The best way to accelerate a proposal is to lay the groundwork for winning in each step, so that the next step has what it needs. It does not come from automating or accelerating doing the ordinary. The goal is not to submit a “good enough” proposal, it’s to win them all and turn proposal writing into a profitable activity instead of a necessary evil. To achieve this, each step has to add value that the next step can build on. Here are eight examples:
- Pre-RFP pursuit. Build your capture plans around answering questions. Those questions become a script that guides your sales force regarding what information to seek. They’ll never be able to uncover all the information you’d like to have, but if they know what to look for, they'll get more of it. You’ll be better able to assess your readiness to win the proposal, by looking at what answers you have and what you don’t. And even if you start at RFP release, the same list of questions helps you quickly assess what you do and don’t know. Within the MustWin Process, we use this approach to create Readiness Reviews that help ensure the company is ready to win at RFP release.
- Offering design. Also during the pre-RFP phase, you should begin designing your offering so that you can discuss it with the customer and validate your thoughts before presenting it in your proposal. Having an engineering methodology for designing your offering and validating it before you begin writing about it is important for avoiding a proposal disaster.
- Proposal startup. The hand-offs that occur when the proposal starts are usually not smooth. However, if your list of pre-RFP pursuit questions anticipates what your proposal writers will need to know to write a great proposal, the hand-off will clearly show what information you have and don’t have to work with. Our proposal startup checklist includes more than a hundred questions. Also during proposal startup, you need to read the RFP and prepare a compliance matrix. There is no shortcut for these, they simply must be done. And done well. One of the reasons to accelerate everything else is to carve out the time you need to do these critical tasks.
- Proposal logistics plans. Schedules, assignments, kickoff briefings, production plans, etc., can and should all be turned into templates. Completing a plan should be as simple as filling out a form. It should take minutes and not hours.
- Defining proposal quality and preparing a review plan. If you don’t define proposal quality, then you’ll waste tons of time between people not knowing what is expected of them and circular discussions about what a good proposal is. Having proposal reviews is not the same thing as having proposal quality criteria or proposal quality validation. Not only can you have written proposal criteria, you can accelerate putting them in place. Some criteria can be standardized. Others will depend on the business line, customer, opportunity, and competitive environment. You can turn creating your proposal quality criteria into a forms-driven process with parts standardized, and others to be filled in. By quickly preparing your quality criteria, you'll have time to review and validate them before moving forward.
- Proposal content planning. Several things can accelerate identifying what needs to be written so that writing can proceed. If your pre-RFP pursuit questions anticipate the information needed to write a great proposal, then you’ll be able to quickly bring the answers forward into your Proposal Content Plans. You’ll be able to turn them from general things you know about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment into specific instructions that proposal writers can use to properly position what they are writing about. You can also create proposal recipes that can be quickly copied and pasted into your proposal content plans to inspire your proposal writers with what to write about. You can also use proposal recipes to more quickly figure out your win strategies, and include them in the plan for writers to substantiate. Proposal recipes can also be used to inspire creating graphics, guide interviews of subject matter experts, help standardize approaches across business lines, and remind writers of corporate standards.
- Proposal writing. Proposal writing is accelerated by having a Proposal Content Plan that provides the information and guidance needed to write a great proposal. It tells writers what to do to fulfill the proposal quality criteria, so they don’t get surprised at the draft review. Done well, a Proposal Content Plan turns proposal writing into a process of elimination instead of guesswork.
- Proposal Quality Validation. Proposal reviews are accelerated by having a definition for proposal quality and criteria that can be used so reviewers know what to look for. You can also accelerate planning your reviews by turning them into a forms-driven process that allocates your quality criteria to specific reviews and addresses logistics issues (participants, location, schedule, etc.). You should be able to create a written review plan in about 15 minutes. When you have a written review plan, you can have the plan itself reviewed and validated to ensure that your approach is sufficient to meet the quality needs of the company.
This forms a critical value chain: pre-RFP questions and offering design accelerate both the creation of your proposal quality criteria and the Proposal Content Plan, which in turn accelerates both writing and quality validation. Do not break this chain. Not only will things take longer if you do, but quality will suffer as well.
You should also note that this does not rely on automation or reusing old proposals for acceleration. That is because it is based on the most efficient way to build your proposal around what it will take to win. The last thing you want to do is accelerate creating losing proposals. Instead, you want to improve the efficiency of creating better proposals, so you will raise your win rate. And raising your win rate leads to growth that pays for doing things right to achieve more growth.
Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY