The Art of Persuasion: 4 Strategies for Writing Customer-Focused Proposals

When we write proposals, we tend to tout our team and our solution. We tell the customer how great we are and describe the terrific solution we are delivering. However, this is not a customer-focused approach. Instead, proposals should be about how the customer’s needs are met by our solution and the benefits the customer receives. Bottom line: the focus should be on the customer, not us. Here are four tips to make your proposals more customer-focused:

·       Put Them First—Literally
·       Use Their Name More Than Yours
·       Write to Their Key Issues/Hot Buttons
·       Speak Their Language

1. Put Them First—Literally. One of the easiest ways to make your proposal content more customer focused is to put them first—literally. Instead of saying, “Team ABC’s solution delivers a low-risk transition,” flip the construction and write, “Customer A receives a low-risk transition with our comprehensive transition approach.” The two sentences convey the same overall message, but by putting the customer first in the sentence, you shift the focus onto what the customer is receiving rather than what you are delivering.

2. Use Their Name More Than Yours. Another easy way to make your proposal content more customer focused is to use the customer’s name more frequently than your company or team name. Try this quick test. Hit Ctrl-F and search for the number of times you mention your company and/or team name. Then search for the number of times you mention the customer’s name. You should aim to mention the customer’s name more times than yours. If you find that you have mentioned the customer far less frequently, revise your text to focus more on the customer and the benefits they will receive by choosing your solution.

3. Write to Their Key Issues/Hot Buttons. When documenting the major features and benefits to highlight in your proposal, start with the customer’s key issues and hot buttons. For each issue and hot button, identify solution features that address those major customer concerns. Next, articulate quantified benefits that the customer receives from the solution features. Use these solution elements to generate hard-hitting section theme statements, proof points, and feature/benefit tables. 

4. Speak Their Language. Be sure to use the customer’s terminology and lexicon in your proposal to gain their confidence. By knowing your customer and speaking their language, you demonstrate that you understand them and begin to establish trust. Using the RFP language will also help your customer evaluators that do key word searches to find what’s important to them in your proposal. Make sure all sections include key words from the instructions, evaluation criteria, and the Statement of Work (SOW).

I have found strategies to be effective in guiding my proposal teams to develop customer-focused proposal responses. Though not meant to be a catchall by any means, these four strategies serve as a useful checklist to make sure the proposal narrative is on the right track.

What are some of the writing tips you follow or give to your writing teams?

Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP


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