The Proposal Cover Letter is your biggest opportunity to show just how insincere your company is toward the prospect.
At the same time, it also represents biggest opportunity to differentiate your company, preserve margin and, ultimately, win the business.
Invariably, as we engage with clients, the proposal cover letter is always the tactic most often under thought and filled with common platitudes ("Thank you for the opportunity to bid on this project. With over 50 years in the business, we feel we have the best products, services and people to assist you not only on this project, but on an ongoing basis.....ad infinitum".)
After months of introductions, diagnostic processes, illustration of similar situational successes, building relationships and articulating differences about your company, the cover letter is given secondary (at best) consideration and delegated as the last component with the least amount of thought.
Indeed, it should be the exact opposite.
Especially with cross-functional decision teams and/or executives who may not have been involved with each phase of the decision making process, this may be the most memorable messaging they perceive.
More people affect more decisions
In this day of diminished budgets and downsized work forces, few executives are allowed or want to make a decision alone...especially budget issues. Thus, individuals with different agendas, needs and perspectives are being asked to weigh in.
Some decision team members may be knowledgeable and others may not know why they are on the buying committee but, universally, guess which page (besides the budget page) they are going to read of your proposal or RFP response?
Roles for Cover Letters
Cover letters can play many roles in the final stages of the decision making process including:
-- Differentiator - Hopefully during your sales process you have uncovered those traits of your organization that reasonate with the prospect and unique. The cover letter is the place to cement home those points.
-- Wedge of Uncertainty - Especially where a prospect is trying to level all potential vendors and their pricing into the lowest common denominator, the cover letter is a place to bring the "sometimes the best price isn't the best investment" thought back up. If you have more stability, a better track record of support or specific solutions that your competitors can't match, bring it back to the surface for everyone to consider one last time in the cover letter.
-- Process Recap & Matchup - A cover letter is an opportunity to describe the journey you've been down with the prospect and to "own the perception" of how well you've understood their pain. Often started with sentences like: "Over the last 90 days we have gone through a discovery and diagnostic process with you and there have been 5 significant issues that have been identified as important to you which are:"
At best, the points in your cover letter might redirect or reorder the criteria for selection. At worse, it may point up inconsistencies in what decision makers told you and allow for more discussion, refinement of your solution and relationship building..
In any event, "it's all good" and, of course, the cover letter is the time to match up your strengths against every issue and illustrate your advantages. It may seem elementary, but every day proposals go out without one reference to the relationship that has begun to form or any show of how you understand and intend to address the prospect's issues.
Don't waste this valuable opportunity and sales surface.
How does your cover letter stack up?
If you like, e-mail me over a copy of a recent cover letter or one you use as a standard and I will provide my thoughts back at no charge. Just click here, firstname.lastname@example.org, attach it to my e-mail and provide a brief description of the objectives of the cover letter and/or where you would like to see improvement.
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