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  2. monthly_2020_01/1899268660_Keycustomerconcern-Capabilities_pdf.bf8eb19b50b67bd4c70b4aeb08b720e6
  3. Yesterday
  4. 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 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 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 your 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 you 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 it’s 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.
  5. Last week
  6. monthly_2020_01/57402218_Exercise-Pre-RFP-Pursuit_docx.d1cceddbb23c850496eeb0c154c05286
  7. This course divides the pre-RFP pursuit into these modules: Activities that occur during pre-RFP pursuit (this module) Bringing structure to the pre-RFP phase (next module) Preparing to transition from pre-RFP pursuit to the proposal Starting at RFP release (because it happens) This module is primary about setting the stage for customer interaction in anticipation of a proposal. In this module we'll document the activities that occur in a pursuit before the RFP is released and create checklists for some of them. We'll also work on the foundation for intelligence collection, message development, and offering design. We need this foundation before we can start working on bringing structure to how these activities are conducted in the next module.
  8. monthly_2020_01/429574169_Exercise-definingyourgoals_docx.cdad034b1d22b094788f294a9fc236de
  9. The first module is about defining the scope of what we're going to create together. Are we enhancing your existing process or building a new one? Are focusing on the pre-RFP phase or the proposal phase? We'll cover both, but how will we apply the material? That's why the first module focuses on discovery and discussion with stakeholders. The material in the first module is designed to be thought-provoking. The topics provide some background and context that will help once the introduction is complete and we start looking at pursuit and capture topic by topic and applying the material. When we meet to discuss this module bring your thoughts about what you would like to come out of this course with, both in terms of takeaways and in terms of what you'd like to build during the course to help achieve your goals. We'll share our thoughts, discuss it together, and spend the rest of the course applying future modules to fulfilling those goals.
  10. Earlier
  11. When you are alone you have to work within your own limitations. What you know is all you know. What you can write is all that’s going into the proposal. What you can do before the deadline defines your standard of quality. It’s not about winning or creating a great proposal. It’s about whether you can complete the proposal at all. Here are some tips that won’t help you win, but they might help you get your proposals submitted. See also: Dealing with adversity What is the minimally viable proposal submission? The gap between the minimally viable proposal submission and a great proposal is a concern for another day. Right now, you have to focus on the gaps between where you are and what constitutes the minimally viable submission. The minimally viable proposal submission is usually whatever won’t get your proposal thrown out. Perform triage. Only try to save the ones that can survive, because trying to save them all will only result in greater loss. Use Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applied to proposals to help you make decisions about priorities. Focus on filling your gaps. Since you’re on your own, you have no one to write the missing pieces. It’s just you and Google. You may have to cheat. You may have to do the proposal The Wrong Way. Yeah, it’s ugly. But it may be all you’ve got to work with... Write to what a customer like this one might want instead of what you know this customer wants. Describe what goes into your plans instead of providing an actual plan. Avoid commitment. Use numbers that aren’t precise. Think “more than” or “almost.” Streamline the formatting. Don’t use elaborate formats. Minimize keystrokes and clicks. Go for simple elegance instead of a work of art. Make sure the formatting is within your skill set. If you don’t have any win strategies, differentiators, value proposition, and reasons for the customer to select you to work with, then base them on what it will take to win. If you can’t be great and prove it, then simply be what the customer wants. Who, what, where, how, when, and why. Repeat that until you’ve got it memorized. Then whenever you need more detail, answer the ones you can. If you need an approach for something and you have no idea what it should be, you can talk all around it by addressing who, what, where, how, when, and why. Be prepared to do less. Peel it back like an onion. Do only the things that impact winning the most. And if that fails, do only the things needed for a minimally viable submission. Everything is a trade-off. Make your trade-off decisions based on what requires the least effort. Go up a level in granularity. Make this proposal a learning experience for your stakeholders. If this proposal isn’t going to be great, can you use it as a demonstration so things go better on the next one? Separate what changes from what doesn’t. Don’t mix the details that don’t change with the win strategies and customer insights that have to be tailored every time. Use a question and answer format, even when they don’t ask for it. You can organize reuse material around questions and answers. Questions and answers already make a point and have a defined context, reducing the editing required. Questions and answers stand alone and lend themselves to being interchangeable parts. If you find you’re working on proposals that don’t have a chance of winning, identify the criteria that can be used to decide when not to bid a pursuit. Complaining about having to work on low probability pursuits sound like resistance. But providing a set of lead qualification criteria is something that people can take action on. Avoid using names. It waters things down, but the more you can avoid using customer, company, personnel and other names, the less editing you’ll have to do. For example, try to refer to people by their role. Be a big picture thinker. When you don’t even know the details, stick to the big picture. Avoid procedures and specifications. Embrace missions, goals, and intentions. Rely on what you do know. If all you know are your company’s qualifications, then make everything about them. Have research tools handy. Invest in relevant textbooks. Get a bookmark tool for your web browser. Make some friends. Why are you alone? Learn the language of return on investment. How much would your win rate need to increase to pay for some help? If you don’t know the numbers, learn them. The odds are that a small increase in win rate will more than pay for the help you need. I’ve talked to companies that bid everything they could find and had win rates as low as 7%. At 15% they’d double their revenue. It would be like doubling the number of leads they have. What would they invest to double the number of leads they have? That’s what they should be investing in improving their win rate. They need you to quantify and explain it to them. Note to companies reading this: If you don’t want your proposals written like this, don’t leave people alone. Get them the information they need. Every once in a while, give them a little help. If you see these things in your proposals, it’s a good indicator you’ve overloaded your staff, those who know the details aren’t providing them, or no one knows the details. Note to proposal staff: If you’re doing these things because you didn’t know any better, change now. If you understand the relationship between win rate, lead identification, and revenue, you’ll never let this happen. But we see it all the time. If you find yourself here and don’t know how to escape, reach out. We can help.
  12. I am still getting surprised by discovering new ways that using MustWin Now changes how I approach doing proposals. Sometimes it’s actually being able to do things that everyone knows they should but can never quite make happen. Other times, it’s being able to do things quicker. More often it’s being able to do things better because of the way it makes it easier to think through what you need to put on paper before you start writing. A big surprise was seeing the proposal process, at least as it is traditionally practiced, disappear as people just started doing what needed to be done but doing it in a structured way. It was an even bigger surprise to see people just doing what needed to be done to create a great proposal instead of resisting The Process. Creating an outline manually isn’t that hard. But creating a proposal outline that follows the RFP instructions, reflects the RFP evaluation criteria, and accounts for all of the RFP compliance requirements, and doing it all while correctly interpreting the RFP, is definitely a challenge. MustWin Now helps you build an RFP compliance matrix and proposal outline. It does this so that you can not only create an outline that puts everything where the customer expects to find it, but it also provides you with review tools to help you make sure that the interpretations and judgment calls you made are the correct ones. Putting your responses to everything in the RFP where the customer expects to find them and labeling them the way the customer will look for them is critical for maximizing your proposal evaluation score. A traditional compliance matrix is prepared as a spreadsheet that shows all of the requirements that are relevant to a given proposal section. Creating a compliance matrix helps you to create a proposal outline that is RFP compliant. Unfortunately, it takes as long to validate the accuracy of a spreadsheet-based compliance matrix as it does to create it in the first place. Working on a compliance matrix in a spreadsheet is an exercise in page flipping and wearing out your cursor keys. But what’s even worse is that in the rush to write, most companies skip validating their compliance matrix, even though this often comes back to haunt them. MustWin Now uses drag and drop features to create the compliance matrix, linking RFP requirements to the proposal sections where they will be addressed. And it makes validating your compliance matrix go as quickly as you can check boxes on online forms. Once you’ve reviewed and validated your outline in MustWin Now, only those with the right access permission can change the outline. This helps avoid having writers ignore the outline. Or having people change the outline after writing starts. I’ve lived through too many traumatic proposal experiences that were the result of trying to fix a broken outline. But the real payoff is that having your proposal outline in MustWin Now makes content planning so easy people actually do it. MustWin Now automatically creates the shell for the content plan. The outline basically is the plan. You fill it by clicking buttons and typing instructions for things you want to remember to include when you are writing, how to present things, things to emphasize, points to be made, etc. I’ve completed a proposal content plan during a strategy session meeting, just by listening to people talk and clicking the button to insert instructions into the plan whenever they said something important. I’ve walked away from the meeting with the plan complete. I’ve also helped companies figure out what to write and put it in MustWin Now so they could take it from there. When you’ve used MustWin Now to collect your bid intel, content planning is even easier because you’ve got the insights to work with. Preparing a content plan is simply a matter of reading the intel and adding instructions based on it. MustWin Now makes it quick and easy to drive win strategies based on your customer, opportunity, and competitive awareness into the document. When you create your outline and plan your proposal content manually, getting the input from others that you need can be a big problem. People don’t want to manually complete a mess of forms before writing. The original version of the MustWin Process was the most streamlined paper-based proposal planning process I've ever encountered. But the idea of writing proposal instructions in a document and then using the content plan document to guide writing the proposal document was too much structure for a lot of people. Doing the same thing in MustWin Now doesn’t seem like work. It’s just getting your thoughts together and clarifying assignments. MustWin Now makes it easier to get everyone “on the same page” than the traditional paper-based process ever did! See also: About MustWin Now This is important because proposal planning usually requires collaboration. No one person knows everything from customer awareness to win strategies to technical details. Content plans require input. People often come to a proposal wanting to help, within reason. They become resistant when they feel like The Process is creating more work than the task requires. When manual proposal planning efforts require creating orphaned process artifacts and the effort is only indirectly related to completing their proposal section assignments, the planning efforts tend to wither from a lack of enthusiasm. Using MustWin Now to collect the input is much easier than trying to do it on paper. You’re not asking people to complete a separate task from the writing, you’re asking them to put a couple of hours into preparing to write by clarifying the assignment and making sure everyone, including the proposal reviewers, is onboard with what’s going to be created. People are far more willing to do this with simple clicks and adding reminders and instructions than they are when creating a plan requires creating a document before they create a document. When you have a validated proposal plan, you are also far more likely to be able to get the proposal right on the very first draft. People are far more enthusiastic about contributing to proposals when they believe their efforts are not going to be wasted in endless rewrites. Writing a great proposal requires having more insight than your competitors and delivering that insight in a document that scores better than theirs. One reason that most companies have such a low win rate is that they try to accomplish this without thinking things through before writing. And a big part of the reason they do that is that their manual, paper-based processes simply aren’t followed. Struggling to overcome this challenge has been around for as long as people have been writing proposals. That’s why I’ve been surprised so many times at seeing how much better and easier things go when working in MustWin Now. Click here to ask us a question Click here for PropLIBRARY and MustWin Now subscription info
  13. Summary You need information to determine how to properly position your offering. The information you need depends on the nature of your offering. To discover what it will take to win, your process should target the correct information to position your offering. What you need to know to offer a unique solution and win against all competitors is different from what you need to know to offer a commodity and win against all competitors. Which matters more, price or value? This largely depends on what the customer is buying. The items in the middle can lean toward the corners and be positioned very differently. For example, how you should differentiate a product is different from how to differentiate your services. Both are different when your offering leans towards being a commodity vs being a unique solution. Since winning depends on anticipating what matters to the customer, your process should be designed to discover that. How you discover what it will take to win depends on what you offer The information you need to discover in order to win depends on what you offer If you sell products, your offering consists largely of matching your products to customer needs and dealing with any gaps. But if you sell services, your offering consists of tailoring your approaches to match the customer's needs, while making you have the staffing resources to cover the level of effort required. Both of these require very different information, not only to know what to offer, but also to know how to position it in order to win. The information you need will also be different if you are selling your products or services as a commodity or as a unique solution. How the customer will make their decision depends on what they are buying Will the customer buy on price or value? Should you offer quality or quantity? Is capability more important than experience? You will need to anticipate and answer questions like these in order to write a winning proposal. But what questions should you ask? What information should you attempt to gather? Your process should guide people to collect the right information. But how do you know what guidance to build into your process? A good place to start is by assessing the nature of what you offer. You will need to know: What information will the customer need to make their decision? What matters to the customer that might impact their decision? What information will you need in order to calculate the estimates for what you intend to offer? What topics and details are you going to need to address in your proposal? You can use this model to help anticipate what you will need to know and gather it in a way that supports addressing what matters to the customer. Discussion topic: To design your process, you need to honestly assess what your company offers so that you can implement a process that guides people to the information needed to prepare a winning proposal. What matters to the customer about what you offer? What do you need to prepare estimates and write the proposal? Use the chart to get conversations started, but feel free to go beyond the chart when identifying what people will need to know.
  14. Summary What the customer cares about depends on what they are buying. The closer things get to a commodity, the less the vendor matters and the more that price matters. The closer you get to a unique solution, the more trust and risk matter. Products and services can be either unique solutions or commodities, but what matters to the customer about products and services is different. How the customer perceives their need in relation to this chart matters. If it does not match what you offer, then your positioning will be wrong. Perceptions may not be clear and range over an area instead of point, and may be subject to change, although this can be a tough sale. How to correctly position your offering depends on having the right information about the customer and their needs. The items in the middle can lean towards the corners. For example, what matters about "risk" can depend on the nature of the offering. What is the nature of what your company's offering? Where is your offering in the mix? If a company is not highly focused, they all may seem to apply. Sometimes company's have multiple offering that might not group together on the chart. This might appeal to a broader group of customers, or require different approaches to market. The goal of thinking about this is to see if you can: Anticipate what will matter to the customer? Gain better customer insight by bringing some structure to your customer interactions? Implement a process or model that makes it easier to figure out what to do about it, once you've discovered what matters to the customer. Convert a structured like this into a process that drives customer awareness into the written proposal? You can use this model to connect the dots and streamline the transition from sales to the proposal. You can also use it to increase win probability, by bringing a little structure to your message development instead of making it up during proposal writing. Discussion topic: To design your process, you need to honestly assess what your company offers so that you can implement a process that guides people to discover the customer's concerns and address them with the correct positioning. Different people in your company may have a different perception of your offerings, making the discussion itself a valuable exercise, separate from the process considerations. Also, your current offerings may different from past or future intended offerings. Ultimately it is not even your perceptions that matter. Use the chart to discover what matters to the customer and how to position accordingly.
  15. 2019 adds up to some big numbers Since we started in 2001, we have had over 8 million visitors. That's nearly half a million visitors a year, on average. Over 71,000 have requested to join our newsletter. Over 3,500 became PropLIBRARY Subscribers. A lot of people who need to win proposals for their business to succeed give us their attention and we appreciate it so much. I remember when I started down this path and could remember all their names. I still try to respond to nearly all the support requests myself. The topics we published in 2019 covered a mixture of business development, capture, and proposals, with preparing to win as a common theme. The best free articles we published in 2019 Are you one of these 11 kinds of proposal manager? How to make better proposal decisions by using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Why you can’t just follow the steps to create a great proposal Examples of proposal content planning using MustWin Now 47 questions that tell you if the way you are preparing your proposals is any good Improving your win rate by asking the right questions Proposal writing: 10 before and after examples 16 things that need to happen long before proposal writing starts How to get ready to win before the RFP is released 6 examples of bad proposal writing and how to fix them In 2019 we released MustWin Now as a free benefit for PropLIBRARY Subscribers MustWin Now takes our recommendations related to how to win your pursuits, and turns them into a tool. Instead of learning about the MustWin Process via online training and written materials, and then implementing and following it, you simply use MustWin Now. The "process" simply becomes what you do, and what you do makes sense and delivers immediate gratification. And all of our online training and content becomes guidance available within the tool to inspire and accelerate everything people do to win your proposals. We thought about packaging it as a separate product, but instead we chose to add it on top of all the other benefits of subscribing to PropLIBRARY. We didn't even raise the price. If subscribing to our online training and content library and using it to supercharge your company's growth was worth it before, it is now doubly so. The best of the premium content we published for PropLIBRARY Subscribers in 2019 Our premium content is far more practical and detailed than the free articles listed above and provides information that is ready to use as checklists, templates, forms, etc. In 2019, we focused on a combination of process tools and and practical resources that can help solve key problems. The MustWin Process Architecture Assessing the impact of the organizational layer on your process Assessing the impact of the input layer on your process Assessing the impact of the performance layer on your process 6 targets for relationship marketing and 5 ways to reach out to potential customers How to build quality into every step of your proposal What's the difference between capabilities and corporate experience? A simple formula for influencing the RFP Why all proposal reviewers need training before every review Proposal Quality Validation Implementation FAQs Looking forward to 2020 Next year, our development efforts will focus on MustWin Now, while our content efforts will focus on integration. By integration, I not only mean integrating content with MustWin Now, but also integrating the articles themselves with how they are used. Think of the titles above organized through a user interface that enables people working on a pursuit to drill down to whatever detail they need in that moment, while using MustWin Now to take action on the recommendations. That's where we're heading. We're actually already there when it comes to topic coverage. But I want it to be more streamlined and intuitive, and that means reorganizing the content to better fit the new workflow. That ends up being quite a bit more work than it sounds. Don't expect a lot of fireworks and flash. The more intuitive we make things, the less things will stand out. PropLIBRARY and MustWin Now will just be there with what you need, when you need it, and it won't be as hard for you to produce great proposals. What you will notice is your win rate going up while your stress levels go down.
  16. monthly_2019_12/308233827_11waystogetaheadoftheRFP_pdf.c10139441edbd58317ece587499c0f47
  17. Slow down. Take your time. Get comfortable. Ponder the meaning of it all. These topic hubs lead to hundreds of links with over a thousand pages worth of material. Don't try to consume it all in one sitting. Study them like a book that can change the future of your company and the direction of your career. Or maybe just give you an occasional smile. Before the proposal: business development and capture Relationship marketing Making effective bid/no bid decisions Preparing for proposals ahead of RFP release How to respond to Request for Proposals (RFP) and win How to design an offering your customer will love How to plan your proposal content so it meets everyone's expectations Articulating bid strategies and proposal themes Writing proposals from the customer's perspective Making proposal writing faster and easier Making proposals simple Recycling proposals, creating proposal templates, boilerplate, and re-use libraries How to validate the quality of your proposal Successful proposal process implementation Winning vs. Losing Proposal win rates and how to improve them Doing proposals the wrong way Now. What are you going to do about it all?
  18. monthly_2019_12/85482263_ProposalReuseandAssessmentTool_pdf.158c1edac0ab4becca383865bf222db2
  19. When you recycle proposal content, you can’t rely on people to simply tailor it. You can’t rely on them because you can’t count on them to be aware of everything that has changed. Unless you tell them. Re-using proposal content requires more than just updating it. It requires changing the context to reflect everything that has changed about the customer, your company, your offering, the competitive environment, and the external world. See also: Reuse People often think nothing has changed. Sometimes this is because the work that they will do on the project really will be the same as what they did before. However, while the work may be the same, the words required to win it likely will have changed far more than anyone realizes. I challenge you to find out. I challenge you to do a before and after comparison. The challenge is to compare your current circumstances with the previous circumstances to determine what has changed in the environment that should also change the writing. It’s a simple before and after comparison. Only it’s not so simple. There are a lot of considerations. After reviewing them you may confidently conclude that nothing has changed. Or you might discover that it will take longer to edit what you have than to create something fresh. I’m betting that re-use will only save you time if you do not properly assess what needs to change. But take the challenge and find out. If you have or intend to build a proposal re-use library, you should build in procedures for doing this assessment every single time your content is recycled. You should challenge your users to prove that re-use is safe and that it will save time. For PropLIBRARY Subscribers we’ve turned the following considerations into a form for quick implementation. PropLIBRARY subscribers can also use MustWin Now to guide your proposal contributors to make considerations like these and write your proposals based on them. Consider each of the following to determine what is different about the circumstances for this proposal that should be used to tailor your re-use material: See also: Winning Who will perform the activities described? Who will receive the results described? Who will be impacted? Who will interact? Who will oversee performance? What RFP requirements are new? What is required to achieve compliance under the new RFP? What RFP contract terms and pricing requirements have changed? What RFP formatting and submission requirements have changed? What RFP terminology is different? What matters to this customer? What points should be made? What results need to be achieved? What approaches, procedures, methods, etc., need to change? What tools, assets, resources, etc., are needed? What subcontractors or teammates will be used? What needs to be updated? What differentiates our offering? What is required to get the highest score under the new evaluation criteria? What risks are anticipated? Where will work be performed? Where will deliveries be made? Where will work products be used? Where will resources be obtained from? How will schedules change? How will the customer be impacted? How will risks be mitigated? How will quality assurance be achieved? How will roles and responsibilities be defined? When will performance start and end? When will interactions occur? When will decisions be made? When will customer participation and input be required? Why were these options selected and these trade-offs chosen? Why does what we’re proposing matter? Why is what we’re proposing this customer’s best alternative? We prefer to use questions like these in MustWin Now to drive people to write a great proposal that is a perfect match for the new circumstances and is optimized to win. Writing to win is profitable. Recycling to avoid writing may enable you to complete the document but is less profitable. The increase in your win rate easily pays for doing your proposal well compared to taking an easier approach that produces a less competitive proposal. Instead of accelerating your efforts and helping you get ahead, recycling proposal content means starting from behind. Instead of thinking it through and moving forward, recycling proposal content means you think it through and then go back and have to think some more about how to fix what was done before. You may actually have more work to do because you started from something already written. But often the only way to get people to realize that is to have them try. So challenge them!
  20. In January we're going to launch the largest, most detailed training program we've ever offered. It's going to be a lot more than just training. It's going to be project based learning. It's going to be a 6-month program that will start with an identified lead and cover everything through to proposal submission. Instead of teaching procedures, this program will teach what you need to know to implement effective processes or improve what you have in each goal and phase. It will show you how to win more of what you bid. And that will make it all worthwhile.

    You can use this page to submit your payment. On January 1st, the price will increase to $9600.

    If you prefer to pay by check, make it out to:

    CapturePlanning.com, LLC

    And send it to this address by December 31st:

    2260 Front Street, #203, Melbourne, FL 32901

    For more information, see the Pursuit and Capture Program description page.

     

    $7,200.00

  21. In January we're going to launch the largest, most detailed training program we've ever offered. It's going to be a lot more than just training. It's going to be project based learning. It's going to be a 6-month program that will start with an identified lead and cover everything through to proposal submission. Instead of teaching procedures, this program will teach what you need to know to implement effective processes or improve what you have in each goal and phase. It will show you how to win more of what you bid. And that will make it all worthwhile. Go beyond learning about pursuit and capture and turn it into a repeatable process for winning that is tailored for your company Takeaway materials for you to tailor and use in your process include: A guide explaining 11 ways to get ahead of the RFP A checklist with 24 ways to influence the RFP A cheat sheet providing 101 ways to earn goodwill and help a potential customer in writing A checklist for conducting site visits Pre-proposal process option guides: Are these the right goals? Mapping activities and information gathering to your goals Lists of process quality criteria, activities, and deliverables Over 140 pursuit capture form items to customize Guide: Readiness reviews and gate decisions eBook: 509 Questions to Answer in Your Proposals Sample bid/no bid decision and review criteria to customize 7 topic-driven proposal input forms eBook: Proposal start-up information checklist with 135 questions in 9 categories Pursuit and proposal staffing model guide Proposal kickoff process option guide Proposal logistics planning worksheet Proposal production process option guide Proposal submission considerations Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to process, our Pursuit and Capture Program will focus on understanding how to adapt process to each participating company’s size, type of offering, maturity, staff availability, etc. If students stay on track with the bi-weekly topics and homework assignments, by the end they’ll have a complete process tailored to their company’s needs. The depth and breadth of coverage is huge. So is the amount of takeaway materials. The course leverages our complete proposal content library that we’ve spent 20 years building. Every other week we’ll open a new course module. In between, Carl Dickson, Founder of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY, will have a private session with each participating company. During the private sessions we'll focus on the decisions you need to make and the challenges you need to overcome to maximize your win probability and capture what you pursue. You'll get personalized guidance for how to tailor the course topics to your particular circumstances. Each course module should only take 1-3 hours to go through, and you can study on your own schedule. But the emphasis will be on application and not studying. Each week you’ll have options to consider, decisions to make, and assignments to customize and improve your own process. You'll spend more time applying what you learn to improving your company's ability to pursue and capture its leads. The Pursuit and Capture Program comes with a free subscription to PropLIBRARY and use of MustWin Now Each student will get a free PropLIBRARY subscription during the course, including MustWin Now. Each company can have up to 5 students participating. The course will be conducted remotely, and the schedule will be flexible enough to adapt to competing priorities. If you are already a PropLIBRARY Subscriber, you’ll get full credit for your subscription. If your subscription is a single user subscription, you’ll get an upgrade to a 5-user subscription during the course. At the end of the course, the cost to continue the 5-user subscription will only be $95 per month. More details and pricing This Pursuit and Capture Program is for both small businesses who need to compete with more mature companies and large businesses who want to increase their win rate and improve their competitiveness. It is a 6-month program for up to 5 participants, alternating between a course module and a personalized session each week. The price is $9,600, which is the equivalent of just $400 per week. And you can come out of it with a capture and proposal process that companies have spent tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars developing. If you just bought the subscription to PropLIBRARY separately, it would cost you $1,370, and it’s included. You’ll also get all the takeaway goodies shown in the gray box on the right. [Video] [Video] What do people get out of this program? Who's it for? [Video] Answers to questions about scheduling, advantages, participants, stakeholders, and homework But wait, it gets better The Pursuit and Capture Program will start on January 6th. If you sign up and pay in December, you’ll get a $2,400 discount, reducing the price to $7,200. You will not find a 6-month long process development program this intensive that is a better value anywhere, even if you try to do it internally. True fact: The last process reengineering project we did for a company as consultants was a relatively small one. We billed $28,000 for it. A capture process we created and documented for a billion dollar company totaled $74,910. This program is the most cost-effective way to inject new ideas into your process, get an expert’s opinion on your approaches, and take a huge leap forward in your ability to win your pursuits. It will easily pay for itself by improving your win rate. It could easily pay for itself thousands of times over. Let's do this You probably have questions. We probably have answers. You can ask questions online or you can schedule a conversation below. To take advantage of the December discount, click here to pay online or pay by check (Send to: CapturePlanning.com, LLC, 2260 Front Street, #203, Melbourne, FL 32901). We'll go ahead and set up your PropLIBRARY Subscription now, ahead of the program start date, and contact you with instructions. If you are a current PropLIBRARY subscriber, use the question button below to let us know and we'll explain how to get full credit for your subscription. Click here to ask us a question Click here to purchase this program online
  22. Most proposals are won or lost before they begin. Either you go into the proposal with an information advantage, or you are trying to fake your way through the proposal without one. Even though this is true, most companies don't have a mature process for pursuing a lead before the proposal starts. Their process amounts to: Hire a good salesperson, whatever that means, to dig up some information. Create the illusion of process by having bid/no bid reviews. As a company matures, bid/no bid criteria tend to become more sophisticated. However, believing you have a chance at winning is not the same thing as having the information you need to write the winning proposal. Having a standard for whether to bid a pursuit is not the same thing as having a process for lead pursuit and capture. When most companies start thinking about formalizing their pursuit and capture process, they often only think about activities, like meetings, events, and contacts. And because they don't know what sequence the events will occur in, they can't imagine how to turn it into a process. They create bid/no bid criteria and often just make the rest up as they go along. What they need are goals for pursuit and capture. Goals inform people about what they should accomplish. And goals can be used to prepare to close the sale with a winning proposal. 1. Establish that you have an acceptable lead See also: Pre-RFP Pursuit When your prospecting efforts appear to have found something, you need to establish that it's an acceptable lead. Some companies track every lead they consider. Some companies only track leads they intend to pursue. Some companies incentivize lead discovery. It’s not a lead until it has been accepted as such. Note that an acceptable lead still needs to be qualified as worth investing in pursuit. An acceptable lead is generally one worth looking into so you can determine whether it is a potential match for your company. What is required to identify a lead as acceptable at your company? 2. Qualify that the lead is worth the expense of pursuit Once you have a lead, the next goal is to qualify the lead and prove that it is worth pursuing. This goal is an investment decision, because capturing a pursuit is expensive. Some companies have rigorous requirements for qualifying a lead, while other companies merely need to know if they can do the work. The level of effort put into lead qualification is usually proportionate to the cost of closing the sale with a winning proposal. If you sell commodities and crank out lots of proposals, lead qualification might be a simple checklist. If you sell complex services or unique solutions in a competitive environment with large, complex proposal efforts, you should put more effort into proving your leads are worth the cost of pursuit. The criteria used for lead qualification are often similar, if not identical, to what you use for making bid/no bid decisions. A company with an ineffective bid/no bid process will also usually have an ineffective lead qualification process. In an effective bid/no bid decision process, each goal, step, or review is another bid/no bid decision gate. Each one is an opportunity to cancel a pursuit that is a bad investment. When you limit each decision to whether to take the pursuit to the next phase, the decision criteria can be more specific. You don’t have to do a detailed win probability assessment in the early stages. But in later stages that would certainly be one of the considerations. In early stages you will be operating with less information and what is acceptable then may not be acceptable for bid decisions in later stages. 3. Pursue with the intent to capture Once you have qualified that a lead is worth pursuing, the next goal is to prepare to capture the pursuit. This requires achieving several goals all at once: Discover what it will take to win Develop an information advantage Respond to customer requests (requests for information, sources sought notices, draft RFPs, etc.) Determine what to offer This phase might take 80% of the pre-proposal capture level of effort. It will require regular (weekly or monthly) progress reviews. 8. Prepare proposal input If the sale closes with a winning proposal, then it's critical that the pursuit process delivers the information needed to write a winning proposal, in the form that proposal writers will need it in. Otherwise, all that effort may not do anything to impact the award decision. What good is having an information advantage, if you don't take action on the information you have? What good is having an information advantage, if the proposal writers are unaware of its significance, or what to do with that information in the particular sections of the proposal where it is relevant? If all you do is gather information and wait until RFP release, you will not achieve the highest win rate possible. What about relationship marketing? Having a customer relationship is not the goal. A customer relationship is a means to achieving your goals. Every one of these goals will be more easily accomplished with a strong customer relationship. None of these goals may be possible to achieve without a strong customer relationship. The strength of your customer relationship is often a good lead qualification and bid/no bid decision criterion. The strength of your customer relationship can be measured by how well it produces an information advantage. Turning your goals into a process Each goal will have activities to accomplish. Each will also have process deliverables to complete. And each will have quality criteria that define whether the goal has been successfully accomplished. You should articulate your goals and design your process deliverables so that the result produces the information advantage required to close the sale with a winning proposal. That is what having a pursuit and capture process look like. It requires more than just holding progress meetings. The Goldilocks pursuit and capture process Introducing too much structure all at once can be overwhelming. A goal-driven process can be introduced a little at a time. Achieving the goals is far more important than the procedures used in achieving them. If all you do is define your goals and nothing more, you will improve performance. As an organization matures, it can introduce things that make achieving the goals easier. This is the real reason to have quality criteria. Quality criteria are better used to enable people to know when they’ve accomplished a goal, rather than simply using them to catch defects in performance. A goal-driven process is less about procedures and forcing people to do things in a particular way, and more about helping people accomplish their goals. Setting up pre-proposal goals enables you to seek a Goldilocks solution. You don’t want too little structure. You don’t want too much structure. You want just the right amount of structure. Just the right amount of structure makes performance easier for people while maximizing your win rate.
  23. The things you need to know to determine if a lead is worth pursuing are different from what you need to know to close the sale with a winning proposal. A sales process that qualifies your leads is important. It is also not enough to win. Lead tracking and bid/no bid decisions are based on how strongly qualified a lead is. Sometimes companies try to base their bid/no bid decisions on their probability of winning the pursuit. But if we’re being honest, this is just a guessing game. You may be using a carefully concocted algorithm and going for a SWAG instead of a WAG (look them up), but it’s still a WAG. Is it data driven, is the data relevant (be honest), and do you have statistical significance? Please keep trying. Even if you never quite make it, you will gain a deeper understanding of the factors that impact winning. A lead is typically qualified when it meets the right criteria for considerations like: See also: Bid/No Bid Decisions Size, scope, and complexity Staffing, resource, and qualification requirements Anticipated release schedule Risk Your ability to bid competitively (the best you can achieve by trying to predict win probability) Strengths and weaknesses relative to your competitors Relevance to the company’s strategic plans and target markets Acceptable terms and conditions Most companies include information like the above in their lead tracking or CRM systems. However, most companies miss other important considerations that include whether you have an information advantage and your readiness to write a great proposal (this is not the same as willingness to try). Whether you have an information advantage, how strong your information advantage is, and whether your information advantage provides what is needed to write a great proposal can all be quantified. Whether the customer will pick your bid to win can’t be quantified. Whether you are ready to write a great proposal is determined by whether you can answer the questions your proposal writers will have when writing the proposal. Most companies rely on salespeople to supply the right information based on their experience alone and their proposals end up being based on: The random nuggets of insight their salespeople dig up Whether those random nuggets get articulated and delivered in a form the proposal writers can use, which is usually not the case While it is clearly better than nothing to work with and can sometimes be decisive, it is also clear that people are fallible and perform better as part of a process that provides inspiration, guidance, and reminders. No matter how good your proposal writers are at wording around the information they don’t have, they can’t write as strongly as they could if they had the right information. See also: Information Advantage Proposal writers have lots of questions. On PropLIBRARY you will find hundreds of examples of the questions that proposal writers typically have so they can write a better proposal. Your ability to anticipate these questions determines your success at developing an information advantage. Training your salespeople to answer these questions and giving them the tools that integrate these questions into the pursuit enable your salespeople to operate at a higher level. It’s the difference between sending them out into the field on their own, and sending them out with the tools and support they need to play an active role in gathering the information needed to close the sale with a win. All people do better work when they have quality checklists, guidance, and tools to work with. One of the reasons that companies have capture managers is because going from lead qualification to developing an information advantage requires different goals and customer interactions. It also requires knowing what questions to ask, which in turn requires understanding the nature of what your company offers, what it will take to be competitive, what goes into a winning offering, and what will be required to write the winning proposal. Capture managers specialize in going beyond lead qualification and preparing for a proposal. But even capture managers perform better with checklists and tools to guide them. Instead of trying to build it all into your CRM, you might want to consider developing a capture platform in between the lead tracking system or CRM you use for lead qualification and the document management tools you use during proposal development. This is where we’ve positioned MustWin Now. In our experience using MustWin Now during the capture phase, we find that very little information in most CRMs needs to be transferred into MustWin Now. And the information gathered in MustWin Now is far more relevant to winning the proposal than what is found in most CRMs. Plus, MustWin Now helps you drive your insights into the proposal in ways that no CRM systems can do. In fact, most proposal departments don’t have access to their company’s CRM system. Most proposal staff don’t need access to their CRM, because it doesn’t contain the information they need.
  24. Companies that want to get better at doing proposals often struggle with their proposal process. They struggle with the steps. They struggle meeting deadlines. They struggle with time management. But mostly, they just struggle. Part of the reason for the all the struggles is their process. It’s not that it needs improvement. It needs replacing. And it’s not just the process that needs replacing. It’s the whole way you look at the proposal process. Proposals are not completed in steps It would be more accurate to describe proposals as a flow of information. Information flows from the customer to people in your company where it gets transformed, travels through the RFP, gets filtered into sections according to the outline, and ultimately put on paper. But the information does not flow in a straight line. It meanders. It flows back on itself. It goes in circles. It builds. It changes. The proposal “process” should not be thought of as steps. That’s how you end up with one step called “writing” that never ends, and another step called “reviewing” that endlessly repeats. The proposal “process” is really a collection of things you do to guide an unpredictable amount of information, from unpredictable sources, in unpredictable forms, from whatever it is at the beginning to what it needs to become in order to win the proposal. Here are five alternative ways to look at the proposal process that can help you find more success at channeling and guiding this information into what it needs to become: See also: Steps Training. If you work with different people on every proposal, then you can think of the entire effort as training. The final exam is the proposal. Or maybe it’s better to think of the proposal as a dissertation with a team of authors. Each thing that you need people to do is an assignment. Sometimes you need to teach how to complete the assignment. You should have rubrics that tell people what is required for successful assignment completion. Tutoring should be available for people who fall behind. You’re showing them how to win a proposal instead of mandating a process for them to follow. Questions and answers. Questions are a great way to gather the information you need. Questions can also be used to inquire whether the information is in the right format or whether it’s been transformed in the way needed. Questions can make suggestions or offer considerations. You can script the entire “process” as a series of questions. If you do, there will be a lot of questions. A whole lot of questions. But if you set them up as checklists, they aren’t perceived as a burden. Picture a checklist of questions to determine whether you are ready to start something. Another checklist of questions for what you need to consider when doing it. And another checklist of questions for how to tell when you’ve completed it successfully. Questions can do a lot more to help people contribute to the flow of information than a process diagram. Goals. A goal-driven proposal process can leave the steps up to the participants to figure out. A goal-driven process can also improve people’s willingness to follow the process, by giving them an easy way to achieve their goals. After all, following something called The Proposal Process really isn’t important. It’s fulfilling the goals that lead to winning that’s important. Quality validation. Can you define success? Can you define success for every activity? Then why not give contributors the success criteria at the beginning? When each activity is wrapped with success criteria, it’s as good as having a “process.” Thinking through and being able to put your success criteria in writing may do more to achieve the desired results than have a “process.” Issue tracking. Everything is an issue. Literally. A proposal assignment is an issue to be resolved. A lack of information or resources is an issue. Show stoppers are issues. But so are simple questions. Accounting for what needs to be written and writing to incorporate all of the ingredients that need to go into the section are also issues. Instead of tasking assignments and then dealing with the issues that come up, just track issues. A contributor’s role on the proposal is not to write something that crosses off an item on the outline. A contributor’s role on the proposal is to resolve issues. Individuals can have issues directed to them. But as a team, the goal is to resolve all of the issues that might get in the way of submitting a winning proposal. Here’s a bonus item that combines them all: MustWin Now Our new proposal tool is built around gathering information, transforming it, and validating the results. It is structured around accomplishing key goals like being ready to win at RFP release, creating an outline that meets the customer’s expectation, and discovering what it will take to win and building your proposal around it. Before the proposal starts, it uses questions and answers to gather the information proposal writers need. During the proposal it wraps the workspace with training and guidance to help contributors with completing their assignments. When people use it, the process disappears, and people simply do the work using the tool. I’ve been quite pleasantly surprised by how it’s completely changed the way I view the proposal process.
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  26. Your proposal process is broken. But don’t feel bad. Everyone’s proposal process is broken. And while it might be easier to accept that the proposal process can always be improved, it's better to be honest about just how broken it is. I have worked on countless proposals at a few hundred different companies. Some proposal process implementations are better than others. But all of them have serious defects and people are usually in denial about it. This doesn’t get their proposal process fixed. In fact, it makes their proposal win rates lower than they could be. This might be the single biggest thing keeping companies from maximizing their win rate. When people don’t know how to fix their proposal process, they sometimes conclude that it’s the environment that’s broken and not the process. The truth is they’re both broken, and while you might not be able to change the environment, you can change the process. And maybe fixing your process will improve the environment. When problems appear unsolvable, people stop paying attention to them. They stop thinking of them as problems. Many of the issues on this list are tolerated by most companies, because they don’t believe they can fix them. Rather than evangelize about our process recommendations, this article is about how to recognize when your proposal process is broken but solvable. See also: Proposal Management People talk about the proposal instead of creating a tangible plan for the proposal People bring information to the proposal instead of what to do about it Any research done before the RFP is released doesn’t end up being useful for preparing the proposal Intelligence gathering is based on whatever people are able to find instead of discovering what it will take to win The top reasons given for bidding include “we can do the work,” “we have the experience” or “the opportunity is perfect for us” The compliance matrix isn’t validated before proposal writing starts The proposal outline is reviewed at Red Team The top goal after receiving the RFP is to start writing People think it’s easier to skip the process than follow it Proposal writers don’t know what the reviewers expect Self-assessment tools aren’t provided to proposal writers Proposal writing starts from copy recycled from a past proposal Proposal writers can’t tell you how to achieve RFP compliance Proposal writers can’t tell you how their sections will be scored or what they need to do to achieve a top score Proposal writers either don’t start from the points they are trying to prove, or don’t know what points they should be proving Proposal writers have questions that could have been answered, but no one asked the questions Win strategies are developed after proposal writing starts Win strategies aren’t validated until the Red Team Your plan for what to say in your proposal doesn’t go any further than a compliance matrix, outline, and occasionally some attachments like a list of themes People figure out what to propose by writing about it Key documents don’t make it to the proposal writers Key documents are ignored by the proposal writers The highest priority for proposal writers is completing their assignments and not getting the top score The highest priority for proposal writers is their other work Single points of failure Color team labels are used and no two people define them the same way Reviewers arrive without having read the RFP Reviewers decide what to look for on their own No two reviewers define proposal quality the same way Reviews don’t start until the proposal is in finished form or “the way the customer will see it” The most important person changes everything when they finally get around to looking at it There are no written proposal quality criteria Priorities and decisions aren’t based on the potential impact to the score of the proposal Decisions are based on what you think, instead of what the customer thinks Someone thinks there’s a better way than what it says in the RFP How many of these occurred during your last proposal? Rather than trying to solve them one at a time, look for common root causes. If you solve the root cause, you can fix many problems at once. For example, most of the items related to the proposal review process are a result of not defining proposal quality or having written proposal quality criteria. Many of the items related to proposal writing are a result of giving up on finding a way to plan the proposal before you start writing it. Solving some of them will require you to look at things differently. The proposal process is not about paper. Sure, it ends up on paper, but how it gets there is the result of a flow of information. Information must be sought, recorded, transformed, validated, and guided into a winning proposal. If you start by asking yourself how to create the document, you’ll end up with problems like those above. However, if you start by asking what information you need, where it comes from, and what guidance the other people you work with need to gather, then record, transform, and validate that information, you will see much better results. Our first transformative moment came in 2001, when we used this way of looking at things to create the MustWin Process. That’s how we know the problems above are solvable. We not only wrote the process, but we’ve had nearly two decades to test it in practice. See also: About MustWin Now The MustWin Process, however, is still document-based. Working with teams of people to create a document is like herding cats, even with a well-documented process. In 2018, we had our second transformative moment when we did some proposal software research and development based on information gathering, transformation, and validation and tripped across a completely different way of doing things. The result was MustWin Now. Instead of focusing on document assembly, MustWin Now focuses on solving problems like those above. It's not a tool for automation, it's a tool for winning. Along the way, we discovered a curious thing. Instead of thinking about the process, people using MustWin Now think about working with the information in front of them as it becomes the proposal. They stop trying to jump straight into writing. They do proposal content planning without thinking much about it, because they don't have to create a document called a "plan" before they create the document that is the proposal. Content planning in MustWin Now feels more like getting ready to write. And when they do start proposal writing, they have specifications to self-assess against. When proposal reviewers look at the draft, they have the same specifications to work with instead of making it up as they go along. It’s as if the “process” disappears and people just start working on the proposal using the tool. Whatever approach you take, and whether you take it online or offline, the problems above are solvable. Don’t stop trying. But also, don’t keep doing the same things and expect them to suddenly start working. Feel free to reach out to us with your questions, or to get our hands-on help on implementing the solutions we’ve discovered.
  27. Growth is the source of all opportunity for a contractor. Prices are locked in for the duration of the contract. Even when you account for pricing escalations, that usually just covers inflation, and not promotions, new hires, new tools, etc. Without growth, most contractors can’t even tread water for very long. Without growth, rising costs will force them to cut overhead expenses. Investing for the future almost always comes from growth. Everybody in the company benefits from its growth. If you got a raise and it wasn’t offset by cutting somewhere else, it came from growth. If you’re sitting on a new chair, it was probably paid for by growth. If you can’t get a new chair approved, there probably isn’t enough growth. If you want a promotion, you need the company to grow enough to grant it. A growing company is a happy place. A company that is treading water can be stifling. A contractor that is shrinking is a fearful place. The same, by the way, is true of people. People need growth to prosper. Most growth for a contractor comes through winning proposals. You don’t have to work on proposals. You get to work on proposals. You get to grow. You get to bring growth to the others you work with. Whatever you think your job or corporate mission is, it's really about growth. Growth Hack #1 Proposals are an investment and not an expense. People minimize expenses. When an investment is paying off, you go all in. But you have to know when an investment is generating a positive return. Win rate is a proxy for ROI. Carefully track what things are impacting your win rate (it can be counterintuitive and rules of thumb aren’t). If you want to grow by winning proposals, then instead of minimizing your proposal efforts you should invest in doing your proposals better. Growth Hack #2 Growth comes from winning and not from chasing leads. At a 30% win rate, a 10% increase is mathematically the same as adding 30% more leads. How much would a company invest in gaining 30% more leads? But increasing your win rate is better because you don’t have to chase 30% more leads to achieve it. Increasing your win rate is also more profitable than chasing more leads. On top of all that, increasing your win rate will pay off again next year, but you'll have to find new leads to chase. So invest as much as you would in getting 30% more leads into increasing your win rate and you’ll be better off. Hoping for more leads is not the same as winning. It's time to get serious about winning business. Growth Hack #3 Winning easily pays for more winning. What is 1% of your proposal submissions last year? Now multiply that by 10. That is what a 10% win rate improvement would have returned. It’s typically many times what it would cost to do your proposals well. Doesn’t that make the effort a worthwhile investment? Shouldn't you respond to RFPs like you're trying to get good at it? Growth Hack #4 Shortcuts kill your ability to grow. Do you think that it’s too hard to get ahead of the RFP? Or that you can’t make your subject matter experts available to adequately support proposals? Or that executives are too important to read the RFP before participating in a proposal review? Or that it makes financial sense to stretch the people trying to win as thinly as possible? Shortcuts like these reduce your win rate, and the cost of them is far more than it saves. It’s penny wise and pound foolish. See Growth Hack #3 and run the numbers in the other direction. Is it worth a few hours of cost reduction if it produces a 1% reduction in win rate? A reduction in win rate typically costs you far more than the “cost savings” of trying to get by on the cheap. Most companies lose before they even start their proposals. Growth Hack #5 Growth requires everyone to participate. Proposals need subject matter expertise. They need customer awareness. They need competitive intelligence. They need a price to win. They need appropriate terms and conditions. They need staffing. They need facilities. They absolutely depend on having great past performance. Not only does everyone in the company benefit from growth, but everyone in the company has something to contribute to achieving that growth. If you want to do proposals bigger than yourself, you've got to make contributing to growth the normal routine and not an exception. Growth Hack #6 Beware the hand-offs. Now that you’ve got everyone contributing, you’ve got a problem. Are people worked in silos, or are their efforts integrated? Is sales delivering the information needed to write a winning proposal to the people writing the proposal? Is sales even participating in the proposal? Are the project staff who have customer contact providing insight? What about the hand-off to pricing? Is pricing working in isolation from your win strategies? Is pricing introducing strategies that aren’t reflected in your proposal narrative? Every hand-off is a chance for things to get watered down. Here's a list of 90 things someone needs to do to win proposals and who is usually responsible. Growth Hack #7 Work backwards from the goal. What will it take to win? How do know whether the draft proposal reflects it? How do you build your proposal around it? How do you discover what it will take to win? The goal that you are trying to achieve informs each prior step required to fulfill it. Your proposal process shouldn’t start from a blank sheet of paper. It should start from a winning proposal and reverse engineer it. Your proposal process should be goal-driven and not steps that people can ignore or skip. Growth Hack #8 Small companies can’t put off growth. You’re pulled in many different directions. You wear many hats. The only thing that will make it better is growth. Prioritize what you must do to achieve that growth. Only bid what you can win, and do what it takes to win what you bid. Growth Hack #9 Don’t be afraid of losing. One thing that holds companies back from investing in improving their win rate is that they worry about not actually achieving an increase in their win rate. This is partially a result of not knowing how to improve their win rate. It's also partially because they still view proposals as creative expression based on people just trying hard, instead of a deliberate process based on quality validation. But it’s funny how they never avoid investing in sales just because it might not bring in the business or they haven’t already identified the leads they intend to pursue. Growth Hack #10 If you can’t follow your proposal process, you have the wrong proposal process. Most companies don’t follow their own proposal process. It’s usually not because they aren’t capable or dedicated. Or because the process isn't enforced. It’s because their proposal process is based on common but flawed ideas. Don’t beat your head against a wall. Throw your broken process out and start over. It's worth the investment. Proposals can be a lot of work, but they shouldn’t be a struggle every time. If you accept that a chaotic train wreck is normal for proposals, then you will never achieve the highest win rate possible for your organization. Growth Hack #11 Healthy growth requires developing and maintaining an information advantage. Maximizing your proposal win rate requires having an information advantage about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment. When writing proposals, an information advantage is a competitive advantage. All of your customer interactions, whether sales, technical, or otherwise, should be part of developing and maintaining your information advantage.
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