Jump to content
PropLibrary Content

When you have no proposal differentiators you can always use this one

It costs nothing. It requires no one but yourself. It is always available. But most people don’t even think about it.

Even when you can’t think of any differentiators, you can still show insight. And if you can’t do that, all you have left is to win based on a lower price. If you have no insight and your competitors do, maybe you shouldn’t bid.

What is insight and why does it matter in proposals?

See also:

Insights are the realizations you have that show the customer you not only have a deeper understanding than your competitors, but that you know how to deliver better results.

Your insights can lead to a better offering, better win strategies, or better pricing. But even when the customer forces everyone to bid the exact same thing, your insights can make the difference between winning and losing. In fact, that’s when you need them the most, because your insights may be the most important difference between you and your competitors.

Insight is winning by being smarter. Even if you don’t know as much as someone else.

How does insight become a differentiator?

  • Results that matter. When the customer has told you exactly what to do or deliver and everyone will have the same approach and deliver the same results, showing insight about why the results matter may show that you know best not only how to achieve those results, but why to achieve them.
  • Proving understanding. When the customer asks vendors to describe their understanding, it’s a safe bet that 100% of the vendors responding will claim that they understand. Instead of being one of them or focusing on your experience (which is not the same as understanding and is what most will do), try showing insight about why you do things and why you’ve proposed doing things the way that you have. The reasons why you do things will do more to prove your understanding than any claims.
  • Earning trust. We all know from personal experience that customers prefer to buy from vendors they trust. But how do you prove that you are trustworthy in a proposal? Your insights can demonstrate that you have good judgment. Your insights can show that you are prepared, capable, and reliable far better than your claims about it.


Here are a few, simple ways that insight can transform a proposal section from something routine and ignored into something the customer will pay attention to: 

  • When companies write about communication, they write about the tools they use, the frequency, topics, etc. This does nothing to prevent miscommunication, or prove that you will communicate as promised during a moment of need. However, showing insight regarding how communication can prevent problems or keep them from getting worse, innovative ways you’ve built communications into your everyday processes and procedures, or which forms of communication actually get used by people will do more to make you look credible than saying you have regular meetings in Zoom.
  • Instead of talking about the same best practices that everyone else does, try showing some insight into which parts have the most impact on success.
  • Instead of just talking about fulfilling the requirements, try talking about the impact you will have on all the stakeholders, including the ones you may never directly interact with. Don’t just show you know how to do the work. Show that you will do the work in ways that help everyone impacted.
  • Instead of just describing what you are proposing, try explaining why you made the choices you made in order to select what you did as your offering.
  • Instead of just showing the steps in your recruiting process, try talking about what recruiting challenges will be the most significant for this project.

How does insight defeat the competition?

Winning proposals requires more than just saying good things. It requires outscoring your competitors. Here’s how to leverage insight to do just that:

  • Set yourself as the standard that everyone else gets compared to. When you show insight regarding why you do things and what the impact will be, you show that you know the best way to accomplish the project goals. Once the customer finds the best, everything else they read gets compared to that anchor point to determine if it is still the best. You remain in the front of their mind, even when they consider the proposals submitted by others. 
  • Ghosting the competition. In addition to explaining why you do things, you can also explain why you don’t do things the way your competitors to. You can position their approaches as inferior. Your insights about the problems with their approaches can help the customer understand why not to score them highly.
  • Strengths. An insight that isn’t obvious that can positively impact the outcome is a strength. Even when the nature of the RFP means there are no differentiators, your insights can turn doing the same thing as everyone else into a strength for you that they did not score.

Do you need to know the customer to show insight?

If you are trying to show insights about the customer, such as their preferences and the reasons for them, you need to know the customer well enough to have those insights.

But insights don’t have to be based on having a special customer awareness. You can also show insight by talking about what matters:

  • What matters about your approaches, management, or experience? 
  • What matters about risk, quality, or performance? 
  • What matters about fulfilling the requirements, pricing, or evaluating the proposals the customer receives? 
  • What will impact the outcome of the project? 
  • What should the customer care about, consider, or be concerned about?
  • What should the customer prefer?

Becoming insightful

Something matters about every single consideration that goes into creating a proposal. You just have to have the insight to see it. Cultivate insight. It’s not a process. It's a way of looking at things. It’s more like a dedication to considering things from many perspectives. It helps to have a culture that reinforces that particular kind of dedication. 

On second thought, only put as much effort into it as you think you need to. How well do you think you’ll do against competitors who put it at the top of their priority list?

Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

Access to premium content items is limited to PropLIBRARY Subscribers

A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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.

Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.

It all starts with a conversation. You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.

Sign up for our free newsletter and get a free 46-page eBook titled "Turning Your Proposals Into a Competitive Advantage" with selected articles from PropLIBRARY.

You'll be joining nearly a hundred thousand professionals.

Sign up
Not now
  • Create New...