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RFP Template:
Successfully Writing Proposals

Writing Project Proposal? Use Proposal Writing Software

Requests for proposals (RFPs) are common in many industries. Use this RFP template, other free RFP templates, or proposal writing software to prepare your bid. For the best results, include successful RFP guidelines when writing project proposals.

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Using a template (for request for proposal (RFP), request for quote (RFQ), request for expression of interest (RFEI) or other proposal requests) can help you become more successful at writing winning proposals.

There are several types of proposals: sales proposal letters (also known as quotes or estimates), and bids or tenders.

Proposal writing for sales quotes or estimates is different than writing for tenders or bids.

This discussion focuses on how to write a proposal using an RFP template.

(If you find writing project proposals or other RFPs, use free RFP templates and/or proposal writing software.)

This RFP template provides a good outline
of how to write an RFP:

(Note: there are variations for all RFPs depending on a number of variables or parameters.)

  1. What you will receive:

    You will be supplied with a project overview or summary, a due date, if applicable you will be provided with a contact name, phone number, address and/or email address to contact for questions and/or to schedule your attendance at a vendors meeting (often provided by the buyer when specifications are complex and/or many). You should also receive technical requirements and management requirements as part of the package.

  2. What you will provide in your response:
    • Your Qualifications: At this point consider whether you have all the necessary qualifications for the bid; if not, consider an alliance or partnership with another vendor, specifically if each of you would bring something unique to the solution.
    • Your References: If you are writing a proposal for your company, include references from other businesses; if you are writing a proposal for yourself, include references that support your skills and also some references that demonstrate who you are and what you stand for.

      For example: If you are a renovation contractor and you are bidding on a new house build, your transferable skills are rather obvious but if you are a management consultant with 20 years business experience and you are bidding on a government contract (with no previous government experience) you need to connect your skills and experience to the job you're bidding on: what makes you a good fit and why are you the best candidate?

    • You need to connect your qualifications and references to answering those questions.

    • Your Solution: In this section, you must present your unique solution; the one that differentiates your proposal from others. Your service or product positioning must be clearly written in the bid.

      Ensure that you are clear and concise and that you answer any questions that the proposal asks (if no questions are asked, write as if they are asked: what is your solution; how will you deliver on that solution; when will you deliver (timing); who will deliver it (the members of your team) - if it is a positive factor, talk about the good customer service you provide (back that up with customer referrals); where - is location a factor; and why your solution is unique.

    • Your Price: This one is self-evident. But make sure you consider a number of things. Utilize pricing strategies that are specific to the quote. If you are required to buy materials as soon as you are awarded the contract, write your bid to include progressive payments (for example, one third at award of contract; one third half way through; and the last third on completion).

      Make sure your payment terms are clear and easy to understand. Make sure you have a cancellation clause (for both sides) due to circumstances beyond your control and/or an escalation clause (for example, price is tied to inflation; this is particularly appropriate when writing a proposal for a long term project (more than 6 months). Read the fine print of the contract (often you will find items you might not want to accept (write a clause or amendment to override that) but also ask for a lawyer's advice).

    • The Administrative Details: Do you have business insurance? Many buyers want to you to have insurance: liability, errors and omissions, and more. Read the details in the bid. Do you have or need worker's compensation insurance? (This is usually dependent on the type of work you do and the type of RFP you are bidding on.)

      Some bids may require copies of certifications (for example, first aid tickets, criminal record checks, etc.).

      Answer all sections and/or questions. Do not leave any sections blank. To understand the need to do this (even in areas that you feel are duplicates), you need to understand the process of evaluating bids. Often, there are bid evaluation teams; and each individual evaluator might be reviewing one section only and ranking or scoring the responses. If you answer one section, "see section A-1 in section B-5", then you will score a zero on B-5 because you haven't answered the question.

      Make sure you number all your pages (seems small but a big deal to the evaluation team). Make sure you follow all instructions precisely.

Create Your RFP template

Creating your own business proposal template sounds like a lot of work, but if you develop a process for writing proposals that win, you will find the time pays off; in a big way. You can also use proposal writing software to develop specific bids and/or to create a template for your specific products and/or services.

Knowing how to write a proposal is more about organizing your data into an RFP template that can be customized for each specific bid: use copy, cut, paste but also write a proposal that specifically addresses the buyer's needs.

Remember that not all RFPs will have the same format: follow the flow of the format provided or identified in the RFP document.

Important Note: Before you use or develop a RFP template ensure that you develop bid or no-bid criteria:

  • Review all of the bid terms and conditions before you spend too much time preparing a bid. Does the request for proposal fit with your small business plan and plans for business growth?
  • Make a decision to prepare a bid after you've gone carefully through all of the details and determined whether or not you want, or are able, to meet all the requirements of the bid.
  • Do you have the time, human resources, equipment, materials, cash flow to handle the bid if you win it? Some bids require bidders to include proof of insurance (e.g. errors and omissions, flood, fire, liability, etc.).

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Additional Reading:

Read more about Writing a Proposal, Part 1.

Or find out about the importance (to selling) of developing an effective Pricing Strategy.

Understand the impact of Value Based Sales.

Find more details about developing your RFQ Template.

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Selling Techniques

Successful selling experiences require using more than one technique.

Yes, face-to-face selling (particularly through relationship building) is often one of the more successful tactics.

But other techniques and strategies include building touch points and sharing information.

In other words, educating your customer or prospect on your products and services and also providing information that will help your customer in their business; making sure that your products or services are highly differentiated from competitors' offerings and communicating that differentiation effectively; and clearly understanding what your customers need in terms of value and delivering it.

Communicate with your customers and prospects in person; over the phone; through the mail (yes, letters, cards, coupons and order forms have high response rates if well designed and well executed); over the Internet through blogs, emails, social media, webinars, and your website; through print materials such as catalogues, coupon books, brochures, business cards, flyers and more.

Build your sales approach as a campaign:

Plan to make contact on a regular and frequent basis (not too frequently to the point of irritating customers or too infrequently to the point of being forgotten) and align your campaign with a strong identity program that is consistent with your brand.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer loyalty is built by giving value first in all aspects of your business. As a small business owner or manager, you need to commit to offering the best products and/or services.

Ensure that you regularly ask your customers for input and feedback (and both listen to it and act on it) to continuously improve your processes.

Your customers will respond to the value that you add, not only to the solution you propose but also to the relationship you build together.

Buyers Needs and Wants

What do customers want? Market research says that customers have an expectation of good quality, good price and good service; that is the minimum requirement for doing business today.

What more do you need to provide?

Knowledge. Reliability. Consistency. Communication. Discover what your customers value, and provide it.

Note: customers have unique and individual needs; they do not all value the same things. Make sure you clearly understand what each individual customer or market segment wants or needs.

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Sales: Making Contact

In a business to business selling environment, it used to be that it would take between seven or eight touches to make a sale (or not, since not all contact means that a prospect will buy).

In this Internet age, it takes more touches.

Why? Because we have become both 'ad blind' and somewhat 'insensitive' to touches.

What this means to the small business owner is that your communication (and touches) need to be different from others (not imitations or copies of what everyone else is doing), it needs to be believable and sincere, and it needs to be memorable.

The Sales Cycle

In a business to business sales environment, the selling cycle takes longer to close (and is often more complex) than ever before.

To effectively grow your sales, you need build a plan that will help you to optimize your efforts.

Focus your planning efforts on a lean sales process that: will solve your customer's problem or challenge; has value (i.e. reduces time and/or cost); provides not only what the customer wants but more than has been identified (over-delivering); and that provides a solution that offers convenience, high quality, a price that is acceptable, competitive and covers the business' costs, and exceptional service.