Four Ways Proposals are Like Songwriting: How to Get from Good to Great

As many of you know, I recently moved to Nashville, Tennessee—otherwise known as Music City. The other day, as I walked along Broadway (the main strip in Nashville), I stopped in to listen to the different bands and artists. As an English major in college, I have long appreciated the similarities between songwriting and poetry writing, but this time, as I listened to the various artists with my new perspectives and experiences, I couldn’t help but think about the similarities between a great proposal and a great song.

1. A Great Song (and a Great Proposal) Connects with the Audience
When you hear a great song, you typically connect with it emotionally. If the song about is about a broken heart, and it connects you to a time when you had a broken heart, you’ll be connected and interested. Similarly, if a proposal can successfully connect an evaluator to their pain points about a current or upcoming contract, they will be connected and interested. This is why the capture phase is so critical. Understanding your customer concerns, issues, and hot buttons—and addressing them in your proposal—will connect you to your customer and help make your proposal great.

2. A Great Song (and a Great Proposal) Has a Strong Hook
Hooks are the things about the song musically and/or lyrically that stick in your mind. For example, if you hear the song, “Staying Alive,” by the Bee Gees, it will likely be stuck in your head the rest of the day. A great proposal will similarly stick with the evaluators. Strong theme statements and consistent messaging will provide a strong hook that will stick with the evaluator and help make your proposal great.

3. A Great Song (and a Great Proposal) is Crafted Well
Most often, with great songs, the writer has put in time getting the craft right: the rhyme scheme is typically solid with resonating rhymes, the structure helps the listener follow along, and the song is easy to follow and communicates clearly.  A great proposal is similarly well crafted: it follows the proposal instructions and evaluation criteria to make it easy to score, the paragraphs are structured well and easy to follow, and the key messages are communicated clearly.

4. A Great (and a Great Proposal) Song Causes a Reaction
With a great song, you are compelled to do something. The song might compel you to dance, laugh, cry, sing along, or something else—but it’s almost impossible to avoid reacting when you hear a well-written, great song. A great proposal will similarly cause a reaction—and your goal is for that reaction to be selecting your company for the contract. Great proposals will articulate solid value propositions that provide the evaluators with the information needed to select your company for the award.

Final Thoughts
Great songs and great proposals are not all that dissimilar. Both great songs and great proposals connect with the audience, have strong hooks, are well-crafted, and cause a reaction. Understanding your customer concerns, issues, and hot buttons—and addressing them in your well-structured proposal through strong theme statements, consistent messaging, and a solid value proposition—will help you take your proposal from good to great—and provide your evaluators with the information they need to award you with the win.

Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP
Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)


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