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What the Heck is a Proposal Anyway?

If you're business professional with a role that includes sales or account management, it's possible that at some point in your career you might have received an email from a customer that goes something like this:

"Hi John, We would like your company to respond to this Request for Proposal (RFP) we've just issued. Please get it back to us by next week. Thanks!"

Your first thought may have been "What the heck is this?" Upon opening the document, which looks like a long list of instructions, terms and conditions, and maybe even a questionnaire, your heart might have started to beat a little faster, and your stomach dropped a little bit. "This looks like a lot of work!"

  • First of all, there are no dumb questions here

  • Second, it most certainly is a lot of work

Fear not! There are professionals like me who can slay these proposals alongside you, so that you don't have to go it alone, working them off the side of your desk.

So what is a proposal?

A proposal is a comparison tool a buyer uses to select the best product or service they are looking to procure for their organization.

A proposal is also a strategic way to sell, for vendors that know how to illustrate the value of their solution to that specific client.

A winning proposal is NOT boilerplate, nor is it about every single product or service you offer when the customer hasn't asked for that. A winning proposal doesn't talk "at" the customer about all the way your company is great, it talks "to" the customer about what benefits your solution can bring to them.

Going back to the imaginary situation above, you may not realize it, but it's a good sign that the customer was aware of you and your business in the first place. Being invited to participate in the RFP process is an indication of your position to the customer, which in this case, is not a completely unknown position.

In my next post, I'll be talking more about how your relative position to the customer is parallel to your position to winning their business. I.e. "The Distance to Victory"

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