One of the biggest mistakes most proposal writers make — especially engineers who have been writing proposals for more than a decade — is that they do not talk about their client soon enough in the proposal.
Whether in the cover letter, executive summary, or approach section, it is important to immediately connect with the decision maker and THEIR needs.
“We are pleased to submit this proposal” does not connect to their needs.
It wastes their time.
In Part I of my two-part series “The Difference Makers of Superior Proposals,” I described the three key questions to answer in the proposal:
- Why now?
- What do they really want?
- Why you (in terms of advantages for the client)?
The questions must be answered in that order. Why?
By answering the first two questions, you are making it about THEM, the client, rather than yourself.
Just last week, a young engineer who has been cloning (read, Save As) past letter proposals — wisely wondered why all his ENR 50 company’s proposals spend most of the time talking about how great they are. They puff up their credentials: how long they’ve been in business, how many employees they have, that they are global, etc.
That sort of language is about YOU . . . and it’s not about YOU.
Your clients don’t care about YOU. People are inherently self-interested and they only care about what you can do for them.
It sounds harsh and cynical, but it is not. It is human nature. And if you want to sell, you better understand human nature and how we make decisions.
By not addressing the client’s needs and wants up front, this company misses an opportunity to demonstrate that they truly understand and care about their clients.
Instead, they are merely submitting a statement of work and a price quote … presumptuously.
But if you choose not to presume but rather spend time thinking about what the client really wants and lead with that, then you will deepen your relationship with the client.
Look, there’s often no reason to tamper with a winning formula – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Yet it’s very easy to rewrite your letter proposal to put yourself later in the structure. Then tailor each subsequent proposal with a quick statement that answers “Why now?”
Your client just may notice that you do not take their business for granted. That you were thinking about THEM.
They may even reward you with yet more work!
All the best, Jim
P.S. On Part II of The Difference-Makers of Superior Proposals, the emphasis will be on structure and style. I’ll unlock some secrets about great ways to put your client first, so that you show your clients that it’s not about YOU.