The best way to improve your win rate is to improve the flow of information to the proposal so you can write it from the customer's perspective. You can't start at RFP release and accomplish this. So what can you write about to maximize your chances of winning the proposal?
- Results that exceed the requirement. All of the competitors who matter will meet all of the requirements. If you want to win, you have to do better. What will make your approaches deliver results that are better than what the customer asked for?
- Qualifications that exceed the requirement. All of the competitors who matter will also be fully qualified. What qualifications do you have that go beyond what they asked for?
- Differentiators. Customers make selections by comparing what's different about them and picking the one with the differences that they like best. This remains a factor when the RFP has detailed, written evaluation criteria, because they still have to apply those criteria. Point out the differences that make your proposal better and substantiate them, and they become the reasons why the customer will score you higher than your competitors.
- Strengths that are not differentiators. Things that are good but may not be unique to your company are still worth pointing out. They improve your score and do differentiate you from the companies that don't say them. This doesn't mean you should just pile on every positive claim you can think of in the hopes that enough of them will put you over the top. But it does mean that if you make your strengths scorable they can help you win.
- Proof points. The best way to improve your score is to prove your claims. Unsubstantiated claims won't improve your score and may weaken your credibility. Proof points are exactly what evaluators look for to justify their scores.
- Compelling reasons why. Often the reasons why you do things matter more than the procedures themselves because that is where you show insight and judgment. If, in the customer's eye, two companies do the same thing but one shows more insight and better judgment, who do you think they will pick?
- The price to win. If you can't propose better results, qualifications, differentiators, or strengths and don't have the details to write solid proof points and the customer doesn't care about why you do things, then outside of achieving a compliant proposal sometimes the only thing you can do right now to maximize your chances of winning is to have the right price. But be warned, the right price is not always the lowest. Knowing what the right price is may be even harder than knowing what to write about in your proposal. It is worth just as much effort to do well.
What's not on the list
- Benefits. The reason I left them out is that it's too easy to write something beneficial sounding that the customer won't care about, doesn't differentiate your proposal, and ends up not having any impact on your score. If you sit through enough customer debriefs after a proposal loses, you'll realize that the hundreds of "benefits" cited in those proposals didn't help one bit.
- Compliance. Because the best way to maximize your chances of winning a proposal requires more than just not screwing it up.
- Graphics. Or any of the many unquantifiable but hopeful things that might possibly improve your evaluation score. Because you can put time into all of them and it may not add up to anything. Or it may. You never know. They might be worth doing. Graphics most certainly are. But you can't even have the kind of great graphics that can win your proposal if you don't have the seven things above first.
- Spell checking. Speaking with one voice, or anything having to do with formatting or typography on the list for the same reasons.
- Certifications or experience. And other attributes that fall under qualifications, so no need to call them out individually.
- Developing an information advantage. Even though it's the single most important thing you can do to improve your win rate developing an information advantage is not on the list because at the start of the proposal you either have one or you don't.
What it all adds up to
Write about how you deliver better results, are more qualified, have clear differentiators, have more strengths than your competitors, prove everything you claim, provide compelling reasons why you do things the way you do, and bid the right price and you will maximize your chances of winning.
But you will still be weak against a competitor who has an information advantage over you.
Do these things and gain an information advantage and not only will you maximize your win rate, you'll maximize the ROI of the proposal function.