1) Opportunity identification. You don’t want to bid on everything. I know I don’t. If a job comes in that I can’t do well, I’ll refer it to another editor I know who can nail that bad boy. Not only is this more honest, but it just feels good. If you get a job you’re dreading, well, why are you dreading it? You know why. The question is not “Can we do it?” but “Can we do it better than anybody else? Is this what we want to be doing?” You only have a limited amount of resources. Don’t gamble on what’s possible. Invest in what’s probable. Otherwise you’re just hurting yourself, and you know it.
2) Planning is a big deal. One approach is to find out what you’re writing about by diving in and writing. Any other approach is better than that. Plan first. Clear thinking leads to clear writing. If you spend more time planning than you do writing, that’s a good thing. Once you’re totally clear on what you want to do and how you want to do it, you’ll write better, you’ll write faster, and you won’t get loyal to paragraphs and pages of bad writing just because you invested so much time in them. A long proposal still means that you didn’t have time to write a short one. Plan first, and you will have time to write a short one. One short enough to actually be read. And to win.
3) Customize. Generic bids look like spam, and you can spot them in a heartbeat when you read them. So can your customer. Know what your prospect really wants, and prove that you’re the one best able to deliver it. And how can you prove you’re the one best able? When it’s the truth.
4) Write the bid. This is labor intensive but it shouldn’t be all that mentally strenuous. You know for a fact that you can help that prospective customer, and you’ve planned how to establish that, so now you just do the writing. Your bid is compliant, responsive, compelling, customer focused, easy to evaluate, visually communicative, and well-written. And there you go. You’ve won.
5) Editing and Proofreading. Mistakes hurt credibility, and lack of clarity confuses and annoys readers.
When you write your proposal, you probably grab everyone in the office who’s qualified to be helpful. They all pitch in. And that’s good. Winning bids is the most important part of staying in business, and well worth collaborating on.
But do you finish or do you just stop? Does the whole team get so burned out that they can’t see what’s on the paper anymore? You need a fresh pair of eyes, from someone who will only see what you’ve written. Someone who, like your customer, has no idea what you meant to write. Someone who’s not burned out, who can easily spot both all your “oops” typos and anything that isn’t clear.
If you have such a person in your firm, you rock. If not, outsource it. Send it to a qualified experienced professional and enjoy peace of mind. Proofreading isn’t the most important criterion — certainly not — but it is still on the list.
Updated March 16, 2017
© Copyright 2000-2017, Michael LaRocca
Durham / Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27707