Author Richard C. Freed offers an insightful observation in his book Writing Winning Business Proposals. He says of proposals:
“Although a few are outstanding, most aren’t. Many offend with ‘cut-and-paste’ boilerplate, miss important opportunities to provide value, suffer from poor logic and organization, and focus more on you than on me and my organization. Although some do a few things well, some don’t do much well at all.”
With all the time and effort that goes into compiling a business proposal, we definitely don’t want to be in the ‘don’t do much well at all’ category! After all, proposals aren’t selected but eliminated. The last one standing is the only one that matters in the end. How do you get your proposal to hold its ground in comparison to all the others?
Cover every ground
Your goal should be to write that proposal that cannot be eliminated on the grounds of content. The first step to ensure that your proposal covers all the requirements is to hold a ‘Kickoff Meeting’. This is where all collaborators needed to put together the proposal have a detailed discussion on the components of the proposal. The Proposal Manager will clearly define production schedules, the responsibility matrix, and the pressure points that could develop.
A proposal team would ideally involve:
1) Proposal Team Lead
2) Technical matter experts
3) Business manager/client liaison
5) Production and graphics representatives
Getting it right in the Kickoff Meeting contributes to ensuring that all aspects of the proposal are being looked into.
How XaitPorter helps: XaitPorter’s superb document collaboration features help to ensure that all collaborators are on schedule and have access to the proposal in its different stages. It gives the Proposal Manager/Team Lead complete control over the process so he can ensure that nothing is being overlooked. Instead of having to wait till the whole proposal is compiled in order to identify discrepancies, he will be able to identify and weed out mistakes or suggest additions in real time!
Clarity above all things!
In a report compiled by evaluating the short-comings of 605 proposals rejected by the National Institutes of Health, it was seen that nearly 28.8% of proposals are rejected because “The description of the approach is too nebulous, diffuse, and lacking in clarity to permit adequate evaluation.”
Remember that the evaluators are going to be sifting through numerous proposals; wordy, long winded sentences and a confusing plot is the last thing they need. A few suggestions:
- Keep sentences short (less than 17 words definitely!).
- Arrange your material in a logical manner. Bullet points work wonders.
- Stick to an approved format.
How XaitPorter helps: XaitPorter makes it easy to create templates for business proposals that can be modified to suit the particular requirements of every proposal. Automatic formatting, layout and numbering will ensure that your content is presented in the best possible manner, contributing immensely towards crystal clear clarity!
Do not oversell
Experienced proposal evaluators develop an intuition when it comes to fluff and oversell. Granted, a proposal has to highlight your company and your commitment to providing the best; you will have to marshal arguments in your favor. But when you overdo it, you lose credibility and it’s most likely they will see the rest of your proposal in that light.
In one of its research papers on Business proposals, The Association of Record for Bid, Proposal, Business Development, Capture and Graphics Professionals, APMP in short, gives some suggestions on words to avoid when writing a business proposal:
|Best efforts||Reasonable efforts|
|Ensure||Will assist in|
|Guarantee||Will use reasonable effort to|
|Will meet your needs/requirements||Our approach addresses your requirements|