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A Proposal is a Promise

"The measure of a man's character is in how he keeps his promises."

- Captain Jean Luc Picard


Yes, I am a Trekkie. When I heard this proverb while I was enjoying some much needed downtime, I thought about how the character of the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise is known for his diplomacy.



It got me to thinking about how important keeping a promise is, not just in intergalactic diplomatic relations, but also in proposals.


Over the years, I've noticed commercial customer terms and conditions increasingly include language around how "the proposal will become part of the contract upon award". Meaning, everything you claim or propose in the bid response will be legally binding if you win. That language seems to be common in public sector bids to prevent "bait and switch" proposals, but commercial customers seem to be picking up on the importance of holding offerors to their word.


I have never been a fan of saying anything and everything, promising the moon, just to win a contract. I've seen it though, and it kills me every time knowing that someone thought they needed to go to such lengths to sell a customer something that is indeed too good to be true. It only makes for short-term gains and long-term losses.


While I don't necessarily think every proposal response should be legally binding (certain assumptions need to be nailed down first, on both sides of the deal), I do firmly believe a proposal should be a promise. I'm sure you had a relative at some point that advised you to never make a promise you can't keep. This is my personal proposal strategy mantra.


What I liked about the Star Trek proverb was this part "...is in HOW he keeps his promises". It's not just about treating a proposal as a promise, but the way in which you keep your word to the customer - with empathy, honesty, and transparency. You can tell just how many customers have been burned by other vendors by the frequency in which that contract language appears in proposals.


It's a huge differentiator to be the vendor that tells the truth. Even when a customer may not choose your proposal, they may likely be back after another vendor couldn't make good on their promise.


My strategic advice to you is to spend time developing content that showcases transparency in key areas, like ROI, for example:


"Our competitors measure ROI by ___. We measure ROI through ___ and ___, offering a more accurate reflection of savings."


Any time you can teach a customer why something is important, it builds trust; and trust seals deals even better than the things that sound too good to be true.

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