Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Proposal heads and subheads

 October 15, 2019
by Paul Heron

This month we’re focussing on setting up proposal documents. Last week’s post covered body type style decisions. Today we’ll look at setting up and managing proposal headings.

Heads and subheads provide structure, guiding readers through the proposal. This is critical to scoring, given the typical proposal evaluator’s short attention span.

Use a consistent theme for heads and subheads

  • Choose a font family that is readable in standard and bold faces and multiple sizes. Helvetica, Futura and Franklin Condensed (see below) are often used for proposal heads.

  • Select one or two colours that are strong enough to be legible in small type and that will photocopy well in black and white. Good options are your company colours, or colours from the prospect’s logo or website.
  • Avoid using reverse type, screens, gradients and other devices. These are distracting and may not print or photocopy well.
  • Avoid all caps. All caps text is harder to read than upper and lower case and should be used (if at all) for main section heads.
  • Don’t base styles on Normal. See the section on this in last week’s post on Proposal body style.
  • Set line spacing: Good design spaces headings close the paragraphs they introduce, rather than having them float between paragraphs. Use Word’s “space before and after” paragraph settings to do this. For 10- to 12-point type, 9 above and 3 below is a good combination.
  • Set headings to move with the paragraph below. Check the “Keep with next” box in Word’s paragraph settings to avoid leaving a heading stranded at the bottom of a page.

Writing heads and subheads

Follow these guidelines when setting up heads and subheads:

  • Mirror the RFP: Align your ATOC and headings with the RFP scoring structure (see example in table below). Write and number heads and subheads to mirror any breakdown of rated requirements provided, using Word’s built-in multi-level list function.

  • Limit choices: Creating many more heading styles than needed often results in authors becoming confused about which style to use. Instead, create two or three levels and name them accordingly (e.g. Subhead1, Subhead2, Subhead3)
  • Use unnumbered subheads to break up text: Avoid large blocks of text that less engaged evaluators may skip. Instead, use minor or run-in heads to introduce scorable elements.
  • Message where possible: When writing subheads to break up text within RFP-defined subsections, avoid simple labels in favour of benefits-oriented messaging. For example, version B below is preferable to version A.

A: Warranty terms
B: Comprehensive 5-year warranty

Remember the goal

Headings and subheadings should work together as an effective wayfinding system for evaluators. Make font, colour and settings decisions with this aim in mind.

Next week: Integrating graphics



Need help making your proposals look professional?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit

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




Proposal body style

 October 8, 2019
by Paul Heron

This month’s posts focus on design decisions that can make your proposals look professional and easy for evaluators to read and score. This post provides guidance for selecting and using a body type style. Rule 1: RFP requirements trump our advice.

Choosing fonts

Unless you’re a professional designer, stick with two fonts—one for body text, and a second for heads and subheads. You can find recommended font pairings on the web. Remember, the goal is a professional-looking, easy to read proposal. When deciding on type consider the following:

  • User availability: Use typefaces included in the standard Microsoft font suite.
  • Size and readability: Type is measured in points. A point is one-seventy second of an inch, a throwback to the days when type was set in hot lead. An “x” in 10-point type is 10 points in height. While larger type is generally easier to read, readability at a given size varies greatly among typefaces
  • Serif vs sans serif: Serifs are small projections or “tails” on the ends of letter strokes. Serif typefaces are easier to read than sans serif, which is why most books, newspapers and magazines use serif fonts. That said, most teams use sans serif fonts. Calibri 10, 11 or 12 is a common choice for body copy. Arial narrow is a common choice for page limited proposals. Heads are often set in Helvetica or Futura
  • Colour: Use black for body copy.

Setting up Word styles

MS Word provides many font and paragraph setting options. Choose settings before kickoff—especially if you plan to manage sections as separate documents to completion. Aligning styles on multiple clones of a template is painful.

  • Language: Specify the language for Word’s built in spell-checker
  • Line spacing: Increased line spacing helps readers quickly move from one line to the next. If a template column is more than 40 characters wide in your selected font, increase line spacing to at least 1.15 for readability
  • Paragraph spacing: Do not use extra returns to space paragraphs. Instead, specify before and after paragraph spacing in points. We typically use 3 point and 6 point, so headlines can sit close to the paragraph below.
  • Justification: Resist any temptation use fully justified body text (right and left edges align). Instead, set all text flush left. Flush left (also called left justified) text is easier to read, avoids uneven word spacing, and is more visually appealing on the page. (This post is set flush left)
  • Widow/Orphan control: Turn on to avoid having a single line of a paragraph at the top or bottom of a page
  • Set first line indent (if used)

Achieving emphasis

Use bold to achieve emphasis in body copy. Italics are hard to read and should be used sparingly. Underlining is a throwback to the days of manual typewriters, looks dated and is hard to read. Use emphasis sparingly. Overuse of emphasis equals no emphasis.

Do not base style names on Normal

By default, Word bases new styles on “Normal”, which is what you get when you open Word and start typing. Since Normal may have different settings on different machines, style issues can arise when copying and pasting copy created on multiple machines.

To avoid this vulnerability, create a new body text style based on “No style,” and then base bulleted and numbered lists, table, etc. styles, etc. on the new body text style.

The payoff

An hour or so spent choosing fonts, and then thinking through style setting decisions, will save time and frustration during editing cycles and when aligning multiple documents prior to submission.

Next week: Proposal heading styles



Need help building an attractive proposal template?

Contact Complex2Clear

Photo credit

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




Proposal design basics

 October 1, 2019
by Paul Heron

Proposal design is not a frill, but a key contributor to success, whether or not evaluators are consciously aware of it. The aim is not to make your proposal look flashy or slick, but to promote your overall sales message.

A visually appealing, well-organized proposal:

  • Supports clear, persuasive communication
  • Reflects a sense of professionalism
  • Makes it easy for evaluators to navigate and score

In contrast, a design that appears dated will undercut any claim to cutting-edge technology and approaches. And a poorly structured proposal will burn off evaluators’ limited attention spans, reducing the chance of receiving all the points you deserve.

Follow the RFP requirements

Some RFPs provide tight design guidance—others, none at all. Most require, or at least allow, double-sided printing and the use of 3-hole binders. This format saves paper, is easy to print and assemble, provides a spine that can be printed for easy identification when stacked or shelved with other proposals, and can be easily separated into sections for multiple evaluators. Most important for proposal teams, loose leaf binders enable last minute page substitutions to correct errors or update information.

Use a styled template

Nothing improves the overall appeal of a proposal as much a well-made template. If you lack capable in-house resources, consider investing in a professionally developed template that can be reused. A complete template includes:

  • A palette of two or three complementary colours
  • Fonts for body copy and heads and subheads
  • Paragraph styles for body text, headings, bulleted and numbered lists, etc.
  • A page grid using one or multiple columns
  • Separate layouts for resumes and project sheets
  • Simple and matrix table formats
  • Footers and headers (including page numbers)
  • Callout design(s)
  • Graphics integration

NOTE: This month’s posts provide guidance on the above items.

Headers and footers

Headers and footers help readers navigate your proposal and manage sections they’ve removed from binders for distribution or photocopying. Follow these guidelines:

  • Use the header for issuer information. One common option is to place the issuer’s logo or wordmark at the right and RFP information flush left (inside and outside in facing page layouts). Note: Confirm your issuer has not prohibited the use of their branding in the response.
  • Use the footer for your logo, the section title and the page number. Always place the page number at the left (outside of facing pages).
  • Use MS Word tables for header and footer content to maximize formatting options.
  • Turn off “Same as previous” option when including section names in footers.

Word vs InDesign

Most proposal templates today—including RFQ responses for large infrastructure projects—are created in MS Word. While InDesign undeniably enables more appealing designs and closer type management, Word has become very robust and has the advantage of being available to all content drafters.

Proposals submitted in InDesign are typically first drafted in a Word template that approximates the final design, and then converted after the final review prior to submission. This conversion effort, and the time it takes, are strong arguments for sticking to Word.

Simplified frameworks for first drafts

Proposal managers often ask developers to draft narratives in the Word template. But for complex templates (e.g. those based on multi-column grids), we recommend using simpler templates for capturing first drafts. This avoids writers wasting time trying to align their drafts with the template instead focussing on their responses. Content is then moved into the template prior to Red Team.

Resumes and product sheets are often tightly formatted to meet page limitations. For these, we routinely provide simple Word tables for capturing content.

Populate the template before distribution

Whatever formats you use to capture drafts, populate them with heads and subheads that correspond closely to the RFP’s structure and language. For guidance on structure, see this post on using an annotated table of contents (ATOC). We also recommend including content prompts for more efficient and compliant first drafts.

Next week: Choosing fonts and styles



Need help building an attractive proposal template?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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




Visualizing key messages

 September 24, 2019
by Paul Heron

Recent posts have focussed on success factors for proposal narratives—including compliance, showing insight into the prospect’s needs and project requirements, and positioning your solution and team against competitors’ offerings.

This last post in our series explains why and how to use visualization to maximize narrative section scores.

Why visualize?

Many proposal teams sprinkle un-captioned photos, charts, graphs and screen grabs across pages as an afterthought to make their proposals look more inviting. Using graphics in this way is decoration, not visualization—and misses powerful opportunities.

Because graphics have great power to attract attention, use them tp communicate differentiators and to explain complex information to evaluators. Most evaluators scan and score proposals quickly and can miss scorable items buried in paragraphs of text.

See the sections below for effective ways to use visualization.

Visualize to differentiate

Visualize differentiators—features and benefits of your offer that are important to the prospect, and that your competitors cannot claim.

At a minimum, use a callout to draw attention to each differentiator (below left). For added impact, combine callout text with a graphic (below right).

Visualize to explain

Use illustrations to show important concepts, designs, structures (such as networks), processes, etc. Do this whenever an illustration will improve or accelerate understanding and can be used to reinforce your compliance or advantage.

Graphics do not need to be elaborate to be effective, as the example below shows.

Visualize for efficient evaluation

Since evaluators tend to skim proposals, look for ways to satisfy requirements visually. For example, instead of using text to meet a requirement to identify key individuals and their qualifications and experience, consider using a meatball chart, as illustrated below.

Caption visuals

Evaluators are unlikely to spend more than five or six seconds trying to make sense of a graphic. But, having been drawn to the graphic, most will read its caption. For this reason, include a caption with each graphic to express the message you want to convey.

To illustrate, either of the two examples below could be used to caption a photo of a safety meeting. Example A merely labels the photo, while example B conveys a valuable message about your safety record.

  • A: Safety Meeting
  • B: Safety Program Reduces Accident Risk: Our comprehensive safety program, including daily safety meetings at each site, has contributed to zero lost time accidents in the past 12 months.

Reusing visuals

For most teams, developing a graphic is not a one-time investment. Differentiators, processes, etc. tend to be durable. This means the related graphics, perhaps with some modification, can often be reused in future proposals.

Bottom line: Consistent use of visualization to convey valuable information is helpful to proposal evaluators and trains them to pay attention to your graphics and their captions/They will reward your efforts with higher scores.


Need help making your proposals more compelling?

Contact Complex2Clear

Photo credit

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




Positioning your offer

 September 17, 2019
by Paul Heron

Last week we explained how to demonstrate responsiveness to a proposal issuer’s strategic drivers and hot button issues. This post deals with positioning—the art and science of comparing your solution favourably against alternatives.

Successful positioning differentiates your company, team and solution. To be a differentiator, a feature must:

  • Be a feature or quality you possess that your competitors don’t, and;
  • Convey a benefit that matters to your client

Where to find differentiators

Most differentiators can be found in four areas. To find yours, ask the questions below:

  • Understanding: Can you make the case that your company understands the prospect and the project better than any other vendor? Incumbents often make this argument during rebids.
  • Experience: Can you demonstrate that you have the most experience in the kind of work on offer? This can make the case that you are best able to bring the project in on time and on budget.
  • Performance: Can you prove that one or more aspects of your solution—design, quality, reliability, cost, safety record—is superior to those of other competitors?
  • People: Can you propose individuals for key project roles who are known and liked by the issuer and/or have proven ability to perform at a high level?

Manage your weaknesses

Positioning can also be defensive. Does your main competitor have strengths it is likely to position against you? If so, consider how you can defend proactively. For example, if you know a much larger competitor will position its bench strength and installed base against you, defend by stressing your flexibility and responsiveness—ideally with an example of how this led to success in a similar project.

Ghost your competition

Ghosting is the practice of directly targeting some aspect of a competitor’s offer—without, of course, mentioning the competitor by name. If, for example, a competitor is known to be struggling financially, you could ghost with a statement such as, “[OurCo's] strong balance sheet means [Issuer] will avoid risk of schedule delays caused by financial issues on our part.”

Ghosting can be used to offset competitor strengths, exploit competitor weaknesses, reinforce your relative strengths and defend your perceived weaknesses. See this post for more on ghosting competitors in bid proposals.

Stand out—but be careful

Relatively few proposal teams effectively use positioning in their RFP responses. This means that skillful use of positioning can have a significant impact on evaluators’ impressions—and their scores.

Because positioning involves making a comparison, it can be perceived as negative. Overdone, it can also be seen as preachy or condescending. To avoid leaving this impression, use positioning sparingly and ensure your arguments are sound.



Need help making the case for your solution?

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Photo credit

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




Showing responsiveness

 September 10, 2019
by Paul Heron

Last week we made the case that merely meeting compliance requirements is not enough to win large RFPs. Buyers rightly expect bidders to show how their solutions will do more than meet the bare minimum.

A responsive proposal shows deep understanding of the prospect and the project—beyond what’s in the RFP—and provides reasons to believe your team “gets it” and will deliver success.

Strategic drivers and hot button issues

  • Strategic drivers: Every RFP is issued in response to one or more needs. Those needs may have existed for some time. Strategic drivers explain why the prospect has decided to make this investment now. Is it defending against a competitor’s move? Is it fighting a decline in market share? Does it see a new business opportunity? Is it seeking to reduce costs? Is it facing compliance issues?
  • Hot button issues: In addition to strategic drivers, every prospect will have issues it wants addressed. Among these are hot button issues, items that are top-of-mind for the prospect—or for some evaluator(s)—perhaps because of a prior bad experience. These could include:
    • Desire for cost certainty
    • Need for on-time completion
    • Technology preferences
    • Safety concerns
    • Transition costs and hassle
    • Ease of use
    • Smooth business relations

Understanding strategic drivers and hot button issues gives you a significant leg up in developing and describing your solution. You’ll know, for example, which features and benefits to stress, how best to make performance-vs-cost and other trade-offs and—crucially—how to describe your solution in ways that resonate with evaluators.

Project factors

In addition to addressing strategic needs and hot button issues, you’ll want to show you understand and can satisfy the project requirements and the challenges and risks they present. These will be unique to the project and can range from building site characteristics, to environmental requirements, to traffic management, to winter weather, to the need to time installations to accommodate seasonal demands on the end users’ time.

Show responsiveness to project factors by citing past experience and success in managing similar projects. Provide examples where your team has innovated solutions to challenges identical or very similar to those this project is likely to present. If possible, cite examples using the same key individuals as those you’ve nominated in your proposal.

Drivers and issues change over time

Don’t assume what mattered to a prospect in a previous RFP still matters today. As technologies mature, for example, reliability typically becomes a given and relative cost becomes more important. As processes and markets evolve, energy efficiency, for example, may outrank throughput in priority.

Ensure your assumptions about drivers and issues are as current as possible (see below).

Tapping sales knowledge

This post explains how building your proposal around deep (and current) knowledge of the project and prospect is the key to developing a top-scoring offer. The importance of gaining this intel highlights the critical role of business developers in crafting responsive proposals.

Most successful bidders for complex contracts have business developers trained to build close relationships with multiple prospect team members, to listen carefully, and to keep notes. Then, when the RFP is finally issued, they can mine their accumulated knowledge for nuggets of responsiveness gold.



Need help focussing on the needs of your prospect?

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Photo credit

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




Managing compliance

 September 3, 2019
by Paul Heron

Nearly every bidder understands a proposal needs to comply with the issuer’s requirements or risk disqualification. A compliant proposal does two things:

  • Answers all the questions. This may seem obvious, but content developers can write long responses without actually answering the question. And they—and sometimes reviewers—can fail to notice they haven’t responded to all parts of multi-part questions.
  • Addresses every instance where the RFP states, “the bidder shall” or “must” or “will” do something. This includes items such as page count, font size, forms, packaging, and the submittal deadline and location.

Compliance tools and tips

To improve compliance management:

  • Create and manage an annotated table of contents (ATOC) to track content items. If appropriate, use the ATOC to create a compliance checklist to include in your proposal, to point evaluators to where each item is addressed and to show your bid complies. 
  • Paste the RFP questions into the response template. Use a distinct style (we prefer an italic font smaller than regular body copy and shaded or set in a pale colour). For multi-part questions (e.g. 3.1.a, 3.1.b, 3.1.c), give each subpart its own line and space for the response.
  • Get routine RFP compliance items out of the way early by assigning one individual to actively manage these items. We’ve seen too many teams in panic mode close to submission deadlines because the person who handles, for example, insurance certificates, is on vacation when the team finally gets around to requesting one.

Beyond compliance

When bidding on standardized goods and services, compliance plus the lowest price can be enough to win. But for complex deliverables, such as a design-build project, or a multi-year contract to provide and support equipment or services, or to manage infrastructure, compliance alone is not enough.

This means tackling two situation-specific requirements:

  • Responsiveness: Showing evaluators that you’re aware of the prospect’s strategic needs and hot button issues, deeply understand the project itself, and that you have the required capability and experience to fulfill the requirements
  • Positioning: Distinguishing your company, team, solution and value for money as superior to those of your competitors.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t make the mistake of treating an RFP response as a marketing brochure, full of broad claims about features and benefits. Instead, develop each as a logical sales argument tailored to the specific prospect and project.

Coming posts will explore responsiveness and positioning. The final post in this series will explain how to add impact to your arguments with visualization.



Are you struggling to win your share of bids?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit

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




Positioning your price

 August 27, 2019
by Paul Heron

This month’s posts have made the case for treating price as more than a number buried at the back of your proposal. We’ve explained the importance of price in proposals, how to write a pricing executive summary and various ways to defend your price in a proposal. This post looks at how to position your price against your competition.

In large bids, the price quote is typically packaged separately from the technical proposal. In these cases, a bidder can be disqualified for including price in the narrative. But that doesn’t mean you can’t position your price—and you should.

Understanding positioning

Positioning is the technique of describing various features—in this case price—in such a way that your offer becomes the best option in the minds of the evaluators.

Buyers want to know a price is based on some logical process, includes all their requirements, and is competitive.

Ways to position your price

Positioning is industry and project-specific. Here are some examples from situations we’ve seen.

Using trade-offs: Make any cost and price trade-offs in your pricing decisions explicit in a table or text. For example:

  • We considered using the slightly cheaper D433Z technology, but our recommended solution provides 30% greater reliability (MTBF), giving you much better system uptime and lower lifetime costs.
  • The recommended approach uses open trench construction. Open trench is 20% less expensive than the trenchless technology used in your reference project, which had to accommodate greater environmental and traffic issues.

As reasonable and low risk: Savvy buyers want to know your price calculations are based on sound information and that you can deliver within it. For example:

  • Our price quote is calculated based on our experience with a project last year for XYZ Corporation, used as a reference. The XYZ project, which had an 90% functional overlap and was slightly larger than yours, was completed on time and within budget.
  • Over 85% of labour and management costs will be for internal resources. Our two proposed subcontractors have each teamed with us on three projects in the past year. This structure enables us to price your project realistically with low risk of cost overruns. 

Against competitors: If you know one or more competitors typically cut corners to make their price more attractive, call them out (without mentioning them by name). For example:

  • Because of your high availability requirements, our price includes OEM warranties providing 24-hour repair or replacement on all major components during the five-year contract life. Some competitor prices may be based on cheaper third-party warranties. These technically comply with the RFP, but are typically less reliable, risking major disruption to your operations in case of a breakdown.

Find what works for you

Use the above techniques as thought-starters and brainstorm with your team to find ways to position price.

Your goals are to help evaluators have confidence your pricing is based on sound reasoning and to pre-emptively explain away any variances with competitors’ prices.



Challenged to express the value behind your price offer?

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Photo credit

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




Defending your price

 August 20, 2019
by Paul Heron

Last week we made the case for including a pricing executive summary in proposals. The aim is to show your offer was carefully developed, and is realistic and more attractive than alternatives.

This post shows how to make that summary easy to consume and responsive to your prospect’s issues.

Organizing your cost/price summary

Structure the summary around 3-5 themes important to your prospect. Themes vary by industry and project type, but common examples include price reasonableness, total cost of ownership, costs aligned to progress payments, risk of overruns and/or non-performance, return on investment, etc.

Present the information at a high level and aim for a 50/50 balance of text and visuals.

Rich visualization gives evaluators fresh perspectives on your price and builds comfort. Your goal is to make the evaluator’s job easier, not to complicate it.

Cost/price presentation examples

Use these examples to stimulate your thinking, and then decide what will work best in your situation.

  • Over time: Show costs broken out by major milestones and/or project segments
    Purpose: To show affordability, alignment with progress payments and/or possible divisions between budget categories (e.g. capital vs. expense items).

  • Compared with similar projects: Use a table and visual to present costs of recent projects of similar size and scope to the current project.
    Purpose: To show price is realistic and competitive
  • How estimated: Diagram your estimating process
    Purpose: To reinforce that your price is cost-based and carefully calculated, so the prospect understands your price is realistic and any contracting negotiations must be logic-based.
  • By subcontractor: Use a pie chart to show the relative size of contracted segments, together with information on each contractor.
    Purpose: To show how costs are allocated, emphasize competitive selection process, contractor capability and low non-performance risk.

  • Including trade-offs: Use a table to show options and how each decision impacted cost and price
    Purpose: To show how cost/price decisions align with the prospect’s strategic drivers and hot button issues. Also use to ghost competitors’ price offers.
  • Return on investment: Use a graph to show value added, compared to project costs
    Purpose: Where your solution will increase sales or reduce costs, to show a comparison of costs and related profits/savings over time

Add a selling caption

For each visual, include a selling caption to stress the benefits it conveys. Write these so they can be cut-and-pasted into an evaluator’s summary.

Here’s a post on writing selling captions in proposals.

The payoff: Better contracting conversations

In the absence of cost calculations, market comparisons or alternatives considered, your prospect has little basis for negotiation other than “your price seems high.”

A strong summary will help prospects see you as a responsible and reasonable vendor, willing to share information and seeking a fair deal.

This is to your advantage, whether you want to avoid turning an informal opportunity into an open competition, or in a formal bid situation where final selection is subject to successful contracting.

Next week: Positioning your price


Need help presenting price information in complex proposals?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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




Pricing executive summary

 August 13, 2019
by Paul Heron

Because price matters so much, it makes sense to invest in presenting it as favourably as possible. Despite this, many companies relegate price to a single number at the back of informal proposals and submit only the issuer-supplied pricing forms in formal bids.

A better strategy is to give your price the prominence it deserves.

Price-included proposals

Informal proposals (solicited without an RFP process), and many private sector RFPs, call for a single document that includes both the solution and price. In these cases:

  • Include your price in the executive summary. The belief that burying the price quote will force your buyer to read the proposal is false. He or she will read a page or two at most, then flip to the back to find the price. That brings us to the next point.
  • Present your price favourably. Use the executive summary to telegraph that your quoted price is logic-based and competitive, and then make the detailed case in the pricing section.

Remember: Almost always, the person who solicited your informal proposal needs internal buy-in for the purchase. Anything you can do to help—and avoid involving other vendors—is worth the effort.

Two-envelope proposals

Include a summary with your price submission in all large RFPs. Do this unless the RFP specifically forbids including additional material in the price binder.

This practice has at least three benefits:

  • Creates an executive summary for senior decision makers. Senior people seldom read pricing tables, which are often highly technical and complex. A plain language summary, including visualization, increases your chances of getting senior-level attention to price.
  • Sets up a positive evaluation. A well-crafted summary creates context and positions your price as carefully reasoned and organized.
  • Makes it easy for evaluators. The team evaluating prices on complex RFPs usually need to prepare a written summary with their recommendations. An ideal way to think of your summary is as cut-and-paste content for evaluators to include in theirs.

Stay client-focused

The goal in your informal proposal is to close the sale without involving competitors. In a formal RFP response, you want to show your price covers all requirements, is reasonable and realistic, minimizes risk and includes trade-offs that best address the prospect’s needs and issues.

In both cases, keep your prospect in mind when presenting your price.


Next week: Visualizing your pricing and costs.


Want to add a cost-price summary to your next bid?

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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