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The Reason You're Not Getting Good Intel Into Your Proposals

When you ask your company “what do we know about the customer?" you are already setting yourself up for failure. It’s not about you. Who cares what you know? The proposal needs to be written from the customer’s perspective. What matters is what the customer needs to know to make a selection.

You are setting yourself up for failure if you try to find out “what you can” about the customer and then write some really clever themes that usually end up having nothing to do with what you found out. Remember, it’s not about you and what you found out or your clever themes. It’s about what matters to the customer.

  • If you want your proposal to matter to the customer, then you have to write about what matters to the customer. To do this, you have to discover what matters to them.
  • If you want the customer to want you are offering, then you have to know what they want in order to offer it. To do this, you have to discover what they want (as opposed to what they require in the RFP). The problem with that is the customer may not know what they want. They know they need something, but you’re supposed to be the expert who knows what to do. What you really need to discover is what they prefer.

Every bid is a lesson in tradeoffs. This is typified by the saying “Faster, cheaper, or better — pick any two.” Which two would your customer pick? Winning and losing often comes down to which vendor made the right tradeoffs.

What is your customer afraid of? What annoys them? What gives them comfort? What are their goals? What matters to them?

If don’t know the answers, then you try to write a proposal that sounds beneficial. It has things that people tend to like. It’s responsive to what they asked for in the RFP. It aims to be in the competitive range, maybe even near enough to the top to outscore the others.

If you do know the answers, then you can write your proposal to provide exactly what the customer needs to know to make a selection, to be exactly what they want, and to matter so much that they’ll make sure you get the award, regardless of what it says in the RFP. It leaves the competitive range behind and aims at winning by being the best offering for this particular customer.

If your opportunity reviews consist of people reciting what they know about the opportunity you should be concerned. If what they know fits neatly onto reports and review meetings consist of people reading the reports, you should be afraid. If you ignore the reports when it comes time to do the proposal, then you are a typical company. You win some and you lose some.

If, instead, your bid reviews are by people who care about what the customer cares about, then pay attention because you have a chance to achieve greatness and win consistently. All you have to do is figure out how to make sure that your customers' concerns are what your proposals are all about.

Winning proposals starts with gathering the information you need to write the winning proposal. If you make that effort about you and what you know, then you start out by looking in the wrong place. The only way you can write a proposal from the customer’s perspective is to start out by asking what they need to know instead of asking what you know.

We get a lot of inspiration from the discussions
in the group on LinkedIn. So can you!
Now with subgroups for international proposals and grants
(Click on the more pull down and then click subgroups)

The MustWin Process shows you how to smooth the transition from business development
to proposal writing

Our Off-the-Shelf Process Documentation
provides step-by-step guidance to help you:

  • Get ready for RFP release
  • Develop win strategies
  • Produce a winning proposal
  • Achieve quality assurance
  • Comes with online training!

Click here to find out more

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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