How do you write from the customer's perspective, when you don't know the customer?

3 key questions and 4 goals

Sometimes you have to bid when you don’t have a previous relationship with the customer. So how do you write from their perspective, when you don’t even know what that is?

While you may not know them directly, you may know people like them. You can ask yourself questions like:

  • What matters to people in their environment and circumstances?
  • What would they find useful, helpful, or beneficial?
  • What are their characteristics?

Your goal is to build a profile that will help you visualize what you think the customer is like when you don’t really know them that well. Make sure that you separate the people from the organization:

  • What matters to people like them?
  • How does a person like that tend to make decisions?
  • What matters to organizations like theirs?
  • How does an organization like that tend to make decisions?

This approach gives you someone to visualize so that you can write from their perspective. It is better to write about results and benefits that are relevant to people like the customer, than to not write about results and benefits at all.

If you really don’t know the customer, their organization, their industry, their type or anything about them, then all you can do is use yourself as an example. Write about the results and benefits that would matter to you if you were them. Even though we vary a great deal as individuals, we all share a human nature. Just don’t write it about yourself, make it about what the customer will get and how they will benefit from it.

 
 

There are some writing techniques you can use when you don’t really know the customer. These tend to water your proposal down and make it weaker. But using them is better than not making your proposal about the customer.

You can hedge your bets by using words like “usually” and “most” when you want to say that something matters to a lot of people, but don’t want to say that it matters (to all people) just in case the person reading isn’t one of them. You can also use examples of things that matter, such as how you take customer concerns into consideration, without saying that those concerns matter to the customer (even if you suspect that they do).

Another approach you can take is to make your submission the first step in a conversation. Even when there is a written RFP and everything is set in stone, once the contract is awarded there will be plenty of discussion. By making the proposal conversational, you can show your expertise by addressing important considerations, while maintaining flexibility with regards to the options, trade-offs, or approaches favored by the customer (as soon as you find out what they are).

While you may not know the individual or company's details or specific concerns, you can still write about organizations like theirs. By focusing on issues that matter to most people and subtly hedging your language, you can prepare a proposal from the perspective of a typical customer and still be superior to one that simply describes the company submitting the proposal.


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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