do your proposals listen to your clients?

Accept or DeclineSuccessful proposals demonstrate your skills and capabilities to prospective clients. But superior proposals convey more than just facts and figures — they also demonstrate that you are listening to them.

The people reading your proposal want to know not only whether you can complete their work on time and on budget, but also whether they think you’ll work well with their team. Whether you can ask and answer questions. Whether you really understand what they want to get out of this project.

Somehow, your proposal has to convey this message along with the staffing charts and budget tables.

Sure, you could just salt the text with trite phrases such as “we listen to our customers.” But with a little bit of good writing, you can turn your entire proposal into an example of your responsiveness. Here are some proven tips for putting that into practice:

  • Answer their questions. Answer all of their questions. Then go back and reread the RFP one more time to make sure you’re really answering all of their questions. If there’s an open period for submitting queries, take advantage of it.
  • Follow the RFP’s outline. Don’t impose your own sections or headings. If you received the RFP in an editable electronic format like MS Word, use that as the template for the response. You can customize the header, footer, and cover sheet to clearly show that you have your own style, but respect theirs too.
  • Include the original text from the RFP. This is especially important if you’re responding to specific language. It creates a dynamic “question-and-answer” dialogue that reinforces the idea that you’re responding directly to their needs.
  • Be positive. Use affirmative language, and express gratitude for the opportunity to respond. Be “pleased to offer your services.” 
  • Go above and beyond. Don’t just tell them how you’re going to meet their needs, but also throw in some extras if you can. Show that you’re thinking ahead, that you are already planning in anticipation of future needs.
  • In the experience section, use examples as similar to the project as possible, and write them in such a way as to highlight the similarities to the RFP.
  • Break costs down the way they ask for them. Exactly the way they ask for them. If you think you have a better way to break down the costs, make that an appendix and point to it in the body of the RFP. But don’t throw out their model just because that’s not how you like to break the numbers down.
  • Proofread the heck out of it. And then proofread it again. Double-check the math.
  • Bind it nicely. Use a clear cover. Separate the sections with labeled tab dividers. Provide the right number of copies. Box it up well.

Make your proposal show, not tell, your clients that you understand their needs.


Author: Paul Lagasse

Paul Lagasse provides expert-to-expert communications services to nonprofit, business, and government clients in the metro Baltimore-DC area. Specialties include science and medical writing, technical report editing, and content marketing.