iPhones were first released in 2007. One of their defining features was the lack of buttons. Even today, iPhones feature a home button only, with the iPhone X removing even this. Do you know why iPhones are button-less? Steve Jobs wasn’t a fan of buttons! In a time of Blackberry phones with tiny keyboards, he wanted something smooth, touchscreen, and modern. His aversion to buttons has shaped modern technology.
In the world of proposal writing, the customer is your Steve Jobs. Their preferences and the instructions in the RFP shape what you write. It is up to the proposal team to create a document that matches those specifications, so if they hate buttons, there better not be any in your proposal.
Adhering to the RFP
RFPs include exact stipulations on what to include and how to organize a proposal. These requests are vital to address, otherwise your proposal will not win.
You must carefully parse the language of the evaluation criteria. How are the criteria grouped? Will it be treated as one bid item, or a bunch of specific items? How will they be labelled? What will they be giving credit for?
For formal evaluations, great proposal writing is not about finding the magic words that will hypnotize the evaluator. Instead, great proposal writing is about translating what you are offering into what the customer needs for their evaluation process in a way that maximizes your score.
Decrypting their language
Understanding why the customer wrote the requirements the way they did helps you understand their motives. Understanding their motives is critical to winning in writing because that is how you not only respond to the requirements, but fulfill their unwritten needs.
Consider why they may have written something the way they did. It may be because they didn’t know how to quantify it, they have a deadline, or their needs changed but they forgot to update the document.
Certain wording may also indicate what they want from you. Phrasing like “provide” vs. “demonstrate” denotes how long of a response the customer is expecting. Demonstrating how your company handled unforeseen issues with another business requires more depth than providing information.
If you know why they did what they did, you can strategize a way to work around it. Or better yet, you can address the requirements in a way that fulfills what their real motivation is.
Buttons you can use
While there are no physical buttons in a proposal, you should organize the proposal around your customer’s hot buttons. Hot buttons are a consolidated set of customer issues and motivators for issuing a request for bid. Your proposal should be organized around these.
Citing the customer’s hot buttons immediately places the focus on what the customer needs instead of what you are selling. This makes your proposal more customer focused and allows you to tailor it directly to a benefit they need.
The customer is always right
The saying “the customer is always right” is a common, albeit dreaded, adage of customer service. While in reality this may not always be true, a customer’s RFP criteria has to be followed to create a winning proposal. Knowing your customer’s hot buttons and decrypting their language provides further ways to create a proposal that adheres to their preferences.