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Do this before you start proposal writing

It will go faster and increase your win probability if you do...

Put the RFP aside, just for a moment. Meditate or ponder on the following before you start typing.

Ask yourself, "Why should the customer select my offering over their other alternatives."

Reach beyond your company's experience and qualifications. Reach all the way to why the customer will be better off if they select you, and how what they will get will be superior if they select you. Consider what matters or should matter to the customer about what you are going to write about.

See also:
Great Proposals

Now look at it through the lens of differentiation. What are the reasons why the customer should select you that no one else can offer? How will what the customer gets by selecting you be different and better than what anyone else can offer?

Take all of that and consolidate it into the points you want to make. Everything you write should make a point. You don't want to write a pointless proposal.

When you know what points you want to make you are ready to start organizing your proposal sections. In what sequence should you address your points? How should you group them? It’s time to go back to the RFP.

Look at the instructions in the RFP before you look at the performance requirements. Build your organization around what the instructions ask for. Be very literal and use their words and headings. Figure out how to reorganize the points you want to make within the RFP's instructions. Do not get too attached to how you want to organize things. Organize them so that everything is where the customer expects to find them. And that will be where the RFP asks for them.

Next look at the evaluation criteria in the RFP. What do they need to see for you to get the maximum score? Again, be very literal and use their words. Rewrite the points you want to make so that they maximize your score against the RFP. You want the customer to be able to easily give you the highest score because of the points you made. You want the customer to be able to find the evaluation criteria by keyword searching for them.

Now look at the performance requirements in the RFP. Whatever you do, don't try to figure out your approaches by writing about them. Figure out your approaches first, and do it separately from proposal writing. 

The last thing to do before proposal writing is to bring it all together. Organize your responses to the performance requirements according to the points you want to make (which follow the instructions have you have optimized to score highly). Writing to fulfill the RFP requirements is good, but it is not good enough to win. To write a winning proposal, you must write your response to the performance requirements to prove the points that will persuade the customer that you are their best alternative and give you the highest score. This is your goal, and not merely describing your company or your offering.

If you get to this point and are struggling, try looking at it in reverse. Each of your responses to the RFP performance requirements should make a point, and that point is not simply "here's what you asked for." That point should differentiate your offering and get to the heart of what the customer really wants. But it should also be worded to maximize your score against the RFP evaluation criteria. And it must be organized and presented to comply with the RFP instructions.

Every time you are in doubt about what to write or find yourself struggling to edit something into what it needs to be, go back and reflect on what points you should be making. Focus on proving the points you need to make and the words will follow.

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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