You’re probably getting swamped with advice about all the things you need to do to develop business and win proposals. There are so many things you need do, but where should you start?
You’re probably hearing that:
- You need more leads
- You should be selective in what you pursue
- You need more process
- You should enforce the process you have
- You should practice relationship marketing
- You need better software
- The proposal should start before the RFP is released
- If you didn’t help write the RFP, somebody else did
- The lowest price always wins
- Subject matter experts should write the proposal
- Proposal specialists should write the proposal
- Everybody needs training
- You should put your best staff on the proposal and not just whoever’s available
- And so on
Some of it is probably not applicable to your circumstances. Some of it may be just plain wrong for what you bid. But a lot of the advice is good advice. And if you implement all of it you’ll blow your budget. It’s hard to tell which of it is good and which to ignore. Figuring out what you should do in your circumstances with your resources can be overwhelming.
We have a way to simplify it for you. All you need to do is focus on just one thing:
Simply deliver the information that people will need, when they need it to win.
And the best part is you don’t necessarily need complicated processes or methodologies to follow this guidance. All you need to do is ask questions. If you want a process, then write down the questions and turn them into checklists. Create an organization that asks the right questions at the right time.
Continuous improvement will come from constantly refining the questions, not from starting over. As your organization gets smarter about which questions to ask and when, it will get smarter and smarter. It will get more effective and achieve a higher win rate also, because your staff will not only get better at asking the right questions, they’ll get better at showing up with the right answers.
The goal of the questions is to discover what it will take to win and transform that into winning in writing. Here are some questions to get you started:
- When you first hear about a lead, you should be asking, “What do we need to know to accept the lead as legitimate and worth investing in pursuing?”
- Once you’ve accepted the lead, you should be asking, “How do we gain an information advantage that we can turn into superior bid strategies?”
- The most important question for lead qualification is, “Do we know what it will take to win?”
- Before you invest much in a pursuit, you should ask, “Do we have an information advantage?” You should bid everything in which you have an information advantage. If you don’t, you should consider conserving your resources and not bidding until you do.
- Long before the proposal starts you should be asking, “What will people need to know to design the best offering?”
- Also before the proposal starts you need to know “How do we write the proposal from the customer’s perspective instead of our own?”
- Once you have these answers, you can improve proposal quality by asking, “How do we turn what we know about what it will take to win into proposal quality criteria?”
- After the proposal starts you should ask, “How should we instruct the writers so that the proposal turns out to be compliant, describes the best offering, reflects what it will take to win, and is written from the customer’s perspective?”
- When you are ready to review the proposal you should be asking, “Does the proposal as written reflect what we discovered about what it will take to win?”
You will succeed or fail on the strength of the questions you ask, and how good you are at anticipating what people will need to know. All those suggestions about process and marketing techniques are just ways of moving information through the system. Sometimes people let the steps in their process habits distract them from what’s really important. You can fix that just by asking the right questions.
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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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