Seven Attributes of an Effective Proposal

The quality and competitiveness of a proposal depend on a number of criteria. How well did you comply with the customer’s bid instructions? How did you respond to the requirements and issues that drove the procurement? How well did you articulate an effective and competitive strategy? Did you understand the competitive environment and craft a persuasive proposal that is well-written, easy to evaluate, and appealing to read?

High quality, effective proposals with the highest probability of winning include these key attributes, regardless of your industry or market:

Compliance means strict adherence to the customer’s bid request, both the submittal instructions and the requirements. Being fully compliant does not ensure a win, but failure to be compliant can easily result in a loss (or being thrown out).

Responsiveness means addressing the customer’s underlying and sometimes hidden issues or needs. The proposal cannot simply agree to meet the requirements in the solicitation; it must also address the hot buttons (needs, issues and motivators) of the customer and provide specific benefits that are associated with the features of the proposed solution.

Strategy becomes the central message of the proposal during the proposal development phase. Strategies that move your company to a favored position can include actions taken in four ways: 1) leverage your strengths; 2) mitigate your weaknesses; 3) highlight competitor weaknesses; and 4) neutralize competitor strengths.

Competitive Focus in a proposal means that you must not only respond to the customer’s issues and requirements, you must also reflect your competitive advantage against the competition—you must understand their strengths, weaknesses, solutions, and pricing and then articulate why you are a better option.

Quality of Writing should not be overlooked when crafting a proposal. Top-down (or deductive) writing provides the main benefits at the beginning and then develops the details and substantiation, followed by a summary. This approach ensures that your key sales messages are read by the evaluation team. The effective use of customer relevant theme statements and headings also contributes to the quality of writing. Remember, you are writing to the evaluator, not yourself.

Visualization is a highly effective tool when creating a proposal. Key evaluators of proposals, those either making or influencing the selection decision, often only skim proposals, looking for graphics that stand out and sell the solution. They also often read the captions, headings, highlight statements, as well as the executive summary. Evaluators must be able to see, visually, why they should select you without reading the entire text of your proposal.

Page and Document Design entices readers and facilitates understanding, even though evaluators may not be conscious of the design techniques used. A well-organized, visually appealing document design helps evaluators find what they need to know rapidly and easily. Good page design also reflects directly on your organization’s professionalism and brand.

In summary, evaluators often view your proposal as the first deliverable of a new contract. Make it a high-quality product that reflects your attention to detail and quality standards. Take time to assess and evaluate your own proposals against these seven attributes to improve your probability of winning (Pwin).