Writing Winning Proposals

Writing winning proposals is essential if you are to be successful in today’s competitive environment. Competition increases by the day; especially so in a tender situation. Clients can and often do receive many formal offers in response to their requirements. Faced with volume and time pressures, how many proposals actually get more than a cursory glance? Which ones are going to catch ones eye? Some may never actually be fully read. Getting a proposal read and actioned upon is therefore a top priority.

You may even lose out with clients with whom you have an existing and established relationship simply because you are too close to the situation. This can lead to complacency, resulting in writing an ineffective proposal. Thinking you are on the same wavelength you simply send in a brief quote only to find out the competition have nailed their proposal and you are left out in the cold.

It therefore makes sense to respond to client requirements and deliver a compelling proposal that will win the business.

Here are my top tips when writing a proposal.

  1. Imagine each proposal is for a new client. You need to put yourself in their shoes. Establish their needs as accurately as possible. Ask yourself what’s in it for them? Build the proposal around their needs and not yours.
  2. Ensure that your proposal has a clear selling point which addresses client need.
  3. Include a table of contents so that client can easily find relevant information without any fuss or bother. Like an effective website, a proposal needs to be easy to navigate. Finding information quickly and easily should be a key point in developing your structure.
  4. The first page should be an executive summary and include salient points including headline financials and return on investment data.
  5. Avoid using the proposal to show off your knowledge and skills by including everything you know and throwing in the kitchen sink for good measure. A major reason for proposals not being read is too much information! The devil is in the detail, makes for boring reading. Short and to the point is better than long and laborious. If you must include detail use appendices.
  6. Check the numbers. If you they do not add up, then the client will discount all other data and information in the offer. Summarise totals.
  7. Ensure that you have included your full contact information including out of hours contact, emergency numbers etc. Include who in your organization will be responsible for the management of the contract.
  8. Avoid using technical jargon. Use words and pictures that your prospect can easily identify with. Do not use acronyms. Include a vocabulary list if appropriate.
  9. Go to some lengths to make the proposal look smart. Use spine binders or ring binders to give a professional look to the proposal.
  10. Consider the visual impact of the front page. Include prospects logo into the design if available.
  11. Use tables to make masses of numbers easier to read and follow.
  12. Take the user through a logical sequence of pages that demonstrates competence and capability to deliver the solution; Executive Summary, Client brief, Our Solution, Testimonials/Credentials, Terms and conditions, appendices.
  13. Keep the terms and conditions as simple as possible. Nobody likes hidden surprises. The less complicated you make details like payments and delivery terms, the better your chances of winning the bid.
  14. Include independent testimonials of similar work which can be verified. Testimonials are really important in creating a can do image.
  15. Ask someone who has not been involved in creating or putting the proposal together to proof read it. This way you can get some independent constructive feedback on how the document reads.
  16. Use quality paper to stop any text bleed through (minimum 90gsm coated paper).
  17. Do not cut and paste client brief. Demonstrate understanding of client requirements by paraphrasing. Avoid using “as specified” to lighten your work load. This is simply lazy and can get you into hot water should you win the bid and you have not included vital components of the bid in your costing.
  18. Include copyright statement and protect intellectual property where appropriate by asking client to sign a prior disclosure agreement.

Whilst there are no guarantees on what constitutes a well structured and written proposal, if you take into account these proposal writing guidelines, I am confident you will improve your chances of getting the proposal read and ultimately improve those all important  bid to win ratios.

Good Luck.