The 6 areas that determine what it takes to win

When you write a proposal, it should be based on what it will take to win. The only problem with that is that it can be different for every bid. You can probably anticipate some of the things that are typically part of what it will take to win, but with every bid there can be differences that matter. Understanding what it will take to win is mostly based on discovering what matters.

See how we break down what it will take to win into six areas of focus:

  1. What matters to the customer? Customers have needs. But they can’t simply buy what they want to fulfill their needs. They have to follow a process. They face challenges along the way. They have to make decisions and get approvals. At each step, they have concerns like trust and risk that factor into those decisions. And while price is always a concern, what matters about the price can change.
  2. What matters about the opportunity? If you are offering to fulfill a customer’s need, then the customer will consider your offer in the context of the things that matters about it, like the results they are looking for, what their preferences are, what resources are relevant, who the stakeholders are, what their role is, and what’s impacting the schedule.
  3. What matters about the competitive environment? Yours will not be the only offering or alternative available to the customer. For the customer, this is a choice between alternatives. So what matters to the customer about each one? Specifications, performance, experience, trust, risk, relationships, cost, and more can all matter. But how much they matter to any particular bid depends on the circumstances.
  4. What matters about you? You should look at this two ways: how what matters about you impacts your presentation, and how what matters about you impacts the pursuit. For example, your capabilities and resources might impact whether you decline to bid at all. Or they could impact your decision on whether to team with another company. Just simply being aware of your internal processes (official and unofficial) can impact how you choose to move forward. If you do decide to pursue the bid, then it matters how well you align with every aspect of it.
  5. What matters about the RFP? When the RFP comes out, it matters. It matters so much that some companies forget everything else that matters. But what is it about the RFP that matters, when it comes to what it will take to win? It’s more than just the requirements, instructions, and evaluation criteria. Gaps, ambiguities, and conflicts matter. The deadline matters. Contract types, terms, and the pricing model matters. These things matter so much that it’s worth trying to anticipate them so that you can get a head start on responding to them.
  6. What you do matters. What actions should you take? What processes should you follow? How will you execute your plans? What will your strategies be and how should you position yourself regarding the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment? The actions you take matter.

If you consider the six areas above, you can identify the criteria that should drive every aspect of your pursuit. Another way of saying it is that every aspect of your process should be driven by one or more of these areas. The process you follow to pursue each bid should do more than just make nice with the customer and submit a proposal by the deadline. Your process should discover what matters, so that you can deliver a proposal that is built from the ground up around what it will take to win.

That is exactly what the MustWin Process provided in PropLIBRARY is designed to do. And we’re launching a series of training modules that will show you how to base every aspect of your pursuit, from pre-RFP business development to the post-RFP proposal, on what it will take to win. We’ll be presenting the first module in December, and it will be free for PropLIBRARY subscribers.

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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of 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 To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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