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Proposal Management Basics & Tips on Proposal Writing For

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Title: Proposal Management Basics & Tips on Proposal Writing For


1
Proposal Management Basics Tips on Proposal
WritingFor the STC Tech Comm Career Day
  • By Kristen L. Sweet
  • March 15, 2003

2
Topics
  • Proposal Management Approach
  • Proposal process
  • Proposal Writing Tips
  • Content
  • Readers needs
  • Basic rules

2
3
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 team
  • Follow the structure to ensure the successful
    completion of a proposal

3
4
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 process
  • Production Leader leads the publication process
    (Printing/Copying/Binding/Packaging)
  • 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 proposed

4
5
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

5
6
Proposal Process
6
7
Proposal Process
7
8
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

8
9
Proposal Process
  • Managing resources isnt just a pre-RFP concern
  • Utilizing proposal staff only when needed will
    reduce costs and minimize distractions to
    remaining team members
  • However, the proposal team may find itself
    growing as the deadline approaches
  • Deficiencies in fulfilling the requirements
  • Vendor/Company limitations

9
10
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

10
11
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 exercises
  • Whalen, 1996, p 1-3

11
12
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

12
13
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
    RFP)
  • Summary outline with a requirements matrix
  • Organization/roles of staff
  • Specific company work flow/communication
    standards and procedures

13
14
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 world?
  • Helgeson, 1994, p.206

14
15
Proposal Process
  • The proposal instruction guide should include the
    following tasks
  • 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
    customers 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

15
16
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

16
17
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 everyones 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

17
18
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

18
19
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 Dos and responsibility of the
    To Do

19
20
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 non-complaint
  • 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

20
21
Proposal Writing Tips
  • Planning a proposal involves
  • Developing an outline based on the customer
    requirements
  • 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

21
22
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

22
23
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

23
24
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

24
25
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

25
26
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

26
27
Proposal Writing Tips
  • Benefits of Storyboards, continued
  • Allows proposal team to identify and correct any
    content/graphics problems early on in the
    proposal process
  • Less writer-ego issues
  • Revising outline will take less time
  • Fewer revisions because outlines were initially
    agreed upon during storyboard reviews prior to
    writing

27
28
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,
    youll get the solution wrong.
  • McCann, 1995, p.53

28
29
Proposal Writing Tips
  • Reader Obstacles
  • Impatience understanding the organization of the
    proposal content
  • If information can not be found easily, the
    reader wont 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

29
30
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

30
31
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

31
32
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

32
33
Proposal Writing Tips
  • Basic rules for writing the proposal
  • Rule 1 Write with an effective style
  • Concise without sacrificing clarity
  • Avoid clichés, trite or wordy phrases
  • Use active voice to provide clear understanding
    of what you are proposing
  • Keep customer perspective by using you/your
  • Avoid distracting text changes
  • Vary length of paragraphs to allow for
    comprehension and readability

33
34
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

34
35
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
  • Dont 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

35
36
Proposal Writing Tips
  • Basic rules for writing the proposal, cont.
  • Rule 4 Use paragraphs as the framework of your
    writing
  • Paragraphs represent the building blocks of the
    document
  • 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

36
37
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
    sentence
  • 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

37
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Proposal Writing Tips
  • Simply regurgitating the RFP buys you absolutely
    nothing it will earn the evaluators disgust
    with your ineptness, or worse yet, his
    everlasting hatred for your insult to his
    intelligence.
  • Helgeson, 1994, p.99

38
39
Proposal Writing Tips
  • If a proposal is to make a good first
    impression, the readers first 10 seconds of
    exposure are crucial. The readers 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 proposals
    outward appearance, especially by evidence that
    it is well organized and easy to read.
  • Jacobs, Menker, and Shinaman, 1990, p. 124

39
40
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
    theme
  • Proposal Writing Rule 2
  • Provide the basic proposal details
  • Keep it basic
  • Who, What, When, Where, How, Why

40
41
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 readers credibility by illustrating
    that you know the details of the RFP
  • Dont assume the reader knows what you are
    talking about

41
42
Proposal Writing Tips
  • Proposal Writing Rule 4
  • Use boilerplate information, but use it carefully
  • Technical specifications, company information,
    advertising and other marketing material
  • Make sure that it fits the requirements of the
    RFP
  • Poorly tailored boilerplate wastes space,
    reflects an unprofessional approach, shows little
    concern for your readers needs

42
43
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
    availability
  • Avoid passive voice
  • Readers tend to get lost
  • Does not reflect a professional understanding of
    the requirements

43
44
Proposal Writing Tips
  • Proposal Writing Rule 6
  • Substantiate your proposal claims
  • Unsupported claims within your proposal does not
    provide credibility
  • Dont 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

44
45
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 youve 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

45
46
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

46
47
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

47
48
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 information
  • Verify all information is correct
  • If using materials from another company, make
    sure written authorization has been provided in
    advance

48
49
Summary
  • Final note on Proposal Writing Tips
  • Proposal writing must overcome the readers
    roadblocks
  • Time constraints
  • Impatience
  • Interruptions
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Shared-decision responsibilities
  • Meet with your customer as much as possible
    during the development
  • Incorporate those ideas, comments into the
    content of your proposal

49
50
Summary
  • 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
    agreement

50
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