Sending A Proposal Cover Letter

As the Nineties dawned, I was once asked by a senior rep to send out a Prop on his behalf while he was out the office. In the prehistoric dark days before wheelie cases, I remember it being for large luggage manufacturer, Antler.

I had but emerging knowledge for the veracity of the technical aspects of the document, so my task was pretty much checking formatting and grammar.

Once printed, the hefty tome needed all the glossies attached and binding (ask someone with grey hair).

Job done, before visiting the mailroom I thought, “cover letter?”

The rep whose Prop it was had left no such instruction. His secretary found no record on file of any such similar previously completed. Mobile phones were as commonplace as jetpacks. So I called up the contact on the tender and asked them for a steer. You could almost hear them choke on their cuppa; ‘Cover letter, are you serious…?’

It should have rang an alarm then and there, right?

Back then the internet existed only at universities. For sending text messages between flickering black screens with radioactively glowing squarey fonts and playing “games” where you typed moves for disreputables like a Lizard called Larry in a Lounge. Newly in employment myself, I was primed to send a cover letter with job applications. Surely a selling Prop was no different?

So I read that despite being a powerful tool to land your dream job, the old fashioned cover letter is a fading presence. Unsurprising, perhaps, given the e-fying of all this. Yet apparently if you write one, which then gets read, you are way more likely to advance through the process.

It almost seemed one of those obvious-once-pointed-out counter-intuitive tips. With no-one else supplying one, you could hit the standing-out jackpot if (a big if?) the recipient bothers to read it.

How do most Props (or any meaty Sales doc, for that matter) arrive at the prospect? As email attachment? With subject line, “Our Proposal”? With email body text, “here’s your doc, rgds”?

The argument against needing to put any extra effort in, is that there’s little reward incentive. People are just so busy these days. They’ll never read anything beyond what they specifically asked for. After all, didn’t job ads once stipulate “Absolutely No Cover Letters”? They’ll receive so many papers that they pre-screen along all manner of quirky (questionably legal) minor criteria. Anything deviating from their strict request will get discarded. Even printing on non-white paper could see you fly into that shiny cylindrical File 13 for daring to be different.

Reading how recruitment pros feel the cover letter can today be a potent weapon – one tailored, thought-through and personal – made me think on Props I’d seen sent out lately.

That single pdf attached.

Would your approach really be binned if you wrote a few succinct paras in your email? Would delete really greet any attempt to also enclose separate summary pages, pics or slides by way of specific intel? Could the time it takes to actively converse with the eventual recipient really lead you to areas not actually covered by the initial invitation to tender yet critically deal-making?

Perhaps the sales cover letter is not dead at all?

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