Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 31

7 Essential Steps to Building a
Best Practice Proposal
1. Understand the RFP. Does it hinge on legal requirements? A new service or process? A company looking for
a new contractor or partner? Is there an internal requirement? "Understanding the 'why' can help guide your strategy," says Jim Creedon, president of Creedon Management
Associates.
2. Spot Warning Signs. Is the RFP the same as the last
RFP? What is the timeframe for the response? What is
required in terms of materials and experience? "Sometimes, it is wise to say 'no' upfront and put your energy
elsewhere," says Creedon.
3. Look for Clues in the RFP. Does the RFP make multiple
requests for certain information? Does it refer to previous
projects? What is the time period for questions, responses,
review and presentations? Who is on the selection committee and what selection criteria will they use? These factors
provide clues about how to structure the proposal.
4. Focus on Key Factors that Make a Proposal Effective.
Clarity is critical. Avoid the obvious and present ideas that
motivate the reader to obtain more information. Package
the information in a digestible format. "Finally, if you are
not qualified for the project, do not try to make it up. It is
OK to say 'no,'" says Creedon.
5. Make the Proposal Interesting. Include a crisp and
clear executive summary, present fresh ideas, make the
ideas compelling and show how your firm will generate
value for the client. Avoid clich├ęs. "Help the client imagine
success," says Creedon.
6. Make Basic Information Interesting. All references to
projects should be real and highlight relevant challenges
and issues. Use tables, graphics, illustrations, videos and
other images to help illustrate concepts. Avoid dull stock
images. Confront the challenges of the project directly and
demonstrate how your firm can solve them, using proof
points from past projects.
7. Avoid Sounding Like Everyone Else. Avoid jargon like
"industry leader" and "largest" or "nationally recognized."
Also eschew meaningless terms such as "committed to
meeting standards" or "an experienced team."

3. Identifying criteria or metrics that will be used to measure
success
4. Options for completing the project such as a low-cost bare-minimum version and a more elaborate but value-focused approach
5. The timeline for the project
6. A list of accountabilities so both parties are clear on their specific responsibilities
A good proposal answers a client's questions and alleviates concerns.
The ability to be concise and focused is critical. "You never want to
inundate your client with information," Stiklestad says. "You do not
have to explain how everything works. You simply want to deliver the
information required for the client to make an informed decision and,
preferably, select your firm."
At Mead & Hunt, engineers and marketers work together to
ensure a proposal does not veer into a technical swamp but that it
offers a strong engineering framework and avoids marketing hype.
Avoiding grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors is also
important. Simply running the document through a spell check
program is not sufficient. It may find some mistakes but also ignore
errors because the word in question is legitimate or it may change a
misspelled word into the wrong word.
Another problem Stiklestad points to is lackadaisical proofreading.
In some cases, old boilerplate paragraphs may refer to the wrong client or to the wrong project. "Sloppy proposals with a lack of attention
to detail are a huge turn-off. Someone must proofread and edit the
document before it goes out," she says.
In some cases, graphics may enhance a proposal. A chart, photo,
video, infographic or animation can sometimes help readers better
understand a complex aspect of a project. In fact, a good graphical
element can eliminate a few hundred words of text and answer basic
questions about how a sophisticated window treatment or wastewater system works, though it is important to avoid overusing images,
according to McHale. "You have to ask whether each element is actually building your case," he says.
SELLING THE PROPOSAL

In an increasingly competitive industry, standing out from the crowd
and thinking creatively are vital. The final proposal should be informative and attractive. It should let a client know what your firm has
to offer and why yours is the right company for the project. Whether
the proposal is distributed as a PDF or printed, it must make an
impact and leave an indelible mark on decision makers.
Sparks says that while most proposals at SGH are produced and
distributed via PDFs, the firm hopes to use microsites and digital software platforms to produce more interactive proposals in the months
and years ahead. "Digital formats offer the opportunity for more
engaging and highly customized proposals," she says.
In the final analysis Sparks says, it is critical to have talented and
skilled people overseeing the proposal process and ensuring that
any and every document reflects the technical expertise and overall
image of the firm. Ultimately, a proposal is not about the engineering firm; it is about understanding and addressing the client's challenges and needs.
"It is our job to put our best face forward with a professional and
polished proposal," says Sparks. n
Samuel Greengard is a technology writer based in West Linn, Oregon.

SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2019

ENGINEERING INC.

31



Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019

Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019
Contents
From Acec to You
Market Watch
Legislative Action
The Private Side
Powering Forward
Website Brilliance
Creating Compelling Proposals
Latest It Innovations
Restorative Spirits
The Infinity Loop
Mergers and Acquisitions
Members in the News
Business Insights
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Intro
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Cover2
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Contents
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 2
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 3
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - From Acec to You
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 5
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Market Watch
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 7
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Legislative Action
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 9
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - The Private Side
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 11
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 12
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 13
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 14
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 15
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 16
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 17
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Powering Forward
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 19
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 20
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 21
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 22
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 23
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Website Brilliance
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 25
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 26
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 27
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Creating Compelling Proposals
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 29
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 30
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 31
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Latest It Innovations
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 33
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 34
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 35
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 36
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 37
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Restorative Spirits
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 39
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 40
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 41
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - The Infinity Loop
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 43
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 44
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 45
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Mergers and Acquisitions
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 47
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Members in the News
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 49
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 50
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - 51
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Business Insights
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Cover3
Engineering Inc. - September/October 2019 - Cover4
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