|For proposal writers, the task of
responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP) can be quite daunting. In addition to the
pressure of getting the best proposal in on time, defining an effective approach to the
response poses several dilemmas.
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For example, the various
proposal team members may argue that their respective contribution is worth the most
attention; the IT specialist will argue that the solution is the heart of the
response, while the Sales manager will wade in with a sharp sales pitch.
Of course, they all have a valid
point; but you need to assimilate each contribution into the final document from the
Avoid Bidder-Centric Proposals
previous considerations in mind, you need to avoid a situation whereby the final proposal
is bidder-centric, In other words, you have placed your solution at the heart of the bid.
From the customers perspective, these bids tend to come across as ME-ME-ME.
A more successful approach is to place
the customer smack dab in the middle of your response. Everything has to revolve
around their needs, which, of course, is the way it should be.
Customer-centric proposals make you
(i.e. the government contractor) feel that this is written for you in person; not written
down at you.
Lets see how we can write proposals
that put the client at the center of the response.
To do this, you need to answer the
following seven questions.
1. What is the main problem?
State their problem in one sentence.
If you cant do this, you havent understood their problem.
There is no point writing anything
until you get this clarified. Read the proposal again.
2. Why does this issue need to be resolved?
You need to look beyond the obvious,
and ask yourself: what are the unstated
reasons that are not covered in this proposal?
Every bidder will see the most
obvious business drivers; they are in the RFPs executive summary. Instead, dig a little
Work out what are the three most
likely reasons that they have produced this bid?
For example, the proposal may be in
response to new government legislation or a perceived competitive threat.
3. What goal needs to be accomplished?
In reality, the client will have
several goals they need to accomplish.
One suggestion is to visit
their website and download the most recent annual report. This will often outline
the long-term objectives that they wish to achieve, e.g. business expansions, new product
lines, references to competitive threats. Knowing this can give you an inside track into
their strategic business drivers.
understand these goals, you are responding from a position of strength which gives you an
immense advantage over your competitors.
In general, there are three
different goals to address:
goals These discuss how to increase productivity, become more efficient,
streamline operations, automate business process, leverage product lines etc.
goals Such as aligning business and technical processes, improving quality,
product enhancements, utilizing emerging technologies.
These include issues such as HR strategies, building brand recognition, mandatory
government legislation, marketing drives, and responding to public perception about the
4. What has the highest priority?
Capture all the clients issues and
goals. Distill these goals down to the top five. You will probably notice that you can
condense many smaller goals under one over-riding goal.
Rank the top five in order of
priority; write your response based on that order.
5. What products or services can achieve these goals?
Once you know your top five goals,
it is much easily to structure your response around these objectives.
Imagine writing a response without
knowing what the top five goals were!
The challenge now is to blend their
goals with your proposal. However, as you have a firm grasp of their true business needs,
you should be in a much better position than your competitors.
6. What results could follow each of your recommendations?
Most proposals contain a series of
recommendation that demonstrate an understanding of the clients business requirements.
As well as
making the recommendations (the easy part), you need to back them up with collateral that
puts them into context, such as market research, survey, government statements.
Be very careful not to use absolute statements in your bid unless youre
certain you can stand over them. A proposal is a legally binding document!
Some areas worth covering include:
The personnel who
will implement the recommendations --- why they are best qualified.
recommendation(s) help the client attain their most important goals.
implementing the recommendations.
Where you have
successfully achieved this before.
Costs involved in
achieving these goals and the estimated project timeframes.
What could happen
if they avoid to act on these recommendations
7. How well does the proposal read?
Once you have finished the first
draft put it aside for 24 hours. Then read it againand aloud in a private roomfrom the
perspective of the government agency.
If you stumble over sections when
reading, note the location and plan a re-write.
When you are reading the
proposalfrom the agency perspectiveask yourself:
solution cover my long-term needs?
Does it force
something upon me that I dont want?
Does it ignore, or
fudge, specific questions that we asked in the proposal?
Is this a generic
response or is it specific to my needs?
yourself 24-48 hours to digest your response. Youd be amazed how different the proposal
reads after getting some distance from it.
If you cringe when you read certain
sections, then you are probably on the right track. At least you now have a chance to
modify it before it hits the clients desk.
Its always good practice to call the
client after the contract award and ask them what they thought of your bid.
Though they cant discuss
confidential areas, they may made suggestions where your bid was weak or strong. Try to
take this onboard in the best spirit and remember it for your next bid.
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