The Development Source
The proposal profession has benefited greatly from Steve Shipley and his company, Shipley Associates. Mr. Shipley and his colleagues not only provide outstanding proposal services to companies, but they also convey their knowledge and passion for wining proposals in publications and presentations.
Shipley Associates’ Proposal Guide for Business Development and Sales Professionals (I have the second edition from 2003) is the clearest, most succinct, and most helpful guide to doing proposals available. I strongly recommend this book to any proposal professional.
Brad Douglas, a Shipley Associate, has excellent advice about writing winning proposals. He recommends a very sensible five-step writing process:
I already have discussed planning. In this blog, I will discuss organizing. Proposal writers should take three simple but effective steps to organize their writing assignments: (1) follow the fundamentals of persuasive organization; (2) organize as instructed; and (3) organize around customer/evaluator hot buttons.
Follow the fundamentals of persuasive organization
Present information according to the customer’s needs. Focus on providing a solution to the customer’s problem with benefits and evidence of proof.
Group together similar ideas.
Place the most important information first.
Keep introductions short.
Use headings to guide evaluators.
Organize as instructed
The Request for Proposals (RFP) usually contains a Section L (proposal instructions) and a Section M (evaluation factors). Organize your proposal narrative according to these sections. If the sections are in conflict – and sometimes they are – ask the government agency how to reconcile them in the question and answer portion of the bid process.
Organize around the customer/evaluator hot buttons
Acknowledge the customer’s vision, challenges, objectives, and requirements.
Establish and prioritize the customer’s needs and desired outcomes (hot buttons).
Present details of your solution in the same order as your prioritization of the customer’s needs and desired outcomes. Emphasize the benefits to the customer of your solution and provide proof that your solution is very likely to work.
In subsequent articles I will discuss the other three steps.