Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Managing large narratives

 July 2, 2019
by Paul Heron

Good management practice gets the proposal writing team aligned at the outset, and then reviews and provides helpful feedback on drafts at key milestones to submission. This approach is especially critical to achieving logical consistency and one voice in large responses where proposal teams often include individuals working remotely and for multiple entities.

Upcoming posts will cover key steps in narrative management, including:

  • Preparing writers for success
  • Pre-Red Team management
  • Managing Red Team reviews
  • Red Team to submission

Basic ingredients for success

In addition to careful management, successful proposals express strategy and reader focus. For guidance on these two components and links to learn more, see below.

Strategy: We’ve written dozens of posts on strategy. Bottom line: You need to develop a cogent win strategy before kicking off content development. Your strategy needs to:

Even in the tightest of response windows, time spent on developing and expressing strategy is well-spent.

Reader focus: Strategy expresses client focus at the business-level—but a proposal also needs to appeal to individual evaluators and decision makers. Personal knowledge of the prospect organization is the gold standard. For this reason, business developers pursuing large procurements can spend years building relationships with the individuals in the prospect organization. Whether or not you have the benefit of that insight, recognize that:

  • Evaluators are typically recruited to the task from their normal duties and may not be fully engaged. They often use a scoring guide to quickly skim content looking for scorable facts and benefits that might qualify for bonus points. Use this awareness to manage content towards plain English. When applicable, structure content into bullet points and tables and use visualization to make key benefits and differentiators stand out.
  • In addition to personal preferences, evaluators will assume different roles as economic buyers, technical buyers and user buyers. In managing content, subject responses to these different perspectives to avoid gaps in your sales argument.
  • Expect every reader to continually ask, “What’s in it for me?” Apply this WIIFM test to all content and prepare to brutally excise verbiage (no matter how elegantly written) that qualifies as mere filler without answering the question. NOTE: Often one question’s filler can be re-deployed as another’s response.

Remember the goals

A successful proposal uses resources efficiently, meets the deadline and makes the best possible case for your team and solution. Achieving this—especially when the team involves many members—requires close management, as much the quality of the offer itself.

Next week: Setting up writers for success


Need help developing stronger proposals?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 






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