Why Customers Hate Your Proposals, but not the Eiffel Tower

eiffel-towerAh, Paris in the summertime: streets jammed with tourists, peddlers pushing fake Chanel bags, and the occasional pickpocket thrown in just for good measure. Of course, there is still the Eiffel Tower, rising 986′ (301 m) into the air and reminding the masses why they came in the first place.

We all think of the Eiffel Tower as the quintessential Paris icon, but it had its share of detractors and false starts. In fact, Gustave Eiffel wasn’t a shoe-in for the design and construction at all. Eiffel worked diligently to win the favor of President Jules Grévy and the committee of the Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair) of 1889 .

Do you know how Eiffel didn’t pitch his winning design? With something like this:

Reproductions of Eiffel’s original designs included in his book “The 300 Meter Tower”, Lemercier publications, Paris 1900.This is certainly a drawing of the Eiffel Tower, but it’s way too complicated for the average Jacques to appreciate. The committee of the 1889 World’s Fair wouldn’t have wanted to get caught up in this detail before deciding which proposal they would ultimately build.

Today’s Proposals Should Take a Cue from Eiffel

When you are preparing a proposal or an RFP response for a prospective customer, you should keep our friend Eiffel in mind. Customers don’t want to get caught up in the details. That’s your job. Instead, they want to rely on you, the expert, to be able to confidently tell them what you will deliver and when you will deliver it.

Here’s what happens when you drown your customers in detail:

  • Your customers lose sight of the big picture
  • Your customers start nitpicking every detail of your proposal, are overcome with analysis paralysis, and never make a decision
  • Your customers perceive that you are hung up on detail and aren’t flexible enough to deal with contingencies if and when they pop up

In other words, when you incorporate too much detail into your proposals, all of your hard work is likely to end up in the recycle while your competitors are presenting a succinct, confident overview of how they will meet the requirements:

Winning proposal schedule created in OnePager Express from a simple Excel spreadsheet.

This isn’t your complete proposal (we hope), but these types of graphics should take the lead when you are communicating your delivery plan to a prospective customer. If they ask you for details, you can have confidence to take things deeper as required, because the picture you are presenting is rooted in your expertise.

A nice high-level graphic in your proposal is like a shot across the bow.

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About Safford

Safford is a versatile technology professional with a solid history of empowering emerging growth companies in a broad array of industries. His employment history includes energy industry consulting at Quorum Software, Senior Manager of Client Services and Technical Sales at telecom service aggregator GetConnected, and Vice President of Strategic Partner Management at electronic payment processor IP Commerce. Prior to his tenure as OnePager's COO, Safford was the company's Vice President of Marketing and Alliances. Safford holds a BA in Psychology and management from Rice University.

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