Business Development Clinic: How to write a proposal which will help us win a competitive tender? Part 2

This is the second part of a 2-part blog post – the first part can be found here. Read on for more tips to help you win that bid. 

Use diagrams wherever possible

As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is very true for proposals. Many people find large swathes of text difficult to read and digest. Using a diagram may replace the need for some of the words, or help people comprehend better what you are proposing.

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?

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 to write. However, do make sure that you tailor any standard pieces of text in the template to fit the piece of work you are bidding to win.

Quantify the results the Lead can expect from engaging you

Your Lead is buying results. Therefore, quantify as much as possible the likely results you expect they will get if they work with you.

Proofread the document multiple times

Particularly in a competitive pitch situation, it’s the really small things that can make or break your case for being hired. Therefore, make sure that your proposal document is completely free of typos and errors.

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.

Keep the options to a minimum

It can be very tempting to present your Lead with myriad options and solutions in your proposal. This can have a similar effect to going into a shop, and being so overwhelmed by the choice, that you get caught up in the decision making, consequently walking out of the shop having not bought what you originally intended to buy. If the Lead has requested you detail different options on your proposal keep the options to a maximum of 3.

Make sure that the proposal is readable

The proposal that you write should be simple and easy to read. Remember that your Lead may not be an expert in what you do, so eliminate jargon from the document. 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.

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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 ….

Differentiate yourself

If you know that your Lead is considering working with other advisors, then you need to make sure your proposal articulates why the Lead should choose you, rather than your competitors. However, you need to do this in way that doesn’t rubbish your competitors. When you are speaking with your Lead find out their top buying criteria for selecting a supplier. Then show in your proposal how you meet these buying criteria.

Author Credit:

HowtoMakePartner book jacketWritten by Heather Townsend. I help professionals become the ‘Go To Expert’. I am the co-author of ‘How to make partner and still have a life‘ and the author of the award-winning and bestselling book on Networking, ‘The FT Guide To Business Networking‘.

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Click here to download our free ebook "The reluctant business developer's guide to winning clients". (email required)

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