Proposal management is the best practice process of leading a team through the written portion of the sales cycle. Proposal writing is a form of persuasive writing, designed to convince the evaluator that the business has the best resources and skills necessary to deliver on goals. How well the team leverages reviewer reactions and insights during the revision cycle determines how well the proposal resonates with evaluators.
In the fourth and final part of this Blog series, we explore proposal management with a focus on cultivating post-review revision collaboration to reduce time and improve proposal quality.
Post-Review Revision Collaboration
Proposal collaboration typically begins at the Intersection of business development and proposal management; qualifying an opportunity. Through writing Interplay, the team brings the capture strategy to life in the proposal. Review, or Inspection, provides feedback and instruction for improving proposal quality.
Where the team goes from here will determine how well the proposal reads in favor of the solution. We like to think of this step as Improvement; where the team leverages reviewer reactions and insights to refine content to better engage and convince evaluators.
How to Achieve Collaborative Post-Review Revisions
Revisions are typically a crossroads for the proposal team; time is of the essence and the course of action chosen will significantly affect the proposal’s win probability. Experience demonstrates that the more collaborative this Improvement phase, the more productive the revisions.
There are three simple process changes you can make to achieve a collaborative post-review Improvement. The key is to give the team a clear revision roadmap to maximize their time, complete with detailed instructions for tailoring content and proven tools for writing persuasively.
Get the Upper Hand on Revision Chaos
When review team feedback and instruction are in conflict or non-compliant, the team can be left wondering how to begin. A review “hot wash,” or debrief, provides the proposal manager with an opportunity to evaluate and prioritize exactly what should be incorporated into the proposal before revisions begin. This provides the team with a clear roadmap that focuses revisions and saves valuable Improvement time.
Define the Writing Strategy
Proposal writing is a team sport, drawing on experts from across the organization, all with their own opinions and shifting priorities. To bring greater continuity to the narrative during revisions, gather and revisit the proposal outline and scoring criteria for each section. Ask questions and agree on overall proposition, style, voice, word choice, and quantitative details. Break down the high-level scoring categories into relevant questions raised in the evaluator’s mind as they read. Answer each relevant question as part of the revision, breaking down the answers into simple steps and terms.
Tailor Content for Quality.
At review time, the proposal may be informative rather than persuasive. It may read choppy or feel cobbled together. It may be lacking in details or fraught with confusing technical jargon. It may be reusable content or boilerplate. All things that make evaluators feel their project was not important enough for you to write a proposal that is specific to their needs.
A quality proposal communicates a clear, compelling message about the business, the solution, and the people, helping the evaluator reach the desired conclusion. Teams do this by understanding the client, getting inside the mind of the evaluator, and leveraging proven persuasive writing techniques:
Focus on intent and the details that will help evaluators understand, and accept, the solution at a deeper level. Begin with an exercise in empathy; consider what the evaluator wants to hear and the questions raised in their mind as they read. Revise with answers to those questions to further the evaluator’s understanding and acceptance.
Focus on the “how to do” aspect of the solution. Revise and make more relevant by showing evaluators how their success will be achieved. Break down large blocks of text into simple steps, and infuse each with relevant client stories to establish you as a confident, authoritative source.
Cut the fluff of filler words and phrases like basically, exactly, actually, in general, and in order to, etc. These words make the proposal sound uncertain, undermining evaluator confidence. Revise with stronger, more concise words and phrases that more clearly convey your intent. This will better hold the evaluator’s attention and keep them from skimming.
Take time to explain the technical. Technical sections must demonstrate proficiency, explain in a way that is understandable for varying levels of competence, and provide everything in context to the overall solution and evaluator goals. Revise by breaking down longer paragraphs into shorter paragraphs and breaking down longer sentences into shorter sentences. Use bulleted lists and graphics. Use simpler language, avoid jargon, and define unfamiliar or complex terms. Remember, the proposal is telling a story, not instructing a user.
Hook Readers. There are only a few seconds to capture the evaluator’s attention, so don’t confuse them with “throat-clearing” or insider language. Revise relevant sections to begin with a fact or finding that explicitly supports the proposition. Consider a relevant headline to organize paragraphs. This will help draw the evaluator in, clue them in to what you’re talking about, and help them better follow your line of thinking, i.e., the narrative.
Repeat Yourself. Proposals can be hundreds (and sometimes hundreds and hundreds) of pages. Strategic repetition is an effective way to gradually remind evaluators of the proposition. Revise by rephrasing the same point, swapping in a client story or quote, and adding a visual to reinforce your point. Remember, not all evaluators read the proposal from front to back; whether they open it at the executive summary or the technical overview, they should be able to quickly pickup on the narrative and understand the proposition.
By harnessing collaborative Improvement, proposal teams save time; time they can invest in the writing that improves win probability, or, the proposal maturity and quality evaluators want to read, understand, accept, and defend.