The customer needs to know why they should select your proposal to win above all their other alternatives. You should help them figure that out. But be careful — if the reasons you provide are merely good and don’t do a great job of explaining why you should win, you might do more harm than good.
The trick is to realize that what you want to write is not an explanation. It is a list of benefits that adds up to being the best alternative. The customer will select the list that they get the most value out of.
But there’s a problem. They can’t just pick the list they like the most. They have to reach a decision. They have to get approvals. And if the evaluation is a formal one, they have to decide according to the evaluation criteria.
When this is the case, you will get the best results by showing them why you best align with the evaluation criteria and deserve the top score. But again, it’s not an explanation. You don’t want to patronize the customer by telling them how to do their scoring. But you do want to show that you deliver the most benefits in a way that maps to the evaluation criteria.
This can be as simple as describing the benefits using the terms of the evaluation criteria. Or it can impact which benefits you choose to focus on. It may even impact what you choose to offer. When the top score wins, the only path to winning involves getting the top score. Everything about what you offer and how you present it should contribute to getting the highest score.
One way to show your alignment with the evaluation criteria is to present them as subheadings or in a table. The idea is to break out each evaluation area or factor and show why you are their best alternative.
Just make sure that instead of a list of positive sounding attributes, you give them a list of things that make you their best alternative. You want the customer to not only mechanically score your proposal, but to actually want what you are offering. The best way to do this is to focus on them and what they will get as a result of what you are offering.
The customer is not likely to score your proposal from a proposal-wide summary list. But it can give them an overall context, show that you are responsive, and accelerate their ability to reach a conclusion in your favor. It can also help them justify their scoring and selection to The Powers That Be if they do select you.
When you start trying to articulate why the customer should select you, you will very quickly discover whether you’ve done your homework or not. To show that your offering delivers something that matters to the customer, you have to first know what matters to the customer. If you find yourself trying to cleverly arrange the words of the evaluation criteria around a statement that basically says you’re going to give the customer what they asked for in the RFP, you’re probably doing that because you didn’t do your homework and have nothing better to say. If you find that your reasons why the customer should select you don’t offer any substantive differentiators, you definitely haven’t done your homework. And if your list contains things that are good and hopefully better than your competitors, instead of a list of things that are clearly the best, then your win strategies amount to hoping your competitors aren’t that good.
It can be compelling to show your list of reasons why the customer should select you as an actual list. But you don’t have to. You can embed the reasons in the narrative. Or make them headings that get substantiated. If your reasons are strong and add up to clear superiority, they will make a great list. But if they are merely good sounding, then by presenting them as a list you might be showing that your offering is merely good and vulnerable to a competitor who tried harder and achieved better.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.