Business Development Advice: Writing Winning Proposals for Large Contracts

Depending on where you work within a business, you may have had to write a proposal at some stage of your career. If you haven’t by now, the chance will often arise later on in your career. Writing proposals is a major part of everyday life for people in managerial, director or sales roles, and it is something they become accustomed to over the time in their respective roles.

But what happens if you need to write a proposal for a large contract? Large companies often look for completely different things, in a whole lot more detail than smaller companies. They need to take each proposal into the fine print to really know what they are being sold within each proposal they read. So how do you write a winning proposal for a large contract?

With that in mind, I have bought together consultants, directors and owners of a wide array of different businesses to give you their tips on writing a proposal for a large contract that will give you the best opportunity possible to win the job you want! Here are some of the best tips I have collated:

Seb Dean – Director – Imaginaire Digital

One thing that I’d recommend when writing a proposal is to really think  about the reasons why they’re looking for a solution and work on reaffirming this in your proposal.

Make sure you’ve listed everything they need/have communicated they need,  as well as some extra features that would make the product even better and work on conveying these points, that will often build excitement and show that you’re the best partner.

Finally, make sure you break down your pricing so it’s easy to understand and gives them the option to work around their budget. This will often allow you to get in there with a view to more work in the future to build their ideal product if it’s over budget.

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Zachary Weiner – CEO – Emerging Insider Communications

I run a well-known boutique digital communications agency and given the space we operate within, each and every proposal we write has to be custom-tailored and well strategized. Based on a lot of experience here, I have a few key tips.

Don’t Forget The Numbers

A lot of times, organisations within the digital services market will sell on qualitative value and what they will bring to the table rather than utilising and analysing key quantitative data to empower these selling points. If a proposal is not exceptionally well balanced, neither is your chance of the contract.

Design and Feel can be as Important as Context

Your proposal for any large contract can be written exceptionally and still fail exceptionally if the package it is wrapped in is not visually compelling. Being able to utilise visual calls to action, graphics, and visual navigational way-finding is often what separate good proposals from great proposals.

Tell a Story, Rather than Sell a Product or Service

A great proposal reads a lot like a great book. There must be an introduction, a detailed view of the challenge, and a way to overcome that challenge that holds the reader’s attention. All too often proposals will skip to the very end, pushing a solution, without introducing the first two elements. This can be a costly mistake that should always be avoided.

Business Proposal On Table

Emmanuel Frost – CEO & Co-Founder – Brand Alignment

Sales techniques for closing larger deals are very different from small to medium deals. First off, the larger the deal or company, the more decision makers that have to sign off. Not only do you need to sell the marketing manager, but also his director, the procurement department, the legal department, the COO, etc. In fact, the average number of people involved in B2B sales today is 6.8 according to the Harvard Business Review.

What this means is having a strong understanding of the decision-making process within companies (to the point of educating your advocates within companies) and a good grasp on buyer personas for each company position. That includes recognising and calming their fears and doubts. If an IT manager fears losing respect in his company by supporting a new solution, it would ease his fear if he learned someone else within the company also supports the solution. Finally, since all these decision makers tend to have their own priorities and agendas, finding a common ground is key to getting everyone to agree.

Writing a Proposal

Jeff Stollman – Principle Consultant – RMTM Inc

The most important thing to do in writing winning proposals is to be certain to address the customer’s requirements. This is not as easy as it sounds. While word smithing is always helpful, it is often more important to have a proven process to ensure you keep your proposal on target. Too often proposers get so wrapped up in their solution that they lose site of the client’s needs.

Here are 3 steps that should be included in your proposal process.

First, it requires that you understand the customers requirements. The best way to do this is to talk to the decision makers before you submit your proposal. Even when the RFP includes a long list of requirements, they may not fully articulate what the decision makers want or the priority that they may give to different requirements. Ideally, you should be working with the client BEFORE the RFP in order to help them develop the requirements. This helps ensure that your solution will be acceptable and, potentially, preferred.

Secondly, focus your writing on their needs. Too often proposers focus their proposals on how great they are and fail to fully address the client’s requirements.

Finally, gain the client’s trust. This is hard if you have not worked with them before. It requires that you meet with them (probably multiple times) in order to give them the comfort that you are more than a flash in the pan. Even the best technical proposal with a compelling price may not be selected if the client doesn’t fully trust your ability to deliver. Large  firms such as Accenture, PWC, and IBM win a lot of business at a premium price because clients know that they will work to satisfy the customer. They have reputation at stake developed over decades that they don’t want to jeopardize. And clients know this. You want to develop a similar reputation for dependability.

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So there you have it, some great tips on how you can ensure that the next proposal you write to win a large contract will actually win you that large contract!

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