5 steps to gain an information advantage and turn it into a competitive advantage

If you don't have an information advantage, why would you bid?

Winning proposals is about information. But that knowing that fact alone is not enough to produce a competitive advantage. Gathering a bunch of information does not magically lead to winning. Winning is not even based on who gathers the most information. Here are five steps to gain an information advantage and turn it into a competitive advantage.

See also:
Information Advantage
  1. Figure out what information you need and get it. The secret here is that you need to develop the right relationships and ask the right questions. Having a good customer relationship is not enough if it doesn’t produce the right information. And you’ll never get enough of the right information without a good customer relationship. You can measure your success by the degree to which you are able to develop an information advantage over your competitors. The best way to identify the information you need is to start with a winning proposal and work backwards to identify the information you need at each step.
  2. Deliver the right information to the proposal. The information you gather must make it to the proposal in a form that can be used in the proposal. Customer documents, presentations, notes, or knowledge in someone’s head are not enough unless they get incorporated into the proposal document. At each step, the information should be assessed and stored in a format that is useful. This may mean using the information to answer questions and storing the answers, or it could mean assessing the information to draw conclusions and storing those conclusions in a format that will help to produce the proposal.
  3. Figure out what to do with the information you have. How does what you have learned impact what you know about what it will take to win? How should you translate it into winning bid strategies and themes? You must assess the data you collect in order to turn it into information that you can use. This assessment results in turning your information advantage into a competitive advantage. The best way to conduct this assessment is to look at it from many different perspectives, and see if it indicates how you should position yourself regarding the competitive environment, the customer’s preferences and needs, the evaluation criteria, utility, value, etc. If the bid strategies and themes aren’t turned into action items and carried forward, then it was all just wasted effort.
  4. Get it on paper. This is where you figure out what to say in your proposal. A lot of people start here. When they do, they usually lack the right information or the information they have is not organized. Getting it on paper should be done in two steps: 1) Account for everything that needs to go into the proposal, and 2) Turn that itemized list into a narrative draft. This is another place where people like to skip to the second step and just start writing, without planning what their proposal content should be. Proposals are usually driven by thousands of requirements like “we know this… therefore we should say this…” or “the customer needs this… therefore we need to say that…” Until you have identified and untangled all of these and turned them into a Content Plan for the proposal, you are not ready to start writing. When you have a Content Plan, then you are ready to figure out how to articulate and present a story based on what you have learned, which has now been carried forward and turned into the Content Plan.
  5. Get it delivered. Coordinating all the resources to get the proposal written, printed (if needed), and delivered on time is a major challenge. But the flow of information is not complete until the proposal is delivered. If you skipped steps like those described above, this may turn into a train wreck. However, if you identified and obtained the right information, and carried it forward in a form that makes it useable in the proposal, then turned it into a plan so that the narrative draft accounted for everything, it is an orderly process.


How do we do it?

Before the RFP is released, we use a structured approach called Readiness Reviews that identifies what information to pursue and what to do with it when you get it, and provides a means to measure your progress in obtaining it.

The questions, goals, and actions items from the Readiness Reviews are designed to give you the information you need to complete the Content Plan when the RFP is released. Our methodology for Content Planning is iterative and accounts for everything that should go into a winning proposal.

We use a quality assurance methodology called Proposal Quality Validation that compares the narrative draft to the items you previously identified as being part of what it will take to win. The entire process is based on discovering what it will take to win and carrying that information forward so that your information advantage becomes a competitive advantage that is realized in the form of a winning proposal.

Readiness Reviews, Content Planning, and Proposal Quality Validation are all part of the MustWin Process and are explained in detail, along with the forms, checklists, and instructions for implementation, in the PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase. We use them on our own proposals, and have helped countless other companies use them to improve their proposals. It can be very challenging going from doing proposals in an informal way to doing them in a careful, methodical, and sophisticated way because you're betting your company and your career on the outcome. PropLIBRARY gives you the process in an off-the-shelf form that would take years to develop and document on your own. Plus it's been vetted by thousands of users. If you need our help implementing PropLIBRARY or winning your proposals you can contact us here.

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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn how to engage Carl as a consultant.

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