How to ensure your proposal writing is the opposite of spam

In publishing our email, we have distributed a couple million emails. This has given us some insight into the nature of “spam.” You may think that spam is something specific to email, but the truth is that a lot of people write their proposals as if they were writing spam.

One of the things that we have learned is that the reader gets to decide what is spam and what is not. In publishing our newsletter, we have achieved an extremely low rate of spam rejections. We know this because our email service provider keeps benchmarks. But if someone gets our newsletter and decides it's spam, then it’s spam. We don't get to correct them. We don't get to remind them that they signed themselves up for it. The reader gets to decide.

Most people define spam as unsolicited commercial email. But some spam isn’t commercial. And readers often reject email they have requested as spam. Why is that? Because what really drives people to consider an email spam is when:

  • It's not what they expected
  • It's not relevant to them
  • It's not what they want

Some people have a lower threshold than others, but usually it’s one or more of these that turn the relationship from something they wanted to something they reject.

When you write a proposal, you want to be the opposite of spam. To achieve this, you need to provide:

  • Exactly what the customer expects (or better)
  • Something directly relevant and useful
  • Something they really want

When you write your proposal based on who you are, what you do, and why you are better, you risk getting the same reaction that people have when they receive spam. This will happen when they don’t want you, they want what you can do for them. If you don’t focus on the results and how they benefit, then all those impressive details about you aren’t relevant to them. They were expecting a solution and not a description of how great you are. That is not what they expected and now instead of a partner they see you as trying to sell something to them and they sense a bait and switch. Your proposal is spam.

To avoid that you have to anticipate what the reader expects and values. And you have to make everything you say about yourself relevant to them. The best way to achieve that is to avoid being descriptive. The reason why it is relevant is more important to the customer than whatever fact you are describing. This is especially true with your qualifications. They don’t want your qualifications, they want what will result from those qualifications.

So the next time you are trying to figure out what you want to say in your proposal, remember that it’s not about you — the customer gets to decide what’s spam.


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Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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