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Five FAQs to Introduce You to Business Proposal Writing

What is an RFP?

When a customer has requirements that they are not able to manage on their own, they seek help from external vendors to do it for them. The services or products from external vendors will be solicited using a document called the “Request for Proposal” (RFP). This document is sent to multiple vendors who will compete to win the bid for the project.

Depending on the requirement, the RFP may be anywhere between 1 to 1000 pages long. Sometimes, customers share requirements even via a simple email thread. However, sometimes, especially in government proposal writing, the RFP can be very information intensive- up to 1000 pages long.

What is an RFP Response?

Once vendors receive the RFP, they read it thoroughly to understand the customer’s requirements. Then, they prepare a response document. This document acts as their business proposal. The business proposal is called an “RFP response.”

The RFP response tells the customer how the vendor plans to solve the customer’s problem. It gives them a lot of other supporting material that proves their knowledge about tackling similar problems.

The “Business proposal”/ “RFP response” is key to winning business. It often has an audience covering a wide spectrum of organizational roles- ranging from managers and architects to CEOs, CFOs and COOs. Hence, the business proposal must be created in a very professional way. Its language, dictum, format, clarity, honesty, empathy, excellence, and attitude reflect on the vendor who has written it.

For vendors, business proposals are the most important documents that go to customers. In it lies the essence of everything the vendor is trying to sell. It is the one chance the vendor gets to show that they have thoroughly understood the customer’s problem, that they have the best solution for that problem, and that they want what’s in the best interest of the customer.

The goal of a business proposal is to win business. To win business, it must help customers understand how their solutions will benefit the customer, why they are better than the competition, how the change will be managed and how projects will be executed. It also contains the terms and conditions that apply and the price- which are key factors that affect a win.

What is the first thing you must do before writing a proposal?

The first thing you must do to win business is to plan to win it. The Association of Proposal Management Professionals APMP, a global body that sets standards for proposal writing, suggests spending at least 15% of your time just to plan what strategy and content must go into planning. You can do this planning once you and your team have spent enough time reading about the requirement in the RFP.

After a thorough reading, you can then discuss individual findings and opinions during a “Kick-off-meeting.” The kick-off meeting helps set the right strategy to help create a meticulous and successful proposal. During the meeting, it is also essential to discuss the business proposal format and layout.

Ask the following questions to keep your proposal planning on track during the kick-off meeting:

  • What are the needs of the customer?
  • What are the underlying reasons behind the release of this RFP?
  • What content comes first/ is most important to win the business?
  • What content adds value?
  • What content can be removed without affecting our likelihood of winning?

It is crucial that the business proposal is created using a good proposal template. Sometimes, customers themselves give a specific business proposal format for vendors to use. It is a good practice, even if the customer does not provide it, to ask the customer, “Do you want it in a specific format?

Government proposal writing often demands that business proposals must be submitted according to a standard format, with contents in a specific order. Government proposal writing sometimes even demands the use of a specific font, header, footer, margin width, and paper quality.

How much effort will it take to write a good proposal?

Short answer: A lot. Writing a proposal, small or big; takes a considerable amount of effort. For a large bid, proposals can be anywhere between 100-1000 pages long. The proposal writer takes much effort to write, edit and review a proposal. It takes just as much time to read, comprehend and evaluate it for the customer. At the customer’s office, managers who are to evaluate the proposal may be voracious, casual, or unenthusiastic readers. Often there are more than three evaluators who are not a homogeneous group. Hence, proposals must be filled with not just information, but with consideration and empathy towards the reader.

How can I manage the bid cycle and deliver a winning proposal?

It is vital to rely on a good proposal management software that can help you in every phase of the bid cycle. Zbizlink- proposal management and collaboration software, helps you throughout your proposal development cycle.

From helping you identify opportunities, to finding partners who can help you win. From capturing requirements, to automatically getting you answers to RFP questions. From finding templates to creating proposals on a click. From planning resources to managing workflows and approvals- Zbizlink does it all!

Zbizlink also has capture management tools and project collaboration tools to drive the proposal process so that you can focus on proposal strategy, instead of proposal logistics. Moreover, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more you can do. Do get in touch with us info@zbizlink.com or visit our website www.zbizlink.com to know more.