How to Keep Your Government Proposals Customer-Focused – Lessons from a 5-year Old

My 5-year old this morning didn’t want to put on a dress. I guess she had a different outfit in mind… Perhaps a pair of shorts, or a skirt – but not the sun dress with cherries on it that I handed to her. But that’s not what she told me.

Instead, she looked at me with one eye squinted and said – “Do you really want me to get this nice dress dirty? With syrup, or paint, or playground dust?”

It was very clear to me what she was doing. In fact, this technique is directly applicable to government proposals. She was gaining leverage for what she wanted (or didn’t want), while expressing it in the language that was relatable to me. She was also pointing at my hot button – wanting to keep clothing clean, and do less laundry. She took herself and her wants out of it and instead was relating the whole issue to me. It was about me only: what was in it for me if she didn’t wear the dress.

Here is typical proposal language (from a recent proposal I was tasked to review) that doesn’t use this clever technique. It doesn’t start with the customer, or what’s in it for them. Instead, like a petulant kid, it screams: “me, me, me – let me get this contract!”

“FedContractor (I am not going to share the culprit’s real name) is pleased to submit the enclosed proposal in response to solicitation number N12345 as a prime contractor. FedContractor is a Service Disabled, Veteran Owned Small Business (SDVOSB), minority owned company. Founded in 2002, FedContractor successfully provides a full range of quality Program Management and Systems Engineering products and services to a variety of customers in the Department of Defense (DoD), Federal Government and other departments and agencies within State and Local Governments. FedContractor is an ISO 9001:2008 Certified company. Our mission is to use our broad employee experience base to deliver timely and tangible solutions to our customers. We continuously strive to build strong, long term relationships based on mutual trust, respect and commitment.”

As you can see, there is no customer’s name in this whole paragraph, and this language is so generic that it could introduce almost any government proposal on any subject, to any customer. And, its effect is bland. It makes the customer’s eyes glaze over – and definitely doesn’t prompt them to select you.

Instead of doing this, consider using a technique my five-year-old used on me this morning. Try to start with showing understanding of the pain that this customer is looking to avoid by issuing this request for proposal, and what this project would enable them to accomplish. Keep asking the question: “what’s in it for them?” Make your proposal customer-centric instead of your company-centric. You may just get what you want.

Do your proposal read like the example shown above? If so, my webinar series, “Blueprint for Winning Government Contracts for Small Businesses” (30 hours over 12 weeks) starts on Wednesday, May 12 – so if you are considering registering, there is not that much time left: Also, if you would like to delve into more detail on how to make your proposals customer-centric, get my “Executive Summary Secrets” self-study course –

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Amanda Blount

LOL! That is funny and very true. My daughter, who loved to wear matching everything, was very upset at 5 when I passed her undies and socks which did not match. Using the old saying I used to love to tell them when they were little – “Wear clean underwear in case you have to go to the Dr.” and another thing I always told them, if they did not look nice out in public, everyone blames the Mom. So, She looked at me and said with shock and horror, “Mom, but if I go to the Dr he will think you are a bad Mom!” 5 year olds can be very smart! LOL Yes, I then gave her matching undies and socks to wear. I figuered if it meant that much to her that she used her brain to get it, I would give it to her.

And back to contracting, I love it when contractors remind us in their proposals that they are SDVSB and this will help with our social economic numbers… yep, those are people who are thinking. I like people who think.

Pam Broviak

It’s amazing how kids can cut through to the heart of a matter. Sometimes my kids do this so well it is painful.