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  2. Ghosting the competition is an advanced proposal skill. It involves explaining why the customer should not select your competitors. Here are some examples of the wording you can use to do that covering many proposal sections. Click here for an explanation of techniques for ghosting the competition. Use care when ghosting the competition and note how important it is to offer a differentiated solution that shows why the customer should select you before pointing out that it is also a reason why the customer should not select a competitor. Experience One of the things we’ve learned about doing [fill in the blank] for [fill in the blank] is the importance of [fill in the blank]. If a contractor does not [account for|anticipate] doing this, [consequences]. At [fill in the blank] we developed techniques for overcoming the challenge of [fill in the blank]. This enables us to prevent [fill in the blank]. These techniques include [fill in the blanks]. If a contractor has not developed techniques for [fill in the blank] you will be at risk for [consequence] during the [project activity]. We require all of our Project Managers to make contributions to our [lessons learned database]. The result adds value to our experience and makes it tangible. We do not claim years of experience while delivering inexperienced project staff. The project staff working on your project will have access to this valuable store of problems to anticipate, risks to mitigate, and ways to address issues that occur. Staff We have exceeded the number of key personnel required by the RFP by adding [positions]. We have named the staff who will fill these positions and are committed to delivering them. This means that on the project start date, we will deliver more than our competitors and less recruiting risk. It also gives you better insight into what you will be getting than other contractors offer to you. We have identified staff and provided resumes for all of the positions required for this contract. If we win, we will either hire and use the incumbent staff or use the proposed staff, depending on your preferences. This means that we actually offer less chance of positions not being filled (for example due to turnover) than the incumbent, more choice of qualified required staff qualifications and capability, and significantly better value. We have reduced the recruiting required and substantially mitigated the risk of not being ready at the project start date, by naming half of the staff required to perform this contract. A contractor that does not do this has double the risk that we offer. Approach We considered [approach option] but ultimately rejected it because of [reason]. Instead we have chosen [another option] that delivers [result] with less risk of [trade-off]. A contractor who bids [approach option] will be delivering a higher risk of [trade-off] that could in turn [consequence]. By using [tool] we completely remove the risk of manual errors, while simultaneously lowering costs. This is significant, because otherwise lowering costs using manual approaches requires either using fewer staff with higher workloads, or using less experienced staff, with either approach increasing the risk of manual errors. We designed our approach to solve the problem of [problem] by [techniques]. If this is not addressed, then [consequence] is likely to occur. While it is slightly more expensive to do this, it is far less expensive than fixing things when [problem] occurs. A contractor that does not do this will not only be ultimately more expensive, but they will also cause disruption to [customer]. Transition Our transition accounts for everything required, while completing in half the allowed time. Faster start-up adds value and significantly reduces the risks of not completing the transition on schedule. A transition plan that requires all of the allowable time exposes [customer] to risk if any transition activities, such as recruiting, take longer than expected. Our transition plan addresses updating project procedures to incorporate [new RFP requirements]. Even the incumbent can’t be ready on “Day One” because they too will need to make changes based on the new RFP. A contractor that does not account for these changes is basing operational readiness on flawed assumptions that could disrupt the project start. By using a transition team separate from the operational project management team, we ensure that RFP requirements will be met during the transition period. A contractor that does not do this will be relying on staff to develop infrastructure while also fulfilling operational requirements. This is an unreasonable expectation that our approach resolves. Quality We have reviewed the performance standards required in the RFP and in several key areas have improved on them. We are voluntarily accepting more difficult performance measures. This matters, because a [%] difference in performance results in a [%] difference in [availability|errors|other impacts]. A contractor that merely meets the requirements will result in [consequence]. Our approach to quality management not only fulfills the RFP requirements, but will also surface relevant metrics that will support making data-driven decisions. [Customer] staff will have full access to this data in order to better pursue your mission. Our quality surveillance approach collects data and documents findings. The result is full transparency regarding what was checked, when it was checked, what was found, and what was done about it. This extra effort reduces the burden on the customer to oversee our work, provides historical data regarding trends, can be used in predictive analysis, and helps ensure that lessons learned get applied. A contractor that merely claims to have a quality surveillance approach without doing this will have nothing to show for it if it is actually performed. Resources We have itemized in detail the reach-back resources available to this project. Companies make a lot of claims about resources, while at the same time making as few promises as possible. This is especially true regarding personnel and reach-back resources. Large companies with huge staffing counts can be just as resource poor as a small business because nearly all of those staff are billable and fully committed. The resources we have identified are available and will be deployed when needed. Like all companies, we delegate authority to different levels of management. What we do differently is that we escalate authority regarding resource allocation based on how long an issue has been unresolved. As the escalation table below shows, we also escalate issues all the way up to the CEO. We do this automatically. Companies that don’t describe how they escalate issues can hide them and delay in the hopes that a resolution will somehow occur. Our resources have been tailored to your environment and needs. This is important because [describe problem with generic or off-the-shelf resources]. When resources aren’t tailored, they can result in [consequences]. If a contractor has not described how their resources have been tailored, then you are at risk for these issues. Pricing Our pricing accounts for the following [issues]. Pricing that does not account for those issues will [not be compliant|have higher actual cost|be unreasonable|not be technically acceptable] because [reasons, give them the math]. In preparing our pricing we determined that there are several pricing strategies that could lower the numbers while introducing unacceptable risks. In preparing our pricing we calculated that below [number] it would not be possible to [hire the incumbent staff|perform|fulfill the requirements] because it would require [pricing x% below market|overhead below x%|other reasons]. Our pricing is above this threshold, but not excessively so. Pricing below this threshold exposes [customer] to unreasonable risk of [default|delay|other reasons]. Low price technically acceptable (LPTA) Our approach delivers [results] by [differentiated details] in order to ensure [goal] in spite of the risk of [describe risk]. When this happens, the impact results in performance that is not technically acceptable. A contractor that has not accounted for this and included it in their pricing is not being realistic or technically acceptable. Our solution includes [feature]. Without [feature] [describe negative outcome]. While the RFP does not specifically reference [feature], it is necessary in order to achieve the required goal. A proposal that does not mention [feature] and account for it in the price will not fulfill the requirements and therefore is not technically acceptable.
  3. Ghosting the competition is an advanced proposal skill. It involves explaining why the customer should not select your competitors. It is best when: Ghosting comes after proving why they should select your proposal. You shouldn’t play on the dark side until you’ve established your inherent goodness. And even then, use it with care. Ghosting should also be handled indirectly, so that instead of being a direct attack it is more of a consideration that just happens to paint them in a bad light. You don’t name names unless you are certain in your fact-checking and provide the proof. Even then I’d avoid it. I don’t think I’ve ever taken a proposal there. In the right circumstances, ghosting the competition has strategic value and can impact the evaluation of your proposal. Plus it’s fun to be a tiny bit snarky. Think of ghosting the competition as subtly educating the proposal evaluators by dropping hints. If ghosting informs them of important things they need to know before they make a selection, then it delivers value to the customer and is not simply casting aspersions. But use it with care since being snarky can backfire. Techniques for ghosting the competition throughout your proposals This article is about techniques. PropLIBRARY Subscribers can also click here for 23 examples of wording that you can use when ghosting the competition. Here are some ways to employ ghosting in various sections of your proposals: See also: Winning Experience. Why do customers care about experience? It often comes down to the customer not wanting things to go wrong. If you have experience, you should play up your ability to prevent that. And if you want to ghost against customers that don’t have experience, point out all the things that could go wrong without the experience that you have. Since no one will bid without being able to claim they have experience, you should expect them all to have it. With ghosting you can undermine the relevance and applicability of their experience. The key to this will be the examples you provide. Claims about the benefits of having experience without examples of how it provides advantages are not compelling. The same applies to claims of other experience not being relevant. Staff. If you have the staff, then name names. Prove it. And ghost the competition by pointing out the recruiting risks. If you don’t have the staff, then you can still ghost the competition by providing a better approach to screening, qualifying, and onboarding staff. Don't forget to include everything that the staff will need to be successful, so that you can end up with better staff. Ask yourself, "What does the customer care about regarding staffing?" Is it speed of project startup, performance of the staff, coverage, or the risk of disruption to something ongoing? Provide more of what the customer cares about, while ghosting against those who don’t or who merely say they’ll meet the requirements. Approach. Why did you decide to do things the way you did? What could go wrong if you didn’t? That’s what you need to explain in order to ghost your competition. Show that your approaches will succeed and explain why. Use those explanations to show why others who don’t follow your approach or don’t cite the issues you do may fail. Then let them compare the approaches. Simply providing the details, examples, or proof points gives your proposal strengths when others fail to mention them. Especially when you add what might happen if the customer selected a proposal that didn’t mention those things. Pricing. What must be reflected in the pricing for it to be reasonable? What must be accounted for? What bad things might result if a competitor’s pricing doesn’t account for or mention the things you did? What might surprise the buyer? Transition. Incumbents often get lazy and cite transition superiority without proving it. You can steal contracts from incumbents by showing that there are considerations that if not accounted for can cause disruptions even by the incumbent. When you are thorough and account for every little detail, you not only mitigate the risk for the customer of selecting you, you can introduce risk if they do not select you. When projects can fail right at the beginning, transition plans matter. Quality. If quality matters to the customer, then don’t treat it as a mere requirement. Show that you will achieve what matters about quality and ghost your competitors as merely following procedures and not achieving the right goals. Resources. Companies make a lot of claims about resources, while at the same time making as few promises as possible. This is an opportunity to explain why all those resources that a competitor claims to have will never impact or be made accessible to the project. It is also an opportunity to offer resources that will and explain the positive impact they will have. Special note regarding low price technically acceptable (LPTA) bids If the customer will select the lowest price bid that meets their specifications and you are concerned you might not have the lowest price, all you can do is make sure that your proposal is the only one that is technically acceptable. Your proposal becomes about two things: Proving that you meet the specifications Proving that anyone who doesn’t do things the way you do will not be acceptable Ghosting the competition may be your only chance of winning if your price is not the lowest. Don't be a hypocrite One of the things you will notice if you try ghosting is how important differentiation becomes. It's hard to point fingers at someone else if you are not any different. You should always give them a reason to select you that also implies a reason not to select someone else. Before you can do that you must be able to articulate why they should select you in a way that others will not also claim. Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
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  7. Every one of the sample proposal write-ups below is selling the same widget. With minor edits, that widget could be a product, a service, or any other offering. The widget is not the point. Good news and bad news See also: Reuse First the bad news: Even though they offer the exact same thing, your proposals should end up so different from each other that it doesn't even make sense to recycle the content. Now for the good news: Creating highly tailored proposals increases your competitiveness so much it is highly profitable. Note how different each example is. The number of words that are the same in each writeup is practically nil. This is an excellent demonstration of the dangers of proposal reuse and starting from pre-written proposal content. Each customer has different concerns, and even if you’re selling the exact same widget, the proposal must be very different if you want to be competitive. If you start from the same sample proposal every time, you will not achieve this level of customization and your win probability will drop. You may save a little time, but the cost of the reduced win rate will be orders of magnitude more than what it would have cost to prepare better proposals. Another way to look at this is that proposals should be treated as a profit center. If you invest in better proposals that increase your competitiveness, you will make more profit than if you don’t. These examples also show why you can’t be everything to everybody, and why you will be far more competitive if you have even just a little insight into what concerns your customer. You can’t address all nine of these at the same time, and even if you could, the ones that matter to the customer would get lost in the noise. Besides, every customer articulates their concerns differently. Even if you had these 9 and 99 more like them ready to go, you’d need to reword them for every new proposal. If you don’t write your proposals to a specific customer, you are really just sending expensive brochures. Examples of proposal writing Proposal to a customer concerned about quality: The reason our widgets are more effective is the way we design quality in from the beginning. We not only apply quality criteria to sampling and testing our widgets after they are made, but our design methodology uses those same quality criteria to create a manufacturing process that eliminates the source of most defects. The result is greater reliability, lower total cost of ownership, and customers who can focus on their mission and spend less time on widget maintenance. Proposal to a customer focused on experience: Our widgets are better [cite differentiators] because they benefit from all our experience with installing them at [identify customers like this one]. This experience enables us to anticipate the inherent project risks [identify them for better credibility]. Our [lessons learned methodology] enables us to deliver more value to our customers [better if defined]. Our approach transforms experience into action, which will have much more impact than empty claims of years of experience. This is important because an implementation without the vital lessons learned that our staff bring would be at risk of [negative outcomes]. Proposal to a customer concerned about risk: We have identified and mitigated the risks associated with delivering the widgets to you by [insert differentiated approach]. We will also give you direct access to our widget tracking system so that you can see issues as they arise, monitor our timeliness in resolving them, know when we’ve escalated issues, and see how we’ve resolved them in real-time. Nothing will be hidden from you and you will be able to provide feedback and be as involved in the decision making as you choose to be. We will manage things just as if you are watching, even when you aren’t, because we will never know whether you are or are not. Because of this, you may not have to put as much effort into monitoring us in order to get the widgets you were promised, when you were promised them. Proposal to a customer focused on the staff: We will provide all the staff named in our proposal, all of whom are dedicated widget specialists. We do not expose you to the risk of us having to recruit the key staff needed to do the job. We know that it’s the people on the ground who will make this project successful, and not promises from the home office. We also have not included resumes that look good but are for staff you will never see, and our level of effort tables prove it. A contractor who does not provide level of effort commitments will be tempted to withhold their more experienced but expensive staff during performance. As a result, widget quality and performance will suffer. Our staff are not only fully qualified widget specialists, but they are also supported so they can be effective. Our people perform better because of the knowledge resources and best practice forums that we provide. Proposal to a customer with trust issues regarding vendors: While our past performance shows that we deliver as promised, it’s our approaches and transparent management that ensure you will get the widgets just they way we’ve promised them moving forward. These [provide differentiated examples] ensure that no step in the widget workflow can be overlooked or skipped and that every widget is fully functioning at or above specifications before they are delivered to you. Proposal to a customer who is happy with their current vendor: Our approach uses new [technology, approaches, etc.] to produce a better widget that will enable you to [insert example of better goal fulfillment]. Our approaches are proven to be low risk because we have already implemented them for other, similar clients. We have the people, processes, and tools to begin immediately with an approach that will enable you to pick up from the current state without any disruption and then raise the bar. The result will be a smooth transition that not only continues a reliable supply of widgets, but also [achieves benefits like lower costs, improved performance, time savings, etc.]. Proposal to a customer concerned with compliance: [customer name] will be better able to [insert goal of procuring widgets] because our approach is based not only on fulfilling the specifications in the RFP, but on helping you to achieve your goals. [Exhibit/table] shows that our widget meets or exceeds every specification. In addition, because our widget also complies with [insert other relevant standards, rules, laws, etc.] you will be able to confidently rely on our widgets. Widgets that do not meet these additional standards will not only represent a compliance risk, but they will also ultimately cost more than our widgets due to lower performance and reliability. Proposal to a customer concerned about widget performance: The increase in performance that results from using our widgets will [Lower cost? Improve results? Save time? Other benefit?]. We achieve better performance by [differentiated process] that [delivers benefits]. When widgets aren’t produced this way [describe how disaster may ensue]. Proposal to President Trump: It’s a great widget. We only sell the very best widgets. Anyone who says they are not the greatest is Fake News. People love our widgets. Recycling and automated assembly are dangerous and will cost you more than doing it right How well do you think a recycled widget write-up from a previous proposal would stack up in competition? Anything you copy and paste from a past proposal will have been written for the wrong context and show that you are out of touch with the new customer's concerns. What would the win probability of any one of these be if given to any of the other customers? It is better to focus on competitiveness than on reuse and assembly. More proposals produced faster but less competitively will not lead to growth. Instead of focusing on proposal assembly, focus on differentiation that better addresses customer concerns. I hope my competitors all recycle their narratives and automate their proposal assembly. Because I won’t. Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  8. Carl Dickson, Founder of and PropLIBRARY sat down for an interview with Ashley Kayes and Baskar Sundaram of the Scribble Talk Podcast. He shared some insights into the nature of proposals as well as some details about himself that have never been published before. 90
  9. Here is some guidance that can help you when you sit down to write the proposal. While we've broken it down so that someone could follow it sentence by sentence, the goal is really just to enable people to write better proposals by giving them something to check their paragraphs against. If you are stuck regarding how to approach proposal writing, this can help. See also: Great Proposals A structured approach to writing introduction paragraphs When you sit down to write, before you start summarizing ask yourself, “What makes my offering different, and how is that better?” Then drop the summary and focus on making your introduction about how your differentiation will produce better results for the customer. Compose your paragraph like this: The point you want to make set up as something the customer will get This should be followed by points about your differentiators, set up as things that will make what the customer gets better An optional competitive ghost, saying what bad things might result if things aren’t done this way and intentionally targeting competitors who don’t meet your standards If possible, organize what follows your introduction around your differentiators. If what follows must follow an RFP-mandated outline, then map your differentiators to that outline and differentiate how you comply with the RFP requirements. Keep in mind that what the customer gets should address all of their concerns, from how to complete their evaluation, will they actually get what you’ve promised, and how will it impact their future, to the unwritten requirements that didn’t make it into the RFP. Also keep in mind that strengths, while good to have, are not differentiators. Writing responses to RFP requirements When you sit down to write, before addressing the RFP requirements ask yourself, “What point do I need to make here?” Then ask yourself, “What does the customer need to see here to perform their evaluation?” Also ask yourself, “What might the customer be concerned about?” Then address the RFP requirements in a way that is easy to evaluate and achieves compliance, while making your points and addressing the customer’s concerns. Try this model for paragraph construction: An insightful point you want to make about why your approach matters and what it will achieve. This should be followed by sentences that show insight into achieving the goal of the requirements, using the RFP’s key words, and addressing the customer’s potential concerns in a way that turns them into advantages of your approach. Each of these sentences should have two parts: What you will do or deliver Why you will do it that way Make sure that you follow the RFP instructions and optimize what you say to achieve the highest score against the evaluation criteria while responding to the requirements. Note that why you do things is sometimes more important than what you will do. Use lots of tables, text boxes, and graphics Wherever possible create tables, use text boxes, and incorporate graphics. Use them to reduce the writing while improving communications. Try to move all details into table, lists into text boxes, and procedures, relationships, and metaphors into graphics. This will enable you to focus the text on telling your story about how your differentiators will produce better outcomes.
  10. Warning: proposal damage may occur Let’s start by addressing things you should avoid: Claims. Especially unsubstantiated claims. But claims in general. They rarely pass the “So what?” test. They rarely increase your evaluation score. Claims belong in advertisements. Proofs belong in proposals. Proposals get read differently than advertisements. Things that work in advertisements can backfire when used in proposals. Descriptions. Descriptions add very little value for the evaluators. Evaluators respond to insight. Insight is usually related to why you do things instead of what you do. Insight is found in why your qualifications matter or how you turn them into advantages in performance. Insight is how you pass the “So What?” test. Patronization. Don’t tell them how to make their decision. Do give them reasons in your favor. Be subtle. Being merely beneficial. Don’t just sprinkle your proposal with generically beneficial results of your merely compliant offering. It’s good to deliver benefits to the customer. But they have to be superior benefits in order to impact the customer’s decision. These are bad habits that will undermine your ability to get it right. So what should you write about in your proposals? See also: Winning You know that the proposal evaluators: Will be checking to see if you fulfill the RFP requirements Will be looking for strengths and weaknesses in how you fulfill those requirements Must complete evaluation forms and justify their decision May need to justify a best value award at a higher price Have other alternatives than accepting your proposal So talk about what matters to someone making a decision about what to do or which to select. Help them make that decision. Don’t tell them how to perform their evaluation, but do give them the information they need to do it. If you merely state a claim and then describe your RFP compliance, you will not be competitive against someone who takes proposal writing seriously. Plus, your proposal will be boring and a chore to read. The most important ingredient in proposal writing What makes your offering special? What makes it not only better, but the best? What makes you matter so much you become the customer’s best alternative? All of that starts by being different. What are your differentiators? You can always find differentiators. If they are not what you offer, they might be how you deliver it or why you made the trade-off decisions that you made. Your entire proposal should be about proving why your differentiators make you the customer’s best alternative. You accomplish this by showing how your differentiators relate to the decision that they have to make. It starts by making points: At the section level, make the point about how your differentiators will lead to better outcomes. At the paragraph level, make the point about how your differentiators will result in better requirements fulfillment. Make the text and graphics proofs of your differentiators. The result will be a proposal that has insightful advantages that aren’t available elsewhere and that delivers better results, making your proposal the customer’s best alternative. Planning your proposal content around what it will take to win You can turn this into a sentence-by-sentence plan. But that might be more planning than you can accomplish, even though companies often spend days' worth of time on the back end doing sentence-by-sentence rewriting that could have been avoided by planning it that way on the front end. But there is a middle ground for planning your proposal content. Start by identifying your differentiators and the points you want to make. Then have your proposal writers take it from there. You can review what they produce by checking it against the points and assessing whether they are sufficiently substantiated, achieve RFP compliance, and are optimized to achieve the highest evaluation score. To make it easier for proposal writers to accomplish this, we’ve created a blueprint for proposal writing. It’s only available to our paid subscribers, but we’ve given away hints at how to construct one. In our blueprint we break it down so that someone could follow it sentence by sentence. But the goal is really just to enable people to write better proposals by giving them something to check their paragraphs against. Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  11. If you are obsessed with speeding up your proposal writing, the first thing you might want to think about are the things that slow it down. They may not be what you think… To slow down proposal writing: See also: Faster Start proposal writing before you have your basis of estimate (BOE) figured out. One way to look at your proposal is simply as proof of your basis of estimate. It’s kinda hard to prove your BOE if you don’t have one. Without the BOE already figured out, people will tend to write about capabilities and qualifications in a broad beneficial sounding way that does very little to help the customer reach their decision regarding what the best alternative is. Trying to work out your BOE while doing the writing is a surefire way to slow down the writing, and having to rewrite every time you modify the BOE will make it take even longer. Start writing before you have the points you want to make figured out. Every paragraph in your proposal should prove a point. Then you substantiate that point with details that demonstrate RFP compliance while maximizing your score against the evaluation criteria. If you have your basis of estimate and the points you want to make already figured out, the paragraphs practically write themselves. Without a set of points to make, proposal writers will make some up on their own. For better or worse. Actually, the worst worse if is when they don’t. A lot of proposals end up being simply descriptive. A descriptive proposal is literally pointless. Rewriting to try to insert some points is a surefire way to make proposal writing take longer, since you will likely need to edit every sentence in a paragraph that you try to insert a new point into. Start writing without a compliance matrix. If the writer has a compliance matrix, they know what RFP requirements they have to comply with. They know what words to use. They know what evaluation criteria will decide whether they win or lose in that section. A surefire way to slow down proposal writing is to give the writers a copy of the RFP and then expect them to figure it out, achieve compliance, optimize against the evaluation criteria, and do it on the first attempt. Recycling past proposals can actually make the writing take longer, as well as hurt your win rate. Your past proposals were all written to prove the wrong points. What concerned the previous evaluators was different from the concerns of the new set of evaluators. So either you leave them as beneficial sounding pointless narratives, or you edit every single sentence. Then there is the wording of the RFP instructions, evaluation criteria, and statement of work to consider. They usually change from RFP to RFP. Parsing apart a narrative to base it on the wording of the new RFP will take far longer than you realize. But perhaps a more likely outcome is that people won’t do that. They’ll “tailor” the “reuse” material by adding some stuff from the new RFP without getting rid of the material from the RFP that was written to address the wrong customer concerns. Given a BOE, a compliance matrix, and a list of points to make I can write sentences faster than I can edit a recycled narrative. So a surefire way to slow down your proposals and reduce your proposal evaluation score is to start from recycled proposal content. Don't give your proposal writers any structure. How should proposal writers introduce sections and paragraphs? What should those introductions accomplish? How should they be supported? What should they emphasize? All it takes is a little high-level direction. Not knowing these things, having to figure them out, then having to rewrite them when you get them wrong are surefire ways to slow down proposal writing. Start proposal writing without a set of quality criteria. If your review process is to invite some people to read the draft and give their opinions, it’s a surefire way to make the proposal writing take longer. If the writers don’t know what the target is, they are not likely to hit it. You may effectively double the writing time if you conduct your reviews like this. You may even simply run out of time and submit the proposal you have, instead of the proposal you wanted to have. Instead, proposal writers and proposal reviewers should both work from the same set of criteria that define what proposal quality is and what they should accomplish to pass the review. Start the proposal without already having the staff you need to write it. Or assign writers who will be wearing too many hats. Time spent looking for resources or using inattentive resources is a surefire way to make the writing take longer. This is because they won’t be writing to the plan. Either they will use the lost time as an excuse not to do the planning needed to write quickly and deliberately, or they won’t pay attention to the plan and take shortcuts., Skip the graphics. Graphics seem hard. But the problem is not illustration. The problem is the thinking that goes into understanding what you are trying to communicate before illustration can happen. It's so much easier to write until you stumble across what you want to say or simply run out of time. A lot of companies spend a huge amount of time writing procedures and descriptions, and explaining relationships that could be easily presented in graphics. Graphics are an investment that reduces writing, focuses what writing you must do on your differentiators, and gets people out of being merely descriptive. So skipping the graphics is a surefire way to slow down proposal writing and add to the amount of rewriting you'll have to do. If you go back and reread this, the secrets for accelerating proposal writing are there. In fact, the entire proposal process is implied. But the secrets for accelerating proposal writing do not involve recycling past proposals, making putting pen to paper your top priority after RFP release, figuring things out while you write about them, or having ad hoc subjective proposal reviews. It’s kind of funny how the things most companies do to accelerate their proposals actually make them take longer. But I like it that way. It creates an opportunity for competitive advantage for the companies that understand it. Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
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  13. Proposal themes are defined in many different and not very helpful ways. Try googling it. How does someone new to proposals write a “concept” that gets “woven throughout the proposal” to “call attention to the benefits” you offer? Definitions like that can't be acted upon. Because themes are defined in such a nebulous way, they often end up being overly-broad claims of greatness that do nothing to persuade the customer. When I review proposals I often see unsubstantiated slogans that sound like what people have read in brochures. Writing proposals that sound like brochures is a big part of what makes customers distrust vendors. I also see proposal theme statements that have devolved into simply trying to sound beneficial. This often happens when the writer doesn’t have any insight into what the customer cares about and doesn't really have anything meaningful to say, but still wants to sound positive and somehow win. Why should the customer select you? See also: Themes When the customer is reading your proposal, they are looking for reasons why they should accept your proposal over all their other alternatives, which may even include doing nothing. Unsubstantiated claims, pronouncements about things like how critical quality will be to this project, or beneficial sounding attributes without any significant impact do not give the customer anything to help them reach a decision. Proposals are not won by trying to hypnotize the customer with subliminal messages. Proposals are won by proving that what you propose is the customer's best alternative. The most effective way to achieve this is by pointing out things that are truly different in your proposal and explaining why those differences matter. A key way customers select between proposals is to consider the differences between them. If your proposal points out those differentiators while explaining why they matter and how they make your proposal the customer’s best alternative, you make the customer's decision much easier. Differentiators are much easier to understand than themes. But sometimes people struggle to identify differentiators that really set them apart. A lot of the attempts at differentiators I see when I review proposals make the same claims that everyone else will make! You can expect every competitor to claim that: We have the best experience We have the best staff We are extremely well qualified We meet or exceed all RFP requirements We are the lowest risk We deliver the highest levels of quality Most of them are unsubstantiated claims and examples of bad proposal writing. But putting that aside, they are not really differentiators. Everyone bidding who has a shot at winning will be experienced, capable of staffing the project with impressive resumes, be well qualified, and will claim low risk and high quality. It does not matter how much you believe your claims to be true for you and better than everyone else’s claims. The customer will see them all as the same. Making claims similar to these puts you in the middle of the pack instead of making you a standout. A differentiator has to make you different. Ideally, a differentiator should make you unique (please don't claim that overused word), but you can sometimes settle for rare and valuable. If the customer reads about what you are offering and sees it as rare and valuable to them, that is a very good thing. Strengths are not necessarily differentiators, but they are still good to have While they are not differentiators, your experience, staffing, qualifications, risk management, and quality assurance are still good attributes to have. They are strengths and position you as a competent vendor. Competent is good. But it is not enough to be the best. It is theoretically possible to win without any differentiators if you have more strengths than your competitors. But proposing to be a little bit better than your competitors is not a way to achieve consistently high win rates. You want to be clearly superior, and that requires differentiators on top of your strengths. You can improve your proposal writing by skipping the themes and instead focusing on differentiators and strengths. If you’re astute, you’ll realize that your proposal writers probably can’t make up differentiators and strengths on their own. They’ll need technical and subject matter input. They’ll need experts to tell them what matters about what you’re offering. But proposal writers can help you articulate what matters as differentiators and strengths for the proposal. Then you can debate whether the differentiators are truly different and whether they are what the customer needs to reach a decision in your favor. This is a most important debate to have. Winning may depend on it. Make two lists: one for differentiators and one for strengths. Then ask yourself whether they add up to beating all possible competitors. Do this before you start proposal writing, and your proposal becomes a proof of your differentiators and strengths. That is exactly what the customer needs to make their decision. Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  14. A management approach is a document that explains to the customer what you will do to ensure that they get what you’ve promised. It is not simply a set of operational plans. A lot of people find writing the management approach for a proposal to be boring and uninspiring. They even routinely recycle their boring management approaches, as if the customer doesn’t care. I love to compete against them because the management approach is often a great opportunity to win proposals. Management approaches are inherently about trust. How does the customer know they will get all the technical proposal goodies you’ve promised them? What is the customer concerned about? Why should they believe that you can deliver? What good is your promised offering, no matter how great you claim it to be, if the customer can’t trust you to deliver? "Amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics." - Gen. Robert H. Barrow, USMC (Commandant of the Marine Corps) Most companies put far more effort into deciding what to offer than they put into how they will make sure that it gets delivered as promised. If there is any challenge at all to the project, then delivery is uncertain. And if there is no challenge to it, why does the customer need you at all? Why should the customer believe that you will do a better job meeting the challenges than their other alternatives? If your management approach is recycled boilerplate, you’re bidding at a competitive disadvantage. A routine management approach vs a winning management approach See also: Technical Approach Project management plans are often operational tools, without much flourish or insight to them. But the management approach for a proposal needs to be insightful and accomplish a lot more: A routine management approach for a proposal is an undifferentiated description of how you will run the project. It shows that you are capable of delivering. A winning management approach differentiates, earns trust, and adds value. It shows that you are not only capable of delivering, but that you will also overcome the anticipated and even unanticipated challenges. It proves that you will deliver more value and do it more reliably than any alternative. A routine management approach is not competitive against a management approach written to win. A simple approach for writing a winning management approach While in the technical approach the central question is typically how do you run the project, in the management approach the central question is how do you make sure the project accomplishes its goals. At every step in the value chain, there are opportunity to confirm, validate, anticipate, reallocate, communicate, record, track, monitor, and deliver. If you are making improvements for the customer, you are bringing positive change. But it's change nonetheless, and that creates opportunities to demonstrate you understand change management. Here are 200 additional topics to consider for your management approaches. All these things can earn trust by proving to the customer that you will deliver as promised. For each step, activity, event, or service, consider what happens: Before. What can you do to confirm expectations, anticipate problems, and prepare? What are your goals? During. What options do you have? How will you select among them? How will you detect problems? What will you do about them? How will you track progress? After. How will you validate that things were done correctly? How will you confirm you fulfilled your goals? Your org chart is not simply a hierarchy. Your reports are not simply reports. An invoice is not simply an invoice. Everything single thing is done for a reason that benefits the customer and its completion adds value. The reasons why you do things can be more important than what you do. They show you have insight and judgment worthy of being trusted. Before, during, and after wrap everything you do in reasons for doing them that add value. Let other people treat their management approaches as routine. Channel your own distrust of salespeople and vendors into something more productive Have you ever had a bad vendor experience? What did you do about it in the future? What does the customer fear about selecting a vendor? Have they had problems in the past? Are they concerned about the project’s risks? What would you want a vendor to do to prove that they are worth your trust? What procedures should they follow? That’s what your management approach should be. Even if the technical requirements are routine, you can differentiate by providing better delivery. How do you ensure that better delivery actually takes place? That’s what your management approach should be. Turn your concerns about project risks into a demonstration to the customer that you are ready to face them When you prepare your technical approach, you’ll solve many problems and have to hedge against many unknowns. Every single one of them is a chance to show the customer that you can handle the project. Think of the things you don’t know as opportunities and not as disadvantages. Show the customer that you have accounted for and mitigated those issues. The winner will be the vendor that the customer is confident will be able to handle the problems that inevitably come up. You can inspire that kind of confidence by showing that your management approach: Has methods for anticipating problems early and preventing them from occurring at all Rapidly detects when problems do occur and quickly addresses them Will prevent small problems from growing into larger problems Already has an approach for dealing with problems that do become large so that you won’t be making it up as you go along Has a means to determine when things have been done correctly and ways to correct anything that isn’t correct Provides communication at every level and in every direction to the extent desired by the customer, which can range from full transparency to just informing them when they need to know Addresses when resource allocation is not optimal and can reallocate resources as needed over the life of the project These features can’t be simply claimed. They must be demonstrated. Features like these should be the results of what you will do. Blanket statements of what you’ll achieve without the details for how you will achieve them do not inspire confidence. Imagine three proposals… One has a routine management approach that is good enough to get the job done. The second promises much better results, but is short on the details for how this will be achieved. The third cites some of the things you’ve anticipated, explains what you’ll keep an eye open for when performing oversight, provides examples of things you’ll consider, describes what you’ll do in various contingencies, and includes some options you have ready if things go wrong. Which proposal would you pick? Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  15. Fight! Fight! Fight! Not really. But sometimes you do have to decide which to focus on first. Or how much to budget for each. Keep in mind that companies often define things differently. They often blur the lines between roles. If you have a slash in your title (i.e. BD/capture, capture/proposal) then you are neither. You stop prospecting the moment you start doing capture. You stop doing capture the moment you get in the weeds of document production. What matters depends on several things See also: Roles There is a difference between selling commodities where meeting the specifications matters more than who provides what is being procured, and selling complex services or solutions where the provider matters very much. The more the procurement focuses on specifications and price, the less important the relationship with the vendor is. The more the procurement focuses on approaches, risk, and quality, the more who the vendor is matters. These are essentially trust issues, but trust matters differently depending on what is being procured. The more trust matters, the more important capture management becomes. If you bid a high volume of proposals, then business development becomes more important to feed the funnel. All those leads have to come from somewhere. If you bid a low volume of high value proposals, then relationship marketing that produces an information advantage is critical. But strategy matters and a great proposal is needed to close the sale. If compliance with the RFP requirements is critical or if your proposal will be evaluated formally, then proposal management becomes critical. How many people get involved in your proposals? It’s always more than you think. But as the number of contributors to the proposal increases, the need for proposal management also increases. What is the depth and breadth of your offerings? If what you offer is highly technical or covers multiple specialties, you can’t expect one person to do it all. However, if you only have a single offering, then it is possible for someone to learn everything they need to know to prepare your proposals without help. All this means that what is important for another company, even one in your industry, may not be the right approach for your company. If you are a business development, capture, or proposal manager, here are some things to consider that impact just how much your role matters to your company. If all you're doing is… Business development. If all you do is mine databases for RFPs or take orders, you're not adding as much value as someone who finds opportunities before they are published. You may be processing information instead of developing customer relationships and generating leads. Also, if your company bids everything, you're not doing lead qualification. Bidding unqualified leads is nothing to brag about. Capture management. If you start at RFP release, ask yourself what makes you different from being a proposal manager. How much do you contribute to developing the information advantage, proposal strategies, differentiators, winning offering, and price to win? Proposal management. If all you're doing is putting someone else's information on paper, you're not adding as much value as someone who helps people understand the customers' expectations and how to win in writing. Which roles can you do without? If business development didn't exist, who would establish relationships with new customers? Who would fill the pipeline with leads? If capture management didn't exist, who would herd the cats to deliver the information, strategies, and differentiated offering needed to win the proposal? If proposal management didn't exist, who would fill all the voids and take on the workload to get the proposal submitted on time no matter what? Who contributes the most to winning? If business development doesn't establish customer relationships, how will you gain an information advantage? If capture management doesn't figure out what it will take to win and prepare proposal inputs based on it, then who will? If proposal management doesn't deliver a proposal without defects that is based on how the customer will evaluate the document and make their decision, who will? What does it all add up to? See also: Pursuit and Capture Program Tell me the answers to the questions above and I'll tell you which is more important at your company. Not all companies are ready for dedicated capture management. At some companies, they need a proposal manager just to manage the workload, and can fill the gaps in strategy and solutioning well enough. At other companies, they might have business development and proposal management staff, but their win rate will suffer without capture management. Which role is the most important? The one that makes the greatest contribution to win rate. If business development has no involvement once the proposal starts, they don't contribute to the sale closing. They don't deliver the win. But if they develop an information advantage and help drive it into the proposal, they are vital. If capture management doesn't turn the information advantage into winning proposal strategies and a winning offering at the right price, your chances of winning go down. But if they do, their contribution is vital. If proposal management doesn't produce a compliant proposal that presents the offering according to the win strategies, you're just producing expensive paper. But if they help the company get their strategies on paper while achieving RFP compliance, their contribution is vital. So what do they do and not do at your company? Reach out to us below and have a discussion about our MustWin Pursuit and Capture Program before May 31st and we'll discount participation in the program by $500. Which is easiest to outsource? Which is the easiest to use consultants for instead of full-time hires? If you outsource business development, you outsource your company’s future. Maybe you can jump start things that way. But developing the ability to identify qualified leads is a core corporate competency. If you outsource capture management, you are outsourcing offering design and strategy development. Those are also core competencies. But you might be able to outsource someone who can lead your staff through the process of offering design and strategy development. If you outsource proposal management, you are outsourcing your ability to pull it all together and get it on paper. If you intend to do a lot of proposals, this becomes a core competency. But you might be able to outsource capacity instead of capability. Outsource to learn. Outsource coordination. But don't outsource a capability you need your company to develop. When you not only have the capability, but also have a mature process to bring people into, then it becomes easier to outsource. If you use a consultant to do business development, you better have a strong lead qualification process to assess the leads they generate. And unless you're going to pay them to do capture and the proposal, you better have those capabilities as well. If you use a consultant to do capture management, you better have strongly qualified leads for the investment to pay off. You'll also need strong proposal management so that they dedicate their attention to capture management and not document production. If you use a consultant for proposal management, you better understand what it will take to win and have the information, offering design, and price to win as input. All of them benefit from process Business development benefits from strategic direction, lead qualification, and intelligence gathering guidance. Just leaving it up to people to figure it out on their own will reduce their success. Capture management depends on collaboration, with information flowing in every direction. If they have to make it up as they go along or deal with uncooperative contributors, it will reduce their success. Proposal management depends on input. But if they don't have a process for specifically requesting the input needed to go from merely compliant to a winning proposal, they are less likely to achieve it. What you need is driven by what it takes to win. You need prospecting and qualified leads that get dedicated attention before the proposal starts so that you can end up with a winning proposal. You need all three functions. But that doesn’t necessarily you need people with all three titles. That will depend on your circumstances. But if you don’t have staff in all three roles, you’ll need to put a lot of thought into how to prevent win rate destroying gaps from developing. How do you get everyone to play nicely together? Growth is everyone's job. They are all part of the same goal. But they all hand off information and need to be able to rely on each other. This requires more than just a spirit of teamwork. It requires a process that sets expectations, defines what is needed, explains what to do, verifies that things get done, and adds value at every step. It is extremely difficult to develop this and be dedicated to winning business at the same time. "In between pursuits" means it never gets done. Outsourcing process tailoring and implementation can enable your staff to perform more effectively without disrupting their workflow. The MustWin Pursuit and Capture Program enables all of the stakeholders involved to improve how they work together through a combination of training and building the process items that enable them to perform better than they do on their own. Let's discuss the details Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  16. Some large companies operate like a collection of small businesses and some small businesses never stop making it up as they go along. This produces companies that grow like weeds where everything is a constant struggle. How do you stop operating like you are small? See also: Small Business Let's start by asking, "What does it mean to be small?" The SBA publishes size standards based on revenue and head count, but they don't tell you anything about a company's maturity. A company's revenue and head count don't tell you what their win rate is or whether they are maximizing their return on investment. Being small means being unable to field the team of people you normally would need to go after contracts that employ teams of people. Being small means being able to go after work that is larger than yourself. But what being small really means is being ad hoc. Being small means making it up as you go along, because you still haven't figured out how not to. If you don’t want to be small, don’t be ad hoc. People are more effective when they have the support and information they need to be successful. This means they need coordination, collaboration, process, guidance, and inspiration. No longer being small requires more than just hiring additional staff. As you grow, you’ll gain more resources. But you’ll never have enough. Large companies never have enough resources either. What you need is to get the most out of the resources that you do have. As long as everyone is making it up as they go along, going along will take longer. You will face a constant struggle and waste tons of resources on herding cats. You are stuck in a trap. You can’t improve efficiency because you don’t have the resources. You don’t have enough resources because you are inefficient. Your overhead costs are too high because you are inefficient. You can’t hire more resources because your overhead costs are too high. Two things that can help you get out of the trap Every small business has to find a way out of this trap to become successful. Since your staff are already maxed out, invest in outside resources that will make your internal resources more effective. Instead of using outside resources to do the same thing that your internal resources do, use outside resources to build the structure you need for your internal staff to be more effective. Use outside resources to make your internal resources perform better in a lasting way. Pay for that investment through growth. Start with opportunity capture. Increasing your ability to win what you pursue can be extremely profitable. So once you have a pipeline and some leads, it’s time to make the changes needed to ensure you capture what you have in your pipeline. When you use outside resources to help your internal staff achieve a better win rate, those resources pay for themselves. And when you no longer need the outside resources, you will still have the structure to achieve the high win rate. If you are currently paying the bills winning 30% of what you pursue, imagine how much better things would be if you increased your win rate to 40%. How much is learning how to achieve that 10% improvement for all of your future years worth? Invest by making the changes required for it to happen. The growth that results will pay for more internal resources, and the new resources will be more effective because you’ll have a better structure to bring them into. When you stop being ad hoc is when your growth can really take off. Here's the approach we recommend to get out of the trap of being small See also: Pursuit and Capture Program Having the same staff pursuing your opportunities while also building the structure to improve how people pursue your opportunities is problematical. That’s the nice way of saying it usually fails. Either you are taking them away from the pursuit at a risk to your win rate, or you are expecting them to complete the development effort “in between” pursuits, which never happens. You’re also expecting them to be able to integrate stakeholder groups with competing interests. Getting it right deserves more attention and pays off in improved return on investment. The way we approach it is to break down the topics that the organization needs to work on and then create what is essentially a project plan. We have a template that we use for this. We also have the advantage of being able to draw from the huge amount of materials we have in PropLIBRARY. We combine: Online training Involvement of all stakeholders Creating process artifacts that the company will use for years Q&A and feedback Then we create a monthly schedule based on the topics. And use the above as weekly topics. This balances any disruption to the organization while making steady progress to continuously improve win rate and ROI. It also enables us to quickly put in place what amounts to a project plan that addresses: Schedule Roles Goals ROI impact Metrics and measurements This greatly mitigates risk and enables oversight to ensure that goals, including ROI targets, are met. Reach out to us below and have a discussion about our MustWin Pursuit and Capture Program before May 31st and we'll discount participation in the program by $500. One way we’ve used this approach is to introduce capture to a company and roll it out over some number of months. Or to fix intractable problems that companies who have capture managers often still face. Another way it can be used is to help companies that are graduating from the 8(a) program. Starting about 18 months ahead of graduation, we can transform the entire organization from a dependency on set-asides to being ready for full and open competition. What I like about this approach is that it is transformative without being disruptive, and that it enables companies to blend improving and learning with doing. This resolves many of the problems that companies struggle with, often for years. That struggle lowers your win rate and leaves money on the table. Fixing those problems pays for itself. Let's discuss the details Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  17. Capture management requires organizational development and not just a lucky hire. Sure it's possible to hire someone who can herd the cats and win a pursuit. Maybe win some more. There are some great capture managers out there. But there's a reason that turnover for capture managers is so high. And why on average most companies' win rates are so low. Winning consistently requires organizational development and not just relying on luck. When the luck runs out, most companies blame their capture managers and hire a new one. And then another. And another. Looking to get lucky hiring the "right person" instead of changing the organization. The fate of your company is determined by when you realize that your future growth requires more than just lucky hiring. It is determined by how well you develop your organization. And how well that organization can implement capture management as a function instead of a role someone plays. It's impossible to find someone with all of the knowledge and skills required for capture management, and it's impossible for them to be successful in the long term in a company that hasn't done anything more than just hire someone to do the job. To do the job of capture management you have to have more skill, knowledge, and experience than any one person can have: See also: Capture Management The technical discipline(s) relevant to what you are trying to capture. You will lead the offering design effort. You have to know when the engineers are non-compliant or preparing an offering that won’t win. Project management. It does no good to capture a project you can’t perform. And to capture it, you’ll need to offer approaches that are better than all alternatives. Your plans will have to be credible. Sales. Everything you do has to win in a competitive environment. You must know what matters to the customer and what it will take for them to consider your offering to be their best alternative. Oh, and you won’t just be selling to the customer. You’ll also have to sell inside your own company, just to get the resources, attention, and approvals you’ll need. Competitive assessment. When trying to be the best alternative, it helps to know what the other alternatives are and what it will take to beat them. Estimating and budgeting. You’ll not only be estimating for the resources you’ll need to capture opportunities, you’ll be estimating for the project you’re proposing. You’ll have a budget to live within. Hopefully you’ll have some input into that budget. Pricing. Price always matters. You not only have to know how to price, you have to know innovative pricing strategies and how to determine what the price to win will be. Contracts and acquisition policy. If you are capturing government procurements, you’ll need to know their procedures and policies so you can position within them and potentially influence them. You’ll need to understand not only what contract clauses mean, but how they are typically applied, and strategies related to them. Proposals. It’s not enough to know proposal procedures. You have to know how to drive your win strategies into the document and end up with a proposal that is better than any of your competitors. And do it on schedule. Risk assessment. What are the risks in bidding? What are the risks in performing? Which risks are greater than others? And what should you do about them all? It's worse than you think. It's impossible. Good luck finding someone fluent in all of those. Worse, you really need experience in each of them. You need to know what works and what doesn't. You need to know how to combine them into winning strategies. Even worse, you need to be at the top of the competitive range in each of them. What you accomplish in each of these areas must be the best. There is no good enough in capture management. Even worse still, it has to come packaged in a personality that matches your corporate culture, gets things done, and interacts with your customers well. Skills are not enough. On top of that and even worse still, capture management has to sell inside the company just to get it to do what it needs to do to win. Selling customers is easy. Overcoming corporate inertia is hard. So it's impossible to find someone with all of the skills needed to do a job that your company will make impossible even if you somehow do. And if a capture manager loses after a long pursuit that probably should not have passed lead qualification at the beginning, your company will probably fire them. So they have that to look forward to. Capture, Sales/Business Development, and Project Management are not the same thing Sometimes companies try to cheat. I mean "compromise." They either have their sales/business development lead do double duty as a "capture manager" or they ask their current project manager to do the job. Your sales lead can't be dedicated to winning one pursuit and prospecting at the same time. If you give them the job of capture, they will no longer be doing the job of sales. Plus, they'll have serious gaps. If you give the job to one of your project managers, you'll have serious gaps that will weaken your competitiveness. What should you do if your capture manager has skill gaps? You capture manager is going to have skill gaps. There is no “if.” How well you fill them determines your success. If you hire looking for a superman, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A professional is better than a hero. If you leave it up to individuals to figure out when to ask for help, they are likely to favor their strengths and hide their weaknesses. It’s human nature. And it will make you less competitive. What you really should do is institutionalize the capture management function so that support, collaboration, and handoffs are routine, expected, and smooth. This is the secret sauce. The success of your capture management function determines your ability to grow. And growth is the only source of opportunities for people in your organization. So it’s kind of important. How do you fill the gaps? Assume there will be gaps and build in collaboration and quality validation. Account for all the topics that need to be addressed and identify experts inside your organization to involve. Make sure all your internal resources treat supporting capture with the same priority as their future pay raises, because growth depends on capture. Then treat everything as risks. Gaps are just another kind of risk, as are: See also: Pursuit and Capture Program Not knowing what to do Having unanswered questions Needing contributions from others Dependencies of all types Competitive positioning Customer requirement fulfillment Contractual compliance Win probability Etc. Identify, mitigate, track, assess, and report on all risks. A capture manager who doesn’t seek out help is a bad capture manager. An organization that doesn’t support their capture managers is one that isn’t prioritizing growth. But it’s not really the capture manager that needs help. It’s the organization. The organization needs help supporting its capture function. The organization shouldn’t even think of it as “help” because that implies it’s an exception when it’s really part of the expected routine. Capture management requires continuous risk mitigation until the sale closes. So instead of treating it as help, treat it as risk mitigation. A potential problem or deficiency could become an issue that results in a lost opportunity and lower growth. Risks are ever present and new ones are constantly arising. Reach out to us below and have a discussion about our MustWin Pursuit and Capture Program before May 31st and we'll discount participation in the program by $500. How do you create an organization that functions like there are no gaps? Think about everything that the capture function touches at a highly involved, strategic level: Sales/business development Proposals Contracts Pricing Operations Human Resources Finance Executive offices Others? Functioning like an organization that has no gaps related to pursuit capture means making changes to the entire organization to get them all involved and coordinated. Mostly small changes. But everyone needs to embrace them. Implementing a capture function means not simply hiring someone to do the job, but going through the entire organization and defining the interfaces, the flow of information in and out, approvals, thresholds, communications, expectations, etc. Creating an organization that functions like it has no gaps means making these exchanges continuously smooth. Making it up as people go along won’t cut it. Instead of waiting for gaps to emerge, the organization should anticipate the expertise required, supply it, and confirm that the results meet the need for quality and risk mitigation. In our Pursuit and Capture Program, we deal with the issues one at a time and tailor our materials to match your environment. Each month we take on a new department or challenge. Each month we create tangible deliverables that institutionalize the interactions. Your fate will catch up to you The difference between being a small startup and a mature growing firm is more than just the people you hire. At some point you must go from making it up as you go along and trying to win by working harder to putting in place the culture and processes that make people more effective. If you don't you will never reach your company's full potential. If you ignore having a low win rate, you doom your company to a future of declining profit margins, as you make up for your lack of competitiveness. Implementing a dedicated capture function is a key moment in a company's evolution. Maybe you're not ready for it. It requires change. It requires investment. But if you never get around to it, your growth will not be healthy and your future will be very high risk. The good news is that you don't have to take a great leap and get it all right in one step. Maturing takes time. The challenges are predictable. And you can solve them as you grow. But if you just hire people, they'll be too busy fighting fires to transform your company. Transforming the company isn't normally part of the job description for a capture manager, and they are usually not empowered to do so. Our Pursuit and Capture Program maps out the challenges and provides a way to address the needs of all the stakeholders in an orderly way that gets everyone on the same page regarding how everyone should work together to achieve growth and bring opportunity to everyone at your company. We'll work together with your staff in a way that won't get in the way of them doing their jobs while as a team we methodically transform your company to achieve its full potential. Let's discuss the details Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  18. When you go straight from salespeople to proposals: See also: Capture Management You tend to get a lot of waste if the sales function doesn't pay for each proposal they request out of their own budget. When this is the case there’s no reason for them not to want to submit a proposal, no matter how low the win probability. When there is no cost, why not submit a proposal, because it might win? This approach comes at a win-rate destroying cost that sucks the life out of a company’s future potential. If salespeople participate in the proposal effort, they are not prospecting. Lead generation stops when the proposal starts. If salespeople are not participating in the proposal effort, your win rate will suffer from a lack of customer and opportunity insight. If salespeople are participating in the proposal, they’re no longer actively developing customer and opportunity insight. Sales is not enough for success. Having capture management between sales and the proposal keeps sales focused on prospecting while providing an improved approach to drive customer awareness into the proposal in order to maximize your win probability. Capture management provides dedicated resources to win a pursuit in between sales and proposals. But introducing capture management requires more than just hiring someone to fill the role. A lot more. Introducing capture management requires a coordinated effort across the company Capture management is the hardest job in the company. It requires knowing everything, which of course is impossible. To be successful, it requires a great deal of coordination with subject matter experts in every part of your company. And this requires an executive mandate as well as the ability to anticipate what capture will require over the life of the pursuit, awareness of how to access those resources, and knowledge about what information they need to get the answers needed. Oh, and it needs a budget. And oversight. And participation in bid/no bid decisions, plus the ability to get the input required from sales. In addition, the capture manager has to know how to build a proposal based on what it will take to win. This requires the capture manager to know the proposal process and what input to bring to the proposal about what it will take to win. And to herd all the cats to get everyone on board and keep them all on the same page (mixing several metaphors at once on purpose). A professional is better than a hero You can’t just flip a switch and have successful capture management. Even if you parachute in an experience capture management consultant, they will not be as effective as a capture manager can be in an organization that understands how to best implement and take advantage of the role. Don’t try to hire a hero. Do things professionally. A consultant might be an excellent part of the mix. But don’t expect any one person to make it all better just by showing up. When we introduce capture management to companies, we do it with a combination of training and process improvement over time. Our MustWin Pursuit and Capture program phases in process maturity, involves all stakeholders, continuously improves win rates, and ensures a positive ROI. We start by discussing the challenges your company faces. Is it lead qualification? Or not delivering the input that proposals need to win? Or are you having problems with designing an offering that the customer wants at the right price? Or is it explaining why your proposal is the customer’s best alternative in a way that the customer agrees with? Is your win rate lower than it should be? We have over two dozen monthly units that we combine as needed to focus on exactly what you need to improve. What we don't have is a one-size-fits-all approach. Or a class that ends leaving you with the hard work of figuring out what to do about what you’ve learned. The MustWin Pursuit and Capture Program assignments involve tailoring forms, templates, review procedures, briefings, and more from our huge library. When the program ends you not only have the knowledge you need, but you also have a mature process that has already been implemented. Sales is about prospecting and qualifying. Capture management is about closing in an environment where every part of the company potentially contributes to that sale closing. Capture management is for companies that bid as if their companies depend on winning, because they do. It’s all about winning Who is responsible for the win? See also: Pursuit and Capture Program Is the salesperson responsible for finding leads or closing them? If it's both, go back to the top and re-read the bullets. Is the proposal manager responsible for the win? If so, then do they participate in the bid/no bid decision? What authority do they have over sales to provide the information required for winning? What authority do they have over the bid strategies? Adding a capture manager gives you one person responsible for the win that works with both sales and proposals. Adding capture management to a company is a far bigger change than simply hiring another set of hands. Companies adding capture management should take a moment to make sure they’re ready to take a big step towards becoming mature. Adding capture management is about adding deliberate, dedicated, focus in order to maximize your win rate. It often comes when companies realize they can double their win rate without chasing any more leads than they already have, simply by raising their win rate. Maximizing your win rate requires a host of other improvements, ranging from lead qualification and bid/no bid decisions, to formalizing the flow of information to the proposal and the process for preparing your proposals. If you don’t address all of those issues when you add capture management to your company, then you’re just throwing bodies at the problem instead of trying to win.
  19. You’ve got to start somewhere. So companies often start by responding to as many RFPs as possible, hoping to win a few to get the company established. Once they are established, they can reassess and start doing things strategically. When should they reassess and begin to change? That day is now. How do I know? Because your win rate is so low that you can double your revenue by increasing your win rate without chasing any more leads. Your win rate is low because you’re bidding without a competitive advantage. Even though you’re getting by and it’s become your comfort zone, that approach will cause your business to plateau early and go into decline. The truth is you’re leaving money on the table and it’s time to reconsider. It only requires one small change to start maturing as a company: bid every opportunity where you have an information advantage. That’s it. You still get to bid everything you can find. It just has to be everything where you have an information advantage. If you don't have an information advantage then you are relying on luck or low-balling the price. Neither approach is sustainable. You don’t have to worry about having to drop most of the bids in your pipeline and starting over. The change will be gradual. A small change in win rate can return more than 30% growth in a single year. It’s actually quite profitable. See also: ROI You don’t become a mature company by flipping a switch and changing everything all at once. Instead of dropping opportunities, you’ll gradually replace them with opportunities that have higher win probabilities. Our Pursuit and Capture Program eases you into it a little bit at a time over a few months. We start by developing an understanding of the mix of opportunities in your pipeline and designating one or two future customers to start practicing relationship marketing with. We'll show you how to build an information advantage and use it to win what you pursue. How do you pick the customers to develop relationships with ahead of the RFP? Strategically based on publicly accessible data about who buys what you sell. Our Pursuit and Capture Program covers that. How do you get to know them? By being helpful and practicing relationship marketing. Our Pursuit and Capture Program also covers that. What techniques do you learn? We’ll show you how to initiate opportunities instead of just finding them. We’ll show you what you have to do to influence the RFP. We’ll tell you what questions to ask so that you can develop an information advantage. And an information advantage is the best customer advantage. Success requires more than simple techniques There is no secret technique that will enable you to go from a being a company that is driven by ad hoc approaches and people trying to make up for it by working really hard into a company that makes informed decisions, follows deliberate approaches that are proven to increase win probability, and consistently develops an information advantage for all of its bids. Instead of some non-existent secret technique, we’ll show you how doing a few small things differently can end up transforming your company over time into a highly effective engine for growth. How you approach the implementation of these things is more important than the techniques that get you in the door early. You can’t beat mature processes by trying harder to do ad hoc things. No matter how skilled your staff are, they will perform better when supported by mature processes. You probably realize this and just haven’t seen a practical way to implement this shift. This may be the only thing that’s been holding you back. That and the temptation to stay in your comfort zone. What makes our Pursuit and Capture Program special is that our approach to implementation is more practical than anything you’ve ever seen and will get you to a better comfort zone. Visualize your leads as a series of pie charts. For some you are the prime and some you are the sub. Some are with existing customers and some are new. But if nearly all were discovered from public announcements and databases, you're not being as competitive as you could be. Improving your ability to pursue and capture See also: Pursuit and Capture Program Our Pursuit and Capture Program shows you how to start initiating opportunities instead of finding them, how to influence the solicitation before it’s even a solicitation, and how to discover things no one else knows about the customer and the opportunity. Then we’ll work together to set targets so we can make sure it happens. Gradually that approach will take over until you’re bidding all of your opportunities with a competitive advantage and your win rate is much higher than it is now. Our Pursuit and Capture Program starts by assessing your pipeline and setting targets. Then we teach you how to pursue and capture those targets. By starting with a pipeline assessment, we can set metrics and measure progress to ensure that every single step contributes to making you more profitable. We’ve designed the program so that it’s easy to leave if the targets aren’t being met. If what we do together is profitable, you’ll want to double down and continue in order to maximize your returns. If it’s not, you’ll simply drop the program. Take a look at the program details and then we can have a conversation about the challenges you face and what we can do about them.
  20. Let’s start with the end result we’d like to achieve. A winning proposal. Now let's work backwards. In order to win the proposal we need the top score. In order to get the top score we need to build the proposal around what it will take to win: See also: Organizational Development A proposal that reflects what matters to the customer in a form that follows the RFP’s instructions, is compliant with all requirements, and is optimized against the evaluation criteria, with no weaknesses A differentiated offering that the customer perceives to be stronger than the alternatives An offering that is delivered at the price required to win In order to prepare a proposal that reflects what it will take to win, you should start the proposal with: Insight into what matters to the customer Understanding of the customer’s evaluation process and scoring methodology Insight into the price to win to drive your pricing strategies Enough competitive awareness to offer compelling differentiators and more strengths than your competitors The right offering An information advantage that enables you to address the requirements from the customer’s perspective How many of these things can you discover after RFP release, while working on the proposal, without any substantive customer interaction? Give or take, it’s probably none. Maybe you’ll guess well. But guessing is not much of a win strategy. Winning without insight generally means winning with a low price and margins that continue to fall over time. Winning with a low price instead of insight into the performance requirements beyond what’s in the RFP is a recipe for destroying your past performance record. This effectively ruins the future of your company. I’ve seen what happens when a company kills its past performance record. It’s not pretty. They never recovered. Better lead qualification produces better proposals that close more sales In order to get this level of insight, you need to qualify your leads. In order to qualify your leads, you need: Lead qualification criteria Intel that provides the insight required to win How do you assess whether you have the required insight? Most companies tell themselves how insightful they are without really assessing their insight. You assess your insight by asking the right questions. If you never write down those questions, you’ll end up just making them up as you go along. If you do this, you probably won’t end up with answers to the questions your proposal writers need to write a proposal based on what it will take to win. You should think through those questions ahead of time. You should involve your proposal staff so that the questions anticipate what they’ll need to know to put the response to the requirements into a winning context. Better lead qualification also leads to better process and performance Then you should do two things with those questions: Use them to train your business development and capture management staff. You can't get the answers if they don’t know what questions to ask. Use those questions to assess whether you are developing an information advantage and will be ready to write the winning proposal at RFP release. When you do this, you are integrating business development, capture management, and proposal management. When you do this, each of them reinforces and improves the other. This will improve your win rate significantly over treating them as stovepipes. So questions flow back to business developers and capture managers while the information they gather flows forward. Along the way, progress can be measured and bid/no bid decisions can be reached. Simply documenting the questions that drive this forms the basis for: Training Intelligence gathering Offering development Differentiation and positioning Oversight Smoothing the transition from capture to the proposal Proposal content planning Proposal quality validation Writing the questions down gives you the foundation of a successful process, both for the pre-RFP pursuit and for the proposal. Okay, I get it. Writing the questions down sounds too much like work. If you don’t want to figure out what the questions should be and how to articulate them for maximum effect, then just become a PropLIBRARY Subscriber and use ours. We’ve created hundreds of them. And built them into MustWin Now to make answering them and using them to drive your messaging into the proposal even easier.
  21. Most proposal writing is good. But not great. Good proposal writing is not competitive. Most proposal writing sounds beneficial. Most proposal writing shows that the vendor is fully qualified and meets all the requirements. It’s positive. It’s good. It often pleases The Powers That Be because it sounds good. But good proposal writing is not competitive. Every company that will make it into the competitive range will have written a proposal that is fully qualified, meets all the requirements, and has a competitive price. They will all be good proposals. But the winner will outcompete them all. Good proposal writing is not competitive. To make your proposal writing great enough to win over all competitors, you must base your writing on what it will take to win. This requires more than a good lead. Great proposal writing that reflects what it will take to win requires having a good lead with: Enough insight into what matters to the customer that you have an information advantage, combined with a great offering presented from the customer's perspective. Believe in yourself. But not too much. See also: Great Proposals Everyone who submits a proposal believes they have the best offering. But they often deceive themselves about how much insight they have. They don’t see that as a disqualifier and the result is they lose far more than they win. Winning over all competitors is easier when you don’t deceive yourself about how much insight you have into the customer, the opportunity, and the competitive environment. But even those with real insight often fail to drive it into the document that closes the sale. What to do about it Winning requires that your proposal writers: Take customer insight and use it to write a proposal from the customer’s perspective. Prove that your offering is not only superior and meets the requirements, but that it matters in ways that make it the customer’s best alternative. Articulate your messages in a way that is optimized to get the maximum score against the evaluation criteria. It turns out that proposal writing has less to do with writing and more to do with: Understanding the customer’s perspective Knowing what matters to the customer Having a superior offering to present Understanding the mechanics of how the customer evaluates proposals Having insights into how the customer makes decisions It’s unfortunate that hardly any proposal writers show up knowing all these things. Whether your proposal staff come from an editorial, technical writing, engineering, marketing, or other background, they will have gaps. If they are inexperienced, the gaps will be huge. If your proposal writers are not experts in opportunity capture, how do you expect them to accomplish that with only an outline to guide them? Filling these gaps is the secret to great proposal writing. Proposal writing is a process The proposal process should be designed to bring this information to the proposal writers so the gaps get filled. If proposal writing starts with just an outline, you are not going to get a draft that achieves all of these goals. Your proposal writing will not be competitive. Your win rate will suffer. Great proposal writing is rather important if you want to close the sale with a win. So it only makes sense that proposal writing be based on an understanding of what it will take to capture that win. If you’re not talking about how to build the proposal around your insights, a plan for what to write based on what it will take to win, and how the writing will be presented before the proposal writing even starts, you’re just not trying to win. Making a submission is not the same as trying to win. Even if the proposal is good. Exercise-based training for proposal writing. The online training that comes with a subscription to PropLIBRARY addresses topics like the fundamentals of proposal writing and how to respond to an RFP with the right words. This is in addition the MustWin Process documentation that can help make sure you deliver the information proposal writers need to win, and MustWin Now, our online tool with forms for automating how you collect this information and turn it into guidance for proposal writers. Want to know what the founder of PropLIBRARY would recommend? Just ask me.... I’m passing some of my time in isolation talking to people free of charge and assessing how to improve their pursuit and capture processes in the new world we find ourselves in. We can talk about reengineering how you go about winning business and come out of this better than you ever were before. Use the widget below to grab any open spot on my calendar before they’re filled and I’ll do a free assessment with you. Click here to send me a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  22. I’m passing some of my time in isolation talking to people free of charge and assessing how to improve their pursuit and capture processes in the new world we find ourselves in. We can talk about reengineering how you go about winning business and come out of this better than you ever were before. Want to know what Carl would recommend? Just ask me. Click here to send me a question Or use the widget below to grab any open spot on my calendar before they’re filled and I’ll do a free assessment with you.
  23. You’ve successfully conducted business virtually for some weeks now. But are you good at it, or have you just modified your old ways of working so that you can get by without co-presence? If you’ve got some weeks of mandatory virtualness still to go, maybe you do a little reengineering. A vaccine is 12-18 months away. Maybe even after some people go back to work it won’t be completely over. Maybe things will never be completely like they were. Maybe it’s time to give virtual just as much priority in your processes as physical. For example, a key requirement for working virtual is being able to work asynchronously. Sometimes everybody has to be synched to the same clock. But usually they don’t. And it’s better when they don’t. A good example of this is the telephone vs texting. Sometimes it’s better to call with both people interacting in real time. Sometimes it’s better to send a text and let them answer when it’s convenient. Neither is the right answer for every circumstance. But lots of business that used to be conducted by telephone is easier to manage via texting. Or email. Or Slack. Or whatever. Instead of taking the same process you used when people were collocated, how might the process change if everyone used something like Slack? Or Microsoft Teams? Or whatever? What I’ve found is that the process changes in unintuitive ways, but you have to change your perspective to how things could work instead of how you’ve done them in the past. Try looking at things functionally. Only think about how that functionality might play out virtually. Assignment issuance, task tracking, and expectation management. How do people find out about their assignments? How do they find out about other people’s assignments? Think beyond the form. Think beyond paper. Information exchange. How will people get the information they need, when they need it? Think beyond email. Think beyond files. Think about information flowing automagically. Can you make that happen? Progress and other reporting. How will you know what progress is being made? Can that also happen automagically, so that no human action is required for updates to happen? Problem and issue reporting. Stuff happens. How will issues be surfaced? How will they be aggregated and responded to? How will you prevent things from slipping through the cracks? Think beyond email. But think minimal or people will avoid reporting. Risk awareness, tracking, and mitigation. What about things that might become an issue but haven’t yet? People used to waste endless hours discussing these. You still need to surface them if you’re going to do any contingency planning. How can you do that in a virtual context? Think beyond meetings. Quality definition and validation. How will people know if they properly completed their assignments? How will reviewers know? How will reviews be performed (and that includes planned, coordinated, reported, and completed)? Think beyond paper, markups, and comments. Think about how quality criteria inform performance and improve reviews. Then think about how to communicate your quality criteria and turn them into work assets. Notification and coordination. When working asynchronously, you often need to know when something is ready for the next step. Think about smart phone notifications and automagically generated text messages. Think about them occurring without human intervention so that sending them isn’t a burden. Training, knowledge, and skills development. This is a new way of working. It won’t be what people are used to. They’ll need to learn about new ways of doing things and what the new expectations are. Only they’ll need to be able to learn remotely and asynchronously. So think recordings instead of meetings. Think online training. Think about micro-training. Think about training that can be linked to assignments or issues for quick consumption. Think about training that’s built right into assignments. Status awareness. How are things? What is the status of all the moving parts through every one of these bullets? Can you see the status in a single picture? Can you drill down? Think dashboards instead of whiteboards. Think about data aggregation that doesn’t require human collating. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to these items. The right solution for you depends on your IT infrastructure, the capabilities of your proposal group, and the skills and reliability of those contributing to your proposals. There are too many tools to count that address these areas individually. But what you need is an integrated solution that is low touch. You want a user-friendly learning curve that doesn’t distract people from making their proposal contributions or increase the effort of making their contributions. You want the opposite. You want to come out of this with a proposal process and a tool set that make things easier than ever. You don't want to convert a process designed for shuffling paper with participants who are co-located. You want to reengineer your process for this brave new world. Just keep your eye on your win rate. Tools that make things easier but lower your win rate are tempting but destructive. Look for tools that make it easier to do the things that increase your win rate instead. Schedule a free assessment. I’m passing some of my time in isolation talking to people and assessing how to improve their pursuit and capture processes in the new world we find ourselves in. We can talk about reengineering how you go about winning business and come out of this better than you ever were before. Use the widget below to grab any open spot on my calendar before they’re filled and I’ll do a free assessment with you. Click here to send me a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  24. Pursuit and capture set the stage for the proposal. But while the proposal process gets a lot of attention, pursuit and capture are often left to someone to just figure out. The roles are commonly referred to as sales, business development, or capture. Without much process or at least guidance, the entire pre-RFP phase can devolve into an exercise in lead tracking instead of lead pursuit and capture. This table implies what you should accomplish during pursuit and capture. You can build a process around it. But even if you don't have much of a process, you can improve performance simply by using it as a checklist. Many of these problems can't be solved by the people responsible for pursuit and capture on their own. Each of the layers has a different set of stakeholders. The strategic layer acts as input to pursuit and capture and should be addressed before it even begins. The executive layer contains decisions that are usually made higher up in the organization's hierarchy. The systems layer are things that you should address if you want to win all of your pursuits and not just the one you're chasing in this moment. The pursuit layer is specific to this opportunity, and curiously it's only a small portion of the issues faced. The offering layer requires partnership with the technical and operations side of the company. The proposal layer does not define the proposal effort, but merely what you want to deliver to the start of the proposal. One additional thing that this table can help you realize is how much of a disadvantage you are at if you start your proposal without having solved these problems. If your proposal win rate is low, the first place to start improving it is making sure you've addressed these issues before the proposal even starts.
  25. This program is for people who want to build organizations that reliably win contracts. No. Let me rephrase. This program is for people who want to build their entire company around reliably winning contracts. This program is for people who want to grow by capturing the leads they chase, instead of chasing as many leads as they possibly can until they win something. Convenient format for applied learning and continuous improvement Each month there will be a new topic to focus on: Week 1: Online training in that month's topic. Week 2: Virtual meeting to answer questions, verify understanding, and introduce the assignment. Week 3: More online training and working on the assignment. Week 4: Assignment review and topic discussion. With only one scheduled meeting every two weeks, it's easy to work the course around your schedule. The assignments are designed to produce items of lasting value that are customized to your company. They are not repetitive drills. Each month the exercises will produce one or more checklists, forms, templates, etc. The goal is to demonstrate understanding while implementing things needed for your company to grow. It's applied learning with tangible takeaways and not just instruction. Join this greatly expanded program before May 31st and you'll get a $500 discount! Contact us below more for more information. By carefully selecting topics we can tailor the program to address your most critical challenges Each quarter we'll pick three topics based on what you'd like to improve. Each quarter you decide whether to continue so you're not locked in forever. But you can use this structure to create a continuous win rate improvement program. We offer three tracks that cover the pre-RFP phase, proposal process, and proposal writing. Here is a sample of the quarterly topics you can pick from. Each has three monthly topics and the same weekly agenda described above. Pursuit and Capture Process Improvement Improving your ability to fill your pipeline Improving your ability to discover what it will take to win Smoothing the transition from sales to the proposal Improving your ability to capture what you pursue Preparing to win the proposal before it starts Continuous win rate improvement Proposal Process Improvement Improving proposal start-up Figuring out what should go into your proposals Defining proposal quality and proposal quality validation Winning in Writing Fundamentals of proposal writing Responding to RFPs with the right words Maximizing your evaluation score Writing from the customer's perspective Pick the topics that you need the most and turn the rest into a continuous improvement program. The ROI will add up. Greatly. 11 ways to use this approach to transform your company's growth See also: Pursuit and Capture Program If you are small, you can transition from being small and ad hoc to being mature and effective If you are large, you can reap huge benefits by improving your efficiency, effectiveness, and win rate Start from scratch and implement just the right amount of structure and process Fill gaps if you already have processes but still face challenges Prepare to graduate from your NAICS codes, small business status, 8(a) program, etc. Turn the art of prospecting into a science Reassess the resources and approaches you need to win Introduce capture management in between sales/business development and your proposals Instead of chasing more leads, win more of what you pursue Change your corporate culture to one based on growth Grow by continuously improving your win rate We'll use all the resources of PropLIBRARY, including the MustWin Process and MustWin Now software, to streamline the implementation and get everyone on the same page. Other options: If you want a crash course, we can compress the topic schedule from a month down to a week, but it will be intense. You learn as much from the exercises and assignments as you do from the course materials. It will still be virtual, but you'll be spending hours each day on it. We can also deliver this training in person. Pick your topics and how many days you want to spend in the classroom, and then reach out to us below so we can discuss it. If you need us to put pen to paper or provide hands-on help, we’ll provide it based on our hourly rate. We’re also willing to travel to provide training and onsite support, but in addition to reimbursement for travel and lodging, we charge by the day for this. We would rather develop your staff than burn billable hours, so you may not need our hands-on or onsite support. But we’re here for you if you need to fill gaps. Moving forward: There's just enough structure here to make it easy to move forward, while still enabling us to tailor things based on your needs. This program costs $1,000 per month, paid by each quarter. You can continue indefinitely. We can set ROI targets and measure the results against them. That way you know the program is not simply paying for itself, but generating profit for your company. You can simply not continue if the targets aren't met. Or if you don't want to continue for any reason. You can have up to 15 participants without additional charge. Up to 5 of them will get access to PropLIBRARY and MustWin Now for as long as you continue in the program. You can continue their access to PropLIBRARY and MustWin Now by continuing to pay the monthly subscription (it varies by the number of users, but for 5 users it's only $95/month). To provide access for all 15 users, it would be $1,500 per month and $215 per month to continue their access to PropLIBRARY and MustWin Now if you decide to not continue in the Pursuit and Capture Program. For other user counts, just ask. Four easy steps for moving forward: Schedule a conversation to discuss it and help you select the most relevant topics. We'll send you a quote. When you pay for the first quarter, we'll schedule an orientation, set a start date, and open the first course module for you. One week you'll review the course materials and work on the assignments. The next we'll talk about how to apply what you've learned in your environment and provide feedback on the assignments. We'll alternate like that with a new topic each month. Reach out to us below and have a discussion about our MustWin Pursuit and Capture Program before May 31st and we'll discount participation in the program by $500. Single users can also participate If you want this training for yourself, we can scale parts of it down and make it affordable. For single users, the program will focus on providing online self-study with feedback. Instead of bi-weekly online meetings that are an hour or more, for single users we'll have half-hour Q&A sessions. The cost for single users is $500 per month, paid quarterly. Reach out to us below and we can discuss how the program can best support your goals. Results matter When taken to its conclusion, the result of this program will be: A sustainable improvement in your win rate that more than covers the cost of the program. And then some. Improved business development, capture, and proposal processes. Staff who know how to execute those processes and are not dependent on us to keep them going. A corporate culture that recognizes growth as the source of all opportunity, and how each person supporting a pursuit can contribute to that growth. Let's discuss the details Use the button to start a conversation by email: Click here to ask Carl a question Or use the widget below to get on my calendar for a telephone conversation so we can discuss whether we're a match.
  26. 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.
  27. 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
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