How do you win a competitive bid? In this blog post, we will share our top 15 tips to help you write winning proposals so that you can ace that bid for a competitive tender.
Tip 1: Highlight your 10% difference
Unfortunately, much of what you put in your proposal will be mirrored in your competitor’s proposals. The market standard is what the buyer expects from all of their proposed suppliers, i.e. it’s a well-thought-out, realistic, financially credible and sound proposal. Therefore, within your proposal, you need to identify what truly differentiates you from your competitors. This 10% needs to be the theme of your proposal and expressed in terms of either how you will save them time and/or money or lower their risk in hiring you.
Tip 2: Find out what the client needs to sign off the spend
Proposals, done well, take time to do, especially if it is a big project. Typically, the bigger the size of the project the longer the proposal needs to be. Before you start to write your proposal, ask your Lead for clarification for what they and the other decision-makers in their organisation will need to see to be able to sign off the spend. This means you can tailor what you write so that the key decision-makers are able to satisfy themselves that your services are needed by their organisation. Size does matter with a proposal. Ideally, you want to keep the proposal as simple and short as possible, whilst still meeting the client’s needs.
Tip 3: Check your prospect’s commitment to proceeding
Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for a Lead to use the request for a potential supplier to write a proposal, without any desire to buy, as a means of bringing the business development conversation to a close. It may be that the Lead needs a number of different proposals to prove to their senior management that they have got the right supplier at the right price. Or it could be that many buyers know that they stop a supplier hassling them if they ask for a proposal. If you are concerned about your Lead’s willingness to proceed, then ask for a small commitment before you write the full proposal. For example, this could be as simple as asking them:
“To make sure that I am on the right lines, can I jot a few points down on email and then discuss these with you next week, before writing the whole proposal?”
If you don’t get an agreement from your Lead to this conversation, then think seriously about whether they are a serious buyer. You may find it useful to go back and qualify them again.
Tip 4: Use a succinct executive summary
One of the most important things to bear in mind when thinking how do you win a competitive bid is that very often, the decision-makers reading your proposal are time-poor. To catch their attention straight away, it is therefore smart to create a short executive summary at the beginning of the proposal. In this executive summary, make sure to answer their key concerns which are likely to be:
- Time and resources involved.
- Expected results of doing the work.
Tip 5: Have a go/no-go checklist
Writing a proposal and attending a client’s premises to talk through the proposal is a big commitment of time. Very often you will find that the collective wisdom of a firm has been used to draw up a go/no-go checklist to decide whether to allocate time and resources in response to a tender or piece of client work. A Top 6 UK accountancy practice found that their conversion rate for new client work was 75% when they had a pre-existing relationship with the client. The conversion rate dropped sharply to 25% when they didn’t have any pre-existing relationship with the decision-makers of the client. As a consequence, their go/no-go checklist recommended that they only go ahead with a proposal if they had a pre-existing relationship with the client.
Tip 6: Use diagrams wherever possible
As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is very true for proposals. When thinking about how do you win a competitive bid, think about how you can convey your message clearly and succinctly. Many people find large swathes of text difficult to read and digest, so try using a diagram wherever possible to replace the need for some of the words. You’ll find that it makes what you are proposing easier to comprehend too.
Tip 7: Focus on the Lead
Whilst it can be very tempting to outline your credentials upfront to the Lead, this isn’t needed and can often be off-putting to them. Typically if you have been asked to submit a proposal, your capability to do the work is given. When you are writing the proposal, put yourself in your Lead’s shoes – what do they want to hear? What do they want you to demonstrate? How are you going to address their issues? When asking yourself how do you win a competitive tender, putting yourself in your Lead’s shoes is the best way that you can answer it.
Tip 8: Use a proposal document template
Having standard templates within your firm can help you increase your efficiency and effectiveness. Wherever possible, use the firm’s proposal document template to help you structure your proposal and cut down the time it takes to write it. Just remember to tailor any standard pieces of text in the template to fit the piece of work you are bidding to win!
Tip 9: Quantify the results the Lead can expect from engaging you
How do you win a competitive bid? Show your Lead exactly what they want. Your Lead is buying results, therefore, quantify as much as possible the likely results you expect they will get if they work with you.
Tip 10: Proofread the document multiple times
Now, proofreading may not come to mind when you’re thinking how do you win a competitive bid, but hear us out. Particularly in a competitive pitch situation, it’s the really small things that can make or break your case for being hired. For this reason, take the time to make sure that your proposal document is completely free of typos and errors.
Tip 11: Get feedback on your proposal
In your project planning, allow a day for you to reflect on your proposal before sending it off to the client. If possible, ask for feedback from a trusted set of peers or colleagues on your proposal. Even if you don’t take the advice, it’s always a good idea to get a fresh pair of eyes or two to look over your work.
Tip 12: Keep the options to a minimum
It can be very tempting to present your Lead with a myriad of options and solutions in your proposal but all this does is overwhelm them. We all know that feeling of going into a shop and being so overwhelmed by the choice that we get caught up in the decision making. More often than not, it leads us to walk out of that shop having not bought what we originally intended to buy in the first place. You don’t want that to happen with your Lead, so unless they have requested you to detail different options on your proposal (in which case, keep the options to a maximum of 3), keep your proposal as simple and clear as possible.
Tip 13: Make sure that the proposal is readable
Remember that your Lead may not be an expert in what you do, so eliminate jargon from the document and keep it simple and easy to read. As you write the document, imagine you were sitting opposite the person and having a conversation. Aim to keep the tone of the document conversational, rather than dry, stilted and stuffed with corporatese. The headings of your proposal should flow together and tell a story. You may find it useful to use a technique called storyboarding which is used in the film industry. Storyboarding is where you build up the point you want to make using a sequence of pictures or headings. When you have the pictures or headings in the right order, you then develop each heading further.
Tip 14: Features and benefits
Wherever possible, go through your proposal document and turn any feature into a benefit for the Lead. The three benefits that your buyer will be interested in are:
- Saving them time.
- Saving them money.
- Reducing their risk in hiring you.
For example, instead of stating, We are the Go-To-Expert for …, turn this into, You know you will be in safe hands and reduce your risk on this project with us as we are seen to be the Go-To-Expert for ….
Tip 15: Differentiate yourself
How do you win a competitive bid if you know that your Lead is considering working with other advisors? Don’t worry, most Leads will be. All you need to do is to make sure that your proposal articulates why the Lead should choose you rather than your competitors. Never put down your competitors, this just reflects badly on you. The best way to highlight why your Lead should choose you is to first speak with them and find out their top buying criteria for selecting a supplier. Once you know this, you can address how you specifically meet these buying criteria in your proposal. Remember, Leads care about results!
Write a winning proposal
By now you should be overwhelmed with advice and that’s good because every single piece of advice in this blog will help you write a winning proposal that will get you that bid. Just remember, keep it short, keep it clear, keep it relevant, and highlight why your Lead should choose you.
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