Answer the questions that were asked
This habit is absolutely crucial when responding to a formal RFP, but is good advice for unsolicited proposals that are the result of a sales person’s conversation with the prospect as well. When responding to an RFP in particular, though, be sure that your proposal:
- Responds directly to every question being asked, and every concern being raised; and
- Is formatted exactly as requested.
So: even if you think your prospect is asking the wrong questions, and even if the RFP response format makes a hash of your attempt to put together a response that builds a case, start by putting together a proposal that conforms to the RFP exactly. Better yet, include a table (called a “compliance matrix”) that lists every requested item and where you’ve responded to it. Comply and make the reviewer's job easy.
Then get creative.
If their entire premise is mistaken, submit an alternate response that responds to the “right” questions, and show how this alternative provides even more benefit to the prospect’s company while still addressing their stated problems and concerns. Naturally, be polite and courteous.
If their required format doesn’t allow you to logically present your abilities, then build your business case in the executive summary and/or cover letter instead of the main body. In the response itself, add transition paragraphs that tie things together in the way you want them tied together.
Winning proposals are prospect-centric, and show this by doing things the prospect’s way. At least at first.