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Proposal writing before RFP release

The best way to get an early start is to prepare to articulate the strategies, points of emphasis, and context that should be incorporated into your response to the RFP requirements.

The best way to get an early start on the proposal is not to try writing to the anticipated requirements. In fact, the less narrative you produce before you see the RFP the better. You want the text of the proposal to be built from the ground up around what it will take to win, according to the RFP instructions and evaluation criteria. Until you have the RFP, you can’t do that.

What you can do is prepare to articulate the strategies, points of emphasis, and context that should be incorporated into your response to the RFP requirements. For each section of a typical proposal, we have prepared a list of questions that should help you draw out the right information.

The questions in each section are designed to provoke thought and not to produce specific answers in a specific format. Feel free to add questions if you think of something related. 

Step 1. Answer the Questions
For each question, make a bullet list of possible answers. If you can’t answer a question or aren’t sure what it means, then skip it. It’s probably not a driver of your strategies.

See also:
Proposal writing before the rfp is released

If you think of something and aren’t sure what question to put it under, just put it at the end. Capturing your ideas is far more important than matching them up to questions. You can put in notes, annotations, placeholders, action items, and even questions for other participants. You can even put in weaknesses that you aren’t sure how to counter. Think of this as a container that will be passed around until you have everything in it that you need. 

Try to identify what things will drive the strategies and context for the proposal. Don’t try to nail the final wording, just identify the elements. If the same element could go under different questions, just put it under one of them. There is no need to be redundant with your responses.

Step 2. Convert the answers into strategies and context
The goal of the effort is to arrive at RFP release being able to describe the strategies, conclusions, and context that the authors should substantiate. This should enable you to prepare instructions for proposal writers that go being simply responding to the RFP requirements, and instead instruct them how to respond to the RFP requirements in a way that:

  • Explains how your response to the RFP requirements matters
  • Shows what the customer will get out of what you propose
  • Differentiates what you propose from the competition
  • Substantiates the conclusions you want the customer to reach
  • Identifies the key points of emphasis you’d like to make

In the final version, you want to have the source material to improve the instructions you will give to the proposal writers when you prepare the Proposal Content Plan after the RFP is released.


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