Writing proposals: What’s Common Sense isn’t always Common Practice

The reason so many proposals and tenders fail to make it past the first cut? The proposal writer confuses activity with preparation.

Not understanding the difference between the two can have major implications for your business and directly impact your chances of winning. Poorly thought out and poorly written proposals or tenders are:

  • A sure sign of numerous re-writes, ending in a rush to submit a final document that’s nothing like you wanted it to be.
  • Indicative of many contributors all doing their own thing and cobbling it together at the end.
  • Almost certain to have taken far longer than it should have to write and been a costly and frustrating exercise all round.

Being invited to write a proposal can be a heady experience for any business, especially if the bid in question is for a large corporate or a government department. Conscious of the deadline, you get the team together, hand out copies of the RFT or RFP, delegate who’s going to answer what and tell everyone to get on with it.

Stop! Going any further before identifying with pin-point accuracy what your pitch needs to achieve­ and before ensuring your entire team has the same understanding­ will only sabotage your bid.

Try this way of working instead.

Don’t immediately focus on the deadline. Instead, focus on ensuring everyone understands why you are writing a proposal.

  • Exactly what the RFT or RFP is asking for. And I mean exactly.
  • What will it take to win?
  • The agreed intent of your response.
  • The agreed strategies your team will use to structure your bid.
  • What evidence is required to back up your claims.

You may need a number of meetings to get all the answers, but that’s fine. It’s time very well spent. Then, and only then, should you begin to write your proposal. Remember: time spent asking your team to “see what they can come up with” is just activity; time spent identifying the process and your agreed strategy, is proper preparation.

Change can be challenging and initially, the idea of managing your bid this way around can be difficult to take on board. One huge benefit is in realising how much time and frustration you’ve saved by not producing numerous drafts and re-writes.

Another benefit to approaching your submission in this way means the review process will be about fine-tuning, rather than a last minute realisation you need to change tack.

What’s more, working as a co-ordinated, focused team from the outset provides a big boost to morale; and it’s even better when you win!

For help with copywriting, proofreading or editing any of your business documents, contact Proof Communications on 02 8036 5532 or 0411 123 216 or head to the contact page.

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