I remember early in my career working on a proposal with someone who was complaining that it “didn’t sell!” Unfortunately, he couldn’t say why. It turns out that what drives selling in writing is how well your writing reflects the right win strategies and themes, and whether they are written from the customer’s perspective. There are a lot of things to consider and approaches to take when thinking about which themes you should use in a particular proposal. We’ve taken those considerations and turned them into a 12-item checklist that you can use four different ways:
- To help you get into position to win before the RFP is released, by gathering information, developing your positions, and communicating them to the potential customer. Without the checklist most companies won’t cover half the things on it (and that’s probably being generous).
- To help you decide whether to bid. If you can’t articulate your positioning in each area, that’s a really bad sign.
- To improve the instructions you give to your proposal writers, so that in addition to responding to the requirements, they put things in the right context to substantiate why the customer should select you.
- To provide criteria to validate the draft proposal against. Both proposal writers and reviewers know that the draft has to pass the checklist.
In each of the following areas you need to be able to articulate how to position your bid in order to win. So how do you position your bid against?
- Your company’s strategic plan
- Price and ROI
- The customer’s perspective
- Technical issues
- Management issues
- Locations, resources, and/or staffing
- Alternatives (including but not limited to competitors)
- The customer’s decision making or evaluation process
- External issues and trends
Our Proposal Recipe Library contains an elaboration of each of these topics, to help you articulate your positioning in each one.
Making sure you got it right...
When you run down the list, two critical things will become immediately apparent:
- Does it add up to anything? Is it a random collection of shallow slogans or do they relate to each other in a way that adds up to something compelling? The checklist will show whether you are telling a story or not. If they are all related, there’s a story there. They must add up to something meaningful for the customer to care about what you have proposed and select you from amongst their alternatives.
- Does it differentiate you? If they all say the same things that every bidder will say, then there’s nothing special about your bid and no reason for the customer to select you. Have you said anything more than that you’ll give them what they’ve asked for? If you haven’t then you are at best equal to your competitors, and at risk to any who are the least bit compelling.
The easiest way to make it add up to something and to differentiate yourself is to focus on the things that matter. If you go through the checklist and can articulate something that matters to the customer for each one, it should add up to something compelling. It will “sell!”
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The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.
In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.