Tips for Effective Business Writing and Cover Letters
Writing clearly, concisely, and with the reader in mind are crucial skills for success in the AEC industry. While there are many factors that influence a selection committee’s decision-making process, cover letters are often the “landing page” of a statement of qualifications (SOQ) and set the tone for a proposal response. The Middle of Six team has consolidated our insights and tips for crafting compelling cover letters that are rooted in business writing fundamentals and strategy.
When it comes to business writing, it's essential to keep in mind that there are four main types of writing: informational, instructional, transactional, and persuasive. While each type requires a slightly different approach, the overall goal is always to communicate clearly.
To ensure that your writing is effective, it's important to have a defined strategy in mind. This strategy may include your firm’s key pursuit “sell points”, company initiatives, and key differentiators. Start by thinking about your end goal and what you want to convey to the reader. Do you want to inform, instruct, or persuade? Focus on clarity by being specific, leading with your main points, and ending with a distinct message. Avoid using complex language and jargon, and it is always good practice to read your draft aloud and listen to how it sounds before finalizing. The key is to come across as true and authentic to connect with your readers.
Now let’s focus on how to craft compelling cover letters. While cover letters may seem like a mere formality, we believe they offer an opportunity to differentiate your firm from the get-go. This is especially true when responding to an RFP for a client you have never worked with in the past. Cover letters are an opportunity to connect with the selection committee, inform, and demonstrate your team’s value.
Where to Start
To make a lasting impression, avoid starting with dry, boilerplate introductions, and instead, focus on drawing the reader in with approachable and memorable words. You can start with a question, a thought-provoking statement, or a relevant anecdote that demonstrates your knowledge of the project you’re pursuing. The focus should be on the client and their goals, not on your firm or you – at least not yet!
Aligning with your Audience
After capturing the reader's attention, highlight how your skills and experience align with the client's vision for the project. This will show that you have done your research and understand the client's priorities. When discussing your firm, highlight the human aspect, your team, who they are, and why they are uniquely qualified for the project. No matter how proud you feel about your firm’s legacy, this may not be the right place, as it may very likely not resonate with every client. Plus, there will be plenty of opportunities to highlight your firm’s capabilities and legacy throughout the RFP response. This will show the selection panel that you are genuinely invested in the opportunity and that it also aligns with your vision and goals.
By keeping these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to elevating your writing skills and crafting winning proposals. Remember that the goal of effective business writing is to communicate clearly and concisely, with the end goal always in mind.