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Proposals – Advice from the Selection Committee

proposal-tips-website-heroRecently, Pinstripe Marketing attended a webinar hosted by the Society of Marketing Professionals (SMPS) Tampa Bay called “Secrets of the Selection Process,” by Gary Coover. The course was designed to enlighten us about creating a proposal as well as presenting the proposal to the selection committee, and we came away with a few great tips that we thought we would share.

  • Ask yourself if it’s a good fit for you. If it’s not, why waste the time and money?
  • Make it about the client, their problems, their pain points. It’s NOT about you, so be brief and to the point when you’re talking about your company.
  • Dress similarly to your audience. I.e. if you’re in Texas, do your research, they may be wearing cowboy boots and a hat. Don’t be inauthentic and go overboard so you look like you’re in a costume, but in this case, you could wear a western style shirt to the meeting instead of suit and tie. If you’re in Hawaii, don’t be afraid to don a Hawaiian shirt in lieu of your starched shirt if that’s the client’s style. Be subtle and respectful, but show that you are aware of their culture and are willing to assimilate.
  • Include only the most relevant information, don’t stuff the proposal full of useless information – long, hefty proposals work against you.
  • The RFP doesn’t tell the whole story, so make sure to get ahead of it. If the RFP is the first time you’ve seen or heard anything about the project, it may be too late.
  • Know everything about the project and the client.
  • Call the number on the RFP to ask questions – if you don’t have any, think harder.
  • Make the information in your proposal jump off the page. The committee has a lot of proposals to review and they don’t want to spend weeks or even days in the process, so they will be skimming and cutting frequently. If the info and graphics in your proposal stand out, you have a better chance of making it to the final cut.
  • Go above and beyond – if you really want the project and you know you stand a chance, go the extra mile and make a mockup or rendering for the specific project. Show them how you would solve their problem.
  • Bring your doers – the client doesn’t want to just see the president and vice president of the company. They want to meet the team that will be doing the work. Bring any willing team members and key players to the meeting to show your team’s solidarity. However, no more than five people should be in the room, and you don’t want your team to outnumber the selection committee, so do your homework.
  • Simplify it!
  • Bring extras, backups, anticipate all problems, check everything three times
  • Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Preferably in front of a committee of your own to get feedback and critique.
  • If you don’t get the work, request a debriefing so you know where you can improve next time.

Many of these tips seem obvious, but cannot be repeated enough times. Others are not so obvious and may provide you with the small, unique edge you need to win against a close competitor. Remember that the selection committee members are people too and use the power of empathy to imagine their job of reading through potentially hundreds of proposals (which, let’s face it, can be rather dull), and decide which company is best for the project. That’s a tough job, so go easy on them. Think about what you would like to see if you were in their position.

Check out some of our other articles for more tips on relationship building and business development.