Three tips on the proper RFP response: it’s in your talk, your technique, and your technology (quoting software, CRM, and more).
The prefab business is booming – and for good reason. The combination of affordability and fast production makes the modular home industry extremely appealing to customers. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to see the appeal. But what does it take to succeed in the modular home industry?The prefab business is booming – and for good reason. The combination of affordability and fast production makes the modular home industry extremely appealing to customers. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to see the appeal. But what does it take to succeed in the modular home industry?
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.
This year’s Presidential campaign season has already been full of surprises and twists, and it’s bound to get even more intense as the months roll on. It’s very early, yet candidates are trying their hardest to prove that they’re the best, most experienced, most appropriate leaders for the nation – and, regardless of your political affiliations or personal investments in the outcome of the election, you have to be impressed with the tactics they use to promote themselves.
While the analogy isn’t obvious at first glance, this process of political positioning has a lot to teach us about the best way to structure and write a proposal in a professional environment. Think about your goals as a proposal writer: you’re competing against a group of peers, you have to convince the reviewer that you’re the most authoritative and valuable candidate, and you only get a finite amount of space to pack in all of your persuasive arguments.
Let’s dig into the specifics of how political tactics can help you shape better proposals:
Have a Slogan
Politics and marketing have a lot in common. Perhaps most importantly, you need to be able to communicate large amounts of meaning in a targeted, effective way. This is best demonstrated by the political slogan, a short snippet of text designed to “stick” in a voter’s mind and accurately, concisely sum up the entirety of a candidate’s political platform. For politicians, this might be a value statement or a snappy rebuttal to an opponent’s vision for the future of the country.
For you, this is an opening statement or summary page, where you’ll boil down your main points to only those that are most relevant. If you’re successful here, your arguments are going to “stick” in your readers’ minds, and long after they’ve given the proposals a once-over, yours is the one that’s going to come to mind first. It also serves as an effective summary page: since it’s rare that companies will review entire proposals multiple times over, your summary statements are the best tool that you have to earn bonus points during further reviews.
Create a Plan
There’s something to be said for the value of rational appeal, and there’s no greater rational appeal than a point-by-point plan. For politicians, this means turning a general statement like “improve education” into a series of realistic, actionable items (which is often easier said than done). This must be grounded and convincing, or else nobody will find the plan persuasive.
Proposal writing is no different, except that you have different general statements to flesh out, and you’ll be in complete control of how you eventually execute the steps to get there. For example, you might have a statement like, “We’ll help you to increase your marketing ROI,” but that doesn’t say much unless you have a well-researched, well-documented plan on how you’re going to pull that off. It’s important to back up your plans with research and insights; otherwise, your plan steps will seem as hollow or unimpressive as your general statements. Be specific here!
Ask for Help
It’s almost impossible to create and manage a political campaign on your own. Most modern political candidates have entire teams of people behind the scenes, posting on their behalf on social media, answering press inquiries, scheduling events, and getting them ready for significant turns. The politician may be a visionary for the campaign, but the grunt work is done by, well, grunts.
As a proposal writer, you may have access to your own team, but sometimes even that isn’t enough to get your proposal written in time (or in a proper format). That’s why tools like iQuoteXpress exist – too help you get your proposals written faster and easier without sacrificing the quality of your finished piece. Think of your proposal writing software as a campaign manager, helping you keep everything in order.
Prove That You’re More Than Just Empty Promises
One of the biggest problems politicians face in the modern era is earning voter trust. All of their plans may sound good, and their rhetoric may be persuasive, but what does that actually mean? It doesn’t matter that you have a four-year plan to improve healthcare coverage if, when you get into office, you immediately abandon that plan. Accordingly, politicians are forced to prove that they’re more than just empty promises.
You’ve guessed it already: you do too. Most proposal submitters will talk a big game, so to differentiate yourself, you have to prove that you can back up those words. Some of the most effective ways to do this are through case studies and former client testimonials; show that you’ve done it before! Otherwise, you can show off measurable metrics and your company history (including team member expertise) to close the deal.
To many voters, all candidates look alike. The frontrunners are the ones who’ve managed to stand out from the crowd. In this year’s election, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – candidates on both sides of the aisle – have emerged as major contenders because of their unconventional approaches (and, in the former’s case, debatable aptitude). This isn’t to say that standing out instantly makes you a better candidate, but it does get you more attention – and attention is always the first step. Put this to good use in your proposal writing endeavors by including a unique format or position. Break away from the norm!
If you can use these tactics effectively for your proposal, you’ll have a far better chance at standing out among the crowd. Remember, one of the most important elements to successful integration is subtlety: if a voter suspects a politician of being subversive or manipulative, the politician will lose his/her vote. Similarly, if you try too hard to manipulate your readers, your proposal will come off as sales-y and impersonal. Instead, strive to incorporate these means of persuasion without losing the human approachability of your voice.