5 examples of proposal themes that are total losers

Why are these proposal themes so common when they hurt your competitiveness?

If you ever find yourself competing against me, please use these themes!

I want you to use these themes because they are easy to beat. They basically promise the minimum. They demonstrate insecurity, lack of insight, and zero initiative. They sound like the claims people expect to hear made in bad commercials. They get ignored. They will never increase your evaluation score. They usually find their way into proposals when the writers haven’t received any better input and have to make something up on their own. So if you and I are ever working on competing proposals, I would love it if you use these themes. Because I won’t…

See also:
Themes
  1. We have the capability to fulfill all of the requirements. I have the capability to run 50 yards. Does that mean I should be in the Olympics? Even when the customer asks about your capabilities, that’s not what they really want to know. They only ask to weed out people who aren’t qualified so they don’t have to evaluate those proposals. Out of the ones that are remaining, the ones that all meet the minimum qualifications, they can take your capability as a given and instead want to know if you can deliver as promised and if you have more value to offer than any other alternative. In my proposal, I will deliver results because of my capabilities and deliver options because of them that go beyond the requirements. I’ll make sure our proposal is qualified and compliant, but that’s not what I’ll focus on. You can focus on merely being capable of fulfilling the requirements all you want.
  2. Our proposal is fully compliant with all requirements of the RFP. Compliance is critically important. It’s how you get a chance to compete. It is not how you win. Everyone who makes the cut will also be fully compliant. Featuring compliance is a bit like saying you’re willing to do the minimum. I’m going to focus on differentiation and adding value. Above the minimum. Way above it. As far above it as I can drive it.
  3. We are the industry leader. Most of the proposals the customer evaluates will make this same claim. And none of those claims matter one bit. I doubt a single customer anywhere has cited “they are the industry leader” on a proposal evaluation form. Hardly any customers reading that believe you, unless it’s so true it doesn’t need to be said. This means that what most of your customers learn from this theme is that you are not trustworthy. Please use it when competing against me. I’ll find something of substance to say.
  4. We are highly experienced. Everyone who is a competitor will be sufficiently experienced. The number of years beyond sufficiency is hardly worth mentioning. Amongst those sufficiently experienced enough to be worthy of consideration by the customer, experience does not matter. Unless you make it matter. What is it about your experience that makes you a better selection than someone else who is also sufficiently experienced? That may be a difficult case to make. But unless you can make it, featuring your experience will not be enough to win. If I decide that experience is a differentiator at that stage of evaluation, it will be on how the customer will be impacted by my experience. And it will matter.
  5. We understand. “We understand the work.” “We understand you.” “We understand the importance of [fill in the blank].” The only problem is you haven’t actually said you’ll deliver anything of value to the customer. And you haven’t proven anything. All of your competitors will be able to make similar claims of understanding, and most probably will. Saying that you understand because you are experienced won’t help either. Because they will be similarly experienced. Understanding is best proven and not claimed. When I want to show understanding, it will be by delivering the results the customer wants, delivered the way the customer wants them delivered.

Take one of your past proposals and count how many times these claims were used.

These five claims seem like they matter. They sound good enough to pass many internal proposal reviews. But if you use these themes you will not be competitive. Because everyone who is competitive will be able to make these claims. You need something better to win.

While you focus on claims like these, your competitors will be focusing on things that matter more.

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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.

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