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Proposal Writing - A Golfer's Perspective

Aug 18, 2007
Two areas of my life that are getting increased attention are golf and proposal writing. Now, the growing numbers of golfers-male and female-is understandable given the social and competitive aspects of the game and the Tiger Woods/Annika Sorenstam phenomenon. But why is proposal writing receiving more attention? Simple-it is the lifeblood of any flourishing organization.

In today's marketplace, there are now numerous suppliers able to offer similar products/services. Therefore, purchasers, to ensure they get the best pricing and support, require vendors to submit proposals. Everyone is looking for the "best bang for their buck."

In addition, government mandates now require staff not only to put potential vendors through an exhaustive tendering process but also to ensure that the vendor's delivery is cost-effective. What this means is that proposal writing is fast becoming an art and a requisite for successful business people.

But why mention golf and proposals in the same article? What can they possibly have in common? The answer came to me last week just after I had finished an extensive proposal and had rewarded myself with a trip to the links.

- When you approach the tee for the initial shot, you address the ball and visualize the success of your first stroke - it will travel straight down the fairway.

The secret to a good proposal is to start by addressing the audience. Open with your understanding of their needs or problems. This section can be long or short, but it must be direct. It shouldn't hook or slice into concerns the reader doesn't know he has.

- As you approach the green, carefully select the appropriate clubs-the ones that work for you. Heed the advice of the other players but know what you can deliver and keep focused on what is required. After all, you're the one who has to make the shot.

A colleague recently shared with me a proposal based on an RFP (Request for a Proposal) that was submitted by his company. I don't believe it will succeed. The response was writer-focused not RFP-driven. In other words, the writing team spent too much time bragging about what they wanted to deliver rather than focusing on how they could give the reader what he requested.

- When you are on the green, take your time. Watch the lie; putt cleanly and boldly. And, at the end of the hole add up your strokes. Be honest.

As you come to the end of the proposal, include the time-frames and the costs clearly. Don't include deadlines you can't meet or complicated pricing. You'll lose your credibility for future jobs.

- Outside the clubhouse, look around you. Who is ready for the game? What are their chosen tools? Steel or graphite shafts? Alloy or titanium heads?

Do the chosen clubs reflect the golfer's skill? Are they right for that particular course? A high-tech driver is overkill on a short par three hole.

When you are finished your proposal, add the appropriate window-dressing. Too much glitz will cause your readers to wonder if you are masking a lack of substance. On the other hand, too little attention to the cosmetic aspects-the title page, table of contents, binding, etc.-will convey a lack of attention to details that may carry over into the actual work. Remember a strong, steady game will give you long-term success in both the proposal writing and golfing fields.
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