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Cover letters that wow

Writing Winning Proposals, Lesson 2

“Company ABC is pleased to submit our proposal to the City of Portland.”

Most boring opening ever. Trust me…no one cares how pleased you are to submit anything.

In my proposal coaching with small minority- and women-owned firms, I see this opening constantly. Managing and reviewing proposals at CH2M HILL (global environmental consulting firm), I always struck out that line. Snooze.

Proposal letters typically go on about Company ABC and how amazing they are, with rare mention of the actual client. Job application cover letters often fall into this same trap.

The first rule in cover letters: make it about your recipient.

Whether your cover letter is for a job or a business proposal, write about your recipient. As I wrote in Lesson 1, it's not about you. I advise approaching it this way:

1.        Start with WHY

Open by pointing out what you admire about Company ABC and your understanding of the project or position. Why are you excited about this opportunity?


2.        Think in threes

List the three most important attributes for a successful consultant or employee. You might need to do a bit of research to get this right.

3.        Double down on your threes

Now’s your chance to talk about yourself. List your three discriminators: the attributes and benefits you bring to the project or position. What makes you more qualified than your competitors?


4.        Keep it to one page

I know this is hard. But less is more. You should be able to make your points on one page. Don’t bore your readers or make them work too hard to get your message.


5.        Close with a summary and thank you they’ll remember!

Be confident (“We look forward to discussing this project with you”) and restate your commitment. Perhaps you can add a sentence about your superpower and how it will benefit the client/employer.

6.        Use a professional writer

It’s hard to toot your own horn or think through what makes you different from the rest. A professional writer can help you develop your strategy and make your content sing.

Do you have to do a cover letter?

YES! Whether it’s a proposal or job, cover letters are your first (and sometimes only) opportunity to sell yourself.

You’ve got this!

Never miss an opportunity to position yourself as the best choice.

Let me know if you can use help with communications, marketing, or leadership.

I help purpose-driven professional services firms and organizations avoid BORING and boost employee engagement, productivity, and readership. I translate technical, complex, and lackluster language into accessible, dynamic, story-driven text.

Fertile Ground Communications LLC is a certified woman-owned business enterprise, disadvantaged business enterprise, and emerging small business.

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