Winning through superior knowledge and processes

Proposal development is about taking what you know about the customer, the opportunity, the competitive environment, and yourself, and articulating it as a story that will convince the customer to select you or do what you propose. Proposals are won through a combination of superior knowledge and superior processes. Getting better at winning proposals means getting better at obtaining the information you need and improving what you do to turn that information into a written proposal.

What makes a process superior is not the number of steps, level of detail, or even how many people follow it. What makes a process superior is the results achieved by following it.

Since most of the staff working on a given proposal are not specialists and usually do not have a lot of proposal experience, they may not know what information to gather or how to transform it into a written proposal. A superior process needs to provide two things: guidance and inspiration. Typically, a process shows you what to do. But a superior proposal process must also show you how to do it. And this has to be built into the process — it's not something that comes before or is seperate from the process.

Note that I'm avoiding the word "training." A superior process doesn't necessarily teach you everything you need to know. If it did, then we'd be able to create winning proposals with people who have no experience whatsoever. There is not enough time in the schedule of a proposal to teach people everything about the subject. But you can give them enough guidance to get quality results from people within minimal experience. A superior process should provide sufficient guidance so that an educated, experienced subject matter expert can follow the process without training. That doesn't mean training won't help them improve, it just means that they will be able to achieve successful results following nothing but the process, whereas without the guidance they would likely get stuck.

A superior process will help you gather the information you need to develop a winning proposal. But assessing the information you've gathered and transforming it into a persuasive proposal will still be difficult, even if you follow the steps of the process. What proposal contributors need, in addition the process, is inspiration. In addition to knowing what steps to follow, proposal contributors need help figuring out what to say.

That's why we added proposal section recipes to the MustWin Process Knowledgebase on PropLIBRARY. Once the process guides participants through planning the content of their proposal, they still need to write that content. The recipes in our Proposal Cookbooks help inspire them regarding what to write. The process identifies the context, or what matters about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment, so that when they work with the recipes, the combination gives them both the superior knowledge and the process they need to win.

If you want to improve your win rate and the quality of proposals at your organization, think about how to achieve superior knowledge and processes. Then think about how to guide and inspire people to gather that knowledge and turn it into a winning proposal.


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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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