"In any battle you need a strong team. I would prefer to have you on my team than my competitors.”  Past Blog Contributor

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nFold has two blogs you can follow to improve your proposals and keep in touch. Read the latest posts below or click on the tip names to see the blog archives.

nFold Proposal Tips

Based on best practice and experience, these tips from Sandy Pullinger on a wide range of proposal topics will inspire you as you learn the art and science of proposals and tenders.

Proposal Adventures of Wendy Word

Relax and enjoy the tales of friendly witch and proposal pioneer Wendy Word as she keeps you in touch with the latest news in the local South African proposal community.

nFold Proposal Tips

End on a good note with a conclusion and appendices

As the year heads at a trot towards its close, my mind turns to proposal endings. Just as every good fairy story starts with ‘Once upon a time…’ so it ends with ‘… and they all lived happily after.’ Unless you’re Roald Dahl, in which case there may be a twist.

Avoid an anti-climax

Many proposals end in mid-air. After rambling on for about 100 pages, presenting information in no particular order. They generally start with an Exec Summary, have a Company Profile and a Solution somewhere, as well as a Price, maybe even a Project Methodology and Timing. Finally they include a whole heap of Appendices and then…after you have waded through all that bumph…your reward is a whole lot of nothing.


Add a conclusion

Just like a good joke ends with a punch line, so your proposal needs an ending. In your conclusion, don’t state anything new. Remind your reader of some of the highlights of your solution and the main reasons to pick you, then outline the next steps. In this way, they come away satisfied rather than frustrated after reading your proposal. It also gives you a chance to act on Tom Sant’s tip to ‘Ask for the Business’ as any good sales document must.

Where to put it

I generally add a conclusion to every section of my document and sometimes have another for the proposal itself. My preference is to put it before the Appendices. This means that if the evaluators split up my proposal into different sections, then each one is self-contained. But I only call it a conclusion if it really is at the very end of the proposal. I always do a double-take when an Executive Summary has a ‘Conclusion’ heading. It makes me wonder whether the writer wants me to read the rest of the proposal or just stop now.

How to cross reference

When it comes to the Appendices, my pet hate is for proposals that are riddled with ‘Refer to Appendix A’ type answers to questions, or ‘See answer to question 12 above’. This really makes the evaluator’s job difficult. Rather tell them what they will find in Appendix A or repeat the answer to question 12 to save them from paging backwards and forwards to find information in your response.

For example, if they ask for your tax clearance certificate then you might include a thumbnail image and say something like:

‘Knowing that our taxes are up to date gives you the peace of mind that our company deals honestly. We pay our taxes to build a better future for all South Africans. In Appendix A you will find our tax clearance certificate which expires on 15 September 2016.’


A rose by any other name

An Appendix is sometimes an Addendum or a Schedule or an Attachment. And sometimes you will see more than one of these in the request for proposal. So what should you call it? You will use the same name that the customer uses, of course. Because the customer is always right. Number your Appendices sequentially or cross reference them to the request. And please include only the information that your customer requests, don’t just throw at them everything you have in your proposal library and force them to work out what’s important. They won’t thank you for this approach.

And in conclusion? Just joking. But you get the point I hope. May your proposals live happily ever after.

Posted 169 weeks ago

Proposal Adventures of Wendy Word

Having a bad hair day

Sandy says that when she hit send on her last proposal tip, she began to feel chronic symptoms related to holiday brain fever and error mania.

Have you ever typed an email, got distracted, hit send in a hurry, and skipped the quality checking step or paid it lip service only? Heard the expression more haste less speed?

Then maybe you too have had the same symptoms. Nausea. Emotional trauma related to a perfectionist making any error whatsoever. And turning bright red because you haven’t done anything quite so stupid since you were 3?

A tip to the tipper…cutting and pasting introduces errors. Only use it in a proposal or email campaign when your source content is ‘clean’ of date or customer specific details.

Sandy’s response is the same one she gives to her children. Sorry! Guilty as charged. Do what I say, don’t do what I do.

Posted 161 weeks ago

Getting it right the first time

On the 8th of October 2015,  an eager bunch of Group Bid Office recruits attended the two-day Right First Time Bid and Proposal Management training at the EOH Head offices, along with several people from other business units.

In the session Sandy Pullinger covered everything from creating a compelling Executive Summary, writing efficiently all the way to ensuring that delegates create a compliant and comprehensive winning proposal.

The normal expectation for training sessions, such as these, is that you listen for 16 hours over a 2 day period and hope that you have something useful to report back on. Most Bid Mangers in the EOH Bid Office already have extensive experience in running a tender process with years of experience behind them. Still, they said that the session taught them something new and helped them to discover practical ways to enhance what they already DO know.

Posted 170 weeks ago

Winner takes all

Last night I attended the APMP annual general meeting. It was the last meeting chaired by Sally Jacques. We’ll miss your sense of humour and inspirational leadership, Sally. I’m flying some flowers to you on my broomstick to say thanks for all you have done to take the association to the next level. Our new APMP chair person is Izane Cloete-Hamilton. We expect great things from the new boss lady. Onward and upward.

I was excited to find out that Barclays Africa won the last nFold proposal award. Well done Marlize and Elmien on your steady progress year by year and the truly excellent proposal that you submitted this year! Finalists in 2015 were Tracy-Ann Damons for quantifying the payback and Reza Forouhar for differentiation. For 5 years, nFold has sponsored the award.

Here is a happy snap I took of all the winners with their cheezy trophies. From left to right, Marlize Schwar (Barclays Africa) 2015, Belinda Engelbrecht (Aurecon) 2011, and Larissa Cornelius (EOH) 2012-2014. You go girls!

Posted 174 weeks ago

To certify, or not to certify

…moot is the question. Another 18 brilliant proposal people passed the APMP certification exam in August, bringing the total in SA to about 130. Yee haa!

APMP is the first best and only globally recognized certification for proposal pioneers like you and me.

Tell your friends to register for the next certification event planned for April 2016. Study group sessions kick off on 18 January, so be sure to register before then. You can book online: https://www.quicket.co.za/events/11967-apmp-foundation-certification-and-exam/#/schedules.

Be there or be square.

Posted 179 weeks ago

Of Cowboys and Soldiers

I attended the 6th annual APMP SA Conference on 23 July. The topic was Prepare Produce Propose Present. Try saying that quickly three times in a row after a glass of wine and you’re sure to put your tongue in a twist!

Sandy spoke about what to do before the RFP arrives and presented a tale of two bids: one managed by cowboys where everything goes wrong, and another managed by soldiers where planning pays off. She made the point abundantly clear that you cannot rely on luck but should rather plan to win. Sandy looks good in a cowboy hat, but not as good as Clint Eastwood.

Posted 185 weeks ago