Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.


Attention-getting cover letters

 March 14, 2017
by Paul Heron

Last week’s post argued for avoiding the trite cover letter opening: “Thank you for this opportunity etc.,” followed by self-centred chest pounding—in favour of showing you understand what your prospect seeks to accomplish with 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 frontrunner

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

Do this by addressing big questions connected to the essential ingredients of an ideal solution. Typical question themes include:

  • Technical solution design
  • On-time, on-budget implementation
  • Support capability
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Competitive advantage
  • Strategic partnership, 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 strengths. See the example 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 260 fully equipped, fulltime technicians and guaranteed 4-hour response time?

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 sales discovery

Strong cover letters start with understanding your prospect. Read this post to learn more about sales discovery in bidding situations. Read this post on bid/no-bid decisions to decide whether your have enough client knowledge to bid successfully.


Need help positioning your offer against the competition?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 





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