Structure and format are important, whether it’s a building or a business proposal. Create a proposal format that drives response.
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For some businesses or independent contractors, a request for a proposal (RFP) is what keeps them in business. It’s a promise of work if yours is accepted, but that’ll only happen if your response is high quality and timely. It must beat out your competitors if you want a chance to render your services, and that can be a challenge.
To improve your chances of having the RFP accepted, you’ll want to draft a timely response. There’s more of an advantage to a speedy response time with your RFP than many people realize. It’s like getting a 10-second head start in a race. It may not be much, but it could mean the difference between your proposal being accepted and it being thrown out. Having your proposal take the first place in the queue ensures that the requester will read yours with a fresh set of eyes without comparing its weaknesses to other proposals. It’s the advantage that you may need in order to be chosen.
Unfortunately, the average response time for a proposal leaves something to be desired. Though the average time differs for every project, it can take several days or even weeks to send a proposal following an RFP. Such a long wait time is not always the most favorable of options.
However, thanks to Configure Price Quote (CPQ) software and modern technology, those sending out for proposals are expecting a higher standard. They’re looking to reward those who use their resources to their fullest extent in order to bring about a speedy response time without sacrificing the quality of work. If you’re looking to get that head start on a high quality proposal, there are a few things that you should try.
Use CPQ Software
First and foremost, be sure that you’re using the right tools. CPQ software is the best way to define accurately the price of goods for the purposes of your proposal. It applies dynamic pricing schemes to regular templates in order to deliver a more accurate reading.
CPQ software can also reduce the time needed to define pricing for a specific proposal format. CPQ software, like that from iQuoteXpress, is designed to make complex analysis and variables look simple on the page. That way, it’ll not only be speedy to make, but it’ll also be simple to read, highlighting important factors like excellent products, service charges, and configuring compatibility.
Understand the Process from the Beginning
You can’t expect to begin the RFP process flying blindly and come out with a speedy, high quality proposal. You must know the ins and outs of creating a good document. This involves clearly laying out the needs and questions of the customer in a single document that’ll compete against a series of other documents.
As a part of this process, recognize the time constraints. You want to get the product out quickly in order to beat competitors, but some projects are much larger than others and have many more components. The larger the project, the more time that it’ll take. You can speed up the process with CPQ software, but be sure that you don’t sacrifice the quality by moving too fast.
Be Ready for Last Minute Requests
You might be staring down a tight deadline to finish your proposal and still be faced with last minute requests that you’ll need to fit into your proposal in order to meet the requester’s needs. The more complex the project is, the more difficult it is to pull such a document together.
It’s always a good idea to consider all of the variables before writing your proposal. That way, when a last minute request comes in, you’ll have plenty of material to work with before submitting the proposal. If you’re prepared, your proposal is guaranteed to come in faster and at a higher quality.
Plan Your Time
Time management is something that most people struggle with in business. It’s difficult to balance multiple projects and devote the necessary quality. However, if you want a quick proposal turnaround, good time management is essential.
Begin the project by setting a deadline for yourself. If you want a good head start over your competitors, it’s recommended that you set a deadline that’s significantly shorter than the one presented by the requester. Then, meet with your team to discuss some doable benchmarks in getting the proposal finished early. With this kind of strategy, you could cut the response time down from days to hours.
Though you want there to be an original quality about the proposals you write and present, there’s no shame in using templates as the backbone in order to expedite the process and make it easier on you. You’ll obviously change the content to match the needs of the presenter, but using a template as the outline is an excellent strategy.
If you’re handy with your preferred proposal development program, you might choose to make the proposals from scratch. If not, using a few versions of a proposal template is a good place to start. You can customize it to meet your needs and the needs of the client while saving yourself a lot of time and efforts.
Have a Signature Statement
You’ll want something that can stand out from your competitors and brand the proposal as distinctly you. In general, a signature statement can achieve this, and it can be prefabricated in order to save time. You can simply slap your signature statement into the introduction or conclusion, and it will be easy to pick your proposal out of the piles of others.
Get Accurate and Time-Saving CPQ Software with iQuoteXpress
At iQuoteXpress, we’re hoping to make your RFP response as quick and painless as possible. Our CPQ software accelerates the proposal writing process with high accuracy and quality. If you’re interested in a customized solution that can cut away hours of work, contact us today!
If you’ve ever been in a sales or marketing position, or if you’ve ever been an entrepreneur, you know what it’s like to lose a bid. You put hours of work into a sales proposal, including everything you’d want (if you were in the buyer’s shoes), and you still came up short of the win. Was it because you forgot to include something? Did a competitor undercut you on price? These questions are hard to answer, and can be maddening for those new to the industry.
It’s rare that one factor makes or breaks a proposal. For example, if you’re high on price, you can make up for it by showcasing your value, or if you don’t have a lot of experience, you can make up for it by offering additional benefits or a guarantee. Some buyers may even make decisions based on a gut feeling or preexisting relationship, which is totally beyond your control.
For now, let’s focus on the factors you can control. There are certain elements that every proposal needs if it’s going to stand a chance of winning, and you have the power to include them in every quote you send.
1. An aesthetically pleasing format.
First impressions are critically important, and the first thing people are going to notice about your proposal is its aesthetic value. This is somewhat subjective, but you don’t need to get fancy here. Properly aligned boxes, a unique (but legible) font, colors that match your brand, and ample white space are all fundamentals that can help your proposal be better received immediately. Consistency is also important here—don’t jump back and forth between styles.
2. A strong, concise opening.
Your opening—whether that’s a cover letter, a headline, or a statement of work—needs to be powerful. It’s going to be the first thing your buyer reads, finalizing their first impressions, and what they refer back to when they need a summary or reminder of your proposal. Make it as compelling as possible, avoiding buzzwords or jargon, and keep it concise. Spend some time polishing this.
3. A detailed scope of work.
Don’t just list your products; explain what they are, why they’re important, and what value they hold. Don’t just list your services; explain how you’re going to approach this specific client and propose a timeline for completion. Be as detailed as possible in your scope of work, highlighting exactly what your company plans to do and leaving no room for miscommunication or subjective interpretation. It shows you’ve thought far ahead (and reduces the potential for disagreements later on, assuming you win the bid).
4. A unique value proposition.
Assume you’re going up against several competitors who are offering nearly identical products and services for a nearly identical price structure. Why are you any different? Don’t go for obvious, generic choices like “we’ll work really hard” or “our products are top-of-the-line.” Be specific about what truly sets you apart from the competition—any differentiating factor here can be good.
5. A personal view.
While your proposal exists as a message from one company to another, ultimately your proposal is going to be read and considered by people. Accordingly, a personal appeal is necessary to help you close the deal. Introduce some of the most important members of your team (especially your account manager or customer service rep), and explain who they are, what their experience is, and how they’re going to make this deal favorable for the buyer. A little personality goes a long way.
6. References or testimonials.
You probably talk a big game and clearly explain why your business is a good one—but everybody does. If you want to stand out, include third party reviews, references, and testimonials that objectively highlight your abilities and past performance record. If you’re relatively new, this could be hard to find, so favor quality over quantity here.
7. Itemized, detailed pricing.
What you charge in a proposal doesn’t matter quite as much as your justification for charging it. For example, if you’re proposing a new web design and your pricing page is simply the number $10,000, you won’t attract nearly as much favor as a page that breaks down the phases of work, estimated hours to be spent, and individual services rendered, eventually totaling $10,000. Explain why you’re charging what you’re charging, and break out every line item you can.
8. A return on investment statement.
Proposals are about more than just an item and a cost. They’re about why an item, at a certain cost, is beneficial to the buyer. If the buyer goes through with this deal, how will they ultimately benefit? How are they going to make money, save money, or reduce risk by following through with this deal? Consider this a return on investment (ROI) statement, and include one as a follow-up to every pricing page you create.
9. A call for next steps.
Let’s say your buyer is interested in moving forward. What happens next? Your proposal should clearly articulate the next steps of the process, including whether you need more details, how soon you could be ready to begin work, and how to contact you when the buyer is ready to make a decision. It’s also a good idea to have a formalized plan or timetable (though you might have already included this in your scope of work section).
10. A thank you.
We live in an advanced age, but simple etiquette is still important. Be sure to include a dedicated thank you page with all your proposals, thanking your prospective buyer for the opportunity and their time in reviewing your bid. It could make the difference.
You owe it to yourself—and your business—to include these elements in every proposal you send. To make things easier, consider adopting a CPQ (Configure Price Quote) software platform—it will help you ensure the consistency, proper formatting, aesthetic value, and accuracy of all your quotes (no matter who’s doing the creating). If you’re interested in learning more, iQuoteXpress is currently offering a free demo of its CPQ software—sign up and find out how it can help you win more bids.