Proposal Writing Guidelines and Tools

The previous installment discussed managing and organizing a proposal- writing project. This week's installment provides guidelines and tools for the writing effort itself.

Proposal writing is hard, tedious work as it requires intense concentration over an extended period of time. Due to the difficulty of the task before them, provide your writing team with sufficient manpower and tools to make their job easier. In order to assist the writers, management should consider providing them with the following:

  • A proposal outline written in as much detail as possible (the detailed outline will give the writers a structure to help make their written material look as consistent as possible)
  • An automated library of proposal writing tools and standard material
  • Section templates and writing examples
  • Writing guidelines

Proposal Guidelines

Most successful proposal leaders and writers follow a set of guidelines for writing an outline and developing proposal content. Here are some examples of important guidelines that should be followed:

  • The proposal should demonstrate how your company intends to solve the customer's problems as the customer perceives the problems, not how you perceive them.
  • Don't try to think for the customer. Give the customer everything asked for in the RFP and devote full attention to even the smallest details. Address each solicitation requirement even if the requirement appears to be meaningless. Keep in mind that proposal evaluators love to eliminate proposals since it saves them time and effort. Don't give them an excuse to do so.
  • Write the outline using topic and subtopic sentences whenever possible.
  • In a clear and concise narrative, explain how your company intends to fulfill all of the proposal's required tasks and duties. Assuming such statements can withstand the most critical scrutiny, explain why your company and its talents are unique in comparison to those of your competitors.
  • Give evaluators the material they need to support a decision in your company's favor.
  • Write simple and brief narratives; avoid long-winded sentences and paragraphs.
  • Develop a strong staffing and project management plan. Your plan must clearly outline your company's staffing and personnel qualifications. Rewrite staff resumes to specifically address the project's requirements. Interview your staff members in order to form a complete picture of their professional experience and determine how their collective experience applies to the proposed project.
  • Do not present extraneous or marginal material.
  • Tailor your corporate qualifications (and other general information) to match the specific requirements of the RFP.
  • Distinguish your business from your competitors. Know your company's strengths and weaknesses and identify those of your competitors. Make sure that you address all of these points in your proposal.
  • Fully address the specific benefits associated with working with your company and your project team.
  • In order to support your contention that your company presents the best solution, you must provide the proposal evaluators with references, performance data, and facts.
  • Acknowledge your weaknesses in relation to the requirements and negate them as much as possible.

Proposal Writing Library
A large part of your proposal material can be pulled from your proposal library. However, your proposal writers must methodically tailor the existing content to the particular project on which you are bidding.
Your library should include:

  • Proposal writing books and training materials
  • Corporate qualifications
  • Staff resumes (reminder - the standard resumes need to be tinkered with for each proposal submitted)
  • Past performance material and corporate statistics
  • Summaries of your successful projects
  • References
  • Model proposal material including project management approaches, technical descriptions, and chapter introductions
  • Competitors' proposals (obtained by you under FOIA requests made to the appropriate agencies)

Consider buying proposal-writing software. One must keep in mind, however, that the software is no substitute for the hard work that must be done.


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