Proposing to Win Workshop Recap

Written by Shalyn Coburn, Phoenix Industrial.

As a marketer in the AEC industry, putting together proposals is an integral part of our job.The Proposing to Win workshop gave marketers the opportunity to review a real life RFP and responses from four firms to show the diversity of how people respond to the same RFP. We were also given the opportunity to read RFP responses from the eyes of clients.

Charles McIntyre, Director of Marketing for an electrical and technology construction firm and an SMPS member, gave a fantastic presentation and facilitated a four hour workshop on everything that is proposal writing and creation.

He started with, as marketers, how we define our roles and how we create visible value of our position to the company. We are everything listed in the slide below and more. We create visible value by producing winning proposals that bring in projects and work.

The Go/No Go process was also discussed in the presentation. It is becoming increasingly more common knowledge among marketers that submitting proposals to a potential new client is not the best way for them to get to know our firms. Having guided questions to decide whether or not to go after a proposal helps a firm strategize use of resources and thoroughly vet the pros and cons of a proposal. The questions below are common questions firms use for Go/No Go Questionnaires.


Proposals from Marketers’ Perspective

Following the presentation, the workshop portion of the event began and marketers broke into groups and were given a Design/Build RFP. Looking at the RFP from the eyes of a marketer, groups had ten minutes to break down the RFP and create a list of important information the proposal team needed to know and develop a list of questions for the proposal team and client. As marketers, an important part of our job is to thoroughly read an RFP and note every requirement (including page counts, submission details, etc.) so that the team is not disqualified for missing information.

This part of the proposal process can win or lose a project.

After the lists were created, teams discussed strategy and story-boarded how many pages of the page count would be allocated to each section (Cover Letter, Project Experience, Team Members, and Project Approach). Questions discussed during this process included:

  • What unique value can my firm bring to the project?
  • How can I incorporate infographics into the proposal for an easier read?


Proposals from Clients’ Perspective

Attendees were challenged to view the proposal process from the client’s perspective after thoroughly going through the RFP process from a marketer’s perspective. We were given four of the twelve responses for the RFP. We had ten minutes to score each section (Project Experience, Team Members, and Project Approach) for each response. Scores from each group were compared to the real score card of who won.


  • Client review committees have A LOT of text and proposals to read when they review. This can be very overwhelming.
  • Charts, graphs, infographics, and easy-to-find information are more pleasant to read than large blocks of text.
  • Reviewers may not fully read every inch of information put into proposals.
  • Little mistakes such as spelling errors and header inconsistencies are very obvious to reviewers who have a fresh set of eyes when reading proposals.
  • It can be obvious when a firm is stretching for relevant project experience and qualified team members.
  • Head shots are important when putting together team resumes. Resumes that did not have headshots made the team feel less personable.
  • It’s important to write for your audience. One recommendation was to write in terms of Feature-Verb-Benefit.
  • The number of pages devoted to each section were all over the board, but it’s good to strategize how many pages for each section and take into consideration the scoring matrix before you start creating content.
  • The worst mistake you can make with technical staff is asking for the same information more than once.
  • You can think of go/no go as commit or don’t commit.
  • A good way to get technical staff to update resumes and boiler plate text is to have lunch and learns (bring lunch) or update resumes on their anniversary dates.
  • Do a SWOT analysis, then create infographics to make your strengths stand out.


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