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The Best Business Proposal Format: Three Things You Must Know

There is no magic recipe for creating the best business proposal format … but there is a secret sauce with three key ingredients. In this article, learn the three things you must know to create the best business proposal format for each of your proposals and ultimately win more business.

Business Proposal Format

#1 Compliance is King

Compliance requires strict adherence to a prospective customer’s bid requests including a compliant solution and the proposal submission requirements. Proposal writers and teams usually start with RFP software and organizing these requirements in the compliance matrix for easier evaluation.

The matrix will later help you determine whether the RFx instructions were followed, all forms were completed, attachments were added, all questions were answered, and tasks were completed on time.

Sometimes following compliance criteria may make it seem like it is impossible to make the proposal creative. Though the opposite is true, a lot of proposal writers and managers make the common blunder of being creative at the expense of being compliant. In his book, The Shipley Proposal Guide, Larry Newman writes, “If the customer asks you to turn in your proposal while standing on your head, practice standing on your head.” A little hyperbolic, but accurate, nonetheless.

Customers want what they want – no matter how ridiculous. Imagine being asked to create a proposal with a page limit of two pages! Imagine it because it happens, and you would still have to be compliant. That is where the creativity comes in. Regardless of the ask, unless it is outside of your scope of capability, always be compliant.

Proposal formats (font, spacing, table, cover page design, etc.) fall into the compliance category too. Established proposal documents with specified font style, color scheme, spacing, and so on ensures compliance to company standards and to the customer, that’s why a proposal management tool comes in handy. Company standards reign only if the customer does not have any specific business proposal format requirements.

#2 Be Responsive, Not Just Compliant

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’

– Henry Ford”

While compliance helps meet the customer’s specified requests and needs for submission, responsiveness helps you meet the unstated needs with clear responses. A good example of this is stated below.

The Customer’s Problem: A chipped wall needs to be repaired and repainted. Explain how you will provide a solution.

A Compliant Solution: We will provide qualified painter, Bob the Builder, to repair and repaint the wall within the specified timeframe.

A Responsive Solution: Bob will visit the site, identify the wall that needs to be painted, take a can of paint and paint the wall. Additionally, Bob will investigate the plumbing issue next door which has caused the chipped paint. He will inform you of his findings and suggest proven solutions for the root cause. Solving the root cause enables you to reduce risk and costs of future damages.

Aim to be responsive when you respond to an RFP, not just compliant. Take the effort to genuinely make a difference to the customer. Ensure that your “value propositions” are valuable. Next, is ensuring that the value propositions are well articulated.

#3 Articulate it Well

Lack of clarity and logical coherence are the two most significant reasons for disinterest in reading a proposal. More than 75% of customers cite these as reasons for reduction in proposal evaluation score. Proposal management software

Improving clarity: Clarity can be improved by avoiding clichés, jargon, long sentences and obscure phrases. Trying to make a proposal fun to read is a bit more strategic than using such phrases. Plus, over usage will make your solution confusing. Just be straightforward and keep it simple.

Enhancing structure: Sentence and content structure impact logical coherence – or the lack thereof. Contents with little relation or no correlation with preceding and succeeding information create confusion and boredom. Reference answers and sections of your proposal as appropriate in a logical sequence to avoid monotony and save time.

Well-articulated proposals must have a logical sequence with great clarity. Barbara Minto’s Pyramid Principle will help you structure your proposal the right way. Zbizlink’s proposal management software helps you focus on the right strategy to create the best business proposal format with smart support. It can fetch compliance criteria from your RFP and repeat the same formats based on proposal-specific requirements. Along with maintaining a compliant, responsive structure with logical coherence, you minimize error and introduce customers to the value you bring with the best proposal management software.

Request a demo to learn more.

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