How to Write a Winning Proposal

2/18/15 11:39 AM David Hulsen RFP Responding

How does a below-average college student get prestigious internship offers from every single accounting firm to which he’d applied?

...And not just any accounting firms, but the top six accounting companies in the country.

That was the Wall Street Journal's question when they interviewed Clint Greenleaf, who had somehow managed to pull it off. 

His friends – with high GPAs and squeaky clean resumes – could not understand how Greenleaf, a class-cutting slacker, could receive attention from behemoth firms like Deloitte & Touche.

So how did he manage it? 

What was his secret?

Dressing neatly and being polite.

Greenleaf’s friends, while perhaps better qualified, did not present themselves professionally, and so fumbled opportunities that would have given their careers a serious leg up. 


The Take-Away

What does this mean for us? It means you can be the most qualified person in the world and still not get picked. You might can actually lose to someone less competent simply because they present better. 

The lesson of Greenleaf is as simple as it sounds: 

  • Be polite and courteous.
  • Be professional.
  • Dot your “i’s,” cross your “t’s,”
  • ...and double-check everything.

Writing a Winning Proposal 

This is especially important for writing effective proposals.

1. First impressions are important.

Don’t discredit your company’s qualifications by letting a careless mistake slip through the cracks. Issuers are looking for any reason not to select a candidate, and those reasons include glaring spelling errors or a misunderstanding of the services needed.

2. Respond quickly. 

Include your submission date as proof of eagerness. Automating your process is one way to help cut lead time on RFP response since many request the same information (like company history or employee bios). Rather than reinvent the wheel, save time by having this content prepared beforehand and reuse it effectively.

3. Rephrase word-for word 

Be courteous by re-phrasing the issuer’s requests word-for-word. It will make your RFP document easier to scan and search, making the evaluation process smoother for your future client.

A right impression can trump even the highest credentials.
Just ask Clint Greenleaf. 


So how do I apply this?

True RFP management means spending more time on the quality content, less on the admin. 

It's time to get back to the important work. We can help.

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Note: Greenleaf went on to start a publishing company after the success of his first booklet, “Attention to Detail: A Gentleman’s Guide to Professional Appearance.” Greenleaf Book Group boasts six titles on the New York Times’ best-seller list.