It’s clear that customer case studies and success stories are integral to the sales process. But how many organizations actually use them in every proposal?
According to Robyn Haydon, Australian proposal-writing expert and author of the book The Shredder Test,companies don’t integrate customer evidence nearly enough in actual sales proposals. But those that do, see the payoff.
“I know that a lot of my clients get short-listed because they have pushed hard to include evidence in their proposals, and case studies are really part of that,” she said.
How do you bring your customer stories into your sales proposals?
Here, Haydon shares her tips from years of consulting with organizations on how to create bids, pitches and sales proposals that get results.
What is the role of a customer case study in a proposal?
Haydon: The customer case study provides proof or evidence that you can do for a new customer what you say you can. It shows evidence of what you have done before by showing results for other customers. A lot of proposals that I review after the fact—that are not successful—seem to be missing that.
How many case studies do you recommend a company include in a proposal?
Haydon: It’s about the number of claims you want to make. Maybe there are three—it’s important to match specific evidence to each of these claims. For example. ‘extensive experience’ is often something a company wants to claim. To do that, it’s best to provide at least 2-3 good case studies relevant to the client and their industry, where you spell out in detail what you did and what the results were, and then go on to show a longer list of other similar projects that prove the ‘extensive’ claim.
You recommend including a “vignette” of the customer’s story in the body of the proposal and then the full case study at the back. How long should vignettes be?
Haydon: Two to three sentences, but a lot goes into getting those sentences right. It can’t just be off the top of your head. You need good material before summarizing it. Then the full case study may have a lot of technical description or photos to be included in the back.
In some industries, including just a vignette is enough, especially in competitive tendering where the objective is to get shortlisted. Give them enough information to show results and get them interested enough to want to know more.
How important is it that customer evidence in proposals has actual customer names?
Haydon: It’s almost essential in a proposal to have customer names. You can’t always publicly name companies that you work with, but it’s worth the effort to get permission to share those names in internal documents like proposals. If you can’t include hard results, then there are other ways of representing the results of your work, even if not in actual dollars saved.
Any anecdotes of a company seeing better results using case studies in proposals?
Haydon: One company I worked with didn’t have any government business and was going after that. We looked at what they did for private-sector clients and adapted case study materials to show that the way they worked in the private sector would be applicable to government. Now almost 100% of their revenue is from government business.
Other tips for organizations thinking of adding case studies to their proposals?
Haydon: It’s something that companies need to take seriously. It’s quite a big job and an important job—not something that should be an afterthought. You have to set up an internal project to collect these materials. It’s not OK to say, “we have two weeks, what can we pull out of a hat?”
Customers want to buy sure things. That’s why case studies are so important. You have been there and done it before and you can do it again.