How Proposal Writing Differs From Technical Writing

Pencils that are used to write proposals.
Pencils that are used to write proposals.

If you’re in a position that requires you to write regularly, you’ve probably mastered the craft of technical writing. The main characteristics of technical writing are clarity and accuracy. Its purpose is to describe, which helps people understand and execute tasks. Most of what we do in the business world on a daily basis is technical writing. But, if you write only from a technical perspective when developing your RFP, you risk simply describing instead of providing essential information that differentiates your firm. Proposal writing is a valuable skill that isn’t treated with the level of importance it deserves. Here are the major differences between proposal and technical writing to help you adapt your RFP writing style!

1. Proposal Writing Prioritizes Context over Description

While describing is fundamental to technical writing, it shouldn’t be your main approach when you start to develop an RFP. Okay. So what exactly is proposal writing? Proposal writing involves putting things into context and integrating all the components in a way that builds a complete narrative. Your purpose in an RFP is not just to inform, but to persuade your audience to select you as a contractor. Align the RFP with your offerings and bid strategies. Rather than simply explaining your process, take it a step further to make it clear why that process matters. What is it that you do better than your competitors?

Your goal in the proposal is to translate the essence of your company into something that the offeror can easily understand. A good proposal writer will tell the offeror only what they need to know in making their selection to avoid overwhelming them with too much information.

2. Proposal Writers Persuade by Making a Point

Proposal writing has a persuasive component that technical writing lacks. Just like when you wrote an essay in grade school, you want to make your point and back it up with solid evidence. It’s important to position your firm as the one best placed to address the concerns that impact the evaluators’ decision. Your proposal writer needs to tailor the narrative to how the buyer benefits from the offering and how the proposal relates to evaluation criteria. Even better, tell the offeror exactly how you would meet and exceed each and every single one of their needs, whether or not the RFP requests it. Ensure them that if they choose your firm, you will be ready and able to enact the plan as laid out in your RFP response. Put yourself in the shoes of the offeror and think about what they would consider most important in a contractor.

3. Proposal Writing Balances the Level of Detail

With technical writing, the more detail you can include, the better. However, when using proposal writing in your RFP proposal, you must carefully balance your level of detail with concrete evidence of your expertise and credentials. You don’t want to overload the evaluators with information that doesn’t influence their decision. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re choosing three (3) references to provide in support of your proposal.

Although you obviously want to fully describe the projects you worked on with these contacts, you also want to make a strategic decision about your references. What projects have you worked on that are similar to this RFP? Which contacts know your work well and are willing to speak to your expertise?? These are the types of “big picture” questions a proposal writer would ask. Your references should be specific to the context of the RFP with just enough detail to showcase the best of your company’s work ethic and skills.

4. Proposal Writers Design Your RFP for Success

Technical writing can be simpler in that you, the writer, get to choose the design of your document and how it will look. In this context, you would typically follow a set of predetermined brand guidelines with specific colors and fonts. On the other hand, writing a proposal often involves following a structure that the offeror determines for you. Although this provides a helpful outline for your response, it can feel limiting if you’re used to writing in a specific format. But, this doesn’t mean your RFP has to be drab and devoid of personality! You want your response to stand out in a positive way that expresses what your company is all about.

In proposal writing, you can still convey your brand attributes creatively through the infographics, cover pages and colors you use. A well-designed chart with your brand colors and logo can add a memorable touch without taking focus away from the project. If you put careful thought and effort into your RFP’s design, the offeror will take notice.

5. Knowing When to Use Technical Writing

As with most types of writing, proposal writing isn’t all-or-nothing. In fact, the beauty of RFPs is that you can, and should, include some tastefully chosen elements of technical writing. How you decide to communicate your firm’s expertise, values and reliability is entirely up to you. 

Writing with a technical style can be helpful for the sections of your RFP where you have to describe something to the offeror. For example, you might use this approach when discussing your company background or offerings. RFP questions that begin with “Describe…” are also an indicator that using technical style is appropriate for that response. Don’t limit yourself by thinking there’s only one correct way to write a proposal.

Often, the most difficult part of proposal writing for companies is embracing a new style of writing they’re not familiar with. The language and structure of RFPs alone can be overwhelming, let alone trying to develop an effective writing process. We sometimes fear what we don’t understand, and that includes RFPs. At The Bid Lab, we seek to alleviate that fear and help firms feel comfortable and confident in their ability to gain new business. We use the best resources and expert knowledge to develop a proposal that gets you recognized. Contact us today or email to see how we can make your next RFP experience positive and stress-free.