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The MustWin Process

Guidance, forms, and checklists for every step to capturing a business opportunity from lead identification through award

The CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process provides:

  • A means to get everyone on the same page.
  • Written standards and processes to expedite the process.
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities that make it easier to work together and set expectations.
  • Planning tools to ensure that everyone has the information needed to execute their role.
  • Tools to measure progress and provide constant feedback so that everyone knows where they stand.
  • Validation to ensure that every aspect of the proposal is right.

The MustWin Process is an approach for capturing leads that require the submission of a proposal. It starts as soon as a lead is identified so that the way intelligence is gathered supports the closing of the sale with the submission of a proposal.  Most “Must Wins” are already lost when the RFP comes out. Even companies who start early often find that time slips by and end up feeling unprepared when the RFP is released.  The CapturePlanning.com MustWin Process provides you with a way to track and measure progress so that you can maintain momentum, achieve a competitive advantage, and position your company to win.

What is a Must Win?

A "must win" opportunity is critical to the company for either financial or strategic reasons. Recompetes are often "must wins" because the company relies on them financially and uses them as qualifications, and people’s jobs are often on the line.  "Must wins" can also be strategic, such as breaking into a new customer, releasing a new product, or launching a new service line/capability. 


The MustWin Process is designed for winning written business proposals. While is designed to meet the requirements of preparing government proposals, we avoid using government contracting jargon so that the process can be used by commercial firms or anyone with a non-government RFP.  It can even be used for proposals where there is no RFP if you understand your customer’s expectations.

There are many, many different kinds of proposals: information technology, engineering, landscaping, construction, grants, research, products, services, staffing, healthcare, etc.  This process was not designed around a specific type or industry.  We encourage you to customize it to reflect any specific requirements for your industry or offering.  The questions that specify the intelligence to be collected for each of the Readiness Reviews are a good place to start any customization.

The MusWin Process scales to the size of your proposal team as well as the schedule. It enables small companies to compete with larger companies that have invested huge amounts in developing their bid processes and it enables large companies to fill gaps in their process and increase their win rate. It’s currently in use by thousands of people at companies that range from only having a handful of people to companies with more than 10,000 employees.

How is the MustWin Process innovative?

See also:
  1. It’s available and ready to use off-the-shelf. In addition to providing unprecedented economy, it gives you a way to quickly get everyone on the same page — literally.
  2. It’s easy to customize and integrate. You can use parts of the MustWin Process to supplement an existing process or implement the entire thing in an organization that doesn’t already have a capture process.
  3. It defines roles functionally. The process adjusts to the number of people available. Individuals can cover more than one function so long as everything gets covered by someone. The MustWin Process ensures that everyone involved knows what is expected of them, with clear descriptions of the functions they’ll be expected to perform.
  4. It manages expectations. Every topic or step addresses who is responsible, what they must do, what the goal is, and when it must be done.
  5. It enables pre-RFP progress to be measured. It ensures that you arrive at RFP release ready to win by providing specific questions to answer and goals to achieve. Progress toward finding the answers and achieving the goals is measured over a series of structured reviews. The metrics provided by the reviews can be used over time to unlock what is impacting your win rates. When combined with proposal Content Planning, Readiness Reviews also solve the problem of how to make a smooth transition from pre-RFP pursuit to post-RFP proposal writing. Finally, it provides an objective basis for bid/no bid considerations.
  6. It implements proportionate scheduling. The scheduling of Readiness Reviews adjusts to the time available. Whether you have a lot of advance notice or very little, the MustWin Process shows you what to do and makes the most of the time available.
  7. It provides an efficient workflow. Information collected during the pre-RFP phase flows into post-RFP proposal plans, to ensure the proposal reflects everything you know about the customer, the opportunity, and the competitive environment. Documentation of the proposal plans actually starts prior to RFP release. Proposal plans are forms-based to lower the level of effort. The MustWin Process also ensures that little or no effort is wasted on unnecessary steps by constantly moving information forward and by storing it in convenient, reusable formats.
  8. It makes writing easier while improving its quality. The Content Planning methodology introduced by the MustWin Process provides a way to ensure that the proposal addresses everything it should, provides guidance to proposal writers, provides a vehicle for collaboration between stakeholders, and establishes a baseline for measuring proposal quality. It turns the actual writing into a process of elimination. Writers don’t have to start from a blank page, or waste extra effort on planning deliverables that are destined to be orphaned, so writing is greatly accelerated. Writers also get a rubric that shows them how they will be graded long before their sections are ready for review.
  9. It defines quality in a measurable way. The MustWin Process first defines what a quality proposal is, and then aligns what you know about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment around it. It turns win strategies and themes into quality criteria that the proposal can be measured against.
  10. It validates that the draft proposal reflects what it will take to win. The MustWin Process double checks everything that is necessary to win, and does it continuously instead of just at certain milestones. The MustWin Process ensures that reviews are effective by identifying what is necessary to win, turning those items into criteria, building plans around them, and then measuring drafts against them. It solves the problem of reviews that are not consistently effective and it makes quality and progress measurable. It also solves the problem of reviews that can’t adapt to different circumstances, by enabling you to adjust the criteria as well as how and when reviews are performed.
  11. It is highly scalable. Readiness Reviews scale to the time available. Content Planning is an iterative approach that can be rationally scaled back. Proposal Quality Validation can rationally scale both what gets reviewed and how it gets reviewed. The MustWin Process solves the problem of how to use the same process on five-day quick turnaround task orders and 60-day strategic proposals.
  12. It lays a foundation for metrics and analytics that can revolutionize your business. Progress toward RFP release is measured. The quality of the draft proposal is measured. The resulting metrics, when correlated over time against your win rate, can provide true insight into what is helping and hurting your business. The MustWin Process can enable you to know what to do, based on hard data, rather than going on experience and conventional wisdom alone.


In short, the MustWin Process tells you how to gather what you will need to know and put it in the right format so that when you sit down to write you know what to say to win. It does it in a way that facilitates collaboration and provides a much more effective approach to ensure quality results. It’s available off-the-shelf, is fully documented, customizable, ready for immediate implementation, scalable, provides real metrics and measurable progress, improved readiness to win, improved content planning, and improved quality validation. Better, faster, and cheaper.


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A subscription to PropLIBRARY unlocks hundreds of premium content items including recipes, forms, checklists, and more to make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals. Subscribers can also use MustWin Now, our online proposal content planning tool.

More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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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