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How to win more proposals by making this one improvement to the lead capture process

Making this simple change to how you prepare can have a huge impact on your ability to win

We all know that it’s a best practice to write proposals from the customer’s perspective instead of your own. So when we discuss preparing to win a pursuit or whether we should bid it, why do we usually do it from our own perspective? Why do we focus on our capabilities, our qualifications, what we can offer, and our advantages instead of what matters to the customer? It’s natural to start from self-assessment, but shouldn’t we be looking at whether to bid and how to prepare from the perspective of the customer who will be making the decision whether we win? When we prepare by focusing on ourselves, is it any wonder that most proposals end up being about us instead of being about the customer? Maybe we should be conducting the entire capture process based on the customer's perspective. 

How to create a capture plan based on the customer's perspective

What would it look like if we prepared our capture plan from the customer’s perspective instead of our own?

See also:
Capture Management
  • Instead of defining what we should offer, it would focus on what the customer will get from what we offer to them.
  • It would minimize the use of “We” or “Our,” and the use of our company name, and instead use the customer’s name as much as possible. The goal is to make the capture plan about the customer and not about you. Doing this can force you away from talking about your greatness and make it easier to talk about what the customer wants.
  • It would present everything from the perspective of what matters to the customer instead of what matters to your company. Everything that you decide or do during the pursuit will have an impact on the customer. Talking about those things in terms of how they matter to the customer will do more to help you win the pursuit than will talking about your own preferences. 
  • It would address the customer as a stakeholder, instead of just as a source or target. The goal is to focus on working together with them and what you can accomplish together instead of just how you’re going to get them to buy from you instead of someone else. The only reason they’re conducting a procurement is because they have something they want to accomplish, and focusing on this will help you position as their best alternative.
  • At each step during the pursuit, it would address the value delivered to the customer instead of the value extracted from the customer. Instead of focusing on what you can get them to tell you, what information can you provide to help them? 
  • It would be readable by the customer. If the customer was able to read your current capture plans, would they be offended? Would they feel manipulated? Or would they feel appreciated to be considered and involved?

How this impacts your probability of winning

This isn’t some intangible feel good approach. This is tangibly setting up the proposal to win. Here’s how…

  • People who struggle for what words to use when proposal writing usually struggle even more when also asked to shift from their perspective to the customer’s perspective while writing. The current way we approach the capture process delivers information to the proposal and why you think it’s great, but doesn’t usually do that from the customer’s perspective. The result leads to proposals about your company and its offering instead of proposals about how the customer will be better off by selecting you. It relies on the proposal writers, typically with no customer interaction, to be able to channel the customer’s perspective. When the capture plan is written from the customer’s perspective, then proposal writers start from a much better place to create a winning proposal.
  • If you can't articulate the customer's perspective in a way that's compelling, then you shouldn't bid. If you can’t empathize with the customer enough to recognize and articulate how they see things, then you can’t be competitive against companies that can. Bid/no bid isn’t simply about whether you know the customer. How should what you know impact the proposal and influence the customer’s decision? If you bid because of things that matter to the customer, you will be bidding with a higher win probability than if you simply convince yourself that what you know gives you a sufficient chance of winning to bid. Being able to articulate why you should bid from the customer’s perspective instead of your own should be a critical lead qualification criterion and a primary bid/no bid consideration, instead of something left for the proposal stage to figure out.
  • Defining your offering according to the customer’s perspective during development will produce a superior offering to one that is developed according to your own perspective and then described in a way that you think might reflect the customer’s perspective afterwards.

Doing these things will turn your capture plan into something more than just a status tracking and preparation assessment tool. It will turn your capture plan into a vital part of winning. It will set your proposal writers up for success in a way that gives your company a competitive advantage. No one will be scratching their heads for “themes” at the last minute and accepting watered down claims the customer will ignore anyway. Instead, proposal writers will take the customer’s perspective from the capture plan, update it with the specifics of the RFP, and put it in the context of the evaluation criteria. They will have what they need to write the proposal from the customer’s perspective and make it matter to the customer more than any other alternative. And it will be based on a corporate-wide assessment of the customer instead of some writers working in isolation. 

Can you make the change?

I find it interesting that this approach doesn’t require much, if any, change to the steps in your process to implement. It requires that you change who your capture plan is about instead of what goes into it or the steps in preparing it. It simply requires changing from talking about you and your preparations, to talking about the customer and what they’ll get from your preparations. If you can’t make that shift in the capture plan, how do you expect to be able to make it in the proposal?

The only impediment to taking this approach right now is overcoming inertia and people's resistance to change. It doesn’t require a new process. It just requires changing writing styles and assessment considerations. And people hate changing their writing style or how they review things. You have to decide whether the effort to overcome that inertia is more important or whether the potential increase in your win rate is more important.

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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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