Proposal Basics from the Buyer’s Perspective

I recently had the opportunity to review proposals and conduct interviews with firms. During this process, a few proposal and interview basics came to mind. And while I’m often the proposer, it’s nice to be able to talk from the buyer’s perspective. So here are my suggestions from a buyer’s perspective.

If the guy who can answer the questions is not available, reschedule

Nothing is worse than being in a short list interview and not being able to answer the key questions. If the most important team member can’t make the interview, at least attempt to reschedule with the client.

It is ok to be more expensive, if you can justify it

If you are going into a competition where you may suspect you are not the cheapest, that’s ok. But only if you can give compelling reasons why you provide more overall value. There needs to be a benefit associated with your higher price.

Nobody cares about you, don’t stop focusing on the client

We got a proposal that really spoke to us, but once we interviewed the firm that feeling went away. When I asked what advantages their suggested approach had, they answered that “that’s the approach we like to use.”

What’s easier for you is not an advantage for me (the client). Another firm answered by saying, “this system is the easiest for the end user. That’s why we use it. We’ve used others but found this one to be the easiest for our clients.” Ok, now I am listening.

Price the scope of work

If you can design a school for $40,000. Don’t price it at $60,000 just in case they may ask it to be LEED certified later. That puts you at a clear price disadvantage. Price what you know and define what you don’t know.

Read the proposal

One proposal we received will go down as the worst proposal I have ever seen. Not because it didn’t look nice, but because it did not address our scope or project. It was all about them. It was all boilerplate and it was clear to me that they didn’t read the rfp I spent time putting together.

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