3 Ways to Engage the Proposal Reader

To win, you need to form a real connection with the evaluators reading (hopefully, not skimming) your proposal. Luckily, before the evaluators bust open your box, put on the coffee and break out the binders, you have the opportunity to try out your connection on your review team. Your reviewers are your gate keepers; they provide feedback on where the team may have blinded themselves to certain compliance issues and solution or strategy weaknesses. If you can’t connect with them, you won’t connect with evaluators.

So if you want to start connecting with readers, take a page from our famous author series, authors who are known for their keen ability to quickly engage the reader.

Author: Stephen King
Advice: "Reach out and grab the reader.”

When something reaches out and grabs your attention, it is hard to look away. In writing, and TV and movies, it’s called the hook; a sentence or two that draws people into reading your proposal, or executive summary, solution overview, etc. A hook sparks the reader’s curiosity and leaves them wondering what happens next.

Hook #1: Strong Opening Statement

You only have a few seconds to capture your reader’s attention, so don’t confuse them with “throat-clearing” or insider language and industry jargon. Make an assertive claim about your solution that connects it to the benefits and shows the importance of your proposal.

For example, what do you intend to propose? Your team has the experience to achieve success? Your solution will solve the problem? Your solution will bring about the desired outcome? Whether the reader agrees or disagrees with your strong opening statement, they will want to read on to discover how you support your statement.

Far too many proposals start out with boring recitations of facts, organizational structures and standard language (“we are pleased to provide,” etc.) Does this really grab your reader?

If you want a strong opening statement that aligns with your capture strategy, then your team needs to actually understand your capture strategy. Skip the email chain and consider making your “hand off” from sales to proposal team more of a collaborative intersection; where a centralized collaboration platform allows the team to access materials, review, discuss and come to consensus. When you bridge the gap between sales and proposal team, you’ll see what the experts are thinking, have an opportunity to correct any misunderstanding, and automatically capture and share the details, in context, needed to write attention-getting content.

Hook #2: Interesting Fact

Facts hook your reader because they give real information about a topic of their interest. If you have a stark fact that sheds some light on why the reader’s problem needs to be addressed; it’s a safe bet it’s on the reader’s mind too.

For example, want to impress your reader as a thought-leader? Start with a fact, or even a quote, from an article or white paper written specifically for the reader’s industry. Want to impress upon your reader your team’s experience? Start by relating your team’s experience to the outcome of the reader’s goals. Just don’t forget to put it into the reader’s context, not your company’s context.

Many business developers, sales professionals and capture managers spend months and even years immersed in the details of your opportunity. They know the facts and they know the issues, so make sure their knowledge is captured and transferred to the proposal team.

If you want to hook your reader with a fact that aligns with your capture strategy, skip the quick “hand off” and share some fact options with your team upfront. Consider including a fact or two in your annotated outline. Try leveraging your collaboration platform as a centralized content library as well; where the team can search, find, copy and paste a fact right into the section they are writing. Whether it’s a fact for a hook or a detail to support it, when you bridge the gap between sales and proposal team your team will spend more time thinking and writing and less time searching for content and context.

Hook #3: Creative Metaphor

If you’re trying to change the conversation with your proposal try a metaphor that directly compares one thing to another. A metaphor engages readers because it makes them think about a topic in a different way. Plus two things that seem unrelated can bring emotion into the reading experience. Your reader will wonder what you mean and how you compare a topic to something that seems unconnected.

For example, comparing your project management approach to ball room dancing; it’s a quick visual impression that expresses a concept, suggests an eloquent approach, and begs the question, “How do they do that so smoothly?” in just a few words. Just be careful to avoid overused metaphors and worn-out clichés such as “window of opportunity” and “boil the ocean.” Be creative, but know your reader.

If you want to hook your reader with a metaphor that aligns with your capture strategy, first your team must know some reader details. Knowing your reader well enough to use a metaphor hook demands a more collaborative intersection between sales and proposal team. When you bridge the gap between sales and proposal teams the resulting work product will have the information in greater context. This means your review team, your gatekeepers, will focus more on strategy feedback than on grammar and formatting comments.

Whatever hook you choose, the key is having a clear understanding of your customer, capture strategy, and the solution details necessary to support it. When you bridge the gap between sales and proposal teams you automatically capture and share, in context, the details your team needs to write quality, attention-getting content that hooks your evaluating, and reviewing, readers.

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