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  3. I’ve seen way too many proposals produced by experienced people that were thoroughly ordinary. In my worldview this means they sucked so bad it was embarrassing, because ordinary isn’t competitive. When your job is cranking out proposals at high volume under adverse circumstances, people tend to give up polishing them. If people do this long enough, they sometimes stop trying. But they continue to reliably crank out acceptably adequate ordinary proposals that they try really hard to make good. But the reality is they are full of bad habits that pass all the reviews and are easy to beat. Having
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  5. If you ever find yourself competing against me, please use these themes! I want you to use these themes because they are easy to beat. They basically promise the minimum. They demonstrate insecurity, lack of insight, and zero initiative. They sound like the claims people expect to hear made in bad commercials. They get ignored. They will never increase your evaluation score. They usually find their way into proposals when the writers haven’t received any better input and have to make something up on their own. So if you and I are ever working on competing proposals, I would love it if you
  6. Submitting low quality proposals and making it up in volume is a bad strategy. A better strategy is to target doing the least costly things that return the most revenue. When it comes to proposals, the things that generate the most revenue may not be what you think they are. A key lesson for companies that depend on proposals See also: Successful process implementation Preparing a proposal can be costly. But preparing a winning proposal returns a large amount of revenue. The problem is that not every proposal wins. When you increase your win rate, you gain revenue w
  7. A simple guide to what to write about in your proposals. Good things to write about in your proposals See also: Proposal writing These are the things the customer is looking for, the things they want to see. Instead of talking around them, make a point related to them at the start of each paragraph. Explanations and reasons “why.” The reasons why you do things show more insight and depth of understanding than a claim about what you do or how great you are. Proofs. Proof points can be evaluated as strengths. Things that are unproven are often just noise
  8. When the customer asks you to describe your experience, what should you write about it? Should you describe the work you did? Should you describe the results you achieved? Should you talk about something else? It turns out that when the customer asks for your experience, they could be could be asking for many different things. Past performance See also: Themes Past performance is something different from corporate experience. Past performance is a reference check to discover whether the customer was happy with your performance, with some additi
  9. How should you position your experience to get the best score? You may need to position things differently in different sections of the proposal where experience is relevant. Make sure you thoroughly tailor any experience write-ups you might be reusing to match the way you will be positioning it. You can’t be all things to all people. What matters about your corporate experience to the new customer? Don’t try to position against all of these that sound beneficial. Carefully select the ones that will have the most impact on the proposal evaluation and tailor your write-ups around them.
  10. What goes through the customer’s head while they’re evaluating your proposal? In addition to all of the distractions like what time they have to pick the kids up from school today or what they’d like to do after work, the customer has a lot to consider when deciding whether to accept your proposal. Even if the evaluation is conducted formally by a robot, with forms and detailed procedures, they will still consider the big picture. But what’s in that picture? The customer will consider your approaches, qualifications, and pricing. But they will also consider: See also: Inform
  11. monthly_2021_06/224827274_ProposalProofPointCheatSheet_pdf.1bd2323f3ac2542b5baa3d2a8e82a5a6
  12. Claims are lame. After having sat through countless debriefs, especially the ones where the customer evaluated based on strengths and weaknesses, I’ve realized some things that explain a lot about proposals: I have never seen a customer agree that any of the thousands of claims made in those proposals were a strength. The strengths cited by customers are almost always simple facts, like something you have or have done. The weaknesses they cited were usually things that weren’t said that the customer thought was important. It’s as if they didn’t even read your claims. It
  13. With a certain well known government multiple award RFP of huge value out, and new ones like it becoming routine, this is a good time to reflect on the customer and how the number of proposals being received impacts how they make their selection decisions. What if they only get one proposal? If the customer only expects to get one proposal, or if that’s just the way it turns out, they approach the proposal with a few considerations: See also: Bid Strategies and Proposal Themes Does it meet their requirements? They have no other proposals to compare it to. So the
  14. All proposals are competitive. Even if the RFP is completely wired to give the advantage to one preferred company and no one else bids, that company is competing against themselves. They can still blow it. And a naïve upstart can always come in and steal it away because they don’t know they can’t win. It may be rare, but it does happen. And customers are sometimes ready for something new. Which will the customer select? See also: Winning You should go into every proposal assuming it’s competitive and pushing to be better than you were yesterday. If everyone proposes
  15. Proposal content planning is where you really start to see a payoff from using MustWin Now. Because you used it to import the RFP and create your proposal outline, it can now greatly accelerate figuring out what to write about to address the requirements and how to best present it. The first thing it does is create the content plan shell for you. In the column on the left, you'll see all the proposal sections. Click one. If you used the Cross-Reference Tool to map the RFP requirements to the outline, you'll see all of the RFP requirements that are relevant to this section as colored
  16. Before something can go into your proposal, you have to decide where in your outline it should go. MustWin Now provides several ways to connect RFP requirement to the proposal outline. You can even drag and drop RFP requirements onto the landing zone for each proposal section. Once the association is made, MustWin Now remembers all the RFP requirements that are relevant to each section. See also: Help using MustWin Now If you want, you can use this to generate a very traditional looking compliance matrix and download it in Excel. Only you probably won't need to, because
  17. Before you can start working on the content plan for your proposal, you need an outline. If you are responding to an RFP, your outline should be based on the instructions in the RFP. If this applies to you, you should import the RFP first, before you create your proposal outline. However, the outline editor in MustWin Now does not force you to do this, and it can even be used to create a proposal outline when there is no RFP. Here is what the outline editor in MustWin Now looks like. From here you can see the RFP requirements if you have imported them. And you can see the headings in your
  18. The win strategy development tool is intended to be used after you have completed using the Pre-Proposal Capture Q&A forms and Proposal Input Forms before you start building your compliance matrix. It will let you do things out of sequence, including jumping straight into win strategy development without doing any preparation or working on your win strategies after you've started content planning. In the world of proposals we don't always get to do things the ideal way and we don't want our tools to break when reality throws us a curve ball. What does it do? MustWin Now encourage
  19. The Proposal Input Forms tool is similar in function to the Pre-Proposal Capture Q&A tool. The key difference is that the Pre-Proposal Capture Q&A tool is intended for gathering information and guiding the pursuit long before the RFP is released. Proposal Input Forms are intended to gather and assess what you know immediately at RFP release so that it can impact document construction. The functionality of the tool is similar, but the type and purpose of the information is different. See also: Help using MustWin Now To begin working, select one of the forms
  20. Don’t start your proposal by thinking up everything that’s good about yourself that you should tell the customer. This can actually lead to bad proposal writing. Instead, start your proposal by think about what the customer needs to hear. But before you can do that, you have to know the customer. And before that, which person at the customer will be reading? Will it be the one receiving the services? The one who understands what is being procured? The one who runs the procurement process but isn’t involved with the services themselves? Will it be an executive? Or some other stak
  21. Customers do wacky things when they format their RFPs. They are difficult for people to interpret. If we tried to automatically parse them, you'd spend as much time verifying the software did it correctly as it would have taken to do it yourself. So we use a hybrid approach. You mark the headings and MustWin does the rest. It's the fastest and easiest way we've ever seen to do this. And yet it's still the most complicated tool on the platform. See also: Help using MustWin Now Before we walk through importing the RFP, let's take a look at first page you see when you go to
  22. MustWin Now has a tool for gathering pre-proposal capture questions and answers. It's flexible enough to be used simply to gather information or to prompt activity. It can be used instead of creating a document called a "Capture Plan." It can even be used if you have no capture management process and not capture managers. What this tool does is gather the answers to key questions so that you can turn them into win strategies and proposal themes. You can do this long before the RFP is released. Or shortly before. Obviously it is better to start early when you can do more research and prepa
  23. This is the collaboration form that appears throughout MustWin Now tool. It looks simple, but it can do a lot. For proposal managers, it can be used to issue and track assignments. For proposal contributors, it can be used to show what you've been assigned. Sometimes issues can be resolved with a simple phone call or email. But sometimes a phone call doesn't work and email can become unmanageable. You don't have to use MustWin Now for all of your collaboration, but if you do each item will be tracked and it won't get forgotten or overlooked. MustWin Now is designed so that in just a few c
  24. Early in my career, after a terrible proposal experience, I’d focus on improving the proposal process because that is what I had control over. I thought with the right procedures and enough dedication to them we could fix any problem. There are a couple of problems with that: The proposal process is not sequential. It is goal driven. You won’t be successful focusing exclusively on the steps. There is more to success than following procedures. Over time I discovered that what you should do to try to prevent a terrible proposal experience from recurring depends on the type of pro
  25. monthly_2021_05/510091503_ProposalContentPlanningCheatSheet_pdf.619c59aa483472c85f1633d72604ae28
  26. First a little history: The first version of MustWin now came out two years ago. It started out as an R&D discovery that enabled us to turn Proposal Content Planning into a streamlined online activity. It opened our eyes to completely new ways of doing proposals long after we thought we knew what we were doing. The second version of MustWin Now then expanded the features to cover the entire process from lead identification through proposal writing. From it we learned how to design a platform that makes the process disappear for users so that they can just focus on doing what th
  27. It's true that the odds of winning a proposal when you have never even talked to the customer go down so much that it may not be worth bidding. But the fact is that sometimes companies win them, so let's look at when it's possible to win and what you can do to increase your chances. Occasionally, in some markets, no one gets to know the customer before they surprise the world with an RFP. It largely depends on the nature of what they are procuring. Bidding blind is not worth it. Except when it is. That’s a judgement call. It’s hard to be prosperous when the deck is stacked against you. Wh
  28. Some companies prepare their proposals like they are trying to ensure people are miserable. Some of them even take it as a point of pride that everyone hates working on proposals. If you make proposals easier, there will be less glory at the finish line. So maybe we’ve got it all wrong and need to avoid all that process-stuff. Instead let’s embrace making sure that everyone has a bad proposal experience. Here’s how: See also: Proposal Management Hand them an outline and tell them to start writing. This makes it almost a certainty that they will spend all of their time u
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