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How getting good at proposal writing can make you a better technical professional

Understanding proposal writing will give you better technical insight

Congratulations. You are a skilled technical professional. You have enough experience to know what works well and what doesn’t. But is that enough to be the best? Do you truly aspire to be the best anymore? Can you even define what the "best" is? 

Just what exactly does being the "best" really mean? More knowledge? More capability? More experience? Better insight? Faster? More capacity? The most certified? What about more relevance? What about better results? What does better results mean?

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Technical Approach

While proposal writing has sales as its goal, the act of proposal writing is more about the discovery of what matters than selling. Proposal writing requires understanding what "best" means.

Proposal writing requires learning what it will take to be the best alternative. Or simply to be the best. It’s not about incremental improvement. It’s about understanding what it will take to be the best and then figuring out what to do to become it. Winning consistently requires being good at this.

Proposals require you to measure where you are against what will make you the best alternative for the customer. Proposal writing teaches you that you can’t reach a plateau and stay there. Incumbency is not enough to win. Proposals are written to either beat the incumbent or beat any who would challenge the incumbent. Instead of incremental change to get a little better every day, working on proposals will teach you to embrace change and to change faster than anyone else to redefine and become the best every day.

Growth is the source of all opportunity in a company. But it’s not about the money. It’s about positioning for the future so that you can be far more than you are. This is true at the company level, it is true at the project level, and it is true at the personal level. To work on proposals is to contribute to the effort to bring growth to the company, your stakeholders, and yourself.

Working on proposals also teaches you to collaborate with all stakeholders, both inside your company and outside your company, to create something that is the best no matter how you look at or define it. Proposal writing teaches you to be relevant, have meaning, and to matter.

Proposals are about understanding the requirements. All of them. Including the ones that aren’t written. Proposal writing requires you to understand the context as well as the specifications. Learning to write proposals will teach you that the meaning of the specifications is to be found in the context, and what you do will be far more effective when it addresses the whole context.

Proposal writing will show you how to find the value in what you do. It’s easy to fall into the daily grind of just doing what you have to do. It’s good to realize that there’s hidden value in what you may not have realized. Learning to articulate that value helps you deliver more of it. Because every day in that daily grind, you are making decisions that add value. When you express it, you bring meaning to your work.

Proposals are about authenticity. The worst proposals I’ve written were last minute affairs where instead of the folks who understand the work to be done, I had to be the one to discover the value and create a vision for what the future could be, while doing this with a team that was not creative enough to see themselves in that future and who just barely tolerated it. Proposals should be something you get to do and not something you have to do. The best proposals I’ve worked on were with teams who even though they hadn’t thought of expressing their value that way (or at all), got excited by it and realized their efforts could amount to something meaningful, compelling, and worth being proud of. A proposal like that ends not only with a great submission, but also with people who are changed and ready to take on the future. It ends with people who know what "best" is and are ready to become it.

And that’s something that can help them take their technical skills to a whole new level.

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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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