Clear thinking

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Cover letter mistakes

 March 7, 2017
by Paul Heron

Proposals are sales documents. And any successful salesperson knows the importance of first impressions. You may make a sale after arriving with soup stains on your shirt, but the odds are against it—especially when selling a solution that’s strategically important for your buyer’s organization.

The cover letter’s job is to create a strong first impression. Here’s how to do it (right)—Part 1.

Two ways not to open

Few people take offense at being thanked. So many bidders play it safe by starting off with: “Thank you for giving XYZ Technologies the opportunity to provide this proposal for . . .”

Here’s the problem: This opening has been done a million times. It’s trite. The reader is going to see you, consciously or subconsciously, as one of the herd. Your proposal may begin to sparkle by paragraph three—but by then you’ve lost any first impression advantage.

Another common opening is “XYZ Technologies is very pleased to provide this proposal for . . .” This opening is equally boring as “Thank you for” and has the added disadvantage of seeming self-centred, rather than client-focused.

A better approach—show you get it

Strategic procurement specialists have told us repeatedly that they begin to pay attention when they see a seller gets it, that he or she really understands the need and is focused on meeting it.

So let’s open with the key strategic requirement our proposal addresses. And let’s do it in a way that’s client-focused, rather than bidder-focused. Here’s an example:

“YourCo has identified the need for point-of-sale technology that accepts all currently available payment methods (including near field), occupies no more than 80 cm2 of counter space and provides software support to integrate new technologies as they emerge.”

Boom—you’ve got the buyer’s attention. He or she knows you understand all the key required features. In the rest of the cover letter you need explain why your proposal is worth reading.

No chest-thumping please

What many bidders do at this point is begin to talk about themselves—how they’re industry leaders, how many units they’ve installed, etc., etc. We’ve seen cover letters that go on like this for paragraphs.

The trick to stay focused on your prospect and the critical factors in the purchase decision.

We’ll show you how in next week’s post.


Need help developing powerful, client focused bid responses?

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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