20 questions and an example that shows why every proposal is different

People often think their RFPs are more similar than they really are

Ordinary proposal writing is not competitive. Ordinary proposal writing fulfills the customer’s requirements. If you want an ordinary proposal, you can recycle something already written that fulfills the requirements.

In competitive proposal writing, fulfilling the requirements only means that you get evaluated and compete against other companies that also fulfill the requirements. In competitive proposal writing, the reason why behind the requirements is more important than the requirement itself. In competitive proposal writing, what will result from the requirement’s fulfillment is more important than the requirement itself. In competitive proposal writing, context is everything.

The reasons driving the requirements and the results desired are rarely the same, even when what is being procured is the same. The result is that every proposal is different. Every proposal has a different context.

Consider the write-up for one of the most boring parts of a proposal, the “Organization” section within a Management Plan. If you just grab the corporate org chart and drop it in, you may have fulfilled the requirement, but you will not be competitive.

Not only should the org chart be redrawn for every proposal, but the explanation of it should be re-written as well. Consider the following questions.

See also:
Reuse
  • Does the RFP require you to name names?
  • Does the RFP require a project level, corporate level, or both?
  • Does the RFP require you to show where the customer fits in?
  • Does the RFP require you to show points of contact?
  • Does the RFP require you to show teaming partners?
  • Does the RFP require you to show all staff?
  • Where does the evaluation criteria provide you with opportunities to score points through how you depict your organization: technical capabilities, experience, management, quality, staffing, or something else?
  • How does the customer’s unwritten requirements impact how the project should be organized?
  • Does the customer prefer a flat chart or hierarchy?
  • Would the customer prefer to see capability, functionality/roles, or qualifications?
  • What does the customer like or not like about their previous vendor relationships that you can address in how you organize for this project?
  • What matters to the customer?
  • Is the customer concerned about authority or lines of communication?
  • Does the customer seek partnership or control?
  • Does the customer see the organizational chart as a demonstration of your functional capability?
  • Is the customer concerned about scalability?
  • Is the customer concerned about coverage?
  • Does the customer care about the corporate level, project level, or both?
  • What will your competitor’s organizational structure look like?
  • How should you position your organization against your competitors?

Do you still think you should just drop in a “standard” organizational chart?

Can you see why the context matters more to the customer than the fact that you’ve provided an org chart as required?

Can you see why every customer will be different? Can you see why even bids to the same customer often have a different context?

If you think there is a lot to consider regarding the context of a boring organization write-up, imagine how important the context must be to other sections of the proposal.

What should drive your response is what you want the customer to conclude about you when they review it. The answer to this will depend on the:

  • Reasons why driving the customer’s requirements
  • Customer’s preferences
  • Competitive environment
  • Customer’s desired results from the procurement
  • Customer’s evaluation criteria

Maybe you can start from an existing write-up and customize it. Or maybe having an existing write-up will prevent you from seeing when the context has changed enough that you should throw it out and create something specific to the context of this bid. It’s safe and easy to recycle something that is compliant. It’s just not competitive.


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Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, 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.

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