Re: proposal writing

Subject: Re: proposal writing
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 05 Jun 2004 11:55:39 -0400

Felice Albala wrote:

Hi All - Could someone explain to me what proposal writing is
and what training is necessary that differs from tech
writer training? Thanks!
- Felice Albala

Training?! Training!?! We don't need no steenkin' training!

Proposal writing comes in at least three flavors:

1. Grant writing. You work for a non-profit, generally (or sell your services to a non-profit); and you master the ins and outs of extracting money from foundations and government agencies. I've never done it and I can't say whether it requires formal training or apprenticeship or neither. So no comment on this one.

2. De novo sales proposals. These are generally prepared by someone in the marketing department, with guidance in the particulars of a specific sales prospect from the sales rep covering the account. In some industries they are actually put together by sales engineers or the sales reps themselves, but based on a template that someone in the marketing department created in the first place. For this kind of writing (the marketing part of it, especially), you have to understand the industry, the customers' industries (to a lesser extent), and the company's marketing strategy and selling proposition. The sales proposal is supposed to be persuasive rather than strictly descriptive. That doesn't mean you have to lie; it just means you have to explain to the recipient why your company's product is the best solution for the prospect's problem.

3. Responses to requests for proposal (RFPs), requests for information (RFIs), and requests for quotation (RFQs). You need discipline more than you need training. The number one requirement is that the response meets the deadline. The number two requirement is that it meticulously follow instructions regarding format and delivery method. The number three requirement is that you NOT correct any spelling or punctuation errors in the original request (although you can feel free to use correct spelling and grammar in your responses). These documents require that you (a) know your company's products and services inside and out; (b) can figure out a way to answer Yes to pretty much any off-the-wall question that comes your way without lying (a certain amount of weasel-wording is expected in some industries, not in others; an occasional No is okay in some situations, not in others); (c) can achieve a level of sensitivity about when it's better to assert that you _can_ do something than to explain _how_ you would do it (because you don't want to share that information at this point). You also need to know how to extract timely cooperation from SMEs when you hit a question you can't answer yourself. All of this requires experience but not necessarily training. The first few times through the process, you spend a lot of time consulting with the sales rep and maybe the marketing manager. That's about the closest you need to come to actual training.


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