So you’re responsible for your company’s new business development. After browsing RFPs, you come across a statement of work that directly aligns with your company’s products and services. Confident that your company is positioned to meet the requirements, you’re faced with the challenge of planning your company’s response. And because your company doesn’t maintain a proposals department or retain a proposal writer on staff, you’re on your own.
Should you request company personnel to write the proposal? Write it yourself? Or should you commission a freelance proposal writer?
Though business executives function as the experts that cultivate the ideas of an RFP response, they are not proposal writers. Nor is the new sales guy willing to work late qualified as a proposal writer, or the admin who wears many business operations hats.
Writing is a craft and a trade. Like most other trades, writing is technical and complex. Just as your company invests in engineers, technicians, and sales staff, invest in paying a proposal writer.
A professional writer will use rich, exact language that is not elaborate, and will follow Chicago Manual of Style convention for proper proposal format and style. A quality writer will also perform a key consulting role in assisting you develop the references, appendices, graphs, and exhibits, adding to the robustness of your proposal and the differentiation of your company.
Your role is to feed the writer with subject-matter expertise, numbers, and statements about your company’s mission and value in the marketplace. As simple as ABC, you will team with the writer to build an RFP response that is active, bold, and credible.
Compose your response as you would an oral presentation, with audience focus. You want your listener — your reader — alert and interested during your pitch. Though a formal response to an RFP demands a formal written proposal, do not over-formalize your proposal text and become unnecessarily boring. Present active, not passive, statements about why your company is the right provider to fulfill the requested scope of work.
Active proposal tips:
- Write in the active voice; eliminate passive subject-verb construction whenever you can.
- Avoid diluting the persuasiveness of your truth claims by leaving out sluggish qualifiers, such as “rather,” “quite,” and “in a sense.”
Bad writing: The service-level agreement (SLA) will be negotiated by the parties.
Good writing: The parties will negotiate a service-level agreement (SLA).
Be precise. The Executive Summary may be the only section that the prospect reads for determining first-round candidate cuts. Therefore, it is critical to get the prospect’s attention with a compelling Executive Summary lead that radiates confidence. Your lead should direct the prospect to what differentiates your company from the others represented in the proposal slushpile.
Lead with your company’s branding statement or rephrasing of your tagline. In the first sentence of your Executive Summary, answer this question for your prospect: “Why is your company the strongest candidate for performing the specific scope of work described in the RFP?”
Bold proposal tips:
- Avoid useless adverbs and adjectives in favor of meaningful verbs and nouns.
- Remove “very” from your business lexicon.
- Instead of using the verb “have,” use words of action to present concisely what your company “has.”
Bad writing: “Our business has trained staff to serve our customers well.”
Good writing: “We train our staff in customer support.”
Proposal credibility requires professional presentation and quality content. Using other “c” words to elaborate: create content that clearly communicates your company’s competencies for completing the contract. Proceed with building your proposal with active statements that are simple and concise.
Credible proposal tips:
- Avoid lengthy sentences, which give the impression of trying too hard.
- Employ the semi-colon, dash, and colon.
- Use “that” when you can; use “which” when required for clarity.
- Use bulleted lists.
- Don’t overstate your company’s credentials and accomplishments, avoiding words like “all,” “unique,” and “best-in class.”
- Reference appendices, graphs, exhibits, reports, websites, etc., in your proposal text. Do not embed hyperlinks.
Good writing: [Company Name] enhanced information technology (IT) and administered changes to networking protocols.
Even if you pay a writer to develop a proposal that is not selected for contract award, your investment is not without return. A professional writer brings you the value of finding the correct words and beneficial content organization and structure for communicating your company’s features, benefits, and strengths. It is content that your company owns and may repurpose for responding to the next RFP that intrigues your new business development interest.
© 2014, Powerplay Communications