Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Profile: Technical buyer

 October 16, 2018
by Paul Heron

Technical buyers are gatekeepers. They don’t have the economic buyer’s power to make the final decision—but they can keep your proposal from getting shortlisted.

Technical buyers use specialized knowledge to analyse whether solutions meet the RFP requirements. Because their arguments are based on facts, technical buyer findings command respect.

Technical buyers are not all techies

The label “technical buyer” suggests a technology specialist. But the term refers to any evaluator applying specialized knowledge. Technical buyers include:

  • A contracts manager, who evaluates how performance, cost savings, on-time, on-budget delivery, service levels and other specifics can be built into an enforceable agreement with appropriate remedies
  • A risk management specialist, who will examine a solution’s impact on corporate security, liability and insurance
  • A regulatory manager, who can evaluate for compliance with applicable laws and regulations

Writing for technical buyers

Technical buyers are not swayed by general arguments. They typically use checklists to search bid responses for specifics. They aim to gather and marshal facts on which to base their recommendations.

To appeal to technical buyers:

  • Begin by understanding their needs: Identify all technical evaluator issues as a part of your strategy and create checklists by section as part of pre-kick off planning.
  • Prove your solution meets requirements: Create a compliance matrix of all features required in the RFP and show how your solution satisfies each requirement. Use quantitative measures wherever possible. 
  • Address potential technical concerns: For example, in an IT proposal, clearly explain that you’ve recommended an older technology or software version to ensure compatibility with legacy systems. Alternatively, show that your next-generation solution is robust, well accepted and compatible with the prospect’s existing systems. If possible, prove your arguments by citing an authoritative third party.
  • Ghost your competition: Use phrasing such as, “some vendors will offer . . . but we” to position your solution’s strengths against those of other known bidders. This is especially important if you offer a disruptive or new-to-the-market technology and the RFP calls for old technology.

Localize technical information and arguments

Many technical buyers don’t read proposals. Instead, they immediately jump to the contents page, and then to sections containing the information they need. So keep any explanations close to the facts they’ll seek.

Use fact-based graphics and/or callouts to highlight your defence of any features that could be considered non-compliant. 

Respect the technical buyers’ credibility

Their fact-based reasoning enables technical buyers to express their conclusions more objectively than other evaluators. This often gives them outsize clout with decision makers. In a close competition, it’s usually technical buyers who cite differentiators that give one or two bidders an edge over others.

For this reason alone, it’s critical to anticipate and satisfy technical buyer needs.


Need help writing more client focused proposals?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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




Profile: Economic buyer

 October 9, 2018
by Paul Heron

Last month, we posted on the need to think deeper than the RFP language if you want to win large contracts. Part of this is understanding the buying process and those who will influence the purchase decision.

This post profiles the economic buyer, the ultimate decision maker in complex sales. Only he or she can say yes—although technical buyers and user buyers may also influence the decision.

About the economic buyer

The economic buyer, often referred to as “the one who writes the cheque,” is typically a senior executive, often an owner or business unit leader. This individual typically focuses on value for money and is willing to make trade-offs to get the best deal. The economic buyer relies on recommendations from the other buyer types, but bears ultimate responsibility for the purchase. Often he or she gets involved late, after compliance and major technical thresholds have been satisfied.

So how do you appeal to the economic buyer for your proposal?

Show strategic fit and economic value

Economic buyers come closest to representing the strategic needs of the prospect. Get buy-in from these buyers by arguing that your solution:

  • Aligns with the purchaser’s vision and strategy: Connect the immediate purchase to the buyer’s corporate vision and/or strategy, based on first-hand conversation, the company website, annual report, or public remarks.
  • Achieves business goals: Cite specific goals from your sales conversations or other sources and show how your solution will achieve them.
  • Fits the budget: Show the cost of your solution is within the budget range for the required features and performance
  • Offers business improvements: Demonstrate how you will improve productivity, growth, competitiveness and/or profitability

If you offer the most price-competitive solution, stress that it fulfills all requirements at the lowest cost. If your price is higher, use a lifetime costs model to show how your extended warranty, higher performance, ease of use, lower maintenance and/or other factors justify the higher initial cost. Economic buyers will consider cash flow as well as accrual impacts, so use both in your arguments. Because the economic buyer is likely to spend little time with your proposal, make bite-sized arguments in section summaries, captions and call outs.

Don’t leave it to the evaluators to figure out your price competitiveness. If you can do so within the rules, ghost your competition—even in proposals that do not include prices, or where pricing is evaluated separately.

Hot button issues

Because of the power economic buyers have, prioritize discovering and addressing their key issues in your sales discovery.

When preparing an unsolicited proposal, check out the economic buyer’s online presence (LinkedIn, public remarks) for possible sources of information on his or her hot buttons. 

Do economic buyers even read proposals?

Depending on the individual and the situation, the economic buyer may be highly involved—or a rubber stamp.

Business owners are almost certain to be involved and may also be the main technical buyer. In large public organizations, the final sign-off may be a formality—especially for small contracts with limited impact on the organization. In some cases, a committee will make the decision.

But that doesn’t mean you can skip the economic buyer arguments. When making its recommendation, the evaluation team will still want to position a solution as the best combination of cost and value--especially if they are not recommending the lowest priced solution.  


Need help with an important bid proposal?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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




Understanding prospects

 October 2, 2018
by Paul Heron

Low bids lose RFP competitions when evaluators have doubts about the technical solution’s reliability or completeness, or the vendor’s ability to perform, or to meet the delivery schedule, or some other aspect of the bidder’s offer.

And nothing raises doubts like a bidder who fails to show insight about the issuer and its needs. When a response simply parrots back the RFP requirements, evaluators can’t risk assuming the bidder understands.

Thinking beyond the RFP

For obvious reasons, RFPs don’t include issuer motives such as “due to a 20 percent drop in market share” or “because of persistent quality issues with our products.” But most prospects willing to make a large financial investment are responding to some current or anticipated pain.

Your job is to trace the “chain of pain” so you can tailor a solution to address it—and express through your offer that you understand. Do that with:

  1. Sales discovery: Effective business developers build relationships and work to understand exactly what’s needed, which departments are impacted, who are likely to evaluate the responses and who is driving the process. This firsthand knowledge is ideal for strategy planning. If this is not available, try options 2 and 3.
  2. Research the prospect: Visit the company website. If it’s publicly traded, check its most recent MD&A, shareholder letters and press releases. Read the analysts’ reports. Look for mentions in trade and business publications. Google for media mentions of senior executives by name.
  3. Research comparable companies: Search the Web for similar companies. What issues are they facing? Google combinations of your prospect’s name and those of its main competitors to uncover rivalries and who is winning. Search financial news sites for industry trends.

Even without firsthand knowledge, an hour on Google may help you shape a solution that responds to your prospect’s unstated needs.

Thinking about who’ll make the decision

In the end, companies don’t feel pain—people do. So you need to learn who will be involved in the contract decision and how to appeal to each. That's the next stage in your research.

One classic approach to buyer theory defines three categories corresponding to organizational roles:

  • Economic buyers are the final decision makers—they “write the cheque.”
  • Technical buyers are specialists who analyse technical features and act as gatekeepers
  • User buyers are those most directly impacted by the solution

The next three posts will look more closely at these buyer types and how to craft value propositions that show you understand and will satisfy their main concerns.

Next week: Appealing to the economic buyer


Need help developing more effective proposals?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit

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




Copyediting proposals

 September 25, 2018
by Paul Heron

Earlier posts this month included developing content prompts for proposal writers, managing early drafts and structural editing. Approaching content management and editing systematically improves efficiency and helps avoid last-minute rewrites.

Copyediting is the next step. Sections should now be complete, compliant, well-organized and should express the win strategy. The proposal should also be in a template that uses styles to format heads and subheads , body text, lists, tables, captions, etc.

Copyediting basics

Copyediting aims to remove any remaining impediments to evaluators engaging with and understanding your offer. Prime offenders include complex and/or awkwardly structured sentences and paragraphs, confusing words and phrases, uneven formatting (including section and subsection numbering) and inconsistent use of acronyms, abbreviations, capitalization, references, etc.

At a minimum, copy editors should do the following:

  • Match the language to the prospect (U.S. English proposals for U.S. prospects, Canadian English proposals for Canadian prospects, etc.). Update the template styles to the correct version, if necessary. To reconfirm, select all, set the language preference in Word, enable check spelling, and correct any misspellings.
  • Use styles for formatting. In Word, on the Home tab, click on the Styles pane and then select Show Styles Guides and Show Direct Formatting Guides.
  • Edit to a consistent voice. Use similar syntax (short declarative sentences, devoid of bafflegab, clichés, superlatives, and idiosyncratic expressions).
  • Be consistent in using pronouns, punctuation, abbreviations, acronyms, figure and table numbering and captioning.
  • Align formatting of tables. Text size, colours, shading, border colour and line weight should be consistent.
  • Use lists consistently. This blog post provides guidelines for using lists in proposals.
  • For joint venture or consortium proposals, develop and observe guidelines for referring to team members, key individuals, reference projects, and for the use of first- and third-person pronouns when referring to the J-V or consortium and its members.

The best way to ensure high quality results is to edit in several sweeps. Choose one or two items from the list above and focus on checking just those requirements. If copyediting reveals gaps or other major flaws, flag these with comments for review and correction.

Develop and use a style guide

A style guide is indispensable for consistent copyediting—especially if proposals will be copyedited by two or more individuals. If you develop proposals regularly, consider building a guide tailored to your business. The U.S. Plain Language Guidelines are a good starting point.

Copyediting support tools

A downloadable or cloud-based support tool, such as PerfectIt or Grammarly, can improve editing speed and consistency. You can also use Word’s advanced search function to find repeat errors—but be very careful of accepting “Replace all,” which can have unintended results. Always create a new version before making global changes.

The payoff

Evaluators read to scan and score proposals. They have little patience for irrelevant or confusing content. Edits that produce clear, persuasive proposals will dramatically improve the attention your offer receives, your technical score—and your wins.


Need help writing stronger proposals?

Contact Complex2Clear

Photo credit

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




Structural editing

 September 18, 2018
by Paul Heron

This month’s blog theme is editing proposal content. The goals are to make efficient use of resources and to avoid last minute rewrite marathons.

If you haven’t already read the posts on Developing content prompts and Managing early drafts, please do so now. They contain useful background to this post.

Structural editing (also called strategic editing) aims to ensure content responds to the RFP questions—but also that it:

  • Is logically organized
  • Contains no redundant or non-responsive content
  • Addresses the issuer’s strategic requirements and hot button issues
  • Positions the offer against known competitive strengths and weaknesses
  • Takes advantage of visualization to improve readability and persuasiveness

Before you start

Revisit the RFP requirements, evaluation criteria and scoring system, and the team’s win strategy. Review any content prompts, section outlines, or other direction provided to content developers at kickoff.

Because structural editing requires context and bold changes, the best choice for this job is often the proposal manager or another senior team member.

Structural editing process

Read the entire section without making edits. Structural editing is about adjusting structure, not sentences. If you struggle to resist copyediting while reading, try sitting on your hands. (Seriously—it works!)

Evaluate each response for structural logic and completeness. For example, if the RFP requires:

  • A yes/no or numerical answer, make this the first sentence of the response, followed by additional information, if needed.
  • A plan or approach, compare the response against the prompts or approved section outline or bullet point analysis. Restructure the response as needed. If no prompts were provided, improve the logical flow of the response as necessary.
  • Similar long-form responses (e.g. “Describe the team’s experience in . . “) in multiple sections, align the structure of all the corresponding responses, to the extent possible.

Identify the following and take the actions indicated:

  • Gaps. Solution: Highlight and comment, referring to RFP ask
  • Non-responsive and/or non-compliant content. Solution: Highlight and add comment.
  • Redundant content. Solution: Merge or cut.
  • Empty content, platitudes. Solution: Delete.

Look for opportunities to:

  • Convert plain text to tables or lists. Solution: Convert as appropriate. Consider using bulleted lists instead of text strings of five or more items. Use tables to show relationships, such as pros and cons, events and consequences (e.g. a risk management matrix), chronology, etc.
  • Visualize key ideas. Solution: Convert plain text to graphics to highlight important benefits and advantages. If your team is new to using visualization, Complex2Clear's proposal blog index links to several posts. See column “V”.

Make clear, constructive comments. Structural editing usually exposes gaps and creates other work for the content drafter, who may not have your strategic perspective. If you’ve made dramatic changes to the draft, call or meet with the writer to walk through your reasoning and next steps.

The payoff

Strong structural edits transform proposals. This step unifies multi-author responses, giving evaluators the sense that the proponent team is cohesive and well-organized, with a clarity of purpose and approach. Well-structured proposals are also easier to read and score.



Need help improving your proposal editing process?

Contact Complex2Clear

Photo credit

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




Managing early drafts

 September 11, 2018
by Paul Heron

This month’s posts examine management tools and techniques to help proposal teams avoid last minute rewrites. Last week we explained why and how to use proposal narrative prompts.

This post looks at managing writers’ initial drafts.

First rule: Don’t wait

Don’t make the mistake of scheduling your first content deadline more than one week after kick-off. If your writers are new to proposal writing or have other priorities, you’ll likely find they put off proposal responsibilities, if allowed.

Giving writers two or more weeks to produce first drafts, especially when the response window is tight, almost guarantees a last-minute crunch.

Schedule a bullet-point review

Rather than requesting a complete first draft, consider asking content developers to analyse their sections and produce a bullet point outline within a few days. This does two things:

  • Gets writers thinking about their sections immediately after kick-off
  • Provides an indication of which writers can and will keep commitments

Maintain momentum by reviewing each writer’s outline when submitted. Involve the writer and evaluate for compliance, logical structure and use of win themes. Based on the results, either approve for drafting or request an improved outline.

On large projects, consider asking a “Pink Team,” comprised of the proposal leaders, to evaluate and comment on these bullet point outlines.

Triage first drafts on receipt

Whether or not you include a bullet-point stage, assess drafts immediately on receipt to decide whether they meet minimum standards for inclusion in a combined draft. Evaluate against two standards:

  • Is the draft compliant—that is, does it answer the question(s)?
  • Is it substantially complete? (We consider 75% as substantially complete.)

Mark up and return drafts that fail this review for rework and escalate as appropriate. Energy spent trying to rework substandard content is better invested in improving already strong copy. Accepting weak drafts also trains writers to submit poor work.

Speed is critical

Notice our emphasis on turning around outlines and first drafts quickly. Time is always short in developing proposals, making it hard to regain lost momentum.

Even on large proposals, two or three editors typically edit all drafts from a dozen or more writers. Producing a clear, compelling submission that includes win themes and rich visualization takes time—which means those editors need to start with strong first drafts.

Next week: Structural editing



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 




Developing content prompts

 September 4, 2018
by Paul Heron

Nearly every proposal team has had to rewrite major sections just before a deadline. These marathons typically stem from a last-minute realization that the content doesn't answer the questions. They take a toll on everyone and produce final submissions well below early expectations. 

This month’s posts explain how to avoid major rewrites.

NOTE: This approach assumes the proposal leads have taken time to analyses the RFP and develop a strategy and win themes. See this post for more on proposal strategy making.

Narrative guides and prompts

To improve first drafts, do not simply distribute the RFP to your content developers. Instead, plan and execute a proposal kickoff and give writers their sections, together with a set of prompts for answering each question.

Prompts need to be written by someone who understands the project, the prospect, likely competitors, and the team’s solution and win strategy. Develop prompts to:

  • Ensure compliance
  • Show responsiveness and to position the offer against competitors
  • Promote consistent structure 

Prompt for compliance

For complex, multi-part questions, identify all elements of a fully compliant response in a bullet point list. 

Prompt for responsiveness and positioning

To ensure the draft considers responsiveness and positioning, develop prompts such as:

  • How does our solution address the prospect’s key strategic requirements and hot button issues? Using the win themes provided, tie the solution to 2-4 prospect needs.
  • What trade-offs (if any) did we make in deciding to recommend this solution? 
  • In what specific ways is our solution superior to those of likely competitors? See competitive solutions matrix for guidance.

Prompt for structure

Consistent structure signals a cohesive team and leadership, and is especially important in RFQ responses, which typically contain high-value approach sections. See this post on consistent proposal structure for more on this topic.

The following prompts recommend a logical structure adaptable to all sections that require approaches and plans:

  • Cite 4-6 concepts or principles that underpin our approach to this deliverable. These are items that, when followed, produce successful outcomes
  • Explain exactly what we will do and how major decisions align with the concepts cited above. Use 70-80 percent of the total page limit for this part of your response
  • Show how our team has used this approach successfully in past relevant projects, citing reference projects and key individuals wherever possible
  • Link the key features of our approach to the prospect’s goals and hot button issues

Worth the effort

You may be thinking: This sounds like a lot of work. Developing clear guidance does take effort by the proposal manager or other senior team member. But this early work pays off handsomely in better first drafts and—crucially—avoidance of those last-minute rewrite marathons we can all do without.

Next week: Managing early drafts



Need help writing stronger proposals?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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




Taboo subject: Competition

 August 28, 2018
by Paul Heron

This month’s posts explore taboo subjects—areas proposal teams typically avoid in responses—and suggest ways to handle them. Earlier posts covered service issues, risk and price. This post recommends ways to address your competition.

Mentioning competitors by name really is taboo. It risks provoking a negative reaction from evaluators—and legal action from those named. Instead use “ghosting,” the practice of skilfully explaining how your understanding, decisions (components, pricing, etc.), and team are superior to those of an invisible but ever-present “other.”

Ways to use ghosting 

Ghost to offset competitor strengths, exploit competitor weaknesses, reinforce your relative strengths and defend your perceived weaknesses. For example:

  • Ghost your closest competitor’s weaknesses (e.g. safety issues, weak customer support, poor delivery performance), by playing up your relative strengths in that area.
  • Ghost a competitor’s richer feature set by explaining its drawbacks (expensive, failure-prone, not required for performance, costly to repair).
  • Ghost your relative size. If your company is smaller, ghost the size argument by stressing your responsiveness, ability to provide a single point of contact and track record of successful projects. If larger, ghost with your service footprint, depth of technical resources and bench strength.
  • Ghost anticipated price differences. Ghost a competitor’s lower price by citing features of your offer that reduce total cost of ownership (longer life, low maintenance design) and costs attributable to satisfying the prospect’s list of must-have features. If you expect to have the price advantage, avoid being out-ghosted by showing your solution is as robust and fully-featured as your competitors’.

Use trade-offs to add credibility to ghosting claims

Trade-offs show you have carefully considered and dismissed alternatives, thereby demonstrating understanding and boosting credibility. Use trade-offs to reinforce your strengths on hot-button issues. See below for two examples.

  • Desire for on-time completion:  “We typically use one paving contractor on projects of this size, but have included two on our proposed team. This will require more coordination on our part, but increases deadline certainty, even in the case of unexpected delays.”
  • Need for high reliability: “We considered the AR470-B, which complies with the RFP requirements, but selected the AR580-B for its superior reliability due to the high cost of downtime for your operations.“

Effective ghosting takes competitive intel

You need to know your closest competitors’ strengths and weaknesses to ghost effectively. Most ghosting arguments also show responsiveness, but the impact is magnified when you target areas of relative superiority. If you are not investing in competitive intelligence, you risk being ghosted without defence. 

Avoid condescension and overuse when ghosting

Some evaluators may find ghosting preachy. Be sure to use restraint and ask reviewers to watch for instances that could cause offence.

Ghost sparingly. Even if well done, excessive ghosting will turn off evaluators. Plan your ghosting opportunities during the proposal strategy phase and deploy them where they’ll have the greatest impact.



Need help writing stronger bids?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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




Taboo subject: Risk

 August 21, 2018
by Paul Heron

Some bidders avoid raising the issue of risk in proposals. Their reasoning often runs along the lines of: “Why bring up a negative?” or, in the same vein, “If the RFP doesn’t ask, why would we open that can of worms?”

In some sectors, risk is always on the table. Complex construction projects, for example, face multiple risks to on-time, on-budget completion. A bidder who did not identify and explain its strategy for mitigating risk factors would be considered naïve at best.

The fact is, every project contains risk—especially large projects that extend over multiple years.

When to raise risk in a proposal

Here’s a good rule of thumb: Whether or not required by the RFP, include a discussion of risk if either of the following is true:

  1. The project’s success or failure has strategic consequences for the prospect
  2. Your prospect’s size and business operations suggest it routinely analyses risk

So an IT solution for a financial institution meets both criteria, and a large cleaning services bid for the same institution would meet the second.

Identfying risks

Risk identification is a big subject and beyond the scope of this post. Different kinds of projects have their own sets of risks. Project managers often brainstorm around four main categories:

  • External (regulatory compliance, weather, external stakeholder actions, labour unrest, etc.)
  • Internal (governance, budget, scheduling, quality management, procurement, etc.)
  • Technology (components do not perform to spec)
  • Unforeseeable (so-called “black swans”—rare events with catastrophic impact)

Well established risk tables exist for most project types and make a good starting point for those new to identifying risks. Begin with your industry organization or search online.

Analysing risk

Make a four-column table with the following column heads:

  1. THREAT: Identified threat to success 
  2. IMPACT: Assessment of the project’s vulnerability to the threat, ranked high, moderate or low
  3. LIKELIHOOD: Chances the threat will occur—again expressed as high, moderate or low
  4. MITIGATION STRATEGIES: Measures to reduce the chance of occurrence, and to minimize the impact if it does

Assign a row to each threat, organized in order of priority, based on vulnerability and likelihood. Within each threat organize column four by priority as determined by your risk management strategy.

Include a risk table for each section

Earlier this year we posted on how content consistency makes bid proposals easier to read and score. Risk analysis provides an opportunity to show consistency.

Analyse threats and include a risk management table for every main section, if possible. The presence of even a short table, will signal that you’ve considered the issue. Place the tables in the same location within each section—one logical place is immediately following your plan for fulfilling the section’s deliverables.

Partner with your prospect

Risk analysis is an opportunity to position your company as a partner, rather than a mere service vendor. By including risks, you will demonstrate you’re strategic and have the prospect’s best interests in mind.



Need help writing more successful bids?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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




Taboo subject: Price

 August 14, 2018
by Paul Heron

This month’s posts offer ideas for handling taboo subjects—items most proposal teams would avoid if given the option. Last week we looked at service issues.

Price is another taboo subject for many. Nearly every proposal needs to include a price, either in the main response, or in a separate envelope. Despite the effort teams make to work up their pricing, the price itself often appears only as a number on the last page, or as entries in a vendor-supplied worksheet.

Price is important. Even if the RFP scoring is weighted in favour of the technical submission, technical scores are often closely bunched, which makes it difficult to overcome a price disadvantage of even a few percentage points.

State price upfront if allowed

Approach stating price in proposals as follows:

  • In informal proposals (those submitted outside a competition), state your price in the first or second paragraph. Believing you can bury the price until you’ve won over the prospect is unrealistic. Everyone we know flips through proposals to find the price before beginning to read. Be sure to re-state your price, along with your terms and conditions, in its own section.
  • In formal proposals (RFP responses), follow the rules. If pricing is included in the main proposal, also state it in the executive summary.

Add context

Proposal evaluators benefit from information that supports your price. The goal is to show your offer is fair and reasonable. This is critical in the case of informal proposals, since there will always be pressure from within your prospect organization to issue a competitive RFP.

Depending on your industry and offering, consider:

  • Showing how the price aligns with those of similar projects
  • Breaking down the price by major phase and/or subcontractor
  • Diagramming the process used to estimate costs and prices
  • Identifying expected cost savings and return on investment
  • Reinforcing the strategic needs and issues addressed by the purchase
  • Breaking out costs related to specified requirements (e.g.. system speed, reliability, durability, service response time, extended service hours, etc.)

In each case, use graphics to visualize key point in your pricing explanation.

Include a pricing summary

In a two-envelope RFP submission—especially where pricing must be supplied on issuer-supplied worksheets—consider including pricing summary in the pricing envelope. Before you begin, confirm that the RFP does not prohibit including additional information.

In addition to providing context as above, a pricing summary can prevent evaluator errors in scoring complex offers. Here’s an example:

In response to a distributed system RFP, Complex2Clear’s client offered various endpoint options at a range of prices. The pricing worksheets assumed a one-size-fits-all solution—which all other bidders were offering. We feared the evaluators would simply multiply our highest price by their number of endpoints. We included a pricing summary to minimize this risk. It explained how to optimize price and performance at each site type and included pie charts showing alternative endpoint combinations and the total cost for each. Our client won.

Bottom line

Don’t let price be a taboo subject, especially where the offer is complex and/or multi-year.

Next week: Talking about risk


Need help tackling difficult subjects in your 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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