Escaping the ordinary proposal introduction

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. It's the first thing they consider when deciding whether to read further and whether to accept your proposal.

A proposal introduction is not for describing yourself before presenting the proposal. It's not about you. It's about whether the customer will bother to read your proposal and whether they will consider accepting it. When the first thing a customer reads is all about you, then you are just another self-absorbed vendor trying to sell them something. Your credibility is suspect. But when the first thing they see is that you've considered them first and the impact of what you are proposing on them, you better position yourself as a partner that they want to work with. 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 and anything they might need to know before they get to what they think is the good stuff.

An ordinary proposal introduction won't add value or help the customer. They usually include a company's standard way of talking about itself instead of something that talks about what the customer cares about. Anything that doesn't help the customer understand:

  • What they will get if they accept the proposal
  • Why they are getting it
  • What they need to know before they read further
  • Why your proposal is the best alternative
  • What action you want them to take

should simply be deleted from the proposal introduction, or put elsewhere in the proposal.

What remains will depend on the type of proposal and your relationship with the customer. What you need to include will depend on things like whether:

  • The proposal is solicited or unsolicited
  • There is a written RFP and evaluation criteria
  • You have had previous contact with the customer and how well they know you
  • Your bid includes teaming partners or subcontractors
  • What alternatives the customer has
  • What you are offering
  • What the competitive environment is like
  • Who will be reading the proposal

The introduction paragraph itself should say as little as possible, to keep the customer reading further. It should promise the customer that they will get something that matters to them, and make them want to read further to find out more. If it does just that, then it has done its job. The problem with most proposal introductions is that the customer continues reading even though they don't want to because they haven't found anything of substance. They read your proposal wondering if there's anything in it for them, getting more doubtful with each line they read. With an extraordinary introduction, they immediately see what they want and read your proposal eagerly to find out how to get it.

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Carl is the Founder and President of 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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