As learning practitioners, we care about our content. 

We care about our program participants and their experience.

We care about creating impact.

But if you had to prioritize, which one matters to you most?  As, if not more importantly, which one matters most to your client?

Working with over 100 active consultants to help them win more business and create greater impact, I see dozens of proposals each month.

The 1 damaging characteristic I see most often – the one that leads to not winning the business – has nothing to do with price. It’s not a matter of weak content or poor experience design.

No, the most common shortcoming I see in proposals is that they focus on a single value proposition; specifically, they focus almost exclusively on the value that will be created for the program participants.

“Wait, what? Highlighting how great the participant experience will be is a bad thing?”

No, of course not. Our buyers need to know that you’ve thought through experience. And of course you have. Because you care.  But honestly?  That’s table stakes.  Your competitors are great at designing for participant enjoyment, too.

“Participants” are actually only one of three audiences you want to consider – and make clear value statements for – in your training & development proposals.

Hit all three succinctly and with clarity, and you’ll immediately start seeing your win-rate increase.

Better still, you’ll actually be able to charge more and spend less time in back and forth conversations on content and experience design specifics after you have made the sale. (Don’t you just love the “helpful suggestions” on how to improve the flow of your sessions?)

Let’s look at each of the audiences and the key themes of each value proposition, then circle back on why nailing all three leads to better profitability and a greater degree of autonomy for you.

Audience 1: the participants

They want to know it’ll be worth their time. That the program will be:

1. Enjoyable

2. Valuable

3. Applicable

Why it matters:  As mentioned, table stakes. Gone are the days of “sage from the stage” landing training contracts.  Experience matters.

How to do it:  Experience Design. Lots written on this, by people who make this their life’s work.  You already know all about this and are covering it well in your proposals.

Audience 2: the business leaders

They want to know it’s going to impact their priorities. Include language that makes it clear your program will be:

1.Timely (relevant to today’s priorities)


3.Non-disruptive (won’t get in the way of other activities)

Why it matters:  Business priorities – particularly around discretionary spend (where most people development programs live, whether we like it or not) shift all. the. time. 

And, in any organization, the senior leader groups’ mandate is to align resources around the activities that advance current strategic priorities.  

It would serve us well, then to align our program to their priorities, and to demonstrate – in your proposals – that you understand (a) it needs to be measurable to be taken seriously, and (b) it is one of many things going on in the organization at the moment.

How to do it: Deeper work in discovery. Don’t just respond to the brief. Dig to understand what else is going on in the organization right now. 

1.Is there a publicly shared strategic plan? 

2.Can you ask your buyer/sponsor for more insight into this/next year’s priorities?  

Use the language they use. In clear, concise language, explain how your program is designed to elicit the behavior changes that will advance one or more strategic priorities. 

Audience 3: your individual buyer

Is this going to make me look good and help me advance my career?

1.Clarity (I know what I’m buying)

2.Confidence (I believe this supplier has what it takes to make it work)

3.Case Study (I’m going to end up with an artifact I can share to demonstrate my effectiveness)

Why it matters:  No one wants to be the guy/gal who made the bad investment. When spending company money, more buyers default to “safe bets” than the radical new thing. Ultimately, your buyer wants to buy what makes them look good in the eyes of their boss. They would be unlikely to admit that, or even be consciously aware of it, but it’s human nature – we all want to make the “right decision”.  So we need to help them see you as the right decision.

How to do it:  No matter how transformative your program is (and hopefully it is!), your proposal language needs to be anchored to the familiar and the known. 


Business Leaders. 

Your Buyer.  

Three distinct audiences, all of whom we need to consider and speak to in creating winning proposals.  

The good news is, in all three cases, there’s fundamentally only one real question – “What’s in it for me?

Review your proposals three times before presenting it – each time through the lens of a different audience.

Is it extra work?  Yes. 

But like most new things, this is a muscle you’ll develop through repetition.

And get this right and I guarantee you, you’ll see an immediate increase in the number of proposals that convert to a sale.

The best part? You’ll not only win more proposals, you’ll be able to charge more for your programs and retain control of design.  

People buy value more often than they buy price, particularly on intangibles like people development programs.  

When you clearly articulate value for three audiences, you are, by definition, increasing the perceived value of your program. By designing for all three audiences (what we refer to as “Impact Design”) you are actually creating more value.

And because your proposal speaks to a greater impact than your buyer might be familiar, they’re more inclined to “trust the expert” when it comes to the actual build out and delivery (saving you time in back and forth reviews)

Download the free Proposal Conversion Amplifier Workbook for a practical, step by step guide on how to craft training proposals that convert.