Proposal writing can be challenging for many people. Subject matter experts (SME) often enter the engineering or technical fields because their strengths are in detail-oriented, technical work. They probably did not anticipate they’d be asked to write proposals. Some SMEs fear writing the way others fear math. Others might just need a reminder on how to write a proposal well. Here are five reasons proposal writers struggle with writing sections and how to address them:
Using the correct writing process. Writing without the proper process can be daunting because we think at an average speed of 500-600 words per minute, speak at about 150 words per minute, and type anywhere from 30-80 words per minute. It is fertile ground for confusion where people get lost in their own thoughts not being able to sort through or capture them efficiently, so they end up taking an hour to produce a single paragraph. Additionally, our brain engages different centers for different parts of the writing process, so we slow ourselves down when we don’t go along with the brain’s natural propensities. Writing must follow a certain process or a writer will struggle with writer’s block. The correct process is 1) section planning, 2) brainstorming and researching, 3) speed writing and 4) editing and polishing. Following this process reduces much of the pain associated with writing.
Addressing unhelpful beliefs about one’s writing abilities. People with strong critical thinking abilities are often hard on themselves. They tend to self-flagellate while attempting to write perfect sections and then harshly criticize their own work. Sometimes they believe they “don’t have a creative bone in their body,” or they think that writers have some innate talent (soul of a poet) that allows them to easily write well. The truth is that writing is a skill following a process and requiring practice to improve, just like anything else. You can learn to be a great writer, and you can certainly learn how to write a great proposal. Technical volumes should be written at the 11th to 12th-grade reading level and other volumes should be written at the 9th to 10th-grade reading level. These are not difficult standards to achieve.
Neglecting easily available writing tools. We are in the second decade of the 21st century, yet many still think that all they need for writing is a laptop, their brain, and fast fingers. However, all kinds of tools and methodologies exist to help in brainstorming, writing, and editing that go far beyond you and the keyboard. Using and mastering these tools speed up and simplifies a modern proposal writer’s workload.
Training on what it takes to write a compliant proposal section. Although many are familiar with requests for proposals (RFP), few have been taught how to dissect the requirements and understand how to prepare a truly responsive solution. “Answering the mail” is a typical SME challenge, so proposal writers need training in recognizing the big picture – what is really being asked for – and the key phrases and words that determine compliance in a proposal section.
Using persuasive writing. A proposal is a sales document first and foremost. Yes, proposals require solid technical approaches and plans, but proposals also require persuasion to convince the evaluators to trust and select you over your competition. Proposal writers need to engage evaluators by using the journalistic method of writing, win_themes, effective stories, metaphors, easily accessible language, customer jargon, and engaging graphics with meaningful content. You want the evaluators to feel compelled to select you.
Help your SMEs overcome these hurdles with some of our training courses on how to write proposals, and you’ll be well on your way to equipping your technical leads with the skills they need to create higher-quality proposal sections.
Even if you expect to lean on writers or consultants to produce content, your SMEs will deliver better interviews if they understand how the proposal writing process works. Efficient interviews save you time and money and produce higher-quality written work.
Reach out to us if you need help securing your next strategic contract or if you want your technical team trained on proposal writing best practices.