After you do a few hundred proposal reviews, they can become like déjà vu. Here are 10 problems we see over and over:
- A lack of differentiators
- Poor strategic or competitive positioning
- Copy that isn’t written from the customer’s perspective, that focuses on your own company’s attributes (qualifications, approach, capabilities) instead of what the customer will get as a result of them
- Claiming understanding by stating it, instead of demonstrating it through results
- Using universal statements, truisms, patronizing statements, and passive voice
- Statements without explanations of why they matter or how the customer will benefit
- Failure to comply with the RFP instructions
- Failure to address the evaluation criteria and optimize your score
- Failure to communicate visually and use graphics
- Building to a strong finish instead of having a strong introduction and substantiating it
But identifying the problems is the easy part.
The hard part comes when the people who wrote the original proposal have to fix it. Most of the problems in the list above are a result of bad habits. You can describe the problem and point out the exact location in the proposal where it exists, and a writer with bad habits may not be able to fix it.
That is why we’ve started conducting our reviews a little differently. We don’t just describe the problems, we teach the writers how to fix them. After the review, we hold a training session that is based on the exercises we have on PropLIBRARY targeting the problems described above. But instead of using the exercises “as is” we use statements taken from the proposal so that they have to correct their own words.
We pull out problem sentences or paragraphs from the proposal, and have each person on the team re-write them. We put the re-written statements on a document projector so that everyone can see. Then we compare and contrast to see what works well as what doesn’t. Everyone writes. Everyone sees. They learn to recognize the bad, as well as the good. We get to see which writers are able to break their bad habits, and which are still struggling. We stick around for another day and provide one-on-one coaching to make sure they can make the changes needed.
When we do this on site, it typically takes about three days with this approach, to review, debrief, teach, and coach. That means it’s only applicable to proposals written by a team that is collocated and can schedule a three-day review cycle. But the result is a much higher probability of being able to successfully implement the changes, which results in a proposal with a much higher probability of winning.
It also benefits future proposals. It changes the expectations of what a well-written proposal looks like and it enhances the skills of the staff you use to write your proposals. Future reviews with the same staff will see better results and faster recovery times.
The same approach can be implemented remotely. It’s a little cheaper, it’s a little less effective, and it’s a whole lot more flexible and convenient.
You can implement this approach on your own. The key is the exercises and being able to customize them using content from the proposal. It may help to use the exercises available on PropLIBRARY as a starting point.
You can also engage us to conduct the review with integrated exercise-based training. If you bring us in for a three-day review during the month of May, we’ll throw in a free PropLIBRARY Corporate Subscription to increase the takeaway value and long term benefits.
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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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