There’s an art to creating proposals that are fact-filled, persuasive and memorable. It takes a combination of creativity, attention to detail, sales savvy and marketing know-how. Consequently, an effective RFP proposal writer embodies all of these attributes and leverages them to help their business win RFP opportunities.
The RFP proposal writer role provides a unique opportunity to connect with customers and directly influence business growth. It’s a challenging, exciting and rewarding position — do you have what it takes to be successful?
In this blog, we’ll explore the role of a proposal writer in detail. First, we’ll define the position and how it fits into the proposal team. Next, we’ll focus specifically on the responsibilities and skills required. Finally, you’ll discover recommended resources for proposal writers.
The proposal writer role
What is a proposal writer?A proposal writer, sometimes called a bid writer, is the person responsible for creating complete and compelling responses to the questions posed in a request for proposal (RFP). Their goal is to help the organization articulate their value and win new business. The title of proposal writer may refer to any position focused on creating persuasive documents including grant, research or project proposals. However, this blog and the advice included focuses on professionals who write in response to RFPs.
Role in the proposal teamWithin the proposal team, the RFP response writer reports to and works closely with the proposal coordinator or manager responsible for proposal project management. In large organizations, a single proposal writer may work on multiple RFPs and projects simultaneously. On the other hand, in other organizations, one employee may serve as both the proposal manager and the proposal writer.
Key responsibilities of an RFP proposal writer
From one business to another, the responsibilities of the proposal writer vary. Ideally, the proposal writer dedicates themselves fully to the composition of proposal content. However, they may perform other duties as a part of the proposal team.
Proposal writer responsibilities
- Read incoming requests for proposals
- Participate in kick-off meetings, strategy sessions and proposal project planning
- Review and customize RFP responses from the proposal content library
- Collaborate with subject matter experts (SMEs) and proposal contributors to articulate complex facets of products and services
- Review and edit RFP responses created by SMEs and stakeholders from various internal teams
- Ensure responses follow brand style and tone guidelines as well as coach SMEs as needed
- Verify that responses address key customer hot buttons and win themes
- Write or review additional RFP response documents and attachments including RFP cover letters and executive summaries
- Incorporate feedback from proposal review sessions
- Assist with proposal knowledge management and retention of content for future use
The most important proposal writer skills
The whole purpose of the RFP process is to communicate. Accordingly, it should be no surprise that clear communication is the first skill on our list of must-haves.
RFP proposal writers excel at expressing complex ideas and concepts in a way that is approachable and easy to understand. Indeed, they must produce written work that is articulate and free of typos. In addition to being a master of the written word, you must also be able to effectively communicate and collaborate verbally with colleagues.
As a proposal writer, you’ll work closely with colleagues from all areas of your business. While every person you work with will deliver value to the process, they may not be able to instinctually express differentiators and value. Luckily, that’s where you come in. As you connect with contributors, it’s important to collaborate by listening, brainstorming, clarifying and interviewing them.
From executives and department heads to specialists and consultants, you’ll spend time working closely with a variety of roles. Together, you’ll work from one question to the next to identify key elements to include in your answers. Then, you’ll write to show the prospective customer exactly why your company is their best choice.
Successful proposal writers are experts at project management and prioritization. Moreover, they may work on several proposals or projects concurrently with overlapping deadlines. Consequently, the ability to adhere to a strict proposal timeline and avoid delays is highly prized. In any case, the fast-paced work is rewarding and those who are highly motivated and organized tend to thrive.
Attention to detail
It’s not uncommon for RFPs to include dozens of complex requirements. Consequently, the corresponding proposal may span a hundred or more pages. Accordingly, proposal writers need to be tenacious, thorough and meticulous.
In addition to ensuring the proposal response meets the RFP requirements, proposal writers must check each response for a number of things. For example, they must write and review for accuracy, grammar, readability, style, terminology and more.
An aptitude for technology
As with most modern careers, technology is now a significant part of the day-to-day operations of many proposal teams. Indeed, professionals with technology experience are in demand. More specifically, those with proposal software experience are particularly sought after. Designed specifically to improve efficiency in the RFP response process, these solutions are widely used by leading proposal teams.
The best RFP software solutions centralize the entire process. Specifically, they enable proposal project management, content knowledge management and data collection.
Resources for proposal writers
While the proposal process can be complex, fortunately, there are lots of RFP response tools that lighten the load. From collaboration and proposal management to persuasive writing and grammar, there’s a software, tool or resource to help you hone your skills.
To connect and learn: Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP)
If you’re looking to deepen your proposal process knowledge or network with peers, look no further than the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). With APMP, you’ll find education, commiseration and collaboration in one place.
To sharpen your persuasive writing skills: Chip & Dan Heath – Made to Stick
While this book isn’t specifically for proposal writers, the skills it teaches are incredibly valuable to the RFP response process. It focuses on reviewing your writing for six key elements — simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotion and stories.
To check proposals for readability and grammar: Hemingway Editor
Using the Hemingway App is incredibly easy. To analyze your proposal responses, simply copy and paste them into the app and work through the text. Then, the app helpfully highlights sections that need attention. For example, you can quickly review your work for difficult to read sentences, passive voice, simplicity and overuse of adverbs.
To expand your expertise: LinkedIn Learning
Looking to expand your skill set? Start with the courses on LinkedIn Learning. It seems that there’s a course for every aspect of the proposal process in addition to topics that will expand your expertise. Make professional development a priority and expand your horizons into sales, marketing and business development courses as well.
Ultimately, proposal writers use the RFP response as a canvas to paint an appealing picture for potential customers. How will everyone benefit? What will a partnership with the business look like? How do the mission, vision and values of the two companies align? Without a doubt, much of persuasion is about getting the proposal evaluator to imagine themselves as your customer and compel them to take the next step.
Not only is the proposal writer a key element of business growth, but they also enjoy close relationships with key contacts throughout the business. Consequently, this exposure and insight continually improve their understanding of the business while providing visibility to the value of their work. All of these elements make this role ideal for someone who is creative, empathetic and ambitious.