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How to write a proposal - Business proposal planning and managing your bid

Article about how to write a proposal focussing on bid management and the importance of creating a proposal schedule to create a powerful business proposal

This is the fourth in a short series of articles from Learn to Write Proposals examining how to write a proposal.

If you compare sales people and project managers yu may conclude that you wouldn't want your project managers going out selling and writing bids and you wouldn't want your sales people running your biggest projects. That's a huge generalisation and probably not fair to the many exceptions to the rule, however, writing sales documents is a different type of writing that many internally focused staff aren't familiar with.

But the point is that quite often, sales people aren't the best at planning and managing detail, especially when it relates to project plans and the like.There's a good reason for this - they are often out on the road, visiting clients, managing relationships and don't have time to micro-manage a complex development project...even if that project is a written proposal. Plus, dealing with the detail isn't what drives sales people.

With the advent of proposal centres and bid team support in many organisations the onus has been taken off a lot of sales people when it comes to planning the detail of a bid, managing those who need to contribute to it and actually writing the business proposal. Where bid teams exist they often take over the project and the account manager becomes a contributor to the combined effort.

But what about in smaller organisations where there is no bid team? How do they manage the production of sales documents? Ideally you need someone to manage the project (of writing the proposal) and that person should have commercial awareness to do it. Look at the job advertisements for bid team managers and you'll see some of the skills required.

So if you don't have a bid team behind you, or you are managing a bid for the first time, what do you need to do?

Firstly, check all the requirements of the RFP or tender documentation - know exactly what you have to submit and when. Just like any project planning think about the goals and work backwards, considering all the project dependencies.If it's a large bid with a lot of people working on it, then get some help off a project manager in putting a project plan together.

Learn to Write Proposals has a whole bid management toolkit to support the bid preparation. Our bid planner includes key things that you need to include in your bid planning including the Proposal Development Schedule. This requires some basic planning, such as:

- Key Event
- Start date / Finish date
- Who is responsible?
- Deliverable Status

The Bid Management Plan should pull in the relevant strategic overview from the capture planning document for this opportunity and look closer at each section of the proposal and allow you to allocate ow- nership of the different proposal sections. It should look at other areas too - it is there as a practical tool to help you be successful, so develop it, keep it updated and circulate it with updates to everyone involved. Other things that you should consider are:

- Detail of each specific requirement: summarise or copy the requirement from the RFP
- Your response to the requirement: How do you meet the requirement and add value in your solution. (Use strategy and win themes from the bid capture plan)
- Documents: are there any other documents to read or to refer to?
- Graphics: would your response benefit from graphics (the answer is yes, so make a list of the graphics you need and schedule time for them to be prepared)
- Who?: Which individuals are responsible for drafting the relevant sections for the proposal?
- When? What date is the response required?: update this if a draft has been completed and the individual is now working on the next version - it can be checked off when verified as finished

A common mistake is not allowing enough time at the end of the proposal for proper review. Anyone who has been involved in writing proposals has had the experience of the late night trying to get a proposal finished because it has to be handed in the next day. That might not be such a problem if your are making last minute changes to perfect the fourth draft, but if you are just trying to finish the first draft, the chances are you're in trouble.

As England's law of proposal writing states: \"The chances of winning a proposal are directly in proportion to the number of hours between finishing it and the time it has to be submitted.\"

There are some very good reasons why you should give yourself time for the proposal to be reviewed properly - and we will look them in a later article on quality reviewing a proposal. For now, just ensure that you give yourself plenty of time for this in your proposal schedule - I recommend at least four days and schedule the people you will need to review it for that time.

Lastly, when thinking about proposal planning, bear in mind those times when you have multiple proposals to prepare. It makes life harder and it means getting more people involved. Sometimes it may even require a decision that you can't bid for some of the smaller, lower-probability opportunities. That's when opportunity qualification and making bid/no-bid decisions really comes to the fore of your business development strategy.

Next...what information do I need to include when I write a business proposal.

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Next page: Business Grant Proposal Samples

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