Don’t Forget the Benefits in Your Proposal!

Although everyone knows that benefits are extremely important in a proposal, I am constantly astonished at how many proposals are all features and few or no benefits.  This is a serious omission because the lack of explicit benefits almost always means that the proposal will be unpersuasive to reviewers.

Everything in your proposal has to answer a simple question:  so what?  Features are an important part of proposals but they cannot answer this important question.  You need benefits to provide a compelling answer.

A feature is some aspect of your product or services.  Below are some examples:

  • Operating hours from 9 AM to 5 PM.
  • Ten key personnel in the first year of the contract.

In contrast, benefits are some aspect of your product or service that addresses an issue or problem of your customer.

The first step in creating benefits in a proposal is to identify the customer’s most pressing issues and needs.  Next, you must reach a common understanding among your capture and proposal teams about these issues and needs.  Why is the customer concerned about them?  What features of our products and services address these issues and needs?  And how can we make our benefits compelling and persuasive to the customer?

Then you must clearly link the features and benefits in your proposal’s text and graphics.  A great place to begin would be the Executive Summary.

Below is an example of how you would link a feature to a customer’s benefit (staff training).  This example comes from Chris Simmons’ articles and presentations on the subject of win themes in proposals.  He is the Founder and Principal of Rainmakerz Consulting, LLC, which provides proposal development services to businesses.

Bad:  Our technical approach includes automated coding software.

Marginal:  Our EZ-Code software reduces time and cost.

Better:  The intuitive graphical interface of our EZ-Code software reduces staffing training time by 75% to meet your service level agreements.

Great:  Our EZ-Code software reduces staff training time from 4 hours to 1 hour using the same graphical interface we implemented on more than five U.S. Department of Justice contracts.

Proposals are 10,000 details, and so it is understandable why they often become little more than laundry lists of features.  But features in and of themselves are a means to an end, not an end in themselves.

Your end is what benefits the customer and only what benefits the customer.  It does not matter what you offer, only how you can address a customer’s issues and needs.  After all, if there were no issues and needs you would not be reading a Request for Proposals (RFP).

Focus on the benefits at the beginning of the proposal and tailor your most important features to address the customer’s issues and needs.  This will make your proposal more persuasive and more likely to be funded.


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