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POWERFUL, CUSTOMER-FOCUSED PROPOSALS- Turning It All Into Words

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POWERFUL, CUSTOMER-FOCUSED PROPOSALS-Turning It All Into Words Rick Wilson, Lockheed Martin IS&GS Proposal Operations Technical Writing Manager – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: POWERFUL, CUSTOMER-FOCUSED PROPOSALS- Turning It All Into Words


1
POWERFUL, CUSTOMER-FOCUSED PROPOSALS- Turning It
All Into Words
  • Rick Wilson, Lockheed Martin ISGS Proposal
    Operations Technical Writing Manager

2
Writing Powerful, Customer-Focused Proposals
3
Analyze your Audience
4
Before you Start
  • Before you write, make sure you can articulate
  • Customers objectives
  • Customers perceptions
  • Customers concerns and biases
  • Your companys selling strategies
  • Your companys strengthsthe discriminators
  • The competitions strengths and weaknesses
  • Proposal themes

5
Equipped for Success
  • Before they begin to write, make sure writers
    have
  • Access to comparable proposals for reference.
  • Your Proposal Teams proposal style guide.
  • For example, how does the Customer refer to
    itselffull name or abbreviation? What does the
    Customer call their employees, the end users, or
    its Customers/Customers?
  • All necessary informationthe RFP,
    requirements/specifications, the Statement of
    Work (SOW), evaluation criteria, standards,
    material from previous proposals, notes from
    Customer meetings, ISGS style guide, etc.
  • Make sure each writer has a Topic Generator or
    Module Specification for their Proposal Section(s)

6
Outline and Plan
  • Respond to the Request for Proposal and put
    together an outline that addresses all topics in
    each section and volume.
  • For each Topic, write your strategy for
    responding to the Customers requirements.
    Decide how you will sell your company by
    capturing ideas to answer these questions
  • What top-level strategies and marketing themes
    can be applied or tailored in this area?
  • What are the benefits of what is proposed? In
    what way does this approach meet the Customers
    objectives? What are the intangible deliverables?

7
Outline and Plan
  • Why is my company better in this area?
  • Is your approach unique in any way? Are you
    offering anything extra? (Should you?)
  • What are the Customers concerns is this area?
  • What are the usual issues/problems/risks
    associated with this area? What is your approach
    for preventing/solving them?

8
Benefits of Using Storyboards
  • Allows early assessment of proposal content
  • Customer requirements are addressed
  • Content is complete, presentation is balanced
  • Presentation flows logically from section to
    section
  • Saves extensive rewriting
  • Enables efficient and effective writing, enables
    brevity and clarity

9
Getting Started
  • Proposal development involves hard schedule
    deadlines, so it is important to make as much
    progress as possible everyday in preparation of
    the next schedule milestone (pink team, red team,
    final production).
  • Start with bullets, short sentences and action
    item notes by putting something in every
    subsection of your outline and build on it later.
    (The proposal manager will provide you with the
    proposal outline).
  • Consider starting with the subsections that you
    feel you have the most knowledge/expertise. This
    is called a brain dump and this process of
    elimination will actually help you
    psychologically to concentrate on the remaining
    subsections.

10
Getting Started
  • Glean text and graphics from previously written
    proposals. There are links on the main page of
    the VCE to our proposal libraries where you can
    search the database.
  • Insert action item notes for areas in
    subsections where you know where (or whom) to get
    the information. This could be documents you have
    in another location, or maybe a co-worker you
    believe may have access to the info you need.
    Whatever, be sure to be specific with these
    action items so you can follow-up on them.
  • Once you complete the first pass and have
    something in every subsection, create a to do
    list of all the action item notes.

11
Getting Started
  • Remember, the correct response to most RFP
    requirements is how. Write your response
    explaining how we intend to do this (based on
    how weve done it before) and then substantiate
    it.
  • As for substantiation, think metrics of yrs
    experience, award fees, CPAR ratings, cost
    savings, etc.
  • When introducing a process, tool or best
    practice, be sure to keep in mind the value these
    things bring to the customer and articulate that
    point especially if the results of using this
    process, tool or best practice will save the
    customer money.
  • Consider turning chronological steps into a
    CONOPS (concept of operations) graphic

12
Getting Started
  • Consider using tables instead of bullets for
    lists (more esthetically appealing)
  • There are benefits to using the Working Wall.
    This entails hanging your entire section on the
    wall and walking back and forth adding red lines
    and sticky notes. The wall will also be used by
    the capture team to add notes as they browse.
    Its good practice to change your wall at the end
    of each day.
  • Dont worry about sentence structure, concentrate
    on content. But remember. All Good Writing is
    about Re-Writing. Even experienced authors
    rewrite and rewrite until theyre satisfied.

13
Getting Started
  • Attain objective feedback. Seek comments from the
    team especially those folks on the capture team
    who have proposal development experience.
  • Keep a To Do list and keep it current. It is good
    practice to update your To Do list as the last
    thing you do before leaving the office for the
    night.

14
Keeping an Even Keel
  • Break proposal work into smaller, achievable
    tasks. Dont get overwhelmed by the amount of
    work still left to do.
  • And dont sweat it. As long as you keep working
    it, youll notice that your section will
    eventually come together.
  • Graphics will start to evolve, action item notes
    will be replaced with text, and other team
    members will provide support.
  • The key is to stay focused, take clear notes and
    keep re-writing until youre satisfied with the
    result.

15
Proposal Writing Tips
16
Proposal Writing Tips (continued)
  • Set yourself up. Have all writing equipment
    gathered, all information gathered, and key ideas
    jotted down to get you started.
  • Dont reinvent the wheel. Whenever possible,
    from existing proposals, find an example of what
    you need and ENLARGE, MODIFY, IMPROVE, or REDUCE
    it to fit your needs.
  • Before and as you write, ask yourself the
    challenging questions your reader will have about
    your topic.
  • Divide your writing chore into manageable
    sections.
  • Turn off the internal editor.
  • Work from storyboard to text. Weave in ISS
    selling themes and messages.
  • Cascade down into greater and greater detail

17
Craft a Consistent Message
  • Use a logical, consistent presentation pattern
    throughout your section
  • Statement of problem/goalpose the technical
    question. Demonstrate your understanding of the
    Customers requirements and viewpoint. Describe
    what the Customer is trying to achieve.
  • Statement of solutionanswer the technical
    question. Describe the approach your company
    intends to use to achieve the Customers goals.
    Describe any deliverables. Provide specific
    relevant examples.

18
Craft a Consistent Message (continued)
  • Statement of rationale. Explain why your company
    approach is the best, focusing on the features
    that are most important to the Customer.
  • Substantiate your companys approach by referring
    to experience. Dont assume that evaluators are
    familiar with your success on previous programs

19
Write Customer-Focused Proposals
  • Write for a busy reader
  • Anticipate and answer the questions your readers
    will have
  • Emphasize the product and the service, not the
    source
  • Link the Customer to your company in joint
    ownership of the project
  • Eliminate any Trust me! statements that evoke a
    So what? or an I should hope so! response
  • Avoid statements that evaluators will disagree
    with
  • Rewrite negatively worded statements that teach
    readers what your company cant or wont do.

20
Wording Wizardry
21
Define Terminology and Use It Consistently
22
Define Terminology and Use It Consistently
  • Distribute, and update frequently, a list of
    abbreviations and acronyms including their
    definitions to ensure that all writers use them
    consistently.
  • Match your use of technical vocabulary to the
    readers/evaluators of your section.
  • Spell out acronyms and abbreviations on first use

23
Tools to ensure continuity
  • Provide
  • A glossary of terms with the proposal
  • A translation or synonym in parentheses
  • Concrete examples
  • A step-by-step process description
  • An explanation of function
  • Illustrations

24
Writing Tips for Success
  • Wording
  • Tell what your company is doing to fulfill the
    requirement and how it will benefit the customer
  • Simplify and clarify
  • Review customer question from previous proposals
    to learn where Customers asked for clarification
  • Use precise, factual wording
  • Understand the Customers environment and get the
    Customer into the proposal

25
Writing Tips for Success
  • Wording
  • Identify opportunities to weave team-agreed-upon
    selling messages into the proposal
  • Avoid opinionated or trust-me adjectives such
    as world-class
  • Double check the tact that the Customers
    shortcomings/problems are discussed
  • Avoid acronyms on the fly and verbification of
    nouns (calendarize)

26
Writing Tips for Success
  • Sentences and Paragraphs
  • Break long sentences into smaller easier to
    digest sentences
  • Review sections for readability
  • Check section emphasis and amount of detail
  • Check headings, lists, and tables for style
    consistency and parallel construction
  • Graphics
  • Work with graphic artists to ensure figures are
    readable and meet proposal font and size
    constraints
  • Provide action captions for all figures and
    tables
  • Provide a good transition from text to figures

27
Headings and Cross References
  • Headings and subheadings
  • Make it easy on evaluators to find answers
  • Double-check that headings are meaningful
  • For readable style, use short, meaningful headers
    and appropriate white space
  • Cross References
  • Referencing between sections is acceptable,
    assure that the reference is correct and the
    information useful.
  • Dont rely on reference to address the
    requirement or evaluation point

28
Getting More Mileage Out of Headings
  • Use informative message headings and subheadings
    to guide readers and reinforce selling messages
  • Use section summaries or themes (usually boxed at
    the beginning of each section to orient readers
    and reinforce selling messages.
  • Use message or action captions to help readers
    understand the significance of illustrations and
    reinforce selling messages.

29
Customize Resumes and Boilerplate
30
Customize Resumes
  • Answer the question why is my companys team,
    the best team for this project?
  • Create a resume template for your companys
    proposal.
  • Common headings
  • Current assignment/project responsibilities
  • Academic background
  • Experience summary/qualifications
  • Technical expertise/achievements and certificates

31
Customize Boilerplate Material
  • Ensure that all proposal text is tailored
    specifically to the customer. Dont let
    boilerplate material slip through to the printed
    version
  • Feel free to use boilerplate, but customize,
    customize, customize
  • Use boilerplate as a starting point
  • Identify content that will be the same in most
    proposals
  • Identify content that can be reused as long as
    wording is customized

32
Powerful Communication Style Strategies
33
Stamp out Wordiness
  • Delete words that dont add meaning
  • Delete meaningless introductory phrases
  • Eliminate unnecessary repetition
  • Compress phrases with unnecessary words
  • Combine short sentences that repeat words or ideas

34
Clarity is your friend
35
Power Positioning and Voice Usage
  • Spotlight key ideas at the beginning of the
    sentence
  • Use strong one-word action verbs
  • Deliver, perform, leverage,
  • Use active voice for simple, dynamic style
  • Use passive voice for smooth flow between
    sentences
  • Use active or passive voice to keep customer and
    key ideas in spotlight
  • Use present tense of sense of immediacy, but not
    at the expense of accuracy or clarity

36
Readability Tips
  • Show what information your readers will find in
    your document use
  • Definitive titles, subject headings and
    subheadings
  • Table of Contents
  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction section summaries
  • Lead paragraphs
  • Provide guides to your reader through the
    document
  • Table of contents
  • Logical heading/subheading hierarchy
  • Introduction section summaries
  • Transitional words that
  • Point out a sequence or other organizational
    pattern
  • Guide reader to figures and illustrations

37
Readability Tips
  • Increase your readers interest in your
    information
  • Illustrations
  • White space and short paragraphs
  • Lists
  • Color (as allowed by the RFP)
  • Consistent format
  • Indicate Logical relationship of ideas by
  • Numerical outline that matches or closely follows
    the RFP
  • Consistent format
  • Well written and edited text
  • Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, those, and
    these)
  • Paragraphs and lists
  • Transitional words (also, however, therefore,
    then and for example)

38
Editing Guidelines
  • Utilize the technical editors/writers on your
    team to provide strong, effective proposal
    editing
  • Good editing tightens your text, focuses your
    message, helps improve the flow and effectiveness
    of your proposal document
  • Remember that the proposal is a product delivered
    to the customer and must be held to the highest
    standards in content and form
  • Use three-pass approach when editing
  • Purpose and organization
  • Sentence structure, wording, and grammar
  • Mechanics and format

39
Editing Guidelines
  • Follow editorial guidelines
  • Be alert for the most common mechanics mistakes
  • Use current business writing rules when writing
    and proofreading
  • Use technical editors to strengthen your writing
    weaknesses
  • Proofread for detail
  • Get a different perspective on your writing
  • Develop a style guide
  • Use an editing checklist

40
Editing Exercise
  • Their are fifteen common mistakes in the text you
    are know reading. Youre assignment, should you
    chose to except it, is to find all of the errors,
    and correct them. Correctly Editing for content
    cna sometimes be an elusive task because of your
    familiarity with your text and your knowlegde of
    exactly what you want to say. It took a careful
    eye and a strong atention to detail, but with a
    bite of practice you can train youself to be a
    much more proficient author, editor and writer.

41
Final Notes
  • Stick to your strengths
  • Technical experts and engineers have a tendency
    to want to conquer formatting in Microsoft Word
    or creating art in Illustrator, PowerPoint, or
    other graphics programs. This practice can waste
    time and create higher costs
  • Concentrate your efforts on your area of
    expertise and seek out the assistance and help of
    Capture Operations/contract editors/writers,
    desktop publishers, and artists.
  • Take advantage of their years of proposal
    development experience and put it to good use on
    your proposal effort.
  • Youll spend less time struggling with the
    nuances of Word or Illustrator and more time
    writing effective and powerful content that will
    win new business.

42
Resources
  • richard.p.wilson_at_lmco.com
  • Elements of Style, Strunk and White, 4th Edition,
    1999.
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