How To Ensure Your Business Proposal Gets Accepted By Difficult Evaluators

What’s your success ratio with proposals? 25% is average. Very few get 50%. I help government agencies evaluate proposals. Most bids that come across my desk make the same errors, use the same flawed strategies and are never accepted. And the next time, they repeat the same mistake. Here are some ways to avoid this. It’s not painful, it just requires effort.

What’s your success ratio with proposals? 25% is average. Very few get 50%. I help government agencies evaluate proposals. Most bids that come across my desk make the same errors, use the same flawed strategies and are never accepted. And the next time, they repeat the same mistake. Here are some ways to avoid this. It’s not painful, it just requires effort.
How To Ensure Your Proposal Gets Accepted By Difficult Evaluators

What does a Proposal Evaluator Do?

My job is to reject your proposal. I fail proposals if they miss a requirement, avoid a clause or get the figures wrong. We received 36 proposals for the last RFP. Some were over 300 pages. The less I have to review, the better.
Tip: make sure the proposals are well-bound. We scribble all over them, book-marking pages, and adding comments. Don’t use cheap papers and poor ring-binders. If they fall apart, I’m not going to re-assemble your document.

  • I eliminate proposals that don’t measure up. This means they fail on a technicality, are over budget, don’t agree to the deadline or have omitted to include some document.
  • Then I review what’s left and make a short list.
  • For me, evaluating a proposal is a process of elimination, not a process of selection. That happens later.
  • When you start your proposal, don’t focus on getting selected, instead WRITE A PROPOSAL THAT CANNOT BE ELIMINATED!

Here’s how you can do this:

  • Write your proposal so that the evaluator cannot reject it on a technicality.
  • Respond to every requirement in the Request For Proposal (RFP). This means you cannot be dis-qualified on the grounds that you were “non-responsive to the RFP.”
  • Identify the solution. If it’s a product, name it & give the version number.

  • Don’t be vague. State clearly how you will do this. If possible, describe the solution in a single sentience.

  • Demonstrate that you have provided this expertise in a similar project.
  • Support you claims with case studies, white papers and other reports where you are given credit.
  • Provide pen portraits of your team. CVs go in the appendix.
  • List the benefits that your solution provides. Cross-reference these against the requirements. Itemize and prioritize each benefit.

Remember, the evaluators are looking for ways to disqualify you.

  • Check your proposal once, twice and three times.
  • Each time check for a different weakness or error. For example, once for writing errors, then for flaws in the solution and finally in the costs.

Conclusion
Write the proposal so that it cannot be eliminated.
Once you have this established, then drill-down into each requirements and respond from the perspective of the reader. Regardless of how good you think your proposal is, if you overlook a technicality, you’re out.
What have I missed? Let me know what you think below.

9 thoughts on “How To Ensure Your Business Proposal Gets Accepted By Difficult Evaluators”

  1. Hi Ivan,
    Make sure that you finish the proposal a few days ahead of schedule. Working up to the last minute is a recipe for disaster.
    Ken

    1. That’s a good point. Most novice writers write from Start to Finish but you have more impact if you work on the sections where you are strongest first and then write/refine the Executive Summary at the end.

  2. Thanks, Ivan! I didn't realize you review proposals. I'm planning to expand my services to include proposal writing, so it's great to have the perspective of someone from your end of the process. This was very helpful.

    1. Thanks Bill,
      <I'm planning to expand my services to include proposal writing, so it's great to have the perspective of someone from your end of the process.
      I moved into this area about 5 years back, initially to help with the technical evaluations and then branched out into helping others write, review, and develop strategies to write their proposals.
      There’s a ton of work out there and it pays much better than tech docs ever will 🙂
      Also, once you get established as an evaluator, you get them coming to you… which is much nicer than chasing down contracts.
      It’s also very interesting, especially when you get proposals from the biggest and the best consultancies on your table and see how they approach large procurement contracts.
      How they pre-sell, sell, and do presentations is very interesting to observe 🙂
      Drop me a line if I can help in any way.
      Ivan

  3. I agree that business proposals on the evaluator's point of view is meant to be eliminated when reviewed. That is why you have to make a proposal that CANNOT be eliminated (I like the way you said this!). Also you point out how to support proposal's claims by case studies, papers etc. It is also good to include images and graphics to present a given data. After all, a picture can say a thousand words.

    1. Good point about the graphics. When you have to wade through several 100 pages of business text, a nice graphic makes a big difference.

      What works especially well as process maps.

      For example, rather than talk about how a solution works, create a Visio that shows difference use cases and walk the reader thru the scenarios.

      This has a real impact on the evaluators as they can ‘see’ (i.e. visualize) how it works.

      How about you? Are there any type of visuals that you’ve found work well in biz docs?

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