Proposal Writing Training: How to Choose a Program That’s Right for You

Proposal writing training programs can vary in many ways, so it’s important to choose a provider and program that is a good fit for your team and your business.

1. Find a program that’s in line with your market focus

Proposals are different not just in structure but also, and especially, in the processes used to create them. Therefore, it’s important to find a proposal training program that specializes in the type of proposal you need and the particular market where you sell your wares.

  • Solicited proposals (in response to RFPs)
    • Commercial RFPs?
    • State/local government RFPs?
    • Federal procurements?
  • Unsolicited proposals…
    • Used within your selling process (not in response to an RFP)
    • To apply for grants
    • Internally, to propose projects or initiatives within an organization

This is a really important point. Some so-called proposal trainers treat all proposals the same, “A proposal is a proposal is a proposal. Learn how to write it here and you can use those skills everywhere.” This is terribly misguided and it will hurt your success rates.

Make sure you choose a trainer that is experienced within the market you’re selling into.

2. Decide whether you want skills training or process training

Many companies know they need help with their proposal program but they don’t always know what kind of help they need—skills training or process training. Spend some time thinking about what you need before you go looking.

If you want skills training, what kind of skills do you want taught?

  • Proposal writing skills for your proposal staff?
  • New business development skills for your salespeople?
  • Project management skills for your proposal managers?
  • How to create infographics?

If you want process training, it can get more complicated. Despite what others may say, I maintain you can’t just cut and paste someone else’s predefined process into your business, you have to customize the process to make it your own. Will the trainer work with you to build a process that is custom fit and right-sized for your business? Or do they only teach the same one-size-fits-all process to everyone?

3. Be wary of business writing classes

There are many training programs that claim to be able to teach businesses how to write proposals. The problem is their specialty is writing, not selling—and yes, that is a problem.

It’s a problem because RFPs are not writing projects to complete, they are sales opportunities to win. While these business writing courses may teach your staff great grammar or “power words” or other such stuff, they aren’t focused on improving your win rate. If you want to improve your win rate, it’s not enough to write well, you have to learn how to sell well on paper.

Don’t look for a class that teaches you how to write; your people already know that. Look for a class that teaches them how to sell on paper.

4. Find a proposal writing training program that is right-sized for your business

Some large sellers and contractors have made significant investments in their proposal programs—people, infrastructure, automation, and processes. In contrast, many small and midsize businesses lack the budget and resources to make anywhere near this kind of investment.

Make sure you find a proposal training program that is “right-sized” for your business. There’s no sense learning about a process that you cannot implement because it requires more resources than you’ve got. Likewise, there’s no sense implementing processes or techniques that are elementary for the complexity of your infrastructure. Find a training company and a trainer that has experience working with companies of your size.

5. Decide whether you want a lecture, a workshop, or both

Depending on the audience, it may be sufficient to deliver an interactive lecture that teaches attendees about a process or practice. In other cases, though, it may be best to also include a workshop so they get hands-on experience with what they just learned.

Sometimes, I’ve had the entire team in a first day proposal writing training session, but then a subset of proposal writers in the second day workshop. Figure out what will work best for your business.

6. Are you seeking certification for your staff?

If you goal is to provide certification for your proposal writers, then your best bet is to seek certification from the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP). Here’s an article that will provide a better overview of the certification process, and links to help you find the information you need.

Self-promotional plug

The Seibert Group offers a long list of online, self-paced classes that can be purchased individually or in bundles.

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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