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Writing Business Proposals – Should I Invest the Effort?

Before writing business proposals it is critical that you stop, at least briefly, and consider whether the time and energy you’re going to invest in your proposal will get an appropriate return on investment – and if not then don’t waste your resources.

If you want to dramatically increase your proposal success rate then don’t chase business you cannot win – before you invest in writing business proposals make a ‘bid / no bid’ decision. Do it every time – it’s easy!

Why bother with a “bid/no-bid” decision?

Every you go about preparing a business proposal, win or lose, it costs you in a lot of ways – some of which you may not have considered:

  • Financial Costs  These are obvious – all of the costs associated with proposal preparation (man-hours cost, consumables costs etc.) are marketing costs, and are just as real as those associated with advertising, PR, brochure production, mailing and so on. Writing business proposals is expensive. Think of the time you spend before you commit to spending on any of these more obvious marketing expenses – shouldn’t you think carefully before jumping in and getting involved in a bid process that’s going to use up your valuable time and money?
  • Opportunity Cost

What other, more profitable business might you have won and delivered if you weren’t wasting your time on patently unsuitable deal opportunities.

  • Confidence Cost

How does the team feel if it loses deal after deal, even if it because the opportunity wasn’t really suitable? Unnecessary lost deals hurt team morale and drive. Before writing business proposals take all possible steps to avoid unnecessarily lost deals.

  • Profile Cost

How does it look to the market when you are seen to chase multiple opportunities and win only a small percentage? How does it look if you pursue every opportunity that comes your way- what positioning message does it send about the business you’re in?

How Do You Make The “Bid/No-Bid” Decision?

Analyse every opportunity using the straightforward three-step proposal evaluation process illustrated in the figure below before you commit:

Writing Business Proposals


1. Use a “Bid/No-bid Questionnaire” to Qualify

Produce a standard “Bid/No-bid Questionnaire” to help you in qualifying opportunities. Be sure that you are satisfied that every opportunity tests well on every count before even considering investing in pursuing the business. Your questionnaire should include at least the following questions:

  • Where has the opportunity come from?
  • Are we technically capable of doing the work?
  • Will we need extra resources (people or equipment etc.)to complete this work and can we cost to cover this?
  • Is this our kind of work? Does it send the right message to existing and prospective clients?
  • Do we particularly want this work/client, would it help to put our company “on the map”?
  • Who is our competition on this deal and can we beat them?
  • If we do win how will this affect current business commitments?
  • In landing this deal might we lose or upset an existing, valued client or some other prospective business?
  • Could we achieve a better return on our investment of time, effort and cost in preparing this proposal if we focused our energies on other opportunities?
  • Is the opportunity “rigged” for some other supplier – are we just “making up the numbers”?
  • Is this a “decoy” opportunity – an opportunity formulated by the client to get some free research/consultation – will you end up wiritng a business propsoial just to help build a specification for a project to be undertaken in-house?
  • Is there is a definite budget for this project?
  • What is the prospect’s payment/credit record, can we afford to business with them?

The Bottom Line

In the end the bid/no-bid decision making process can be distilled to four basic questions that you should make a standard part of your sales process – using them to test all opportunities:

Writing Business Proposals


Run this proposal evaluation every time you consider writing business proposals and you are taking conscious control of your proposal hit rate.

Return to the Free Business Proposal Course home page.

Return to Step 1 of the proposal course ‘What is a Business Proposal?’

Move ahead to Step 3 of the business proposal course ‘Analyze The Client Requirement’