Monthly Archives: September 2008

Common Mistakes in Proposal Writing

Proposal writing is key to the survival of most service providers and consultants, particularly those that operate in the Public or Government domain. To support businesses that are writing proposals for government work, there are often standards that can be followed, including the guidance provided by Herman Holtz and also the Shipley approach.

The writing of proposals is a skill in itself and requires that the writer have knowledge of Marketing and sales, Business analysis, expertise on the subject itself and a good grounding in writing, particularly persuasive writing. Even with this knowledge, skill and experience of other proposals, there are still some things to avoid:

The common mistakes that proposal writers make:

Aggressive / Defensive Proposals – don’t make bold claims with caveats or have escape clauses if you fail to complete the task successfully.

Loud Claims Proposal – Avoid a sales pitch rather than a substantive address of the problem particularly if you do not offer a viable solution.

Me too Proposal – There is no point in arguing that ‘we can do it too!’ if you don’t offer another compelling reason to choose you.

Unsure of the Requirement Proposal – it is a poor consultancy that suggests ‘we can do some really good work, perhaps it fits your needs’ when a key role of consultants is to help identify the needs.

Whatever it is we can do it Proposalan approach that offers a ‘whatever you want, we can do it and provide a great performance’ solution is rarely credible.

Canned solution Proposal – One size rarely fits all, so make sure you tailor you proposal and your solution to the problem you have identified.

The client will have both ‘Needs’ and ‘Wants’ that have to be addressed (although not necessarily delivered), so focus on meeting those. Whatever the proposal relates to however, the writing needs to be accurate, brief, clear and relevant and be about how the solution meets the clients ‘Wants’ and ‘Needs’.

The proposal you offer is only better than the others if the customer decides it is better, therefore it is also a matter of selling your solution to the client rather than just meeting the ‘Wants’ and Needs’.

In reality, you only really learn about writing proposals from writing them and getting feedback, so whenever you get the opportunity, gain the feedback and learn from the experience by looking at what the customer really thought.

Dare to Aspire


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