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Writing to Win

Most people write proposals to not fail. It would be nice to win, but they really just want it over. But they don’t want to look bad. So they follow the instructions. They follow the procedures to start putting black ink on paper, saying enough of what they think they're supposed to in order to call it complete.

If you want to win, that’s not how to do it.

A lot of people start their RFP-based proposals by creating a compliance matrix and an outline. Then they start addressing the requirements one by one, filling the proposal up with words until all the requirements have been covered.

This is a good way to not fail. It’s not a good way to win. It relies on addressing the requirements in a way that's good enough to outscore competitors who are doing the same thing.

Why not doing things a little differently? Why not start the proposal off by figuring out how you’re going to win the darn thing?

It basically comes down to being better or cheaper (and sometimes both at the same time).

But what does “better” mean?

Try superlative adjectives: Quicker, deeper, broader, stronger, cooler, faster, more convenient, flexible, innovative, efficient, cooler, etc.

Try superlative results: Better mission, goal, and requirement fulfillment. Better follow-through or delivery.

Try superlative alternatives: Doing it differently than expected because it produces a better result.

Try superlative options: If you do it our way, you’ll also have ways to get more…

Try superlative timing: Better short term or a better future. Synchronicity.

Try superlative ways of being superlative: There’s millions of them!

And then there’s "cheaper." Most people are afraid of being cheaper. What if someone else is cheaper still? What if you lose money? And yet, most people strive to be “as cheap as possible,” or in other words, “cheaper.” If you are going to be cheaper, then embrace it. Loudly proclaim that you are cheaper (if you’re not, you were going to lose anyway). Be proud of it. Be good at it. Be Walmart.

If you can’t embrace being cheaper, then don’t compete with it. Be competitive, but be something else.

You shouldn’t start writing until you’ve decided how you’re going to win. If you can’t articulate how you are better, then you can’t write the winning proposal. So keep at it until you can.

People find it difficult to write about “benefits” and “what the customer wants” in isolation. Recently we wrote about how being descriptive in your proposal writing is a terrible habit that causes people to lose. When you write a proposal, you need to write about what matters to the customer and not just describe yourself. So how do you do that? Once you’ve figured out how you're going to win, that will point you to the things that matter to the customer.

If you're going to win because you're better (or cheaper), then that matters and is what you should write about. Only you need to write it from the customer's point of view. Instead of writing about how much better you are, try writing about the better results the customer will get by selecting you. Everything you do is for a reason, and that reason is both why the customer is interested in you and why you are better.

Get our process and you will know the right things to do in order to win

Our process shows you how to build a proposal that is based on what it will take to win

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You can also visit our group on LinkedIn where we have open discussions on winning proposals

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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