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Writing a Proposal That Wins Bids:

How to Write a RFP? Effectively.

Successfully writing a proposal requires a high level of skill and experience; that is, if you want to writing winning proposals. As a business, writing proposal requests that succeed is a challenge. Learn how to write a RFP effectively.

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Writing proposals is an important part of the sales process. A request for proposal (RFP), request for quote (RFQ), request for expression of interest (RFEI), or request for information (RFI) is often initiated by various levels of government and/or by large organizations. These RFPs typically have a fairly large dollar value (for example, $50,000 and more - though some organizations require RFPs for all projects).

While it's important to have input for sales staff for the proposal, it's also important to have a well organized and good writer contribute to the proposal (best case: you have a strong writer on your sales staff).

Think of the proposal as a written (compared to verbal) selling tool: it needs to be clear and convincing and meet all the requirements of the RFP

Writing a Proposal

Business organizations issue a number of different requests for bids or tenders:

  • a request for proposal (RFP);
  • request for expressions of interest (RFEIP);
  • request for information (RFI);
  • request for qualification (RFQ);
  • and request for technical specifications (RFTS).

These requests are typically used by governments at all levels (federal, state/province/region/ and municipal); universities, colleges and schools; and a number of organizations (typically larger organizations such as telephone companies, gas companies, transit companies, and so on); most of the time, the value of the project will determine the type of process used to select a supplier.

How to Write a RFP?

Writing a project proposal or an expression of interest or request of information is a very specific event. As a business, writing proposals that win RFPs are a significant challenge, and opportunity.

Before you begin writing a proposal for RFPs, RFQs, RFIs, RFEIs, and more, you need to develop bid or no-bid criteria. You do not need, or want, to be writing a project proposal that you cannot deliver on time (due to time constraints, cash flow constraints, or other resource constraints).

You can use free RFP templates or RFP guidelines. Or you can develop your own RFP database, which uses data that is often used over and over again; such as information on your business, ownership and management team, capabilities and qualifications (why you should be considered), your references and work history, your solution to the request and your price.

Many small businesses find writing a proposal to be time consuming and not very rewarding.

Writing a Project Proposal:
Consider Outsourcing or Subcontracting

As a small business owner, you need to understand what you are capable of bidding on, and when you need to support your capabilities by sub-contracting or outsourcing. When writing a project proposal, include subcontractors.

Consider the advantages of outsourcing: you can subcontract parts of the bid (however if you do this make sure you understand your reputation and credibility is on the line; make sure the subcontractor is excellent at what they do). If you are representing a company, identify who from the company will be working on the project and describe their skills and experiences. If you are representing yourself, provide a comprehensive list of your qualifications.

Writing a Proposal: The Details

Some bids will specify a limited number of references and the specific type of reference (by letter, by phone number, by visit) required. RFP template examples (you should be able to find some examples online): a bid for a major house renovation, a prospect will want to see your work; a bid for a major roadwork project could be enhanced by a site visit to a project you've successfully completed; and more. Other bids will leave it open.

Use references from similar project work (make sure you contact your references first and ask their permission to use their name and number).

If this is a new area for you, use references from other work you've done and make sure you relate how that work enables you to do the work you're bidding on.

When writing a proposal answer all the questions in the RFP; even if you feel you've duplicated the answer elsewhere.

Often RFPs are evaluated and scored by more than one evaluator; you want to make sure that everyone reviewing your proposal, or parts of your proposal, has all the answers needed to make a comprehensive decision on scoring or ranking your bid.

Also don't forget to number all of your pages to make it easier for the evaluators to section out your proposal.

How to write a proposal that wins work is the goal of all RFP business writing. Proposals that are detailed, well organized and complete will have a better chance of scoring high and getting awarded the bid.

Read through the request for proposal very thoroughly and use decision making tools to decide whether or not writing a proposal makes sense for your business; otherwise you're just wasting your time.

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Additional Reading:

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

Find more details about developing your RFQ Template, Proposal Writing or Value Based Sales.

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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.

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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.