"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

Start with the end in mind by creating a great outline

2016 has begun with a loud BANG. As the New Year begins, I am reminded of one of Stephen Covey’s habits of success: ‘Start with the end in mind’. In the proposal world, this relates to creating an outline that complies with what your client wants to see in your proposal. I’ve learnt a few tricks over the years that might help you to create better outlines. Here goes…

Where to begin?

If your client has issued an RFP then that’s the place to start. If not, then ask the sales person what the client wants to see in the proposal – or better yet, ask the client yourself if appropriate. Many RFPs set out exactly what information you must provide. Some even specify the sequence. Always comply and explain deviations.


Who is the lucky victim?

In my opinion, the proposal writer or bid strategist is the best person to create the outline. If you have multiple people contributing to the proposal document, then you may brainstorm multiple outlines - one for each section - to involve subject matter experts. Adapt your approach to suit the deadline and the bid, but ideally let one person create the outline.


How to do it?

You can either use storyboard and layout techniques, or simply create an annotated outline in document form. The ideal outline has headings, sub-headings, key ideas, page limits and ideas for pictures. By reading the outline, you should see the story line of the proposal emerging. When you give an outline to a writer or subject matter expert, it should be clear to them what details you need in what format and who must do what by when.


What headings in what order?

If the client did not specify the sequence, then I like to use the NOSE structure for my proposals.

First comes the cover letter, compliance matrix, glossary and executive summary. Then I include more details about the client’s needs and desired outcomes. Next is the solution, including who will deliver what by when, in what way, and how much it will cost to deliver what payback with relevant assumptions or exclusions.

Finally, I provide evidence that my solution is the best choice to deliver the desired outcomes and indicate next steps. If requested, I may include answers to questions then appendices right at the end, with a clear index to make it easy to find details.


Why do it at all?

I use dynamic sub-headings such as ‘Reduce Costs’ under telegraphic headings such as ‘Executive Summary’ so that the story shines out.

For me, this is the key reason to do an outline and the main benefit of having one person do it: to create a single story line in one voice, even if there are multiple contributors.

Planning also saves time and money. Fixing the story at outline stage is cheaper than doing it after the writing is done. So make sure you create a compelling outline for your next proposal.

Begin with the client in mind.

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 169 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 179 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 182 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.

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Posted 187 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 193 weeks ago