Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.


Re-using proposals

 December 12, 2017
by Paul Heron

Last week we explained why it’s unlikely you’ll win bids simply by searching and replacing prospect names in an old proposal. But there are cases where minor tweaks to a standard proposal can produce contract wins.

Let’s look these situations.

What drives customization?

Any combination of contract size, tough competition, and offering complexity points to a more customized bid response (See Figure 1).

Figure 1. Need for Customization: Analyze the characteristics of your market to decide how much you need to customize your proposals.














We combined size and competitiveness on the same axis because large bids tend to attract competition. However, they drive customization in different ways.

  • Large RFPs typically reflect a strategic need, and your prospect will want to know you recognize that need and have crafted a solution that responds. Customization also shows you respect the issuer’s planned commitment.
  • Competition forces you to differentiate—and differentiators by definition must be features this specific prospect cares about.

Complex offerings demand customization to explain and relate features and promised performance to the prospect’s specific need. Complexity also requires proof of your ability to implement and support your solution in this prospect’s business.

When can you use a standard proposal?

The flip side of Figure 1 suggests that standard proposals are suitable for small projects and/or easily defined offerings for which you have few if any competitors. So standard (or semi-standard) proposals can work in any of the following situations:

  • Goods offerings: Standard proposals are ideal for offering goods—and especially commodities—that can be narrowly specified. Most companies we work with sell services or products that bundle in one or more services (installation, maintenance and/or warranty). As the service component of an offering increases, typically so does the need to customize. Exceptions are industries that specify services tightly enough to suit standard proposals.
  • Protected markets: A few companies have offerings so compelling they can submit standard proposals even for large opportunities. These situations rarely last more than a few years.
  • Informal proposals: Effective sales conversations often result in an informal request for proposal. These can run to several pages, but are not responses to formal RFPs and therefore allow the seller to follow a standard format. If you have opportunities to submit unsolicited offers, invest in developing a strong standard proposal that requires only minor tweaks. NOTE: Even in an unsolicited offer, it’s well worth building a custom value proposition that shows you understand the prospect’s situation. Pure boilerplate offers tend to read like sales brochures.

Degrees of customization

There’s a big range between zero customization and a fully customized bid response. We’ve helped many clients leverage past proposal efforts for future opportunities. The secret is in understanding where and how to spend energy on customization.

Next week we’ll look at two typical bid sections—relevant experience (project sheets), and proposed team resumes—and show you how you can get maximum future value out of current proposal work.


Want to develop bids more efficiently?

Contact Complex2Clear


Photo credit

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





Get our blog summary delivered to your inbox every month

How Added?:

Get future updates?:*
Privacy Policy: Complex2Clear will not use your name and contact information for any purpose other than to respond to your request and to advise you of important updates. We will not sell or give your information to any third party.

Top of page