Pre-RFP Pursuit: Discovering what it will take to win

Guidance and tips to help business development discover what it will take to win

Everything you do, from lead qualification through proposal submission, should be based on what it will take to win.

To capture the leads you have in your business development pipeline, you should position your offering to give you the best chances of winning. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know how to do that when it can be different with every pursuit. Having an RFP is not enough because all of your competitors have the same RFP and the RFP will not say everything that is important to the customer. Developing business requires you to discover what it will take to win so you can offer something that matters more to the customer than what your competitors offer.

The best way to lay the foundation for beating your competitors is to develop an information advantage. If you know more about the customer, the opportunity, the competitive environment, and yourself, you can write a proposal that is more insightful than your competitors. Developing an information advantage is best done before the RFP is released. But first you have to know who to contact at the customer's organization and how to practice relationship marketing. Once the RFP is released, the customer is not likely to talk to you about what they care about and some customers are not allowed to talk to vendors at all at that point.

Along with an information advantage, you need to be able to articulate a superior value proposition. You can’t write a great proposal if you don’t matter to the customer. Just make sure that you test your value proposition with the customer. You might find, for example, that all they care about is the price. Or that price is less important than risk. Or that their priorities are not what you think they should be. How they conduct their evaluation is often a clue, and discovering that is part of discovering what it will take to win. While price always matters, there are ways to win even if you don't have the lowest price.

When you can articulate your value proposition in a way that differentiates you from your competitors while showing insight that matters to the customer, you are ready to start writing a great proposal that the customer really cares about.

Another benefit of developing an information advantage is that when you get to the proposal phase, things will be much easier. Instead of struggling over subjective opinions about what a “good” proposal is, you’ll be able to focus on what it will take to win based on actual customer knowledge. You’ll also be able to anticipate the questions that people will have when they're trying to write the winning proposal.

You should also use what you learn about what it will take to win to help you design the winning offering. This is something you should keep separate from proposal writing to avoid sending your proposal down the death spiral. Here is some simple help for figuring out what to offer before you write about it. It will also help you balance which comes first, the message or the offering.

We built the MustWin Process by starting from what it takes to win a proposal, and working backwards to ensure that the information needed by all of the stakeholders is delivered at every step along the way. It also clarifies roles to help you organize your sales function to win your proposals. We’ve broken down the pre-RFP period into Readiness Reviews that can help ensure you gather, assess, and prepare the right information in the right format. Readiness Reviews gives you a structured way to implement the single most important thing you can do to win more business

Here are six ways your monthly business development meetings are killing your win rate. Readiness Reviews give you a much better approach.

What it will take to win also becomes a key part of how we define proposal quality. It gives you the information you need to define your proposal quality criteria and more effectively review your proposals. With the MustWin Process, we show you how to establish traceability from the draft proposal to your Proposal Quality Validation criteria, to your Proposal Content Plan, all the way back through the Readiness Reviews to what it will take to win. Everything you do to win a pursuit, from lead qualification through the submission of your proposal, should all be based on what it will take to win.

 

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The part of the pursuit that occurs before the RFP is released is even more important for winning than the proposal. The MustWin Process brings structure to the pre-RFP phase of pursuit in the form of our Readiness Review methodology



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

The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.

In addition, the groups Carl moderates on LinkedIn provide a place for tens of thousands of business development and proposal professionals to discuss best practices and network.
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