Post-review revisions are typically a crossroads for the proposal team; the course of action taken determines your proposal quality. The quality of your proposal, how it is read and scored against the competition, determines your win probability.
In the fourth and final article in this series, we will explore proposal management best practices with a focus on post-review proposal improvement.
Proposals are purchasing vehicles. Where business writing, such as documentation, is designed to inform and instruct, proposals are designed to get inside the mind of the evaluator and bring them around to your way of thinking. Quality proposals use narrative and story to engage readers and communicate a clear message about you, your business, and your solution.
Challenge: The proposal was difficult to read and follow. I couldn't connect the dots between the prospects challenge and how we address it.
Best Practice: Storytelling in proposal writing works the same way as creative storytelling. Except that most elements, such as characters, plot, and setting, are already clearly defined. Improve your narrative and story by focusing on three elements:
Strategic repetition plays an important role in narrative and story as an effective way to subtly remind evaluators about your proposition as they read. Targeting strategic repetition in your cover letter, executive summary, solution overview/approach boosts readability. It also helps evaluator's pick up the narrative no matter what page they start on. Revise by rephrasing the same point, swapping in a client story or quote, and adding a visual to reinforce your point.
Writing with intent means your team has an objective; use the win strategy details to send your message. Context is the background, or Setup, that couches your win strategy in the evaluator's circumstances to help them accurately interpret your message. Quality proposals use intent and context to help evaluators absorb and understand your solution.
Challenge: The proposal answers the questions but the answers are generic, they are not aligned with the prospect’s perspective.
Best Practice: The details of intent and context should be defined as part of the pre-writing phase of proposal development. Enhancing intent and context is one of the goals of the improvement phase of proposal writing. Improve by honing your intent with these three questions:
By clarifying your intent, context ensures evaluator's accurately interpret your meaning. Context also helps forge a relationship between your team and the evaluator. There are different types of context, but for our purposes of proposal writing, we'll focus on the physical context; the environment in which your proposal story takes place, i.e., the prospects Setup and Conflicts. Here are a few ideas for adding context to your proposal:
Intent and context give evaluators a sort of framework for interpreting your Resolution. When proposal teams write with intent and context, evaluators are able to look at the proposal through the lens of relevant perspective.
Tone is the expression of your business attitude, and specifically, how your audience perceives your words. It begins with how your writers feel about the subject; self-confident and enthusiastic, yet relevant, candid and sincere. It is conveyed by your writers through diction (choice of words and phrases), viewpoint, syntax (grammar and how you put words and phrases together), and the level of formality.
What makes your proposal authentic is the meaning it has for the evaluator. Evaluators are, for the most part, reading your proposal as an inquiry; what is the best way to solve the challenges. Quality proposals use tone and authenticity to up the ante.
Challenge: The narrative is choppy and the proposal feels “cobbled” together from different sources. I see how we solve the challenges, but it "feels" like documentation.
Best practice: You need to harmonize your content within the context of your evaluator's perspective. The details of how to set tone should be defined as part of the pre-writing phase of proposal development. Correcting and smoothing, or harmonizing, the tone and authenticity is one of the goals of the improvement phase of writing. Improve proposal tone and authenticity by asking these questions:
Your proposal says a lot about you, your business, your people, your solution, and what you're like to work with. And your tone and authenticity are a powerful way to communicate the right message. Think of it this way, if your proposal was a person, who would they be? Would you want to work with you? The appropriate tone and authenticity are often remembered far longer than a solution description.
Crafting a winning proposal is a time-consuming business investment. It may take many review and improvement cycles to achieve the proposal quality today's evaluators crave for the win. At this crossroad, take the high road; revise to improve quality and elevate your win probability.
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