Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Informal proposal modules

 October 11, 2016
by Paul Heron

Last week we identified ideal situations for informal proposals. We also argued for the advantages of pre-building content, so you can respond to a request quickly without sacrificing quality. This week and next we'll show you how to approach pre-building content.

The payoff for following this model can be huge. Using prebuilt sections, one of our clients now spends just two or three hours to create proposals that used to take 15 hours or more. Since it was tough to find those 15 hours, they now submit proposals within a week instead of taking a month. But here's the real payoff: The new proposals are winning more business.

Brainstorming content modules

Start by considering the types of questions your proposal needs to answer. One way to do this is to analyze the three buyer types: the economic buyer, technical buyers (who—as the post explains—are not “techies” but rather gatekeepers in various areas of expertise), and user buyers, and the main concerns for each. Another approach is to analyse past RFPs for common section themes.

Remember that the idea is to anticipate and address issues that your contact’s colleagues might raise when reviewing your proposal. This proactivity relieves your contact of the burden of either defending your proposal or coming back to you for additional information.

The table below lists possible modules, recommended contents, and the selling purpose for each. Next week, we'll look at how to create and standardize these modules. For now, just think about which of these might make sense for your prospects—and additional modules you might need.

Introduction / understanding Outline the current situation and challenges your prospect has identified. Use the prospect's own language where possible. End by linking your solution to the prospect’s biggest hot button. Include total cost (your prospect is going to look for it first anyway). Show you understand and are client-focussed. Connect your solution to the prospect's strategic goals and current challenges
High-level solution Outline how your solution works and/or its key advantages Enable the prospect to easily grasp your solution
Solution detail Explain the solution. In a 3-column table list 1) name of a process step, 2) actions you will perform, and 3) the outcome and benefit. Stay high level, using 1-3 bullet points to describe each step Show evaluators you have a logical process that leads to the desired result
Your credentials Describe your company. Focus on your experience completing similar projects and the results achieved. Use facts, not empty claims. Keep this section brief. Demonstrate you have the relevant experience and past performance to succeed
Checklist Use a table to cite the prospect’s needs and issues and specifically how your solution satisfies each item. Show your solution addresses all strategic drivers and issues
Schedule Provide a high-level implementation schedule (5-8 milestones). Mirror the solution steps above. Include client responsibilities Prove you have considered the steps required
Comparison table Use a table with columns for alternative solutions and rows for criteria that matter to the prospect, such as technical features, cost, risk, time to implement, etc. Rate each solution against each criterion using check marks or a numerical value. Making trade-offs explicit defends against competitive solutions (including in-house). See this post on trade-offs and ghosting
Risk table Use a table and this post on risk analysis to explain how your team will manage the risks associated with the project Demonstrates your expertise at managing similar projects
Team and qualifications Identify key team members and their experience in their project roles. Use facts and client testimonials to showcase your experience and past performance on similar projects Shows you understand and have filled all roles with experienced people
Price Present your price and terms. Break down price by work completed and/or value created. Include any added value components that may be missing from alternative solutions Show it is realistic, reasonable, minimizes risk and represents the best trade-offs to address the prospect’s needs and issues.
Closing End your proposal by promising to contact the prospect within one week to discuss next steps. Lets you retain responsibility for taking the next step
Terms and Conditions State your terms and conditions. Get legal advice, but use plain language and limit this section to two pages if possible. Provide clarity around contract terms
Acceptance Provide a place for the prospect to formally accept your proposal Make it easy to say "Yes"


Next: Decide how to standardize your modules

This approach is valuable only if it results in less work. It’s important to keep this in mind as you draft modules. Next week we'll look at strategies for creating standard modules that make it easy to assemble them into an informal proposal.



Need help writing high quality informal 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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