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Don’t feature the routine in your proposals

Feature these four things instead

If your proposal messaging amounts to:

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Examples

We’re fully capable of doing the work because we have experience and bring qualified staff, so here’s our approach that fully complies with all RFP requirements…

Then you're telling the customer you are merely acceptable and not competitive. Every other proposal that makes the competitive range will also be acceptable. And most will be better. Most will be competitive.

Assume that every proposal submitted will meet the specifications. Some will and any that don’t are not your competition. The companies you need to beat will all have met the specifications. They will all have relevant experience. They will all be fully qualified.

To get selected, you need to be better than all of the acceptable proposals. You need to be the best. And to be the best, you need to offer something more than mere capability, experience, and doing what the customer asks you to do. You need to meet the specifications in ways that are better. You need to deliver more value as a result of your experience and qualifications.

Instead of writing your proposal like the example above, how about something like this:

The reason our approach is better is because…  Our experience proves this delivers better results. Here is an example… We don’t just simply hire the same qualified staff out of the same labor pool as everyone else. We support the staff we hire with better processes and tools that include…  The combination produces better outcomes for our customers, like…

Instead of featuring what is essentially what they asked for, just like everyone else, and instead of talking about the same things that everyone else will be offering, try featuring the extraordinary. Here are four ways to do that:

  • Superior approaches. In addition to meeting the specifications, provide something else that matters. Better reliability? Faster? Improved results? Lower costs? Remember, everyone will propose the best practices. Best practices are, in reality, the minimum for doing things acceptably. To win, you must deliver something better.
  • Experience that has an impact. Why does your experience matter? What does the customer get out of it? How does your experience translate into better results? What does your experience prove? Everyone will have experience. Make sure your experience has the most impact.
  • Better results. If you provide services, you provide people. How can you credibly claim to deliver better people? This is even harder to claim when you haven’t even hired all the people you need. If your offering is more than just your people, then feature better results delivered in a better way. 
  • Proof instead of claims. Everyone makes the same claims. You may feel like your claims are better deserved, but one unsubstantiated claim is just as good as another. Besides, customers ignore them. All of them. You never hear them mentioned during debriefs or showing up on evaluation forms. What does get scored? Proof points. Every time you write a claim, replace it with a proof point. Doing this alone can greatly improve your win rate. It will transform your proposal from being ordinary to being full of substance.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen companies who were confident in their ability to win write a pleasant sounding but hopelessly ordinary proposal. You are what the customer sees and not what you believe yourself to be. Learn to see your proposals the way your customer will see your proposals. Then learn to be extraordinary.
 

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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.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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