Anyone who has invested hours of time and precious manpower into writing a proposal – and has not been successful in winning the contract award — knows the frustration involved. You wonder what you did wrong, what you did right, and what you should do differently next time. Sometimes it just takes a few tries before you’re able to get your foot in the door, but there are steps you can take to better position yourself for when the next time rolls around.
The first thing you should do is ask the buyer for a debriefing to provide you with an overview of your unsuccessful proposal’s strengths and weaknesses. If possible, arrange for a face-to-face meeting so you can ask questions; otherwise, request a written report. When you’re working on your next submission, take all the feedback you receive to heart.
Proposal preparation takes a lot of time and effort, and you want to expend your energies wisely. Assign someone the task of searching for opportunities and have a mechanism in place to quickly determine if the opportunity is right for your company. Only go after work that you know your company can handle well, and that includes having the time and resources to prepare a winning proposal as well as being able to meet both the specifications and the schedule.
When you do identify an opportunity that you want to pursue, thoroughly read and review the requirements. This may sound simplistic, but you would be surprised at how many people don’t do justice to the initial reading. Be sure that you have all the information you need. The work requirements should be very explicitly stated, and there should also be instructions on how to prepare the proposal. If there is anything you don’t understand, or if information is missing, ask questions.
Whether you will be writing the proposal yourself or with the help of a team, it’s a good idea to first develop an outline listing all the key components to be included in the proposal. Also determine a timeline for gathering information and putting the proposal together, and note how much weight will be given to each section when the proposal is being evaluated. And if you are using a team of writers, it’s best to ensure that same or similar writing techniques are being used to ensure continuity of flow and repetition avoidance.
Your proposal will typically include technical, management and cost proposal components. This means addressing:
- How you will meet the requirement or solve the stated problem,
- Which people at your organization will be responsible for the work and why.
- How you are going to spend the money if you are awarded the contract.
When you actually begin writing, think in terms of selling your services. Convince the reader not just that you are capable of providing what is needed, but that your company is clearly the best choice for the job. Always have someone knowledgeable review your proposal in terms of whether it is correct, complete and convincing before you submit it.