The International Electronic Journal of Health Education

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IEJHE, Vol. 1(1), 49-51, January 1, 1998, Copyright 1998

Improving The Success of Health Education Proposals

Bruce M. Ragon, Ph.D.1, J. David Nall, CLU2
1 University of North Carolina at Wilmington
2 Vice President Marketing (retired), Aetna International Inc.

Corresponding author: Bruce M. Ragon, UNCW, Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, North Carolina 28403; 910.962.3768 (phone), 910.962.7073 (fax); .

Introduction The Sale Preparation Conclusion References

For this charter edition of the International Electronic Journal of Health Education it seemed most appropriate for the Applications Section to offer an article on helping the health educator improve their success of their proposals. It seems appropriate because this section of the Journal emphasizes the practical application of health education, regardless of the health education setting. Whether in health care, communities, schools, or the workplace health educators will be required to compete for diminishing resources (Ragon, 1996). The success of ideas, suggestions, and proposals in this increasingly competitive marketplace will be directly tied to our ability to influence and persuade.

Whether one works in business, education, or social service the skills necessary to increase the success of proposals are virtually the same. Influence and persuasion in business settings has always been recognized as a necessary element in achieving success. However, within health education these skills have not generally been embraced and may have even been disregarded as manipulative by a naive administrator.

The concepts of influence and persuasion are not alone in the slow move into settings outside of business. Total Quality Management (TQM), which became the hallmark of effective business management, has not been embraced with open arms by public health. TQM applications among health agencies have been limited at best (Kaluzny, McLaughlin & Simpson, 1992).

The current economic philosophy of reducing costs, downsizing and operating on tight budgets suggests that the trend toward scrutiny of tax dollars and private funds alike, will continue. Acceptance of proposals will be increasingly

The current economic philosophy of reducing costs, downsizing and operating on tight budgets suggests that the trend toward scrutiny of tax dollars and private funds alike, will continue.

competitive as more programs seek funds from a relatively consistent pool of funding sources. This level of competition will require the health educator to be adapt at those skills necessary to successfully sell their proposals to a most selective buyer. Consequently, the mastery of proven skills in the art of influence and persuasion will be most valuable for health educators to successfully compete in this arena.

The influx of business concepts in health education is becoming more the norm rather than the exception. What health educator developing a program proposal has not been confronted with such ideas as cost effectiveness, cost - benefit, market analysis, and product marketing plan. The suggestion that the successful health educator needs to learn to spot future trends is most applicable when considering the role business concepts will play in the future (Berne, 1993). However, the one business concept which appears to create the most disdain among health educators is the art of influence and persuasion. Possibly this belief toward sales concepts exists because of the enduring vision of the used car representative saying trust me which often sends chills of doubt down the back of any potential buyer. One thing is true, however, regardless of the health education setting. The decision maker (buyer) will have to be convinced that the proposal will meet their wants and needs. Convincing a decision maker to choose your proposal can be greatly enhanced by understanding some basic concepts of persuasion and influence.

The Sale
Introduction The Sale Preparation Conclusion References

There is a saying by Ben Feldman, a legend in the field of insurance sales, that states nothing happens in this world until something is sold (Nall, 1996). The obvious suggestion imbedded here is that economics is reliant on commerce. Without the sale there is no production, no shipping, no accounts payable and receivable, no marketing, no economy. Consequently, the art of selling has become quite sophisticated and the salesperson masterful at influence and persuasion. Certainly the sales amateur still exists and surfaces as the obnoxious car salesman, untrustworthy real estate agent, or deceitful insurance person. However, overall sales professionals are well trained, maintain high standards of ethics, and most interestingly, stay abreast of new and effective techniques in persuasion and influence.

There are essentially five steps to the process of successfully influencing and persuading someone on the value of your proposal . . . Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire, and Close.

The techniques used to increase the success rate within the sales profession vary only slightly from those necessary to increase the success rate of health education proposals. The concepts of acquiring a successful outcome remain basically the same regardless of the setting in which they are used. Consequently, this article will identify those techniques which have been demonstrated to increase the potential for success in sales proposals and there utility in health education.

There are essentially five steps to the process of successfully influencing and persuading someone on the value of your proposal. The steps are basically called; Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire, and Close. The purpose of the Attention step, or conversation step as it is sometimes called, is to get the prospect or decision maker, to say to themselves I like this person. People prefer to work with people they like. Often times the importance of this step is not as great when the proposal is being presented to someone with whom we work on a regular basis and /or who have known us previously. However, when dealing with individuals we do not know, gaining rapport is a most important step in achieving success.

The second step is called the Interest step. All that one wants from this step in the influence and persuasion process is for the decision maker to say tell me more. Also known as the curiosity step, this second step is one of the most critical because we must peek the curiosity of the decision maker within the first two sentences of this step. If we fail to get the decision maker to the tell me more scenario quickly than our chance for success is minimal at best. Because of its importance, this step will be revisited and discussed in greater detail.

The third step is the Conviction step. At this point in the process the decision maker needs to believe that we have a good proposal. The features and benefits of the proposal have been presented and the decision maker believes the proposal meets theirs, and/or their organizations, needs and interests.

The fourth step is called the Desire step because at this point we want the decision maker to say I want to approve your proposal, or better yet I want to fund your proposal. Because of our attention to detail in presenting the previous steps the Desire step is the point at which the decision maker actually agrees to support the proposal. The final step is the Close which signals the official conclusion of the process and a successful outcome. In the Close we are simply accepting the contract so to speak.

Introduction The Sale Preparation Conclusion References

All the steps outlined above are critical in acquiring a successful result from presenting a proposal and each should be addressed during preparation. For health educators one step in particular will require the lions share of your preparation time; the Interest step. Health educators are oftentimes intuitively skilled at the Attention step. Our knowledge of human behavior and our interest in improving quality of life frequently leave people with a I like this person attitude. With training and/or experience health educators acquire the skills for the Conviction, Desire and Close steps. The Interest step, however, is the area where health educators may find themselves ill prepared and subsequently achieving less than desirable results from proposals.

The Attention step is so critical that sales trainers suggest that approximately 70% of presentation preparation time be spent on this one step (DuBois, 1996). Why is this step so critical? To answer this question one needs only to remember back to the last time when they were assigned to a position search. How much time was spent on developing the advertisement so that it would catch the attention of qualified prospects in a precise, short, & encompassing format.

Just like the position advertisement, the first few sentences of the Attention step are critical. Regardless of whether the decision maker is an old colleague, new administrator, or someone we have never met before, its is imperative to peak their interest quickly. Always remember, the goal of this step is to get the decision maker to say tell me more. One of the best techniques for achieving success in the

...make a BIG claim about what your proposal will accomplish.

Attention step is to preface your first statements with one of two beginnings; we have a ..... or, my purpose is.... . By beginning your presentation with one of these leaders a concise, two sentence, attention getting, opening can be memorized and drawn on quickly and easily. For example, we have a proposal to develop an exciting lecture series of nationally recognized leaders in health education who will address issues of great concern and interest to the faculty and the community at large. Another example might be, my purpose is to propose to you an innovative training program for teachers which would assist them in refining their presentation, evaluation, and technology skills through an interactive, intensive three day institute. Again, the key here is to get the decision maker to simply say tell me more.

What is important in these initial sentences is that one makes a big fat claim; gift wrapped -- a phrase popularly used in sales circles (DuBois, 1996). In other words make a BIG claim about what your proposal will accomplish. Obviously, our BIG claim reflects an ultimate goal of the proposed program, however, its important to gift wrap it with superlatives such as innovative, creative, and exciting. By making a big fat claim; gift wrapped, the interest of the decision maker is peaked and will provide the best opportunity to hear the holy grail of the Attention step, tell me more.

All of this attention to one aspect of the influence and persuasion process may be perceived as overkill, but in the field of sales as with health education a miscue here could mean disaster for a proposal. Developing an opening that addresses specific needs and/or interests of the decision maker also plays an important role in achieving success. However, discerning such specific information may be impossible prior to the presentation. In such situations be as general with the big fat claim as possible. For example in the second openings provided earlier the proposed teacher training program was presented in a three day institute. If we knew that the decision maker believed that five day programs were more appealing we may elect to provide a five day option to the proposal or to not broach the length issue at all in the opening.

Introduction The Sale Preparation Conclusion References

Improving the success of health education proposals can be accomplished by considering paradigms in the process of influence and persuasion provided by sales professionals. Specific techniques from the five steps of successfully influencing and persuading decision makers offer the opportunity for health educators to increase the potential for success in the presentation of proposals.

By developing our proposal presentation using the Attention, Interest, Conviction, Desire, and Close steps health educators may achieve similar success rates of sales professionals who essentially live or die professionally by the process. The skills necessary to successfully influence and persuade someone of the value of your proposal may be somewhat foreign to health educators. However, I suspect that these steps are basically utilized intuitively, by virtually every successful health educator. Through our increased understanding of the influence and persuasion process health educators, who are typically masters at proposal design, can improve our skills at preparing the proposal presentation for improved success.

Health educators may never be in a situation where they have to sell their ideas, concepts, or proposals to a decision maker. But, with the ever increasing need for health educators to acquire a business savvy, the value of influence and persuasion skills cannot be underscored. Unquestionably, some health educators will find the consideration of utilizing the sales process to promote a health education proposal leaves a most unpleasant taste in their mouth. These people may find comfort in a quote from a top insurance sales trainer. If we believe in our product, the value of the work we do and the sincerity of our intentions to help people, then no negative response to our efforts can create a negative feeling within us (Schulte, 1995, pg148). Maybe the skills to be successful in sales and health education presentations are not so different.

Its important to note that health educators are typically masterful at program development and the skills described in this article may be valuable in increasing the success of a program proposal. However, the mastery of skills in influence and persuasion will be of little help in selling a poorly designed proposal. The skills discussed here, like all skills, are most useful when practiced. Remember, practice does not make perfect ... it makes permanent. Be cautious not to simply go through the motions without assessing the quality of your presentation.

Introduction The Sale Preparation Conclusion References

Berne, L.A. (1993). Entrepreneuring in health education, part 1: Taking your health education skills to the marketplace. Journal of Health Education, 24(4), 247-248.

Dubois, L (1996). Let The Customer Buy: The New Era in Selling. Cincinnati, Ohio; Lee DuBois Technologies.

Kaluzny, A.D., McLaughlin, C.P., & Simpson, K. (1992). Applying total quality management concepts to public health organizations. Public Health Reports, 107(3), 257-264.

Nall, J.D. (1996). Producers Sales Course. Aetna Life Insurance, unpublished manuscript.

Ragon, B.M. (1996). Countering objections to health promotion programming: The objection/rebuttal approach. Journal of Health Education, 27(3), 190- 193.

Schulte, G. (1995). Successful life insurance selling. Dearborn Financial Publishing Inc.

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Copyright 1998 by IEJHE.