Why proposals matter (Proposals part I)

I’m going to write a little over the next few months on proposals, how to craft them (because it is a craft), why you should bother, and what you should include in them.

I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few courses on this, Shipley for instance, I’ve had to own them and I’ve had to contribute to them in various roles over the last few years.

A good proposal needs to do a few different things, it must be customer-centric; it must include the value proposition; and it must not be original.

Customer Centric

Your customer’s don’t care about you, and they don’t care about your business. They care about their problems, and their business.

I recently delivered some proposal training, and I used that line as the core of my presentation. I wrote it originally as a throwaway line that made me laugh, but the more I thought about it the more relevant it became.

We like to talk about ourselves, and we like to think the work we do is interesting to everybody else. The thing is that this is true for everyone, which means your customers feel the same way but about themselves and their issues. They don’t want to know that you have the best technology, they want to know if you have the best technology for them.

Value Proposition

The Value Proposition describes the business value your customer gets, along with the cost, and timeframe for benefit realisation.

Your value proposition needs to address the above, but to be successful you need to go further than that.

To do this you need to identify the customer’s Hot Buttons, concepts that are core to them and this procurement. That could be security, improved competitiveness, availability, ease of use, etc…

Discriminators, what is it about your solution that is better for your customer than anyone else's?

Benefits and not features, what benefit does your customer receive from your technology and not “it is x times better at y”.

It must not be original

Bear with me on this: Most, but not all, organisations would find it too risky to do something entirely unique and new. So when you are proposing a solution you need to show relevant examples of both where you have done this before, and in companies that have some relevance with your customer.

Quotes, case studies and reference customers are vital in making you credible, and your offer credible.


Proposals do a few different things; they articulate the product or service you are providing, how you are going to do it, and why you are the right team for the job. But, more than that a proposal lets your economic buyer stand up in front of their stakeholders and be credible with the decision they made to award you your business.

You have to be credible, so your sponsor is credible.

Any feedback is always appreciated.