Your proposal should be written from the customer’s perspective. When you receive a proposal, it is natural to see what you are being offered — what you are going to get. You may not want to read at all, but if you must, the last thing you probably want to read is a contractor who does nothing but talk about themselves. And yet most proposals are written this way. It is easy for us to write about ourselves. It is difficult for us to write from someone else’s perspective. And yet that is what separates great proposal writing from poor proposal writing.
A Simple 2-Step Process for Proposal Writing
To write from the customer’s perspective, there are only two things you need to do:
- Identify what matters to the customer, such as what result they are looking for or a benefit they would like. This should come first and not last.
- Write about the customer and what they are going to get — not about describing your own company. The customer should come first and not your own company.
Ideally, you should do this in every single sentence. At a minimum, you should introduce each paragraph this way. If you have a graphic, a table, or a response to detailed specifications, then you should use this technique to introduce them and put them in context.
As easy as these two steps are to describe, you may struggle a bit when you try to follow them.
When the customer’s RFP asks for qualifications, your instinct will be to describe yourself. Instead you should explain what the customer can expect or will get as a result of your qualifications.
Assessing the Quality of Your Proposal Writing
Here are some signs that you have fallen back on old habits and can improve what you have written:
- You can’t find where it says why it matters to the customer. To fix it, add what the result or benefit is to the customer. At the very least, give them a reason to care.
- You haven’t given them a reason to select you. They are not going to select you because of your qualifications or the features of your offering. They are going to select you because of what your qualifications or features mean, will result in, or lead to. Make sure you state that to complete the thought and give them a reason to select you.
- Every sentence starts with your company name, “we,” or “our.” To fix this you need to flip the order of the sentence and clean up the wording.
It’s harder than it sounds. But when you are done the sentence will be about what they are going to get because of the qualification, feature, or attribute your company brings instead of being about your company. Your instinct will be to improve your proposal writing by adding detail. But you can’t break the habit of talking about yourself by doing it in more detail. So while adding detail may be good, it won’t take you from good to great. To do that you need to change the perspective.
You can also use the list above like levels in a maturity model to assess the over quality of your proposal writing. Instead of thinking of writing as an “art,” it gives you a better framework to assess and measure quality.
The Real Test for Proposal Writing Quality
When you write something that doesn’t do the things described above, save a copy. Then work on it until you achieve each item, and compare it to the original. Make sure that you look at it from the perspective of someone receiving multiple proposals who has to select one as the winner. Which one looks like it demonstrates better understanding? Which one promises to deliver better value? Which would you choose?