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14 examples of proposal writing that show how to exceed RFP compliance in ways that don’t cost a dime

Because RFP compliance is not enough to win.

When I tell people that they should exceed RFP compliance if they want to win, they often reply “But if we do that we’ll be too expensive.” When I point out that you can go beyond the RFP without it actually costing anything, they often reply with “But how do we do that?” Well, here’s how…

Proposal writing examples

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1) Focus on “why” in addition to compliance. Show that because you will not only meet the specifications, you have better judgment, so you are the better alternative for the customer to select.

The reason we do [RFP requirement] by [differentiated approach] is that it [mitigates risk|improves quality|achieves a benefit].

2) Make something common uncommon. Everyone is going to propose a quality assurance plan. What makes yours special? Everyone is going to have an approach to staffing the project. Everyone is going to be compliant (at least the only competitors to be concerned about will be). Everyone can do the work. Everyone has experience. How companies do these things is mostly routine. So in everything you do, what can you do so that it is not routine?

Our approach to [quality|something else] goes beyond the [double checking|something else] it should so that it also serves as a [project management|design|something else] tool. This not only ensures [goal] but also adds value by [additional benefit].

3) Focus on how you will deliver instead of what you will deliver. This works best when the RFP forces everyone to bid the same thing. Everyone who makes the competitive range will be compliant. If you are going to differentiate, you have to do it without adding to the cost. So don’t change what you will deliver, just deliver it in a better way.

By [differentiated approach] we ensure [better|faster|more reliable] [delivery|implementation|execution].

4) Use compliance to solve a problem that others leave unspoken. Everyone will be compliant. But you can show more value delivered by talking about the problems you will solve while being compliant. This is also much more compelling then telling the customer you’ll do what they asked you to do.

By meeting the required deadline for [requirement] we ensure we have enough time later to [second requirement] This [mitigates the risk|something else] of [problem] and ensures we can [benefit]. 

5) Ghost the competition. Explain why if someone else doesn’t do things the way you do they’ll be unacceptable.

We do [differentiated approach] because it [avoids a problem|mitigates a risk|ensures compliance|adds value]. A contractor that doesn’t do this will expose the customer to unacceptable risk of noncompliance and [other problems].

6) Offer something intangible. Intangible benefits are difficult to quantify and usually less compelling. But as a last resort, they can sometimes earn you a few points in evaluation.

Because we have experience with [reference], we can better anticipate problems like [examples].

7) Make something intangible tangible. Do you provide better quality? Are you faster? More reliable? More experienced? More capable? More responsive? More flexible? If you simply claim these attributes, they will be ignored. What can you do to make them tangible? Can you quantify it? Can you draw a picture? Can you provide an example? Can you make the impact clear? Making intangible differences tangible can be challenging. Which is why most of your competitors will not do it and why if you do it you can outscore them. 

The reason our services are of better quality is that we define it. See Exhibit X for a sample of the quality criteria we use. We use one checklist for each task assignment to ensure that we can define success. We use the second checklist after completion to verify that we delivered as promised. By simply checking the boxes, we accumulate performance metrics that identify trends, uncover problems, and support making decisions such as resource allocation. The result is tangibly better quality of service.

8) Quantify things they don’t. Take the key tradeoff decisions from your basis of estimate (BOE) and explain why they are the right choices. Or explain why your capacities beyond what the RFP requires mitigate risks or provide other benefits. 

In addition to the X staff required for this project, we have an additional X staff who enable us to respond quickly in the event of turnover or a change in the requirements.

9) Address the stakeholders. You may be delivering the exact same thing, but by citing benefits to the customer's users, partners, executives, and other stakeholders you can show greater value.

We will leverage [compliance with requirement] to ensure that [needs] of [customer]’s stakeholders are not only met but that they also [receive benefits]. 

10) Don’t just comply, accomplish the goal. Make the benefits of everything you do achieve the goals the customer has for conducting the procurement. While everyone will be compliant, you will be accomplishing something that matters to them.

We will achieve [goal] by [approach to compliance with RFP requirements] so that [bigger picture]. 

11) Offer a better future. Think of it as a long-term relationship. What are the possibilities down the road? 

In addition to [required capability] we bring capabilities in [related but not required]. As [project] matures, these additional capabilities will become more relevant and could position [customer] to better meet its future goals.

12) Be easier to work with. If you’ve got several vendors who can all supply what you want at a reasonable price, who would you pick? Would it be one that’s uninspiring but compliant, or one that seems super helpful? A lot depends on what you’re procuring. Is it a bit uncertain? Outside your area of expertise? Complicated? Sometimes being easy to work with matters a lot to the customer even though it’s not part of the specifications.

In several important ways, our approach adapts to [customer]’s preferences. Since they require similar level of effort, we will consult with [customer] to determine which of the following approach options you prefer. 

13) Exceed the specifications. If you can complete the transition in half the time, then do that and explain how the customer will benefit. If some of the performance specifications are easy to meet, offer to accept a tougher standard that you know you can still meet. Because others won’t.

While the requirement is that monthly reports be delivered on time 90% of the time, we commit to delivering these reports on time 98% of the time. The difference is that we will be late five times less than our competitors who merely comply with the RFP.

14) Be more compliant than compliant. Offer compliance that goes beyond the RFP. When customers care about compliance, it is usually because they have things they have to comply with.

In addition to complying with the RFP requirements, we will ensure that the work is performed according to [relevant laws, regulations, and directives].

Do you want to submit an ordinary proposal or a great proposal?

Taking approaches like these enables you to go from submitting an ordinary proposal to submitting a proposal that is better. And you can do this with any RFP, no matter how specific or limiting the requirements. You can do these things without adding any cost to what you are offering. And if you are in a best value competition, you can take each of these things further by investing time or resources into turning them into differentiators and then quantifying the difference in value to the customer.

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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.

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