My current monthly e-newsletter, Better Writing at Work, offers 21 tips for writing winning business proposals. Here are the first three, plus a bonus suggestion from a reader. If you like what you read, subscribe here. And if you already subscribe, thank you–see the bonus tip below.
Tip 1: Obey their rules. If you are responding to an RFP (request for proposals) that has specific steps to follow, follow them exactly. Their purchasing or procurement department has probably spent a lot of time preparing the RFP. Ignoring its requirements is an almost certain way to disqualify your proposal. After all, if you won’t comply with their request now, what will you do when they hire you?
Tip 2: Focus on this company’s needs. In any proposal it’s tempting to pull out your "standard proposal" and make minor changes for this new prospective client. But doing so leads to proposals that sound canned and miss the mark. Such proposals do not excite the prospect because they don’t focus on their needs (also known as their pain). Yes, refer to old successful proposals for ideas and some content, but review that content through the eyes of the new client.
Tip 3: Use the prospect’s language. If the potential customer wants an "associate onboarding process," call your program that. Do not call it an employee orientation program. Using the company’s language communicates that you have been listening to them, that you understand them, and that you and your process will fit in.
Bonus tip from Lucy at a U.S. government agency:
As someone who deals with grant proposals, I find that one of the biggest mistakes is not explaining basic information about your institution in ways that are clear to people in other situations. Not every state has the same laws, not every university runs the same way, and the proposals are reviewed by reviewers from institutions in other settings. People in institutions get so used to how they do things; they forget that others don’t do things that way.