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Baskar Sundaram

The purpose of a proposal is to both inform and persuade. It is possible to persuade people to act in universal, predictable ways. Here, it should be noted that all persuasions should be ethical. Persuasion must be attempted by applying the principles of influence.

Best Practices

  • Understand how central and peripheral processing affect decision making

People make use of one of the two processes while making decisions;

1) Central Processing:

  • Based on logic and sound arguments
  •  Think through arguments carefully
  • Evaluate all available evidences
  • Used by experts    

2) Peripheral Processing:

  • Uses mental shortcuts and cues to quickly process and act on information
  • Seems inconsiderate or improper from a purely logical point of view
  • Most widely used

Peripheral processing becomes important when the proposal is being evaluated by one or more non- experts. While assessing a proposal at higher levels, the decision makers read the executive summaries and therefore, it is better to write executive summaries that support the peripheral processing of information.

  • Use the six Weapons of Influence to structure your argument

According to Robert Cialdini, there are six weapons of influence. They are;

  • Reciprocity:
  • Captured with the old phrase, “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.”
  • Subtly reminding readers of something valuable they’ve received from a contractor can trigger a reciprocity reaction.
  • Consistency:
  • A mental shortcut that encourages deciding in the same way as before.
  • Highlighting some key characteristic that the client identifies with while introducing anew lead.
  • Social proof:
  • Assumes that “If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.”
  • Can be established by describing past successes with similar or noteworthy clients.

 4) Liking:

  • A salesperson’s key strength.
  • Writing in a personal, relatable voice.

5)  Authority:

  • Comes into play when a non-expert is forced to decide about a complex issue.
  •  Can be demonstrated by describing the credentials of team members, referencing awards and industry accolades, or providing testimonials from knowledgeable past clients.

6)  Scarcity:

  • A strong emotional driver of decision-making.
  • Scarcity underlies limited-time-only offers.
  • Describing the  limited distribution or limited availability of a product


An important pitfall in this area is the overuse of persuasive techniques. Proposals should never be loaded with all the tools of influence available. These tools tend to backfire especially if the customer finds out that these are misleading. Honesty should be maintained and the tools must be used ethically. Never misuse principles of influence, instead use them to highlight true benefits.

The article briefly details key examinable syllabus area from the APMP Foundation certification.

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