Business Proposals: The Key to a Winner

Posted on: August 2, 2010

Many proposals miss their target. Why?

Are Your Proposals Missing the Target?

Are your business proposals missing the mark too often? Have you been told they are “nonresponsive”?

Although you can encounter many pitfalls and hidden traps in responding to an RFP (Request for Proposal), perhaps the most important is this one:

Many companies simply do not meet the requested requirements, as stated in the SOW (Statement of Work).

The SOW describes the product or service a company, government agency or organization wants to buy. It is the key to a successful proposal.

And yet, amazingly, many companies submit proposals that do not adequately respond to the requirements given in the SOW.

Fitting the Pieces Together

Crafting a Successful Proposal Is Like Fitting Together a Puzzle

Crafting a Successful Proposal Is Like Fitting Together a Puzzle

To win the business, your company must be able to:

  • Meet the requirements set forth in the SOW.
  • Write the proposal in such a way that every requirement in the SOW is thoroughly addressed.

Can Your Company Meet the Requirements?

Whether the SOW is general or specific, vague or concrete, long or short, pay attention to every issue and detail it contains.

Before you do any work on the proposal at all, study each section to be sure your company can actually deliver the product or service, or solve the problem. And if so, can you deliver the goods in the manner requested?

If you have any misgivings, contact the company or agency to discuss your questions. You may want to do more research, including on-site, to clarify any doubts or uncertainties about what the project entails.

Additionally, RFPs can contain errors and omissions. If you think you have found any, get in touch with the person in charge of the project to discuss acceptable modifications or work-arounds.

While you are talking with the procurement agent, keep in mind that a tone of voice or a revealing comment on the part of the agent could provide you with insight about the RFP and the project. This information could prove very useful in deciding how to design your proposal – or even whether to submit a proposal.

You may also find it helpful to find out who will be evaluating your proposal. After all, technical experts in a field will have different evaluation standards than accountants or business executives. Knowing who is on the source  evaluation board can help ensure that the solution your company proposes will satisfy the requirements of the SOW.

Write to the Requirements of the SOW

As part of your proposal strategy, review the vocabulary and style of the company, government agency or organization for which you are writing the proposal. You must use their terms and jargon. Your language and style must reflect their practice and their context. Know your audience!

The wording in your proposal should reflect the language used in the RFP, especially the language used in the SOW and the evaluation standards. Repeat key words, phrases and sentences, because doing so will help the evaluators recognize that you are responding to the criteria given in the RFP. If you can, write in such a way that they are able to tell which criteria you are responding to, just by reading your words.

Pay close attention to the relative importance assigned to the evaluation criteria. The weighting values of the various categories help determine the scope, level of detail and amount of discussion to give to each issue in the SOW.

For more information on writing proposals, check out Deborah’s Proposal Writing Blog.

You may also want to check out this Boot$trapping Blog page on writing business proposals.

Make It a Winner!

The SOW Is the Key to a Successful Proposal

The SOW Is the Key to a Successful Proposal

Remember, the SOW is the critical document in the solicitation package. It is a statement of the work your company must perform to deliver a product or service, or solve a problem.

To craft a proposal that stands a good chance of resulting in a contractual relationship, you must address the issues in the SOW in a responsive and relevant manner.

What other advice would you give to readers on how to write a successful proposal?   Elizabeth Lexleigh  LexPower  The Write Ideas


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