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Proposal Mayhem: A Vituperative Diatribe Against Delayed Reality

1. For whom are these proposals being written?

Are proposals being written as an exercise in corporate narcissism? Are themes, word choices, whole sections being included because Mr. Big wants to see it in there? It’s great if Mr. Big’s needs and preferences happen to fit with the needs and preferences of the prospective customer, rather than with the definitions of what constitutes irritation and/or superfluous content that are embraced by the customer. Even worse, are we writing these proposals to please somebody further down the pecking order?

The themes, content, and style selected for each proposal should be tightly connected to the wants and needs of the marketplace. Write for the reader. And, make sure that the reader is a qualified, paying customer. If Ms. Importante and Mr. Big want a proposal for internal playtime, then let them get their own checkbooks out and we’ll have an old-fashioned game of nuthouse on their dime.

2. Are sales people contributing valuable information to the process so that the proposal is genuinely customized to the "hot buttons" of the customer?

Or, is some proposal writer off in a corner, slamming the keyboard, making it up as she/he goes along? This often happens by default, because (1) no sales person has really connected with the prospect to discover their hot buttons, or, (2) the sales person has, to her credit, discovered this information but expects the writer to use mental telepathy to figure it out. Or, there is the third, unspeakable alternative: The Sales Representative’s Attention Deficit Disorder has reached an advanced untreatable state such that he honestly believes that he has shared an encyclopedia of knowledge about the prospective customer with the CEO, the VP of Marketing, the Sales Manager, the Proposal Manager, and most of the regulars down at the Broken Spoke Bar and Grill. The systematic cultivation and incorporation of customer-specific content into standardized proposal templates is critical to building proposals that are as effective as they are efficient.

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