Qocreate’s three steps to writing a winning business proposal include organization, development, and articulation. In this post, we’ll focus on organization, helping you to put structure around your ideas and solutions.
Once you do the hard work of organizing, writing a proposal in response to a customer request becomes a quick and enlightening affair. Whether your client requests a quad chart, a white paper, a Statement of Work, a Request for Proposal, or a quote, you will be able to clearly see how your solution satisfies their needs.
Clients often tell you exactly how they want to see the information presented. It is important that you ultimately present the proposal in this format. However, many clients – especially government clients -- do not request proposal solutions in a way that immediately leads to truly coherent organization. For that reason, much of the struggle in putting together a proposal is trying to figure out how to give them what they want, while not compromising the story or integrity of the solution.
Qocreate has a way to help with this problem: putting first things first, frame the solution in a way that makes sense to you.
We recommend writing out your business solutions in solution profiles before a client even requests the proposal. This means articulating your solutions with fidelity to how you actually do the work. Put everything down on paper that you know about the solution. Answer the questions who, what, when, where, how, and why. Create graphics, tables, schematics, and other visuals to help potential clients see the work being done. You want to create a day in the life of your solution, a story around how the work gets done.
Organizing in this sense includes brainstorming to get the whole picture, grouping up parts, selecting a method for organization, and then putting the pieces together within the chosen framework or structure.
Brainstorming To Get the Whole Picture and its Parts. Start the organization process by putting all the ideas and parts on paper. This is where you want to see the forest. Create a high-level view of your solution. Include people, processes, technology, templates, tools, and expected results.
• Who will participate in the solution?
• What are each person’s roles and responsibilities?
• What steps will they take to do the work?
• What tools will they use and what systems or infrastructure will they interact with?
Identify efficiencies and benefits to the customer, matching them against industry standards to demonstrate expertise and results. Get these ideas on paper any way you need to – drawings, rough notes and sketches, ideas pulled from the internet.
Grouping The Parts. Once you have everything down on paper, begin to group the parts together in a way that makes sense to you.
Sometimes you can use groupings industry or standards organizations have put together. For example, with project management, you can use overarching phases of Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor, Control, Close. Or, for something like administrative work, you can use tasks like scheduling, conference support, memos, answering phones, travel arrangements, and so on and so forth.
The point is to start looking at possible ways the parts fit together to form the whole. There are multiple ways to do this, but work on one that makes the most sense to you. Then shop the idea around to your co-workers and teammates and use the feedback to further refine your thinking.
Selecting a Method for Organization. Having a clear picture of the whole solution and its component parts, use a method of organization that suits your task.
• Project management lends itself to groupings of activities under major phases.
• Software development lends itself to a chronological and iterative process description.
• Developing a network topology requires drawings and schematics laid out in a physical configuration. Installing the network requires articulating the process that eventually results in the configuration.
You can organize information in any number of ways – chronologically, spatially, categorically, hierarchically, geographically, etc. Choose the structures that work with your idea and begin to think about how they fit together.
Sometimes, the structures work together. For example, you have a hierarchical organization executing a chronological process to produce a result. Or, you have spatial configurations being deployed in different geographic locations. The idea is to choose structures appropriate to your solution in a way that helps people visualize how things will be done.
Putting the Pieces Together. Now that you’ve taken the time to look at the whole, identify the parts, and figure out the structures that best fit your solution, you can put the pieces together. The work of putting the pieces together into a solution is called development, which is the second of Qocreate’s 3 steps to writing a winning business proposal.
With the parts and whole set up in the appropriate structure, you can now begin to understand how your solution fits within a client’s request. This is the ultimate goal of organizing – to see things clearly, so that you can help clients visualize how you solve their problems in a way that makes sense to them.
Organizing Your Response to a Client’s Request. In the beginning of this post, we said that often clients do not ask for information in a way that makes sense. This is likely because the request has been put together piecemeal by different groups or departments.
One group writes the technical scope, another determines how the proposal will be evaluated, and still another puts together the pricing structure and labor categories. Often there are multiple requirements and it can be confusing how to organize your response. Here’s what we recommend.
Take the customers’ requirements and create an outline based on their guidance. Make sure you cover all aspects of what they are asking for in the request. Then, use the solution you’ve created and the organization you’ve built to begin filling in the outlines.
As you do, you’ll see where you have gaps in your solution, or the client has gaps in its request. If you have gaps, begin to fill them in with additional work on the solution. If the client has gaps, it may be an opportunity for you to show your expertise and demonstrate the value of your solution.
At any rate, you will likely not be able to write the proposal with the solution being organized as you envisioned it. When this happens, take the introduction or executive summary, and present the overall solution in a way that makes sense. Then, as you work through the proposal as the client organized it, you can refer back to the overall solution, which includes the whole and the parts you outlined in the previous steps. This allows a reviewer to see the coherent whole, but also to evaluate the proposal against the client’s criteria.
The end result of taking the time to organize your thoughts and ideas is that you see your solution clearly. This allows you to see how it works against other methods of organization, especially those your client uses in asking for response to requests.
Looking for step two? Read our next post, Keys to Developing Your Message. Qocreate excels at helping companies organize their solutions. We can help you create these in response to proposal requests, or in anticipation of them. For more information, visit www.qocreate.com.