When potential customers look at your company, what do they see?

Customers don’t see your company as a whole. They only see what you send them, the people they interact with, any products you install, and the results of your efforts. Before they meet you, they might hear about your reputation, but unless what you do is important enough, or widespread enough, they probably haven’t heard about you at all.

When they get a proposal from you, they see what you’ve put in writing. And that’s it. All those unsubstantiated claims that you think are credible, they see as unsubstantiated noise. What they see is whether you:

  • Describe yourself or focus on what matters to them
  • Include stuff that’s not relevant to them
  • Are careful and have thought things through
  • Are formal or informal
  • Appear trustworthy
  • Focus on technical details or functional details
  • Have an approach or solution that appears credible
  • Are different from your competitors
  • Follow instructions
  • Can meet their schedule and other requirements
  • Make the right trade-off decisions
  • Have a price that fits their budget
  • Have a better value than your competitors
  • Present the best alternative

It’s when they’ve met your staff that things really get interesting. Then what the customer sees is whether you are:

  • Acting as individuals or as a company
  • Making it up as you go along, or you came prepared
  • More concerned with doing or selling
  • Limited in what you can do or acting like a partner
  • Solution oriented
  • Doing the things you said you would
  • Doing the things your proposal said you would (or even know what’s in it)
  • Focused on your own concerns or those of the customer
  • Confident and competent
  • Showing good judgment
  • Trustworthy
  • Helpful and appear to be an asset
  • The kind of people they’d like to work with
  • The kind of people that listen more or talk more

The main thing to focus on is whether they see your company the same way you perceive it. You think you know yourself. Putting aside the question of whether you really do, the customer can only perceive what they see. They may have no idea what you are really like, unless you show it to them. Actions do speak louder than words. When there is a disconnect between what you say and what you do, it hurts your credibility.

But for that to even be a concern, you actually have to say who you are and what you will do. It all starts with whether who you say you are is actually who you want to be. This, in turn, should be determined by your strategy and positioning. If haven’t thought through your strategy and positioning, you won’t be able to articulate who you want to be so that you can drive that into your literature and proposals. And if you don’t do that, the odds of the customer perceiving a disconnect go way up.

The way you prevent this is to look at yourself through your customer’s eyes and make sure they see the right things. Doing this in writing means planning the content before you write it. Doing it in person means having strategies and processes, and training your staff in them. The alternative is simply taking a chance. The alternative means that while you might think of your company one way, you have no idea what the customer will actually see, let alone conclude about you.


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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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