We’re crazy about checklists because they make the most complex of processes easy to complete. And if you’re a bid and proposal professional, you can relate. Proposals take time to produce and if they aren’t compelling enough they are less likely to be successful. We’ve therefore created a basic proposal checklist to help you deliver your most effective proposals yet.
Is it exhaustive? No. But it gives much-needed perspective on what evaluators want and will help you best position your firm as the ideal solutions provider.
Here’s our list of 7 proposal checklist items to review before you submit your next proposal.
1. Address their needs
It may sound like an obvious point, but proposals sometimes stray from addressing the most important aspects of the RFP – client needs.
Why does this happen? There are a number of reasons, but it all comes down to planning.
Client needs are analyzed before you begin responding to the RFP, but in some cases not completely analyzing client needs leads to half-addressed requirements and irrelevant information.
Tip: make sure you completely analyze the RFP and that you have strong and compelling responses for each requirement before you begin writing.
2. Identify your differentiators
Strong differentiators make a clear distinction between your firm and the competition. In highly competitive industries isolating your firm’s strengths can be tricky, but with enough time and effort it is possible to clearly articulate your company’s value proposition.
When you establish what your differentiators are, ensure that you present them in as powerful and compelling a fashion as possible. Evaluators want you to be competitive and to show why your company should win the bid, but be sure to find a balance between overstating your firm’s capabilities and clearly showing that you can deliver results.
Tip: because this proposal checklist item is often the most challenging for firms to complete, think about what your current clients praise your company for. Is it your talent pool? Does your firm have a unique approach to completing projects? Is your firm known for delivering on time every time?
3. Clearly state your solution
Your solution accounts for the meat of your proposal, which is why you must present it clearly. Often, solutions are complex and not what evaluators specialize in, which is why they’re outsourcing their projects. By presenting a well-defined solution, you make it easier for evaluators to connect the dots between what they require and the desired result that your solution can deliver.
4. Provide complete responses
Producing a proposal that addresses the client’s immediate needs isn’t enough. How can you deliver more value? Get detailed and think about your solution and its long-term impact on your client’s business.
Evaluators want to be wowed, and the best way to do so is by showing them how well you understand their needs, and that you can deliver solution that will make a positive impact on their business both now and in the future.
5. Keep it relevant
There is an old trap that businesses fall into when trying to sell themselves: they tend to over embellish. This is evident when sections of information that are not pertinent to the proposal somehow make the final draft.
The impact? Evaluators get lost in the unnecessary text and begin to lose interest in your proposal.
How do you avoid including irrelevant information? As you examine your proposal, consider each paragraph carefully. Ask yourself if removing any text would weaken the impact of the proposal. Would the proposal still flow and make sense? If not, keep it. If losing the paragraph makes your proposal stronger, delete it.
6. Make your proposal easy to read
Much like the trap of including irrelevant information, using jargon, vague statements and superfluous verbiage is a surefire way to make evaluators lose interest. Put another way – if they need to spend time trying to figure out what you’re saying, your solution isn’t what they are looking for.
Tip: trim out the big words and replace them with smaller and easier-to-understand terms. Also, steer clear of any clichés that you may want to use to make your solution look or sound ‘dynamic’.
Which clichés should you avoid? Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of some to ignore:
- think outside the box
- going forward
- maximize customer satisfaction
- core competencies
- best practices
7. Proofread your proposal
While not the most spoken about aspect of proposal writing, grammar and punctuation are very important – especially when you’re trying to convince evaluators that your company should win the bid.
Incorrect use of a comma, for example, can change the meaning of the sentence and erode your company’s credibility.
But that’s not all. Proposals ridden with poor grammar and punctuation can severely stunt your firm’s chances of ever becoming a serious option for the client’s future projects. In the eyes of the evaluators, your company doesn’t pay attention to detail, and that makes your firm a high-risk solutions provider.
Tip: get your proposal over to a professional proofreader and past the eyes of a few people before you send it. The more eyes the better.
Using a proposal checklist is an effective way of ensuring that you produce strong and compelling proposals. Your checklist can be as complex or simple as you need it to be, but to ensure that it is geared towards positively influencing evaluators.