Submitting your Proposal – Some Musts and Must Nots

Chasing projects by bidding for new work is a great way to increase your company’s turnover and expand your business. However it can be timely, expensive and frustrating, particularly if you are chasing government projects. So here are a few must and must nots.
1. Preparing:
a. Never chase bids to the detriment of your business as usual marketing and customer acquisition activities.
b. Never, ever, ever neglect your existing customers thinking that the “grass is greener” elsewhere.
c. Discover what the aims, objectives and mission statements of your potential client. If they are championing diversity and minority hiring then make sure you support this within your proposal and ensure that your Diversity Statement is tip top.
2. Timing:
a. Always, Always submit your PQQ and proposal to the timetable specified. Late submissions are always failed submissions.
3. Meetings:
a. Go to any briefings that your potential client offers. The more you learn about the potential client and their project the better your proposal will be. You also get to know who your potential opponents are.
b. Attend any question and answer sessions and listen to the questions that your competitors ask? These and the answers supplied offer insights into what they may be stumbling on or where their weaknesses lie. Similarly be careful in how you ask your own questions. Most, if not all potential clients will list all questions and answers so that everyone is on the same bidding level. Read these carefully and note where you may be much stronger than your opponents.
4. Opponents:
a. Research your potential clients, their offerings, strengths and weaknesses and most importantly what you can beat them at!
b. Find out if any similar contracts have been awarded by the potential client and to whom? Why do you think that the new contract is open to all? Information is key to winning.
5. Preparation:
a. Read through the guidance notes several times – much of it might be boring but there are important instructions buried there.
b. Read the RFP through several times before answering any questions. Make notes of any problem areas, areas of strength and special instructions that you must follow.
c. Read through the evaluation notes several times and gauge:
i. Where the potential client has placed most emphasis.
ii. Where you need to concentrate your solution and what it should look like.
iii. What the most important questions are.
iv. Where you MUST comply in order not to be disqualified. Often proposal writing can be stopped at a very early, cheap time, if you cannot comply.
v. If you have a total word count for your proposal as opposed to a per section limit, then you can decide where to concentrate your wordage. If there are several concepts per section then a similar concentration can be defined.
d. Read through one more time and produce your Matrix of Compliance – more of this latter in this training course.
e. Ensure that you can provide the proposed solution at the proposed cost, should you win. Sounds obvious but it is very easy to get carried away or fall for the trick of massaging the price downwards in order to win the project.
f. Never rush your preparation. Plan out your proposal writing just as you would a project.
6. Writing:
a. Ensure that you answer all of the questions, especially where there is more than one part.
b. It you are asked for a word count ensure that you include this.
c. Follow the directions at all times.
a. Never, ever go over the word limit or try to massage the total. There lies an easy disqualification and a lot of time and effort for nothing.
b. Always be positive in your proposal. Say “we believe” not we think, “we will” rather than “we will strive for” etc.
c. Always answer the question “what is in it for me?” The potential client ALWAYS wants to solve a problem or improve a situation from the project. So ensure that you match your company’s benefits and products to what the potential client is trying to achieve.
d. There is an old adage “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them why you told them.” For every section of your proposal have an introduction, the main body and a summary of benefits and compliance. Ensure that at the start the evaluator has something to excite them to read on, the middle is interesting and to the point and the ending is memorable.
e. Most large companies and all government organisations are risk adverse. They are hoping that you will undertake the project with minimum fuss and then hand over the shiny new proceeds on time and to budget. Ensure that you address risk management in your proposal and how you have superb risk management processes in place. On the same subject detail your change management process as well.
f. Government agencies have hot buttons such as sustainability, diversity, safeguarding etc. Find them and ensure that you address them within the proposal.
g. Now that you know your competitors and what they are strong on, address these within your own proposal. Do NOT discuss competitors or denigrate them as this looks unprofessional and will probably get you disqualified.
h. Where you know that your competitor is weak compared with yourselves, emphasise these strengths.
i. If you are the market leaders or local emphasise these facts, particularly if your competitors are not.
j. Avoid hyperboles such as “world’s best” unless you can back these up.
k. Keep your writing professional at all times. Now is not the time for friendly banter – even if you know the potential clients.
l. Be truthful, after all you will need to back up your claims and deliver the project if you win.
7. Look and Feel:
a. Use formal business writing and do not get too “chatty”. Use the expression “we” instead of “I” to denote your company.
b. Do not use slang or too many initials or dense technical jargon. If you use initials, explain what they stand for in the first instance.
c. Use the same, readable font throughout the proposal.
d. Use graphics, where allowed, were it explains technical information in a better way.
e. Check spelling and grammar.
f. Reflect your brand in your writing and presentation.
g. Make sure that the entire proposal flows and covers all that you are asked to provide as well as what you wanted to say.
h. Get someone to proofread the document before you send it off.
8. Costing:
a. Ensure that you work out your price in the same format as required.
b. Never give away more pricing information than you are asked for.
c. Check how tax is handled – does it need to be provided, added, omitted?
d. Ensure that you have a robust costing model and include absolutely everything?
e. If you cannot offer a sound proposal and still make a reasonable profit, consider as to whether you should be bidding on the project.
9. Afterwards:
a. Ensure that your proposal has been received by a quick email or telephone call.
b. If you win or lose, politely ask for feedback so that you can do better next time.
Now some good ideas
1. Ensure that you have all the required insurances and legal requirements in place before your start bidding.
2. Collaborating on bigger proposal submission limits your risk and minimises your costs and efforts. It lets you chase larger projects and builds good will with clients so that you have more chances of other work with them. However it also lessens your profits.
3. Get as many accreditations, references and certificates as you can. It aids proposal writing as you can just tick a box rather than answer questions. It also makes your company look more professional.
4. It is unusual to win a bid at the first attempt so keep submitting bids.
5. Put bid submission into your normal marketing routine.
6. Never submit more bids than you can cope with if you win them all.
7. Never bid for something that you cannot manage.
8. Never assume that you will win – even if you are the incumbent supplier.
9. Be prepared to give a presentation on your proposed solution. It is a good idea to place a template presentation into your Bid ToolBox™
10. Ensure that you have all of your standard documents in your Bid ToolBox™. Just after you have been awarded the project is not the time to write them.
© Copyright 2016 Biz Guru Ltd

Lee Lister writes as The Biz Guru, for a number of web sites where she provides advice and assistance for the business entrepreneur. She is known as the Bid Manager and is a recognized bid management expert.

If you would like more help and assistance in writing your tender or PQQ, visit: or read Proposal Writing For Smaller Businesses which can be found on Amazon and other major book sites.

This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

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