Proposal Management Basics Tips on Proposal Writing For by knowledgegod


									Proposal Management Basics
 & Tips on Proposal Writing

            For the:
   STC Tech Comm Career Day

      By: Kristen L. Sweet
        March 15, 2003

   • Proposal Management Approach
      – Proposal process

   • Proposal Writing Tips
      – Content
      – Reader’s needs
      – Basic rules

Proposal Management Approach
   • Proposal process
      – Includes:
         • Documented process
         • Training for all team members
         • Schedule to implement process

   • Create a process that defines the responsibilities of the

   • Follow the structure to ensure the successful completion of
     a proposal

Proposal Process
    • Team Members
       – Within proposal development, the roles and titles of the team
          will vary
           • There may be a large team or a proposal team of one
    • Proposal Manager: obtains all resources to produce the proposal
    • Volume Leader: leads the development of a proposal volume for a
      multi-volume proposal – reports to the manager
    • Proposal Coordinator: supports manager with the development
    • Production Leader: leads the publication process
    • Proposal Writer/Illustrator: works with the manager/volume leader
      to provide text and graphics illustrating the solution
    • Proposal Editor: edits all drafts of the proposal
    • Pricing Staff: provides the cost information for the solution
Proposal Process

    “Any proposal manager (or outside consultant,
       for that matter) who claims to know how to
       run a serious proposal effort without chaos
      should be quietly and briskly dismissed from
          reality. Chaos is the very nature of the
          proposal beast, and the manager who
      accepts this fact is ready to face another one:
       While the chaos of proposal work cannot be
      eliminated, it must be controlled. Otherwise,
       it will eat the managers, the proposal team,
                and the proposal itself alive.”
                      – Pugh, 1993, p. 82

Proposal Process
                                                                  S m a ll Pr op os a l
                                                                        Tea m
                                                 Pr op os a l Ma n a ger                               Pr icin g Gr ou p

                                                Pr op os a l Coor d in a tor

   Pr op os a l Wr iter s / Illu s tr a tor s                                  Pr od u ction Gr ou p

Proposal Process

                                                     Project Ma n a ger
        La r ge Pr op os a l Tea m

        Prod u ction Lea d er

                                  Prop os a l
                                                    Prop os a l Ma n a ger
                                 Coord in a tor

         Prop os a l Ed itor

        Pa s t Perform a n ce    Ma n a gem en t    Tech n ica l Volu m e      Cos t Volu m e
         Volu m e Lea d er      Volu m e Lea d er         Lea d er               Lea d er

             Writers /             Writers /             Writers /
                                                                             Qu ote/ Price S ta ff
           Ilu u s tra tors      Ilu u s tra tors      Ilu u s tra tors

Proposal Process
    • Proposal organization will vary according to the size of the
      proposal team
    • Budget restrictions will dictate the development process
    • Complexity of the proposal requirements will determine
      proposal resources including:
       – Deadlines
       – Bid/No Bid decisions on other proposal efforts
       – Teaming agreements with other companies, contractors,
         and vendors needed produce the proposal
       – Technology needed to develop the solution

Proposal Process
    • Managing resources isn’t just a pre-RFP concern

       – Utilizing proposal staff only when needed will reduce
         costs and minimize distractions to remaining team

    • However, the proposal team may find itself growing as the
      deadline approaches

       – Deficiencies in fulfilling the requirements

       – Vendor/Company limitations

Proposal Process
    • To minimize the deficiencies the proposal team may need to:
       – Provide training for all staff
          • Proposal seminars
          • Software training (MS Office, Adobe FrameMaker,
            Photoshop, Visio, etc)
       – Develop standards to prevent having to recreate the
         process for each new opportunity the company pursues
       – Plan writing assignments
          • Outline the requirements
               – Prevents rewrites later in the process process
          • Outline the format and production requirements
       – Utilize contractors and vendors for proposal development
       – Implement technology allowing for efficient and effective
         proposal development

Proposal Process

      “There are many ways to write proposals as
       there are companies, but many of these ways
        are crude, ineffective, expensive, and bound
            to repeat many previous mistakes…
         We cannot stress enough that organized
          proposals are probably twice as likely to
        succeed as those „fly by the seat of the pants‟
                     – Whalen, 1996, p 1-3

Proposal Process
   • Define the process in writing
      – Summary
         • Basic guidelines to tailor for each proposal
         • Detailed checklist

   • Documenting the process eliminates re-inventing the wheel
     each time
      – Establishes quality
         • Provides the frame work for a “lessons learned”
            session following the completion of a proposal

Proposal Process
    • Provide the guidelines to the team
       – Proposal Instruction Book
          • Preparation schedule
          • Detailed instructions/responsibilities
          • Planned strategies/win themes
          • Summary of proposal approach
          • Writing/graphic guidelines
          • Style/format guidelines (may vary according to
          • Summary outline with a requirements matrix
          • Organization/roles of staff
          • Specific company work flow/communication
            standards and procedures
Proposal Process
     “….managing a proposal is one of the toughest, most
      challenging jobs you will ever encounter. It involves
            dealing with a wide variety of people with
       conflicting interests and organizing and directing
         the efforts of an ad hoc collection of people with
           diverse talents and expertise into a cohesive,
             motivated team under the most adverse
        circumstances in an intensive activity and under
       great pressure to achieve a goal against which the
      odds of success are not favorable. Can you think of a
          more daunting endeavor anywhere else in the
                      – Helgeson, 1994, p.206

Proposal Process
  • The proposal instruction guide should include the following
     – Capture plan: customer, strategy, and lessons learned analysis
     – Customer interface plan: contacting contracting
       officer/customer prior to the RFP released, during the
       development, and after delivery
     – Facility material plan: knowledge of the customer’s facility,
       furniture, computer equipment, etc.
     – Staff plan: organization of the team
     – Communication plan: knowledge of the team players,
       development process, meetings, schedules, etc
     – Document process plan: storyboards, mock-ups, text, and
       graphics to illustrate the solution

Proposal Process

    • The proposal instruction guide should include the
      following tasks, continued:
       – Quality assurance plan: reviewing/editing proposal
          drafts to ensure quality
       – Production plan: preparing the material, style, and
          format of the text and graphics for delivery
       – Security plan: ensuring the material is contained on
          company networks, not accessible to the public
       – Assembly/Delivery plan: packaging final proposal for
          delivery to customer, making arrangements for delivery
          (Fed Ex, email, UPS, USPS, etc

Proposal Process
      “An enormous amount of time is wasted in aimless,
           rambling meetings replete with musings and
       irrelevant chatter of unfocused dilettantes intent on
           wasting everyone‟s time while they run their
        mouths. I would wager that the man hours wasted
       every single day in the conference rooms of America
         would be equivalent to the number of man hours
                 required to build the Taj Mahal.”
                     – Helgeson, 1994, p. 192

Proposal Process
    • The meeting is an elaborate part of the proposal process
       – Proposal strategy
       – Bid/No Bid decision
       – Kick off meeting
       – Storyboarding
       – Discussing cost estimates/strategy
       – Reviewing various stages of the development
          • Pink Team
          • Red Team
          • Blue Team
          • Gold Team

Proposal Process
 • Good proposal management includes developing meetings that
   are effective and useful to the team players
    – Involve necessary team members
    – Create/distribute the agenda prior to meeting
    – One leader per meeting
    – Start and end on time
    – Stay focused on meeting agenda/topics
    – Strive for consensus
    – Use visuals to illustrate agenda/topics
    – Summarize agenda/topics at the end of the meeting
    – Follow-up with a summary email
        • Include any “To Do’s” and responsibility of the “To Do”

Proposal Writing Tips

    • Proposal content is divided into two categories:
       – Solicited: proposals with specific requirements
       – Unsolicited: proposals with little or no guidance on
         how it should be developed
    • Proposals that do not address the requirements are
       – Even if the proposal addresses all the requirements, if it
         is not organized properly it can still be categorized as
         non-compliant because the reader is lost in the content

Proposal Writing Tips
    • Planning a proposal involves:
       – Developing an outline based on the customer
           • Requirements matrix to illustrate the proposal
             outline cross-referenced to the RFP
           • Requirements matrix allows the outline to be
             developed further
       – Incorporates ideas into a storyboard format
           • Content
           • Graphics
           • Layout/presentation

Proposal Writing Tips

    “A proposal must deliver critical ideas quickly
      and easily. Your writing must be clear if you
      want others to understand your project and
         become excited by it. It will be hard to
     accomplish this if you have not clarified your
                  thoughts in advance.”
            – Geever and McNeil, 1993, p. 17

Proposal Writing Tips
    • After finishing the requirements matrix - refine the outline
       – Brainstorm on proposal subject
       – Establish ideas into logical categories
          • Major
          • Minor
       – Reorganize outline
          • Organize according to the draft proposal
          • Group ideas together (display a hierarchy)
       – Make sure the outline is clear
          • Expand on ideas
          • Make sure each subdivided point has at least 2
             subordinate points

Proposal Writing Tips

     The storyboard is a writing worksheet that helps the
       authors organize their stories into main discussion
            points or topics. The storyboard enables the
         planning of each topic around the thesis-theme-
       visual elements of a short persuasive essay (i.e. the
      natural passage of technical discourse). The purpose
         is to help the authors discover their stories, help
            them to be more pointed and purposive (i.e.
       encourage a problem-versus-solution slant in their
        arguments), and let the proposal team review the
       material before its written out in a hard-to-follow
                     and hard-to-change draft.
                         – Tracey, 1993, p. 54

Proposal Writing Tips

    • Storyboards:
       – Provide general proposal information
          • Title/Volume number
          • Section author
          • Font/Size/Page requirements
       – Identify proposal requirements
          • RFP section number
          • Requirements matrix section number
       – Identify proposal theme
       – Provide section summary
       – Illustrate graphics

Proposal Writing Tips
 • Benefits of Storyboards
    – Improves quality of proposal by identifying RFP requirements
      early in the proposal process
    – Integrates text and graphics required to meet the requirements
      of the RFP
    – Provides the ability for the team members to comment and
      address each proposal section
       • Identifies how each section meshes into one complete

Proposal Writing Tips

    • Benefits of Storyboards, continued
       – Allows proposal team to identify and correct any
         content/graphics problems early on in the proposal
       – Less writer-ego issues
          • Revising outline will take less time
          • Fewer revisions because outlines were initially
            agreed upon during storyboard reviews prior to

Proposal Writing Tips
        “Developing a clear, comprehensive
        picture of what the client is seeking is
       the single most important part of your
       whole proposal preparation process - if
       you get the requirement wrong, you‟ll
               get the solution wrong.”
                   – McCann, 1995, p.53

Proposal Writing Tips
 • Reader Obstacles:
    – Impatience: understanding the organization of the proposal
        • If information can not be found easily, the reader won’t
          spend the time looking for it
    – Time conflicts: balance between evaluating a proposal and
      conducting other work commitments
    – Interruptions: due to time conflicts, the reader will not be able
      to read through the entire proposal in one sitting
    – Lack of knowledge: readers may not have knowledge of the
      topic; thus losing interest in the proposal
    – Shared decision-making: writers also have a challenge of
      meeting the needs to readers who have varying levels of
      influence on winning and losing proposals
Proposal Writing Tips
    • Reader Needs:
      – What do you know about the reader?
         • What is the reader looking for?
         • What role do they play in the organization?
         • What kind of influence do they have?
         • Will one person conduct the evaluation or
           will it be a group of people?
      – Research the types of proposals other
        companies, colleagues have prepared
         • Provide a better understanding of what you
           are up against with writing this proposal

Proposal Writing Tips
 • Reader Needs, continued:
   – Identify the audience
      • Who is the decision maker?
         – Provide their own assessment or work in
           conjunction with others to assess the proposal
      • Who is the advisor?
         – Provide input to the Decision Maker

Proposal Writing Tips
    • Reader Needs, continued:
       – Identify audience knowledge/skill level
          • Proposal writing often entails translating technical
            information into a non-technical format
          • Reader Categories:
              – Managers: decision makers
              – Experts/Specialists: highly technical
              – Operators: will use the product/solution
              – Generalists: catch-all group - know the least about
                the topic
       – Strategy meeting
          • Discuss all customer issues/concerns
          • Develop ways to solve these issues/concerns
Proposal Writing Tips
    • Basic rules for writing the proposal:
      – Rule 1: Write with an effective style
         • Concise without sacrificing clarity
         • Avoid cliché’s, trite or wordy phrases
         • Use active voice to provide clear
           understanding of what you are proposing
         • Keep customer perspective by using
         • Avoid distracting text changes
         • Vary length of paragraphs to allow for
           comprehension and readability

Proposal Writing Tips
    • Basic rules for writing the proposal, cont.:
      – Rule 2: Grammar usage
         • Verb/subject agreement
         • Identify pronouns
         • Ensure sentence modifiers are clear
         • Avoid dangling/misplaced modifiers
         • Proper use of commas
         • Avoid command errors in word usage

Proposal Writing Tips
    • Basic rules for writing the proposal, cont.:
       – Rule 3: Write with clarity, conciseness, and accuracy
          • Ensure sentences are developed in a clear format
          • Avoid sentences being interpreted in other ways
          • Avoid ambiguity
              – Forces the reader to select the meaning
          • Don’t assume the reader has knowledge of the topic
              – Writing in a manner that would allow the reader
                to be able to comprehend the information
                without asking for clarification
          • Verify the content for accuracy
              – Research

Proposal Writing Tips

 • Basic rules for writing the proposal, cont.:
   – Rule 4: Use paragraphs as the framework of your
      • Paragraphs represent the building blocks of the
      • Typical length is 6 to 10 lines
      • Split the information between multiple paragraphs
        if it goes over the 10 line limitation
      • Shorter paragraphs adds white space increasing the
        readability of the document

Proposal Writing Tips
  • Basic rules for writing the proposal, cont.:
     – Rule 4: Use paragraphs as the framework of your writing
        • Use a topic sentence at the beginning of each paragraph
            – Clearly illustrates what you are about to discuss
        • Develop a main idea
            – Provides concrete supporting details to the topic
        • Develop transitional elements
            – Provides the flow from one paragraph to another
        • Develop closing sentence
            – Provides concluding sentence about the topic before
              moving on to the next section

Proposal Writing Tips

    “Simply regurgitating the RFP buys you
        absolutely nothing; it will earn the
     evaluator‟s disgust with your ineptness,
      or worse yet, his everlasting hatred for
          your insult to his intelligence.”
                  – Helgeson, 1994, p.99

Proposal Writing Tips
     “If a proposal is to make a good first impression, the
      reader‟s first 10 seconds of exposure are crucial. The
                     reader‟s first concerns are:
            How long will this one take to evaluate?
           Is it long and wordy or short and concise?
                       Is it well organized?
                   Who submitted the proposal?
     Content counts more than form, but first impressions
             are also created by a proposal‟s outward
         appearance, especially by evidence that it is well
                    organized and easy to read.”
          – Jacobs, Menker, and Shinaman, 1990, p. 124

Proposal Writing Tips

    • Proposal Writing Rule 1
       – Follow your writing plan
          • Storyboards provide a starting point
          • Make sure your proposal strategy complies
            with the RFP
          • Integrate text and graphics to illustrate your
    • Proposal Writing Rule 2
       – Provide the basic proposal details
          • Keep it basic
              – Who, What, When, Where, How, Why
Proposal Writing Tips
    • Proposal Writing Rule 3
       – Ensure your proposal details have purpose
          • Avoid “data dumping”
          • Respond to the contents of the RFP
          • Provide background information to help the reader
            better understand the content of the proposal
          • Provide details to illustrate that you understand what
            the RFP is looking for
          • Gain the reader’s credibility by illustrating that you
            know the details of the RFP
          • Don’t assume the reader knows what you are talking

Proposal Writing Tips
    • Proposal Writing Rule 4
       – Use boilerplate information, but use it carefully
          • Technical specifications, company
            information, advertising and other marketing
              – Make sure that it fits the requirements of
                 the RFP
          • Poorly tailored boilerplate wastes space,
            reflects an unprofessional approach, shows
            little concern for your reader’s needs

Proposal Writing Tips
    • Proposal Writing Rule 5
       – Select the right verb tense
          • Present tense: something that exists now
          • Future tense: for something that will exist or
            occur in the future
       – Present tense is the best because it reflects
       – Avoid passive voice
          • Readers tend to get lost
          • Does not reflect a professional understanding
            of the requirements

Proposal Writing Tips

    • Proposal Writing Rule 6
       – Substantiate your proposal claims
          • Unsupported claims within your proposal
            does not provide credibility
              – Don’t expect your reader to believe it just
                because it is written
              – Back it up with facts
          • If you cite past experience, make sure that
            experience clearly illustrates the overall
            theme of the proposal and fits within the
            RFP requirements

Proposal Writing Tips

    • Proposal Writing Rule 7
       – Sell benefits, not features
          “You ought to be writing the proposal to
           sell stuff. Products, services, projects,
           ideas. Whatever you‟ve got. The
           proposal is a marketing tool; it helps
           you make money by convincing people
           to contract with you for the kinds of
           things you can provide. The proposal
           positions your product or service as a
           solution to a business problem.”
              –Sant, 1992, p. 9
Proposal Writing Tips

    • Proposal Writing Rule 8
       – Be logical in your persuasive argument
          • Good arguments form the basis for effective
            proposal writing
             – Persuasion tries to convince the reader to
               adopt to a certain point of view or pursue a
               certain line of action
             – Argue why your product or service should
               be purchased by the customer

Proposal Writing Tips

 • Proposal Writing Rule 9
    – Attack proposal weakness head on
       • It is normal to want to avoid placing anything in
         the proposal that suggests a weakness in your
         product or service or your ability to meet
         customer needs
       • To mitigate a weakness explain it early on
           – Illustrates you have done everything you can to
             eliminate the weakness
       • It is better to have the reader know your side of
         the story
           – Adds to your credibility
Proposal Writing Tips
    • Proposal Writing Rule 10
       – Write lawfully and ethically
          • Comply with legal and ethical standards
             – Content that is illegal or unethical may
               cause you to lose the contract, be subject to
               lawsuit and/or other charges
             – Avoid using unauthorized proprietary
             – Verify all information is correct
             – If using materials from another company,
               make sure written authorization has been
               provided in advance

 • Final note on Proposal Writing Tips:
    – Proposal writing must overcome the reader’s roadblocks
       • Time constraints
       • Impatience
       • Interruptions
       • Lack of knowledge
       • Shared-decision responsibilities
    – Meet with your customer as much as possible during the
       • Incorporate those ideas, comments into the content of
         your proposal


   • Final note on Proposal Management:
      – Proposal Development is a process
         • Clearly defined
         • Documented
      – Use time wisely
      – Develop schedules, tasks, proposal plans
      – Monitor schedules, progress - maintaining the
        balance of the team
      – Avoid changing the schedule, plan upon team


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