What Your Proposal May Be Telling Evaluators about You

A quality proposal is the ultimate sales document; it gets inside the mind of the evaluator, makes it easy for them to reach the desired conclusions, and communicates a clear message about you and your business. Send the right message, and you build confidence and trust with evaluators. Inadvertently send the wrong message and you undermine your sales effort.

Your proposal says a lot about you. Here are three common writing issues that can hurt your team and how to avoid them.

You’re Not Tailoring Reusable Content

Reusable content helps teams get to a first draft faster and easier. But when your proposal narrative feels “cobbled” together from different sources, evaluators begin to question your attention to detail. And when your proposal doesn’t speak to their specific needs, evaluators begin to question your real interest in their business.

Message: Your project is not important enough for us to write a proposal that is specific to your needs.

Trying to engage an evaluator based on a proposal that is in-part written to someone else’s needs is like trying to force a square pen into a round hold. It just doesn’t fit.

So, you have your first draft. Where you go from here will determine how well your proposal resonates with evaluators. Review and revise your proposal to include the “what’s in it for me” aspect of your solution. Stakeholders have a lot at stake; these details will erase the taint of reusable content, engage evaluators, and build credibility.

You Don’t Really Empathize with our Problem

Remember, not all evaluators are decision makers. Some are the technical experts and functional workers who will work with you and use your solution. When your proposal is not relevant, showing evaluators you understand what they need, they will question your project fit. And when your proposal is not relatable, showing evaluators you understand why they need it, they will struggle to influence the buying decision.

Message: Your project is not important enough for us to write a proposal that helps you understand and accept our solution at a deeper level.

Putting the client at the heart of your proposal is a best practice. It drives persuasive, engaging content that differentiates you from the competition. But just talking about the client is not enough. So, you care about your client’s needs. Review and revise your proposal narrative (introductions and requirement response) to lead with specific client needs. Then, before you start talking about your solution, follow that with why the client is having the issues, concerns you have identified, and factors for success. Stakeholders are on the front lines. Details demonstrate empathy, and the level of commitment and dedication necessary for a lasting impression and a successful long-term partnership.

You Didn’t Really Think About Scoring Criteria

Evaluation criteria typically involves high-level scoring categories, for example x% for process, x% for capability, x% for budget, etc. For evaluators, however, there’s more to these scoring categories than meets the eye. According to Johnna Rogers, COO of Wake County, NC, these scoring categories are typically broken down into more detailed criterion. When your proposal doesn’t consider these detailed criterion, evaluators struggle with the details they need to defend their score to decision makers.

Message: Your project is not important enough for us to write a proposal you want to read and defend.

Writing to the scoring criteria is a best practice. It helps you focus the team on what’s important, and helps the team write for the top score. Unfortunately, it’s the criterion below these high-level scoring categories that determines the final score. So, you’ve written to the scoring criteria. Now, review and revise your proposal:

  • Break down the high-level scoring categories into relevant questions you might raise in the evaluator’s mind as they read.
  • Answer each relevant question.
  • Break down answers into simple steps and terms.

Stakeholders are keeping score. Review and revise your proposal with the details evaluators need to understand your solution at a deeper level, and defend their scores to decision makers.

Your proposal says a lot about you. Unfortunately, intent and reception are not the same thing. Make sure your intended message reaches evaluators loud and clear by eliminating these common writing missteps that can undermine your sale process.

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