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Who does your proposal please?

Before you say, “the customer,” let’s have a moment of honesty. Is your customer going to be excited when they receive your proposal? When they read the first page, will they be excited about how it could change their future, will they be bored, or will they groan or roll their eyes? Will they read it because they want to, or because they have to? When they’re done, will they be grateful to have a solution to their dilemma or will they be wondering why you went to all that effort to be so unimpressive, or worse ignore their preferences?

Most proposals are not written to please the customer. Most proposals are written so that if they lose, the people who produced the proposal won’t get fired. Most proposals are written to follow the rules so that that the people who produced the proposals can’t be blamed. Instead of taking risks, most proposals try to be ambiguously all things to all possible readers.

So who does your proposal really please?

  • Does it please you? Is it written so you can keep your job? Is it written for your convenience, just to get it off your desk? Is it written about what you feel comfortable writing about? Does it offer what you want to provide?
  • Does it please your boss? Is it written to gain the approval of The Powers That Be, or at least to not offend Them? Do you play it safe so that you aren’t met with disapproval? Are you trying to slip it past The Powers That Be so They won’t make you do it over?
  • Does it please the proposal evaluator? Is it short? Is it to the point? Does it contain unsubstantiated grandiose claims? Does it follow the RFP instructions? Is it easy to score?
  • Does it please the end user? Will they react with joy at what you are offering or will they simply be satisfied?

Most proposals don’t please anyone. People may be satisfied with the proposal, but they are rarely pleased. Pleasing the right person is a win strategy.


Who does your proposal process please?

Most proposal processes are implemented because someone got burned: missed deadlines, poor reviews, arguments, failure to meet expectations, etc. Most proposal processes are created so that proposal staff can’t be blamed when someone else doesn’t do what’s expected. Most proposal processes aren’t really designed around what's needed to win — they're designed around what looks possible to the person who designed them.

Think of all the stakeholders hovering around a proposal. Who does your proposal process please?

Most proposal processes assume that if people will just do what they’re told everything will get completed on time and people will realize that it was all for their own good. And you wonder why you have trouble gaining process acceptance.

If you want your proposal process to be successful, the people it impacts must be pleased to follow it. Think about that. Most people work on a proposal because their boss tells them to. So what can your process do for participants to please them? Can it clarify expectations? Remove uncertainty? Accelerate their efforts? Inspire them? Let them know when they are on the right track before they get burned? Instead of designing your process to please yourself, you might have more luck designing it to please the other participants.

Just make sure the result pleases the customer.


The PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase shows you how to prepare a proposal that pleases the customer

The PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase comes with our MustWin off-the-shelf process documentation that
provides step-by-step guidance to help you:

  • Get everyone on the same page 
  • Set expectations
  • Build proposals around what will please the customer 
  • Make proposal development less of a struggle
  • Produce proposals you can be proud of
  • Comes with online training!

Click here to learn more about it

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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