Proposal writing is not about finding the magic words that will somehow compel the customer to select your proposal over all other alternatives. It's really about understanding what the customer needs to see to reach their decision and then giving it to them. And yet most companies fail to do this.
The most important skill for winning in writing is writing from the customer's perspective. Your proposal should not be about you, it should be about your customer and be written from their perspective. To achieve this, you need to avoid describing yourself and your offering. Instead, you should be putting your offering in context, based on the customer's perspective and not your own. Even when the RFP says to "describe" your company or offering, you should be putting it in the context that the customer cares about.
It really helps to learn how to read your proposal the way the customer will. The customer doesn't really care about you, they care about the outcome of the procurement and what you will do for them. If all you do is describe yourself and your offering, then the customer will not care about your proposal. When the customer looks at your proposal, what do they see?
If you are not sure about the customer's perspective, here are 33 ways to see things through the customer's eyes. And here are 22 more examples of things the customer might be looking for. And in case you find the RFP confusing, here are 34 reasons it was written that way. If you still lack insight, you can try making your proposal part of a conversation. If you are trying to write a proposal when you don't know the customer, you might have to make some assumptions. Or you can try writing your proposal dangerously or even ignore the customer's vision.
The good news is that if you write your proposals from the customer's perspective, then a proposal beginner can beat their more experienced competition. Most proposals are written about the company submitting instead of being about the customer. Lots of companies even write their Executive Summaries backwards and introduce their proposal sections in painfully ordinary ways.
You can write a good proposal by simply answering the RFP and describing yourself and your offering. And that is what most companies do. But you can't write a great proposal unless you matter to the customer. In addition, here are three ways to go from writing ordinary proposals to writing great proposals. This is how writing from the customer's perspective turns proposal writing into a competitive advantage.
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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.
The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.
In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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