Develop a Proposal Plan to Create an Outstanding Proposal

Last year, the Association of Proposal Management Professionals published a very interesting article by Charles Divine describing a study carried out by the Business Development Institute International and BAE Systems about understanding the elements of successful proposal development (Proposal Management, Spring/Summer 2009, pp. 51-59).  The complete results of the study are available on the Business Development Institute Web site (

Many of the study’s recommendations apply primarily to large businesses, but there is one recommendation that small businesses should follow to write outstanding proposals:  use a proposal plan.  Take these steps to develop a proposal plan:

  • Gather as many relevant details about the customer as possible.
  • Do a competitive analysis.  Who is your competition and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Identify the resources you will need to do the proposal.
  • Create a budget to do the proposal.
  • Get the perspectives and support of top management before you begin.
  • Develop a staffing plan with responsibilities to do the proposal.
  • Develop a schedule that takes you from conceptualizing the proposal to delivery of the application.
  • Create a schedule for reviews and the delivery of milestones.

Once you have these elements in place, you can develop your major themes and a detailed outline of your proposal narrative.  But do not neglect planning and process!  Avoid the temptation to begin writing immediately once you have read the RFP (Request for Proposals).

Creating a detailed plan for doing the proposal will help you write an outstanding proposal.  Before you begin writing, you must have a framework, common perspective, and a clear road map to guide you.  The quality of your process will help determine the quality of your proposal.

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