Mastering the Proposal: Persuasive Strategies for RFPs

In sales, responding to a request for proposal (RFP) from a current or prospective customer requires finesse, strategy, and a deep understanding of their needs. Here are winning strategies to help you create persuasive proposals that stand out from the competition, courtesy of Alegeus Sr. Director of Proposals Jessica Nicolette.

1. Customer Framing: Putting Them First

When crafting your proposal, remember it’s about them, not you. Avoid boilerplate Executive Summaries that focus on your company. Instead, start by acknowledging your understanding of the RFP drivers and goals. If these aren’t explicitly stated, do your homework. Leverage relationships and research to uncover opportunities for tailoring your pitch to what matters most.

Identify and solve for known pain points. Whether it’s cost, product, or service challenges, treat them as opportunities to showcase effective solutions. Combine your differentiators with customer-tailored outcomes to create compelling win themes. Ensure they pass the substitution test: if you can substitute a competitor’s name and it holds true, it’s not a win theme. Conclude your Executive Summary with proof points demonstrating your company’s ability to deliver the outcomes the customer seeks.

Integrating the customer’s name frequently adds personalization, but use your company name sparingly. Leaning on pronouns like “we” and “our” will prevent excessive use and keep the focus on the customer.

2. Being Responsive & Compliant: Meeting Their Needs

Being responsive and compliant is essential to tackling questionnaires. Start by understanding the true intent behind each question. What are they really asking, and why do they want to know? Think about their wish list answer and strive to provide a response that exceeds their expectations.

Address each question directly, avoiding the temptation to skip or avoid any part as doing so can cost you evaluation points. Structure your answers in a logical order to promote ease of evaluation and demonstrate your attention to their detail. To maintain the story line of your Executive Summary, weave your win themes into the appropriate questionnaire responses.

When it comes to requirements, yes is always the best answer. If you must answer no, offer an alternative positioned as a solution that’s even better than the requirement.

3. Keeping it Short & Simple: KISS Principle in Action

In a sea of bidder proposals, keeping yours short and direct is key to capturing the evaluator’s attention. Limit sentences and paragraphs to ensure readability, using white space and graphics to break up chunks of text. If a sentence exceeds 18 words, cut. If a paragraph exceeds 4 sentences, cut.

Simplify your language and eliminate jargon that may confuse the reader. Acronyms, while serving as an efficient means of internal communication, should also be avoided. Even when defined, they create alphabet soup for an evaluator reviewing other proposals chock full of them.

People don’t buy what they can’t understand. Write clearly and concisely to ensure your message is easily understood and remembered. Numerous studies show visual messages are more easily retained. Use graphics to your advantage – showcase metrics or explain complex ideas to enhance recall for evaluators.

4. Renewal Tactics: Securing Future Success

When dealing with a renewal RFP, proactive tactics can make all the difference. Leverage your relationship with the client to gain insights into their vision, needs, and pain points. Reinforce the advantages of remaining in place, emphasizing the benefits of continuity and prioritizing their success.

Importantly, focus on tomorrow, not yesterday. Highlight what you will do differently or better in the future. Offer solutions to current challenges and showcase new and exciting solutions that set you apart from the competition.

Mastering the RFP requires a customer-centric approach, responsiveness to client needs, simplicity in communication, and proactive tactics. By following these strategies, you can increase your chances of success and win more business.

To hear more about RFP strategies, watch our recent webinar about Busting the Spreadsheet: How to submit a winning RFP.

About Jessica Nicolette
As Senior Director of Proposals at Alegeus, Jessica oversees the development of a diverse range of proposals, including new logos and renewals, while supporting partners with their RFPs to drive growth. A distinguished expert certified by the Association of Proposal Management Professionals, Jessica’s commitment to best practice excellence has garnered her numerous accolades and recognition throughout her 20+ year career. Renowned as a trailblazer in her field, she is deeply passionate about empowering teams and inspiring others to achieve remarkable results.


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