8 Quick Tips - How to Improve Your Proposal Before 5pm Today
Responding to RFPs is a grueling process. As any business development professional knows, the hours upon hours poured into a proposal -- that you may not win are discouraging to say the least.
But like clockwork, after long streaks of low batting averages, there are moments of brilliance. Your team gives everything they've got for a proposal, and your stunningly perfect document wins. Suddenly, Requests-for-Proposal are relevant again, and your team is a little bit more enthusiastic about writing the next one.
But, let's be honest, you can’t spend that much time perfecting every proposal. So then what? If you can’t depend on a couple of home runs, how can you streamline the process to collect several base hits?
Here are a few quick tips – each of which can be accomplished by the end of today – that will instantly make your proposal a better document, regardless of the industry or project.
1. Research the organization
Begin by trying to understand the Purchaser's needs. Are they issuing the RFP because their last provider failed to deliver? Or, are they issuing it out of protocol, and the winning candidate has already been chosen? Your investigation can help you shape your RFP – or inform your decision to respectfully decline a response altogether.
Either way, a little research will help you focus on quality, and give you a greater chance of winning the project.
2. Re-state their objectives/goals
Especially if your proposal is delivered electronically, the issuing team will likely skim and search your document for specific keyword pairings to expedite the evaluation process. You want to make it incredibly easy to find information. Use their terminology...not yours.
3. Keep it brief
Delete any and all of your copy that covers fluff about your company’s ongoing capabilities and skills.
If it isn’t relevant to the project’s scope, it isn’t relevant. The issuing team is likely to be slammed with other responses to read; don’t waste their time. If they can't find your key points, they'll likely chuck the whole thing and move on.
It can feel risky to not put everything on the table, but just remember the old adage: “less is more.”
4. Include testimonials
The most persuasive sell is never our own, but our customers. So make sure you highlight their explanations of the value and ROI of your products/service. Especially if you can quote testimonials from similar projects/companies.
The Purchasing team’s interest will be piqued when they see what you've done for people like them. Especially when their competitors and colleagues names are on the list.
5. Check spelling manually
Don't get us wrong, auto spell check and plug-ins like Grammarly are awesome. But completely relying on the spelling and grammar tools in text editors won’t catch the difference between things like “its” and “it’s," "their" and "there."
And a good proposal begins with being clean, and grammatically correct. Read it out loud, you'd be surprised how many mistakes you'll catch just from reading it out aloud.
Also, be absolutely certain you refer to the issuing company correctly in all instances. Especially if you copy and paste a lot from past responses -- make sure you update any company references.
6. Get estimates
Consider whether the project would require you to outsource or farm out any work. Then make sure to get an accurate estimate from your provider(s) before you finalize your numbers.
Never guess numbers for them, regardless of the closeness of your relationship. If you have to, give them a range.
7. Consider your “packaging”
In other words, how will your proposal look when it is received by your prospect?
If you were the Purchasing team, would you be impressed? Confused? Straining to read the type? Annoyed with how the formatting causes just one line to run to the next page?
You can’t be too vain when evaluating the look of your proposal.
8. 'Be' your Audience
It's never about you, it's about them.
Your audience cares less about your company’s qualifications and more about how your services would benefit them.
So focus all on your rhetoric and content to how your company will improve their profitability and make their lives easier.