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Whose job should it be to win?

Everybody says they want to win, but whose job is it to make sure that happens?

Everyone contributes to proposals. When it's required of them. If they can make themselves available. But no one seems to own the outcome… Who owns the win? Even the proposal manager is often just producing what other people came up with and passing it along.

So whose job is it to win? Everybody wants to win. At least that's what they say. But who has it as their top priority?

You’d be surprised at how many companies have no one who has winning proposals as their primary responsibility and top priority. You can’t come in at the last minute and claim that winning is your highest priority. Last minute heroics is not the best way to win.

Is it sales' job to win the proposal? 

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The goal of finding all the leads possible is in conflict with getting sucked into a proposal. Yet winning requires developing an information advantage and getting it into the proposal. If you’re going to close the sale, you need sales' participation. Part of your sales force’s incentives should be based on winning. But the pursuit is just one of the ones in their portfolio. If they are incentivized exclusively on finding or qualifying leads, they may not have any interest in the proposal. In some companies they want their salespeople to spend all their time finding and qualifying leads and not on proposals. However, your win rate will suffer if you don't get the customer insights your sales people have into the proposal.

Is it the proposal manager’s job to win?

Proposal Managers increase the chances of winning based on the input they are given. But how can the proposal manager be responsible for winning when they don’t choose the pricing, determine what to offer, or interact with the customer? The proposal function should be at least partially responsible for increasing the average win rate, but they can’t have the job of winning a particular pursuit unless they have the authority to lead the pursuit. You can't be the one responsible for winning if you just produce what other people give you. 

Is it a team effort?

To paraphrase what Google thinks is an old Polish proverb, a team is an animal with six or more legs and no brain. If no one has winning the proposal as their top priority, then even though everyone will talk about the importance of winning, no one will make it happen as if they owned it. A well-led team may be necessary for winning. But a well-led team requires a leader with the right priorities. What good does it do to have a team of people if no one has winning as their top priority and the authority to make it happen?

Decisions, decisions… 

Who decides? Everything from your strategies to how people should resolve their priority conflicts to what words to use needs to be decided and will impact your win probability. That’s really why you need winning the proposal to be someone’s top priority. You need someone making decisions or pushing for the right decisions to be made based on what it will take to win. Everyone making their own decisions based on their own priorities will not reliably result in what it will take to win. 

Is winning the capture manager's job?

If you have a capture manager, winning should be their job. But has the company made winning the proposal the capture manager’s top priority? Is it even the top priority of the company? Has the company given the capture manager authority over what to offer and how to price it? Has the capture manager received enough training to know how to define the offering, price it, and determine strategies based on what it will take to win?

If you don’t have a capture manager, maybe you need one. But whether or not you do have a capture manager, you need someone whose job it is to win the proposal.

A capture manager should be the person who decides what to offer, what the pricing strategies should be, and how to present the offering. They also identify the resources needed to win. A capture manager doesn’t have to do it all. They lead a team of specialists and contributors. But their highest priority is to win the pursuit.

The capture manager receives a handoff from sales once the lead is qualified. They should participate in deciding whether the lead is worth pursuing, since you won’t get the best results by making someone responsible for capturing a pursuit they don’t think is valid. The capture manager takes the lead, figures out what it will take to win it, and makes that happen. They don’t settle for good enough or balance the pursuit against the rest of their workload. They are in it to win. If you have people you call capture managers who are distracted by other priorities, you are not trying hard enough to win.

Making proposals important will not produce the highest win rate

Telling people that winning is important may inspire them to work harder. Maybe. Everything is "important." But the winning proposal will not be the one that worked harder. It will be the one that did whatever it took to win. Making proposals important will lead to winning some of your proposals. This is a really nice way of saying it will only produce a low win rate. Doubling your win rate will double your revenue. How much is that worth? Is it important? Or is it vital? 

Being important is not the same as being the top priority. You may not be able to make every proposal everyone’s top priority. But every proposal should be someone’s top priority. Losing a single proposal that you should have won will cost you more than putting someone in charge of winning each and every proposal you choose to pursue and support them with the effort required. Put the minimum effort into it that it will take to win. But remember that one bit less and all the effort is wasted. Winning is profitable. Almost winning is a huge loss.

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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, 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.

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