If we talk about what we bring to the table, we need to do so in a way that gives them more confidence than it gives us. For instance: “Our membership in [national franchise/alliance/affiliate network] connects us with more industrial real estate investors and the collaboration of multiple auctioneers who have sold paper production plants like yours.” Or: “Our hundreds of state and national marketing awards mean that our sellers get the best advertising available. We want our clients not only to get the biggest-possible settlement checks but also to be proud of how their assets are shown to their peers and the general public.”
Yes, all of this means more work; but that extra work on this end might just be the difference between you getting the work on the other end of the proposal.
Throughout the Bible’s newer testament, Christians are told that we will some day marry Jesus and be his bride. As a dude, that’s still weird to me. At the same time, it’s utterly humbling.
The bride is supposed to be the beautiful half of the wedding and the ensuing marriage. Jesus, our promised groom, lived a perfect life, a selfless existence. He did more good than any human will ever replicate. Everything about him is beautiful. Nobody can even aspire to the beauty of his soul, the transformative gaze of his eyes, the gentle healing of his touch.
Contrastingly, we smell of unfaithfulness. We have been muddied by sin and disfigured by guilt. Our teeth are decayed by gorging ourselves on the delicacies of selfishness. We walk our life journey with a limp.
Still he loves us. He wants us. He cherishes us. He’s preparing a wedding even David Tutera can’t imagine and then an eternal honeymoon in a magical city on the other side of the universe. And he invites all of us through an eternal proposal into his mercy, grace, and redemptive power.
I don’t deserve it, and I definitely don’t understand it. But, man, am I grateful for it!
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