One of the key roles for independent consultants is business development—and often the road to new business goes through the C-suite. Presenting proposals to a new client or to an executive of a large company is unlike presenting to peers. Here are three tips to help you develop your content and approach and present a winning business proposal.
1. Research Your Audience
Before writing or delivering your proposal, invest the time to learn more about your audience and their business. Consider the previous roles and areas of expertise of the person you are presenting to. That can help you gain a better understanding of how much they know about your solution. It can also help you to anticipate questions.
Use LinkedIn to research your audience and discover shared connections. Review their social media presence to learn more about their interests and style. Check out their company website for links to branded social media profiles.
Prior to your presentation, you’ll want to find out more about your client’s company. What challenges are they facing? How are they positioned in the market? Have they expanded or launched any new products or services recently? Review the company’s website, press releases, blog, and even job opportunities to understand their current environment. If the company is publically traded, search EDGAR for the company’s 10-K and 10-Q forms, which can provide details on financials, directors, and market information.
Lastly, use any inside contacts you have to ask questions. What are the company’s top priorities and what motivates the executives? Are there any hot-button issues you should address or avoid? Do the executives themselves have any presentation pet peeves or preferences? Any additional information you can garner will help you prepare your presentation.
2. Value Their Time
Just as you value your time as an independent, so do clients—particularly if you are presenting to top executives. Short and candid presentations will be appreciated. Think of the first minute of your presentation similar to an elevator pitch. You’ll want to cover: the purpose of the presentation, your message or key takeaway, an overview of your agenda, and what you want from them—feedback, information, or a decision.
Throughout your presentation, maintain focus. Remove information that is not essential to keep the client’s attention. Follow a strong start with a strong finish. You may be given a full hour to present, but ending early is sure to win the room. Your efficiency and respect of time can reinforce the type of job you will do for the company. Ending early also provides time for additional questions and discussion.
3. Think Long Term
Clients and executives must maintain a big picture, long-term focus. Decisions are not made based on solving the problems of the day, but rather on achieving their vision for the future. Therefore, before you dive into details, sell your client on the big picture.
Your preparation prior to the presentation will help you engage your audience with smart questions. Use questions to open up a dialogue and demonstrate your focus on the business vision rather than just on your solution.
Honesty about the risks and results of your solution are also part of big-picture thinking. With every project, there are associated risks and problems. Showing that you know what these risks are and that you have a plan to address them will help to reassure your client and show them that you have thoroughly thought through all outcomes.
Proposal presentations require preparations and a change in perspective. Your content and approach should be driven by the unique needs of your client. By focusing on what is most important to them, you will win their attention and business.
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