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How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

For many businesses, the proposal process is always a scramble. Certainly, it’s understandable when working with tight time frames, a […]

Category: Tag: Proposal management best practices

How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

How to create a project implementation plan for proposal management

For many businesses, the proposal process is always a scramble. Certainly, it’s understandable when working with tight time frames, a variety of stakeholders and a whole lot of information. A project implementation plan can help organize your team as you tackle complex RFPs. In addition, a thoughtful plan can improve the consistency and efficiency of your proposal execution. 

In this post, we’ll explore exactly what a project implementation plan is. Additionally, we’ll cover how it benefits the RFP response process and how to build one for your proposal team. Finally, we’ll provide templates and an example to help you get started. With these tools, you can bring order and efficiency to your proposal process.

What is a project implementation plan?

A project implementation is approach that breaks down a project into the distinct steps required to accomplish a particular goal. Within the plan, each step required to achieve the goal has an owner and a due date. Often, the goal of the plan supports larger business objectives. Project Manager offers this insight into the strategic role of the tool:

“Strategic planning is done on an organizational level, dictating the direction of the company strategy and allocating resources to make that strategy come to life. Thus, the implementation plan traces the edges of that, mapping out how to best implement a strategic plan from the outset, and how to effectively manage it as it gets put into place.”

How can proposal managers use a project implementation plan

Certainly, a project implementation plan is a helpful project management tool for nearly any process. However, it is particularly useful for proposal coordinators. The plan gives them a way to organize their team and the complex RFP response process. Similarly, a RACI matrix or proposal timeline can also serve as a guide for the proposal team to work from.

Benefits of a project implementation plan

A solid project implementation plan has short- and long-term benefits for your proposal team as well as your organization. Certainly, creating your project plan will take some time and optimization through trial and error, but stick with it.

Implementation plan benefits:

Boost buy-in

Disagreements are bound to happen in proposal management. Naturally, when it comes to allocating resources, there will be conflicting opinions. However, a project implementation plan can help when resources are scarce. This can reassure any stakeholders or team members who may have doubts about pursuing a particular opportunity.

Improve collaboration

Bring your stakeholders, subject matter experts (SMEs) and the entire proposal team together with a clear path to success. A project implementation plan can eliminate confusion about who is responsible for which steps. So, each team member knows what they are accountable for and when within the process. In addition, progress updates are clear and questions about what comes next are quickly answered.

Optimize and answer more RFPs

Because the RFP response process is clearly defined in your plan, the process can move more quickly. There’s no second-guessing or confusion because the steps are clearly defined.

Following a project implementation plan creates efficiency. Consequently enabling your team to answer more RFPs and win more opportunities. Then, with periodic reviews of your process, you can identify areas for improvement and become a well-oiled, RFP-answering machine.

How to create a proposal implementation plan

Ready to try a proposal project implementation plan? Get started here.

1. Define your goal

I get it. This may seem a little silly when creating a project implementation plan for proposal management. After all, the goal is obvious: to submit a winning bid. However, it’s so important to keep this goal in mind, because it should guide your plan and will prompt important questions.

Take a moment to consider. If your goal is to submit a winning bid, ask yourself, is this RFP winnable? Unfortunately, far too many businesses waste time and resources answering RFPs they were never going to win. Accordingly, that’s why the discussion of whether to bid or not to bid is so important.

In addition, it’s essential to know what it will take to achieve your goal. What internal resources will you need in order to submit a compelling bid on time? Who will need to be involved? Which stakeholders should be consulted? Ultimately, considering all of these questions will help you build a more complete, strategic implementation plan.

2. Map your process and resources

After asking yourself what it will take to win, you’re ready to start laying out your process and taking stock of your resources.

Your proposal timeline milestones should include:

  • Go/no-go evaluation and discussion
  • Project planning
  • Kickoff meeting
  • Collection of questions for RFP issuer
  • Search of content library by section and question
  • SME question assignment
  • Customization of knowledge library content
  • Executive summary and RFP cover letter creation
  • Review of SME responses
  • Formatting and design
  • Final reviews
  • Proposal submission

Assign due dates to each of these milestones. Remember, it may be easier to work backward from your proposal submission date to ensure you’re not rushing at the end of your process. Then, assign each task to the relevant team members. Who is responsible for ensuring the work is completed? Are they available and able to meet the required deadline? 

This step is crucial for avoiding bottlenecks and delays later in the process. As time goes on, you can revise your timeline to account for the efficiency you’ve gained. Alternatively, you may need to adjust if some steps that take more time than expected.

3. Build and publish your implementation plan

Now that you have all the information you need to include in your project implementation plan, you need to organize and present it in a clear and helpful way.

Proposal project implementation plan components:

Introduction and goal

Keep your introduction short and sweet. Generally, a paragraph or two is sufficient to outline the project. For example, your introduction should state the potential customer issuing the RFP, the value of the business and the goal of submitting a winning proposal by the deadline. Include the primary point of contact for the project for any questions or concerns.

Executive summary

Include an executive summary to give a high-level overview of your plan. What differentiators will you highlight? Why are your chances good to win this RFP? What challenges will you need to overcome to be successful?

Need an RFP executive summary template to help you get started? Find one here.

List of stakeholders and contributors

Provide a comprehensive list of who will be involved in executing the project. Also, include a brief description of their role in the process. You may find a RACI matrix helpful for this step.

Outline of milestones and tasks

Create a chronological list of milestones. Within that list, add each task and responsible party. Certainly, it can be helpful to also note important dependencies as well as work that can be accomplished concurrently. You may find a Gantt chart helpful for visualizing this process, or you may want to use a project management tool. Provide additional instructions and any required context.

Implementation schedule

Your implementation schedule will follow the proposal timeline you created in your earlier preparation. Work backward and allow some extra time; assign due dates for each milestone and task within your plan.

Background documentation and resources list

Next, include links to any background or research you’ve done. The extra information helps subject matter experts and contributors customize their messaging. In addition, include any capture planning documentation or strategic account information available.

Approval process

Define how the final proposal will be reviewed and approved. If changes are required, clearly state how those changes will be reviewed, adopted and documented so you don’t run into any version control issues. Finally, provide guidance for who is responsible to give final approval.

Project implementation plan templates and example

Basic implementation plan template – Smartsheet

Smartsheet created this helpful project implementation plan template for general project management. However, it is easily adaptable for the purpose of proposal management. In addition to the elements listed above, this version also contains sections to explore risks and assumptions as well as security considerations. 

Detailed implementation plan template – University of Illinois

For complex, high-value RFPs, more detail may be required. This is a project implementation plan example from the University of Illinois. Helpfully, it provides instructions for use and a wealth of customizable sections. As with Smartsheet’s template, some sections may not be applicable to proposal management. 

Basic project plan example –

This example from is a no-frills version of a project implementation plan. Unusually, it forgoes background information and introductions. It jumps directly into a list of key tasks and milestones. In addition, each task notes the estimated time required and the name of the team member responsible. While this likely isn’t a fit for larger RFPs, it may work well for managing an RFP lite or a standard security questionnaire.

Efficiency and organization go hand in hand. Certainly, creating and following a project implementation plan for your proposal process can deliver huge improvements. For more information about improving your proposal process, you can also check out these blogs:

Is a proposal development consultant the key to winning your next RFP?

Is a proposal development consultant the key to winning your next RFP?

When a huge opportunity crosses your desk in the form of a detailed RFP, there’s a lot of pressure to get it just right. Will you be ready to create the proposal of a lifetime and seal the deal? If you’re not quite sure, hiring a proposal development consultant may pay off in a big way.

Proposal development consultants go by a number of names. Titles of the role include proposal consultant, proposal writing consultant, strategic proposal consultant or even marketing consultant. No matter what you call them, their goal is to improve your chances of winning the business. 

In this post, we’ll explore everything you need to know about hiring and working with a proposal development consultant. We’ll start with what you can expect from your proposal consultant, why you might hire one as well as interview questions to help you find the right fit.

What is a proposal development consultant?

As you might expect, a proposal development consultant works with businesses to create proposals. Sometimes they are called proposal consultants or RFP consultants. These consultants offer an outside perspective, insight and expertise. 

Typically, they have years of experience in the field. Many started their career answering proposals themselves before making the move to consulting. So, your proposal consultant should have a deep understanding of your challenges and industry.

Why hire a proposal consultant?

There are a lot of reasons to consider engaging with a proposal development consultant. For example, you may need expertise in a particular industry you’re selling into, or you may need someone to finesse your responses for a particularly lucrative opportunity. Bringing in a little help to ensure your proposal hits all the right notes will help you move forward with confidence.

When it comes to small and medium-sized businesses, they likely don’t have a dedicated proposal coordinator or manager. So, creating a timely and compelling proposal is a challenge. Beyond pulling resources away from their full-time work, it’s easy to let proposal deadlines sneak up. However, engaging with a proposal development consultant will take the burden off of the team and ensure that the project stays on track.

On the other hand, large, dedicated proposal teams face a different set of challenges. RFPs are a huge part of the overall business strategy. In these cases, proposal managers must find a balance between volume and quality. A proposal writing consultant can help by managing overflow work, consulting on key projects, evaluating and optimizing processes or simply providing an outside perspective.

It’s easy to get entrenched (and a little blinded) by a repetitive RFP process. When creating proposals becomes routine, it can be easy to overlook things that aren’t clear. In addition, little mistakes can pop up here and there. But little mistakes can make a big impression. 

A good illustration of this comes from an interview with Betsy McDonald of the Chicago White Sox. When the team was looking for an advertising agency, they received more than 60 proposals and some were memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“Our stuff needs to be perfectly proofread, so typos and mistakes in the RFP response were hard to overcome.”

Proposal development consultant services

When you hire a proposal consultant for the first time, it’s hard to know what to expect. Generally, businesses seek a proposal writing consultant to help them create content. However, they can be a great resource to your entire proposal team. They’re a wealth of knowledge, so explore the services they offer beyond writing proposal content.

Additional proposal consultant services may include:

Types of strategic proposal consultants

In your search for proposal help, you’ll find a range of organizations and individuals eager to work with you. Before you engage with one, it’s important to understand your options. Your needs will determine what type of consultant you should hire and for what services.

Proposal consultancy firms 

There are some great proposal consultancy firms that are laser-focused on finding new ways to win RFPs. Often, these organizations work in a variety of industries. One benefit of working with a group of consultants is that efficiency is built into their business model. Therefore, they probably have a tried and true process. They should be highly organized, communicative and prompt. So if speed is your highest priority, this may be the way to go.

Marketing consultant or sales consultant

Proposal management often falls into the marketing or sales department. Accordingly, you may find that a marketing or sales consultant has the proposal expertise you need. Thanks to their broad focus on the marketing landscape or sales lifecycle, these consultants can offer trend and process insights. If you’re looking for a holistic approach to RFP management consulting, this might be the way to go.

Independent proposal consultants

When you need expertise about your potential customer’s industry, there’s an independent consultant out there for you. Solo proposal development consultants generally specialize in one field. Because of their experience, they are able to create tailored responses that use the right terminology and tone. More importantly, they understand the underlying need and logic behind the questions in the RFP. To leverage the full value of this insight, engage them to perform regular reviews of the content library as a part of your knowledge management strategy.

Freelance proposal writer

Almost all proposals can benefit from an outside perspective and a second pair of eyes. In this case, a proposal freelancer may be your best choice. Often, it’s difficult to make a proposal consistent. After all, proposals are frequently written by a handful of subject matter experts and stakeholders. A freelance proposal writer will review the content to make it more powerful and compelling while creating a cohesive and error-free final product.

The Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP) offers a directory with proposal consultants of all types. APMP members can access the entire catalog, while non-members have limited access. Check it out here.

How to pick a proposal development consultant

From a full proposal consultancy firm to a proposal freelancer, there’s no doubt that the right consultant can be the difference between winning and losing. Speed is a crucial factor, so start with these questions ready when you interview candidates. Ultimately, the right answers will depend on your needs. But, remember to trust your gut. All the experience in the world can’t make up for a poor communicator or a bad culture fit. 

What is their process?

This should be your first question. The process they use will impact your entire team and your success. All proposal development consultants should be able to clearly articulate their best practices and work process. Be sure to communicate any relevant project background as well as your goals.

How will they communicate with you and your team?

Collaboration will be key to success. While the consultant will be able to provide input and advice, they don’t have the expertise about your business to complete the proposal themselves. Communication must be a two-way street throughout the process. How and when will they share updates? Will they need to set meetings with stakeholder and subject matter experts? How will they collaborate with you and your team?

What proposal technology do they use?

Speaking of collaboration, how does the consultant leverage technology? An RFP management tool delivers a ton of value when working with a consultant. Will they work with your team within your existing process or will they need you to adapt to them? Do they use a file share system to gather information?

Who have they worked with in the past?

Ask for references and success stories from previous clients. Inquire about their background in the industry and relevant experience. Did they do a little homework about your business? If they specialize in your industry or work with potential competitors, ask about confidentiality and data security practices.

What will they need to get started?

Once you’ve made your selection, you’ll want to move quickly and empower them with the information they need. After all, the proposal deadline waits for no one. How can you prepare your team and empower the consultant to be successful?

Investing in proposals

We all need a little help sometimes. With so many people, questions and elements involved in the RFP response process, there’s no question that organizing a proposal can be a challenge. Luckily, proposal consultants are experts that have worked through dozens, if not hundreds of similar RFPs. Their experience can provide important insight about what you may have forgotten and ideas you should consider as well as subtext about what the buyer is looking for. At the end of the day, engaging a consultant is an investment, but for the right opportunity, it can really pay off.

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

RFP project management: Bring order to your proposal process

If you’ve ever responded to a request for proposal (RFP), you know the feeling of relief that comes when you finally submit the finished proposal. After all, your response is likely the product of hours of hard work spent writing, revising, designing and reviewing. And, depending on your RFP project management approach (or lack thereof), the path to creating the final proposal may have been anything but clear. Unfortunately, this is the case for many proposal teams.

Without a clear RFP project management approach, responding to RFPs is chaotic, unclear and frustrating. Even worse, the lack of organization often results in unsuccessful bids, rendering the time you invested a total waste.

RFP project management brings order to the information, tasks and people involved in the RFP response process. Furthermore, it lays the groundwork for executing a faster, easier and more effective process.

If you’re looking for an organized approach to RFP responses, look no further. This post will explore the ins and outs of RFP project management. To start, you’ll learn key definitions, why project management works well for the proposal process and common approaches to try. Then, I’ll share key steps to implementing an RFP project management strategy. Finally, I’ll provide tips and resources to ensure success.

RFP project management basics

Project management is one of the three key skills required for successful proposal management. Indeed, it is the strategy for executing the proposal process.

Project management definition

Project management, sometimes abbreviated as PM, is the practice of planning and executing defined processes that organize the actions, tools, roles and knowledge required to accomplish a specific goal.

Typically, each project has a unique goal and a set ending point. Ultimately, the purpose of project management is to improve efficiency, consistency and outcomes.

What is an RFP in project management?

In project management, RFP stands for request for proposal. An RFP is a formal request sent from a buyer to potential vendors seeking a product, service or solution. 

The RFP document asks all vendors the same questions. Then, interested vendors submit their answers in a proposal document for consideration. This approach promotes transparency and fairness while enabling buyers to make data-driven purchasing decisions using consistent criteria.

How project management principles apply to RFPs?

There’s no way around it, RFPs are notoriously difficult to manage. There are dozens of elements to organize. And, they are a key element of business growth. Despite their importance, the same challenges arise over and over again. Typically, the core of the problem is a lack of communication and accountability, making project management and RFPs a natural match. 

Requests for proposals are projects with a set beginning and end. In addition, the many tools, people and actions required to accomplish the end goal must come together in the right order at the right time. Consequently, project management creates a helpful framework for organizing the RFP response process.

What does an RFP project manager do?

Many most successful proposal coordinators share similar duties and skill sets that make them particularly effective at proposal management.

Effective RFP project managers are:

  • Team leaders
  • Highly organized
  • Critical thinkers
  • Detail oriented
  • Collaborative
  • Creative problem solvers
  • Patient
  • Communicative
  • Strategy focused

Proposal project manager responsibilities

Within the RFP response project, the proposal manager acts as the project manager. Consequently, they are ultimately responsible for the completion and on-time delivery of the proposal. However, there are a number of other responsibilities that they perform. 

Proposal project manager duties

  • Act as an advocate for the organization – If, at any point, the desired outcome is no longer achievable, it’s the PM’s responsibility to cut losses and move on or escalate the problem to executive management.
  • Gather and aggregate intelligence – From summarizing the capture management plan to collecting and inserting answers from subject matter experts (SMEs), the proposal manager brings it all together.
  • Facilitate team meetings – The project manager schedules meetings and creates the agenda. For example, they run the kick off, update, review and debrief meetings.
  • Establish and communicate expectations – The RFP response timeline is created and enforced by the proposal project manager. For instance, they set touch points and milestones to ensure on-time final proposal delivery.
  • Solve problems that arise – As the project manager, they are responsible for clearing roadblocks, managing bottlenecks, bridging communication gaps and correcting blindspots. Essentially, they do whatever it takes to keep the project moving forward.
  • Facilitate communication between steps – The proposal project manager ensures that tasks with chronological dependencies move forward to the next person promptly. If your process is manual, that may be an email notification. Alternatively if you use RFP response software, those task notifications are managed by proposal automation.
  • Act as the buyer’s point of contact – To centralize communications between your organization and the buyer, the proposal manager acts as the primary point of contact. As such, they ask which elements of the RFP are most important to the evaluators, request scoring and evaluation information, seek feedback about lost opportunities and request evaluation scoring information.
  • Verify the proposal is compliant – The project manager is responsible for ensuring that the proposal meets the RFP evaluation criteria and requirements before approving the final draft.

Benefits of RFP project management and common approaches

Project management defines the goal, and provides a step-by-step guide plan to reach that goal. Because it breaks down the project into individual tasks, deliverables and workflows, it’s much easier to manage. But, these aren’t the only benefits of RFP project management.

How project management improves the proposal process

  • Ensures team alignment and defines objectives
  • Improves process predictability
  • Enhances clarity between teams by defining RFP terminology
  • Provides quick updates for inquiring executive leaders
  • Promotes consistency that enables data capture and optimization
  • Creates an organized approach, making responding to unknown factors easier
  • Enables fast adaptation to challenges by identifying impacted parties
  • Reduces the risk of including inaccurate, unapproved or unreviewed responses
  • Improves understanding of the meaning and intent of RFP questions

Common RFP project management strategies

Project management practices evolved over the years as business strategies and technology advanced. If finding the right approach for your team feels overwhelming, consider asking your proposal colleagues and fellow project managers for insight on the strategies they prefer. Alternatively, you can start by exploring three of the most popular approaches for RFPs below.

RACI Matrix

A good choice for teams that struggle to know who is doing what.

An RFP RACI matrix focuses on identifying the roles required to complete each task within the project. Indeed, the RACI acronym represents each of the roles and stands for responsible, accountable, consulted and informed. For example, when answering new questions in an RFP, the proposal manager is often the person responsible, a subject matter expert would be accountable, a stakeholder or sales person may be consulted and an executive would be informed.

Proposal timeline/Gantt chart

A good choice for teams that struggle with deadlines.

The proposal timeline and Gantt chart approach illustrates the order and timing of tasks at a glance. Generally, the proposal timeline gives an overview of the process and remains the same through the completion of the project. On the other hand, a Gantt chart details the timing and progress of individual tasks. Consequently, many teams use both tools in tandem.

Project implementation plan

A good choice for proposal teams that frequently include members new to RFPs.

The detail included in a proposal project implementation plan helps new stakeholders and subject matter experts navigate the process. This RFP project management approach focuses on providing context, detail and instructions for success. Furthermore, it guides contributors through the process and offers more background information than other approaches.

Additional project management approaches

Here are three more project management approaches that you may have heard of and could adapt to RFP responses. The Digital Project Manager has a helpful overview article with information on each.

  • Agile – For an experienced team of doers, focuses on final outcomes, collaboration and flexibility
  • Scrum – For teams with several strong leaders and well-defined areas of expertise within the proposal process
  • Kanban – For teams that work best with visuals, focuses on individual task progress

How to improve your proposal process with project management

There are a few things that remain the same regardless of which project management approach you select. Here’s the steps that will make your new process successful.

1. Identify the goal of the project

Generally, this part is fairly straightforward. Clearly, you want to win an RFP opportunity. However, it’s important to think beyond that and define why this RFP is a good fit as well as the projected impact on the business if you win. In this situation, it is often helpful to refer back to your discussions to bid or not bid.

2. Define the project tasks

After you’ve identified your goal, you must clearly state the tasks that your team must accomplish for success. For example, your list might look like this:

  • Create your project brief 
  • Identify tasks that can be accomplished concurrently
  • Schedule and facilitate a kickoff meeting
  • Collect and submit follow up questions for the buyer
  • Review your RFP content library for reusable answers
  • Customize reusable answers for this opportunity
  • Assign new questions to subject matter experts
  • Write and review new answers
  • Set proposal pricing
  • Compose proposal document
  • Review for answer consistency and accuracy
  • Format proposal
  • Design and add visual elements
  • Ensure that each of the RFP business requirements are met
  • Final review by marketing and sales
  • Executive review and approval of proposal
  • Final proposal submission
  • Request feedback on final result
  • Hold debrief meeting for feedback
  • Optimize processes and update knowledge library

3. Build your proposal team

Now, review your task list. Who is best suited to accomplish each item? Will they need help, input or review from others? Match people with the tasks they will be assigned and the role they will play in the process. Your list will likely include stakeholders, support staff, SMEs, department heads and executive leaders.

4. Explore information and tools needed

Next, you need to ensure that your team has the information and tools they need to successfully accomplish the tasks you’ve provided. For instance, do your subject matter experts all have access to your knowledge library, centralized proposal or better yet, RFP software? Do you have the performance data and customer references the buyer asked for? Has your capture management team provided their research, win themes and customer insights? Avoid delays and roadblocks in your process by verifying the necessary resources are available before the project begins.

5. Create a project brief

Bring it all together in a project brief. Start with your project goal. Then, share the key milestones in the project. For example, you might include when follow up questions are due, when SME answers are due and the proposal submission deadline. Next, provide the project tasks matched with the assigned staff. Finally, provide the information that contributors will need to complete their tasks.

6. Get started

Now, you’re ready to execute your project. At the kickoff meeting, ensure everyone is aware of the RFP project management approach and how to use it. Then, it’s up to you as the project manager to keep the process on track.

7. Track and save key data

One of the biggest benefits of proposal project management is the opportunity to gather RFP data. Indeed, thanks to the consistency of your process, you can track response cost, time spent, answer quality and final outcome. Once you’ve collected enough data, review for patterns, roadblocks and opportunities for improvement.

RFP project management tips

Take charge

When your proposal team gathers for meetings, remember your intent and purpose. You’re not asking for opinions. You are dealing in facts. Are the contributors’ workloads manageable? Is the project progressing as expected? Are the required resources and information available? Is the plan feasible? 

Essentially, you’re asking the team for insight on any potential gaps or blind spots. However, you are NOT asking for input about the project management style, responsibilities or reviews. We all have that team member that always has something negative to say. Don’t let anyone derail your project with uncertainty.

Adjust as needed

While consistency is an essential element to reap the full benefits of project management, not every RFP needs the full treatment. For instance, if a proposal is brief and requires input from two people, you can abbreviate your process and accelerate your timeline. In addition, if you’re the incumbent vendor and the RFP is a formality, the approach should change. 

Remember, generally these methodologies are best used to manage big projects. So, if an informal process is significantly more efficient to achieve the end goal, then do it and spend the time you saved tackling something else.

Seek executive support

Inevitably, you’ll encounter roadblocks and challenges. If they’re caused by someone outside of your chain of command, you may feel uncomfortable addressing the issue. This is why it’s so important to have executive support.

When your team sees visible support from executives, you’ll benefit from an improved position in workload prioritization, mediation if needed, enhanced responsiveness and a higher awareness of the value of your work.

Centralize the process

Many proposal teams struggle with miscommunications and a lack of clarity around the proposal process. By centralizing everything, each team member has access to all the information they need to make informed decisions and carry out their next steps. 

While shared drives help, the most effective way to centralize the proposal process while improving efficiency at every step is RFP software. Your RFP response solution should feature workflows and collaboration, knowledge management, automation and integrations. 

Don’t change your process to solve temporary problems

As a project manager, it’s important to identify the cause of challenges that arise. For instance, you may encounter unusual circumstances, unique barriers or uncooperative people. Certainly, it is tempting to alter the process immediately to try and solve the problem. However, resist this urge.

Unique circumstances are bound to come up from time to time. And, resistance to change is natural.  But, rather than immediately solving perceived problems with process changes, focus on identifying the likelihood of the issue coming up again as well as improving buy-in and accountability with individuals. In short, don’t permanently alter your RFP project management approach to overcome temporary challenges. 

Give it time

Unfortunately, you’re probably not going to have a seamless process the very first time you use your new RFP project management strategy. In fact, it’s possible that the first time you use a new process may be less efficient. However, persevere!

As you and your team become more familiar with the proactive RFP management process and expectations, you’ll see remarkable (and measurable) improvements. Remember, reverting back to a reactive process will keep you from reaching your full potential. 

Ultimately, the purpose of RFP project management is to reduce the number of hours it takes to create a proposal while also improving the likelihood of success. 

As we all know, the hours you put into a proposal aren’t free. Not only does a more efficient RFP process save your company money, but it also gives you more time to answer additional RFPs with the potential to further grow your business. The result? A compounded impact that any proposal team can achieve with the right knowledge, process and tools.

The RFP proposal writer: Role, skills and resources

The RFP proposal writer: Role, skills and resources

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 team

Within 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. 

Time management

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.

The perfect proposal format: Create eye-catching RFP responses

The perfect proposal format: Create eye-catching RFP responses

While it’s true that looks aren’t everything, when it comes to your proposal format, appearance is important. Visual appeal is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. The way your RFP response looks impacts how your potential client feels about your company. A properly formatted proposal is more approachable, engaging and effective. Consequently, paying attention to proposal formatting pays off.

I’ve worked on countless proposals and RFP presentations in my career. Frequently, I find myself adjusting the same things. So, the big question is: What should a proposal look like? To help, I wanted to share some tips to help you view your proposals from a design perspective. 

In this blog, I’ll start by offering some things to think about when considering your proposal format. In addition, I’ll offer 11 tips for creating visually appealing proposals. And finally, I’ll share my favorite tools to help. Armed with these tips and tools, you’ll understand how these small adjustments make a big impact.

Things to remember when thinking about formatting

As you read through the tips below, there are a few things you should keep in mind. The format of your proposal should always support your end goal. Naturally, that goal is to help a potential customer decide that your business is the best choice. Some of the suggestions may seem small, but every little advantage counts.

What proper proposal formatting can do

Make a positive impression

Your business did a lot of work to get this RFP, so the response should capitalize on the good impression you’ve already made through capture management. Consequently, the proposal design should reinforce your brand, professionalism and reputation. In addition, the way your RFP response looks can communicate that your company is easy to work with and understands what the buyer needs.

Encourage evaluators to actually read your proposal

Sadly, most of the people who will see your proposal won’t actually read it. It’s unfortunate, but true. In the best-case scenario, your proposal will be one of three options, but at worst, one of dozens. As an evaluator, no matter how short the RFP is, evaluation is a daunting prospect. Naturally, the first review of an RFP response is quick. Several of the tips below are designed to grab attention and turn the procurement manager’s impulse to skim and scan into a positive.

Advance to the shortlist and win the business

Ultimately, the quality of your proposal content should be compelling enough to win the business. However, as any person who evaluates proposals regularly can tell you, there are little things that can work against you. It may seem unfair, but typos and inconsistencies are a distraction. In addition, they communicate carelessness, a lack of attention to detail and an inability to execute. Certainly, those qualities aren’t often associated with winning proposals.

11 tips for appealing proposal formatting

Note: If there’s a tool that applies directly to the tip, click the [tool] text to jump directly to it in the tools section.

1. Pick your font with purpose

To kick off, let’s talk about fonts. It’s a little thing, but not all fonts are created equal. Don’t think it could possibly make a difference in your proposal? Check out this example:

All three of these fonts are well-known and available in Microsoft Word. Each is 12-point and has the same line spacing, but the difference is remarkable. Not only do some fonts pose a page-limit challenge, but imagine having to read an entire proposal in Papyrus. My eyes are exhausted just thinking about it.

If your RFP response will likely be distributed by the issuer digitally, I recommend a sans-serif font, like Arial. While the debate is ongoing, generally designers believe that these simple fonts are best for digital reading. The reason is interesting (at least to a designer) and you can read more about it in this article.

On the other hand, if you know your proposal will be printed or you must submit a hard copy, a serif font may be the right pick. Books and newspapers are typically printed in a serif font, like Times New Roman, so readers are comfortable with the style. Interestingly, it is estimated that Times New Roman uses 27 percent less ink than Arial. So, if you often submit hard copies of long proposals, it’s a reliable pick that looks good and saves you money.

2. Stick with a style [tool]

As I mentioned above, consistency counts. While I don’t have a strong opinion about the Oxford comma, your entire proposal should follow the same style. After all, the last thing you want to do is distract an engaged reader from your message.

When working with several authors and subject matter experts (SMEs), you’ll likely receive content that has a variety of appearances. From page layout to font and everything in between, the proposal design should look the same from front to back. When I review proposals, I always run through this checklist to ensure consistency:

Proposal formatting checklist

  • Margins
  • Font(s)
    • No more than two
    • Size and line spacing
  • Headers
    • Font and size
    • Title or sentence case
  • Capitalization
    • Product or solution names
    • Employee titles
  • Oxford commas – Yes or no
  • Sentence spacing – One or two spaces
  • Photos – Style, border, shape
  • Charts and graphs – Style, colors, font
  • Spelling – International differences
  • Lists
    • Bullet points or dashes
    • Numbers or letters

3. Embrace your brand

Use your proposal format to support your company brand. Part of being memorable is being recognizable. For example, if you have a well-established brand, consider using your company logo, colors, font and images in your proposal format. Not only will it reinforce your brand identity, but it will make your proposal stand out from the stack.

Branded proposal format example

Check out this example of branded proposal formatting from FedEx. Even without looking it up (or reading ahead), I’m sure you could draw their logo and name their brand colors. Accordingly, FedEx leverages its distinctive look in their proposal design. They feature their logo, use brand colors for headers and include photos to make their proposal incredibly easy to spot.

There’s a lot to learn from this proposal format example, and you’ll definitely see it pop up a few more times throughout the rest of our tips.

4. Be concise but nice [tool]

In the world of proposal review and scoring, brevity is a kindness. However, without the benefit of the timing and tone of verbal communication, overly short written responses may be misinterpreted as blunt or harsh. Beyond the challenge of creating a singular voice from a patchwork of input, proposal coordinators must find a balance between cordiality and concision.

Luckily, your RFP cover letter and executive summary present an opportunity to make a human connection. Use these introductory documents to set the tone for the rest of the proposal. Consider mentioning intangible reasons why you’re a good fit. For example, discuss how you can uniquely serve them, your vision for the future and company values you have in common.

Within your RFP responses, strive for short sentences and paragraphs. As you read lengthy answers from SMEs, look for compound sentences that can be broken down. From there, you’ll often find that part of the sentence wasn’t necessary. In addition, it is helpful to read the answer and then summarize it to yourself. With the shortest possible answer in mind, it will be easier to communicate the essential facts and remove anything else.

By simple virtue of being easy to read and not overwhelmingly dense, your proposal will be memorable. This goes for paragraphs too. Try to keep things as simple as possible, so your reader isn’t faced with a wall of text.

5. Personalize with pictures [tool]

Proposals don’t have to be a massive block of text. One of the best ways to catch and retain attention is by adding pictures. For example, if your proposal includes short bios for key staff, add a headshot for each. Or, if the RFP requests a customer story or reference, include a photo or logo from that customer.

Images break up your text blocks, are eye catching and help the issuer picture themselves as your customer. However, when you use images, make sure they are relevant, secondary to your content and good quality.

Again, our proposal format example from FedEx does a great job of using images to capture attention. In the image below, the RFP question is about eco-friendly transportation. Their answer includes information about their EarthSmart program. Additionally, it is accompanied by an image of a truck with the EarthSmart logo. The combination makes the idea of green initiatives feel more concrete.

6. Take advantage of video [tool]

If you respond via an RFP software platform, you have a unique advantage. RFP management systems can enable you to embed videos into your RFP responses. The applications are endless. For example: If the RFP asks customer success questions, you can include a short video about the process. Indeed, who better than the department director to talk through the onboarding process while showing how quick and easy it is to access support services? Notably, a minute of video is the equivalent of about 150 words, the equivalent of about a quarter page of text.

7. Leverage links

In addition to embedding video, proposal software enables you to include links in your responses. Consequently, the resulting proposal is shorter and the person evaluating it has more control.

For instance, a procurement manager may only need the basics about data security protocol, however, when they pass the proposal along to the IT department, a link allows them to dig in further without additional back and forth.

Including links also reduces file sizes. And, it allows the vendor to control access to the information, if necessary. So, even sensitive information can be shared without sending it via email. Ultimately, links allow you to provide additional information without getting bogged down by attachments, addendums and supplemental documentation tacked onto the end.

8. Get creative with charts and graphs [tool]

Let’s face it, spreadsheets are not likely to hold anyone’s attention for long. So, rather than just linking to an attached spreadsheet, create a chart or graph to illustrate your most impactful stats.

Here’s our FedEx proposal formatting example one more time. In a continuation of the question about sustainability, the company further illustrates the results of their efforts. FedEx uses infographic-style visuals to present information in an engaging way.

Not only do they tout their accomplishments, but they also share their ongoing goals for the future. Certainly, it’s a powerful statement of their commitment to doing their part for the environment. For companies who prioritize partnerships with companies who share their values, this looks like a winning proposal.

Remember, just like images and video, the charts and graphs you include must be relevant to the RFP question. No matter how tempting it is to shoehorn your best numbers into the proposal, resist the urge.

9. Make it accessible and inclusive [tool]

Assumptions and implicit bias are everywhere you look. But, they shouldn’t be in your proposal. Remember, once you submit, you don’t know who within your potential customer’s organization will need to read and weigh in on your proposal. Accessibility and inclusion are powerful and matter deeply. Here are some easy ways to ensure your proposal can connect with everyone:

Quick tips for proposal accessibility

  • Avoid using color combinations that are tricky for people with color blindness
  • Don’t use font colors or images that are low contrast
  • Add alt text to describe images for people who are visually impaired

A few considerations for inclusive proposals

  • Use ‘they’ instead of gendered pronouns when referring to a hypothetical person
  • Be sure to feature images that are representative of your diverse company and customer base
  • Avoid language that may alienate your reader like technical jargon and sports metaphors

10. Follow the requested format

This shouldn’t have to be said, but you’d be surprised how often we hear procurement professionals express their frustration that vendors can’t follow directions. In fact, some are so fed up with it they will automatically disqualify suppliers who disregard RFP instructions. You have to play by the rules. That’s really all there is to it.

11. Review, refresh and revise [tool]

We’ve arrived at our final tip: proposal review. After spending hours writing, editing and reviewing, it’s important to ask for outside input. I can’t overstate the value of a fresh pair of eyes. Enlist a colleague to be your go-to reviewer. Then, equip them with a proposal style guide (think about using the checklist in Tip 2) to help guide their edits.

First, ask them to scan the proposal, just like the procurement manager will. If they notice anything that looks out of place or doesn’t make sense, make adjustments. Likewise, ask them to briefly skim the answers and point out any inconsistencies or confusing answers. Don’t be afraid to make last-minute changes. Better to correct it now and feel confident than wonder after you’ve already submitted it.

Tools for help make your RFP response look like a winner

Now, it’s time to put these tips into action. Here are some of my favorite tools and guides to help you get started creating the perfect proposal design.

Proposal style tools

Style guide creation

This helpful blog from Venngage explores all of the things that you should include in your style guide as well as examples from tech companies. However, before you start from scratch, check with your marketing team to see if you have a brand guide that might meet your needs.

Readability tool

Easily one of the best tools for evaluating readability, Hemingway Editor is free to use. Its most helpful feature for proposal teams is the sentence length warnings: it highlights long sentences in yellow and extra long sentences in red.

Inclusion and accessibility tools

A guide for inclusion

The Conscious style guide is a centralized location to find all of the latest articles and educational materials about inclusion. The site offers topics to get you started, or you can simply search for information if you have a specific question.

How to use color blind-friendly palettes

Another great tool from Venngage, this guide explores everything you need to know about color blindness. In addition to providing background information, it offers easy ways to put it to practice.

Color contrast checker

Quick and easy to use, this checker from Coolors is great for ensuring your digital is easy to read for those with low vision. Simply insert your background and text colors and get an automatic visibility score.

How to add alt text to a PDF

If you submit proposals as PDFs, be sure to check out this guide from Adobe to adding alt text to images and graphs. Alt text enables people with a visual impairment to hear a description of the image.

Review tool

Real-time grammar feedback

Grammarly is a helpful tool available as a Chrome extension or a standalone web app. If you install it on your browser, you can see real-time feedback when it detects a potential error.

Guide to proposal review

The process to review proposals is a crucial skill. Fortunately, this proposal review guide explores everything you need to know. In addition, it includes helpful tips to ensure you don’t miss a thing.

The proposal process: Organize and master RFP responses

The proposal process: Organize and master RFP responses

When it comes to responding to RFPs, there are a lot of moving parts. Between developing messaging, collaborating with subject matter experts and meeting tight deadlines for big opportunities, it’s easy to lose track of what’s going on. Luckily, a strong proposal process transforms chaos into managed efficiency. In addition, it enables you to answer more RFPs, improve your win rate and grow your business.

Whether you’re new to RFPs, or looking to brush up on best practices, you’ll find everything you need to know here. To start, we’ll cover key definitions and team roles. Then, I’ll share a step-by-step proposal process guide and an overview of challenges you may face. In addition, throughout the post, I’ll share resources you can explore to learn more about each topic. Finally, to conclude, you’ll learn some quick tips to continually improve your proposal process.

Proposal process basics

What is the proposal process?

The proposal process, sometimes called the request for proposal (RFP) response process, is the organized approach a vendor follows when they create a proposal in response to an RFP issued by a buyer. Within the formalized process, you’ll organize the people, information and steps that must come together to create a successful proposal. 

As you might imagine, the proposal process is different in every business. Indeed, there are countless variables that can impact the steps and details involved. However, the foundation of the process typically remains the same. Defining your unique process enables consistency from one RFP to the next. Subsequently, you can examine and optimize your proposal process to improve response speed, accuracy and effectiveness.

Who is responsible for the proposal management process?

Generally, RFPs call for a wide range of input and expertise from departments throughout your business. The input from each contributor must be collected, organized and compiled together to create a compelling proposal. With so many steps and people involved, having a single person responsible for overseeing the project is absolutely essential. This person serves as the proposal manager or proposal coordinator.

While large organizations may have a full roster of dedicated proposal managers, small- and mid-sized businesses often don’t. In these cases, a salesperson, marketing team member or business operations professional may take on the role in addition to their primary job function. Regardless, the proposal manager acts as the project leader and main point of contact throughout the proposal management process.

Who else is involved in the proposal process?

From competitor research to unique industry expertise, there are many people in your business you’ll need to work with during the proposal process. Each of these professionals is a part of your proposal team. And, each person performs a crucial role.

Again, large businesses may have one or more people dedicated to each of these roles. Conversely, small- and medium-sized businesses may have one person performing tasks from several of these roles.

Capture manager

Before you receive an RFP, the capture manager is already working on winning it. Indeed, they develop a capture management plan with research, win themes and customer insights to give your organization an advantage. 

Subject matter experts

The bulk of your proposal content will come from subject matter experts (SMEs). When it’s time to answer in-depth industry and topic-specific questions, these are the people you turn to. In addition, they verify that knowledge library content is accurate.

Proposal development consultant

When a high-value RFP opportunity comes along, you may want the advice and assistance of an external advisor. A proposal development consultant delivers valuable proposal support, messaging review and industry insights.  

Executive-level approver

The executive-level approver is your proposal’s last stop before it goes back to the buyer. With the big picture in mind, they ensure that the opportunity aligns with the company goals and that the proposal represents the company accurately.

A step-by-step guide to the proposal process

From beginning to end, there are a lot of elements in the proposal process. But, don’t worry, it’s easy to master with a little knowledge and practice.

1. Identify an RFP opportunity

Naturally, the first step in the RFP response process is identifying an RFP to respond to. There are several ways to find new, open RFP opportunities. Alternatively, you may use a more focused approach and create a capture management plan to target key accounts. 

How to find RFPs

Everyone wants to find more sales opportunities, but sometimes it’s easier said than done. Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to find RFPs.

Use Google to find government RFPs
Look for publicly posted RFPs in searchable portals. Many valuable government RFPs are a mere Google search away.

Discover open RFPs on social media
Some organizations regularly post their RFP opportunities on social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Subscribe to an RFP database service
An RFP database collects open bid opportunities and categorizes them by industry. Typically, these services are easy to use and affordable.

Register directly with large organizations
Check the websites of your top target accounts for a vendor registration page. Then, fill out the vendor profile and submit your information.

Catch the attention of a broker or consultant
High-value, specialized procurement projects are often outsourced to brokers or consultants. Reach out and ask to be included in future RFPs.

RFPs through capture management

The practice of capture management is all about gaining an advantage before a buyer issues an RFP. For example, you may know that one of your potential customers has a contract expiring at the end of the year and that they will issue an RFP to explore their options.

By creating a capture management plan, you strategize, gather insight and connect with the customer to demonstrate why you’re the best fit for the business. Ideally, the subsequent RFP favors your company.

2. Decide to bid or not to bid

After you’ve identified a potential RFP opportunity, it’s time to learn more and decide to bid or not to bid. As you can already see, the RFP response process takes time. Each RFP that your team responds to represents an investment of time and resources. Therefore, it’s important to closely examine each RFP to determine if it’s a good fit for your organization.

Considerations when deciding to bid or not to bid

  • Organizational alignment: Does this RFP match your business’s big-picture goals?
  • Expertise and ability: Can your business meet the customer’s needs?
  • Value: Will the return on investment justify the cost of the project?
  • Background: Are past proposal responses readily available?
  • Competition: Is one of your competitors clearly a better fit?

3. Select a proposal project management approach

Once you’ve decided to respond to an RFP, it’s time to make a plan. There are a lot of tasks, deadlines and people involved in the RFP response process ⁠— without structure, confusion runs rampant. Adopting a formal project management approach organizes and streamlines the process. 

Common approaches include using a RACI matrix, project implementation plan or proposal timeline. Once you’ve selected and applied one of these processes, share the plan with your proposal team in a kickoff meeting.

RACI matrix

A RACI matrix defines the tasks, team members and responsibilities involved in your proposal process using a chart format. Tasks appear on one axis of the chart, while team members are listed on the other. The chart then fills in who is who is Responsible, who is Accountable, who is Consulted and who is Informed for each step. Because the information is clearly displayed, it’s a quick way to get everyone on the same page.

Project implementation plan

Chronological thinkers tend to prefer a detailed project implementation plan. This approach breaks each task down into the individual steps needed to complete the RFP response. An owner and due date accompany each step. 

While slightly less visual than the RACI matrix, a project implementation plan relies on details. Each objective is broken down into smaller objectives or sub-tasks. This allows the proposal manager better insight into progress and next steps.

Proposal timeline

Next, the visual aspect of the RACI matrix and the detailed nature of a project implementation plan approaches come together in a proposal timeline. This method uses a visual timeline to provide an overview of the RFP response process.

In addition to being useful for project planning, your timeline can also be used to quickly create a more granular Gantt chart, onboard new proposal team members, set internal expectations and inform stakeholders.

4. Review the RFP for repeat questions

Now that your team is organized, you’re ready to begin the proposal. Before you answer a single question, read the entire RFP. I know it’s tempting to answer a few quick and easy questions, but seriously, read the whole thing first.

One of the most common mistakes vendors make is not following instructions. Reading the whole RFP, uninterrupted, ensures you don’t miss anything. In addition, it gives you a better understanding of what the prospective customer cares about. 

Find responses for previously asked questions

You may feel like if you’ve seen one RFP, you’ve seen them all. While each RFP is unique, there is a significant amount of overlap in the questions buyers ask. Which is why it’s important to capture and catalog previous responses in a proposal content library.

A proposal content library, also called a knowledge library or proposal content repository, is a centralized location where past RFP responses are stored digitally. Then, when another RFP asks the same question, or one similar, you can simply copy and paste the previous response and update as needed.

An organized knowledge library saves you a ton of time and makes the response process easier on the rest of your team. With time, you’ll quickly be able to complete most of any new RFP. Some proposal teams manage their proposal content manually, using a shared document. Others leverage RFP software that automatically identifies and completes repeat questions.

5. Collaborate with SMEs to write new responses

After you’ve reviewed your proposal content library and completed as much of the response as possible, it’s time to engage with your subject matter experts to review your suggested responses and answer new questions. Assign questions to SMEs according to their expertise. Be sure to provide any necessary context as well as the date you need the response back.

6. Perfect the proposal

Next, make sure everything is perfect. To start, review your completed RFP questions. It’s important to ensure that the proposal comes together and reads like a single document, rather than answers from a dozen contributors. Then, read the answers to make sure there are no contradictions, confusing terms or inconsistencies.

RFP response best practices
  • Center responses on the customer’s benefits and experience
  • Keep responses as brief and direct as possible
  • Use plain language and avoid jargon
  • Make sure the proposal is skimmable
  • Use visuals and charts to illustrate data
Finalize your proposal design

Your proposal format and design should reinforce your brand, professionalism and reputation. In addition, the way your RFP response looks can communicate that your company is easy to work with and understands what the buyer needs.

Review for typos and revise as needed

Admittedly, you’ve probably read this proposal a dozen times at this point in the proposal process. However, don’t skip the final read-through. Grab a colleague and read the proposal from front to back one more time. Ask for feedback and keep an eye out for incomplete answers, typos and grammatical errors.

7. Create the summary and cover letter

After you’ve finished the RFP, write your executive summary and cover letter. These documents serve as a briefing document for stakeholders in the buyer’s organization who don’t have time to read the entire proposal. 

Creating these overview documents after the proposal enables you to give a true summary instead of predicting what SMEs and stakeholders will include before the proposal is complete. 

The executive summary

This is the very first page of your proposal. Indeed, it is your introduction to the buyer. As you write your RFP executive summary, consider that everyone who encounters your proposal will skim this page before deciding whether or not to read on. So, you need to make it count. Give a high-level overview of how you’ll empower their organization to meet their goals, offer your key differentiators and keep it brief.

The RFP cover letter

We all know that responding to RFPs isn’t always exciting. It’s simply the most efficient way to exchange and evaluate vendor data. Luckily, the RFP cover letter offers a way to create a human connection. Furthermore, it enables your organization to add a little personality, be conversational and make your proposal memorable. This is where you can express your understanding of the customer’s needs, share a customer story and offer your vision for a long-term partnership.

8. Finalize, submit and verify

At last, you’re done creating the proposal. It’s been proofed, reviewed (and reviewed again) and updated. Truly, it’s a masterpiece. Now, it’s time for final approval. Share the RFP response with your executive approver. 

Then, when you have the seal of approval, submit the proposal to the buyer for consideration. Remember to closely follow the submission requirements outlined in the RFP. Finally, it’s common for the buyer-side RFP contact to provide a record of receipt, it never hurts to request one. Certainly, the verification that they have your proposal in hand may set your mind at ease.

9. Debrief

Before you file away your completed RFP response, there’s one last step in the proposal process: the debrief. This final step, takes all of your hard work and sets you up for success when you receive your next RFP opportunity. 

During your debrief, review the proposal process. What worked well? How could your process improve? What new RFP responses or edits to old responses need to be added to your proposal content repository to be reused in the future? Use what you learned to make your next RFP response even more efficient and effective.

Common challenges in the proposal management process

Proposals are fast-paced, high-pressure and occasionally unpredictable. Unfortunately, that means that no matter how prepared you are, you may still run into a roadblock. Here you’ll find a few common proposal process challenges and how to navigate them.

Drawn out decisions to bid or not to bid

When RFPs come in, the clock starts ticking. Often, the only person who can hear the countdown loud and clear is the proposal manager. So, while sales, business operations, finance and executives debate the merits of participating, you’re losing precious time.

One of the best ways to combat this delay, is to use proposal management software to analyze the RFP and determine how many of the questions have already been answered previously. With this information, you can contribute to the bid/no-bid conversation and provide input regarding the amount of time and effort the proposal will take.

Lack of urgency and buy-in from SMEs

Subject matter experts are busy. Unfortunately, that means they can commonly become a bottleneck in the proposal timeline. When this happens, try to remember that they must juggle their full-time responsibilities as well as proposal team duties. 

So, try to make the process as easy on them as possible by making educated answer suggestions using your proposal content library. Even if the question varies slightly from a previous version, it’s easier for an SME to review and update than it is to create from scratch.

Competing stakeholder priorities

Creating concise and compelling answers is an art. As a proposal manager, you may need to tidy up, rework or edit the responses provided to you by stakeholders. Naturally, each of them is passionate about their area of expertise, believes that their contribution is perfect as is and will seal the deal. Often, this can result in a disagreement about what information is essential and what can be omitted.

In this situation, refer back to and lean on your established win themes. In addition, share your feedback with the stakeholder and explain why the level of detail they offered isn’t necessary at this juncture. Then, explain how the customer will receive the additional information when they need it if they select your organization for the opportunity.

Quick tips for a constantly improving proposal management process

  • Ask for stakeholder feedback and optimize to improve efficiency. Review your proposal management process to identify gaps and opportunities.
  • Make your proposal process transparent to your proposal team. Share updates throughout, review next steps and follow up with stakeholders.
  • Collaborate on proposals and answers in a centralized, cloud-based location. This avoids siloed information and tedious rework.
  • Schedule regular reviews and updates of your proposal content library to ensure confidence in the accuracy of your answers.
  • Explore RFP response tools and proposal automation to improve efficiency and empower you to participate in more RFPs.
  • Track your win rates and return on investment (ROI). Don’t be shy about highlighting your value to the company.

Admittedly, the proposal process is often complex and time-consuming. So, if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, you’re not alone. Manually managing the proposal team and process through Word, spreadsheets and email is exhausting. Luckily, proposal management software, like Responsive, streamlines the process from beginning to end.

Proposal review: How to avoid mistakes in your RFP responses

Proposal review: How to avoid mistakes in your RFP responses

Will your proposal win? From your executives to the sales team, it’s the question on everyone’s mind. However, the moment you click send and submit your RFP response, the outcome is entirely out of your hands. If you’re the proposal manager in charge of the RFP response, you might find yourself suddenly wishing you’d had more time to spend on the proposal review process.

It’s a common challenge facing proposal teams. How do you move quickly and meet deadlines while also dedicating enough time to reviewing your RFP response and ensuring you’re putting your best foot forward? It’s a constant balancing act.

Luckily, this blog is all about finding a proposal review process that works for you. First, we’ll discuss what a proposal review is and why it’s an important part of the RFP response process. Then, we’ll offer an overview of common review strategies so you can evaluate which approach is best for your team. Finally, you’ll learn tips and best practices for ensuring an effective review process that helps you get your proposals as close to perfect as possible.

What is a proposal review?

A proposal review, or request for proposal (RFP) response review, is the process of examining the content, format and messaging of an RFP response to ensure quality, accuracy, compliance and consistency. Proposal review is a standard step in the proposal process that occurs near the end of the proposal timeline.

Due to the complexity of RFPs, there are many aspects of the proposal to assess. Therefore, a proposal review is actually made up of several rounds of reviews focused on specific aspects of the RFP response.

Focus areas for RFP response reviews

  • Storytelling, cohesiveness and messaging
  • Competitive positioning and win themes 
  • Compliance and completeness
  • Pricing
  • Response accuracy and consistency
  • Spelling, grammar and brand compliance
  • Proposal format and visual elements

Each of these focus areas is important to the overall success of the proposal. And, despite each of these reviews having unique and specific focus, their ultimate goal is the same: to identify any errors to be corrected, points to be clarified or improvements to be made before the submission of the final proposal. In short, the purpose of these reviews is to make the proposal as close to perfect as possible.

Who does the RFP response review process involve?

Ultimately, the proposal manager is responsible for navigating the proposal process, including the RFP response reviews. In their role, they recruit qualified reviewers, coordinate review scheduling, provide guidance for each review team, settle disputes, seek clarification when needed and ensure edits are promptly implemented.

With so many nuanced proposal elements to consider, proposal managers depend on help from other members of the proposal team as well as stakeholders and executives within the business. Indeed, after dedicating hours to collecting, customizing and writing the proposal, a new perspective and a set fresh eyes to review the RFP response is absolutely essential.

Why establishing a proposal review process is important

It almost seems inevitable. The instant you submit your final proposal to the prospective customer, you’re bound to suddenly see an obvious error or a better way to phrase a crucial answer. Indeed, this frustrating feeling is all too common among proposal professionals. The relatable sentiment was recently shared by Jeremy Brim, proposal expert from the bid toolkit on LinkedIn.

Despite our best efforts, mistakes may happen. However, the proposal review process seeks to minimize the risk of missing a disqualifying error. After all, nothing stings more than losing an RFP opportunity over a small mistake.

Common approaches to the proposal review

There are a lot of different philosophies when it comes to proposal review. Some companies use a complex, multi-level review cycle for each and every proposal, while others find a scalable review process beneficial.

Similar to other common proposal practices like discussions of return on investment and to bid or not to bid, ideally, the complexity of your proposal review process should reflect the value of the RFP opportunity. Regardless of your specific approach, every RFP response deserves some level of pre-submission inspection ⁠— after all, if it’s worth responding to, it’s worth reviewing.

Simple two-person proposal review

Suitable for small businesses and simple RFPs, a simple proposal review minimizes the burden on your team and accounts for the most important elements of your RFP response. 

This process assumes that the proposal manager also wrote significant portions of the RFP. Consequently, it calls for two outside reviewers: one to check the messaging and compliance and one to read the proposal for consistency, grammar and formatting. Consider recruiting marketing or sales team members to complete these review tasks.

Proposal compliance matrix

For short RFPs with fairly straightforward requirements, a proposal compliance matrix can easily be used to facilitate your RFP response review. As you might expect from the name, the primary focus of this process is RFP criteria and requirement compliance rather than storytelling or persuasive messaging.

Thanks to the grid format, a member of the proposal team, stakeholder or executive can perform this review quickly. To facilitate deeper discussion of feedback, consider adding a column to your proposal compliance matrix to encourage reviewers to provide comments, corrections or suggestions for improving your proposal. Then, review the feedback with your team and take action to make any necessary updates.

The color team proposal review

The most in-depth approach is the color team review process. Indeed, this multi-team, multi-layer approach contains many reviews throughout the RFP response timeline. Accordingly, it’s well suited to lengthy, complex and highly-technical RFPs. For example, color team reviews are standard for businesses that primarily answer government agency and public sector RFPs.

In this model, each team is known by a particular color and is responsible for a specific focus area. While the practice of color team reviews is common, the size and responsibilities of each color team vary slightly from one business to the next. However, pink and red team reviews most frequently appear in the proposal review process.

Common color team review assignments

Pink team review

Generally, pink team reviews focus on content. They ensure that the proposal is compliant with the customer’s stated criteria, needs and expectations. For example, they might ask questions like: Is every answer complete? Does the proposal solve the customer’s needs? Are the established win themes carried throughout the content? Consider asking a proposal analyst, customer success professional and a sales team member to participate in the pink team review.

Red team review

Next is the red team review. Focused on the customer’s perspective, this team reads the review as if they were a proposal evaluator. Specifically, they ask questions like: Does the proposal tell a compelling story? Is it clear that we understand the customer’s business? Have we clearly expressed our plan for partnership? Good candidates for the red team include veteran employees, sales and marketing leaders and customer success professionals.

White team review

Sometimes referred to as white glove, this final review team reads the proposal from front to back looking for format consistency. Are the margins, fonts, headings and bullet points uniform? Does the table of contents match the following proposal page numbers? Are reference tables and data placed and sourced correctly? Were the edits from the pink and red team properly implemented? Are there any obvious printing errors? Ideally, the white team consists of detail-oriented professionals who have not yet been a part of the proposal development process.

Additional color teams

  • Blue – Outline and gap review
  • Black (Black hat) – Competitive analysis
  • Green – Pricing review
  • Gold – Edit implementation

Proposal review tips and best practices

Review tips for proposal managers

Go digital

Avoid distributing paper copies of the proposal for review. Spending time interpreting and comparing handwritten feedback is inefficient. Instead, consider using a shared document or, better yet, proposal software to centralize review notes, clarify edit tracking and streamline collaboration.

Set a schedule and stick to it

Finding volunteers to participate in the review process is typically fairly easy. However, keeping those reviewers on schedule when they juggle other duties is not always as straightforward. So, before assigning reviewers to teams, share your deadlines for feedback and get a firm commitment from them. Then, follow up as needed and be ready to call in a back up reviewer if they cannot meet the deadline or become unresponsive.

Find fresh eyes

Our brains are trained to save time. Unfortunately, this means that if you’ve written or read something once, your brain will automatically start trying to save you time by filling in words, skipping ahead and making assumptions. This is why getting a new perspective is one of the most valuable parts of a proposal review. Consequently, don’t let anyone do double duty, working both the proposal development team and the review team. Make sure as many fresh pairs of eyes review (and improve) your proposal as possible.

Provide a guide

Because many of your reviews should be new to the proposal content, you can’t assume they’ll know what they’re doing. Therefore, it’s a good idea to create and share a guide. Include a copy of the RFP with relevant sections or instructions highlighted. In addition, provide specific directions for what aspect of the proposal they should pay attention to as well as how they should provide feedback.

Best practices for proposal reviewers

Be prepared

Effective proposal reviewing takes a high level of focus. When you agree to be a part of the proposal review process, check the deadline for feedback and block time on your calendar. If possible, request and review a copy of the RFP prior to receiving the proposal so you have some background about the project.

Regularly consult the RFP

When reviewing, the customer’s RFP should be at hand at all times. Indeed, consider it your handbook, blueprint and instruction manual all in one. Because compliance is always a concern, each reviewer must understand how their feedback enhances compliance. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to the proposal manager for more information.

Provide actionable recommendations

Be kind to the proposal manager. As you review, remember that they have a big job and they’re counting on you for specific, clear feedback. For example, commenting “Need more info” on a response leaves them wondering what you mean, why you think that and how they can fix it. On the other hand, explaining “I think this question wants more information. I’d suggest we be more specific about our implementation process. Can we summarize step four here and provide our implementation guide as an attachment?” is much more helpful.

Review and win

Unfortunately, humans are imperfect, so mistakes will almost certainly make it into your proposals from time to time. However, with an organized proposal review process, you can significantly reduce risk and improve your chances of winning more RFP opportunities.

How to reclaim your work-life balance

How to reclaim your work-life balance

A skilled proposal manager is invaluable to their organization. They are as persuasive as the best salespeople. They are as precise as anyone in legal or finance. They nearly match their CEOs in company knowledge. They can wrangle stakeholders with techniques that rival horse herders — sans lassos. And they can turn a phrase as elegantly as Shakespeare.

That last one might be a slight exaggeration, but the ability to craft a compelling story is vital to a proposal professional’s skill set. It’s not an exaggeration to say that proposal managers are exceptionally hardworking. In fact, APMP reports that the more experienced they are, the more hours they find themselves at their office, remote or not. 

Where does that leave a proposal professional who also has (or wants) a life? How does an insanely busy proposal professional reclaim work-life balance? 

How the work world is out of balance

  • According to a recent McKinsey study, most people spend 20 percent of their time searching for content. Proposal teams and SMEs likely spend even more.
  • Many proposal teams still use manual processes and cannot reuse content.
  • Organizations cut costs in a down economy by freezing or reducing headcount.
  • All the while, proposal requests are more frequent and complex.

What the work world looks like when it’s in balance

  • Employees work normal hours
  • There’s more time to ensure quality, including doing QA, thoroughly checking responsiveness, discriminators, and so on, before submitting proposals.
  • There’s time to collaborate and work across organizations to ensure we’re putting our best foot forward.
  • We have time to use escalation matrices and responsibility matrices to keep everyone accountable and on track.
  • We’re able to gain recognition, both from the deals we win and internally from our business partners.
  • More significantly, we’re building our careers because we have time to be great at our jobs.

How to reclaim your work-life balance

External forces, such as the economy and a faster flow of more complex proposal requests, are generally out of your control. However, efficient and repeatable processes can help you free the time to manage an increased workload without working weekends.

Content management

I am passionate about content management because I believe gold-standard content makes every part of the proposal process successful. Without that, you are just running in circles. 

Incorporate these four steps into your content management process to prevent having to spend more than 20 percent of your time searching for information, and instead repurposing that time to write compelling responses — and perhaps log off at 5 p.m.

  • Designate a championA champion is a decision-maker, typically an executive or proposal manager.
  • Clean out ROTROT refers to content that’s redundant (duplicate or similar content), outdated (expired or sunsetted) or trivial (deal- or client-specific). Content library software helps ensure your library of answers is ROT-free. 
  • Respect SMEs’ time – Subject matter experts are in demand, and there’s nothing that will make them more reluctant to work with you than having to repeat themselves time and time again. An up-to-date content library lets them simply review their previous answers.
  • Automate processes – When you automate lower-value processes, it frees humans to be more productive and create more winning responses. 

Pro tip: Style your content from the very beginning using Microsoft Word. When you’re ready to use that content, it will seamlessly export to the brandable, customizable response template of your choice, as long as the style has the same naming convention. The result is an elegant document that demonstrates polish and professionalism. 

If you keep your naming conventions consistent throughout your organization, any department can import content to their preferred templates.

Content analytics

Sophisticated, customizable reporting capabilities with digestible charts and graphs provide the insights needed to improve work processes, demonstrate value, even when you regularly sign off at 5 p.m., and help craft a path for an impressive ROI. 

  • Identify/prioritize gold-standard content – Use data to holistically audit your library of content to ensure accuracy, timeliness and relevance. 
  • Measure time – Are team members using the library? Are they spending too much time searching for content?
  • Demonstrate value – Gain executive and SME buy-in by producing data that shows less time spent on crafting and recrafting faster, risk-averse responses.
  • Craft ROI path – Analyze trends to see how your current project compares to others and compares manual responses to those using stored answers that can be automated.

Building a business case for content reviews

Reclaiming work-life balance is all about prioritizing high-value activities, delegating to the right people, creating processes that work and proving that you don’t have to work 50+ hours a week to accomplish your KPIs. 

However, in austere times, organizations expect more productivity using fewer, or at least value-proven, resources. That means that their own time considerations might make SMEs deprioritize regular content audits and RFX responses, especially since response management is not their full-time job. 

Gain executive and SME buy-in, and create champions to advocate for you, through your content review processes. 

  • Choose a review cycle cadence – Work with SMEs to determine whether to review your content monthly, quarterly or annually. It usually depends on the type of content. Corporate content changes quickly, so you might schedule quarterly reviews. Review product content every 6-12 months or when there’s a new product release. Review evergreen content every 12-24 months, because even it can change.
  • Implicate risk – Communicate and implicate the risk of outdated content through content reviews. For example, using content that was customized with another customer’s name shows a lack of professionalism. Outdated or incorrect content may even present a litigation risk. 
  • Run POC with a single team/group – Rather than lobby for an organization-wide content review, start with a single team or group.
  • Demonstrate potential value – Demonstrate to SMEs that their work matters by showing how often and successfully you rely on their content.
  • AI Assistant – SMEs wear a lot of hats but they are generally not writers. Capabilities like the RFPIO AI Assistant help polish and perfect responses by:
    • Offering suggestions to help break through writer’s block
    • Elaborating on existing content as needed
    • Creating more concise responses
    • Optimizing content readability
    • Changing verbs from passive to active
    • Writing in plain language
    • Organizing content under headings 

Note that AI Assistant trains on your content library and your information will remain private within your organization. 

Collaboration and process

A rising tide lifts all ships. By bringing your team in, including SMEs, some of your salespeople, and so on, you’re building a community to successfully work within the RFPIO platform. 

  • Unify and automate – Your content library is a single source of truth, and as it continues to evolve, you build more trust from SMEs and other stakeholders. It’s a foundation for responses of all sorts throughout the organization.
  • Breakdown silos – Having a repository like the RFPIO Content Library is a company asset and valuable in every department. 
  • Achieve partnership goals – Lean into relationships and the opportunities created by those relationships.
  • Share the proposal content (by definition, your best content) love – Keep content creators happy by letting them know that their content was a key component of a response — preferably one you’ve won.


When usable content is not available to those who might need it, you erode trust and risk that content that hasn’t passed an audit process may be sent to prospects or others within your organization. 

With a platform like RFPIO, clean, accurate proposals presented on time and in a professional, branded format build trust and demonstrate competency. A well-curated RFPIO Content Library lets you forge and maintain relationships inside and outside of your organization. It proves your value to SMEs, executives and anyone who might need to access company information. 

And more on point, AI Assistant and a well-curated content library will help you fulfill executives’ goal of accomplishing more with less, without sacrificing your work-life balance. 

Your RFPIO Content Library is about so much more than just a resource of Q&As. It helps maintain compliance, optimize productivity, generate revenue, and gives time back to you. We invite you to request a customized demo to see how.

The perfect B2B proposal is 8 steps away

The perfect B2B proposal is 8 steps away

This guest blog exploring how to create the perfect B2B proposal was contributed by Alex Souchoroukof, a B2B expert from Moosend.

Proposals of every type can be intimidating. However, business-to-business, or B2B proposals, are particularly high pressure. Think about it … You’re sending a presentation, encouraging someone to choose you and hoping that they will see the value and why you’re the best fit for a particular job. 

Writing a business proposal requires, first of all, an understanding of the potential client’s problem. If you are responding to an RFP, you have a head start. However, that’s not always the case. If you’re creating a proactive proposal, creating personas based on the type of business you want to win can be helpful. When you find the pain point of the business you want to work with, everything becomes more manageable.

However, keep in mind that even the most well-presented solutions can get rejected due to several reasons. Today, our job is to explore the strategy to write proposals that get ‘Yes’ as an answer. We’ll start with the basic structure of a B2B proposal, then I’ll offer eight easy steps to help you build a perfect proposal as well as quick tips. So, let’s begin.

The basic structure of your B2B proposal

Getting started

To start writing a B2B proposal, begin as you would for any other writing project ⁠—  gather all the necessary information. When I say information, I mean anything you can find about the client and industry.

It can be rewarding for you to solve problems in their industry or discuss current trends as this will paint you as an authoritative industry expert. Another element to add to your toolbox is what separates your company from the market competitors. Keep these differentiators in mind throughout the proposal process to ensure the buyer knows why they should pick you. Finally, you may find it helpful to create a business proposal outline to guide your efforts.

3 things your buyer wants to know

Building a business proposal can vary based on industry, company size, and many other factors. In any case, certain elements are always crucial. The following three factors are what the recipient will focus on when receiving your proposal:

  1. Information about your company: Who are you, your testimonials and what makes you different from your competitors.
  2. Expertise on a particular problem: Show that you’ve done your research, but you are also open to listening.
  3. Methodology and pricing: How exactly are you going to solve the client’s problem, and how much will it cost?

We’ll take a look at an example of a social media agency proposal below, but remember that the basic structure applies to just about any B2B proposal.

Here are the 8 steps of a business proposal

Whether you create your proposal manually or automate the process with RFP software, following these 8 steps will ensure you cover all your bases in your B2B proposal.

Step 1. Title page

This includes necessary information, like your company logo, your company’s name, contact information, a title and your client’s name. It should be organized and have a simple design.

For example, your title page could look something like this:

Step 2. A cover letter

Introducing your business is the first priority after the title page. Your potential customer can’t dive into project specifics without knowing who you are and what you stand for.

Use the proposal cover letter to introduce yourself and your background and highlight why you’re the right choice.

Encourage your recipient to reach out with any questions. Keep it formal but personal and friendly and close your cover letter with a thank you and your signature.

B2B cover letter example

To better understand what a cover letter should look like, here is an example:

Dear David,

Thank you for considering “your_business” for your social media needs. I’m excited to have the opportunity to connect so that my team and I could clearly understand your social marketing plan and expectations.

We specialize in working with automotive companies in the Delaware area and got started when an agent asked us to come up with a social media campaign back in 2002. It was a huge success, and the owner was able to double his sales in two months.

Unlike our competition, we approach social media marketing by looking at your target market, core values, and best practices to craft a compelling message that resonates directly with your audience.

By implementing social media tactics and using procedures based on a study of social media marketing trends and extensive analysis results, we are confident in our ability to achieve great results through your social media.

Our proposal provides the complete social media marketing package to help your business grow and meet its digital world goals.

Let me know if you have further questions. I would be more than happy to discuss them with you. My contact information is below.

Thank you for your time,


Remember that each industry has unique characteristics, so you need to apply the same rules but tweak some of the content to ensure that it fits your specific needs.

Step 3. Provide a table of contents

Including a table of contents can help with your proposal’s overall structure and provide a more concise result. It helps readers understand what to expect and where to find it in the document.

If you send the B2B proposal electronically, you can have a clickable table of contents to make the user experience better. This step applies when you have a proposal on multiple pages. In any other case with smaller proposals, a table of contents is not necessary. 

Step 4. Executive summary

Here is your chance to shine by setting the proposal’s tone and purpose. The executive summary gives the customer key information ⁠— why are you reaching out, and why should the client be interested in reading it? Make it relevant, engaging and highlight the client’s problem you are about to solve.

Let’s see a brief example:

This proposal outlines a detailed plan with the intent of building your social media presence on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

Our team creates brand awareness through these social media channels, drives more traffic to the website and increases your company’s reach. 

Our team helps automotive businesses come closer to their ideal customers through:

  • Creating an engaging content marketing strategy
  • Posting industry-related updates
  • Social media campaigns and promotions
  • Monitoring
  • Analytics

Your executive summary shifts depending on the industries and the customer’s needs. You can have a different approach in the tone of your summary based on the recipient. 

Step 5. The proposal

The sales proposal itself is an expanded version of the executive summary. By that, I mean that here you detail the solution you are offering and the outcome you expect from this project. Focus on the benefits to the customer. Remember to address their specific needs and highlight how you solve their problems.

Always provide a timeframe and next steps so the customer knows how to move forward with your business. Follow this structure and reiterate why you are the one for the job.

Step 6. Services and methodology

The proposal section is an overview of the solution your company offered for the potential client. This section gets into the specifics of how you will execute your plan. Take them through the process so they know what they’re signing on for when they hire you.

Describe precisely what the deliverables are and have a timetable that pairs deliverables with their expected date. This can make your proposal more visually appealing.

Example of services and methodology section of a B2B proposal

To better understand this crucial step, here is an example using our social media service scenario:

Creating an engaging content marketing strategy

Beginning with content marketing planning, our team will schedule a dynamic, ongoing social content calendar to achieve your goals.

We will grow a loyal audience with: use of keywords, hashtags, sharing/retweeting relevant news, “liking” posts and contributing content to expand reach within the industry. 

Posting industry-related updates

We will monitor industry trends, share them and engage with your audience by sharing press releases, company news, events and more. To further improve conversions, we will create a newsletter to ensure that we grow a loyal audience base via email.

Social media campaigns and promotions

Social channels connect with your follower base and engage them with promotions so they get excited about current events and the brand itself.

Depending on the campaign, they can last from one day up to six months. Then, our team analyzes the results from each campaign and provides a report of its success. All the campaigns’ data are compared so the most effective promotions, contests or offers can be replicated.


It is essential to maintain marketing activity for maximum growth. We monitor each channel and respond to any comments, questions and posts within two hours. This window of time allows us to confirm that we have accurate information for any question.


Our team provides you with daily and weekly analytics, such as follower growth, demographics, reach and more. We combine all these elements with reports summarizing all the results over each quarter. Subsequently, we hold a meeting with you to optimize our approach accordingly.

There are many ways you can craft your proposal. In fact, it may be totally different from this example. Certainly, it will depend on your writing skills and the services you provide. Having this as a framework will ensure that you are on the right track to add any necessary details for you specifically.

Step 7. About us

The about us page is the section in which you can humanize your business. People trust people, and although we covered most of our business capabilities in the cover letter, here we can expand on the team members. 

Add brief bios and photos of the people in your team that will work on this project. Include information about past successes, social proof or even awards. In addition, include testimonials from other clients or even case studies.

Step 8. Pricing

This section is self-explanatory. Create a pricing table with all the products and services you offer and pair them with a price.

If you send your proposal electronically, a great way to take it to the next level is to have an interactive pricing table. This table will calculate the total cost depending on the products or services that a client chooses.


Bonus quick tips to improve your B2B proposal writing

A well-crafted proposal needs to engage the potential client and guide them to find all the crucial information easily. Here are some tactics to help you:

Use visuals to help the reader to more quickly understand what you are trying to say. It can be infographics, pie charts, or even headshots of your team in your About Us section.

Include quantitative data that can encourage the client to diminish possible objections. Social proof is a great way to add value and create a proposal that converts. Also, figures catch the eye and help build a better relationship and trust.

Send your proposal electronically to leverage the power of the digital world. By doing this, you can include clickable links and videos about your product or service, or even help your client sign electronically.

Always check your proposal before you hit send. You want your first impressions with a new client to be ideal so avoid typos or grammar mistakes. Typos send the wrong message that you don’t pay attention to details.

The takeaway

B2B proposals are essential to get your message across to other businesses. A well-crafted proposal needs to follow specific guidelines so that the recipient has a clear understanding of what you are offering. Visuals, data and structure play a vital role in the effectiveness of a proposal.

Follow the steps above and start improving your next B2B proposal to build the best relationship possible even before the first meeting. Remember that depending on the industry you are in, you may change different elements to make your proposal more specific to your niche.

If you’d like to learn how Responsive can help you craft professional and winnable responses each and every time, schedule a no-cost demo

Proposal templates, formats and tools: Create better RFP responses faster

Proposal templates, formats and tools: Create better RFP responses faster

Responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) can be stressful. There are so many questions to answer. For instance, what information should you include? How do you make your RFP response memorable? What are the best proposal templates to use? How do you make your business stand out from competitors that offer similar solutions?  What should your proposal design look like? Where will you find the time to gather all the necessary information?

These questions are common. And, in this article, we’ll answer them as we cover these topics:

Investing in an RFP strategy

Naturally, everyone understands the potential value of winning an RFP. Unfortunately, far too often, businesses don’t concern themselves with the cost.

On average, most organizations spend 30 hours on every RFP response, and their win rate is only 10%. In other words, they respond to 10 RFPs, spending a total of 300 hours, before they win a single deal.

That’s a significant investment of time and money. And in some cases, it’s a gamble that doesn’t pay off.

The average cost of responding to an RFP

Let’s estimate the cost of creating an RFP response. It’s fair to assume that the RFP response work is done mostly by a proposal manager. On average, according to recent data from, they average around $106,000 per year. Using that figure, we can quantify just how costly the proposal process really is.

Broken down by hour, proposal managers earn about $50.00. If they were the only proposal team members involved in the process, it would cost $1,500.00 to respond to an RFP.

However, you also must consider that many of those hours are worked by subject matter experts (SMEs) as well as executive reviewers and approvers. Typically, these experts and executives earn substantially more than proposal managers. With this in mind, it’s easy to create a picture of the true cost of creating proposals and responding to RFPs.

Additionally, when sales and marketing efforts are included to calculate the total cost, most organizations spend thousands more to win a single deal.

Mark Vignolo, Manager of Sales and Engineering at Viewpoint, faced this problem first-hand.

“Common RFPs we received had 200-300 questions, all listed in Excel. Issues really started to show up when we had to split those questions out to different people.” Mark said. “We tended to lose a lot of time just handing it off and bringing the information back.”

Fortunately, there are tried and true strategies for increasing the return on investment for responding to RFPs.

5 strategies to improve your RFP ROI

To improve RFP ROI, you must reduce proposal response time (efficiency) and increase proposal wins (effectiveness).

Here are the primary ways to accomplish those goals:

  1. Use proven proposal templates — RFP response templates give you a head start and a format to follow as you customize your proposal to meet your customers’ needs.
  2. Learn from RFP response examples — Sometimes, instructions in a template can’t paint the full picture. In that case, seeing a completed proposal example for a service similar to yours is helpful.
  3. Improve consistency with a response to RFP outline — An RFP outline ensures you include all the crucial elements of a proposal in the first draft. Consequently, it helps you avoid rework as the RFP deadline rapidly approaches.
  4. Leverage proposal management software with RFP automation — Proposal management software is transformative when it comes to speeding up your proposal process. Specifically, it centralizes your proposal content library, improves SME and executive collaboration, empowers RFP automation and streamlines workflows.
  5. Explore proposal tools to improve writing, design and messaging There are a lot of great (and affordable) RFP response tools that speed your proposal timeline while improving your chances of winning the RFP.

Thanks to the knowledge and experience of our founders, internal RFP experts, customers and independent research, we put together a list of the best proposal templates, RFP response examples, proposal formats and tools you can use to simplify your RFP process.

Beyond the tools covered here, we can also learn how to create a successful RFP response process from customer stories.

The best proposal templates

The quickest way to consistently create RFP responses that work is by following a successful proposal template. Proposal templates offer a strong foundation to start from when building your proposal.

However, customization is crucial. No two RFPs are ever exactly the same, therefore, no two RFP responses should be identical. Remember, the organization you’re responding to has unique needs and challenges. Make sure you tailor your proposal messaging to best showcase how your business is the perfect fit to help them meet their goals.

Free marketing proposal template

Hubspot has dozens of free proposal templates geared toward any sort of organization. This marketing proposal template stands out as comprehensive and very well put together. 

It includes:

  • Tips such as adding proposed team member headshots along with their titles and profiles
  • A pricing calculator to help you avoid mathematical errors
  • Step-by-step, fill-in-the-blank template for creating a proposal that engages your leads and demonstrates why it’s important for the client to use your company as a tool for success
  • Proven, actionable messaging strategies that improve client conversion rates (and why what you’re saying is important)

5-page proposal template

This proposal template, created by consultant Jonathan Stark, is built for entrepreneurs, but it’s perfect for almost any organization. It was designed to “show you how to write proposals in a fraction of the time, increase your close rate and stop leaving money on the table.”

Jonathan Stark, the consultant who created the template, reports that he has closed “well over seven figures of business with this exact template.”

It covers:

  • How to structure the proposal
  • How many options to provide
  • Why you should focus on benefits, not deliverables
  • How to anchor your prices to the outcome, not your hours
  • What pricing terms to include
  • What to negotiate — and what not to negotiate!

Additional RFP response templates

These sites also offer free proposal templates:
  1. OpenOffice – Proposal and RFP response templates in Word and Office Suite compatible programs
  2. – Free downloadable proposal templates that are heavily designed and primarily focus on vendors who provide professional services
  3. Smartsheet – Offers RFP response templates in Word, Google docs and PDF
  4. Fedmarket – If you’re pursuing federal opportunities, this template is designed for government RFP opportunities and popular in the federal contracting world

Excellent RFP response examples

If you’ve found a proposal template you like, but still need some inspiration for filling it out, look no further. These five RFP response examples come from five different industries. However, each of them is memorable thanks to their content or their format. For inspiration, explore these proposal examples and make note of the things that you liked or didn’t like. Then, add those to your proposal template.

LCG Pence Construction education construction RFP response example

While this proposal example doesn’t include all of our recommended RFP outline sections, it stands out for its professionalism and use of visual elements. Indeed, the cover page, table of contents and cover letter provide a good introduction. And, later in the proposal, the company provides bios with photos, project plans and charts to reinforce their expertise.

5by5 website design and development proposal example

The messaging in this proposal is what stands out. Indeed, the proposal is friendly, approachable and inspiring. In addition, 5by5 does a great job of highlighting key information like their business culture, a project timeline and straightforward pricing.

JanPro Cleaning Systems proposal example

This proposal example is very easy to read and includes bullet-pointed lists, short paragraphs and company branding. In addition, the company provides its standard cleaning contract to speed the closing process if selected.

KnowInk RFP response example for polling services

This proposal is a good example of a winning bid because we know this company went to contract with the customer. Government proposals tend to be fairly dry and visually uninteresting, so KnowInk stood out by using modern graphics in their brand colors. This sample RFP is heavily redacted due to the sensitive details included, but it still offers a good example of a proposal format that wins.

Recommended RFP outline

There is no one-size-fits-all proposal outline because some industries have particular requirements. However, there are key elements almost every proposal should have.

Below is a standard proposal outline along with professional tips and ideas to keep in mind while you’re writing. To create your outline, review the RFP and jot down a few ideas for each of these sections. Then, you can quickly work from your outline to create focused messaging that resonates with your prospect.

1. RFP cover letter

First things first — introduce yourself. Your RFP cover letter offers the buyer a first impression of your company. In addition, it can be used to create or deepen your connection with the customer, reinforce your expertise and quickly highlight your key differentiators. In the cover letter section of your RFP outline, you should include space for these main components:

  • Addressees
  • Greeting and introduction
  • Summary of RFP needs
  • Your qualifications and differentiators
  • Thank you and closing
Here’s a helpful example so you can see it in action. More info: For additional advice and a step-by-step guide, read our RFP cover letter blog.

2. Executive summary

In the second part of your RFP outline, the executive summary, you must convey the benefits you deliver while you show the client that you understand their challenge or need. Remember, the person reading this page is likely very busy, needs a high-level overview and is a big influence on the final outcome. Therefore, executive summary best practices focus on high-impact, but short messaging.

Executive summary best practices

  • Keep your message customer-centric
  • Be brief
  • Leverage your knowledge library
  • Make sure it makes sense without the help of the proposal
  • Follow instructions exactly
Here’s a good example of what your RFP executive summary should look like:

Ultimately, the executive summary helps the buyer decide if they’re going to continue reading, quickly skim your proposal or forget about it entirely.

More info: How to write a winning RFP executive summary—er, briefing (with template)

3. About us

The about us section — also known as the management overview — explains your story and qualifications. Brag about yourself a little. Set yourself apart from the competition by being creative about your strengths.

You aren’t small; you’re adaptive. You aren’t inexperienced; you bring a fresh new perspective. Be proud of your accomplishments. This is your time to shine, to show the client what makes you unique.

Without tooting our own horn, we think the About page on our website can give you a good idea of how to handle this section. Just like on a website, the about us section of your proposal is all about demonstrating your strengths and how those strengths will benefit the reader.

4. Answers to RFP questions

Specific customer questions and your responses are what make RFPs such a useful tool for comparing vendors. So, in this section, you’ll work to create winning RFP responses with your proposal team.

Pay attention to the content and length of your answers. While you want your answers to be thorough and customer-centric, you don’t want to make reading this section a chore. It’s always a good idea to check your proposal content library for similar questions you’ve answered in the past to save time.

5. Project schedule

Lay out the contract schedule using milestones and key dates. This will help the client visualize where they’ll be in the future.

What will their world look like? Detail when you will finish certain tracks of work and what outcomes the client can expect. Don’t get into specifics just yet—you can sort that out in the implementation plan.

6. Contract details

How will you manage the contract in terms of supervision, communication and quality assurance? What will you need from the customer to succeed? Will you conduct status meetings? How often? What sort of specific information will you report? Will the customer’s main contact transition to a customer success representative?

Use this section to reassure your customer that you have a strong process in place. Give them the outline of your plan to keep them engaged and satisfied.

7. Implementation plan

Here’s where you can sort out the details of your onboarding and roll-out plan. The work plan should tie into the overall schedule summary and will likely include some assumptions and time estimates. A matrix is a great way to display this information. Some people like to use week 0, week 1, etc. instead of specific dates. That is especially helpful if you don’t have a firm start date mandated. Just try to be as specific as possible. Other details to cover include:

  • Risks or potential problems
  • Location of the work or team (on-site, off-site)
  • Project staffing (by name or job title)
In most cases, the project manager handles the implementation plan. Just remember to set realistic timelines and expectations that set your team up for success.

8. Price

You can’t expect to close a deal without working through the price. That’s where your proposal budget comes into play.

When creating a proposal budget, you must consider five key factors:

  • Salaries
  • Research and development
  • Travel costs
  • Operational expenses
  • Profit margin
The goal is basically to show the prospect what they can expect to pay and to justify the cost.

9. References and case studies

Your potential customer wants to see proof and examples of your past successes. Generally, they are most interested in companies that had a similar need and want to read case studies. Sometimes they also want to talk to references, so having client advocates is always really helpful.

An inside look at proposal management software

Key time-saving features of RFP response software

RFP management software is designed to make the proposal process more efficient and effective. There are a number of key features that make that possible. For example, an intelligent proposal content library to store RFP responses, a customized proposal template library, collaborative workflow tools and more.

We know that, sometimes, seeing is believing. So, below we’ll explore these features and provide an inside look at how they work in Responsive.

Proposal content management
We’ve all heard that content is king. But it’s not enough to just create it; we have to be able to find it, update it and collaborate to optimize it. RFP software can help:

Your RFP system centralizes your RFP knowledge and answers, making it easy to find and update past responses. It also tracks edits, sends reminders to update responses and provides key RFP data.

Proposal template library
Store and reuse your most successful proposals so you can quickly create consistent, winning RFP responses.

Collaborate with your proposal team and SMEs
RFP response software is cloud-based. Consequently, version control becomes a thing of the past. Multiple stakeholders and SMEs can work on answers at the same time, making it easy to collaborate on proposals.

Manage the proposal process
For proposal managers, RFP software makes tracking progress easy. RFP management dashboards provide real-time updates on each task. These are visible to contributors as well so they always know what to do next.

Ultimately, the important thing is that RFP Software should streamline the RFP process ⁠— saving you time and winning more bids.

Tips and tools for proposal writing and design

In addition to RFP software, there are a lot of RFP response tools available to make your messaging more effective and your proposal process more efficient. Below you’ll find some of my favorites.

Guides to creating great content

10 simple edits that will instantly improve any piece of writing
Let’s start with some basic guidelines for writing any kind of content. Hubspot created this post to serve as a quick reference and reminder for writers. It explores how to make your content readable, relatable and engaging.

A writing GPS: The step-by-step guide to creating your next piece of content
This infographic, by the talented Ann Handley, walks through the writing process. From setting goals to reviewing, it provides guidance to ensure your final proposal achieves your goals and is error-free.

801 power words that pack a punch and convert like crazy
Sometimes, simple word substitution makes a big difference. Rather than digging through a thesaurus, start with this post from SmartBlogger about power words. It offers a list of words that are impactful and leave a lasting impression.

Proposal design tools

Just like we dress for success, we should likewise ensure our proposals are both professional and visually appealing. Including photos and infographics engages the reader and illustrates your value and data.

Free resources for photos

  • Unsplash — A constantly growing collection of free photos
  • PicJumbo — Another great collection of photos including a wide range of subjects
  • Hubspot — Hubspot put together an exhaustive list of free stock photo sites
  • Gratisography – Unique and quirky photos
  • Smithsonian Open Access — 2.8 million historic, iconic public domain photos

Free resources for proposal infographics and editing

  • Canva — Free resource to create proposal templates and infographics
  • Venngage — Source for easy-to-create infographics 
  • Piktochart — Create attractive charts to illustrate powerful data

RFP response best practices from experts

Of course, all of the above proposal templates, tools and RFP response format examples won’t do any good if you don’t know how to use them to create compelling content that helps you win new deals.

That’s why we’ve compiled advice from sales and marketing experts to help you develop proposals that win.

Be thorough, but simple

“Companies spend a substantial amount of time and energy creating an RFP that will level the playing field for their potential vendors and garner the exact information they need to reach a decision. Give them what they ask for. When we prepared our RFP responses, we were thorough, but simple. We made our pitch early and often, providing only the necessary details to illustrate why our company could add more value than our competitors. Including information outside of the set guidelines may cause your proposal to be bypassed.”

Tom Gimbel, CEO, LaSalle Network

Address the challenges your prospect wants to overcome

“Instead of focusing on what you have to offer your prospect, your proposals should focus on the key problems your prospect wants to solve. In particular, the beginning portions of your proposals should address the challenges your prospect wants to overcome. This will effectively turn your proposals into working documents that outline specific client objectives—a powerful tool.”

Marc Wayshak, founder of Sales Strategy Academy and best-selling author of Game Plan Selling

Don’t confuse your reader

“Acronyms, technical slang and other jargon will turn your reader off faster than a sleazy pitch. Don’t confuse your reader by trying to sound smart, that’s bad for sales and bad for you.”

Mary Cullen, founder and president of Instructional Solutions and internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach

How to use your new RFP response toolkit

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry. We covered a lot — from RFP response templates to proposal format advice, expert tips and more. But putting it all together is easier than you might think.

  • First, select the RFP response template that works best for your situation
  • Then, use the formatting advice to customize the content in the most effective way possible
  • Next, evaluate which tools and technology will best support your RFP response process
  • Finally, look over the expert tips and advice to ensure your proposal content is compelling, and persuasive and positions your organization to win

Not too bad, right? Now, you have all the tools and resources to efficiently and effectively respond to your next RFP.

See how it feels to respond with confidence

Why do 250,000+ users streamline their response process with RFPIO? Schedule a demo to find out.