Getting material from the subject matter experts within your organization, or from subcontractors and suppliers, can be challenging. There are a few reasons for this. Often, these individuals don’t know how to write effectively, and may not fully understand what’s expected of them. If they’re technical experts, their focus and interests may not match what you need to provide. These people are probably passionate about what they do, but don’t know how to sell that.In a personal example, one which clearly illustrates what not to do, I simply asked a subject matter to write a description of the processes they used in response to an RFP question. They gave me a 13 page document that demonstrated their passion with lots of technical details, but it was long, dense text that didn’t address the value or benefits to the client. I ended up editing it down to three pages in the final proposal – key benefits included.

In addition to internal experts, sometimes you rely on suppliers or subcontractors and they may be busy with their own current business, and not be as focused on the RFP as you.

If your bid requires input from subject matter experts or subcontractors and suppliers, it’s important for these individuals to be at the table during the kick-off meeting and subsequent meetings where you discuss strategy and approach in areas that relate to them, as they may not have the full context of the RFP or the overall service. If necessary, hold a kick-off meeting especially for the subject matter experts or subcontractors and suppliers after your main internal meeting.

In addition, provide guidelines and guidance that these individuals can use when writing material. One way to do this is to provide them with a writing template. Not only will this make it easier for you to incorporate their material into your full proposal, it lets you give the writers the sub-questions and headings/topics they need to address so that they are consistent with the rest of the proposal. Include specific questions you want them to answer and headings that must be filled in, like ‘benefits to the client’, ‘how this addresses the specifications’, ‘how does this differentiate us from the competition’

Providing style sheets to them will also make it easier. They provide guidance to the writers on hot buttons, issues, themes, key messages and terminology. By taking this extra effort, you’re more likely to receive material that’s useable.

The style sheet will also ensure a cohesive and consistent writing style throughout the proposal. The consistency won’t be obvious to the client, but inconsistencies will stick out and detract from your proposal.

If your supplier performs a particular portion of the work and the response in your RFP on that service is completely different from the rest of the proposal, the client will wonder how you can work together and provide a consistent and seamless service delivery when you can’t even get it right on your proposal. In addition, large changes in style or structure will make the proposal harder to read.

After the material from the subject matter experts is edited, have the experts review the final text, particularly if the work has involved professional writers or other individuals who don’t fully understand the material.

By taking a planned approach to getting material from Subject Matter Experts instead of a shotgun approach, you’ll get better material and it will be easier to incorporate into your proposal.

It’s one more thing that will help you write better proposals and win more business.


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