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5 Proposal Secrets that Excite Prospective Clients

I just hung up from a phone call that resulted in a closed deal. One of those situations where the client and consultant were gushing to each other, “I can’t wait to start working with you!” That’s the best, right? Actually, it’s not only the best, it’s a requirement.

To get a signed deal your client has to feel some passion about working with you. The following five “secrets” will ensure your proposals provoke the necessary fervor.


5 Proposal Secrets that Excite Prospective Clients

Prior Agreement

Excitement is built on the belief that a desire can be satisfied. How can you know what will satisfy your client unless you spend time in advance truly understanding what they want and need?

Don’t submit a proposal before gaining agreement to your Context Document, which summarizes the client’s desires, fears and goals as well as important parameters.

Romantic Story

Many consultants think the proposal is about themselves. Finally they get to tell the story of why they are so awesome. But the proposal isn’t about you. It’s about your client.

Signing a proposal is an emotion-laden act for clients. They’re committing themselves and putting themselves at risk. Hence, the selling story woven through your proposal is a romantic tale that woos their head and their heart. Your heartfelt murmurings are explored more in this related article: The Perfect Story to Win Consulting Projects



Clients can be insecure. When you anticipate their objections, allay their fears, and mitigate their perceived risks, you rise from a vendor to a trusted colleague they want to hire.

Thanks to your Context Discussion, you know most of the worries that are plaguing your prospect. All that’s needed is for you to explicitly address each concern in your proposal.

Their Outcome

The more your proposal dives into detail about your approach, the more you’re drifting into boring, “it’s about me” territory. Rather than stressing your own approach and actions and special gifts, an irresistible proposal stays focused on the client’s outcome.

As a result, it’s succinct, without undue detail in the approach section. What is undue detail? Anything beyond what is needed to allay their fears.


Choices (or Alternatives)

When you offer one approach and one set of terms, you’ve got one shot at generating the necessary passion, and you receive very narrow feedback. In contrast, when you offer a few choices you multiply your opportunities to truly find out what approaches best allay their concerns, what fears are most salient, what terms and pricing are acceptable, and what fancies they most want tickled.

I can’t promise your next consulting client will start sending you perfumed love notes, but I can assure you that attending to the five areas above will excite your prospects into signing the deal.

What else do you think contributes to an irresistible consulting proposal? Share your thoughts below and I’ll respond.

You may also enjoy this related post/infographic: How to Construct a Perfect Proposal


  1. David Bertoni
    February 17, 2016 at 2:43 pm Reply

    Thanks David. Solid concepts on which to build a relationship.

    • David A. Fields
      February 17, 2016 at 3:57 pm Reply

      You’re welcome, David. I appreciate your feedback.

  2. Lori Silverman
    February 21, 2016 at 2:11 pm Reply


    I encourage all consultants to “co-create” a vision story with the client when gaining contextual information and include it in the proposal. It is by far the most powerful type of story for envisioning an intertwined future together. It’s a story about what the key stakeholder is able to do once the engagement is completed. (All stories must be written around a single character or you risk compassion fade.) Is this what you meant by a “romantic” story? If so, it’s not an easy story to craft because its structure is different than how most other stories are crafted.

    Kind regards,

    • David A. Fields
      February 22, 2016 at 4:54 pm Reply

      Lori, a vision story is a great idea. There’s definitely a common element between what (I think) you’re describing and the “romantic” story: emotional content. Your story about what the stakeholder will able to do elicits passion for the future state, and passion is needed to close the deal. In general, many consultants forget that this an emotion-driven business. We become so hypothetical, theoretical, and analytical that’s its easy to think projects are won through cold, hard facts like ROI or intellectual concepts like competitive advantage. In actuality, projects are won in the heart of our prospects. That was what I meant by telling a romantic story.

      As always, your input and insights add tremendous value to the discussion. Thanks for contributing.

  3. Anatoli Naoumov
    January 9, 2017 at 10:29 am Reply

    Offering choices in proposal has an additional emotional effect: choosing between options prospect buys into the project, reassures their leading position through exercised control.

    • David A. Fields
      January 9, 2017 at 2:56 pm Reply

      Anatoli, you’ve keyed in on an important behind-the-mental-curtain aspect of the story: agency. Clients want to be the agents of change and have control–or at least some say–over how that change happens. Offering alternatives gives clients agency and that, in and of itself, makes your proposal more attractive to them.

      Thanks for bringing up that nuanced point.

      • Anatoli Naoumov
        January 10, 2017 at 9:45 am Reply

        David, you dug even deeper than I meant.
        I was only talking about consultant-prospect dynamics during project negotiations. Consultant brings something knew and not-done-before to the table of a person who by their position is supposed to have-done-it-all. Prospect may feel challenged in such setting. The imbalance may derail sales process.
        In fact I once spoke with a Technical Director of a big food manufacturing company about their energy management practices (looking for an opportunity for a Turn). He work in this position over 20 years. He was interested in the topic and proud of his results until the moment he realized that he has not done the basics of best practices. At which moment he abruptly turned to offensive and cut the whole conversation.
        Back to my initial point: bringing options to choose from allows prospect to feel in control again, even if this position was somewhat challenged by consultant’s specific abilities.

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