Tell Me A Story

Image courtesy of umjanedoan's photostream

From our humble beginnings, human beings have loved a good story. Stories have the power to entertain, teach, inspire and even persuade. You know what else they can do? Bring much-needed life and levity to a proposal or presentation.

We often receive formal Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with rigid rules, formatting requirements and a ridiculous number of questions. As glamorous as it sounds, these can feel like hostile interrogations that stretch minutes into hours and inspire long periods of window-gazing, silently envying the carefree wildlife outside.

In an attempt to make the red tape bearable – both for our team and anybody else with the unfortunate responsibility of reviewing these monsters – we incorporate case studies with pictures and graphics. These are brief, to-the-point recaps of past projects that prove we’re not just saying we can do something. We’ve done it before, we can do it for you, and the results will be impressive.

Case studies don’t need to appear on every page, just where they’re particularly relevant and you can use some color to break up all the text. In addition to making your proposal more pleasing to the eye, they help clients-to-be connect the dots by highlighting your experience in areas where they need you to be knowledgeable.

Are they asking about your approach to product safety? Tell them about the time you consulted with a client to remove defects in an item and ensure there were no liabilities.

Are flexibility and rush delivery big concerns? Talk about that giant snowstorm just days before a big event that snarled transportation but didn’t stop you from delivering your products to the convention center on time.

We’ve compiled an ever-growing arsenal of stories to find the perfect fit for most situations, but it’s never too late to begin your collection. Think about your favorite, most successful projects. Write up very brief summaries of:
• The challenge (1 – 3 sentences)
• Your solution (2 – 5 sentences)
• The result (2 – 5 sentences)

Do this with every project going forward and soon you’ll have a story for every occasion. Remember to keep pictures and other graphics on hand to add to the visual appeal.

And don’t limit your use of case studies to formal RFPs. Sometimes the request is less restricting, which gives you even more creative freedom to share shiny, happy stories. Consider creating a portfolio of case studies. Weaving stories into in-person presentations can also warm the environment and help you connect with your audience.

So next time you find yourself swearing at your inbox at the appearance of a new RFP, quit whining and get ready for story time.

AboutMichelle McCafferty

Michelle joined the Proforma team in 2008. As the Manager of Business Development for Major Accounts, she helps Proforma Owners win new and grow existing programs through proposal and presentation development, as well as periodic Relationship Reviews. Before joining Proforma, Michelle attended Cleveland State University where she earned a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication.


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