Two of my passions
are getting increased attention-golf and proposal writing. Now, the
growing numbers of golfers-male and female-is understandable given the
social and competitive aspects of the game and the Tiger Woods' phenomenon.
But why is proposal writing receiving more attention? Simple-it relates
to the changing way we are doing business.
Many companies have
downsized. This, in turn, has led to an increase in the number of people
who have opted into consulting or small business fields. Therefore,
there are a greater number of suppliers able to provide similar products/services.
To ensure they get the best pricing and support, purchasers are now
requiring vendors to submit proposals.
In addition, government
mandates now require staff not only to put potential vendors through
an exhaustive tendering process but also to be able to prove their own
delivery of programs is cost-effective. What this means is that proposal
writing is fast becoming an art and a requisite for successful business
But why mention
golf and proposals in the same article? What can they possibly have
in common? The answer came to me last week just after I had finished
an extensive proposal and had rewarded myself with a trip to the links.
1. When you approach
the tee for the initial shot, you address the ball and visualize the
success of your first stroke-it will travel straight down the fairway.
The secret to a good proposal is to start by addressing the audience.
Open with your understanding of their needs or problems. This section
can be long or short, but it must be direct. It shouldn't hook or slice
into concerns the reader doesn't know he has.
2. As you approach
the green, carefully select the appropriate clubs-the ones that work
for you. Heed the advice of the other players but know what you can
deliver and keep focused on what is required. After all, you're the
one who has to make the shot. A colleague recently shared with me a
proposal based on an RFP (Request for a Proposal) that was submitted
by his company. I don't believe it will succeed. The response was writer-focused
not RFP-driven. In other words, the writing team spent too much time
bragging about what they wanted to deliver rather than focusing on how
they could give the reader what he requested.
3. When you are
on the green, take your time. Watch the lie; putt cleanly and boldly.
And, at the end of the hole add up your strokes. Be honest. As you come
to the end of the proposal, include the time-frames and the costs clearly.
Don't include deadlines you can't meet or complicated pricing. You'll
lose your credibility for future jobs.
4. Outside the clubhouse,
look around you. Who is ready for the game? What are their chosen tools?
Steel or graphite shafts? Alloy or titanium heads? Do the chosen clubs
reflect the golfer's skill? Are they right for that particular course?
A high-tech driver is overkill on a short par three hole.
When you are finished
your proposal, add the appropriate window-dressing. Too much glitz will
cause your readers to wonder if you are masking a lack of substance.
On the other hand, too little attention to the cosmetic aspects-the
title page, table of contents, binding, etc.-will convey a lack of attention
to details that may carry over into the actual work. Remember a strong,
steady game will give you long-term success in both the proposal writing
and golfing fields.