The difference between technical writing and proposal writing

Very few can do both types of writing well.

Technical writers value clarity and accuracy. People must be able to not only understand their instructions, but follow them. Technical writers describe carefully. They help people learn and execute tasks.

Proposal writers put things in context. A descriptive proposal is a bad proposal. Proposal writers seek the alignment between the RFP, the offering, and the bid strategies. They position for advantage. They explain what matters about processes, instead of how to follow the process. They do not describe. Instead, they translate what needs to be known into what matters from the customer’s perspective. They help evaluators learn only what they need to know to make their selection.

Even though both are writers, both are writing for a purpose, and both believe they can express what needs to be expressed, very few people can do both types of writing well.

All proposal writing needs to make a point and not simply inform. The points made in a proposal involve positioning against everything that will impact the evaluators' decision. These typically include how the buyer will benefit from the offering, how the proposal relates to the evaluation criteria, and everything that matters to the customer. Proposal writers tell a story.

Both technical writers and proposal writers need to anticipate the questions their readers will have. However, proposal writers position their answers to put them in the context that gives them the best chance of being selected.

Both technical writers and proposal writers need to understand their reader’s perspective to translate what they want to communicate into terms the reader will best understand. However, proposal writers must anticipate the reader’s reaction and put things into terms that have the best chance of getting selected.

A proposal writer and a technical writer might start with the exact same subject matter to cover. A technical writer will produce a clear and accurate description of what needs to be known. A proposal writer will produce a rationale based on the subject matter, written from the customer’s perspective, that makes it clear why their offering is the best alternative. Instead of describing the details, the proposal writer will position those details to relate to the decision the customer is going to make. 

A technical writer and a proposal writer have different goals, they have different approaches, and they produce a very different document. Where a technical writer communicates what needs to be known in terms the reader can understand, a proposal writer considers how the details relate to the evaluation process and bid strategies, and then articulates what the customer needs to hear to be convinced. 

Great proposal writing requires information and insight into the customer’s perspective and how they will make their decision. Great proposal writing also requires insight into the best pursuit strategy.

Regardless of who you have writing your next proposal, your success will directly relate to your ability to position what you put in your proposal. Every single thing you say in your proposal should reflect your positioning. And while proposal writers will articulate your positioning, if you don’t bring the right customer awareness and bid strategies to them at the start of the proposal, you are asking them to write a winning proposal with both hands tied behind their backs.
 



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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

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.
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