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Avoiding clutter in proposals

 January 31, 2017
by Paul Heron

A senior leader at one of our client companies evidently believed more is more. During proposal reviews, he pushed to include every imaginable feature and benefit, sacrificing page margins, type size and graphics to stay within the page count.

Despite (or, more likely, because of) this leader’s efforts, his team’s proposals never achieved their win rate potential.

Many proposals are page-limited, which, combined with restrictions on minimum font size and margins, penalizes low-value content. But even responses without page limits benefit from restraint.

The last thing an evaluator wants is more words to read and paragraphs to score. What each wants is to find the right information in the right place. If you don’t believe us, ask one.

Here’s how to strike the right balance.

Start with a clear strategy

The situation above reflects a flawed strategy process and a leader who was not involved early on—but reserved the right to have his way in final drafts.

Avoid this situation by developing proposal strategy as soon as you decide to bid and have selected the response team. Use it to map information about the prospect’s strategic needs and issues into the bid proposal plan. Decide which aspects of your offer are unique and which are not.

With this information, conduct a blue team review to get all decision makers aligned on your plan—including the features, benefits and value propositions around which to build your proposal.

And then, as content development progresses, conduct a red team review to test alignment with strategy—not to jam in irrelevant or off-strategy information

Place information correctly

On bid requests of any size, individual evaluators take lead responsibility for reviewing one or more sections across all bids. Often evaluators will specific expertise will handle similar sections across all responses.

To level the field and make their work easier, most evaluation teams use pre-determined scoring guidelines based on the RFP scoring system and the issuer’s priorities.

Given these facts, you can see why placing information correctly is critical. A great argument in the wrong place may not get read or scored. If you believe the argument belongs in two sections, state it in full in the prime location and include a summary in the secondary section. Do not rely on the evaluator to track down cross-references.

Identify information with the RFP item it addresses

Explicitly connect information with the RFP requirement it addresses. Do not assume the evaluator will make the connection if it is not spelled out. Use your section or subsection summary paragraph to reference the requirement and/or hot button issue and link it to your solution.

Engage your leaders in strategy and follow these simple rules—and you’ll improve your win rate.


Need help developing successful response strategies?

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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