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The proposal document

Client-focused content is key

It is important to decide on how each element of your proposal or bid response will impress the Client; however, the impression needs to be on the right factors that relate to the Client's requirements rather than impressing them with your credentials!

Show that you understand their requirements

It is important for those involved in preparing the response to read the RFP very carefully to ensure that the proposal content follows the 'route map' usually provided in the RFP.


An executive summary is usually required. This should clearly show an understanding of the Client's requirements, state the value and outcomes of the proposed solution. Any clear points of differentiation should be evident. It is useful to include the Client's brand name/logo if available to personalise the presentation.

Use charts, graphics, tables, credentials

For clarity, it is important to provide these to complement the text.

Developing your value proposition (see also Chapter 6)

Value-rich content will be read by the Client. Proposals that are tailored for their audience with clearly beneficial outcomes are more likely to win than general ones. If you understand how the Client buys and have been able to map the different decision makers and influencers, you can produce a more bespoke proposal. Clients views on value differ, so these should be sought where possible by testing your ideas with the Client. In terms of value, some Clients may be seeking cost benefits; others may need compliance, legal or technical advice. An accompanying letter should clearly re-state the value proposition -what benefits the Client gains by adopting your solution.

Presenting your proposal

Most proposals require a formal presentation if short-listed. If your firm is fortunate enough to be short-listed, you will need to prepare and rehearse your presentation to the Client if one is required. It is useful to find out who is likely to attend on the Client side so that you can consider those elements that are important to each audience member. You will probably be given a time slot and duration. Ensure that your presentation team reflects who will manage and do the work, focusing on the benefits to, and outcomes for, the Client of your solution rather than too many facts about your firm. When opportunities arise to propose and present solutions to Clients' issues and problems, many professional services firms begin their presentation with an introduction to their firm, their competences and then their proposed approach. But is this format appropriate and relevant?

Declining to respond to a RFP

If your go/no-go analysis results in a 'no' decision, you will need to communicate this to the Client in such a way that the door is always open to future RFPs. Many firms do this within hours of deciding not to proceed with a response to a RFP. A quick phone call to the Client, rather than an email, to explain your decision may also lead to other opportunities to help the Client at a later date.

Monitoring and celebrating the success rate of proposals and bids

It is important to keep track of factors relating to bids, such as time, cost and success rate. It's also good to celebrate the achievements over time, especially when large wins are gained. Large wins are often communicated internally to boost employee morale.


A Client asked three companies to present their proposals over a three hour period. Each was allowed 45 minutes and 15 minutes for questions. The first two presentations took more of the allotted time than expected, leaving the third company only 30 minutes. The first two presentations over-ran and had so many facts about the suppliers but were short on benefits. The Client apologised and asked the third team if they could present in around 30 minutes! When the final presentation came, the benefits and outcomes were stated well within the time left and that supplier won the bid contest.

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