Lessons life can teach you about proposal writing

Proposal writing ideas and examples are all around us

My wife broke the screen on her phone recently. The repair turned out fine, but her experience with the vendor wasn’t great. It wasn’t bad either. But listening to her describe it, all I could think of was what a great teaching moment it was for proposal writing. Yeah, I’m wired that way.

The vendor didn’t have the right screen replacement and had to order it. When it came in, it sat until my wife called to see if it came in when it was supposed to. When she got home after she dropped her phone off to be fixed, she realized that they had no way to contact her and tell her that it was ready for pickup. The only phone number they had for her was the phone they were fixing. When she just showed up later, the person who helped her pulled out a phone and asked her if it was hers. It was. When she got her repaired phone home, she noticed it had adhesive marks on it that hadn’t been cleaned up. But the cracks in the screen were gone and everything went pretty much as promised.

However, I couldn't help but notice some opportunities for improvement. And if I was writing a proposal for one of their competitors, I would offer a process that:

See also:
Examples
  • Minimizes wait times by proactively calling the customer when parts arrive
  • Includes multiple ways to contact the customer, and for them to contact us, so that communication is always timely
  • Maintains the chain of custody to prevent loss or theft
  • Cleans and packages completed work to provide a new purchase experience
  • Follow-ups afterward to ensure customer satisfaction, collects feedback for continuous improvement, and maintains the customer relationship for the future
  • Tracks repair time planned vs actuals and reports on any differences

The beauty of this is that it would cost the vendor nothing. They’d need a few forms that could easily be automated. But they are already doing the work. It won't take any more effort to do these things and deliver more value like minimizing the repair time, ensuring things don’t get lost, accelerating response times when things go wrong, and quality assurance and continuous improvement. Not doing these things makes them vulnerable to a competitor who does and delivers more value.

The reality is that both the product and the service are exactly the same regardless of who provides them. It’s the same repair, the same level of effort, the same staffing, with the same level of training. However, if you were the customer receiving proposals for a repair service like this, and one proposal offered simply to perform the repairs and the other proposal addressed the bullets above, which would you select? If the incumbent was the vendor and you showed up with a proposal that addressed the bullets above, could you steal the opportunity away from them? The current vendor may be competent. But you could be so much more in your proposal. All you have to do is care a little more.

Proposals aren’t just about coming up with fancy words that hypnotize the customer. Proposals are not just about doing the work. They should be about doing the work reliably and effectively in ways that will delight the customer and that you can document and prove. You can differentiate what you offer, even when you offer the exact same thing. You can win without offering anything different, simply by addressing the customer’s concerns and demonstrating you do the things needed to make sure everything goes as promised.

Pay attention to your vendors, because they can teach you how to beat your competitors.

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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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