I was complaining to a proposal writer yesterday. She, like myself, is charged with the task of winning new business for her company both in marketing and in responding to RFPs. We lamented about the all challenges it involves and compared our favorite tools and tips for making it easier.
Skip ahead and get all our winning RFP response tips in this easy eBook.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to writing proposals and some formats don’t translate well to specific industries. However, there are key pieces of information that proposals should have.
Here are some common themes found among numerous professional services industries.
First thing’s first—show the client that you understand the problem at hand.
Paint a clear picture by restating known objectives and giving a preview of your solution and approach. It’s important to let the client know you have knowledge of the current landscape and can provide the best solution.
Although the overview is the first section, pushingsnowballs.com suggests you write it last. That way, you can pull out the main points from your overall RFP response to craft a more effective summary. Remember to keep it clear and concise.
About us, also known as “Management Overview,” this section is about you and why you are qualified to do this work.
Brag about yourself a little.
Set yourself apart from the competition by being creative about your strengths. You aren’t small; you’re adaptive. You aren’t inexperienced; you bring a fresh new perspective. Be proud of your accomplishments. This is your time to shine, so show the client what makes you unique.
Lay out the contract schedule using milestones and key dates. This will help the client visualize where they’ll be in the future. What will their world look like?
Cite when you will finish certain tracks of work and what outcomes the client can expect. (Don’t get into specifics just yet—you can sort that out in the implementation plan.)
How will you manage the contract in terms of supervision, communication, and quality assurance? Will you conduct status meetings? How often? What sort of specific information will you report regularly?
Here’s where you can sort out the details. The work plan should tie into the overall schedule summary and will likely include some assumptions and time estimates.
A matrix works as an effective way to display this information.
Some people like to use week 0, week 1, etc. instead of specific dates. That is especially helpful if you don’t have a firm start date mandated. However, try to be as specific as possible.
Other details to include are:
- Risks or potential problems
- Location of the work or team (on-site, off-site)
- Project staffing (by name or job title)
In some cases, the Project Manager handles the implementation plan. Just remember not to be too aggressive and set your team up for failure.
While answering the required questions, be on the lookout for bias. Pay close attention to the language used in each question to determine if the client seems to favor one approach versus another.
If so, it may be an indication that your competitor got to the client first. See if you can overcome bias through education and awareness.
References & Case Studies
People like to read about past successes. Sometimes potential clients will want to talk to or visit references, so having agreeable past clients is always good.
Other times clients are looking for companies that had similar problems and want to read case studies. How did you help your customers solve their problems?
OpenOffice offers a number of templates to help you create proposals quickly. It’s free and works well with Office apps.
These sites also offer free proposal templates:
Productive Proposals: Proposal Management Software
We all agree content is king. But it's not enough to just create it; we have to be able to find it, revise it, collaborate, and deliver consistent results.
Tools like proposal software can help your team get more wins in less time. Our looks like this, but whatever system you choose, it should help your team do 3 things more efficiently:
- Manage knowledge: it should centralize your RFP database, making it easy to find and edit past responses.
- Collaborate: the beauty of cloud-based software is there is only version, and it's easy to collaborate.
- Track tasks: make your progress transparent, visualizing who is working on what, and how much is done.
(Click photo to download free eBook)
Intrigued? Not sure if you really need proposal management software? Learn more about what any proposal writing software should do, how it can enhance your RFP responses, and whether it's right for you.
Curious how much time our RFP management software saves us on RFP responses? See for yourself.
Persuasive Proposals: Writing Tools
Great writing resources
- 10 Simple Edits That'll Instantly Improve Any Piece of Writing.
- Want to write & sell more convincingly? Hubspot’s Sales and Marketing blogs are a great place to start.
- From the infamous writing guru Ann Handley, A Writing GPS: The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Next Piece of Content [Infographic].
- Want to make your proposal more poignant? Here are 317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer.
- Straight from the horses mouth - what Buyers say they love (and hate) in an RFP response.
Pretty Proposals: Design Tools
Just like we "dress for success" we should make sure our proposals look both professional and are visually appealing.
This list is a great place to start, it covers 42 free and/or cheap marketing tools, to help you with everything from fonts, to mockups, to palette pickers.
*Image credit: Piktochart
Our favorite commercial-project-approved stash of free photos resources:
- Unsplash (gorgeous pictures from professional photographers)
- Hubspot’s 550+ Royalty-Free Stock Photos You Can Download Now
- New Old Stock (vintage photos from public archives)
- Public Domain Archive photos
For easy (and free) infographics & image editing:
For additional resources check out this eBook
[Editor's note: this blog was originally published March 20, 2015, but has been updated for clarity and accuracy.]