Saturday, February 28, 2009

Anatomy of a profile and information

Part of the Learn to Write Proposals online proposal guide.

When you write a business proposal, just as when you select a project team, you need to select relevant projects in relevant sectors and demonstrate the relevance and benefits of this project to your proposal. If your proposal states that you can do something, back it up with demonstrable experience of having done it before - show what you did for the client – the resulting benefits that your solution provided, not just what you did and when.

A good track record and relevant experience shows that you are a safe pair of hands that can deliver. If you have had a good relationship with a client – ask them for a citation to include. A recommendation from a previous client is more powerful than your case study on its own.
Have you worked with the client before? Don’t take it for granted that the evaluators will know and take it into consideration – spell it out, demonstrate your knowledge and experience of the client. If you don’t - you aren't maximising the opportunity

Company overview

Never put your canned company history at the front of your proposal. The buyer is not interested in firstly reading about what you used to be called fifteen years ago, or when you were founded! They want to know about what you are going to do for them. Company history is useful to demonstrate your credibility and stability, but leave it until you have presented the solution.

Use this section to include the things everyone should know about you. Don’t make the assumption that the client knows who you are, even if your product is owned by everyone in the world! Put that information in your proposal – if you don’t, it can’t be evaluated. 

The same applies to all the following ‘boilerplate’ proposal sections – project management and quality assurance – they’re important, but remember that the buyer is going to expect good project management and high quality – it isn’t something that is going to differentiate you from the competition – that must come in your solution.

If you can keep your company overview on no more than one page and keep it up to date – include recent company developments and innovations – the more recent the information the better.

Lastly, again try and tailor the information to make it as relevant to the client as possible – emphasise your history of working within their sector, industry and, if you have, with the client themselves.

Project management

You’ve explained what you can do for the client and how you will do it. Now it’s time to explain how you will monitor, manage and communicate the progress throughout the project.

Each potential supplier should have a strong project management methodology – and so must you. You may have project managers working for you with project management qualifications, such as PRINCE 2 – if so use this internal expertise to put together an easy to understand, comprehensive methodology on how you work.

As your competitors will have strong methodologies, you should concentrate on explaining your process and then following up to explain why your processes are the most efficient and suitable for this project – what are they going to add relating to cost, time and quality.

Use diagrams where you can – process information is usually dry and often boring. Graphics are a great way to present processes and liven up potentially uninteresting information. Make the effort to get quality graphics produced – you are trying to demonstrate your quality, so don’t put rubbish diagrams using Word’s drawing tools in your proposal. Prepare your graphics early and make use of professional graphic designers. We'll have more on graphics in our article on using graphics and images

Quality assurance

A certain level of quality is going to be expected in any supplier. Indeed, a commitment to a minimum level of quality assurance is a mandatory requirement in most RFPs.

You may have specific quality accreditations such as ISO:2001 which you should document here (scan your ISO certificate and insert it as a graphic). If you haven’t got a quality accreditation you need to explain the quality and testing processes that you employ to give assurances to the buyer:
  • What are your processes for finding and reducing defects?
  • How do you deal with customer complaints?
  • Do you have a continuous improvement process?
  • How do you comply with regulations?
  • How do you ensure reliability?
  • How do you document your processes?
  • Do you have a Quality Manager? What are their qualifications, credentials and role in this project?
One thing that must come across in your quality process description is that quality is embedded in what you do – don’t let quality be an afterthought. Give the client the confidence that throughout the project they are dealing with a safe pair of hands that will deliver a product or service that will not let them down.