The Proposal is the Closing Argument

Could a lawyer present an effective closing argument if she hadn’t been involved in the case up to that point? Can a proposal writer draft an effective RFP response if she hadn’t been involved in the sale up to that point? Or know anything about it?

Proposal writers must be thoroughly briefed about an opportunity before they can write effective proposals. The following excerpt from Proposal Best Practices illustrates the concept well.

Excerpt from Proposal Best Practices

Suppose you are a young lawyer who was just hired into a big firm. But instead of being brought into a new case at the beginning, you are brought into an existing case at the end. The legal team assigned to the case has been arguing in open court for the last 30 days. They’ve been establishing relevant facts with the jury, building their arguments supporting why your client is innocent, and doing their best to undermine the prosecution’s argument.

But here’s the problem. Even though you weren’t present for all of those arguments, even though you weren’t witness to how they presented the facts or even what facts were presented, they’re handing off the case to you to deliver the closing argument. Wait, what?

This doesn’t make sense, of course, but that’s exactly what we do when the salesperson hands off an RFP to the proposal team without thoroughly briefing them on everything that’s happened up to that point.

Proposal writers must be educated about the opportunity

When your staff sits down to draft a proposal in response to an RFP, their job is to present the proverbial closing argument. This necessarily means the proposal team must get briefed by the salesperson or SME about who the decision makers are, what motivates them, who the influencers are and how they’re impacted, who the current vendor is and how well they’re viewed internally, the history of the program and how it came to be, etc. They need to understand the backstory. Only then will your proposal team be able to write effective proposals.

David Seibert is a professional salesperson and consultant for businesses that respond to formal procurements in non-federal markets. Dave publishes a comprehensive curriculum of online, self-paced proposal training classes, delivers onsite and online proposal training programs for dedicated proposal teams, and provides proposal and business development consulting services for businesses that want to improve their win rates. 

Dave is founder and president of The Seibert Group, a proposal consulting and training organization serving businesses that sell to other businesses, A/E/C firms, schools, and to state and local governments. Dave authored the popular proposal book, Proposal Best Practices, is active with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and is a member of the APMP Speakers Bureau. You can contact Dave at [email protected].

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