Improving Your Written Bids and Proposals

by Robert Moskowitz on June 6, 2013
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Looking for lucrative new business opportunities, such as landing a large private or public contract, which might require a written bid? Beyond asking a reasonable price for your goods or services, here are five tips for developing competitive bids and proposals.

1. Emphasize your unique selling proposition. To stand out in a crowd, stand apart from it. If you offer a unique solution to a problem, discuss it in detail; this can go a long way toward demonstrating how you differ from other bidders. Draw distinctions between your offering and all of the rest in every part of your bid or proposal. Point out your strengths and your competition’s weaknesses.

Think of ways to help evaluators understand your company’s unique selling proposition. Frame these ideas as tangible benefits your company brings to the project. Argue as convincingly as you can that your team is tailor-made to finish the job on time and to specifications.

2. Sell steak, not sizzle. Your bid or proposal will gain a big advantage if you use more words to describe your company’s fit, experience, and ability to complete the project than to reiterate your reputation or marketing spiel.

Avoid boilerplate sales talk and generalizations, which suggest that you have nothing substantive to say. Instead, fill your bid or proposal with language describing your consistency, strong performance, and high quality. Provide supporting facts that are likely to weigh favorably with evaluators.

3. Follow instructions. This sounds obvious, but simply making your bid or proposal conform as closely as possible to the requested format may give you a leg up on competitors who fail to honor such minor, technical requests.

If potential clients or customers fail to specify these details, echo the format and structure you see in the call for bids. For example, answer questions in the order they’re asked, using the same font size, column width, and paragraph structure. Copy each request for information into your bid or proposal and follow it with your response.

Wherever appropriate, echo the original document’s logic, too. For example, if there appear to be three criteria for evaluating your answers to each question, explicitly break out the information within each answer that responds to each of those criteria. The easier you make it for evaluators to extract what’s important to them in your bid or proposal, the more favorably they’re likely to view it.

4. Explicitly meet all requirements. In every one of your responses, demonstrate that you understand the project’s relevant requirements, all the way down to its most technical specifications. This helps to demonstrate not only that you possess the necessary technical expertise to handle the project, but also that your response is the product of intense thought and planning, fully customized for this particular bid or proposal.

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