Describing your own company is a mistake, even when the RFP uses the word “describe.” The customer doesn’t care about your company, they care about what they are going to get and whether you can deliver as promised. They ask for the description because they want to assess that ability.
The following example is loosely based on proposal content that was actually submitted to the customer, with some changes to hide the identity of the company that submitted it. The company was not one of our customers (but probably should be).
Original RFP requirement:
Describe your capabilities to deliver training.
Original proposal paragraph:
ABC Corp. has worked hard to establish a best-in-class training program. ABC Corp. was awarded a [Name] Award from [Name] Magazine. This award is given to organizations that deliver the most successful training in the world. Our award was based on training frequency, length, budget, and innovative delivery. Our receipt of this award is a direct result of our employee training, excellent customer service, and standards.
Every single sentence in that paragraph is about the company submitting the proposal. They are proud of their accomplishments and believe they make them better than their competitors. But when you pull it apart, you find that it has major problems. Here it is sentence-by-sentence:
ABC Corp. has worked hard to establish a best-in-class training program.
This is about the company. Does it pass the “So what?” test for the customer? Does your effort matter more than the results you will deliver to the customer? Will this be the first thing the customer wants to hear about your response to what they want to get from their training program?
ABC Corp. was awarded a [Name] Award from [Name] Magazine.
This is a simple fact about the company. Does it pass the “So what?” test for the customer?
This award is given to organizations that deliver the most successful training in the world.
If you are trying to say that this supports your ability to deliver the best training, you should say that. But would that be credible? What constitutes “successful” training to the customer you are proposing to? If the award reflects that, it would be more significant to the customer.
Our award was based on training frequency, length, budget, and innovative delivery.
“Our award” indicates that you are talking about yourself. This should be a statement about how the award confirms your ability to meet criteria that are relevant to the customer you are proposing to.
Our receipt of this award is a direct result of our employee training, excellent customer service, and standards.
“Our receipt of..” followed by “result of our...” further indicates you are talking about yourself instead of how this will impact the customer. Who cares about you? What does this award do for the customer you are proposing to?
After a little editing. Well, maybe a lot…
The training delivered by ABC Corp. will enable [Customer]’s employees to achieve top performance. The benefits that ABC Corp.’s training program can bring to you are credible, having received multiple awards including one from [Name] Magazine. This independent assessment demonstrates that our training frequency, length, budget, and innovative delivery reliably produce the kind of world-class training results that you would like to have. It also demonstrates that our training development resources, methodologies, and standards will be effective for achieving [Customer]’s training goals.
When the customer has to read through countless companies talking about how they’re at the top in their industry and how great their reputation is, those claims lose their value. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. If you are the buyer, would you rather listen to someone go on and on about how great they think they are, or hear about what exactly it is they can do for you and why you should believe it? Every time you make a statement that is about yourself, you should stop yourself and explain how it will impact the customer and why they should believe you will deliver as promised.