Jump to content
PropLibrary Content

Influencers, thought leaders, and what they have to do with proposals

Which has the most impact?

A good friend of mine, Mark Amtower, recently wrote a book in collaboration with a bunch of authors all experts on marketing and government contracting. A wealth of great discussion has resulted from the many useful nuggets of wisdom the book contained. Full disclosure: I’m one of the authors. 

Here’s a great quote from the book by Mark:

Thought leadership is not for the timid or intellectually lazy. Building a SME or thought leadership position in the market is an active, ongoing activity where your personal learning never stops. It thrives on feedback and discussion.


I like this quote. Naturally my obsessive brain went straight to how it impacts proposals. But first I had to parse it apart and understand all the implications.

The key word in "thought leader" is leader. You can't be a lazy leader. A thought leader must be an innovator and teacher. A thought leader can't just rest on the "best practices." A thought leader must continuously invent new and better best practices. To be a thought leader, you must expose your new ideas to validation by the world. That is most certainly not for the timid.

What's the difference between a thought leader and an influencer?

See also:
Proposal writing tips and techniques

A thought leader is something very different from an influencer. An influencer is a promoter. A thought leader is an inventor first and then a promoter. Influencers broadcast and thrive on drama and ratings. Thought leaders participate in discussion and thrive on feedback. If people see you as entertaining or as a role model, you can have influence in proportion to the size of your audience. But people won’t see you as a thought leader unless they see you as an innovative trailblazer and a teacher. The influence a thought leader has is in proportion to the impact of their ideas first and the size of their audience second. While you might be able to get away with it as an influencer, you can't get away with being timid or intellectually lazy as a thought leader.

The key question is when do you need a thought leader, and when do you need an influencer?

An influencer is great if you are trying to advertise. A thought leader is great if you need insight. 

What does this have to do with proposals?

If you try to write proposal copy that sounds like advertising copy, your win rate will drop dramatically. The way people read proposals makes selling in writing different from selling in video. If your company is known for thought leadership and you show insight in your proposals, your win rate will go way up. People make decisions on proposals based on the impact of what they read. Insight multiplies that impact in innovative and differentiating ways.

Proposals are not about you. They are about the customer. Proposals don’t achieve influence by making people want to be like them, by being controversial, or by the popularity of their authors. Influencing in writing is not achieved through personal charisma. Influencing in writing is achieved by sharing insights that matter to the customer and presenting them from the reader’s perspective instead of your own.

Thought leadership can improve your ability to win proposals. This works directly, when the thought leader is also a proposal writer. But it also works indirectly when thought leadership is a marketing strategy for the company submitting the proposal and the customer associates innovative ideas with the organization and wants them as a resource. 

Being an influencer can be claimed. The claim is part of the influence. However, being a thought leader can't be claimed. It must be proven. 

Self-proclaiming your status as a thought leader doesn't make it so. In fact, self-proclaiming your thought leadership is more likely to backfire than it is to establish your thought leadership. The only thing that can make you or your company a thought leader is other people following and seeking your recommendations. You can publish insights and innovative ideas. But it’s only when people start sharing them or reaching out to you for more that you become a thought leader. 

Doing the hard work of gaining and sharing insight to establish yourself as a thought leader takes time. And for it to impact your proposals it must be done well before you even start a proposal. But the next time you review one of your proposals and see that it’s full of content that every one of your competitors will or can claim and you realize that all the proposals submitted will basically sound the same, that’s when you’ll realize the value of thought leadership and why it’s worth the investment.

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...