Your proposal isn’t about your product, service, or even your company. It’s about your client: their needs, their problems, and the solutions that will help them reach their business goals. So it’s no surprise that the most successful proposals are client focused and take a lot of time to write. In fact, research finds that the more time is spent writing, the higher the win rate.
On this blog we talk a lot about automation and how it can make your bid team’s jobs easier. This article, however, focuses on the parts of the job that can’t be automated: tailoring your proposal to each specific clients’ needs. This is why automation is so important: it frees your writers up to work on the most important part of the proposal.
Why you should always tailor your bid
A Request for Proposals (RFP) comes to your organization. Using your automated RFP response platform, your team quickly throws together a response using a template and all your best content. All you have to do is run it through spell check and send it to the designer, right?
Sending a proposal that isn’t customized to your client is like sending out junk mail. Think of all the emails you don’t read because they have nothing to do with you, your problems, or your life. You probably only open a few messages from advertising because those emails apply to you in some way. Your client is the same. They want to know you understand their challenges, and how your product or service can handle the particulars. If you’re sending a bid that’s clearly the same one you send to all potential clients, your RFP response is likely to end up at the bottom of the pile.
What part of the bid should be customized?
Certain parts of your bid can be automated, copied and pasted with very few revisions. Certain answers to questions, or compliance information—these things may not need to be changed at all. But other parts of the bid should absolutely be customized to your client. That means you have to research them and their goals. If they’ve been working with a sales representative, you should absolutely talk to that rep to find out as much about the client as possible for these parts of the bid.
- Cover letter: The cover letter that accompanies your RFP response should be written directly to your prospective client. You want to catch their attention, give them a high-level overview of the proposal, and give them some context about who your company is and how you can help them. If you’re using a form letter and simply changing the customer’s name, your prospective clients are going to catch that. It’s not a good first impression, and that’s what you want your cover letter to be: a good first impression.
- The executive summary: The executive summary is the number one piece of your proposal that should be tailored to your customer. Don’t just summarize what your proposal says (you already did that in the cover letter.) Instead, build the executive summary around your customer and their pain points. Talk about their goals, how they need to achieve those goals, and what they will need to do that. List the benefits to the client that you plan to help them achieve and cover the research you did to create the proposal. The executive summary should be written from scratch every time. Tempting though it may be, don’t use a template with boilerplate content for this one. It’s too important.
- Strategy and implementation: Your implementation will change slightly, based on the customer. That should be reflected in this section of the document. Be sure to customize this section to explain how you will help this customer, specifically.
- The art: Everyone likes to see themselves in a document. Work with your graphic artists to incorporate your client’s logo, building, or brand color scheme. If appropriate to your product and implementation, use maps, floor plans, or your customer’s data. Allow them to visualize how your product will help them achieve their goals.
- Other areas of the proposal: Any areas that would benefit from tailoring to your client should absolutely be tailored, even if you might use boilerplate content for most clients in those sections. For example, you might use the same content to describe what your company does, but if there’s a reason to change it a little to entice a customer, do so. You may also change the wording describing your product or service, if appropriate.
Tailoring your bid is key to winning deals
Your client wants to read about themselves when they flip through your proposal. They don’t want to read pages and pages of boilerplate content - even if it’s your very best sales copy.
A content library is an important tool when it comes to responding to RFPs, but it’s important to remember that it’s just that: a tool. What a content library does is save your team time on research and legwork, so they can spend time crafting the customized bid that will help you impress clients and win more business.