Develop Winning Proposals by Effectively Reviewing your Writing

The proposal profession has benefited greatly from Steve Shipley and his company, Shipley Associates.  Mr. Shipley and his colleagues not only provide outstanding proposal services to companies, but they also convey their knowledge and passion for wining proposals in excellent publications and presentations.

Shipley Associates’ Proposal Guide for Business Development and Sales Professionals (I have the second edition from 2003) is the clearest, most succinct, and most helpful guide to doing proposals available.  I strongly recommend this book to any proposal professional.

Brad Douglas, a Shipley Associate, has excellent advice about writing winning proposals.  He recommends a very sensible five-step writing process:

  • Plan:  Think through your proposal section.
  • Organize:  Use the customer requirements as your outlining guide.
  • Write:  Write in a free-flowing manner.
  • Examine:  Walk away from your writing and review it later while letting others review it too.
  • Revise:  Emphasize clarity, conciseness, correctness, and persuasiveness.

I already have discussed planning, organizing, and writing.  In this blog, I will discuss examining your prose, which should involve three kinds of review:  (1) author reviews; (2) peer reviews; and (3) senior management reviews.  The more kinds of effective reviews you receive, the better will be your written sections.

Examine:  The Big Picture

All reviews should answer these questions:

  • Can the focus on the customer be improved?
  • Is the customer focus communicated sincerely”
  • How can the strategies and theme statements be strengthened?
  • Can the proofs be strengthened?

All reviews also should focus on a three-stage process of revision:  (1) be clear; (2) be concise; and (3) be correct and compliant with the Request for Proposals (RFP).

Revision Stage 1:  Be clear

  • Write effective theme statements.
  • Keep introductions brief.
  • Keep the focus on the customer.
  • Organize according to the importance of the RFP.
  • Highlight key information.

Revision Stage 2:  Be concise

  • Revise paragraphs.
  • Revise sentences.
  • Revise words.

Revision Stage 3:  Be correct and compliant with the RFP.

  • Check your sections against the RFP’s evaluation criteria.
  • Check grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
  • Use the shortest and most correct word.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify.

If you following these steps in examining your proposal writing, you should be able to produce a very good version of your proposal sections.

In a subsequent article, I will discuss the last step.

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