Before and after example: Sentences that add no value
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 proposal paragraph:
We live in a post-digital age, a time of constantly changing technology transforming the way we live, work, and relate to one another. Technology has become an everyday part of our lives, invisibly powering the world all around us. In this 24/7/365 economy, clients are impacted differently and have different needs. The way that people work is changing, and this influences their performance requirements.
Our world is constantly changing. How we live, relate to each other, and work are all transforming due to technology. Technology has become something that we can’t live without. We have to be prepared for those changes and the different needs of our clients.
After each sentence, ask yourself:
How does this sentence add any value to what you offer your customer? Does it tell them anything they don’t already know? Does it help them figure out what to do about it? Does it even pass the “So what?” test?
The text above implies a solution is needed, without ever offering that solution. You’re supposed to assume they have one, even though it’s unstated. Even if it comes later, you’ve wasted the reader’s time by slowing down the part where you actually do something for them. This approach to writing does more harm than good by opening things up to a competitor that starts off by offering a solution to these problems without wasting page space by stating the obvious.
After each paragraph, ask yourself:
What does it add up to? If you received this from a vendor would you be inclined to accept their proposal or have you tuned out?
After a little editing. Well, maybe a complete rewrite:
ABC Corp. tracks the changes in technology and accounts for the differences they will bring so that we can adjust our processes accordingly and remain ahead of the game. Our approach involves updating our software before issues begin to occur, which will bring you reliability and speed. There will be less time spent fixing technical issues due to outdated software, so time can be allocated in more useful ways.
Our staff are continuously training and updating their skills. We position you to not only deal with constantly changing technology, but to be able to take advantage of it. For our clients, changes in technology bring opportunities instead of disruption.
For a real-world proposal, I probably would simply have deleted those two paragraphs. But where’s the fun in that? The key to this example is not the wording of the rewrite, which does transform the original into something that adds value. The key is not to introduce your proposal by talking in overgeneralizations about obvious problems and issues. Instead of talking around the issues, offer solutions to them. Proposals are not research or school papers. Do not start by stating the problem. Start by offering a solution in a way that makes it clear you not only understand the problem, you also understand what to do about it. That is what customers want to see in a proposal. And they’re not going to hunt to find it.
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