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4 things that are critical for winning large proposals

And you can build your entire process around them

Getting everyone on the same pageWhen people working on proposals are pulled in multiple directions and all have different goals and different approaches to achieving them, you’re not going to maximize your win rate. Getting everyone on the same page involves more than defining roles and responsibilities, steps in the process, and having good assignment management. It requires having expectation management throughout the process. It requires that all these things be integrated into the process so that they are inherent in the way things work.

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Developing an information advantage

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You must be extremely good to compete on price and maintain a decent profit margin. You can’t maximize your win rate by bidding with only the same RFP everyone else has to guide you. To maximize your win rate, you must bid every pursuit with an information advantage, and you must institutionalize how you develop an information advantage if you want to be able to do it consistently. But it takes more than simply fishing for customer, opportunity, and competitive insight. You must seek the information that the proposal writers will need to write the proposal from the customer’s perspective. The reason you need to bring structure to the pre-RFP pursuit is to enable the people gathering intel to anticipate the needs of the proposal writers and bring the insight required to write from the customer’s perspective to the proposal.


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Discovering and building your proposal around what it will take to winWhile it’s hard to believe, most bids are submitted by companies that never explicitly asked themselves what it will take to win. If you bring it up, they will never admit not knowing. But you’ll catch them making up an answer on the spot. You can’t build a proposal around what it will take to win unless you can articulate it. While there are similarities, every bid is different because every customer has different preferences and different ways of making decisions. You can’t articulate what it will take to win if you haven’t discovered it.

But if you have, you’re not done. You must turn your insight into what it will take to win into criteria that can be used to assess proposal quality. You must use what it will take to win to guide proposal development and measure its quality during reviews. When you do this, you shift your efforts from trying really hard to pull out a win at the tail end of the process to making sure a win is within reach before you even start. The result is that you can confidently ensure that everything you do during proposal development is based on what it will take to win. Anything else is just gambling.

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Defining proposal quality and enabling writers to achieve itWhile it’s hard to believe, most companies do not have a definition, written or otherwise, of proposal quality. Without it, they default to “I know it when I see it,” which instead of achieving quality proposals, achieves the opposite. This is not only because it is an arbitrary measure, and quality should not be arbitrary, it’s also because it's a strictly a back-end measure. You don’t find out whether you have a quality proposal until after it’s produced.

You can’t validate proposal quality or design quality in from the beginning in this environment. The only way to design quality in is to define proposal quality and ensure the writers are working with the same criteria that the reviewers will use at the back end. When you implement a review process that does this, you’ll find that the review to validate the quality criteria becomes more important than the review of the draft. Not only with this one switch will radically change how you do proposals, but it will change your pre-proposal process and corporate culture as well. It will change them for the better and take your win rate to a much higher level. It’s the difference between winning by chance and winning consistently and deliberately.

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The MustWin Process enables you to achieve all four of these goalsThe MustWin Process was designed to achieve each of these goals, while guiding you through all of the activities required to win your pursuits. It makes it easier to get everyone on the same page with the same expectations, while creating an unbroken flow of information that discovers what it will take to win and builds the proposal around it. The MustWin Process defines proposal quality so that proposal writers can design it into the proposal as well as enabling reviewers to validate proposal quality. The result is that the MustWin Process maximizes your win rate, manages expectations, and improves efficiency while reducing risk.


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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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