Five ways to write proposals that win business

For the last few weeks we’ve been looking at what NOT to do if you want to avoid losing a competitive tender. One thing all these behaviours have in common is that they are keeping you inwardly focused – on yourself and your firm.

To leapfrog the line between winning and losing, start to turn your attention outwards, to the customer and the opportunity.

The first thing to focus on is compliance. Achieve this, and you’ll be seen as a thoughtful, competent supplier. There are five hurdles to achieving compliance:

1.     Compliance with threshold requirements. If you need quality accreditations such as ISO9001 or ISO4801 and don’t have them, it’s rare to win against competitors that do.  Non-compliance is an easy reason for a buyer to exclude your bid.

2.  Compliance with any mandatory requirements. In the Request for Tender document, look for the words “must” to indicate what’s mandatory.

3.    Compliance with the specifications or scope of works. Can you do everything that the buyer is asking for? That’s important. As the expert, you may have ideas about how things could be done better (I’d certainly hope so, if you want to win). But always submit a complying bid, even if you think your alternative offer is stronger. By the time they have reached a competitive tender, some buyers have already made up their mind.

4.    Contract compliance. This is one area where buyers definitely prefer no changes. Some will even go so far as to specify that you can’t vary the contract terms.

5.  Finally, make sure your tender responses (written answers) are compliant. Analyse the questions properly to make sure that you’re answering every part, and understand why the buyer is asking each question. Include enough qualitative and quantitative evidence to give you a high evaluation score.

While the first four are usually OK, the last can be a challenge without advice and guidance. If you need a leg up and over the final hurdle, my Master Class Program will get your team compliant and see you landing on the "yes" list more often.

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant specialising in business won through formal bids, tenders and proposals. She is the author of two books on proposals and sales, including Winning Again: a retention game plan for your most important contracts and customers. Read more about it here.