Focusing on the Customer in Your Business Bids and Proposals

By Neil Cobb, Charlie Divine

Part of Writing Business Bids & Proposals For Dummies Cheat Sheet

The one constant of all business proposals, be they proactive or reactive, is that the customer is central. The proposal isn’t about you or your organization — it’s about your customer. Make sure every theme, every image, and every word are pertinent to your customer and the custom solution you’ve built to meet its needs.

Keep these tips in mind as you plan and write your proposal.

Build a relationship

People do business with people they like. You don’t have to be best buddies, but you do need to go beyond the business opportunity and establish trust. Follow these guidelines for building a customer relationship:

  • Get to know your customers. Understand their vision, their objectives for success, and the challenges they face.
  • Understand your customer’s hot buttons (those key benefits that will prompt a customer to buy). Confirm that the solution you offer satisfies each hot button from the customer’s perspective.
  • Position your solution early. Positioning your products or services early and getting your customer to know, like, and trust you improves your probability of winning a contract.
  • Speak to your customer directly. Use the customer’s name far more frequently than you mention your name.

Show how you’re different

Are your business’s products and services really all that different from those of your competitors? Technology is a pretty level playing field, so how you behave around your customers is much more important than how your products behave. Differentiate yourself in the following ways:

  • Demonstrate your value. Focus your proposal on how it benefits the customer (the “so what”), not on the products, services, and features that make the benefits possible.
  • Prove what you say. Proof points, drawn from past performance and experience, give tangible evidence for your claims and builds the customer’s confidence in you.
  • Comply with the customer’s requirements. But go beyond mere compliance and exceed the customer’s expectations by being responsive to the underlying need of the requirement.
  • Find the “silver bullet.” Articulate your discriminator(s) — the things most important to the customer that you provide and your competitors can’t.
  • Look over your shoulder. Understand how your customer views your competitors and use that knowledge to ghost their weaknesses and mitigate their strengths.