Four strategies for persuasive writing - by Tim North

Most folk don't enjoy having to write proposals, memos, reports and the dozen other things that seem to get in the way of their 'real' work. Nonetheless, if it's your job to do it, you need to be able to do it well.


To do this, we need to look at how to construct a persuasive argument. To write persuasively, you need to answer four key questions before you start:

1. HOW ARE YOU PERCEIVED BY THE PERSON READING YOUR PROPOSAL?

If you received a stock-market tip as an unsolicited e-mail
message would you take it seriously? Of course not. What,
though, if you received a tip from a long-time friend who was
a rich and successful investor? Would you take *that*
seriously? Almost certainly.

The differences here are *credibility* and *trust*.

How likely is your proposal to be successful if it lacks
these qualities?

So, before you start to write your proposal, you need to know
in what regard you're held. Do you have an existing
reputation for credibility, or will you need to establish
one?

2. HOW CAN YOU SHOW THAT YOU'RE PROVIDING WHAT THE CLIENT NEEDS?

You must overcome the natural suspicion that you're proposing
something that's in your own best interests. If you're really
more interested in getting the grant, increasing your
budget, selling a product or lessening your workload, it will
be very difficult to establish a persuasive argument to the
contrary.

It is thus vitally important that you really *are* submitting
a proposal that will solve the reader's problems. It's no use
submitting a pie-in-the-sky proposal and hoping that the
reader won't notice that you're the main beneficiary.

You need to come up with a win-win proposal that makes such
good sense that the reader would be a fool not to accept it.

3. IS YOUR PROPOSAL PRESENTED WELL?

There's more to a good presentation than just putting your
proposal in a nice binding. Indeed, an overly elaborate
binding can backfire. You run the risk that your proposal
might be seen as having more form than substance.

Here are some things you need to consider. Will it stand by
itself, or will it be accompanied by an audio-visual
presentation? Will it be the only one on the client's desk,
or will it be one of a dozen? What length is the client
expecting? Does is contain a clear summary of the problem and
your proposed solution?

4. WHO IS THE MESSAGE DIRECTED AT?

It helps to understand a bit about the preferences of the
person (or persons) reviewing your proposal. What type of
information do they like to receive?

For example, let's suppose you knew that either John or
George would read your proposal. John is a real "numbers man"
-- he likes to receive pages and pages of technical details
and return-on-investment analyses. He likes charts and data.
George, on the other hand, is an "ideas man" -- he goes with
his gut. He'll carefully read your executive summary and
recommendations, flip through the rest of the pages then make
his decision.

Would knowing which of these two people was going to review
your proposal change the way you wrote it?

Sure it would. Here then are a couple of questions to ask
yourself about the person (or persons) who will evaluate your
proposal:

* Do they focus on details, or do they prefer the big
picture?

* Are they willing to act unilaterally, or are they
consensus-oriented?

* Are they willing to take risks, or are they conservative?

* Are they technically adept, financially adept or both?

* Are they the ultimate decision maker, or do they have to
bump your proposal up the line?

These may not be the easiest questions to answer, but armed
with this sort of extra information, you're in a better
position to construct a persuasive argument.

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You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's
much applauded range of e-books. More information is available
on his web site, and all books come with a money-back guarantee
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