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How to find the critical path to winning your proposal by understanding the evaluation criteria

With examples to show you what to write about

When you receive an RFP, study the evaluation criteria, how they relate to each other, and how they add up. Each RFP is different. Sometimes the customer is focused on experience, and sometimes on qualifications. Sometimes on capabilities, and sometimes on approaches. When they organize the evaluation criteria by proposal sections, you may find insights that tell you what it will take to win.

It is easiest to do this when the RFP evaluation criteria are point scored. But even when the RFP uses strengths and weaknesses or other subjective criteria you can still find relationships in the criteria language. For example, do they evaluate your proposed approaches in terms of experience, procedures, management, outcomes, or something else? What do they evaluate your management, experience, staffing, and other sections in terms of? Are there any overlaps?

What you are looking for are:

See also:
RFPs
  • Things that get double counted because they show up in more than one criterion. For example, in addition to criteria for evaluating your experience, do they also evaluate your capabilities, approaches, staffing, and/or management in terms of your experience? This could make experience be what determines your win or loss, as well as the primary focus of your proposal writing. You would talk about everything in the context of your experience with it. If, however, in every criterion they mention quality then everything you say should relate back to how you deliver quality, even your experience write-ups.
  • Criteria that when added together carry so much weight that they basically determine the winner. If management and experience together are more than the technical approach and price together, then the critical path for winning is having strong, proven management approaches, as evidenced by and based on your experience. If, on the other hand, the technical approach and staffing plan outweigh the management approach, experience, and pricing, then it’s all about having the right people who know how to do the work.
  • What they left out. Did they ask for a management approach? Or a staffing, quality, or risk mitigation plan? What about corporate description, experience, or references? Was it a simple mistake, or does it indicate an area that they just aren’t that concerned about? Can you gain points by filling the gap or will talking about it be a waste of time that won’t impact your evaluation one bit?

The critical path to winning is the shortest path to gaining the most points. It tells you what your priorities for time, effort, and page space should be. It tells you what the content should be when you’re discussing why you made the choices you made and are proposing what you offer.

The critical path is the difference between writing about the topics and writing about the topics in a way that gets you the top score.

The best way to win proposals is not to be all things good in every way possible. The best way to win proposals is to focus on being good in the ways that maximize your evaluation score. Knowing how to accomplish this starts with finding the critical path to winning.
 

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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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