The power of evidence in a proposal

Getting a customer to buy from you requires a leap of faith. Building evidence into your pitch or proposal makes that leap shorter, and easier for the customer to make.

When you’re making a pitch or writing a proposal, you are like a lawyer for the prosecution. Your job is to make your case. The customer is like the judge. Their job is to weigh your claims and evidence and come to a conclusion.

So, your claims are the main points in your argument, and evidence is the facts or information that prove your claims are true.

Unfortunately, we often make claims without realising that we are making them: not because they aren’t true, but because we tend to expect others have the same knowledge we do, or we are worried that we’ll run out of time to make all our claims.

For example, it is common for competitive tenders to have page limits, word limits and even character limits. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to end up with tender responses that look something like this:

XYZ Road Maintenance is Australia’s leading provider of road cleaning equipment to municipal authorities and private cleaning contractors.

Our highly experienced, results-driven research and development team has drawn on world’s best practice to develop our Road Maintenance Widgets, which are considered the most reliable on the market today.

In a tender evaluation, the people sitting on the evaluation panel have to give your proposal a score. What sets apart the proposals that achieve high scores is the quality of the evidence that they provide. This response would get a very low score because it makes five claims without substantiating a single one of them.

So what is proposal evidence, and how can you get some?

Proposal evidence essentially falls into two camps - quantitative or qualitative.

Quantitative evidence is something that you can put a number on, and qualitative evidence is anything that you can’t.

Within these two camps, there is also the question of how closely your evidence can be tied back to each individual claim. Stronger evidence relates directly to your claim, where weaker evidence may be related, but not directly.

Let’s say you wanted to make a claim about good performance in a similar contract. In this case, strong quantitative evidence includes performance statistics, and data on cost savings and productivity gains. Strong qualitative evidence includes customer testimonials and stories, particularly from C-level buyers.

Weaker quantitative evidence in support of a performance claim might include the length of time you’ve held similar contracts (a long tenure may be due to industry norms or your negotiating skills, rather than solely reflective of your performance), and weaker qualitative evidence might include screen grabs of your IT system or process diagrams showing your methodology.

Evidence builds the trust that is essential to any buying decision.

This makes it essential in a pitch or written proposal, even when you already think your track record, experience, expertise and general trustworthiness are well know and understood by the customer.