The Development Source

How to Describe your Company in a Proposal

Let’s say I am at a party and introduce myself to one of the guests.  He asks me what I do.  “I’m a sales representative for a company that makes prosthetic devices,” I respond.  “Oh,” he responds.  “Do you enjoy your work?”  “Yes,” I reply.  “It’s very exciting.  Last week, we closed a billion-dollar deal with a major pharmaceutical company.”  “That’s great, congratulations,” the guest responds.  Without bragging or appearing immodest, I have made a good impression.

 Now suppose you use the strategy that many companies employ when they describe themselves in proposals.  When the guest asks me what I do, I reply:  “I’m a results-oriented, innovative, 24/7, dynamic sales representative who gets things done for my company.”  Now I sound like a braggart and a caricature of a company Web site.  Worse, I have not told the guest really anything about myself and have made a really bad impression.

 Unfortunately, this is how many proposals read.  They use jargon, clichés, and empty boasting to describe their history, capabilities, and commitment.  The inevitable result is laughter and the erosion of trust on the part of reviewers.

 Avoid using these terms to describe your company: 

  • Innovative.
  • World-class.
  • 24/7.
  • Results oriented.
  • Dynamic.
  • Best-in-class.
  • Best practices.
  • Best of breed.
  • Unique.
  • Industry leader. 
  • Thought leader.

 These make a bad first impression.  Worse, they make you sound like a circus barker.

 Instead, use the proposal to tell stories about your company:

  • Who I Am Stories.  How does your company earn trust and respect? 
  • Teaching Stories.  What lessons have your company’s experiences taught you?
  • Vision Stories.  What is your vision for the future?
  • Values-in-Action Stories.  What actions of your company typify its values?
  • I-Know-What-You Are-Thinking Stories.  What stories did you tell that will dispel the objections they might have about your company?

The way we describe ourselves in proposals is very important.  It can either help establish competence, trust, and respect or the opposite.  Don’t brag.  Instead, tell convincing stories about your company that demonstrates your skills, ability, and experience.

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