Report writing

How to “grow” your own proposal writers

In a proposal, what you say is more important than how you say it, and making sure the people in your team contribute their knowledge is very important. This means getting everyone involved in proposal writing, even if they don’t see themselves as “writers”.

Proposal writing is a skill that can be taught. Everyone in your team who has knowledge to share can learn to be more effective in proposal writing.

However, some people will be more suited to proposal writing as a regular gig than others.

Responding to tenders can feel like you are sitting an exam every day. People who were good at exams at school or university and who quite like the challenge of sitting exams (yes, it happens) are ideal for this type of work.

Bid writers need to quickly understand what’s being asked for in a Request for Tender and know how to respond.

Likewise, getting good exam marks requires the confidence to understand and interpret unfamiliar questions very quickly and under time pressure. It means being able to plan a response that addresses that question, then identify relevant content and ignore stuff that isn’t relevant, and weave an argument or point of view throughout.

A team member who has a good academic record with high exam scores in complex subjects is highly likely to be suited to the task of working on tenders. It doesn’t really matter what kind of subjects they were good at – it’s their pre-existing aptitude for this kind of work that is important.

But proposal writing can be a lonely and demanding job, often leading to exhaustion, frustration and burnout. When someone does choose to take it on, make sure that they get proper training, supervision and support – or their time in the job will probably be short-lived. 

Robyn Haydon is a business development consultant who helps helps service-based businesses that compete through bids and tenders to articulate the value in what they do, command a price premium, and build an offer that buyers can’t refuse. Don’t let others dictate how far and how fast your business can grow – take your power back! Email robyn@robynhaydon.com to request the white paper for the Beyond Ticking Boxes program.

Feel Like Your Workload is Taking Over Your Life?

You’re definitely not alone. According to a report by Kinsey & Co, cited in The Age recently, professionals now spend 28% of their time, reading, writing or responding to email, and another 19 per cent tracking down information to complete their tasks. Communicating and collaborating internally accounts for another 14% of the average working week, with only 39% of the time remaining to accomplish role-specific tasks.

That’s 61% of your time getting lost in email and information.

Not surprisingly, this ratchets up the stress levels to an untenable level.  In a study by the Institute of the Future (California), 71% of professionals said they feel stressed about the amount of information they must process and act on while doing business and 60% feel overwhelmed.

Senior managers, sales leaders, front-line managers and technical professionals often tell me that writing is a core expectation of their job role these days.

Unfortunately, after your day has been spent going to meetings, talking to customers, managing staff, and going out to site, there isn’t a lot of time left. So when you need to write something that takes longer than a few minutes, it probably tends to get done after hours.  And I’m willing to bet that you absolutely hate being chained to your desk writing.

There is a way to write more effectively that is easy to learn and won’t take a lot of your time — in fact it will save you time and also help you get better results.

  • The Persuasive Speed Writing Program will give you everything you need to write business documents that are twice as persuasive – in half the time you’re probably spending now.
  • You will also learn how to get your best thinking out of your head and onto paper wherever you are, without being chained to your computer.
  • You can learn how to do this in just two weeks.

This program starts on March 27 and enrolments close next week. For more information, go to http://www.winningwords.com.au/public-speedwriting/

"Trust Me – I’m A Professional" - The Limitations of Defaulting To Your Expertise

For technical professionals, such as engineers and project managers, getting a report or recommendations accepted often means getting the customer’s head around fairly complex concepts and problems that the professional understands a lot better than the customer does. Despite this, it is often difficult to convince technical professionals that they shouldn’t be peppering their technical reports with dense and impenetrable jargon that nobody really understands but them.

Last night, I had the pleasure of presenting a webinar to a group of 120 young engineers on the topic of Customer Focused Writing. It's always great working with groups of young professionals who are open to new ideas.

Getting people to actually adopt and integrate new techniques - as opposed to just seeing and hearing them presented — is one of the great challenges of a teacher, and particularly one who only gets to interact with trainees once and for a couple of hours, as was the case for me last night. Often the best that you can hope for is that people understand enough about the need to change that they are compelled to review and practice the techniques they have been shown, and to build upon the limited exercises that they get to do in a short training session.

One of the techniques we looked at in the webinar was how to present complex technical concepts. To illustrate the idea that densely packed technical language is hard to understand, I had the group analyse a piece of medical writing that was unfamiliar to them. This piece only contained 150 words, but most people could identify more than 20 unfamiliar terms. That’s almost 15% of the document that the audience had absolutely no hope of understanding.

At the end of the webinar, I was encouraged by comment that came from Paul, who said "You know, I write reports all the time, and I usually just present my recommendations. I never really think about just how much work needs to go into making them persuasive." I’m pretty confident that Paul does now, and that his career will benefit enormously as a result.