Persuasive Business Proposals: Writing to Win More Customers, Clients, and Contracts

By Tom Sant | Go to book overview
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6 Understanding the Customer:
The Cicero Principle

The essence of client-based persuasion can be summarized in the words of the Roman orator and statesman Cicero: [If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words.] This is great advice, so excellent that it is the basis for this entire chapter. When we break it down, phrase by phrase, we can see just how profound it is.

If you wish to persuade me

Why do you wish to persuade anybody of anything? Basically, you're hoping to influence their behavior, thinking, or attitude. If the context of the persuasion is sales, you're trying to motivate the audience to purchase your product or service.

you must

Old Cicero doesn't cut us any slack here. This is mandatory. Not [it would be a good idea if] or [beneficial results may derive from …] No. You must. And he's right, because what he goes on to emphasize is the necessity of developing your persuasive arguments from the client's perspective.

think my thoughts

One of the keys to thinking like the client is to try to see things from his or her point of view. In fact, that may be the fundamental key to all persuasion: getting outside your own head and away from your own interests and trying to get inside the decision maker's head.

To think the thoughts of your client, you need to watch for clues regarding his or her preferences in terms of receiving and processing information. The challenge you face as a proposal writer is twofold: you need to know what your own preferences are, since you will tend to write a proposal that you would like to receive; and you need to know what your customer's preferences for receiving and processing information are, since you want to adapt your own style to match his or hers more closely. We'll look at specific ways to do this shortly.

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