No Time for Waffling

Your attention span is shorter than a goldfish’s, that’d be about eight seconds compared to Goldie’s nine.

And Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO, said “Time in an attention economy is the only scarce commodity.”

So why do proposal writers waste customers’ precious attention by starting cover letters and executive summaries with bleeding obvious cliches?

First paragraphs in proposal cover letters and executive summaries are often so banal they lose customers at hello. This seems more common in proposals from incumbent suppliers.

Want an example? Here’s the start of a supplier’s cover letter that I’ve anonymized in a silly way:

On behalf of Rev-IQ, we would like to thank you for the opportunity to participate in this request for proposal for contract dining services at your space station.

As your current partner, we believe Rev-IQ is a great strategic, cultural, and operational fit for your structure.

We will continue to build on our experience at your space station with a team of well-trained, engaged, and confident E.T.s who will deliver high standards of performance, conduct, competency, and integrity.

Excusing the silliness in the above, the actual content is real. 78 words in three paragraphs all about the supplier, and nothing to describe the customer’s:

  • Business world they live in
  • Perfect future they strive for
  • Dangers they must avoid

With customers’ attention in such great demand, let’s not waste the few seconds they give to reading suppliers’ proposals. Tell a memorable, emotional, and compelling story right from the start – AND MAKE IT ABOUT THAT CUSTOMER!


Proposal writers should / must never bury the lede – especially in cover letters and executive summaries. Otherwise, Goldies will swim off to the price pages and leave proposals unread, unappreciated, and unpersuasive.

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