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Are you saying things in your proposal in a way that doesn't matter?

Saying you know or understand the customer is worthless.

If your knowledge matters to the customer receiving your proposal, it's because you do things differently as a result of having that knowledge. What you do with your knowledge matters. Your ability to produce better results because of what you know is what matters to the customer. But claiming to know or understand the customer does not matter.

When a salesperson approaches you and says “I know all about you and what you want” does that fill you full of enthusiasm, or skepticism and dread? Does your reaction change if they describe something that’s been carefully selected or customized in a way that shows how well they know you, without them actually having said that they know you? Who would you be most likely to purchase from?

The same thing applies to your experience. Saying you have experience does not matter. A proposal is not a resume. Come to think of it, you need to know more than the number of years of experience in order to hire someone as well. It’s saying how your experience produces a better approach or results that matters. When you say that “Our experience has taught us…” or “Because of our experience we’ll be able to…” and complete the sentences with something insightful, what you have to say matters so much more than someone else saying “We bring X years of experience to ensuring your success.” 


In a proposal, true understanding  = a better approach or results

Saying that you'll deliver better results does not matter. Saying what results you'll deliver or why they are better matters. 

See a pattern here?  It’s not the claim, it’s how the claim leads to benefits for the customer that matters. Better yet, it’s how the claim leads to benefits that are differentiated or that the customer can only get from you that matters. That’s the kind of information the customer needs to make their selection.

Let's try looking at it from the customer’s perspective…

Whoever wins will know the customer after the transition period is over. The only way knowledge or understanding matters is how it impacts the winner’s performance. The reason the customer asks you to describe your understanding is because they are concerned that an outsider won’t figure out what is required for successful performance quickly enough. 

If you are the incumbent and you just claim to have knowledge or understanding, you haven’t addressed their concern at all. If you don't talk about what is required for successful performance in a way that an outsider can't, then you really aren't showing any significant understanding. You leave yourself vulnerable, because if an outsider offers a believable approach that delivers better results, then from the customer’s perspective, they could be showing better understanding than the incumbent.


In a proposal, true understanding = a better approach or results

Another way to think of all this is that if you “know the customer” you must have tailored approaches that serve the customer better (with the implication that your competitors’ approaches overlook important things). When they ask you to describe your “understanding,” if you don’t make it about them as a demonstration of your understanding, then you really don’t “know the customer,” at least in any way that matters.

So take a look at your proposal. Are you saying things in a way that, while they might matter to you, don’t matter to the customer at all?

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Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, 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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