14 ways to get into position to win your next proposal

Improving your win rate has the potential to double your revenue from the exact same number of leads. But improving your win rate is easier said than done. Most of the things that will have the greatest impact occur before you even start the proposal. Here are 14 ways to get into position to win so that you can increase your win rate:

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Improving win rates
  1. Gain an information advantage. Everyone has the same RFP. The more you know about what matters to the customer and about the opportunity and competitive environment, the more you can create a proposal that matters more than those of your competitors.
  2. Differentiate from the competition. Positioning is about explaining why the differences about you and your offering matter. Even when the RFP forces everyone to bid the exact same thing, you can still differentiate on things like how, why, and trustworthiness.
  3. Disrupt. Part of getting into position to win can be getting into a position your competitors can't match, by influencing the selection of contract vehicle, terms and conditions, requirements, business models, definitions, etc.
  4. Prepare to write. You can't write a proposal optimized to win against an RFP until you have the RFP in hand. But you can prepare to write by improving your ability to articulate what matters about the customer, offering, and competitive environment. When the RFP is released, you will be in position not only to write about how you will fulfill the requirements, but how and why your approach matters.
  5. Prepare your offering. You should never figure out what to offer by writing a narrative about it. You should design your offering separately from writing about it. If you don't want that to impact the time you have to write the proposal, you should do as much offering design as you can before the RFP is released.
  6. Answer who, what, where, how, when and why. Take some time to think through all the questions now, so that you can get the answers you need before the writing starts. Put extra effort into being able to explain "why."
  7. Understand what it will take to win. If your explanation of what it will take to win is generic, you aren't in position to win. If your win strategies are based on your strengths and not based on what it will take to win you are vulnerable.
  8. If you can't articulate it, you can't write it. It is not enough to have information, know how your offering is differentiated, or know what matters. You must be able to articulate. If you can't explain what it will take to win, why the customer should select you, and what the customer's perspective is before you start writing, you can't incorporate those things into your response to the RFP's requirements.
  9. Turn strategies into action items. Your existing strengths are not strategies. What you are going to do about them and what you are going to do to develop new ones are strategies. Getting into position to win requires action.
  10. Be able to write from the customer's perspective. You can't write a proposal from the customer's perspective if you can't see things from the customer's point of view. Doing this requires a combination of information about the customer and the ability to write from their perspective. If your proposal consists exclusively of descriptions of yourself and your offering, it is not written from the customer's perspective. To get into position to win, you need to obtain customer insight and the ability to write from their perspective instead of your own.
  11. Price to win. Price always matters. But how much? Discovering what the price to win will be and what you can do to improve your pricing will help you get into position to win.
  12. Turn trade-offs into advantages. Proposals are full of trade-offs. Trade-offs can be a good thing when properly explained. Anticipating the trade-offs and becoming able to explain them can become a demonstration of insight that itself becomes a reason why the customer should select you.
  13. Get real about your value proposition. What is your value proposition, does the customer agree with it, and does it reflect the right cost/value trade-offs? Is it real?
  14. Become the best alternative. The customer has a choice to make. That choice could be is among competitors, insourcing vs. outsourcing, between doing what you recommend and doing nothing, or something else. What makes you the best alternative? What do you have to do to become it? And what do you need to say so they realize it?

Anyone can win a single proposal from sheer luck. The trick is winning them all. And if you can't win them all, then just how high can you get your win rate? It takes a combination of preparation, positioning, and follow-through to turn it into a winning proposal.

What we find with the companies that bring us in as consultants is that the same people you have now, putting in the same level of effort, can usually perform at a higher level if given the right direction. A lot of what we end up doing is showing people how to raise the bar. Our experience shows us that little things can have a huge impact on competitiveness. If you want to maximize your chances of winning, get in touch and let's have a conversation about what can be done.


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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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