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Proposal Introduction Paragraphs

A proposal introduction should not be about you. It’s about what you can do for the customer.

Most proposal introduction paragraphs are wasted space.  They are written like the writer needed to get warmed up while figuring out what to say.  And yet when the customer looks at your proposal, wondering what’s in it for them, it’s the first thing they read.  The introduction is not for describing yourself before presenting the proposal. Everything that you say in the introduction should be presented in support of what the customer is going to get if they accept your proposal. 

Questions to Answer in the Introduction

  • What will the customer get if they accept your proposal?
  • How does your bid relate to the evaluation criteria?
  • Why should they select your bid instead of that of a competitor?
  • How does your proposal relate to what matters to the customer?
  • What does the reader need to know before they read your proposal?
  • Who are you, why do you matter to the customer, and what do they need to know about you before they read your proposal?
  • Why should the customer trust you?
  • Do you meet any customer standards for special consideration, such as being a small business or a local firm?
  • Why are you sending them a proposal?
  • What action do you want them to take?
  • What alternatives do you need to address?
  • What are your key qualifications?
  • Do you need to introduce any team members or subcontractors right from the start?
  • Do you have any examples to cite that are so compelling they should be in the first paragraph?
  • What other customers have you worked for and are they so compelling they should be part of the introduction?

Approaches

If there is an RFP with written evaluation criteria, then the customer is more interested in scoring your proposal than reading it.  You should make that easy, right from the beginning.  If there are only a few evaluation criteria, then you should provide a sentence summarizing what the evaluator should conclude about your submission for each of the criteria.  Your introduction might be a single sentence describing what the customer will get if they accept your proposal, a sentence for each of the evaluation criteria, and a conclusion that states why they should select your bid instead of that of a competitor.

If you have never had contact with the customer before, then you may need to establish your qualifications. This does not mean that the introduction should be about describing your company. Its should not be about who you are, but rather about why you matter (to the customer).  

If the proposal was unsolicited, or if the customer has alternatives other than accepting a proposal, then you must motivate the customer to accept your proposal, and you should do that right from the beginning. If the customer is not sufficiently motivated, they may not even read further. The best way to motivate a customer is to focus on things that really matter to them. If the customer is facing a choice between alternatives, then you may wish to position yourself as better than those alternatives right from the beginning.

If your bid includes teaming partners or subcontractors, you may or may not wish to introduce them at the start of the proposal.  If the teaming partners are a key reason why the customer should select you, then you should introduce them in the beginning.  If they are playing a support role, but aren’t a key reason why the customer would pick you over someone else, you can introduce them later in the document.

Strategies for Writing the IntroductionWhen writing the introduction, you should focus only on those things that the customer must know before they read further.  It’s tempting to see everything as “important.”  But the introduction is more about what comes first than what’s important. Important things might go in the second paragraph (or anywhere appropriate in the rest of the document), after they’ve been properly introduced.

Recipes for a Proposal Introduction Paragraph

Here are half a dozen ways you can build a proposal introduction paragraph.  Each describes the question to answer or what to say in the first and last paragraph, along with what should go in between. 

Standard introduction:
First sentence: What will the customer get if they accept your proposal?
Middle: What does the reader need to know before they read your proposal?
Last sentence: Why should they select your bid instead of that of a competitor?

For written evaluation criteria:
First sentence: What will the customer get if they accept your proposal?
Middle: One sentence addressing each major evaluation critierion     
Last sentence: Why should they select your bid instead of that of a competitor?

Giving them what they want:
First sentence: What will the customer get if they accept your proposal?
Second sentence: Proof that your company can fulfill the requirements or meet the specifications
Third sentence: Proof that your company can deliver or be trusted
Last sentence:  How they will benefit from your ability or experience handling projects of similar size, scope, and complexity

First contact:
First sentence: Why are you sending them this proposal?
Second sentence: What will the customer get if they accept your proposal?
Third sentence: Who are you and why do you matter to the customer?
Last sentence: What do they need to know about you before they read your proposal?


Choices:
First sentence: What will the customer get if they accept your proposal?
Second sentence: Why it’s their best alternative
Third sentence: How it will fulfill their goals
Last sentence: Why you are the best one to provide it

Motivation:
First sentence: What will the customer get if they accept your proposal?
Second sentence: Why it’s their best alternative
Third sentence: What they have to do to obtain it
Last sentence: Why they need to take action now
 


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