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You can’t write a great proposal if you don’t matter to your customers

If you don't matter, the only way you can be competitive is on price

Why do so many businesses set themselves up to fail? Just because you are capable of doing the work a customer needs does not mean that you matter. If you don't matter, the only way you can be competitive is on price.

The closer you get to a commodity, the more important price is. With a commodity, every vendor is providing the same thing and which vendor you get it from does not matter. The closer you get to a complex solution or services, the more price gives way to credibility and value.

If your customers do not care about you as a vendor or do not care about value, then you can:

See also:
Great Proposals
  1. Compete on price alone. Doing this successfully is mostly a game of keeping your overhead low. That makes it really hard to invest in growth.
  2. Seek other customers. Is a customer that doesn’t care about you and isn’t going to care about you worth having? For how long? Is a customer that won’t talk to you before RFP release worth having? Every customer relationship is an investment. Invest wisely.
  3. Educate the customer regarding how they are impacted by other considerations. If the customer connects with your value proposition, then you matter to them. If the customer is open to a conversation about what impacts them and how you can make a difference, you matter to them. If the customer is not interested in learning how to get better service, see Number 2.

If your customers do not care about you as a vendor I would also take that as a sign that you've failed to matter to them. I would want to fix that.

To matter to the customer, all you have to offer is:

  • Something that will positively impact them that’s also the best alternative available to them
  • The right value proposition so they can afford it
  • Credibility and trustworthiness so they’ll believe they’ll actually get it from you

If it's a customer you already have, the list remains the same, it just gets evaluated with more of a focus on your performance than what you say in the proposal.

If you have no credibility, you don’t matter. The smaller the impact the less you matter. The more alternatives they have, the less you matter. If they can’t afford you, you don’t matter.

If you don’t matter to your customers and you want to reverse that, you need to offer a substantive positive impact, be the best alternative, be affordable, and for the customer to believe in you.


The best way to achieve all of that is not to focus on yourself. Focus on your customer. Ask yourself, from their perspective:

  • What would positively impact them?
  • What alternatives do they have?
  • What can they afford?
  • What represents the best value?
  • What would prove a vendor’s credibility and trustworthiness?

Then help the customer discover the answers. Not by telling them about yourself, but by helping them get what they need. It’s not about you. It’s about what matters to them.

You can do this in person. And you can do this on paper. It’s just a lot harder to do it on paper, if you haven’t achieved it in person. But it has to be achieved on paper to close the sale with a winning proposal.

If you don’t matter, then you can still win. If you don’t matter, then you’re just a price. Price always matters. It’s just not always the most important thing. Now you know what to do about that.

And oh, by the way, the entire MustWin Proposal Process is about the steps required to discover what matters to the customer and get it into the proposal so you can go from writing ordinary proposals to writing proposals that are great.

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

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.

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