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Why you are not special, in spite of what it says in your proposal

Just because you say something doesn't make it so

You are not special, because your proposal is about giving the customer what they asked for. Just like everyone else. You might be a little better, maybe, but that’s not special. That’s just being the same only a little bit more. You may have claimed to be special and probably believe it, but who cares about that noise? 

You are not special, because you haven’t proposed giving the customer anything that’s special. You haven’t proposed anything they have to select you in order to get.

What does it take to be special?

Some real understanding is always a good start… Just not the kind that is simply claimed, that involves scraping from the customer’s website, or that is based solely on experience (as if merely being present results in any depth of understanding). Real understanding is shown by applying what you know to create an offering that is special. If you can’t do that, any understanding you think you have has no value to the customer.

But you can still be special, even if you don’t know the customer well enough to show real understanding.

Special means something they aren’t likely to get anywhere else.

Special means rare. Special means something they aren’t likely to get anywhere else. Special means surprisingly effective or beneficial. If everyone does it or has it, it’s not special. You can pretty much count on everyone meeting the requirements of the RFP. Being RFP compliant is not special. It needs to be said, but it’s nothing to brag about. 

If you want to be special, try showing insight about things that matter or that could impact RFP compliance. Innovative ways of being RFP compliant that produce surprising benefits can be special. Doing things in an exceptional way that results in surprisingly better results, less risk, lower cost, or other benefits can be special. But they have to be extraordinary and not just a little better. They have to be things the customer will only get from you. 

Even when the RFP requires all vendors to do or deliver the exact same thing, you can still be special. If you can’t be special in what you do, be special in how you do it, or why you do it. Sometimes companies that are truly special are not recognized for it, simply because they failed to explain why their offering is special. Claims are not enough. Everyone claims to be special.

The best way to be special

See also:
Technical approach

The best way to be special is not for you to be special, but for the customer to get something from you that is special. Will they get better results, insight, fewer problems, better confidence, less effort, more reliability, etc.?  Just keep in mind that, whatever it is, it has to be something they are not likely to get anywhere else for your offering to be special.

In the Technical Approach, being special is usually achieved by being innovative. In the Management Plan being special is usually achieved by doing things more reliably. But the easiest way to achieve being special is to make sure that every single thing you say addresses why it matters. You can be special without being especially innovative by focusing less on what you do, and instead make how you do it more meaningful. Proposals about things that matter to the customer are always special. But only when they agree about what matters.

Give the customer something special, and they have to select you in order to get it.

Now you just have to hope that the way you are special is something they want. If it’s not, they’ll pick someone else who they think really is special. And if they can’t find anyone they think is special, they’ll just go with the lowest cost provider, or maybe someone just a little better.

PropLIBRARY Subscribers get access to our proposal recipe library with over 500 ingredients to consider including in your proposals.  These include over 25 related to differentiation strategies and quality criteria you can use like a checklist to ensure your proposals really are special!
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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.

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