Writing great cover letters

Last week’s post advised avoiding a trite cover letter opening: “Thank you for this opportunity etc.,” followed by self-centred chest pounding. It recommended showing you understand the critical requirements of the planned purchase.

But a good opening just gets the prospect’s attention. What you say next is crucial. Here’s Part 2 of a successful cover letter.

Become the front runner

Aim to use the cover letter to position your offer as the prospect’s best choice.

Do this by addressing the prospect’s big questions connected to key features of the ideal offer. Use the intel you’ve gathered in your pre-RFP sales discovery. Typical themes include:

  • Technical solution features
  • On-time, on-budget implementation
  • Support capability
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Securing competitive advantage
  • Strategic partnering, future flexibility

Select three or four themes that best differentiate your offer. Then, for each theme, write a lead-in sentence, followed by questions that highlight your competitive advantages. See the examples below:

In deciding how best to achieve the important goals for this purchase, we invite you to consider the following:

  • Support capability: How many proponents can provide truly responsive mobile support over the 5-year contract? Can any match our in-house team of 120 fully equipped, fulltime technicians and guaranteed 4-hour response time?
  • Product roadmap: Who else sponsors annual user forums and offers a 3-year product development roadmap to keep your solution competitive as customer needs and technologies evolve?

Close with next steps

In closing, avoid threadbare language such as: “Thanking you again for this opportunity, we look forward blah, blah . . .” Instead, affirm that your proposal meets all the prospect’s requirements, and then do the following, depending on the situation:

  • For RFP responses, address any formal requirements, such as including the RFP title and number and confirming that the signer is authorized to make the offer
  • For informal proposals, tell your prospect how long your offer is valid and provide a specific date by which you will follow up


In one page this approach achieves three important goals:

  • Demonstrates you understand your prospect’s objectives
  • Connects your strongest selling features to the prospect’s key issues
  • Creates uncertainty about the strength of competing offers

P.S. Another reason you need know your customer

Strong cover letters (and winning proposals) start with understanding your prospect. Read this post on bid/no-bid decisions to help you decide if you have enough prospect knowledge to bid successfully.

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