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4 techniques for designing quality into your proposals from the beginning

Getting it right from the beginning is less costly and has a higher win probability than fixing it after the draft is written

1) Is what you’re offering really the best? 

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Content Planning Box

Having the best people is not good enough. You need the best people with the best processes. But even having the best people and best processes isn’t even good enough. You need the best people and the best processes supported by the best:

  • Quality assurance
  • Tools
  • Executive oversight
  • Issue resolution
  • Resource allocation
  • Communication

Oh, and you need them to have the best impact on the stakeholders and deliver the best results. If you merely propose the most qualified people and don’t demonstrate the rest, your proposal will be vulnerable to someone who is more competitive. Claiming it is not enough. If you "already do these things" you may need to formalize your processes to make what you do tangible in your proposal.

To design quality into your proposal you must think through how all these impact what you need to say in your proposal before you start writing it. Can you show how your approaches to these things reinforce each other to provide a better solution for the customer? Will your approach deliver more of what the customer wants than anyone else’s proposal?

To design quality into your proposal, what you write must be based on a winning design. If you write your proposal in hopes of discovering what it will take to win, you’ll never find it. Design your offering based on what it will take to win and then design your proposal around it.

2) Do you have more insight than anyone else?

Is what you’re proposing based on better ideas? Have you applied your awareness about the customer to creating a better offering? Do you see opportunities to more reliably achieve better results than anyone else? Do you have the kind of ideas that make the customer want to do business with you? Instead of claiming understanding, are you demonstrating understanding by offering something that will deliver more of what the customer really wants than anyone else? Or are you merely responding to the same requirements that everyone else is responding to, and hoping to be just little bit better?

To design quality into your proposal, show insight in every paragraph. Show insight in what you choose. Show insight in why you do the things you do. Show insight in how you will deliver. And show insight about what the customer will get as a result.

3) Are you delivering what the evaluator needs to see to do their job?

If you are writing in hope of saying things the evaluator will like, you are not designing quality into your proposal. You are fishing and hoping for a bite. To design quality into your proposal, before you type the first word you should understand how the evaluator will do their job. Will they divide the proposal into sections? How will they approach establishing RFP compliance? How will they score it? What will they be looking for? What will they consider a strength? Or a weakness? Do they care about you or just the offering? What are their concerns? 

To design quality into your proposal, build it around the evaluation. Help them do their job by giving them the information they need to conclude that you are their best alternative. What you want to say about yourself is irrelevant to them. 

4) What makes you so special?

Are your approaches more than the same “best practices” everyone proposes? Why should the customer care about what you are proposing? Why should they care about your company? What is it they do care about? To design quality into your proposal you should build it around the things they care about. To win, they must care more about your proposal than anyone else’s proposal. This starts with giving them a difference to care about. What differentiates your proposal? What will turn your proposal into the one they compare all the others to?

To design quality into your proposal, you need answers to questions like these. But you will only have limited information. Focus on what matters about what you do know. Simply responding to the RFP is not enough to be competitive.

What is the process for designing quality into your proposals?

It really just comes down to not trying to think things through by writing about them. This only ensures that you figure it all out after the proposal is written, when there isn’t enough time to do anything about what you’ve learned. Half of having a proposal process is simply thinking things through before you write. The method you choose for this hardly matters. But we recommend Proposal Content Planning because it’s got the flexibility you need to survive the messy real world of proposals. It amounts to a minimally structured approach to identify the ingredients that should go into your proposal before you write it, including not only what you should write about but also how you should present it. Doing this is actually more important than reviewing the draft proposal on the back end, even though that’s what amateurs obsess over.

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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, 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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