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Solving key proposal outline challenges using MustWin Now

Why is it so amazing when things simply work?

I am still getting surprised by discovering new ways that using MustWin Now changes how I approach doing proposals. Sometimes it’s actually being able to do things that everyone knows they should but can never quite make happen. Other times, it’s being able to do things quicker. More often it’s being able to do things better because of the way it makes it easier to think through what you need to put on paper before you start writing. A big surprise was seeing the proposal process, at least as it is traditionally practiced, disappear as people just started doing what needed to be done but doing it in a structured way. It was an even bigger surprise to see people just doing what needed to be done to create a great proposal instead of resisting The Process.

image.pngCreating an outline manually isn’t that hard. But creating a proposal outline that follows the RFP instructions, reflects the RFP evaluation criteria, and accounts for all of the RFP compliance requirements, and doing it all while correctly interpreting the RFP, is definitely a challenge. MustWin Now helps you build an RFP compliance matrix and proposal outline. It does this so that you can not only create an outline that puts everything where the customer expects to find it, but it also provides you with review tools to help you make sure that the interpretations and judgment calls you made are the correct ones.  Putting your responses to everything in the RFP where the customer expects to find them and labeling them the way the customer will look for them is critical for maximizing your proposal evaluation score.

image.pngA traditional compliance matrix is prepared as a spreadsheet that shows all of the requirements that are relevant to a given proposal section. Creating a compliance matrix helps you to create a proposal outline that is RFP compliant. Unfortunately, it takes as long to validate the accuracy of a spreadsheet-based compliance matrix as it does to create it in the first place. Working on a compliance matrix in a spreadsheet is an exercise in page flipping and wearing out your cursor keys. But what’s even worse is that in the rush to write, most companies skip validating their compliance matrix, even though this often comes back to haunt them. MustWin Now uses drag and drop features to create the compliance matrix, linking RFP requirements to the proposal sections where they will be addressed. And it makes validating your compliance matrix go as quickly as you can check boxes on online forms.

Once you’ve reviewed and validated your outline in MustWin Now, only those with the right access permission can change the outline. This helps avoid having writers ignore the outline. Or having people change the outline after writing starts. I’ve lived through too many traumatic proposal experiences that were the result of trying to fix a broken outline.

image.pngBut the real payoff is that having your proposal outline in MustWin Now makes content planning so easy people actually do it. MustWin Now automatically creates the shell for the content plan. The outline basically is the plan. You fill it by clicking buttons and typing instructions for things you want to remember to include when you are writing, how to present things, things to emphasize, points to be made, etc. I’ve completed a proposal content plan during a strategy session meeting, just by listening to people talk and clicking the button to insert instructions into the plan whenever they said something important. I’ve walked away from the meeting with the plan complete. I’ve also helped companies figure out what to write and put it in MustWin Now so they could take it from there. 

When you’ve used MustWin Now to collect your bid intel, content planning is even easier because you’ve got the insights to work with. Preparing a content plan is simply a matter of reading the intel and adding instructions based on it. MustWin Now makes it quick and easy to drive win strategies based on your customer, opportunity, and competitive awareness into the document. 

When you create your outline and plan your proposal content manually, getting the input from others that you need can be a big problem. People don’t want to manually complete a mess of forms before writing. The original version of the MustWin Process was the most streamlined paper-based proposal planning process I've ever encountered. But the idea of writing proposal instructions in a document and then using the content plan document to guide writing the proposal document was too much structure for a lot of people. Doing the same thing in MustWin Now doesn’t seem like work. It’s just getting your thoughts together and clarifying assignments. MustWin Now makes it easier to get everyone “on the same page” than the traditional paper-based process ever did!

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This is important because proposal planning usually requires collaboration. No one person knows everything from customer awareness to win strategies to technical details. Content plans require input. People often come to a proposal wanting to help, within reason. They become resistant when they feel like The Process is creating more work than the task requires. When manual proposal planning efforts require creating orphaned process artifacts and the effort is only indirectly related to completing their proposal section assignments, the planning efforts tend to wither from a lack of enthusiasm. 

Using MustWin Now to collect the input is much easier than trying to do it on paper. You’re not asking people to complete a separate task from the writing, you’re asking them to put a couple of hours into preparing to write by clarifying the assignment and making sure everyone, including the proposal reviewers, is onboard with what’s going to be created. People are far more willing to do this with simple clicks and adding reminders and instructions than they are when creating a plan requires creating a document before they create a document. When you have a validated proposal plan, you are also far more likely to be able to get the proposal right on the very first draft. People are far more enthusiastic about contributing to proposals when they believe their efforts are not going to be wasted in endless rewrites.

Writing a great proposal requires having more insight than your competitors and delivering that insight in a document that scores better than theirs. One reason that most companies have such a low win rate is that they try to accomplish this without thinking things through before writing. And a big part of the reason they do that is that their manual, paper-based processes simply aren’t followed. Struggling to overcome this challenge has been around for as long as people have been writing proposals. That’s why I’ve been surprised so many times at seeing how much better and easier things go when working in MustWin Now.

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

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

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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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