Proposal templates, formats and tools: Create better RFP responses faster
Responding to requests for proposals (RFPs) can be stressful. How should you design and format your proposal? What information should you include? How do you make your business stand out from competitors that offer similar solutions? Where will you find the time to gather all the necessary information? Fortunately, we can learn from those who have created successful RFP responses in the past.
Using knowledge gathered from RFP360’s founders, internal RFP experts, customers, and independent research, we put together a list of the best proposal templates, formats, and tools you can use to simplify your RFP response process.
RFP response templates
OpenOffice offers a number of templates to help you create proposals quickly. Their proposal templates are free and work well with Office apps. These sites also offer free proposal templates:
If you’re pursuing federal opportunities, Fedmarket offers a proposal template popular in the federal contracting world.
There is no one-size-fits-all proposals format, as some industries have very specific requirements. But there are key elements almost every proposal should have. Below is a standard proposal outline along with professional tips and ideas to keep in mind while you’re writing.
First thing’s first—show the client you understand the problem at hand. Paint a clear picture by restating known objectives and giving a preview of your solution and approach. It’s important to let the client know you understand the current landscape and can provide the best solution. Although the overview is the first section, pushingsnowballs.com suggests writing it last. That way, you can pull out the main points from your overall RFP response to craft a more effective summary. Pro tip: Remember to keep it clear, concise and compelling. This is where you will hook your prospect.
2. About Us
The about us section – also known as the management overview – explains your story and qualifications. Brag about yourself a little. Set yourself apart from the competition by being creative about your strengths. You aren’t small; you’re adaptive. You aren’t inexperienced; you bring a fresh new perspective. Be proud of your accomplishments. This is your time to shine, so show the client what makes you unique.
More info: Better Bio and Reference Tracking
Lay out the contract schedule using milestones and key dates. This will help the client visualize where they’ll be in the future. What will their world look like? Detail when you will finish certain tracks of work and what outcomes the client can expect. (Don’t get into specifics just yet—you can sort that out in the implementation plan.)
4. Contract Management
How will you manage the contract in terms of supervision, communication, and quality assurance? Will you conduct status meetings? How often? What sort of specific information will you report?
5. Implementation Plan
Here’s where you can sort out the details. The work plan should tie into the overall schedule summary and will likely include some assumptions and time estimates. A matrix is a great way to display this information. Some people like to use week 0, week 1, etc. instead of specific dates. That is especially helpful if you don’t have a firm start date mandated. Just, try to be as specific as possible. Other details to cover include:
- Risks or potential problems
- Location of the work or team (on-site, off-site)
- Project staffing (by name or job title)
In some cases, the Project Manager handles the implementation plan. Just remember not to be too aggressive and set your team up for failure.
6. Addressing Bias
While answering the required questions, be on the lookout for bias. Pay close attention to the language used in each question to determine if the client seems to favor one approach versus another. If so, it may be an indication that your competitor got to the client first. See if you can overcome bias through education and awareness.
7. References and Case Studies
People like to know about past successes. Sometimes potential clients want to talk to or visit references, so having client advocates is always good. Other times clients are looking for companies that had similar problems and want to read case studies. Demonstrate how you help your customers solve their problems.
More info: How to Write a Really Persuasive Proposal
Proposal management software tools
We all agree content is king. But it’s not enough to just create it; we have to be able to find it, revise it, collaborate, and deliver consistent results. RFP software can help:
Manage knowledge — it should centralize your RFP database, making it easy to find and edit past responses.
Collaborate — the beauty of cloud-based software is there is only one version, and it’s easy to collaborate.
Track tasks — make your progress transparent so you can see when tasks have been completed and by whom.
The important thins is RFP Software should streamline the RFP Process – saving tons of time.
More info: How to Find the Best RFP Management Software
Proposal writing tools
Here are some great proposal writing resources:
- 10 simple edits that will instantly improve any piece of writing
- Want to write and sell more convincingly? Hubspot’s Sales and Marketing blogs are a great place to start.
- From the infamous writing guru Ann Handley, A Writing GPS: The Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Next Piece of Content [Infographic]
- Want to make your proposal more poignant? Here are 317 Power Words That’ll Instantly Make You a Better Writer
- Straight from the horse’s mouth – what buyers say they love (and hate) in an RFP response
Proposal design tools
Just like we, dress for success, we should ensure our proposals are both professional and visually appealing. Automational is a great place to start – it covers 42 free and/or cheap marketing tools; to help you with everything from fonts, to mockups, to palette pickers. Our favorite commercial-project-approved stash of free photos resources:
- Unsplash (gorgeous pictures from professional photographers)
- Hubspot’s 550+ Royalty-Free Stock Photos You Can Download Now
- New Old Stock (vintage photos from public archives)
- Public Domain Archive photos
For easy (and free) proposal infographics and image editing: