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  3. Understanding how to set your priorities is key to winning proposals. There are far too many things you want to do before the deadline than is possible to achieve. If you do not have the right priorities, you will waste time and effort on things that have a lesser impact on your probability of winning. Ideally, your priorities will perfectly match the impact of each item on your win probability. But calculating win probability is not always possible. That’s where Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs comes in. When applied to proposals, it provides a framework of considerations that you can use to better guide your priorities. It also helps you be decisive by informing you what you must do, and what you should sacrifice. Because sometimes sacrifices are necessary in order to submit by the deadline. Sometimes proposal management is as much about what you’re not going to do as it is about what you are going to do. See also: Maslow's Hierarchy When applied to proposals, the base level of consideration is RFP compliance. If you are preparing a US Government proposal, RFP compliance is absolutely necessary to even get considered. It is the foundation that everything else can be built on. It is not enough to win. But without it you are not even in the game. If you are not preparing a US Government proposal, then RFP compliance is still the foundation of your proposal strategies and offering design. If your RFP contains evaluation criteria, then the very next consideration is how to achieve the maximum score. In a formal evaluation, this is the only path to winning. In an informal evaluation, it informs your win strategies. The next level of consideration is your implementation of your win strategies. Once you have thought through the RFP compliance and evaluation criteria considerations, how well you choose and implement your win strategies will have the biggest impact on your win probability. Before you put effort into any of the higher levels of consideration, you need a base that addresses these three areas. Another way to say this is that you can’t rely on the higher levels to win the proposal for you if you don’t have this base underneath them. Once you have this base, you can consider visual communication and presentation. If you aren’t compliant with the RFP, don’t score the highest against the evaluation criteria, and have inadequate or poorly implemented win strategies, great visuals and presentation aren’t going to win it for you. On the other hand, if you do have those things, you are well positioned to create great visuals and know not only what to present, but what your presentation needs to achieve. Beyond these considerations comes editing and proofreading. While a proposal full of typos can lose, a typographically perfect proposal is not enough to win. Most customers will tolerate some typos. It’s a risk. But is it better to take the risk of typos or a risk that your bid strategies are inadequate? The highest level is style. Proposals against tight deadlines rarely make it to this level. You might want our proposals with multiple writers to read like there was one author. But is that the first thing to discuss or build your plans around? Or should it up after you’ve successfully achieved the other levels. We want to achieve all the levels. But we do not want to achieve a low impact item at the expense of a high impact item. We want to eliminate all risks. But we don’t want to play it so safe we end up losing. You don’t have to give up on creating the perfect proposal. Maybe you’ll have the time and resources to address all the levels in Maslow’s Hierarchy of (proposal) Needs. The priorities you choose to focus on directly impacts your win rate. If you have the time and resources to address the things that impact your win probability the most, then go for perfection. Proposals are a competitive sport. If you are competing against companies that will submit compliant, high scoring, proposals based on sound win strategies, then the higher levels might become the difference between winning and losing. But first you also need to achieve a compliant, high scoring, and competitive proposal.
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  6. Most proposal assignments come with failure built in. They are a plea for proposal writers to figure out how to win the proposal on their own. This is not a winning strategy. To avoid this, you need to give proposal assignments that are less about tasking and more about guidance. Start by giving better instructions For better proposal assignments, see also: Assignments Proposal assignments should cover not just what to write, but also how to write it. And all proposal assignments should come with quality criteria that let the writer know when they have completed the assignment correctly. Is that too much to ask? Quality criteria can be simple checklists, as long as they are reliable. Following your instructions and passing the quality criteria should not result in negative proposal reviews. Writers need to know how to fulfill expectations before they start writing. You should also supplement your proposal assignments with helpful suggestions, things to consider, and questions writers need to answer. Good instructions save people time and point them in the right direction. If your proposal assignments don’t address your win strategies and the points you want proposal writers to make, what do you think the impact will be on your win probability? If on the other hand, you provide assignments that explain what to write, how to write it, what points to make, and criteria they can use to assess when they’ve completed their assignment successfully what do you think the impact of that will be on your win probability? Focus on goals instead of steps It is far more important that proposal writers achieve your goals than it is to submit something on time that won’t win. So what are your proposal writing goals? These should shape your proposal assignments. Proposal assignments are not simply fulfilling outline items. They are fulfilling a vision based on what it will take to win. If you goal is to win, then can proposal writers realistically achieve that on their own? If your goal is RFP compliance, that is an achievable goal. But is it enough? And do your quality criteria enable writers to know when they’ve achieved it? The same applies to any particular style, results, or preferences regarding the proposal. Without proposal quality criteria defining success, you are assuming the writers know what you are thinking and waiting until after they’ve completed their drafts and the deadline is near to find out whether that is true. This is very risky. This is another reason why I prefer to do a thorough job of Proposal Content Planning. It makes the goal fulfilling the plan. And that is measurable. A Proposal Content Plan helps in many ways, by informing writers, accelerating writing, and giving you a way to measure progress and results. Get your priorities straight I have seen too many proposal kickoff meetings focus on writers complying with a 30 plus page style manual that will smooth out production but not only have little or no impact on winning, they can actually reduce your win probability by taking attention away from other things with a greater impact. If you are under resourced, as most proposals are, you should very carefully focus writers' attention on the things that will impact winning the most. Think in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applied to proposals. Sure, you want everything on your wish list. But what are your must haves vs nice to haves? What are your priorities? The instructions and assignments you give set the priorities. Do so wisely. What’s in your writers' packages? What are you giving your proposal writers other than a section title and a copy of the RFP? Is it what they need to be successful? Is it even based on what it will take to win? Does it explain to your writers what the customer needs to make a decision in your favor, or are the writers supposed to figure that out? What you give to your proposal writers has a direct impact on your win rate. If you prepare a Proposal Content Plan, it essentially is your writers' package. It’s a tool for achieving all these goals.
  7. The MustWin Process was developed in 2004 by thinking about how to discover what it will take to win a proposal and then create a proposal around it. It was goal-driven in nature, focusing on what has to happen in order to win and less on how you do things. This makes it very flexible in implementation. MustWin Now is an online tool that started off tackling just one part of the process: Proposal Content Planning. How you figure out what should go into your proposal is the crux of the problem. It's also the foundation for quality validation. And it defines the needs for the entire pre-RFP pursuit. What we've discovered is that moving your proposal planning online changes things. Potentially everything. It makes it easier to do the things you know you should be doing, but find problematical using traditional approaches. This course is about exploring that. But in order to explore Proposal Content Planning, we need an outline. In order to have an outline, we need to build a compliance matrix. So that is where we'll start. And we'll use MustWin Now to create them. Read the instructions contained in the course items below. View the videos to see how MustWin Now works. Participate in the office hour sessions to ask any questions you have. Or just email them to: carl.dickson@capturplanning.com We'll enter the RFP, create the proposal outline based on it, cross-reference and link the RFP to the outline to create a compliance matrix, then we'll start content planning. One step per week. After all the questions are answered during the office hour sessions, we'll look at how to use these features to achieve your proposal management goals.
  8. Obsessing over the deadline and resource pressure that defines most proposal efforts can make you forget about other important things and limit your ability to maximize your win rate. It’s a curious dilemma, but obsessing over getting your proposal done can help you lose. So take a moment and put away your deadline and resource pressures. Take a moment to think about the purpose of it all. Because the purpose is more than making your deadlines and surviving the experience. It’s more than simply winning. Proposal writing should have meaning. Purposeful proposal writing For more information about creating great proposals: Great Proposals Do you write to fulfill, complete, and comply, or do you write with a purpose that gives what you are writing meaning? If so, what is that purpose? Do you write proposals to solve problems? Do you write proposals to help people? Do you write proposals to achieve growth for you, your company, and your customer? Do you write proposals to achieve a mission? Do you write proposals to make your tiny part of the world better off? If so, then how do you do that? How do you write proposals with a purpose? The answer is one sentence at a time. One paragraph at a time. One section, one solution, one proposal at a time. But start with a sentence. What is the point of that sentence? Is your goal in writing that sentence simply to comply and complete? Is that all your customer wants? Or do you write to make a point that supports your broader purpose? Even if your purpose is simply to win, writing to make a meaningful point can make your proposal far more compelling. The opposite of writing to make a point is to literally write something that is pointless. It is entirely possible to write a fully compliant proposal that is completely pointless. The only way you are likely to win by writing a proposal like that is if all the customer cares about is the price. Writing with purpose is part of competing on something other than price. So start writing with the intention of making a point. Then another. Then another. And make them add up to something that matters to the customer. Does it matter? If you choose a shallow purpose, you will make points that do not matter. For example, you might make the point that your company specializes in something. But this does not matter. It is a claim with no impact on the customer. If it does have an impact, that is what the point should be. The amount of impact your point has determines how much it matters. Is your purpose to write proposals that matter? Then propose having a major impact. Oh, but what impact should you have? If you don’t know what major impact would interest the customer, you’ve got a problem. Most companies water their impact down if they think there might be any risk at all in it. And when they do this, they water down their purpose until they do not matter. Finding meaning What do you do that has an impact? What matters? Now and in the future. How will all of the stakeholders be impacted? Having an impact brings meaning to a proposal. It brings meaning and purpose for your company. It brings meaning and purpose for the staff who will work on their project. It brings meaning and impact for the customer and their stakeholders. It brings meaning and impact for each individual proposal writer. Proposal writing is not just fulfillment, compliance, and a search for the magic words that can persuade. Proposal writing is about meaning something. Proposal writing with a team of contributors is about finding meaning for everyone involved. Proposal writing is not just talking about what matters. It is a chance to matter.
  9. First, create your pursuit if you have not already done so by clicking on the “Add a new pursuit” button and completing the form. Make sure you check the “RFP has been released” button and ignore the RFP Version Number. Give “Carl Dickson (Administrator)” access to your pursuit. This will enable me to see your coursework and to help you during screen sharing sessions. If you skip this step, I will not be able to see what you see or access your pursuit. Download the ORISE RFP from the course page. Upload the file to the MustWin Now Dashboard. You don't strictly need to do this, but it's a good idea. It's a convenience feature to make the original RFP available to other users. When your pursuit has been created and added to the dashboard, open the RFP and Compliance Matrix tool by clicking on the arrow to the right of the banner. Then click on the link for the current RFP. We will only have a single version of the RFP. MustWin Now can handle customer issued amendments that update or replace the RFP, and keep track of previous iterations. Only certain sections of the RFP will be used in this course. You only need to copy and paste the RFP sections into MustWin Now identified below. In addition, you can skip the strikethrough portions. • Section C- Description / Specifications/ Statement of Work • L.30, Proposal Preparation Instructions • Section M -Evaluation Factors for Award Once you have entered the portions of Section C, Section L, and Section M that we will be using, this module is complete and you can move on to the module for "Creating your proposal outline."
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  12. Carl Dickson

    MustWin Now: Step Bar

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  15. Carl Dickson

    MustWin Now: Dashboard

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  16. Carl Dickson

    MustWin Now: Adding RFP requirements

    To build a compliance matrix, you need to copy and paste the RFP into MustWin Now. The many ways that customers format their RFPs are just too inconsistent to automagically import them. So we made it quick and easy to copy and paste them instead. In addition to this step by step description, you can view a video on how this works. Open the RFP and Compliance Matrix tool by clicking on the name in the tool banner or the icon on the right side. Click on “open current RFP” to get to work. The RFP Requirements column will start off blank until you copy and paste the RFP into MustWin Now. Click on the green Add New RFP Requirement button to get started. When the form pops up you will need to enter: The RFP Heading Number. You may have to figure this out based on how the customer formatted their RFP. The RFP Heading. You can copy and paste this from the RFP. Parent Requirement. This is used to identify the hierarchy of the headings. You can skip it for your first entry. But if you enter any subheadings, you’ll want to identify the parent. You can type in the name of an RFP Heading you’ve already entered and selecting the right one from the list that appears. You can also come back and add the parent later. Or add subheadings by clicking on the “+” symbol that appears when you hover the mouse of an RFP item you have already entered. Requirement type. We use this to categorize the type of RFP requirement (instruction, evaluation criteria, performance requirement, or other). This is useful when cross-referencing. RFP Text. Copy and paste the text of the RFP requirement. You can copy it formatted (necessary if there are tables) or not formatted. The formatting may not always properly translate, and you may have some clean up to do. Item Response. You can flag any RFP items that don’t require a written response. Note, problems, judgment calls, or other explanations/annotations. If you think about something important that impacts the proposal, you can capture it in a note now. Or if you are unsure about how to interpret or handle something in the RFP, you can capture your thoughts. After your first few RFP items, this will go quickly. It’s mostly heading number, heading text, and requirement text. Plus a couple of clicks and save. Note: Pay attention to the assignment, which identifies the parts of the RFP to focus on. For this course you do not have to copy and paste the entire RFP. You are welcome to do so for practice and to see how quickly it goes. But it is not required.
  17. Carl Dickson

    MustWin Now: Adding a new pursuit

    In addition to this step-by-step description, here is a video of how to add a pursuit to MustWin Now. When you first visit MustWin Now it will appear until you add your first pursuit. To add your first pursuit, go to your MustWin Now dashboard. At the top right, click on the green “Start a new pursuit” button. Then complete the form that pops up. Give your proposal a name. The name should be whatever people in your company will recognize. Most people use the name given by the customer in the RFP, sometimes with the customer’s name added. Since the RFP has been released, you should click on the switch so it turns green. You can ignore the RFP Release Version since that used when the customer issues an amendment that changes the RFP and we won’t be using that feature. If you have already downloaded the RFP from the training module, you can upload it to MustWin Now here. Or you can skip uploading the RFP and do it later. When you click save you should see your new pursuit on the dashboard like this:
  18. Just like a great chef can only do so much without great ingredients, a great proposal writer can’t win it for you on their own. A great proposal requires great input. But you don’t need a mountain of raw input. Collecting customer documents and gathering whole conversations will not necessarily do the proposal any good. In between what you’ve gathered and the proposal, you need to do an assessment. You need to turn what you have into what you should do about it and what you should say as a result of it. When the input gets to the proposal writers, it needs to explain how to position the things they’ll be writing about and how it should impact the decisions they will make about the writing. For proposal writers, it’s all about context. It’s not simply about describing your offering, your approaches, and fulfillment of RFP requirements. Great proposal writing requires making points that matter to the customer, while responding to the RFP. Great proposal writing requires showing that the points you’ve made add up to making you the best alternative for the customer. It’s about helping the customer make their decision and not simply describing your company and your offering. To write a great proposal, proposal writers need great input. So instead of random tidbits of intel that you happened to stumble over, here is how you should inform your proposal writers: For more information about creating great proposals: Great Proposals What it will take to win. You can’t build a proposal based on it if you don’t know. It’s the most important ingredient. If you think you know, but you haven’t talked to the customer, then you’re really just guessing. What the customer will find compelling about what you are offering. If you figure out what to offer by talking to people in your own company, you’re really just guessing. To find out what the customer finds compelling, you have to talk to the customer about what matters. If you want to write a proposal that’s meaningful, then you have to know what matters to the customer about what they are procuring. Not just the features and benefits of your offering, but what are the right features and the right benefits from the customer’s perspective? Most features can have multiple benefits: speed, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, etc. Which matters the most to this customer? Did the customer tell you or are you guessing? How the customer makes decisions. Is it consensus driven or authoritarian? Who is involved? Is it formal or informal? Is it a rigid point scoring evaluation system with a lot of paperwork? Or is it personal? If you are going to write a document that influences the customer’s decisions, you need to know. Who is the customer? Is it the buyer, the users, the decision maker, or someone else? Just how many stakeholders are there and how much influence do they have? Is the customer one person? Does the customer have a consensus or are there multiple agendas? Is any one department or group in control? Make sure you have the full perspective. If you are talking to programs, operations, or technical staff, do they have any influence over contract types, vehicles, or the evaluation process? Do they even know anything about how their organization handles the procurement process? If you are talking to a contracts specialist, do they know anything about the technical subject matter? Do either the programs staff or contracts staff know what their organization’s future plans and priorities are? Have you talked to an executive at a high enough level to know how this procurement fits into the bigger picture? If you’ve only talked to one person at the customer, the answer is “no.” If you want to maximize your win probability with a great proposal, you need to understand the procurement process, organizational trends, and what the program staff need to fulfill their mission. Why should the customer select you? Start by considering what makes you different. What makes you better? Combine that with what the customer finds compelling. Then add in what you know about how they make decisions and what their proposal evaluation process is. How should you interpret what the customer said in the RFP? If the RFP is well written, then every competitor has it and knows what to write to be compliant. So what is your information advantage? If the RFP is broken, then every competitor has it and no one is sure about what to write. So what is your information advantage? What is the customer expecting to see in response to the RFP they wrote? For more information about getting the input you need for proposal writing: Pre-RFP Questions Optimal positioning, how to differentiate what you are offering, customer insight, and competitive assessment are all things that your proposal writers can help you articulate, but they can't make them up on their own. Instead of the phrase software developers like to use "garbage in, garbage out," with proposal writing it is more like "nothing in, garbage out." If you don't know or don't tell them the things they need to know about the things about, your proposal writers will still try to sound compelling. They'll just be faking it. And that's not a great strategy for being competitive. Guessing is not necessarily bad. If you haven’t talked to the customer, guess and guess well. Be aggressive and take risks. Because that is all you can do. But if you are guessing and someone else knows, you are at a competitive disadvantage. So don’t fool yourself into thinking you know something when you are really just guessing.
  19. Carl Dickson

    A simple formula for influencing the RFP

    How do you go about influencing the customer’s RFP to give your company an advantage? When you start thinking about it and peeling back all the layers, it can seem quite complex. There's a lot to consider. And where should you start? Here is a simple formula that’s easy to memorize and can help you cover all the important aspects of the problem. See also: Influencing the RFP Who. Who is the customer? Who is the decision maker? Who needs help? Who can make changes to the RFP? Who is playing the contracts role? Who is in charge of the technical requirements? Who are the other stakeholders? Who has what concerns that can be addressed by inserting language into the RFP? Whose need is the reason behind the procurement? What. What would you like to see in the RFP? What would you like changed? What will give you an advantage? What will make things difficult for your competitors? Instead of trying to make responding to the RFP easier, consider how to make it incredibly difficult for everyone except your company. Where. Where in the RFP would you like to have some influence? There is more to think about than just the technical requirements. What about terms and conditions? Contract type? Pricing model? Instructions? Evaluation criteria? Go for all of the above. How. How will you suggest the language? Writing an RFP that gets what you need is even harder than writing a proposal. You can’t write the RFP for the customer. But you can write a whitepaper using language that they can simply copy and paste, if they are so inclined. But what will motivate them? Do they need some help because they don’t know the subject matter? Or maybe they’re just not sure how to articulate their needs. If writing the RFP is a lot of work, maybe they could use some help with it. If they are risk averse, they might be concerned and willing to listen to some advice. Maybe they just want to make sure that when the complicated procurement is complete, they actually get what they wanted at the beginning. When. When should you make your suggestions? When are their decision points, approvals, and other milestones? When should you make your suggestions to a contract specialist and when to a technical program specialist? Suggesting a contract vehicle after the acquisition strategy has been approved won’t do you any good. It’s easier to suggest language for the RFP before it has been written. It’s even easier before the decision has been made to issue an RFP. In order to be in synch with their procurement process, you have to know it in detail. Timing matters. Why. “Why” is by far the most important question. Why should the customer accept your suggestions? Why should the customer trust your suggestions? Why will they get better results if they do? If you leave out any of the “who, what, where, how, when, and why” topics, you will be far less effective at influencing the RFP. And while the model starts off as questions, you can turn it around and convert it into a strategic plan. But instead of conducting a strategic influence campaign, you might be better off just helping the customer get what they need. Being seen as a helpful asset is usually a good position to be in. Trust matters.
  20. Most proposal software fits one (and sometimes more) of these seven categories. Some are a better fit for winning proposals than others. Your needs depend partly on the nature of what you offer and partly on your corporate culture. It may very well be that what you need the most isn't proposal software at all... See also: Proposal Software Automating proposal assembly. The only time you should automate the assembly of your proposals from reusable parts is when you sell a commodity, compete primarily on price, and don’t have sufficient profit margin to invest into increasing your win rate. For most companies, you will gain far more revenue by customizing your proposals to maximize your win rate, than you can possibly save from recycling narratives. Often the difference is two or three orders of magnitude. Since I rarely work with companies that sell low-margin commodities, I never use automated proposal assembly. I create custom proposals to maximize win probability and don’t create proposals the same way people create brochures. Your best alternative to automating proposal assembly is to streamline how you plan the content of your proposals. Inspiring proposal writers. By far, people spend more time thinking and talking about the proposal than they do writing it. The best way to make proposals more efficient is to decrease the amount of time people need to figure out what to offer and how to write a proposal that reflects what it will take to win. While recycling narratives does more harm than good for most people, what you can do is provide suggestions, topics, strategies, and more at the bullet level. We take all those ingredients and turn them into Proposal Recipes. When they are designed well, they will often inspire ideas that weren’t found in the Recipe Library. The goal is to get people thinking more quickly so that they can come up with the right answer for the particular bid they are working on, and not to feed them the same answer every time. Incidentally, you do not necessarily need special software to provide an inspiration library. Guiding proposal writers. The proposal process is not sequential. It is best to think of it in terms of goals instead of steps. But there are high level phases you can guide people through. And there are options you can help them consider. You can help them assess when they’ve done things correctly. A little bit of guidance at the moment of need can make a big difference. Other than creating the guidance itself, the trick to making it effective is to pay attention to the user interface. Wrap your tasks in what people need to know to guide them through it. It must not be out of sight, but it also must not get in the way. Collaboration. The more that you need to figure out what to offer and how to present it in the proposal, the more you will benefit from collaboration software. Collaboration software should help you think better and faster as a team. The real challenge, however, is making decisions. Software can get people talking, but you still need an organizational culture that’s decisive or it won’t amount to much and indecision will eat up valuable time instead of saving it. I’ve never settled on any particular software package for collaboration. It’s not the software that matters most to me, it’s how you use it, whether everyone has it, if it’s a pain to install, and whether you can turn discussion into action. Proposal planning. There is so little software available that’s effective for proposal planning, that I had to go and build my own. Planning the content of a proposal and integrating it with quality validation is not as simple as building an outline and grabbing document fragments from a library. At least not if winning matters. Planning the content of a winning proposal involves first identifying what it will take to win, planning that proposal, managing the creation of what is needed to achieve it, and validating that what got created fulfills what it will take to win. What I’ve found is that using software to help with the planning, validation, and guidance of staff has a much larger return on investment than software to manage or assemble the files you submit. In fact, if you took the tens of thousands of dollars you might spend on proposal software and put it into rolling out a manual process for planning the content of your proposals and validating the quality instead, you’ll probably be better off. Effectively planning to win pays for itself many times over because it increases your win rate. Software for proposal production has a questionable ROI. Reviewing proposals. Proposal quality validation can be greatly streamlined when performed online. Instead of reviews that require paper-based production and putting everything on hold while people read and comment, when the validation of proposal quality criteria is done online it becomes a checklist driven exercise that goes as quickly as you can click through the proposal. If you are stuck in the purgatory of ineffective traditional review approaches, you might be able to use a tool like PleaseReview to relieve some of the administrivia burden and make better sense of the comments. Search and retrieval. If you have libraries of files for research or reuse, you’ll need to be able to search them. The search tool hardly matters. How you organize and maintain the libraries matters a whole lot. The cost of the hours and hours you will put into organization and maintenance will likely not only exceed the cost of the search tool, it will likely exceed the value of what people find using the search tool. File library maintenance is so much easier when you quit trying to find and reuse narratives, and abstract them into Proposal Recipes. Is winning or cost reduction your highest priority? It’s good to make things easier, reduce effort, and ultimately reduce costs. But automating proposals without building them around what it will take to win will reduce your win rate more than you save. On the other hand, proposal software that guides your staff to plan and execute a proposal based on what it takes to win and does it better than they can do on their own manually, pays for itself many times over. The middle ground is software for collaboration and process. You can implement collaboration tools with little or no cost. You can improve your process for planning and executing by investing nothing more than your time. How do you decide what to do? Ask yourself what is holding back your win rate. I’m willing to bet that not getting the input you need to know what it will take to win and an ineffective review process that doesn’t provide actual quality validation have a bigger impact than being able to look up past proposals or reduce the time it takes to assemble proposal files. I’m willing to bet that flaws in your corporate decision making culture have a bigger impact than being limited to phones and email for collaboration. Sometimes people turn to software because they think there’s nothing they can do about the real problems. And they’re usually wrong about that. But then again, it may be easier to get the Powers That Be to write a check for tens of thousands of dollars than it is to get them to make quick and consistent decisions based on well-defined quality criteria.
  21. Part of our plans for the massive upgrade to the MustWin Now platform that we’re preparing to roll out include: Working with two companies who are willing to commit to 120 hours of consulting support between now and September 1 Providing support for one or several proposals over that time, as well as extensive hand-holding and training Depending on your needs, Carl Dickson of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY will either lead your proposal effort, support it, or participate in reviews and provide quality assurance A free corporate subscription as well as a 30% discount on the hourly rate MustWin Now generated proposal input, compliance matrix, and content plan deliverables Online content planning and quality validation Online pre-proposal preparation and intelligence gathering This will provide you with: Expert support for your proposals to increase your probability of winning Ongoing use of MustWin Now and PropLIBRARY’s online training resources for the next year Expert advice for how to best integrate MustWin Now with your current environment Optimum positioning for the surge of RFPs typically released in September What about working with other consultants We do work with other consultants. We can supplement your services and support your clients with our online tools. We are always pleased to receive referrals. What we get out of this offer We’ll get more real-world experience using our own tool and valuable feedback before we release it. You’ll get our help winning your pursuits. Adding the pre-release use of MustWin Now only increases the value. By working closely with people who are using the MustWin Platform we expect to gain some great insights. And in return we’re offering the free Corporate Subscription and a discount on the rate. How to inquire about moving forward Click the green button below to contact us and we’ll discuss your needs, verify that we’re a match for each other, and work out an implementation plan. The consulting services will be based on your needs and current resources. So let’s talk about them. Click here to send me a question If you want to have a phone conversation, you can use the widget below to get on my calendar so we can talk about it.
  22. The proposal process is not about efficient repetition. It is not about managing the steps that go into creating a proposal. The proposal process is about problem solving. It is about solving the problems that might reduce your chances of winning. The proposal process is not about efficient repetition. It's about problem solving. If you base your proposal process on rigid repeatable steps, it will break because customers and RFPs are wildly inconsistent. A proposal process that’s repeatable and survivable involves steps like “create a plan to figure it out, because it will be different from last time.” I’ve had a lot of fun getting processes like that approved in ISO 900X environments. Your proposal process should be based on problem solving and not on task repetition. And problem solving means being flexible about how you fulfill your goals. A goal-driven proposal process is much better than a procedure-based proposal process. The best way to support problem solving while achieving goals is not through steps. It’s through asking the right questions. By converting your process from a flowchart-driven step model to one based simply on a list of goal-driven questions you can: See also: Steps Improve proposal contributor performance and proposal quality. Before you try to replace your entire broken and ineffective proposal review process, try supplementing it with questions. Questions can set the foundation you need to start moving reviews from subjective opinion-fests to quality criteria based validation. Proposal quality criteria are simply questions that assess whether standards have been met. When people are used to a question-driven process, then using questions during reviews becomes a simple incremental step instead of a revolution. You can synch your questions for proposal writing and questions for proposal review to validate that what was supposed to be done was accomplished. And do this in the real world. And probably do it faster than you do now because lists of questions can function like checklists. Bonus tip: Get people used to starting out by reviewing the list of questions for anything that should be added, changed, or dropped. This will not only make the questions more reliable, but will also increase acceptance. Set and accomplish goals. You can use questions to make the process goal-driven. Questions can get people thinking about how to accomplish things and meet standards instead of going through the motions with steps. I’d much rather work on a proposal with people who are thinking, than with people who are following. The right questions can inspire thinking. Sometimes I don’t even care what the answers are. I just care that they are well thought through. Streamline the flow of information. Questions carry information from one person to the next. Questions can transform information from one format to another. Questions can assess, consider, and validate information. Questions can make sure that the next person has what they need to accomplish their goal, while communicating what that goal is. Accumulate metrics you didn’t even know were possible. Did people skip questions? Which ones? Did they give any shallow non-answers? Over a series of proposals, what can you learn from the way people answered the questions? How do their answers correlate with your win rate? Fill your gaps and address your weaknesses. Did people answer all the questions but the proposal still ran into difficulties? Can you add questions that prevent the problems from recurring? You can write questions that force people to change procedures. You can write questions that change styles and approaches. You can write questions that change results. The right questions will improve your win rate. Anticipate and solve problems. You can write questions that prompt people to be on the lookout for indicators of problems. You can write questions that simply prompt people to consider the risks. You can write questions that ask if people have taken mitigation actions. You can write questions that ask whether certain people have been notified about unpredictable problems. You can write questions that keep people informed, on the lookout, and guide them to the right response. Since proposals are about problem solving, you can use this to shape the entire development effort. Change behaviors. The right question at the right time ensures awareness. The right question at the right time forces a choice. Very few people will intentionally do things to harm a proposal. If they are aware and don’t have conflicting priorities. The right questions can address both of these. This is why the Recipe Library in PropLIBRARY has over 500 questions. It provides quick inspiration for guiding people through the problem-solving exercise that the proposal process really is. When you ask questions matters Ask the right question at the wrong time and it will have no impact. The right time to ask a question depends on what has been done, what comes next, what resources are available, and the person being asked. Focus less on dates and deadlines, and more on goals and dependencies. Also, since far more time is spent thinking and talking about a proposal than actually writing it, you can use questions to accelerate thinking and discussion. You can use questions to greatly reduce open-ended circular discussion and rumination that never ends. But you have to anticipate what and why people ruminate, so that your questions can eliminate the need before it occurs. Process acceptance A key part of gaining acceptance for the proposal process is to make it easier to follow the process than it is to make it up as people go along. Instead of creating questions that are a burden, create questions that deliver what people need to accomplish their goals and questions that enable them to think things through more quickly. When you do this well, people will naturally pick up the lists of questions, which you might encourage them to call “checklists,” because they make doing the proposal easy. Even if some of the questions are hard to answer, that’s not the fault of the list. Figuring out what to do about critical questions you can’t answer is a key part of winning proposals. Hiding from them is a key part of losing proposals.
  23. You need to do this, you need to do that. Everyone already seems to know what they should be doing to increase their win rates. But they have many excuses reasons for why they are not. Those reasons usually boil down to other people not doing what they should. Improving your win rate requires changing other people’s behavior. Instead of creating a process based on steps and then using carrots and sticks to get other people to change, try building your process around asking questions. You can change people’s behavior simply through the questions you ask. Pre-RFP examples See also: Attention Executives: 6 ways your business development meetings are killing your win rate How do you win before the RFP is even released? Why an information advantage is the best competitive advantage Related premium content for PropLIBRARY Subscribers: The MustWin Process Architecture: How does it all fit together? Assessing the impact of the input layer on your process How information flows through the process to become what you need to win Business development, capture, and pre RFP pursuit Measuring readiness to win and your information advantage MustWin Readiness Reviews Questions to ask to build an information advantage (Readiness Review #1) Questions to ask to build an information advantage (Readiness Review #2) Questions to ask to build an information advantage (Readiness Review #3) Questions to ask to build an information advantage (Readiness Review #4) Questions to ask to build an information advantage (Readiness Review #4b) Proposal Startup Information Checklist (ebook with 135 questions in 9 categories) Instead of telling people to establish customer intimacy, try asking them, “What is your information advantage over your competitors?” If they don’t have customer intimacy, they’ll have difficulty answering. If they get caught unable to answer, they’ll have some incentive to gain customer intimacy on the next bid. Instead of telling people to describe your win strategies or prepare some (usually watered down) themes, ask them, “What differentiates our offer?” If they are struggling to identify your differentiators, they’ll start strategizing how to position your company on the next bid to have some real differentiators. If people aren’t discovering pursuits early enough ask them, “What have you done to influence the RFP?” If they are finding pursuits by looking for RFP releases, they will not have done anything to influence the RFP. If people are chasing any pursuit they find ask them, “How does the pursuit relate to the company’s strategic plans?” This is a double whammy. First, the company has to do some actual strategic planning. Then the folks chasing bids have to actually pay attention to it. Proposal examples Instead of telling people to plan their proposal, try asking them, “Has your Proposal Content Plan been reviewed?” It’s kind of hard to review something that doesn’t exist. Instead of telling people to create an RFP compliant outline ask them, “Will your outline meet the customer’s expectations?” This subtly forces people to make their own opinion secondary to what they think the customer wants, such as what they itemized in the RFP instructions. It also can force the use of a compliance matrix. This is also a great example of how you can use questions to not only get people to do things, but to change their behavior. Instead of telling people to follow the style guide that they usually ignore, try asking something like, “Is the proposal written from the customer’s perspective?” To answer this, they have to know what “writing from the customer’s perspective” means. You can do this with any writing style or preference that you feel strongly about. Getting people to change their writing style can be challenging. Telling them to do it has a low probability of success. But asking them a question that forces them to assess what they’ve done may just work. Instead of talking about an opportunity at the kickoff meeting, try working through a script of questions. Anticipate what your proposal writers will need to know and turn it into a proposal input form. Then see what those pursuing the lead can answer. Correlate their answers with your win rate and you’ll be able to quantify the importance of starting proposals with an information advantage. By using the same script every time, you can train the business development function regarding what information you need to write a winning proposal. See if you can get them to give out a copy of your script at the beginning, when they decide to pursue a lead. If nothing else, this approach will dramatically improve your company’s ability to weasel word around questions it can’t answer. If you win rate is really low, this alone might improve it! Seriously folks, I’ve seen how lots of companies weasel word things, and the quality of the weasel wording could be greatly improved. Of course, it might be easier just to find answers to the questions.
  24. This form above is what you use to enter or edit an RFP requirement in MustWin Now. The key is how simple it is. Just enter the RFP section number and text. The parent requirement is for indentation level, which you may not have to enter at all since when you click the "+" symbol in the column with the RFP requirements, MustWin Now knows who the parent is. Then pick whether it's an instruction, evaluation criteria, performance/delivery requirement, or other requirement from a list. This will help categorize the RFP items for cross-referencing. And if you see an RFP item that's really just providing information and doesn't require a written response, you can flag it so the writers will know. For more info, see also: MustWin Now: Everything you need to know Copying and pasting the RFP into MustWin Now. This goes very quickly. The hardest part is understanding the customer's often inconsistent RFP heading numbers. There is no way around this. Software can't automagically figure out what people have inconsistently entered or when they've broken their own numbering convention. You're going to have to figure out what the customer intended with or without software. All you have to do is type it into a web form instead of Excel. Once you've copied and pasted the RFP, you can look up RFP references with simple clicks. This is not only true during cross-referencing, but it remains true throughout Proposal Content Planning and the rest of the process. The full-text of the RFP is always just one click away. You also have to enter your proposal outline. We also kept this extremely simple. If you need a new heading, just number and name it. For you touch typists, you can cross-reference your outline and the RFP straight from the forms by typing in the first few letters of an RFP heading in the link field. I tend to go back and forth depending on which feels more convenient in that moment. Our goal is to make data entry quicker than you can think through understanding the RFP. And then to help speed up being able to figure it all out with one-click look-ups and drag and drop linking. Since you can't help but think of things that impact the writing, there's also a place in both RFP entry and proposal outline entry where you can enter notes that will flow forward to your Proposal Content Plan. You can also use the notes to explain your judgment calls when the RFP is not clear and you have to choose what to do about it. When you combine this with the other screenshots we've released so far, you can see the screens for: Building the compliance matrix by cross-referencing RFP requirements and building your proposal outline A traditional compliance matrix that can be displayed on screen or downloaded Linking the RFP to your Proposal Content Plan and building your compliance matrix Some helpful tools you can use to help make sure your compliance matrix is correct And to help you get up to speed on it, we're going to start a free 12-week training program for early adopters. Act now... To give us a big incentive to keep this production beast on schedule, we're lowering our prices until the end of April or until we start the training. $100 off for single user subscriptions $500 off for small group subscriptions $1000 off for corporate subscriptions If you already have a single user subscription, you can add 4 friends for $1000. We almost never run promotions. The word promotion hasn't even appeared in our newsletter since 2014. If you've been thinking of subscribing, you should take advantage of this one... Click here for more information on subscribing to PropLIBRARY
  25. Carl Dickson

    MustWin Now: RFP compliance matrix linking

    What you see in the image above is a section of the RFP linked to a proposal section. This is part of building an RFP compliance matrix. But what's special about it is that MustWin Now remembers all the linking and when you are in your Proposal Content Plan you can see the full text of the linked RFP items. For more info, see also: MustWin Now: Everything you need to know In the image above, the Executive Summary has been selected from the proposal outline. The linked RFP items (in this case there is only one) show up in the RFP requirements column in bold. And in the proposal section in the main column, you see a clickable banner containing the RFP requirement. Click it and the banner will expand like the example below. In this screenshot section 1.1 Understanding the SOW has been selected. It has two RFP links and the banners have been opened showing the full text. You can click around the proposal outline and see what requirements need to be addressed in every section. Oh, and if you see that another requirement should be linked to this proposal section, just grab it from the RFP column and drop it on the landing zone. It will become a new banner when you are looking in at that proposal section and will also be included in the cross-reference matrix. When you combine this with the other screenshots we've released so far, you can see the screens for: Building the compliance matrix by cross-referencing RFP requirements and building your proposal outline A traditional compliance matrix that can be displayed on screen or downloaded Some helpful tools you can use to help make sure your compliance matrix is correct I can wait to tease you show you some more next week... Act now... To give us a big incentive to keep this production beast on schedule, we're lowering our prices until the end of April or until we start the training. $100 off for single user subscriptions $500 off for small group subscriptions $1000 off for corporate subscriptions If you already have a single user subscription, you can add 4 friends for $1000. We almost never run promotions. The word promotion hasn't even appeared in our newsletter since 2014. If you've been thinking of subscribing, you should take advantage of this one... Click here for more information on subscribing to PropLIBRARY
  26. Carrie Ratcliff

    HAPD Week 2 Discussion

    Hey, everyone! Fantastic job on the first discussion! Really great participation! Lots of helpful recommendations. Have a great rest of your weekend! See everyone Monday! Kind regards Carrie
  27. mratcliff@21-rw.com

    HAPD Week 2 Discussion

    Response to Drew’s post. Explain why you chose this particular post to respond to I am responding to Drew’s post because I like the focus on relationships and team building in his discussion. Respond to the student’s post with additional insight or questions you might have. Use outside sources to support any recommendations you make. In Drew’s post, he discusses the importance of “building relationships, taking advantage of the strong skills of other team members, knowing your strengths, and pitching in when someone is struggling” (Holmes, para. 4). In just the short time we’ve been in this class, I’ve already seen a lot of evidence that everyone is willing to pitch in and help each other to be successful. I can see how much this improves the morale in the room, especially when Carrie is lecturing us on how important it is to be detail-oriented and follow instructions. I think we need to consider having some happy hours at one of the local craft breweries to continue the team building! Drew also states that that proposal writer “works on coming up with good themes which help win proposals. It is important to describe what sets you apart from your competitors” (Holmes, para. 6). In differentiating your company from competitors, it’s important to be able to identify your company’s strengths for the evaluators. Earlier this week, I found two websites that show product reviews that remind me of the evaluation method the government uses and I thought these might be a good reference for us to look at to see that the government uses the same methods that consumer organizations do to evaluate products and services. One is a product review of ultralight backpacks by Outdoor Gear Lab. There are total scores, factors, sub-factors, and evaluation criteria (Jackson, 2019). The other site is a product evaluation of vacuum cleaners by Consumer Reports. This review also had scores and included “best buy” reviews that work like the “best value” tradeoff evaluations (Consumer Reports, 2019). Citations Consumer Reports (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/products/vacuum-cleaners/canister-vacuum/view2/ Holmes, D. (2019). Discussion 2.1: Proposal Coordinator and Proposal Writer Post. Sterling, VA: CapturePlanning.com. Jackson, J. (2019, April 03). The Best Ultralight Backpacks of 2019. Retrieved from https://www.outdoorgearlab.com/topics/camping-and-hiking/best-ultralight-backpack
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