Whether you work with external writers or have an in-house team of proposal writers (probably part of your pre-sales team), developing a winning proposal that addresses a client’s business problem and key requirements is always the end objective. Presenting your company’s skills, qualifications, experience, credentials, and domain authority in a persuasive manner sets you apart from competitors, giving your proposal an edge.
Having been a part of successful Pre-Sales teams and built winning client proposals for many years, there are some ESSENTIALS I always keep in mind while developing or evaluating proposals:
In-depth understanding – Your responses must stem from your client’s needs, providing direction to your proposal. It goes without saying that the first and most important step before getting down to writing is a thorough understanding of your client, their needs, and the ecosystem they operate in. Address their ‘new’ reality once you’ve addressed each of their needs. A simple-bulleted juxtaposed ‘current’ state compared to their ‘desired’ state can make all the difference.
Executive Summary – Typically, the executive summary gives the reader a glimpse or an outline of your key success factors and unique selling points in brief. This could feature your certification logos, awards, quality certifications, case studies or success stories, skills and expertise, your team member profile, partner info, and key differentiators.
Proposal Compliance – Ensure and double-check if your RFP (request for proposal) response or bid response complies and adheres with the bid/client requirements. You must focus on the finer details such as word/page count, font uniformity, file size, the format of submission, etc. Proofread and edit your content often and ensure clear messaging throughout the document. Remember, your evaluators have trained eyes and they can spot an error very easily in your documentation.
Highlight your appropriate responses to the corresponding proposal requirements for easy evaluation. Check thoroughly if your responses demonstrate and answer all your potential customer’s questions. To make it happen, create a checklist of ‘Tasks/queries and Responses’; a compliance matrix to address stated and non-stated requirements further clearly with a comment section column.
Lead with data! Enlist all the possible benefits, innovation, and value adds that you bring to your prospective client; your design-thinking approach, the agile methods you incorporate during the process/project solution fulfilment phase and appropriate references.
Responsiveness – Know your clients’ vision, goals, and objectives, and adapt to their tonality. Your quick responses must identify and align with the customer’s needs, critical success factors, and hot buttons. Substantiate your claims with proofs such as success stories, certifications, case studies, ROI, and relevant past performance; communicate them clearly, and eliminate unwanted company boilerplate content.
Agility – Looming deadlines require a high level of coordination, clear communication, and collaboration between the pre-sales and sales teams to speed up things. Have clear roles defined, monitor, assess progress and roadblocks, and sync up with the teams constantly. To ensure you always have an overarching view of the project’s progress, assign an expert for the job to improve efficacy and project success.
Tonality and Language – Reinforce positivity in your language, e.g., use ‘shall/will’ rather, than using terms like ‘we can/we think/we believe.’ Passive is wimpy!
Do not forget to dial down on the ‘buzz’ words like stellar, world-class, out of the world, paradigm, etc.
Avoid slipping into using your company’s jargon and other technical in-house terms; instead, use simple, concise, easy-to-understand language. Your audience could come from a non-technical background too. Finally, check for uniformity and discrepancies; consistency is key, and your proposal should reflect congruence of thought.
Value proposition – Mention the unique value proposition supported by a benefit statement throughout the document. Quantifiable results, timelines, investment, ROI, and key metrics solidify the final output. Make sure your information is fact-based, convincing, measurable, and appealing to the evaluator.
Highlight the differentiators, your approach and methodology– Keep the audience hooked through relevant credentials, the analyst mentions & recommendations, partner/industry associations, customer testimonials, significant press coverage excerpts, and awards won. Past case studies, success stories, team expertise and experience, technology stack, quality standards and certifications, and geographical spread, can be used to build a cohesive story.
For most clients, it is not ‘what you’re going to do’ but ‘how you’re going to do it’ that matters.
Visually appealing graphics – Graphics add power and help amplify the content and elevate the user experience. When you have tight deadlines, bring in your graphics team at the beginning. Follow up regularly on the tasks at hand to avoid last-minute delays and disappointments. Best proposals are highly visual and appealing, and using them to your advantage can give you that extra edge.
The last mile – The closing stages of your proposal writing can create the most nerve-wracking moments. To err at this stage will be detrimental to the overall project’s success. Bring in a fresh pair of eyes for new perspectives, spot overlooked errors, and ensure things are intact and everything goes smoothly. Double-check all the proposal writeup with layers of experts involving tech and quality teams. Upon final confirmation with the top authority, just hit the submit button.
Overall, effective proposal writing is an art in itself. Backed by strong research, with agile processes in place, due diligence, dedicated team support, and coordination you can create successful proposals that stand out, make a lasting impact, and secure new clients.