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What is the MustWin process and how is it innovative?

The MustWin Process is an approach for capturing leads that require the submission of a proposal. It makes proposal development more efficient, sets expectations, enables progress and quality to be measured, and increases your chances of winning. It focuses on getting the right information and going through the steps to turn it into a winning proposal.

The MustWin Process is for those who want to win and realize that a one-size-fits-all fill-in-the-blanks template is not the best way to go about it. The MustWin Process offers ways to accelerate the process, but not at the expense of doing what it takes to win. It provides guidance and helps you figure out what to say and write, but does it in a way that is completely customized around winning a particular opportunity at a particular customer.

It’s the sort of thing a small business can use to outcompete much larger companies — or the sort of thing a big company can use to revolutionize itself. It’s currently in use at companies with only a handful of people as well as at companies with more than 10,000 employees.

The MustWin Process starts by getting you ready to win the proposal, before the RFP has even been issued. As soon as the lead is identified, the MustWin Process guides you to gather the right information and position your company to win. During the critical pre-RFP phase of activity, it provides an innovative structured approach called Readiness Reviews that enables you to measure your progress toward being ready to win at RFP release.

Once the RFP is released, the MustWin Process provides guidance for planning and developing your proposal. It uses an innovative technique called Content Planning to provide a link between pre-RFP intelligence gathering and post-RFP proposal writing.

Another innovation provided by the MustWin process relates to quality assurance. Instead of focusing on poorly defined milestone reviews that produce inconsistent results, the MustWin Process implements a methodology called Proposal Quality Validation that focuses reviews on specific criteria that correlate with what it will take to win. The MustWin Process is innovative in a number of important ways:

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  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 — what’s not to like?

The MustWin Process forms the core of the PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase. It was originally published as a hardcopy binder and shipped via snail mail. But now that it's electronic its grown in both depth and breadth, as well as far more useful. PropLIBRARY Subscribers get the MustWin Process along with our recipe library and much, much more.

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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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