10 tips for a winning proposal in response to an RFP
By Glen Cohen*
Today, competition in the world of business has become so tough that your ability to write a great proposal means a lot to your business. When large corporations and government institutions want to buy services or products from an outside source, they usually release a RFP (Request for Proposal).
This is a formal document that outlines their needs and anyone who wants to bid for the job must submit a proposal explaining how his/her company would meet the client’s/buyer’s needs.
This B2B business proposal should convince the client to hire your company and not your competitor’s. Below is a discussion on the top 10 tips on how to create a winning B2B business proposal based on an RFP.
- Write a great executive summary
It has always been said that you cannot judge a book by its cover but one thing is for sure, the client is faced with several, voluminous proposals and you better believe that your proposal is obviously going to be judged based on its first page. The client is going to be faced with the challenge of having to go through the many voluminous proposals submitted by the different vendors and that is why you will find many of them reading the first page and then quickly skimming through the rest. Your cover page/executive summary should give a one-page summary of your proposal. That overview should hit all the high notes for why you are the perfect choice for them and it should indicate the budget and all other important details. Doing this will create a good first impression and will definitely draw the attention of the client.
- Be clear
As mentioned above, the client is faced with 300-plus pages of proposals from different vendors and nothing will make them lose interest on a proposal than long, endless information which is not important. To avoid this, always go straight to the point. If for instance you can answer a question in one paragraph, why make them read five paragraphs? It is very important that your proposal is focused and that it sticks only to the necessary points that convey all the important information to the client.
- Answer the questions
One of the biggest mistakes that many people often make when writing a B2B proposal is failing to answer the questions that the client has asked. Answering the questions that the client has asked is a clear indication that you are a good listener and will definitely earn you some points. The clients will judge you based on your responses and so you should never ignore them.
- Give relevant examples
Providing examples of your past projects (that are similar to their own) is also a good way in which you can show the client that you can complete their project successfully. If you have done three projects in the past that are similar to the prospective clients’ own project, let them know and this will dispel any doubts that they might have concerning your ability to handle theirs. When you do this, make sure that you clearly indicate the strong similarities between the two projects and this will earn you some points.
- Highlight what makes you the best (-not the price)
Avoid focusing too much on the price as this will only create problems – a major one being the fact that there will always be someone who underbids you. In most cases, companies often find pricing as the great difference between them and their competitors but this should not be the case. Your proposal should have something unique/different that is perfect for the job and this will make the clients go for it not because it is the cheapest but because they believe that it is perfect for them.
- Go through the requirements
This is a very important point that you should always consider when writing a B2B proposal. It is important that you clearly understand what the clients requires. Go through the RFP thoroughly and as you do so, ask yourself some questions such as; What are this institution’s goals? What is my role in ensuring that these goals are achieved? What they expect of me? Having a clear understanding of what the clients require will serve as guide that will ensure that your proposal is great.
- Understand the client
In your proposal are methodologies that are going to be used to solve the client’s problem. If you do not understand the client’s problem, there is no way you can propose a methodology. It is therefore important that you understand the client well and the best way to do so is by talking with them (eg. talking with the company’s employees etc) or by doing some research about their corporation. Ask about their company’s concerns, policies and philosophies. Ask them if there have been attempts to reach the goals outlined in the RFP and why those attempts failed. Ask them what they like and what they dislike about dealing with consultants etc.
- Evaluate your proposal
Yes, you have a brilliant solution that you believe is going to solve the client’s problem but the question is; is it going to be accepted the client? It is very important that you carefully evaluate your proposal and make sure that it is in line client’s orientation (is the client financially or operations oriented). Make sure that your proposal is inline with the criteria that is outlined in the RFP.
- What format should the proposal be written in?
Before you finish writing the proposal, it is very important that you go through the RFP once more. Check if any particular format is required by the client and then follow it. If there is no specified format, then you should do good research on how a B2B business proposal should be written and go through as many samples as you can. This will give you an idea on what format your proposal should be.
Writing the proposal may not be an easy task and by the time you finish, you may be tempted to just submit it without going through it once again. Yes, your proposal may be good but if it is full of errors, it is not going to portray a good picture. It is therefore important that you go through the proposal once you have finished it and, if possible, have someone go through it just to make sure that it has no errors.
*Glen Cohen is chief marketing officer for Paperless Proposal