Avoiding the ‘What Can We Say’ Trap

By my observations (across a span of more than two decades in the field), a vast majority of organisations start their proposal-producing process with the submission version of ‘writer’s block’.

Those who are appointed “writers” (either of the entire submission, or of the various component sections if it’s the response to a complex Request for Proposal) sit down at a relatively blank screen . . . and begin contemplating “what we can say”.

What’s wrong with that – is just about everything.

A Detailed Blueprint Is the Answer

Any submission – from the lightest sales proposal, to the weightiest response in a complex tender process – should be informed by a detailed blueprint. A blueprint that is the result of a diligent research and planning process, involving as many knowledge sources as is required to produce an insightful, competent, competitively superior, substance-based end-document.

Planning identifies the overarching theme that will guide your proposal / response, and downstream from that, that will identify each major component of your “bid strategy” (I’ll use that as a universal term for convenience). That, in turn, flushes out the answers to the specific issues that need to be addressed – whether proactively (in the case of an unsolicited proposal) or in response to specific questions (in the case of a formal bid or tender).

A competent planning process – embraced with enthusiasm by those participating in it – often makes the final process of producing the end-document, a relatively simple matter of expanding on the plan’s core components and assembling them into a logical order.

With this insight into the imperative of conducting pre-writing research and planning, it’s easy to see that it is, in fact, negligent to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, without a guiding document of this nature.

Getting Ahead of the Pack Starts Here

But again, it is in fact the unfortunate norm. If you’re an SME (Small or Medium-sized Enterprise) especially, it’s more likely than not that your average competitor doesn’t conduct any formal pre-submission planning process. Their sales or business development personnel likely just sit down in front of their computers and stare at a blank screen, wondering “what they can say”. Or they pull up a grossly over-used, universal and non-specific, probably badly outdated, template on which numerous of their previous proposals have been based . . . with the fact that they’ve done so being glaringly obvious to the recipient.

Just the undertaking of a dedicated planning phase, in its own right, puts you ahead of the game . . . by virtue of even having a formal guiding document for which prior research had to be conducted, and thinking had to be injected.

Not hard to see how to position your enterprise ahead of the competition when you think about it from such a logical perspective, is it?