The proposal arguments we should be having

A lot of proposal arguments are really just control dramas fought out of fear

Incredible amounts of time and energy are wasted in proposal arguments that are basically pointless. They cause delays. They create extra work. They make people dread working on proposals. And they probably do more to lower your win rate than raise it.

The right things are worth arguing about. Arguing about the right things can make the difference between winning and losing. But how do you get people to focus on the right things and channel all that energy into productive debates?

Never mind what you think or I think. The arguments we should be having are over what the customer thinks.

Never mind the use of commas, editorial conventions, or what terminology we prefer. What language does the customer prefer? Let’s argue about what they think is acceptable.

Never mind what we think we should propose. What does the customer think we should propose? Let’s argue about what the customer has said or not said about what they want.

Never mind my way or your way. What way does the customer prefer? Let’s argue about that.

Never mind how we think we should respond to the RFP. What did the customer mean when they wrote it that way? Let’s argue about why the customer wrote the RFP the way they did.

Never mind what you or I think about what constitutes good proposal writing. What does the customer need to see to make their decision? Let’s argue about what we can write to make their decision easy.

Never mind our procedures. What does the customer want to get? Let’s argue about the best way to give it to them.

Never mind how we conduct our proposal reviews. How will the customer evaluate the proposals and make their decision? Let’s argue about what the customer thinks a good proposal will be.

How much do you want to bet that if we’re arguing over what you and I think it’s because neither one of us knows what the customer thinks? It would still be better to argue over our guesses about what the customer might think.

If we’re arguing about what the customer thinks, then no matter who wins the argument, we’ve invested our energies into understanding the customer. No matter who wins the argument, the odds of winning the proposal go up when we improve our ability to make the proposal reflect the customer’s perspective.

If we avoid confrontation over what the customer wants and accept a choice without debating what the customer prefers, what does that do to our win rate?

A lot of proposal arguments are really just control dramas fought out of fear that we won’t be able to fulfill our assignments. Maybe instead of arguing about control over our own destinies,we should be arguing over what the customer wants and just give it to them.

The best thing about arguing over what the customer thinks is that to win the arguments you have to know how the customer thinks. Being able to win those arguments means doing your homework. When you argue over what the customer thinks, it becomes obvious pretty quickly if you haven’t done your homework. Having the right arguments leads to having the right processes. And that leads to not having any need to argue at all.



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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.
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