When your business is ready to become serious about winning, there are only a few things that you need to do. The problem is that you have to do them all, and won’t have the time or resources. If you understand what you are trying to grow into, you can formalize things over time. But what you can’t do is ignore them. Ignoring them creates a trap that may prevent you from ever being able to get good at winning business.
Here are some things to focus on as soon as you are ready to get serious about winning:
- Are you qualified to bid? This does not mean what you think it means. You can be completely capable of doing the work, but the customer won’t even consider your bid because you don’t show up with the right paperwork. Before you invest time and money into preparing a proposal, you should make sure the customer will actually read it. This means understanding the customer’s business and evaluation requirements in addition to their performance requirements.
- Do you know how many leads you need to hit your numbers? If your answer is “all of them” then you’re not serious about winning. You will not bid every lead you identify. You will not win everything you bid. So how many leads do you need to end up with the numbers you need, and can you afford the resources it will take to pursue and capture those leads? This is a mathematical question. You need to understand how to construct a pipeline model for your business that can do the math required to enable you to make informed decisions. You need to understand your pipeline in order to determine what strategies you should pursue, where you should look for leads, and what lines of business you should be in.
- Can you anticipate the questions you’ll need to answer to write a winning proposal? Identifying “what you need to know to win” starts by identifying what you need to know to write a winning proposal. Many proposals fail because companies think they “know the customer” but can’t answer their proposal writers' questions about the customer’s preferences or perspective. The most important goal of the pre-RFP phase of a pursuit is to develop an information advantage over your competitors. Information only becomes an advantage when it impacts the proposal. Being able to anticipate what information you need to do that is critically important. You should build your entire pre-RFP pursuit phase around getting it.
- How will you flow information from lead identification to lead capture? So there are a certain number of leads where you should pursue an information advantage. How do you do that and what do you do with the information? It’s supposed to impact the proposal, but how does it do that? How does information change hands and transform to become a winning proposal? Proposal writing is not one step. You don’t go from a discussion into writing. And definitely not into winning consistently. Across all your bids, you need to be able to map all of your information and bid strategies to the plan for the document and articulate it in enough detail for the writers to have the information they need to write a winning proposal. Then you need a way to review their work that isn't just subjective. To achieve this across all of your bids, you need a process. But you can start with something easy.
- Do you have the skills, knowledge, and resources you need to do all this? Your pipeline tells you what resources you can afford. You still have to cultivate them. If you are going to have a process you have to implement it and ensure that people are capable of following it. Regardless of whether you will be using your own staff or consultants to prepare your proposals, you still have to have people who know what information is needed, how to get it, and how to pass it along. The process describes how information should flow. People are required to do that effectively. They need to know what and how, and have to skills to do it well.
Each one of these requires a different approach:
- To ensure you are qualified to bid means doing your research and not making assumptions.
- Knowing how many leads you need to pursue and what the resource implications are requires understanding how to construct a pipeline model for your business.
- Being able to anticipate the questions you will need to answer to write a winning proposal requires a combination of research, relationship marketing, and process awareness.
- Being able to flow information from lead identification through lead capture requires knowing how to build a process around what it will take to win.
- Having the skills, knowledge, and resources not only requires training but also requires a curriculum that reflects your process. Or better yet, a process that embeds the training that people will need.
The trick to being successful when you don’t have the time and resources is to start with a pipeline model that tells you what resources you can afford and when. Then instead of defining your process, pay attention to the questions you should be asking and the answers you wish you had. You can keep it simple. You can treat your entire process, the entire flow of information, as a series of questions. Until you are ready to formalize your process, all you need to do is ask the right questions. And continuously grow your list. You can use this approach both to ease into having a formal process and to educate your staff at the same time.
Subscribe to PropLIBRARY
Unlock our premium content, including the recipes, forms, checklists, etc. that make it easy to turn our recommendations into winning proposals.
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.
Carl can be reached at email@example.com
To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.
Proposal Help Desk
Contact us for assistance
In addition to PropLIBRARY's online resources, we also provide full-service consulting for when you're ready to engage one of our experts.
It all starts with a conversation.
You can contact us by clicking the button to send us a message, or by calling 1-800-848-1563.