Why the customer doesn't care about your proposal

What value does the customer get from reading your proposal? Oh sure, they’re going to get what you are proposing, but if you’re responding to an RFP they pretty much already know what that is. And besides, if the RFP told you what to bid, then they definitely know what it is.

Reading your proposal is a chore. The customer doesn’t even assign their best people to it. It’s a chore because it’s a mechanical task of making a selection based on matching criteria and following procedures. The evaluator gets nothing out of it. In fact, they might be a little bit afraid of it, since they don’t want to make mistakes or cause a protest.

And you make it worse.

You make it worse because you offer nothing of value to the reader. Do you really think they care about your company? They just have to pick one. Your self-description is not enough to make them care about you. All they want to do is to find the items from their evaluation criteria scoring sheet in the document so they can submit their paperwork and get back to their life. But first they have to read while company after company drones on about themselves.

Why do you think the customer issued the RFP?

It’s not just because they want to buy something. They have a problem they are trying to solve, and they want more than one vendor to weigh in on what approach they should take. They have to figure out how to solve their problems and fulfill their goals. If instead of describing yourself, you write about how what you are proposing will make things better for them you might just pique their interest. But that’s still not delivering immediate value to the reader.

Most people read for entertainment or to learn. While companies occasionally say some entertaining things in their proposals, it is usually unintentional. In fact, most companies go to great lengths to strip out anything that might be provocative or controversial in a desire to appear “professional” and to avoid the slightest chance of offending the customer. Humor is the first to go. Your proposal is the opposite of entertaining.

But what about learning? Does the customer learn anything reading your proposal besides how great you are? Do they gain any insight into their issues or ways to overcome them? Just don’t get all descriptive and start teaching them or coming across like a boring textbook. When you have a problem you are looking for people to share their insights and not to be lectured at. So have you shared any insight along the lines of:

  • How what you propose will impact their future?
  • Ways to solve their problems that they haven’t thought of?
  • Why you proposed what you did?
  • Why you chose the trade-offs that you did?
  • How what you propose will fulfill their needs and goals?
  • Demonstrating the truth of what you are proposing or proving anything?
  • Showing them how to get past the trust issues that they face?
  • Showing them that the risks they face can be mitigated?
  • Showing them that there is a way to make what they want affordable?

If you are smart and read between the lines, you’ll realize that every one of the opportunities where you can show insight that might make the evaluator actually care about what they are reading is really about them and not you. They don’t care about you. They want you to care about them. They are the customer, after all.

If your proposal is about insightful observations, clever approaches to addressing the customer’s concerns, and what the customer will get out of it all, you become an asset and separate yourself from the pack of “Pick me! Pick me!” vendors. Given the same offering, at the same price, who would you want to work with? The customer still might not care about your proposal, but there is a slight chance that you can get them to care about you. You just have to start by caring about them.



Subscribe to PropLIBRARY

Unlock our premium content, including the recipes, forms, checklists, etc. that make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. 


Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.

It all starts with a conversation. You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.