How to Make Fewer Mistakes on Your Proposals and RFP Responses

It’s happened to all of us, you’ve spent the last week working on a proposal only to find a grammatical error on the first page of your proposal the day after you’ve submitted it to a client. Proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation on proposals are critical. If you submit a proposal that is filled with errors and isn’t written clearly, then it immediately causes problems for the reader. A member of the selection committee who is reviewing your proposal may instantly start to mistrust the information in your submittal, he or she may think, “If this vendor can’t even take the time to edit their own proposal, I wonder how they’ll perform on this contract?” Make the selection members trust your company by submitting a proposal with fewer errors. I have a few tips listed below to help you submit a better RFP response.

  1. Always have someone else look at your proposal or RFP before submitting to a client. When you’ve been working on a proposal, you start to see what you want to see and not what the text actually says. If you can find a fresh set of eyes to review your RFP response before you submit, you’ll be amazed by how many errors your reader will find.   If the product or service you sell is extremely technical, you may need two editors. You may need one editor who has the technical acumen to find the more technical errors in your proposal and then a “Grammar Nazi” to find the grammatical errors.
  2. Keep brushing up on your grammar skills. I am a regular follower of Mignon Forgarty (or “Grammar Girl”) and her terrific weekly podcast and website.  One of my favorite resources is the Grammar Devotional. Mignon is fantastic at examining the most common grammatical issues in a very fun and accessible way. As you brush up on your skills, you’ll be amazed at how your writing improves.
  3. If you have to submit an online proposal, make sure you create all of your answers in a Word document first. No matter how simple the form, make sure you create a Word document that you can share with others for review purposes. Creating a response in Word is also helpful in case you lose your information due to a technical issue with the online form. If you have a copy of your responses in Word, you can easily cut and paste your responses error free.
  4. Use a style guide. You can eliminate many inconsistencies in your proposals by using a style guide. Consistency is important when you’re working on proposals and sometimes having a guide can end arguments between coworkers. I use the AP Stylebook, but the Chicago Manual of Style is a great resource as well. In addition to using a standard style book, you may also want to create your own company style guide that lists words and formats that are specific to your industry. For example, a civil engineering company may want to have a company style guide that specifies industry specific terms and spellings.

Now you have a few tools to make your next proposal error free. Please contact us if you have any additional questions about producing proposals with fewer errors!

How To Write A Great Executive Summary

Wait, don’t start writing it yet!  The first thing you should know about writing an executive summary, is not to start writing it until you have a solid understanding of what solution you are providing for your prospective client.  The purpose of an executive summary is to convince your prospective customer in 1-3 pages, that he or she needs to buy your solution, so it’s actually not a summary.  As Tom Sant says in his book, Persuasive Business Proposals, “The executive summary is the single most important part of your proposal.  Its’ the only part that’s likely to be read by everybody involved in making a decision.”

What should go in an executive summary?

1.  A summary of the problem.

What is the problem you are trying to solve for your client?  What is your client concerned about?  What is keeping them up at night?  The main pain point for your client must be woven into the narrative of the executive summary.

  • “We understand the challenges of creating and maintaining 50 independent websites…”
  • “Our first priority is to keep your students safe while we are constructing the new 250,000 SF facility..”
  • “After our initial analysis, we see that your company is losing approximately $2 million a year due to…”

2.  Your solution.

Present your solution as simple as possible and avoid jargon or acronyms unless these are commonly understood by your reader.

  • “Our solution will grow sales by more than 50%…”
  • “Our solution will offer you the flexibility you seek for a price that is 25% less than…”
  • “We can help your firm reduce waste by 25% by…”

3.  The benefits of your solution.

Help your potential client understand why your solution is better than your competitors.  Elaborate on 3-5 of the benefits your solution provides and present concise evidence on how each benefit eliminates a pain point for your customer.

4.  Ask for the sale.

It is important that your potential client knows how important this opportunity is to you and your company.  Depending on the type of client, you may want to interject an emotional appeal as to why you are passionate about your prospective client’s project.

In Summary

There are several schools of thought on how to write a great executive summary, but the best executive summaries usually start on a white board with your team outlining why your solution is the best for your potential client.  Write the executive summary first and then make sure the rest of your proposal and RFP response clearly articulates and demonstrates why your solution is the best fit for your client.

5 Reasons To Keep Responding To Government RFPs

As the economy begins to bounce back, many companies divert their attention from the steady work of the public sector and begin to look again towards the private sector.  Don’t stop submitting your RFPs! Although the private sector can offer a lot of great opportunities to win interesting new projects, one shouldn’t completely abandon their public sector RFP response efforts.

5 Reasons to Keep Responding To Government RFPs

  1. They’ll remember you bailed on them.  That’s right, if you give up on pursuing government work, your city, state, and county procurement specialists remember that you bailed.  Remember, the city, state, and county procurement offices want to establish long-term relationships with multiple vendors to ensure project work gets spread around.  If your company begins not submitting RFPs or not even responding with the appropriate “no-bid” form, the procurement office for that specific government entity will begin to think you’re no longer interested in maintaining a vendor relationship.
  2. Rebuilding a damaged relationship could take you a lot of time and will cost you money.  If you stop pursuing government projects when the economy improves, winning back a relationship may take more RFP responses before your company secures a win.
  3. Pursuing government work helps you solidify your sales process and messaging. Public sector RFPs are often very detailed and time intensive to appropriately respond.  This is a great opportunity for you to create better marketing assets for your company that speak directly to some of the questions your potential customers in the private sector may have.
  4. You’ll get great competitive intelligence.  Going to a pre-bid meeting gives you great insight as to who your competitors are as well as who your new competitors may be.  If you’re in the technology space, you know how quickly the competitive landscape can change.  The ability to access information about your competitors by what type of projects they’re pursuing is critical to you staying ahead of your competition.
  5. You’ll win work.  If you are diligent in your efforts in pursuing government work, you’ll win projects. It’s a process to become a partner with the government so make sure you continue to debrief each time you respond to an RFP so you learn how to improve on the next submittal.  Each RFP you respond to, makes it easier the next time around to submit.

Although it’s exciting to see the private sector begin to bounce back after the long recession, make sure you don’t abandon public work.  Diversifying your client base with public and private clients is a great way to create a consistent pipeline despite economic fluctuations.