1. Separating the best (proposals) from the rest
Here’s how to make that winning special sauce for all your submissions.
It’s prime RFP season — and prime stress season for the folks at your firm who are tasked with getting proposals out the door on time and on point.
Facing a long line of proposals in various stages of development, there’s a temptation to simply settle for submissions that are “good enough.” However, as fiercely competitive as the bidding for many architecture, engineering and construction projects is nowadays, good enough is rarely good enough to win a pursuit. Generating the new business on which your firm depends to grow, and landing the types of projects your firm desires, depends on the ability to create superior proposals — and do so each time your firm decides to bid for a project.
As busy as the people on your business development, marketing and proposal teams often are, and as much time, data and effort that go into delivering proposals that put your firm in position for a win, finding — and following — that winning formula can be a huge challenge.
We’re here to help. Based on decades of experience helping AEC firms hone their proposal approach, here are some of the attributes that give your submissions the best chance of hitting the mark every time:
The past informs the present. In the spirit of keeping it real, let’s first acknowledge that your firm won’t win every project on which it bids. Nor will it execute flawlessly on every project it does win. Rather than simply moving on following a lost bid or a project misstep, however, the AEC firms with the strongest win rates find ways to learn from them. For each submission, they analyze and document why they won or why they lost, and keep detailed records of past project experiences, then use that insight to inform all their proposals going forward. Where could we tighten the timeline for the new university science laboratory project on which we’re planning to bid, based on our experience bidding on and/or executing similar projects? By creating a continuous feedback loop that includes all the lessons your firm has learned, detailed by project and client category, by individual client and project, etc., you’re creating a highly valuable, readily accessible reservoir of institutional knowledge that your proposal teams can tap into to create an edge – and avoid repeating past mistakes.
A compelling opening holds the reader/reviewer’s attention. Proposals are like a book, a TV show or a song, at least in one regard: The more attention-grabbing, imaginative and assertive its opening is, the more likely the audience is to stay engaged with it. On the other hand, a proposal whose opening is bland or nondescript may quickly lose its audience, and its chances of winning a project bid. A little extra focus on making a proposal’s introductory content more interesting, with hooks that draw readers in, can make a huge difference in how readers experience the entire proposal.
The attributes that make your firm and its people uniquely qualified to execute on a specific project come through loud and clear. Why is your firm the best one to tackle this particular project? What attributes, qualifications and technical capabilities do the firm and its project teams bring that others don’t? Be sure to first understand, then underscore in the proposal, the positives that are most likely to resonate with the organization that will be evaluating your submission. Answer the fundamental questions and requests for information within a proposal by highlighting the differentiators and strengths that make your firm and its people uniquely qualified for a project.