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Do You Know Who's Reading Your Proposal?

Updated: Jan 17, 2023

It's submission day. You and your team have put in days or maybe even weeks worth of work to create a gorgeous proposal package with all the bells and whistles - but do you know who is going to read it?

I know what you're thinking - "the customer!" However, it's not always a single reviewer. Or maybe it is - but they will wear three different hats when reviewing your proposal:

  • The Customer - the person with the need

  • The Buyer - the person with the funds

  • The Authority - the person with the ability to procure

That means that our proposal has to speak to each of these three personas.

"So what exactly are they looking for?"

Knowing what the three reviewers are looking for will ensure that your proposal is balanced. If your proposal is out of balance, with a lot of emphasis on price, for example, you may not be giving enough information to the Customer or Authority, which could cause them to trash your proposal.





The Customer

Has the need


Use persuasive writing and illustrations to show how your solution is best for them, how it meets their needs, and why it matters.

The Buyer

Has the budget


Focus on the value of your solution, not just the cost. This persona is concerned with how reasonable the cost is for what you say you can deliver.

The Authority

Has the ability to procure

Compliance, qualifications, and ability to deliver

Your qualifications, past performance, references, and the terms & conditions will matter most to this persona. Make sure these items are highly relevant to their needs. They will also be sticklers for scoring your response - so pay attention to the scoring criteria!


An Example

Imagine a child sitting in front of a TV (who may or may not have just seen a commercial for cereal).

Child: "Mom! I need cereal - and I want that one!"

Mom: "Ok, we are out of cereal so that's fine. Here's five dollars. Will you go to the store?" (Hands money to Dad)

Dad: "Sure. I'll get some cereal for you."

Dad goes to the store and considers which cereal to buy. Maybe it's the one the child wanted, and maybe it's not. However, he did make sure that it more or less met the child's needs.

  • Maybe the child has allergies and can't eat strawberries or wheat?

  • Maybe the child is really picky and Dad made sure the child will actually eat it.

  • Maybe the cereal the child saw on TV did not look like it did in the commercial AT ALL and was really expensive!

Dad buys a cereal with the five dollars.

I know it's a silly example, but you can see how each person is influenced and where their concerns lie.

Also notice how the Buyer and the Customer come to a conclusion fairly easily about purchasing to address a need. The Customer convinced the Buyer there was a need and the Buyer set a budget for it. The Authority ultimately made the transaction, considering input from the Customer and Buyer, while vetting quality and substance.

Knowing how to reach each one in the decision process can drastically improve your success rate.


The Outcome

Now that you're familiar with the personas, what their concerns are, and their roles in the review process, let's talk about how they make decisions.

You may be thinking from my example above that the Authority has the final say. While that is technically true, let's think about it from our perspective as proposal managers and what we can control.

While you could focus your efforts entirely on the sections that are important to the Authority because they have the final say and ability to procure, you want your client to be happy in all three areas. That's how you build trust and keep them as a client.

So what is the ideal outcome? Instead of imagining these three personas coming together at a meeting table and battling it out because they each prefer a different proposal (which absolutely happens)...

I love this solution! - The Customer

I love this price! - The Buyer

I love these terms! - The Authority

(Three-way arm wrestling ensues.)

The ideal outcome is that they all arrive at the SAME conclusion!

We love this proposal by this vendor! - Everybody


One Last Tip

Remember how I said to pay attention to scoring criteria?

Reviewers spend only about eight minutes reading your proposal (I know. It hurts so much knowing that). Linking call-out boxes to scoring criteria in the corresponding sections can make it easy for the Authority to score your response quickly.

Even if you provide the information they're looking for, but they can't find it when they're skimming, means that you might not get all the points you're due and your proposal might not make the cut. Ouch.

Hopefully all of this has given you some ideas for how to ensure your proposal is balanced and compelling for all three reviewer personas.

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