The heightened level of transactions between organizations caused by the Internet-enabled erosion of national boundaries has resulted in higher expectations, greater choice and greater competition. We cannot wish it away.
Earlier, choice was limited to a few known organizations in the neighborhood, state or country; today, the same opportunity is known and available to almost everyone on the globe instantly. Competition springs up from unknown corners; the customer or client is now the king and has every intention of remaining so. Laws to prevent or cramp com- petition will have limited utility and will be counter- productive in the long run; global competition should be assumed by default.
This surfeit of opportunities creates interesting challenges: difficulties in resource planning, deciding the best opportunity to pursue given the internal constraints, and so on.
Therefore, to stay ahead requires greater finesse in execution. But even getting to execute requires winning early on. More now than ever, prospects seek formal evidence of capabilities in a proposal. Then, they wish to compare proposals and zoom into the winning one. This new professionalism is the result of greater competition as well as regulatory laws; evaluators will need to explain their decisions to someone someday and prove that they were well considered after an objective comparison of proposals received.
The business of writing proposals is no longer a casual one intended to fulfill a formality. It is a project in itself requiring a convergence of thought within the organization. The result, after all, will be a substantive document on which ride great stakes, intern- ally and externally. In addition, there are legal and professional implications. Organizational and individual reputations are also to be considered. And also the fact that financial decisions ride on the proposal.
Writing an effective proposal crystallizes, in a sense, the collective competitive ability of an organization. An effective ‘winning’ proposal demonstrates that the organization has kept current with the environment it operates in and knows what it takes to compete—and compete well at that.
Many internal decisions need to be taken in this context:
• Should we compete at all?
• Who is the client? What is its reputation?
• Do we have the skills? Or the experience and references?
• Who is the competitor? Is our competitive intelligence good?
• What do we gain from this opportunity? Is there an opportunity cost involved?
• Who should spearhead the creation of the document? Who should be involved?
• How should the proposal be organized?
• Is our approach convincing? How are we likely to be considered unique? Have we demonstrated systematic thinking, perhaps by means of a methodology?
• How do we gain financially? How has this proposal been priced and what are the milestone dependencies?Do we have alternative recourse if we are not paid?
• Once we submit the proposal, what should we do?
A proposal is the best example of persuasive business writing. Good writing creates a good impression and image; to capture the imagination of the reader and convince him that you have what it takes to fulfill his business need is the ultimate certificate of your ability to at least get opportunities. It is up to you thereafter to execute and stay afloat.