Basics of Writing a Good Proposal

In every case when writing a proposal, your goal is to beat the competition and receive a contract award. This requires a persuasive presentation of your qualifications and experience that mitigates the risk of choosing your company and generating the confidence that you can meet or exceed the requirements identified in the request for proposal (RFP) and achieve their mission and objectives.

To achieve this goal, you must be persuasive in your response. This requires writing from a point of confidence that impacts those who are evaluating your presentation. Rather than say, “if this happens, we might do this,” you need to assume that you’ll be awarded the contract and write from an assumption that “upon contract award, we will do this or that.” So, understanding the perspective of those evaluating your proposal, know that they are primarily interested in working with a contractor who will meet their needs.

Know that they are not interested in anything except how you will accomplish their goals, so focus on providing all of the information they are requesting and leave out most other information that you feel might be interesting but is not specifically asked for. This is not an entertaining experience for those evaluating your proposal, but more of a chore, so you want to make it easy and straightforward for them to review your proposal.

Key here is to tell them what they want to hear, not what you want to tell them. It is about what they want, not about what you want. It is about their needs, not your needs. It is about the benefits you bring to the contract, not about what you will get from providing the services. So…keep it brief and to the point as much as possible and use their language, not your own.

A bit of redundancy is not necessarily a bad thing here as reinforcing the benefits you bring will only help keep their awareness of why they should award you the contract as opposed to another. Of course, you don’t want to just repeat the same thing over and over, but as the saying goes, “tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them, and then tell them what you told them.” You have opportunities to repeat this in your cover letter, executive summary, and conclusion.

When responding to a request for proposal, make it clear that you understand what it is that they are wanting to accomplish with this contract and focus all of your attention on describing how you will help them meet their goals and objectives. Again, it is about them and what they want, not you and your company. Make it about them and how they will benefit from your resources, experience, and technical approach. In other words, when describing what you will do to meet the requirements, identify why this is a good approach, why you use this methodology, why the people you’ll assign are the best for the job, and how your past experience proves that you will be successful implementing the requirements for this contract.

In each case, describe how they will benefit from everything that you are able to provide and why the methods you are advocating will benefit them. Support this with proofs and evidence that others have benefited from your methods. When you state how you will accomplish a particular task or by using certain resources, assume they will respond with a “so what” and pre-empt this by describing why do it that way, why those resources, and what the benefits they will receive by that approach.

The best way to see if you are writing from this perspective is to go back with a fresh view of your proposal and put yourself in their shoes so to speak, reading it as if you are the evaluator. Ask yourself how you feel emotionally about the company as you review the proposal response. Is everything clear and understandable. Does the proposal content give you confidence in the company’s ability to accomplish the contract goals technically, financially, with qualified personnel and resources, and with the professional results they are looking for.

When making statements, describe why you do it that way and how your clients have benefited from those solutions and procedures. Differentiate your company from the competition by identifying optional methods that are most likely being used by your competitors and reinforce that you have evolved from those methods to more effective approaches that have been proven over the years and appreciated by your clients for whom you have had similar requirements.

You are communicating with actual people, so be sure to write in manner that recognizes that there are real people reading and reviewing your response to their proposal request (RFP). Be specific and, as much as possible, avoid generalizations. Specifics make things tangible to the reader who then is better able to interact with what you are communicating. Communicate in a way that makes what you are saying real, rather than some kind of technical brief that no one wants to read. This way you are drawing the reader into the dialog. You want to get them nodding their heads as they evaluate your proposal and moving your response to the top of the list.