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  1. Last week
  2. Instead of looking at preparing proposals as a process, try looking at it as solving problems. A "process" implies steps. Proposal development is reactive, so processes based on steps tend to fail. But solving the problems you will face in preparing a proposal implies the process. The problems you face also imply the goals you should have. Most companies that think they have a proposal process still spend their time solving problems. So looking at those problems in an organized way can help you be better prepared to create your proposal. Here are a dozen proposal problems that are fundamental. There are hundreds of administrivia problems that come up. But they tend to fall under one of these. Solve these problems and you will be able to prepare great proposals. Of course, I have never seen any company, no matter how large, capable, or experienced, solve them all. But there is a clear difference between companies that have solutions in place for most of them and companies that do not. To help you along your journey, I have included links to the solutions and tips related to these problems that you'll find on PropLIBRARY. See also: Proposal Management How should you prepare before the RFP is released? If you think you know what’s in the RFP before you see it, you’re probably just enough wrong to lose. Starting your proposal before the RFP is released is both risky and necessary. The challenge is to understand those risks and mitigate them. Solving how to prepare for your proposal ahead of RFP release is important. It is the only way to make it happen. How many resources do you need, and how should you organize and manage them? How much should you invest in your proposal? What management style and techniques should you use to manage the effort. There is no one-size fits-all approach that works for everyone. So solving how many people you need at your company for your proposals is key to being able to successfully prepare them. How should you manage risk and the inevitable issues that arise? You will make hundreds of trade-off decisions during your proposal. Each one represents a risk. Each one that you don’t make still represents a risk. What should you do to prevent the risks from causing your proposal to lose? Many of those risks will become issues. What will you do to track and resolve those issues? Is writing them down in a notebook really enough? What should happen immediately upon RFP release? Do you know what you'll do as soon as the RFP comes out? Or will you be making it up on the spot? Will you have a kickoff meeting? Do you have your resources and logistics ready to go? How long will it take to get your bid decision made? How much time will you lose before you even start? How do you get the inputs you need for the proposal? How many people will contribute to the proposal? How will you get their proposal input? When will you get their input? In what format do you need their input? Do you know what input you need? Will they be able to supply it? Can you ask for it ahead of time so they have time to gather what you need? How do you produce an outline that fulfills everyone’s expectations and survives without being changed? Whose expectations matter the most? Is it the customer? What are the customer’s expectations? Or does someone at your company think they have a better idea? Do they? Should the writers be in control of the outline or should it be provided to them? Should the outline be based on an RFP compliance matrix? Don’t assume everyone sees the answers to these important questions the same way you do. Once you’ve got the answers then how do you get everyone to agree on the outline before they start writing? If you proceed without a formal decision regarding the outline that is difficult to change, the entire proposal is at risk of a disruptive outline change after writing starts. That kind of makes it important to get everyone on the same page regarding the outline. How do you figure out what to write before you start writing? An outline is not enough to guide the proposal writers to reliably produce a winning proposal. You need a plan for the content of the proposal, and you need it before the writing starts. Herding the cats into doing this is such a challenge that on most proposals people don’t even do it. There is no formal quality methodology on Earth that is based on “then smart people work really hard and just get it right.” If winning matters, you’ll put your heads together, overcome your resistance, and solve how you should plan the content of your proposal before you start writing it. How do you incorporate graphics and visual communication? Not only do you expect people to write something, but you want them to contribute to illustrating it as well? Don’t worry, you only need to include a lot of graphics and make your proposal visual if you want to win. You can create your graphics first and build the text around them, or you can write it and then illustrate it, so long as you end up with an effective message communicated visually. How do you incorporate contracts, pricing, and other stakeholder inputs? If the answer is that you write the proposal and then sprinkle them in, you can do better. If you are planning your content before you write it, that’s the best opportunity to solicit the maximum stakeholder input in a way that will not be disruptive. Pricing inputs can be so important to the text of the proposal, that some companies can build the proposal process around their pricing instead of the text. How do you validate the quality of your draft proposal? How do you know if the draft proposal is good enough? Is that just a matter of opinion? Whose? More importantly, how does the writer know whether it’s any good before it even gets to a review? What criteria define whether it’s good? What should the proposal writers be guided by? How you define quality matters. You can’t seek it or validate it if you can’t first define it. The procedures you use for validating the presence of proposal quality are less important than your ability to define it. How will you produce and submit the final proposal? Whether you are submitting electronic files or hardcopies, it has to get to the customer by their deadline. And because you don’t want to put all that effort into creating a great proposal only to lose in the last step, you should put some effort into it. So, making your final changes and packaging the proposal for delivery. Should you let that be a last minute rush, or force production to go according to plan with quality validation? What is your delivery plan? How many contingencies will you prepare for? How many backups will you have? When you spend tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in time preparing a proposal, it doesn’t make sense to sweat a couple of grand for duplicate or even triplicate deliveries. How should you use lessons learned, metrics, and measurements to improve your proposals? If you want to get better over time and increase your win rate, you have to change. Instead of being about reporting, brainstorming, or sharing, lessons learned meetings must be about change or they will have no impact. Do your meetings focus on the wrong lessons learned? So how is each stakeholder going to change to improve the next proposal? The best answers to that question will be data driven. What changes have the most impact on your win rate? You can’t rely on the experience of experts for this because your circumstances will be different from their experience. Instead, you should track the correlation between changes and your win rate over time. Try calculating what the impact of a 10% win rate improvement would be to your company. Then put that much effort into metrics, measurements, and win rate analytics.
  3. Earlier
  4. Mark Amtower and I go back over a decade. That's Mark on the left and me on the right above. We have over 530 mutual connections on LinkedIn. I've been interviewed by Mark for his radio show at least seven times. But on the March 16th show we really got into it and explored the lies that contractors tell in their proposals as well as the huge insights about the proposal process I've had from building MustWin Now. Here are all the times I've been interviewed by Mark for Federal News Network that I could track down: Keys to winning government contracts, March 16, 2020 ‘Playing to win’ in the GovCon market, August 30, 2018 Winning proposals, March 3, 2017 Business development, capture & more, July 2, 2016 Content marketing and RFPs, November 16, 2015 Content marketing in business to government, December 22, 2014 Business development, FSSI, and more, January 15, 2013
  5. Our instincts betray us. Playing it safe will lower your chances of winning. In our regular life, sometimes playing it safe is necessary for continued survival. But in order to have a superior, winning proposal, it must first be different. Different in a way that no one else can match. You don’t get there playing it safe. See also: Proposal Management Anticipation and research. What professionals do is try to anticipate the issues, conduct research, and start the proposal already informed with your mitigations and strategies. Yeah, doing your homework is always best. The strategies below are mainly for procrastinators, outsiders, and underdogs. Make assumptions and document them. This is a classic engineering response. It’s not very accommodating and inflexible. Those traits can lower your chances of winning. If you had an extended amount of time you could try experimenting with different sets of assumptions. But the challenge here is to make winning decisions with the information you have now. Avoid rules. As humans, we like the simple certainty of rules. We like to know exactly what to do and what will happen. But this requires knowledge in full. We may not like it when things are uncertain, but we often live in an uncertain world. The problems caused by rules being applied to circumstances they didn’t anticipate can be major problems. When you don’t know what you need to know, look for solutions based on criteria and incentives over hard inflexible rules. But keep them simple because people crave certainty, even when it's irrational. Identify your risks and prioritize mitigation based on severity. If an analytic approach is the way to go, you can itemize your issues so they can be tracked and resolved. Otherwise, you’re just frantically reacting instead of moving forward deliberately. Seek options. If you can do it more than one way, then offer the options. Explain the pros and cons and let the customer choose. Better yet, arrange the options to increase efficiency and effectiveness. Start with the foundation and build on it. Manage decisions over time. The reason Agile and Spiral methodologies caught on was that customers recognized that they often don’t know all the details on day one. For projects where decisions get made over time, your approach to managing those decisions can be as important as the technical details for implementation. Under some circumstances, a quick decision that might be wrong but can be corrected is better than waiting for certainty. Let the circumstances of the customer’s environment and the nature of the project determine how you will manage those decisions, and use your proposal to demonstrate your insight regarding how to make them. Incentivize the customer. If you have a preference, or concerns like scalability, offer a business and pricing model that incentivizes the outcome you desire while giving the customer flexibility. This is only possible when the customer gives you flexibility in how you construct your pricing model. But for some bids, offering a superior pricing model can matter more than the technical details of your offering. Positioning. Position your approach against the possible customer preferences and concerns so that you show insight into the possibilities while covering them all. Many offerings can be applied in different ways, with different outcomes and characteristics. If it’s all the same to you, then offer the customer choices and help them make those choices. Along the way, you’ll not only be showing flexibility, but also insight. Profiling. If you don’t know the customer or what they prefer, perhaps you can envision what someone like the customer might prefer. You might create multiple possible profiles. And then design your offering and pitch to appeal to each of them. It’s bad when profiling is used in a restrictive way. But if you can use it to enhance the support you offer to someone new, it can be beneficial to them. Empathy. What would you care about if you were the customer? If all else fails, write to that. What would matter to you if you were in their shoes and dealing with their issues? What kind of help and support would you find beneficial? Alternative visions. What do you think should matter to the customer? If you really, really don’t know what the customer cares about, offer them your own vision and see if they go for it. It’s a high-risk strategy, but it can work. Think about how often you are indecisive or under what circumstances you might appreciate a suggestion for a completely different approach. If your vision is that good, it might just be worth ignoring the customer. Avoid muddying the waters. Overlapping issues and unknown variables compound the problem. Try to achieve clarity on as many as possible so you only have to guess about one unknown at a time. For example, if you are dealing with uncertain staffing, aren’t sure about your priorities, don’t know what the customer wants, and haven’t given any thought to what your win strategies should be, you’re going to have difficulty untangling all that. If you had answers to all of it except knowing what the customer wants you’d have a fighting chance at coming up with an approach that has a chance of working. Differentiate. Get out of the box. Be a contrarian. Go where the other competitors won’t. If there is something better, it will be hiding there. Don’t fear what you don’t know. Don’t retreat into your comfort zone because you are afraid of getting things wrong. What you don’t know might be an opportunity to come up with something better than what those who think they do know will put on the table. They might be more in the dark than they realize. A solution that addresses the challenges you face has a good chance of being a better solution than one that didn’t recognize the challenges at all. The last thing you want to do is to defer to authority. This is replacing strategy with CYA. The real problem with it is that the only authority that matters is the customer. They will decide whether you win or lose. So they are who you need to appeal to. And if you don’t know what will appeal to them the most, you need a strategy to maximize your chances. And if you do lose, it’s better to have given the customer a strong proposal that made them think about it than it is to have given the customer an ordinary, forgettable proposal that took no risks and held back because of what you didn’t know.
  6. If you suddenly have to do your proposals with everyone working remotely, we want to help. From now until the end of April, we're going well beyond normal technical support and providing all the free hand-holding we can to help you keep your proposal efforts on track using MustWin Now. We'll walk you through getting your RFP online, creating your compliance matrix, and preparing your proposal content plans. You still need to subscribe to get access, but we won't charge you anything for the extra help. MustWin Now is a great tool for working on proposals remotely because it is 100% web-based and designed for winning. MustWin Now is built to provide what people need to know and then help them figure out what should go in their proposals to maximize their chances of winning. MustWin Now is very different from how people use generic tools like SharePoint on their proposals. It's not a simple file management tool built with no awareness of the proposal process. In fact, MustWin Now doesn't do file management. Instead it helps people collaborate, gather, and assess the information that they need and turn it into a blueprint for winning. If you have SharePoint, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or even good ol' FTP, you can use them to manage the files while you use MustWin Now to figure out what should go in those files and do it smoothly even though everyone is remote. MustWin Now makes it easier to collect the information you need from remote participants You can use Pursuit Capture Forms or Proposal Input Forms to distribute a list of questions, figure out what to do about the answers, and then map the action items to the proposal outline so that they show up in your proposal section plans. This flows the information to where it's needed and puts it right in front of proposal writers while they are working. They are easy to use and can be customized. Understanding Pursuit Capture Forms | How to use proposal input forms to improve your win rates Working with subject matter experts remotely See also: About MustWin Now I like to have MustWin Now onscreen when I'm interviewing subject matter experts on the telephone. I also use it during proposal strategy meetings or to get the input of multiple stakeholders. When people say things that can help win the proposal, I use MustWin Now to instantly capture them as an instruction in the relevant proposal section(s). All it takes is one click. I use them to build out the section plan and load it up with highly relevant insight before any writing begins. Interviewing subject matter experts using MustWin Now focuses participants onto turning what they know into what should go on paper in the proposal, making it much more efficient than trying to take notes during open-ended interviews. If you end the discussion with a review of the instructions you plan to give the section writer, you get a preliminary assessment of whether the section plan covers everything the subject matter expert and you think it needs to. With MustWin Now, you may not even have to interview your subject matter experts. You can just give them access to MustWin Now and ask them to enter some instructions for what they think the section should address. That way you don't even have to synch up on the phone at the same time. They don't have to write the entire section and articulate everything to make a contribution. If they just itemize a few things in a list it can be a huge help to whoever does the writing. You may choose to edit their entries to incorporate and fine tune the presentation, win strategies, and other elements. It can be an online tool for collaboration about what to write before you write it. Then you only have to write it once. And you can do it all remotely. The instructions you capture can also work like a checklist to verify that the draft addressed everything it was supposed to. Instead of some talking with some notes followed by some writing followed by a subjective review with many chances for information loss or changing goalposts along the way, with MustWin Now you get a list of instructions and quality criteria. They can be reviewed by stakeholders before you write. They can be used to verify that what got written followed the instructions. You have traceability of the flow of information into and out of the draft. Helping people figure out what to write while working remotely MustWin Now enables you to capture input and contributions and put them in front of proposal writers while they work, along with the relevant RFP requirements. They get constant guidance no matter where they are. And it's not just what to write. It's how to write it. Writers not only get the full text of the RFP requirements onscreen next to them as they write, but they also get guidance from the instructions you added. And when they are uncertain, they can ask other people and capture what to do as new instructions. This is key to reducing proposal risk. When working remotely, talking in circles and then turning to a blank page to write increases the risk of failure even more than when people are co-located. But the best part is that your instructions can go beyond just what to write about and help them realize how they should present it. If you want certain things emphasized, points made, or themes substantiated, with MustWin Now you can do that in a format that provides inspiration and reminders while writers are working. Wherever they happen to be. See some examples of proposal content planning using MustWin Now Improving the quality of what people write MustWin Now enables you to get a much better quality first draft from writers, even though you may never see or meet them in person. In addition to the RFP and instructions, MustWin Now enables you to put your quality criteria in front of proposal writers while they are working. This enables you to inform your writers about what they need to accomplish in order to pass their proposal reviews. It's better to verify and write once than to manage infinite rewrites when working on proposals remotely MustWin Now makes it easy to create a Proposal Content Plan that can be validated before the writing starts. During writing MustWin Now makes it easy for proposal writers to self-assess their work, using the same quality criteria that reviewers will use. And the reviewers get more guidance than a copy of the RFP. They can use the Proposal Content Plan to verify that the draft addressed everything it was supposed to, in the ways it was supposed to. MustWin Now can keep a proposal from becoming an exercise in writing draft after draft in the vain hope of stumbling over a great proposal. If you think managing draft after draft without losing track of something is hard, it's much more difficult and far more risky when doing a proposal remotely. The result is a better first draft and much, much lower odds of a proposal restart at the review stage. Instead of infinite rewrites until you run out of time and submit what you have and trying to manage that while working remotely, you get a solid baseline while there's still time to fine tune it. Plus some new things that will help even more We're adding some new features to MustWin Now that will make it even more useful when working remotely. Think assignment management and issue tracking. Think built-in proposal coordination and real-time reporting. If proposal management is really nothing but problem solving, then think about what the perfect tool for dealing with everything might be, and make it remotely accessible while everyone is working. We might even add file storage for those who don't have an IT infrastructure that supports working on proposals remotely. If you want to know more, reach out and we'll tell you what we're up to. Ask us a question Or schedule a demo...
  7. It can be very disruptive to proposals if you aren't prepared to do them with everyone working remotely. We're doing two big things to help those of you who suddenly find you have to do your proposals with everyone working from home. We want to hear from both providers and companies who may need help. If you need help from people with experience and resources for working on remote proposals, you should check back here frequently. We'll be adding providers to this page. If you are a relevant provider, we want to add you to the directory we're creating. Please recommend resources that you have experience with. Use the green button below to message us and help us all help each other. The first thing we're doing to help is this page It's going to become a resource directory. Anyone who can help companies with getting set up to do their pursuits remotely can use the button below to let me know and I'll add you to this page. I'm not interested in people who just are willing to work remotely, because that's going to be everyone. I am interested in people or companies that host remote working solutions, can set them up, or can advise companies on how to set up and conduct a proposal where all of the participants are remote. For example, providers that either host, develop for, or help companies implement proposal-specific SharePoints or other platforms would be a good match. If you have experience setting up and directing remote proposal teams, you'd also be a match. If you are a provider, copy the format of our directory listing below and use the green button to send us your information. The second thing we're doing to help is adding file management to MustWin Now I use MustWin Now for remote proposal management and subject matter expert collaboration right now. With file management, it becomes an instant remote proposal writing platform for companies that don't have anything ready to use. This is a new feature and pretty basic. MustWin Now already supports planning your pursuit, turning capture intel into action, planning what to write, and conducting reviews. Being able to also manage the files will enable proposal teams to take a proposal all the way to final production in MustWin Now while working remotely. Being cloud-based mean you can have your team working within the hour. See our directory entry below for more information. Directory of remote proposal resources We're just getting started and still collecting info from providers. Check back often since we'll be updating this as frequently as we can. Ask a question about proposals with remote participants Provider:, LLC Remote capabilities and resources:, LLC is the parent company of PropLIBRARY and MustWin Now. PropLIBRARY is a web-based proposal training resource. MustWin Now is an online tool for pursuit, capture, and proposal planning. You can use MustWin Now to gather pursuit intel, turn it into action items, prepare your compliance matrix and proposal outline, create section plans for proposal writers, and support proposal reviews. You can use it to gather information from subject matter experts and figure out how to incorporate it in the proposal. Because they are web-based tools, they are ready for immediate use by remote proposal teams. We can provide consulting support including pursuit strategy, proposal management, proposal writing, and quality assurance reviews. We can help you get your team onto MustWin Now, train them as needed, and fill gaps in your proposal staffing. URLs: Provider: Remote capabilities and resources: I am a resource you can use remotely to help you maintain proposal quality. Email your bids and proposals to for prompt, meticulous proofreading and editing. I typically work with Word documents or Google Docs. I bring experience editing proposals. Let me know your deadline. If we set things up ahead of time, your writers can email their files straight to me on the way to final production with minimal impact on your schedule. URL: Schedule a conversation or a demo of MustWin Now...
  8. If you have an RFP coming out soon and want our help to get into position and win the proposal, you should reach out to us below so we can discuss options. We can use MustWin Now if you want, or we can use your existing corporate assets and we'll show you what we've learned about turning your insights into action. Ask us a question Or schedule a demo...
  9. The first time I decided to throw out the proposal process and start over was in 2003, when something quite unexpected happened while I was giving a presentation at a conference to a group of my peers. I was talking about improving proposal red team reviews and I had some good tips that I was proud of. In the middle of talking I realized that all my tips, and anything I had ever heard anyone else ever say about proposal reviews, was simply coping with a broken process and none of it would actually fix anything. This somewhat terrifying moment led to me thinking about what it would really require to achieve proposal quality. I threw out the color team approach to proposal reviews and instead built a review methodology based on being able to define actual quality criteria for your proposals. Then I realized it needed a way to plan the proposal content around those criteria. After that I realized that the pre-RFP process also needed some structure in order to deliver the information that people need, which was now fully itemized. And thus, the MustWin Process was born in 2004. I spent the next 14 years expanding and improving the MustWin Process. I found ways to tweak it, but never found a structural problem with it. In fact, in 14 years I never found a better way to structure the proposal process. It's not like I set out to do this... In 2018, I was doing what amounted to some research and development related to doing the MustWin Process online. I was not creating proposal software. I didn’t even want to create proposal software. I had a mild interest in creating some online tools for implementing the MustWin Process. But I found a way to do a drag and drop compliance matrix online. And while the geek in me thought that was really cool technology, it doesn’t actually change the process. I was wrong. In fact, it changes everything about the process. Over the next year, I had many surprise discoveries about how changing user interaction can change the process itself. What I learned became MustWin Now, a tool that brought the goals of the MustWin Process online but didn't try to do things the same way we have to do them on paper. Once the compliance matrix is online, everything can be related to the proposal outline. Even the work you do before the RFP is released can get mapped to the proposal outline when it is created. Quality criteria, assignments, instructions for writers, issues, resources, and more. Not only is it all related to the outline, but it changes the process completely. It all goes from being a sequence to just being part of what goes into creating proposal sections. See also: About MustWin Now People don’t really follow steps to create a proposal. What they do is add value to the proposal as it grows from being an outline and becomes a document. They follow the RFP. They figure out how to articulate what it will take to win. They write to incorporate not only the RFP requirements, but a huge list of considerations that include things like differentiators, evaluation criteria, offering design, reasons for the customer to select you, features, benefits, proof points, win strategies, and more. Once the writing is done, proposal reviews should not be subjective opinion-fests, but should validate that everything that was supposed to go into the proposal made it in and fulfills the proposal quality criteria. Doing this on paper is a nightmare. Nobody wants to create paper in order to create more paper called a proposal. When they resist, the cost is that the people working on the proposal don’t get the information they need to create a proposal that reliably reflects what it will take to win. But doing it online makes it feel like you’re just answering the same questions people would ask gathered around a table discussing it. It’s not like doing paperwork in order to write. You’re just getting your thoughts and the information you need in order. It turns out that it's really about thinking and not producing paper. Paper is the last step. Not the first. The proposal process is about gathering the information you need, figuring out what to do about it, and validating that what you're doing reflects what it will take to win. Then you use what you figured out to put it on paper. The result is a huge improvement to your first draft. As much as we can preach about the perils of figuring out what your proposal should be by writing endless drafts, with the hope of somehow tripping over it before you run out of time, people keep doing just that. But when you move it online people’s behavior changes in surprising ways. Doing a proposal online properly is nothing like just moving your paper-based process into the cloud. It changes what doing a proposal means. Of course, people don’t immediately begin doing everything properly just the way they should every time. But even a little bit of better planning and better thinking makes a huge difference in the outcome. The ability to drive even just a few win strategies into the proposal with a few suggestions for maximizing the evaluation score makes a huge difference in the first draft. When people sit around a table talking about these things it usually has little or no impact on what gets on paper. But when they create a section plan that they can have onscreen next to the windows they are writing in, the very first draft they produce reflects what it should. Reviews can validate whether anything got left out, but really they end up focusing on improvement instead of whether the proposal missed the mark. And the best part is, they aren’t following a process. They are just doing what feels natural --- getting their thoughts together and then writing against what amounts to a checklist. So I find myself reengineering the proposal process for the second time I’m reengineering the process in a way that doesn’t start from paper-based procedures. I'm doing it in a way that never would have occurred to me without a happy accident that led to me rethinking it all. Again. I’m reengineering it to support thinking, writing, and validation instead of moving paper. I’m not starting from “steps.” I’m not even starting by looking at what is needed to create a “proposal.” I’m starting from the user interface. What is the ideal user interface for winning in writing? My second effort at reengineering is more about user interface design than it is about process design. Maybe that’s why proposal development hasn’t significantly changed in 30 years. Maybe it’s because it should have never been about the process. Maybe it should have been about user interaction from the beginning. We're looking for a company that wants help getting ready for an RFP that is coming out, and who wants to do the best possible job of getting into position to win it. Then we want to help them create the winning proposal. We can use MustWin Now if you want, or we can use your existing corporate assets and we'll show you what we've learned about turning your insights into action. Reach out to us below and we can discuss options. Ask us a question Or schedule a conversation and a demo...
  10. If you tell lies like those below, you hurt your credibility. Even when you tell them with good intent they still hurt your credibility. Yet it seems like everyone does it. And if you tell the same lies that they do, your proposal will lack differentiators. Even though people know that customers only buy from people they trust, they still say things like these that the customer can see straight through. The point here isn’t to hold a trial over the offense of lying, degrees of untruth, or whether it's true when you tell them. The point here is to realize that there are better ways to articulate why the customer should select you than to say things with such glaring credibility issues like: See also: Great Proposals We’re better because we have experience. The fact that your company has experience is not the lie. But whether it makes you better probably is. None of the people who had that experience are still with the company, and even if they are they probably won’t be working on this project. Besides, the odds are that nothing tangible was created from that experience that the company owns or will use on projects for other customers. Experience proves what a company did, and not what it can or will do. We can staff this project because we have [#] employees. But because they are all working on other projects, we’ll have to do just as much recruiting as smaller companies. Contractors can’t carry staff who are not assigned to projects for very long, if at all. Since those staff are all working on other projects full time, the idea that they could somehow consult with or involve them is unlikely. For all practical purposes, a company’s total staffing count has approximately zero impact on their ability to staff new projects. Your project will be of the utmost importance to us. Just like all of the other projects and competing priorities we have. “Utmost” in this context has no meaning. The importance of a project to a company has more to do with its revenue, profitability, and impact on past performance. We are fully committed to the success of this project. We’ll only pull our punches if that’s what we need to do to make this project we underbid profitable. We say we’re committed because we’re not at all sure how we’re going to or if we’re going to be able to achieve success on this project. If we knew, we’d say that instead. But we are really hopeful. We intend to be successful, whether we are or not. Customer satisfaction is our highest priority. So long as we're not distracted by all those other priorities that are actually higher. Quality is our highest priority. We do great work, except when we don’t. We have good reasons when we don’t. But it’s not like other things were higher priorities. We will comply with all the requirements in the RFP. Unless it would not be profitable to do so. Or we can’t figure out how. Or things take longer than we expect. Or… As a small business we are more nimble than larger companies. We’re all wearing 10 different hats, but we can turn on a dime. As a large business we have all the resources needed. They are all fully committed to other projects and you’ll never see them. But we do have them. We are ready to start on Day One of the contract. We’ll start by signing the contract. After that, we’ve got some recruiting to do, some credentialing, a project management office to get set up, and a bunch more action items before we can actually do productive work. As the incumbent we can start immediately. Never mind those pesky contract, staffing changes that require onboarding and training, and requirement changes. They won’t slow us down one bit! We have a successful track record. When you only look at the successes, it’s quite a record! How is it that companies with successful track records who prioritize customer service and quality don’t have perfect past performance scores? Just sayin’. We have a [insert your preferred lie] turnover rate. Just don’t ask how we calculated it or if we included incumbent contracts, voluntary or involuntary terminations, contract loss terminations, staff reassigned to other contracts, promoted staff who have to be replaced, medical leaves or disabilities, recently added positions, closed positions, etc… We bring capabilities in every aspect of the statement of work. We’ve even done some of them before. Technically this one is not a lie, because we have infinite capabilities because we can do anything we can hire people to do. And we always deliver on time. Oops. That one may not be true. Our staff have a combined total of [insert large number] years of experience. If you have 10 staff who worked for one year on something, is that the same as having 10 years of experience? So while the math is accurate, it’s a lie because it’s a substitution of something that’s not the same. Most of our business comes from repeat customers. If this is not true, it’s a sign that you’re losing most of your recompetes. In other words, every contractor does most of their business with repeat customers. So a better claim would be that we have never lost a recompete. But that probably would be a lie. Our mission is to [fill in the blank]. Your mission is really to win new contracts. Contract growth is the source of all opportunities in a company. Maintaining a high past performance score is a more powerful motivator than a mission statement. You only get to do the things you have in your current mission statement if you win new contracts. Nobody in your company is held accountable for mission statement fulfillment. But if you don’t win new contracts, heads will roll. We understand… When we found out about your needs because you released an RFP, we immediately checked out your website after deciding to bid and now feel so confident that we understand your needs that we’ve copied and pasted your mission statement into our proposal to prove it. We understand you so well that we’ll fully comply with all RFP requirements in our proposal even though our project team won’t even read it before starting the project. Well, maybe the project manager will. We're so good and understand so deeply we don’t even have to prove it, we can just state it. Do you think your customers don't realize any of this? What might they be thinking when they read your proposal? Behind each of my snarky comments is a hint at what to say instead of the lie. Every negative can be rephrased as a positive. So dump the lies that hurt your credibility and say something direct and authentic. Acknowledge the issues that make these statements lies and tell the customer what you do about them. And have fun ghosting your competition who are still saying these tired clichés. If you need help taking your proposals to a higher level, just let me know. I promise you will be my highest priority as I will achieve the utmost in customer satisfaction while delivering the best quality to my repeat customers through my amazing capabilities of being committed to the success of your proposal. If any one of those is good to use, then why isn't it better to use them all? Check out your past proposals. If you find you’ve made these mistakes in the past, reach out to me and I’ll show you how to write a much better proposal. And if your competition continues to make the same mistakes, your win rate will go way up.
  11. This module is a chance to finalize the work from the previous exercises and prepare them for implementation. The course materials for this module provide an opportunity to reflect on what you have created so far, look at it from several perspectives, and ensure it is ready for real-world use. During this module you should review and make any improvements needed to the process items you have created. You should also apply final formatting and production to them (logos, headers, footers, usage statements, instructions, notices, etc.). Make whatever changes you think should be made so that people will be able to successfully implement the items you have created. Add new items if you think they are needed. Delete any items that aren't relevant or won't be used. When this module is complete, you should have a set of items for the pre-proposal process that are ready for use on live pursuits.
  12. This module takes the approach to building lists of questions from the last module and applies it proposals that start at RFP release. The difference is subtle but important. Proposal inputs forms must ask questions that can be answered immediately and probably without being able to conduct much research. They are about discovering what you already know and articulating it in a way that proposal writers can use. They can have a big impact. Having some information to work with is a lot better than having none. Building a proposal around win strategies formed based on what you think or assume is better than makes them up based on the RFP. There is another benefit. It forces proposal writers to think through what they really need in terms of input. You can't train your organization to bring you the right input if you can't explain to them what that is. When those responsible for gathering intel have proposal input forms, they can begin to anticipate the needs of the proposal writers. This module has less new material to read and will require more time working on the exercise. It will require more time in introspection, thinking about what to ask for in order to put your response to the RFP requirements into context. When you combine proposal input forms with pursuit capture forms, you get materials to provide guidance whether the pursuit starts well in advance or suddenly.
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  15. Here is an example of proposal writing for you to consider. I review a lot of proposals and see this style of writing all the time. In fact, a lot of people try to emulate it. How does this sound to you? Our company is based on the belief that our customers' needs are of the utmost importance. Our entire team is committed to meeting those needs. As a result, a high percentage of our business is from repeat customers and referrals. We would welcome the opportunity to earn your trust and deliver you the best service in the industry. It sounds perfectly ordinary. Lots of business documents sound like this. Actually, it sucks. Any one of those sentences is bad. Together it could be the worst proposal paragraph I have ever seen. The big problem with it is that it doesn't actually say anything credible. Well actually there are a quite a few problems with it. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the whole thing is a problem. There is nothing redeemable about it. And yes, it's that bad. And it is way too common. Consider: See also: Customer's Perspective No one cares what your company "is based on." They care about what your company will do or deliver. If being based on something increases your ability to do or deliver, they care about how and not the fact that it was based on something. No one cares about your "beliefs." They care about what you will do. If there are reasons about your beliefs that produce better results or make your offering a better alternative, then they care about those reasons. Of course the "customers’ needs are of utmost importance." The very first sentence is not only a statement of the obvious, it’s also true of every other company bidding and does nothing to differentiate you. No one cares about your commitment. Or believes it. If you really are committed, let that show in what you do. If your commitment doesn’t lead to you doing things differently or better, then what good is it? You don’t need to say you are committed. You do need to be the best alternative. "...meeting those needs." Is that the best you can offer? Meeting their needs? Won’t everyone bidding be meeting the customer’s needs? Or at least claiming it with equal enthusiasm? "A high percentage of our business..." Does the customer really care about how you make your money? If they did, they would have asked about it in the RFP. If this was an important point, you’d quantify it. A percentage of repeat customers (as opposed to percentage of your revenue) might be a good thing, but it’s not going to impact your evaluation one bit. And oh by the way, if you are a government contractor the percentage of repeat customers had better be pretty darn high or you’re losing your recompetes. In the unlikely event that the customer does bother to think about it, it’s probably also true for all of your competitors. "We would welcome the opportunity..." This is not only a statement of the obvious, but it’s a self-serving one. Of course you welcome any viable business opportunity. " earn your trust." You’ve already missed one opportunity. Your introduction actually hurts your creditability. A promise from a vendor to earn the customer’s trust has very little value. But the actions you take to prove that you are trustworthy don’t. Transparency, oversight, accountability, quality assurance, past performance, testimonials, and more count. But this statement doesn’t. " service in the industry." Not only is this an unsubstantiated claim, it’s not believable. It’s a big industry. I question whether the firm writing this, or any of their competitors, has the best service in the industry. They might be pretty good. They might even have happy customers. But promising something that you probably can’t deliver does not help your credibility. If you think the quality of your service is something worth bragging about, then provide proof. Don’t brag. But do cite the evidence. And don’t make it about you, make it about what the customer will get as a result of selecting you. Take those parts out and there is nothing left. This paragraph is written to please the writer. It is not written to please the customer. It’s about how the writer wants to see their company and not about what the customer needs to see in order to make their decision. Lots of people write about how they’d like to be seen rather than what the customer cares about. Just so you know, I’ve written most of those sentences or their equivalents at one time or another. But never all at once. And not in the last decade or two. Learn faster than I did. How would I rewrite it? I wouldn’t. I’d delete it and start over. There is nothing in the example above that I’d bring forward. It says nothing of substance about the customer, company, or offering. How I'd structure the replacement introduction would depend on the RFP, customer, opportunity, and competitive environment. But typically, I would: Write an opening sentence about what the customer will get by selecting my company. Write a sentence introducing my company in terms of its most significant differentiators. Write one or more sentences linking our differentiators to the most significant evaluation criteria. Possibly reference proof points in the following paragraphs, if it can be done without being redundant. Think about what the customer needs to see in order to make a decision regarding what their best alternative is. Then help them make that decision with substance that goes beyond beliefs, commitments, statements of the obvious (no matter how grandiose), and unsubstantiated claims. Don’t write your proposal to sound good. Write your proposal to help the evaluator make a decision.
  16. We publish our newsletter weekly. You will receive the next one when it comes out. Please make sure to put it on your email white list or move it to your priority tab so that your email software doesn't hide it from you. Here is the link for downloading your copy of our eBook: Turning Your Proposals Into a Competitive Advantage Here are some other useful links: Beginners should start here PropLIBRARY Subscription information But really, all you need to do is explore the menu at the top and follow your nose. Try the "Best Practice Library" menu. Finally, here are links to the online versions of the articles referenced in the eBook above: Why your good proposal is going to lose What is the simplest, easiest proposal process to get started with? Bid/no bid decisions: 6 approaches to making them and 10 things the process must get right How do you win before the RFP is even released? How to write a better technical approach To write better proposals, first learn how to read them like a customer How to tell if a proposal is well written The problem with proposal re-use repositories What is more important to your business than lead generation? 9 places you should invest to increase your proposal win rate Go back to the previous page
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  19. Most proposals are lost before the RFP is released. When you haven’t discovered what it will take to win and all you have to go by is what’s in the RFP, you are starting from a competitive disadvantage. You want to be the other company. The one that is starting from a competitive advantage. But even when you have staff “looking into it,” “researching it,” “chasing the lead,” “marketing the customer,” or whatever else you want to call it and doing it ahead of RFP release, most companies fail because their efforts don’t deliver what is needed to write a winning proposal. They try hard to gather what they think will be useful, but it turns out to be mostly disconnected from the proposal. The handoff from business development to the proposal often takes place in meetings. Sometimes there is no tangible handoff. It's all talk. With a very low signal to noise ratio. Sometimes you get slides from progress meetings. When you do have a dedicated capture effort, the handoff is often a report or a capture plan. Putting together a list of high-level theme statements that aren’t tied to anything that impacts the evaluation criteria and calling it a day is not going to help you win. Pre-RFP briefing slides and capture plans are usually not prepared for winning the proposal. They are prepared to justify the pursuit. That subtle distinction becomes important when you sit down to write the proposal. And while most capture plans address why we think we can win, they often skip how to build the proposal around it. Most business development and capture efforts amount to we think we can win and the proposal team will figure out how. In isolation. I know because I’ve parachuted in to try to rescue companies in this position way too many times. What’s missing? See also: Information Advantage The reasons most information gathered before the proposal starts never impacts the proposal are because: The information you gather before the RFP is released is not mapped to the proposal outline. When you don't do this, your message will tend to be at too high a level and it will leave gaps. You think you’ve identified hot buttons. But they amount to “the customer isn’t happy with quality” or “the customer likes us” and oh by the way, there is no section in the RFP to specifically address what you have, no evaluation criteria relevant to it, and the proposal team has no idea what to do about any of it. Should they make things up or ignore them? If it’s not tied to the outline, it’s not clear where to talk about it or what to say about it. You gather information but you don't provide instructions for proposal writers on what to say and do about it. Most companies assume that proposal writers can take some raw intel and win a proposal with it. If the proposal writers can find the right place to work it in and know why it matters, that might be true. But usually it’s just not that clear. That may explain why most companies have such a low win rate. They think they are trying really hard, and they are. They just aren’t working effectively. Without both of these, your win rate drops. Gathering information is not enough. It’s understandable how this happens There is no outline or evaluation criteria during the pre-RFP business development and capture phases. People have to gather intel and do their work without knowing what the outline will be. They have little control over what intel they’ll be able to find. Their mission is to prospect for that intel and not to work within the proposal structure that doesn’t even exist yet. But if they don’t roll their sleeves up and map their contributions to the outline after RFP release, then they haven’t completed what is needed from them to close the sale with a win. The people who have direct insight about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment must explain how to use those insights and not assume that writers can take high-level ambiguous statements not specifically related to anything in the proposal and somehow create a winning proposal out of them. They must map their insights to specific proposal sections in the context of the evaluation criteria for their efforts to impact whether they win. It can be done Doing all this is not easy. I didn’t even realize how important it is until I built MustWin Now and integrated pre-RFP intelligence with the compliance matrix function. In MustWin Now customer, opportunity, and competitive insights are easy to gather in a useful form. With just a few clicks users convert the raw intel into instructions for proposal writers that explain what to say or do about the intel. Then, as soon as the RFP hits the street, the instructions get added to the compliance matrix. The result is that when writers first see their sections they not only see the RFP requirements, but they also see the intel that’s relevant to their section along with what they should do about it. It makes it look easy to create proposals based on effective, validated pre-RFP intel and win strategies. But try doing it manually. Try doing it on paper. It’s not so easy. It’s just necessary. You can and should manually convert your intel into instructions for proposal writers. You can and should manually map it all to the proposal as part of building your compliance matrix. You can and should create section plans for writers so that they know what they are supposed to write before they write it. But you probably won’t. Even though you already know you should. My favorite part about using MustWin Now is watching people just figure out their win strategies and incorporate them into their sections without realizing what a huge accomplishment it is. They probably don’t even realize that their competitors are struggling with it, trying really hard, and ultimately not being that effective. That sounds kind of negative. But look at their win rates… Improve your chances of winning your next proposal... MustWin Now comes with a subscription to PropLIBRARY as a low-cost do-it-yourself way to get our online training and the tools you need to drive your win strategies into the proposal. You can also try using MustWin Now on a single proposal and get our personal help on top of our online training and tools.
  20. Normally to get MustWin Now you have to get a subscription to PropLIBRARY and pay per user. We’ve come up with an alternative approach that will enable you to try it on a single proposal before committing to a subscription. Because we’re talking about a live proposal, we’re offering this with a concierge service. We have three goals... Make sure you have a great proposal experience even though you’re trying a new approach, while providing a safety net to ensure that introducing a new tool into a live proposal doesn’t cause problems Eliminate the learning curve and make sure that you get the most benefit out of using MustWin Now Show you how to maximize your win probability using MustWin Now We want you to decide to continue using MustWin Now to increase your win probability on all your future pursuits. Your access to MustWin Now will be limited to a single pursuit and will last until the proposal is submitted. We can start before the RFP is released, and you can use the Pursuit Capture Forms to prepare for the proposal. Your staff will be users of MustWin Now, and will: Answer the Pursuit Capture and Proposal Input Form questions Validate the compliance matrix and outline Contribute to and validate the proposal content plan Determine what to offer and how to price it Be responsible for reading and understanding all of the terms, conditions, and requirements in the RFP Write the proposal based on the plan Manage the entire proposal process So basically, your staff will be doing a proposal using MustWin Now, and we’ll be helping you get up to speed on how to best use it. What we’ll do to help you get up to speed using MustWin Now: Provide orientations for your stakeholders to provide training and guidance as needed Set the pursuit up for you in MustWin Now and configure all the options. Set up your users. You can have as many users as you need for your proposal. Enter the RFP into MustWin Now for you and build the draft compliance matrix and proposal outline. We’ll guide you through validating your compliance matrix. Provide advice and support to help you win that goes beyond just technical support. Assist with preparing and validating the proposal content plan. When proposal writing starts, we fade out. Unless you want to retain us as consultants. To do these things we’ll participate in up to 8 online meetings. This give us the flexibility to respond to your needs while setting expectations so we can deliver all this for a fixed price. The meetings may include orientations, strategy discussions, content planning sessions, reviews, etc. Typically we’ll do an orientation session for the pre-RFP pursuit, compliance matrix, and proposal content plan. You might want us to attend your kickoff meeting, brief reviewers or executives, etc. We’ll have working sessions with the staff completing the Pursuit Capture Forms, validating the compliance matrix, contributing to the proposal content plan, and validating that it’s ready for proposal writing. And we’ll have some tasks that we’ll do in between calls and meetings, like entering the RFP, user account management, working on the compliance matrix and proposal outline, and our own contributions to the Proposal Content Plan. How much does it cost? Because it's tied to using MustWin Now, we can do this for a simple fixed price of $2,500, including all the subscription-level access your team needs during the proposal. What comes after the proposal is submitted? If you continue to use PropLIBRARY after the proposal ends, you'll pay the low monthly cost based on the number of users and we’ll deduct the upfront portion of the cost. At 15 users, you’ll be getting $2,395 in up-front costs waived and only paying $215 per month for your users to continue having access to PropLIBRARY and MustWin Now. If you want even more support, we can provide it We do offer consulting services and can provide expertise or fill gaps to help finish your proposal. We’ll have to discuss the level of effort and how much it will cost. For example, we can: Participate in the review of the draft proposal. How many reviews? What is the scope of the review? Help write the proposal. Because we set up the compliance matrix and content plan, we'll have precise information about the size and complexity of what needs to be written and will need fewer hours than we'd normally estimate for this task. Ask for a quote. Manage and lead the proposal process. This usually requires a high level of effort. Let’s talk about it. How do we move forward? Let’s have a conversation so we can answer your questions and get to know each other. If you decide you want to move forward, we'll send an invoice through PropLIBRARY. When you pay it online, we can get started immediately. Use the calendar below to let us know when you'd like to talk about it. If you just have a quick question, click the green button and send it to us. A quick note for consultants… If you want to do something similar for your customers, with you providing the concierge services, click the button to set up a conversation and I'll explain how that can work. Click here to ask us a question
  21. I review a lot of proposals for companies, and one thing that I frequently see is that what they tell me about their customer, opportunity, and competitive insights didn’t make it onto paper. There are a few reasons for this. When you create a single list of “themes” for your proposal, they tend to be at too high of a level and they don’t map to the proposal outline. There are redundancies and gaps. They also don’t map to the RFP. So when people respond to the requirements, they don’t do it in the context of your themes. What they tend to do is write a merely compliant proposal and then go to the list and see where they can sprinkle in the too high-level themes. The result is that while you think you're pressing the customer’s “hot buttons,” the reality is they have little or no impact on your proposal score. But the worst part is that by watering down your insights into high level theme statements, you lose the insights. You talk about them for hours in meetings, but they never make it onto paper in the proposal where they can impact your win probability. You need to take action. You need to take action on your insights. All that intel you’ve spent so much time gathering… you need to take action on it or it is meaningless. First, you need to itemize your insights. What do you know that matters? What is your information advantage? Then for each insight, ask yourself, “What should the proposal writers do about it?” Should they use the insight to: See also: About MustWin Now Make a point in the proposal? Improve your evaluation score? Be the benefit or result of your approach? Subtly ghost the competition by positioning your offering against their weakness? Address unwritten requirements? Show a real depth of understanding by showing insight beyond what others know? Anticipate and mitigate customer concerns? Show that by selecting your proposal they will not only get RFP compliance, but will also get what your insight tells you they also want? Properly interpret customer terminology? Design a better offering? Provide guidance for making estimates, especially regarding any difference between RFP estimates and reality? Position what’s going to be written against something in addition to the RFP? You can’t count on any of these things happening if you don’t identify the actions to be taken based on your insights. A list of themes will not do this for you. A list of themes is merely putting the ball in the proposal writers' hands and hoping they’ll discover a play that you didn’t. To do this manually, you can create a matrix of insights and map it to proposal sections and RFP items like the evaluation criteria. You can do this in a spreadsheet. The way I prefer to do it is using MustWin Now. In MustWin Now, insights are gathered using Pursuit Capture Forms that: Provide questions that help contributors get to the insights on what they know about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment Enable each insight to be quickly converted into instructions that proposal writers can take action on Enable those insights to be shown to proposal reviewers who can confirm that the design actions were taken and are effective This is how MustWin Now drives win strategies into the proposal to improve your chances of winning.
  22. Put the RFP aside, just for a moment. Meditate or ponder on the following before you start typing. Ask yourself, "Why should the customer select my offering over their other alternatives." Reach beyond your company's experience and qualifications. Reach all the way to why the customer will be better off if they select you, and how what they will get will be superior if they select you. Consider what matters or should matter to the customer about what you are going to write about. See also: Great Proposals Now look at it through the lens of differentiation. What are the reasons why the customer should select you that no one else can offer? How will what the customer gets by selecting you be different and better than what anyone else can offer? Take all of that and consolidate it into the points you want to make. Everything you write should make a point. You don't want to write a pointless proposal. When you know what points you want to make you are ready to start organizing your proposal sections. In what sequence should you address your points? How should you group them? It’s time to go back to the RFP. Look at the instructions in the RFP before you look at the performance requirements. Build your organization around what the instructions ask for. Be very literal and use their words and headings. Figure out how to reorganize the points you want to make within the RFP's instructions. Do not get too attached to how you want to organize things. Organize them so that everything is where the customer expects to find them. And that will be where the RFP asks for them. Next look at the evaluation criteria in the RFP. What do they need to see for you to get the maximum score? Again, be very literal and use their words. Rewrite the points you want to make so that they maximize your score against the RFP. You want the customer to be able to easily give you the highest score because of the points you made. You want the customer to be able to find the evaluation criteria by keyword searching for them. Now look at the performance requirements in the RFP. Whatever you do, don't try to figure out your approaches by writing about them. Figure out your approaches first, and do it separately from proposal writing. The last thing to do before proposal writing is to bring it all together. Organize your responses to the performance requirements according to the points you want to make (which follow the instructions have you have optimized to score highly). Writing to fulfill the RFP requirements is good, but it is not good enough to win. To write a winning proposal, you must write your response to the performance requirements to prove the points that will persuade the customer that you are their best alternative and give you the highest score. This is your goal, and not merely describing your company or your offering. If you get to this point and are struggling, try looking at it in reverse. Each of your responses to the RFP performance requirements should make a point, and that point is not simply "here's what you asked for." That point should differentiate your offering and get to the heart of what the customer really wants. But it should also be worded to maximize your score against the RFP evaluation criteria. And it must be organized and presented to comply with the RFP instructions. Every time you are in doubt about what to write or find yourself struggling to edit something into what it needs to be, go back and reflect on what points you should be making. Focus on proving the points you need to make and the words will follow. Premium content exclusively for PropLIBRARY Subscribers: Online training courses in proposal writing: Fundamentals of proposal writing How to respond to an RFP with the right words How to create a compliance matrix Creating a Proposal Outline Premium content from the MustWin Process library: Introduction to proposal writing What to do when you receive a proposal assignment How contributors can help manage expectations during a proposal Setting priorities while writing How to go beyond RFP compliance A simple formula for proposal writing Proposal style and editorial issues Identifying graphics Inspiration for graphics Six things to do when you don’t have the input you need to write the winning proposal
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  24. This module takes us from foundation-building into process building. It takes the pre-RFP pursuit from activities and relationship building into win strategy, message development, and positioning to close the sale with a winning proposal. From here on, you'll be reading the course materials not only to learn but also to identify things you'd like to discuss implementing. This module identifies different elements that bring structure to the pre-RFP pursuit, without forcing you into a particular structure by focusing on the flow of information. During this module we'll discuss how to structure collecting the information you need. Readiness Reviews are presented as an example of one way to identify the information needed and implement reviews to track the progress of information collection. We'll also introduce MustWin Now as an online approach to intelligence gathering. During our online meetings we'll discuss different approaches for the pre-RFP pursuit, as well as any current reviews your company already has. Along the way, this module discusses the roles that people play in pre-RFP pursuit and the transitions when one role hands off to another. Your company might define these roles differently, but likely faces similar transitions and hand-offs. In addition to progress tracking and oversight, a major reasons for having a pre-RFP pursuit process is to streamline these transitions. When reviewing these materials, take notes on transition issues you face and look to the materials for ideas to use in your process to resolve those issues, and discuss these issues during our online meetings. This module also provides reference materials to help you itemize the information needed from the pre-RFP phase. When reading these materials, focus on which information process participants need to close the sale with a winning proposal. If you think of items that are specific to your business lines or company, take notes so we can make sure your process addresses them.
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  26. Companies start to embrace a proposal process when the number of people involved grows large enough to become difficult to coordinate. It would be better if they began to embrace process as soon as they start caring about their win rate. The MustWin Process on PropLIBRARY enables a team of people to work together to maximize the company’s win rate. That’s great, but what if there’s no team? What if you are the team? Then doesn’t a proposal process designed to support large teams become overkill? Are you really alone? Sure, you might be the last one to touch the proposal. You might be the only one producing it. But if you have stakeholders, you are not alone. If you need input, you are not really alone. If people depend on your output, you are not really alone. If you are not really alone, you need to coordinate with the others who are involved or impacted. And that coordination can become a need for a proposal process. Even if you are truly the only one working on proposals you still need to do things in a repeatable way that can be optimized, both for efficiency and for effectiveness. But your process needs do change in some key ways. See also: Process Implementation Instead of steps and procedures, build your proposal process around goals, reminders, and checklists. You don’t want to forget things, and it’s quicker to not have to figure things out every time. Sometimes checklists function as reminders, being lists of things you don’t want to forget, but sometimes reminders are simply that. And sometimes checklists are quality assurance or planning tools. You can accelerate thinking about your proposal by including things that aren’t always relevant but are worth considering on your checklists. When you’re under volume pressure and near your maximum capacity, sometimes it’s good to not have to remember and think through everything. Checklists can not only speed things up and improve quality, but they can also inspire you to create better proposals. You may not need written procedures for coordination, but you still need stakeholder reporting and communication. Instead of communicating to coordinate the production of many moving parts, you need to be prepared to communicate with the people who are impacted by what you do. Instead of thinking of it as “communication,” it may be better to think of it as expectation management. The best way to streamline communication is to build it in, make it automatic, and eliminate the need for communication as a separate or ad hoc activity. If people can see the status or automatically get updates, they won’t have to interrupt you to ask about things as often. Document the inputs you require and whether you got them. Don’t expect other people to just “do their jobs.” You must itemize the information you need or they may not reliably get it for you. Once you itemize the information you need, you can track whether you get it and correlate this with your company’s win rate. This can be used to help them realize the importance of getting the information to you. Quality validation is necessary to maximize win probability. On your own, it’s easier get by with informal quality assurance and you may not need a formal proposal review process. But you still need to check your own work. Being careful does not count as quality assurance, even if you’re really good at it. Knowing what you need to validate and turning that into quality criteria will help you ensure that everything gets validated. Using written quality criteria will not only increase the reliability of your efforts, but can also be turned into checklists to accelerate things. Even people on their own need a plan. However, the plans that people need when doing things themselves are different from the plans that a team needs to get everyone on the same page. Individuals often call their plan a “to do” list. Instead of making your “to do” lists an ad hoc batch of reminders, make them deliberately considered lists of items required to effectively perform the necessary tasks. “To do” lists can also be turned into checklists, and you can also save, reuse, and improve them over time. Your history is defined by the records you keep. Under deadline pressure, it would be understandable if you gave up on keeping orderly files that weren’t directly needed as part of your workflow. But you need to keep track of your history. Don’t keep records just for the sake of doing it. Keep records so that when you need to look back you’ll have the data you need. Evidence of win rate and ROI. If you want to be more than just a production resource, you must prove your value. If you want to prove your value, you must do it quantitatively. You must prove that you deliver a positive ROI. The good news is that this shouldn’t be too hard. If you are the only proposal resource and you increase your company’s win rate by as little as 1%, you will likely bring in more revenue than you get paid. Learn the mathematics of win rate calculations so you can prove this. And gather the data. At a 20% win rate, increasing you company’s win rate by 10% is the same as finding 50% more leads. What would your company be willing to invest to get 50% more leads? You need to be able to get past hypotheticals and talk real numbers. Otherwise, you risk being seen as just a production resource that the accounting system classifies as an expense. The truth is you should be treated like a profit center, with as much impact on the company’s bottom line as its best salesperson. But that won’t happen until you prove it. With numbers. Notice how much of The Process can become simple checklists when you’re on your own? Just don’t think of them all as checklists. Divide your checklists into categories like plan, act, communicate, and review. Then your checklists will align with your process needs. You will have a proposal process, but it will be the kind of process that is useful even when it’s just you. This approach also creates a foundation so that when things grow and the proposal function no longer is just you, you can easily provide guidance to the newcomers.
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