What is a RFP cover letter, and why does it matter?

You’ve finished many hours tailoring a compelling proposal, and you’re ready to submit; but are you overlooking your RFP cover letter? Your cover letter is a single-page cover letter accompanying your proposal. It’s your very first opportunity to introduce your business and offer high-level information. 

It’s also often a missed opportunity, with many companies just copy-pasting ‘boilerplate’, treating cover letters as an afterthought – unfortunate for them, and lucky for you!

Put yourself into the shoes of the person reading your proposal, and probably many other proposals for this same work. It’s not an easy job to parse large amounts of information to make critical decisions that they’re accountable for. They’re also only human, which means they have a limited attention span; they’ll appreciate you making this process easier by providing key information front-and-centre. In fact, this can mean the difference between committing the mental energy to read your proposal carefully, skimming it, or immediately concluding your company is not a good fit.

First impressions count, so position you as the best choice! RPFs and RFTs are generally a competitive process, so make sure your cover letter stands out from the pack. You don’t want it to be ‘just okay’ when a rival’s cover letter is an excellent, easy-to-read marketing tool.

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When your cover letter is done right, it favourably introduces your organisation, summarises what you have to offer and why to choose you. This acts as a mental ‘anchor’ helping the reader to navigate your proposal, and ensuring that the most impactful information sandwiched into your proposal might be missed by your reader.

Proposal development isn’t just a plan on how you’d get the job done; it’s a marketing exercise for your company, its people and your expertise, in the context of this specific work and what the customer is looking for. You should be wearing your ‘marketing hat’ throughout the proposal development process, and your cover letter is no exception.

Some questions to ask yourself about your RFP cover letter:

  • Is it clear that we understand the customer, its needs and the work to be done?
  • After reading this, will the reader know what we’re expert at, and what we bring to the table in the context of this work?
  • Have we conveyed our unique value proposition? How we’re not just different, but better, specifically in the context of the work to be done?

Your cover letter is a very important component of the proposal process. That one page has great potential to convince your reader – even more if your competitors are treating it as an afterthought. With all the effort you’ve put into writing a compelling proposal, make sure your cover letter doesn’t let you down!

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