Tom Courtney

Sometimes winning business can be a little more complicated than just meeting a customer and writing an order. For the meatier orders, you might have to prepare quotes, proposals or tenders. Here, Tom Courtney, Founder and Managing Director of Courtney Associates (Global), speaks about how to win business when you have to produce more than just a price list.

If you need to produce any sort of information in order to get yourself in front of the person or people who can give you the business, then my advice is – Give ‘em what they want!

If you consider yourself a great presenter, have a great story to tell but you never seem to get the chance to get in front of the customer when you have to send through information before you get a chance to pitch to them, then maybe the information you are sending could be letting you down.

Here are some simple tips that might just help you get to the next stage and win the business.

There are many standard elements to any document such as a proposal or tender that always need to be included. What I am more concerned with is the bit that makes a difference, the ‘clever’ bit, the bit that will sell you, your business and your product or service.

Here are a few secrets of success, gleaned from almost 25 years of bidding for work through proposals and tenders.

Ensure what you are putting together is of a high standard

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. A poorly drafted, formatted document clearly not spell checked or numbered or with a contents page casts a very negative impression in the mind of a prospective customer.

Make sure that you understand the client’s business, structure and culture

It’s not just about you and your products, it’s about you, your products and your customer. Try and get over in your document that you understand the customer in terms of where your product or service will satisfy their needs. Stroke the customer’s ego by inferring that they are special and that you have a genuine ‘feel’ for them. There is no excuse nowadays for not knowing about the client as there is plenty of online information available to you.

One of the best pieces of feedback I’ve had from a customer in this area is “we like your proposals because you answer our questions.” Some providers frankly try to be too clever for their own good in a proposal or tender document, showcasing what they want to tell the customer rather than telling them what they actually need to hear.

My tactic has always been to read or listen to exactly what the customer’s needs are and to produce a document that explicitly matches their needs with what I can provide.

A word of caution at this point – don’t be too clever for your own good when you are producing information to send to a potential customer. I was guilty many years ago of constantly overwhelming the customer with every service I could offer in order to impress and maximise my chances of getting through the front door. By all means, have a list of your services and testimonials in an appendix, but concentrate on precisely what you believe will benefit them. To put it another way, I stopped offering a Rolls Royce package when in actual fact the all that was required was a mid-range Audi.

Another thing to keep an eye on is complacency. If you are submitting proposals or tenders year on year to a customer who is clearly happy with how you are working with them, consider this. Always approach your new proposal with as much enthusiasm as you did the first. Always pretend that you are submitting a proposal for the first time. Again feedback has told me that customers both notice and appreciate the fact that you are not taking them for granted.

Finally, a question about size and does it matter? It’s useful to know whether a potential customer might perceive you as being too small or possibly too big and corporate, to deliver the product or service to them. Clearly, if you anticipate this as being an issue, you can take steps to address the issues in the information you send them.

You can talk to Tom by calling 0800 158 8314 or visit the website at

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