The last element of Cicero's formula is
Cicero has given us the word: You must consider your audience when writing proposals. It's crucial. Ignoring or misunderstanding the audience dooms hundreds, probably thousands, of proposals to failure every year, proposals that
The problem is that most people write proposals under duress. And most of us, when we're feeling stressed, will do something we're confident we can do well. In the case of proposal writing, we'll create the kind of proposal that we would like to receive and we'll include the kind of content we're confident we can do pretty well. If we are technical and detail-oriented by nature, we will create proposals that are technical and detailed. But how likely is it that the client will have the same attitudes and personality traits that we have? And even if the client does have a similar personality to ours, how likely is that he or she will be comfortable with the same language we are?
As Cicero has indicated, then, to write a winning proposal, you need to consider three key factors about the audience:
Personality type ("think my thoughts")
Level of expertise ("speak my words")
Role in the decision process ("feel my feelings")
The first factor about your decision maker is his or her personality type, by which I mean the individual's preferences regarding information gathering, information analysis, and communication styles. In fact, there are two questions to ask: What kind of personality type does my decision maker have? And what kind do I have? I guarantee that if you don't consciously think about the customer's personality, you will inevitably create a proposal that is exactly the kind you would like to receive.
Among the various tools available for analyzing and categorizing personalities, one of the most useful is the Myers-Briggs [Personality] Type Indicator. It is used by career counselors, family and marital therapists, educators, and many others to help people understand
The first pair has to do with the way people prefer to interact with the world. When you're on a plane, do you hope that no one sits
The second pair indicates the two general ways people prefer to gather data. Some people, the "sensors," are oriented toward facts by their nature. They tend to be very literal in their use of words. They need to look at all the details before reaching a conclusion. Their opposites, the "intuitives," find details boring and distracting. They prefer the big picture and appreciate the value of the generalist in an organization. Intuitives are often keen interpreters of
The final pairing, judging/perceiving, indicates how a person prefers to organize his or her time. Judgers prefer punctuality, structure, order, and closure. As a result, they are more likely to reach decisions quickly, to
This brief summary of the Myers-Briggs approach does a disservice to a subtle, nonjudgmental, and extremely rich method of discussing personalities. Combining the various traits outlined above yields sixteen different personality types. For a proposal writer, sixteen different types is a bit unwieldy, however, and it's pretty difficult to get your customer to take the Myers-Briggs test anyway. The point I want to make is that the various combinations of these tendencies do identify useful distinctions that we can use to help us modify the way we deliver our message. And we can reach conclusions about our customer's preferences without obtaining a detailed, clinical picture.
The kind of information you need is the kind you can
The crucial personality characteristics that you need to consider when looking at your decision
decision makers approach experience rationally and logically. They tend to dislike emotional terms and
types are results oriented. They focus on bottom-line issues. They want action. For them, the dominant issue isn't accuracy or thoroughness, it's impact. They want to know, "What have you got? What'll it do for me? How soon? At what price and at what payback?" They may become impatient with detail and want you to be
sincerely want to understand your message. They listen
are the entrepreneurial types. They manage their lives, their responsibilities, and others on the basis of instinct and intuition. They tend to have strong egos and to believe that their ideas are fundamentally sound. They're the
These four broad personality types and their characteristics are summarized in Figure 6-1. Notice that the most difficult challenges will be between those personality types who are positioned on opposing corners of the diagram—a pragmatic selling to a consensus seeker; a visionary selling to an analytical; and vice versa.
Sometimes a person's job requires him or her to act like a certain type of person even when that's not in alignment with his or her
What about situations where your proposal is going to a team or committee? What then? Write a different proposal for each member of the team? No, of course not. Instead, accommodate the different types of people who are likely to be on a team by structuring your proposal in two