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How Proposal Cover Letters Persuade and Convince
A proposal cover letter is a hybrid between two forms of business writing. The first is the proposal. Put simply, a proposal is an attempt to inform and persuade the reader to do something. Whether it is to fund a program, to purchase goods or services, or simply to commit to a course of action, each proposal contains key elements that must be present to have a chance of persuading the reader. In a nutshell, these elements are what the letter writer will do, how he or she intends to do it, when, and how much it will cost. The second is the cover letter, which is intended to persuade the reader to hire the sender of the letter. Cover letters, though more specific in content to employment, contain more or less the same elements, so lend themselves well to a synthesis with the proposal to form a proposal cover letter.
An example of when a proposal cover letter might be appropriate would be if the job seeker is not looking for a full time position with the targeted company, but is instead interested in coming on board for a specific assignment or task as a contractor or freelancer. In this case, the writer will need to be very focused in his or her proposal cover letter to persuade the target to hire him or her to solve a single problem or set of problems in a cost-effective and timely manner.
Secrets to the Effective Proposal Cover Letter
Naturally, the first step towards writing an effective proposal cover letter is to do the necessary research on all the many aspects the writer needs to take into account. These aspects include, but are not limited too, all the relevant information about the recipient of the letter, the nature of the environment or situation that the recipient is working in, the nature of the problem or issue that the writer hopes to solve, the history of the writer, the background of the issue or problem and what previous efforts have been made to address the issue.
During this research, itís very helpful for the writer to step away from their own point of view and attempt to see things from the perspective of the targeted hiring manager or decision maker? That decision maker has been tasked or has decided to solve a particular problem that is beyond his or her abilities to efficiently handle. He or she is under pressure to solve that problem in the best, most cost effective, most thorough and quickest manner. Further, the decision maker can expect to be held accountable for whatever decision he or she makes to solve this problem. What the decision maker needs to feel comfortable committing the responsibility (and money) for completing this task over to someone else (the letter writer) is the sense that the letter writer understands the situation perfectly and can be trusted to deliver the needed solution.
Research Before Writing is Key
Internet research, reading various trade journals, talking to members of that profession and even interviewing the targeted decision maker directly should give you a clear idea about what sort of problems he or she is facing. Just as important is the sort of considerations that must go into choosing a course of action. Is cost the deciding factor for the potential client or are they more concerned with speed? Have they tried to solve the problem in the past? What methods did they use? Were those methods successful or unsuccessful? Once youíve got that information gathered as best you can, itís time to start crafting your proposal cover letter.
In order to get the decision makerís attention right away, itís best to start off by defining the problem that you intend to solve. This problem should be just happen to be the problem that the decision maker is most concerned about. If youíve done your research and interviewing well, the decision maker should be nodding his or her head while reading the proposal cover letter and getting the feeling that you have read his or her mind or maybe been peeking at their emails.
The importance of accurately defining the problem in the clientís mind cannot be overstated. Consider for a second how much you would pay for an operation that cured you of a disease as opposed to an operation for a disease that you didnít have. If you can clearly and accurately describe the problem the decision maker faces, that decision maker should be on the edge of their seat after this section, thinking to themselves "Yes! At last! Someone understands exactly what Iím facing here!"
Next, you tell the decision maker what you will do to solve that problem, going into as much detail as you believe is necessary to show that you understand the problem, that you have a solution, and that you are confident that this solution cannot fail. Just stating the solution isnít enough though. Your proposal cover letter needs to say how you will implement it, giving specific actions you will take. Just how deep into details and specifics you go will vary on a case-by-case basis. The most important thing is that you convey enough specifics to assure the reader that you have a definite plan, based on a firm foundation of knowledge and competence.
Have You Considered Everything?
Furthermore, you will need to show that youíve thought through every eventuality for when you implement this solution. Provide evidence of the methods of measurement you will use to determine if your solution is working. Write about courses of action you will take if there are problems or a need to adjust mid-implementation. Remember, what the decision-maker wants to do most of all is to hand this problem off to someone that can solve it, with the confidence that it will be taken care of more or less automatically. What the decision maker does not want is to be surprised halfway through by some sort of unforeseen eventuality that makes the solution invalid.
The next section of your letter involves your credibility. Of course, anyone can say that they have a solution and how they will implement it, so your letter needs to show that you have the experience and capability to back up what you have proposed. In the next section of your proposal cover letter, you need to provide the evidence that you can deliver on your proposed solution. To accomplish this, any relevant aspects of your background are fair game --- your education, your training, even your interests and hobbies. But what will truly convince the decision maker that you are legitimately capable of evaluating and solving the problem is your experience.
Have you previously solved a problem similar to this one in the past? If so, that will be the most convincing piece of evidence that you could produce to prove you could solve it again. If youíve done it several times, and have testimonials to that effect from pleased former clients and employers, thatís worth even more. Evidence of past success lends credibility to a proposal cover letter in ways that all the most glowing theories and beliefs and suppositions can never do. Feel free to draw parallels between aspects of the past successes and the decision makerís current problem. Explain how your success in dealing with those past issues makes you the best possible choice for solving the decision makerís current dilemma.
Always Emphasize Problem Solving
Remember, the decision maker only wants to have the problem taken care of, and the peace of mind in knowing that he or she can count on you to do that. Any elements of doubt, or wishful thinking, or predictions based on what you "expect" or "believe" will work only add to the decision makerís anxiety.
Lastly, once the proposal cover letter had explained why the writer is the best possible solution to the problem the decision maker faces, the letter must impel or persuade the reader to take a specific action. A well-written cover letter that thoroughly convinces the decision maker that the writer is competent and trustworthy, but does not inspire an action towards the next step is useless. At the same time, expecting the reader to finish reading the letter then picking up the checkbook is unrealistic. Rather, the letter should serve to inspire future contact, and to let the proposal cover letter writer refine his or her understanding of the clientís problem and more accurately express why he or she is the best solution to that problem.
Nine times out of ten, that action is simplicity itself: pick up the phone and call the writer to talk again.
Consequently, the proposal cover letter should end with a call to just that action! Thereís no need to be coy or assume that the reader knows what is expected of him or her. Something simple like "I look forward to discussing my enthusiasm for this project with you in person. Please give me a call at 555-555-5555 so that we can arrange at time to meet.
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