Winning vs. Losing

Second place is just the first place loser. --Dale Earnhardt

An ordinary proposal is a loser. Good is not good enough. Better than most is not good enough. Only the best proposal will win.

Anyone can win occasionally. It’s winning consistently that’s hard. If your win rate is in the 20-30% range, you’re probably good at producing proposals. But they are not great. You usually lose.

Keep in mind that if your win rate for your recompetes is much higher, then it’s also much lower for your attempts at gaining new business.

For most companies, if you raise your win rate by 10%, it’s mathematically the same as adding 30-50% more leads. It’s better, actually, because it will have a lower cost of sales and consequently be more profitable.

So what separates consistently winning from usually losing?

Strategic Planning

  • Companies that usually lose prepare a strategic plan that focuses on finance. It identifies some kinds of work that the company would like to get more of. When it’s complete, it sits on a shelf.
  • Companies that consistently win prepare a strategic plan that tells those pursuing business how to best position the company, describes the value propositions that support its strategic plans, and provides the criteria to be use in lead qualification and bid/no bid decisions.

Lead Qualification

  • Companies that usually lose qualify their leads by throwing out those they can’t win.
  • Companies that consistently win qualify their leads by only pursuing bids where they have an information advantage. They use their strategic plan as a source of filtering criteria.

Bid/No Bid

Pre-RFP Proposal Preparation

  • Companies that usually lose prepare for RFP release by trying to guess when it will come out so they know when to start.
  • Companies that consistently win prepare for RFP release by turning what they know into bid strategies and messages they can use in the proposal. 

Proposal Content Planning

  • Companies that usually lose prepare a compliance matrix, turn it into an outline and assignments, and start writing.
  • Companies that consistently win optimize the wording of their bid strategies and proposal messages based on the RFP’s evaluation criteria, and they can combine their response to the requirements with a message that adds the right value based on their pre-RFP preparations. They identify all of the ingredients required to win and use them to guide the writers and prepare a baseline for proposal reviews. They reach all the way back to their strategic plans for inspiration on positioning and their value proposition. 

Proposal writing

  • Companies that usually lose submit a proposal that is fully compliant with the RFP.
  • Companies that consistently win submit a proposal that reflects everything they have discovered about what it will take to win.

Proposal Quality Validation

  • Companies that usually lose have experienced experts decide whether a draft proposal is any good.
  • Companies that consistently win define quality criteria that bring forward their strategic planning goals, discovery of what it will take to win, bid strategies, and proposal messaging goals. Instead of open-ended opinion-based reviews, they are checking to make sure their proposal reflects specific objectives that have evolved through every phase of the pursuit. 

Companies that usually lose say they have a process, but in reality they are making it up as they go along. They try to make up for it by working really hard. They treat business development, capture, and proposals as expenses to be minimized, and think they don’t have the budget to do it any other way.

Companies that consistently win do everything based on discovering what it will take to win and then build their proposal around it. They track where they get their greatest return on investment in business development, capture, and proposals, and they find that an investment that produces an increase in win rate provides a huge return that dwarfs the expense.

Which are you?




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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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