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How studying LinkedIn posts can make you a better proposal writer

Take your proposal writing to a higher level by seeing what works and what doesn't

When given aa opportunity to network with their peers, talk to experts, and forge relationships with potential customers why do some many people simply go on LinkedIn to post ads? And why do so many of them write their proposals the same way?

We are so pleased to submit the following proposal because you might pay us a lot of money. We are a unique state-of-the-art industry leader. Our people, hired at the lowest possible price from the same labor pool as everyone else, are what makes us so special. Our slogan differentiates us. You should select us because we have other customers. We will fully comply with whatever you pay us to do. 

Aside from my snarky additions, most proposals are full of tropes like these. They sound more like ads than someone who is trying to prove they would be great to work with.

See also:
Great proposals

If you pay attention to what people post on LinkedIn, you can learn some important lessons. Ignore the ads that people post. On second thought, don’t ignore them. Count how many people interact with them. Go to a group on LinkedIn where people have posted ad after ad and you’ll see almost no interactions. Nobody is even reading the ads. In those groups, everyone shows up, posts their ad, ignores everyone else and then leaves and congratulates themselves for being such excellent marketers.

By the way, I lead the largest group on LinkedIn related to proposals. Every day I delete far more submissions that I let post, mainly because so many of them are ads.

Pay the most attention to the posts that people interact with. Very rarely are they statements. Statements are not the best way to get a conversation going. They don’t encourage engagement. But stories do. Questions do. Things that people can empathize with do.  Posts that are simply informative may or may not result in engagement. Study the informative posts  to see which ones people engage with. And when it comes to engagement, comments and shares count way more than low effort “likes.”

Now apply this to your proposals. Do you want your customers to give your proposal the least attention possible, or engage with you about your proposal? How should you write in order to achieve that goal?

For starters, you should go first. Engage with your customers, even if you have to do it in writing. Don’t tell them. Don’t describe — even when they ask you to. Instead, talk about how you might work together. When you talk about what you will do, bring it back to them and invite them to participate. When you inform them, do it in a way that shows you considered what matters to them or will be useful to them. 

Invite them to benefit from what you’ve said so that you can continue to interact with each other to make it happen. Treat all of the stakeholders with empathy. Show that you understand their circumstances and how this project will impact them. Explain what you considered and provide opportunities in the future for them to share their thoughts. Be someone they want to engage with instead of being merely part of their paperwork.

Basically, all you need to do is have a conversation in writing. While they can’t respond when it would normally be their turn to talk, you can anticipate what they might say and continue writing to keep them engaged in the conversation. Don’t just tell a story about how great you are, tell a story that they are a part of.

This is not the normal mindset people bring to proposal writing. That’s why there is so much bad proposal writing out there, and part of why most companies have low win rates. Ordinary proposal writing is bad proposal writing. We have all been conditioned by seeing millions of ads and TV commercials to think that what people say in commercials is how to get customers. Here's an example of advertising copywriting and why it doesn't work for proposals. What works in commercials is also bad proposal writing because the proposal evaluator is not passive and has a different set of expectations. 

Study what you see people posting on LinkedIn and what people engage with. Then decide who you want to be in writing.

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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, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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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