What is a proposal?
The following section contains some of my thoughts on proposals, gleaned from my time in the proposals profession. If you’re really interested in what proposals are, take a class or attend a webinar that discusses proposals.
A proposal is a sales document, and as such it is NOT about the firm that’s doing the selling. It’s about the customer that’s doing the buying. THE CUSTOMER DOESN’T CARE ABOUT HOW WONDERFUL YOUR FIRM IS. The customer cares about ITS needs, not yours.
To establish understand of the customer’s needs, the proposing firm must understand these needs. These customer needs may be explicitly stated in a Request for Proposal (RFP) or other document, or (whoops, “and”) the firm can infer the client’s needs from conversations and other intelligence.
Proposals vary in length and complexity. A proposal may be as short as a page, or may encompass multiple pages in multiple volumes. The week after Bredemarket was helping to wrap up a 1,000-page proposal, I was working on two companion documents, neither of which could exceed five pages each.
When I started writing proposals many years ago, the large multi-volume ones (with perhaps 10 or more proposal copies of all volumes) were printed on hardcopy paper, bound in binders, packaged in huge boxes, and shipped to the customer. Today, most proposals are electronically uploaded to the client’s website.
Regardless of the length, the proposal has to convey
- that the proposing firm understands the client’s needs, and that
- the proposing firm can satisfy the client’s needs in a way that is mutually beneficial to both parties.
A mutually beneficial win-win is important. A proposal that favors the proposing firm over the client will result in customer dissatisfaction and a customer desire to switch to another provider as soon as possible. Likewise, a proposal that favors the client over the proposing firm will result in loss of profitabillity, cost cutting, and resulting client dissatisfaction.
The proposal includes a call to action, which may be a simple statement such as “Let’s talk” or may be a longer statement such as “WidgetCorp looks forward to participating in the product demonstration outlined in section 14.2.1 (as modified in RFP Amendment 3) of Appendix A of RFP 2021-A-28.”
Oh, and if the customer refers to a “product demonstration,” then your proposal had better use the exact words “product demonstration.” If you say that you will provide a “capabilities presentation,” the customer will not see the words THEY were looking for and may conclude that you refuse to provide the product demonstration that they want.
“But I pretty much said that I would provide a product demonstration!” you protest. “Any evaluator that reads the proposal will see that!”
I hope you’re sitting down when I tell you this, but PROPOSAL EVALUATORS DO NOT READ PROPOSALS. Proposal evaluators SKIM proposals as quickly as possible (especially if a dozen firms submit proposals) to check for compliance. And they check for compliance by looking for the words that THEY use.
OK, that’s a lot. And I didn’t even talk about benefits, but I think I’ll stop for now.
How can Bredemarket help you create proposals?
My proposal work is managed under the Bredemarket 4000 Long Writing Service. Unlike many of my other services, this is billed at an hourly rate rather than as a fixed price offering.
Depending upon your needs, I can assist in proposal managing, proposal writing, proposal editing, or other proposal needs. In the case of unsolicited proposal letter development, this can be on your timeline. When responding to client RFPs, the client schedule controls.
Because of my extensive identity industry expertise, I can provide enhanced services to identity (biometric and secure document) firms as a biometric proposal writing expert. I have worked with multiple biometric modalities (friction ridge, face, iris, voice, DNA) for customers in multiple countries at the national, state/provincial/regional, and local levels for both government and enterprise clients. I can speak WSQ, ANSI/NIST, FRVT, or NPS-NIST-ICD as needed.
Here are a few examples of proposal deliverables that I have provided.
- Proposal Writing: Created five proposal letter templates to let a biometric firm’s sales staff propose two products to five separate markets. After completing the first three templates, I received this unsolicited testimonial:
“I just wanted to truly say thank you for putting these templates together. I worked on this…last week and it was extremely simple to use and I thought really provided a professional advantage and tool to give the customer….TRULY THANK YOU!”
- More Proposal Writing: Responded to three Requests for Information (RFIs) for two biometric firms, positioning the firms for future work from government agencies.
- Even More Proposal Writing: Assisted a biometric firm in responding to multiple Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and sole source letters.
- And more…: Created a proposal letter template for a biometric firm.
- And still more…: Created a Microsoft Word-based response library for a biometric firm.Analyzing: Monitored the social media activity of a biometric firm’s competition, and created responsive proposal text to position the firm against its competition.
- Proposal Analyzing: Monitored the social media activity of a biometric firm’s competition and created responsive proposal text to position the firm against its competition.
- Proposal Editing: Assisted a biometric firm in the final stages of an RFP response, editing its proposal both before and after its Gold Team review.
Bredemarket uses a collaborative process with its clients to ensure that the final written product communicates the client’s desired message. Often the client provides specific feedback at certain stages of the process to ensure that the messaging is on track. I combine the client’s desires with my communications expertise to create a final written product that pleases both of us.
If you need my proposal services, contact me.