Because this is a relentlessly upbeat time of the year, I would like to pour a bucket of cold water onto anyone who thinks they have mastered the art and science of writing a good proposal. Bah, humbug, as Scrooge might have groused.
And in the spirit of Scrooge, I have decided to provide ten pieces of horrendously awful advice about how to write a truly bad proposal. I guarantee that if you follow my sage advice, your proposal will (1) be declared technically ineligible; or (2) be rated incredibly low; or (3) be discussed over the water cooler at a government agency for months, usually accompanied by loud and ample belly laughs.
I owe my inspiration, if we can dignify this piece so generously, to a sharp article written by Chris Simmons for the 24 Hour Company online proposal magazine in July of 2013.
Here are my top ten pieces of sure-fire advice to writing a truly bad proposal:
1. Put your company first and the customer a distant second.
2. Don’t brainstorm and prioritize – you don’t have the time, and besides, it just cramps your creativity.
3. Don’t use an outline or storyboards – just free associate.
4. Don’t develop win themes – it only forces you to tell a story and begin with the end.
5. Cram as many words as you can into the required number of pages, primarily by neglecting tables and graphics.
6. Write for your ex-mother-in-law, whom you always heartily disliked even before the divorce.
7. Cram your proposal full of clichés, boastful but unsubstantiated assertions, and plenty of numbing technical jargon. It impressed your job interviewers, and perhaps it will impress reviewers.
8. Dare to be mundane. Only flakes try to be different.
9. Don’t use a spellchecker and MS Word readability statistics. Your intended audience knows what you really mean.
10. Don’t review and revise too much. You’re running out of time, and besides, everyone knows you’ve mastered the art of writing well.
I guarantee that if you faithfully follow these golden rules, you will quickly become very adept at devising many creative reasons why your proposal was scored so low. It couldn’t possibly be your fault. Ho-ho-ho – happy holidays.