How to Write a Winning Proposal to Get the Work

How to Write a Winning Proposal to Get the Work

proposalI was recently listening to a company’s rhetoric and was struck by how phony they all sound.  I’ve also felt this way when reading proposals, even proposals I’ve written.  Phrases like:

  • rigorous in our problem solving
  • live the fundamentals of quality service
  • procedurally compliant
  • utilize (in general I have issues with this word)
  • embracing performance tools
  • technical conscience

What do any of those mean?

Do we think if we add 3 syllable words and creative combinations of words we’ll sound more qualified?  More educated?

I don’t know what causes us to get our professorial voices out and start cramming words together when we write proposals, but I think it works against our odds of winning the work.  Any client hiring us will want a product at the end, typically a written report or a presentation.  Don’t you think they want to be able to understand it?

One journalist I know said she evaluated everything she writes as though she is being charged by the word, and edits to eliminate words.  I think that’s a great approach and well worth considering when writing proposals.

Keys to Writing an Effective Proposal

1.  Write clearly.  Make sure your message is clearly stated and easily understood.  Eliminate the $10 words.

2.  Identify the fundamental question or need you are being hired to solve.  Make sure your proposal shows how you’ll answer it.

3.  Identify the end product.  What can the client expect at the end of the work?

4.  Sell your unique strengths.  What do you bring to the table that your competitors don’t?  And why are they a benefit to this effort?

5.  Manage expectations.  90% of client dissatisfaction comes down to a communication issue.  Make sure you clearly state your assumptions and deliverables (even down to # of pages) in your proposal.

6.  Develop phases of work.  Breaking a job into phases allows you to course correct at critical points in the project – both technically with your approach and with your budget.  Phases are a great way to enable adjustments for overages in Phase I, etc.

What other tips do you have for winning work?



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