October 3, 2023

Let’s Put an End to Bad Cover Letters

Struggling with insomnia? I’ve got the perfect remedy.

Just go find any cover letter that starts with, “We are pleased to present this proposal…”

By the time you get a half paragraph in, you’ll be deep in REM sleep dreaming about catching a touchdown pass from your childhood dog (or whatever strange things you dream about).

The point is so many firms submit proposals with bad cover letters that start this way. Proposal writers fall into the trap of copying and pasting the same old boilerplate text they’ve always used, which typically sounds like every other firm submitting a proposal. The result? Your proposal that you worked on for months ends up forgotten on the ash heap of boring proposal history.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Don’t Overlook the Extra Points

You know your team is the most qualified to win the project you’re pursuing, and you all worked so hard to create a winning proposal that showcases the difference-making work you provide. Don’t waste it overlooking the cover letter.

Think of the cover letter for your proposal like kicking an extra point in football. After the effort needed to score a touchdown, it’s an easily overlooked point scoring opportunity that too often gets taken for granted. But those points count and can be the difference between winning and losing a close game. Remember, for any project worth pursuing there’s plenty of worthy competitors proposing a similar service. When it comes down to crunch time, the extra points can be what lands the contract or leave you writing a “We’ll get ‘em next time” locker room speech for your team.

Focus on What the Client Cares About

Now, you may be tempted to think, “Ok, so I just need to come up with a jazzier way of saying ‘We are pleased to present this proposal…’”

But the point of writing an engaging cover letter is to proclaim that you alone understand the needs of the client better than anyone else submitting a proposal. I promise you, not one single person outside your company cares how pleased you are to submit this or any proposal. Ever. However, what they do care about is how you are proposing to execute the project on time and within budget and, in doing so, exceed their expectations.

Need some guidance on how to create this magical cover letter that speaks directly to a client’s needs? That’s why we’re here.

Start by following this structure:

Intro paragraph: 1-2 sentences describing the client’s goals, objectives, and/or challenges. 1-2 sentences detailing how you will help them achieve those goals (with a proof point).

Sentence introducing the benefits your team provides the client:

Value prop #1: describe the benefits and why it matters to the client

Value prop #2: describe the benefits and why it matters to the client

Value prop #3: describe the benefits and why it matters to the client

Closing paragraph: reiterate how your company/team/approach/experience aligns with the client and this particular contract/project. Include contact information.

Here are a few more pro tips:

  • Avoid generic templates. Tailor your cover letter to address the specific elements of this particular project.
  • Use a conversational tone that resonates with the evaluators. Ditch the stuffy, formal third person and write in first person.
  • The client’s name should be mentioned way more than your company’s name.
  • Keep it to one page.

This format isn’t complicated if you know where to keep your focus. The client wants to see that you understand the scope of the project, you have an experienced team to execute a strategic plan, and you have the resources to complete it on time and within budget better than anyone else.

At Summit Strategy, we’re on a mission to free the world of bad cover letters. Who’s with us?

Krystn Macomber

CP APMP Fellow, LEED

There’s magic in disrupting the ordinary. This is the philosophy Krystn brings to working with and empowering her clients. With a 20-year track record of helping global professional services enterprises, Krystn is redefining what’s possible for companies looking to elevate their marketing, pursuit, and business development operations. She is an industry leader, award winner, mentor, coach, and highly sought-after speaker.

Previous Blog
Next Blog
February 2, 2024
Decoding the SF330, Part 2

Now that we have a solid foundation to build a winning proposal, Part 2 of this series will explore the different sections of SF330 and ways you can make your proposal stand out from the competition.

Read More
February 1, 2024
Six Questions to Ask When Choosing Proposal Automation Software

Proposal automation software can be a game changer for both “army of one” and enterprise proposal teams managing unruly content libraries - who often spend hours of wasted productivity digging through archived collateral, previous proposals, and simple file management tools that cannot keep pace.

Read More