When you articulate, you are putting the icing on the cake. You are taking a good thing -- your developed and proposed solution -- and making it better. If your audience loves chocolate icing with sprinkles, don’t give them lemon icing on a strawberry pie. - Mike Huckleberry, founder/CEO of Qocreate
Qocreate’s 3 steps to writing a winning business proposal include organization, development, and articulation. In this post, we’ll focus on the final step: articulating your solution.
With each of these steps, the message gets stronger and clearer. The idea in the final step is to refine the message for your specific audience. Articulating your solution gives the proposal the tenor and feel that lets your client see that you understand their business and you respect their time and resources.
Articulation deals with layout, format, length, tone, type of language used, level of detail, and many other nuances. Sometimes a client will determine the format and level of detail for you. Other times, you have to discern what is best.
Attention to coherence and persuasion in your message (i.e., articulation) will undoubtedly impress your clients. Many companies do not take the time required to appropriately tailor their messages for their audience. An organized and developed idea shows you have expertise in a field or discipline. A well-articulated idea demonstrates mastery with your client’s specific problem or opportunity.
Our first two steps, organization and development, are about your ideas and learning to take the client’s perspective. Articulation is about the audience, completely. Devoting time and energy to the details they care about will set you apart from the competition.
Articulating your solution comprises three exercises: ensuring you take the audience’s perspective, refining your language, and removing any errors. Throughout organization and development, you keep the client’s perspective in the front of your mind. You make sure to ask what they would like to see and how they would like to see it. You incorporate a level of detail and structure that makes the solution to their problem easy to grasp. You get their attention by proving that the solution works for other clients.
By the time you get to the step of articulating the solution, you already have a sense of what the client wants. When you write the final drafts, gear everything toward helping the client understand how your solution is best for what they want to achieve.
Ensure You Take the Audience’s Perspective. When writing business proposals, your audience is not always your direct client. For example, in government contracting your audience may be a group of evaluators from different parts of an agency or office. The technical aptitude, responsibility, and seniority of these individuals differ. More senior people may be interested in the executive summary, while engineers or acquisition professionals may be interested in the technical detail.
This is where organization and development become critical. If you have a well-organized, fully developed solution, you can provide any level of detail required. When you get ready to articulate your solution, and if you know your audience, you have everything you need to make evaluation as easy as possible.
The key to writing for an audience is to show you understand their problem, you have an answer for their problem, your answer directly benefits the client, and you can prove that it works. The easiest way to write and provide this clear message is to give a paragraph to each of these four concepts:
When you follow this pattern, you effectively highlight the client in each step, capitalizing on the opportunity to convince them you can help, want to help, and that you’re the best for the job.
Refine Your Language. Once you have your proposal and solution written, you want to work through the documents and refine your language. This works includes many things that can be summed up in a style and stats sheet for your project.
A style sheet includes details on writing the proposal such as voice (1st person or 3rd person), tense (e.g., past, present, future), naming conventions (e.g., how you refer to your client, yourself, your partners, your team), punctuation (e.g., how you use serial commas), and the statistics you are using. Statistics comprise information about locations, employees, contracts, quantifiable successes, revenues, capacity, capability, and so on. The purpose of the style and stats sheet is to develop a single source of information and writing guidance that will be used across the entire proposal.
While consistency is a key in language, so is being concise. Use words sparingly, and only say what is necessary. Many companies believe if a customer gives you 20 pages to write a technical response, you have to use the 20 pages. But what if you could fit the same message in 17 pages? You give the reviewer less work and make the job easier. They’ll appreciate it. Most readers do, unless you leave something important out, or don’t give them all the information they’re asking or looking for. Keep sentences and paragraphs short and organized in an easy to follow manner.
Correct Any Errors. The final step in articulation is to correct any errors from the documentation. We highly recommend bringing in resources outside of the proposal team to perform a clean edit. Working to correct errors increases consistency in content, improves readability, and demonstrates a high level of professionalism.
When editing, use at least two people with minimal knowledge of the project. Give them the style and stats sheet, tell them the purpose of the proposal, and give them time to do a thorough review. When you spend so long writing a proposal, it becomes easy to gloss over errors and miss details that a fresh eye will easily catch. Letting someone else into the process will help. Removing errors from a proposal is like removing them from a resume. A clean and well-edited document demonstrates you care about your work, as well as your audience.
Articulation is the last and final step in writing a proposal. When this process of ensuring proper perspective, language, and clarity is complete, you are ready to submit your work to the client for evaluation.
Planning for each step – organizing, developing, and articulating – of the proposal process allows you to capitalize on and make the best use of your time. Even if your proposal turnaround is a week or two weeks, you’ll get a better product when you intentionally follow these steps.
Know what your client wants to hear, the level of detail they need to know, and make sure to clean up your documents before submission. If you do these things, you’ll be well ahead of everyone else.
Qocreate excels at the proposal business proposal writing process, and we have people who can help you every step of the way in articulation. Please contact us if you need support on your business proposals or have any questions. Or visit our website for more information on our services and experience.