Proposal writing can vary from company to company. In more traditional industries, or those with a small sales team, or even those who don’t need the extra business, it’s common to have a rubber-stamp styled approach to proposals. You offer the same products or services, for exactly the same prices, and in exactly the same format for each and every customer. It’s a predictable, factory-like process that creates no stress and is easy for newcomers to understand.
Unfortunately, most businesses would not do well under this model. Their products and services are too diverse, their clients are too picky, and their potential projects are too different for everything to be so perfectly formulaic. Proposals need to be written specifically for the client, and that means a wealth of proactive research before the proposal writing process can even begin.
The Power of Research
Why research? Research gives you information and understanding about your environment. You may think that you know what the client is asking for, but do you really know who the client is? What their values are? What they look for in a partner, other than what they might have mentioned in an RFP? These bits of information can help you to frame and to shape your proposal, but they aren’t always evident on a superficial level, so you have to do some digging if you want to find them.
Research Tips for Proposal Writing
When it comes to researching a proposal, bear these powerful tips in mind:
1. Focus on actionable conclusions.
Throughout your research process, you’ll be tempted simply to absorb information. You might find out a bit more about the history of the company or their current client base, but you must always frame these new ideas in the context of actionable conclusions. Yes, this company has a lighthearted, flexible spirit, but what does that mean for your proposal? It means that a lighter tone will be more approachable, and a flexible service plan may be appreciated. If you don’t tie your insights back to something measurable and actionable, you’ll be left with too many intangible factors, and you won’t get anywhere.
2. Really get to know the brand.
You know what their brand is and what their company does, but if you want to write for them, you’ll need to immerse yourself a little deeper. See what their audience is like: does this brand face any unique challenges with its audience for which you can compensate? See what kind of values this brand has: do they differentiate themselves by giving back to the community? While most proposals are decided on through logic, aligning yourself with the brand’s vision and reputation can give you the edge that you need in a tight competitive spot.
3. Delve into the company’s history.
You know the brand a little better, but where the brand has been before is almost as important in terms of positioning and understanding. For example, have they recently gone through a rebranding process, with new values and a new image? They may be interested in shifting directions in many ways. Have they broken their historical pattern of handling this service internally? It may mean that they’ll need extra handholding and extra control during the execution phase, which you can play up in your proposal.
4. Learn which other companies they’ve worked with in the past.
Most companies have some kind of record of their previous partnerships and vendors. If you dig deep enough, you’ll be able to find this information. For public organizations like governmental bodies and publicly traded companies, you’ll probably also be able to find previous winners of bids. With this information, you’ll be able to pick out key points of commonality and to include those advantages in your proposal to maximize your chances of winning.
5. Clarify their main goals.
Proposal submissions are a projected exchange of value. Your prospective client has a handful of main goals that they want to achieve, which may be stated or implied. If you can help them to achieve these goals, and do so in a way that maximizes your value, you’ll be in a much better position than if you throw out a basic list of services and hope for the best. You have to match those goals as precisely as possible – and show that you know what those goals are – if you want to stand out from the crowd.
6. Look at their competition.
There are a handful of reasons to look at your prospective client’s competition, but one of the most important is to learn how they differentiate themselves. If they offer better customer service, or a better product, or a different brand voice, you’ll need to recognize that somehow, or account for it, when you describe how you’re going to help them. It may also give you more creative ideas for services that they need to be using (i.e., to keep up with the competition).
7. Look at your competition.
It’s also a good idea to look at your own competition while you’re in the running, especially if you suspect that your competitors will be submitting similar proposals. Obviously, you need to stand out, and you need to make a better offer than your competitors can, but to do that, you first need to know what they’re offering. You won’t be able to find the contents of their proposals specifically, but with adequate competitive research, you’ll get the gist of their typical angles.
With these research tips guiding your path to more information, you’ll gain ample new insights about you, your competition, and your prospective clients that can inform your proposals and give you the edge you need to land new deals.
Proposal writing isn’t always straightforward, but it doesn’t have to be hard. If you’re looking for a way to make the entire process easier from start to finish, consider using iQuoteXpress’s CPQ software. Sign up for a no-obligation free trial today, and you’ll get your hands on all of our features and functions without any commitment.