How to create a goal-driven proposal process, instead of a having a bunch of steps that no one follows anyway

Keeping it simple and solving problems you used to think were impossible

Most proposal processes, whether they realize it or not, are about the flow of information. You could create a proposal process just by looking at how information needs to be discovered, transformed, and handed off from one person or step to the next. It works even better if you start at the end, with a winning proposal, and work backwards to define the flow of information needed to arrive at it. But it can get pretty complicated, especially when you take the enormous amount of flexibility required into account. Most proposal processes break from the first curveball the customer throws at you. 

A goal-driven proposal process helps everyone agree on what needs to be done

One of the ways that a goal-driven process is better is that it can make the flow of information obvious. In order to achieve each goal, there will be some inputs required, some research to do, some things to figure out, and then some way to document things that will help people achieve the goal that comes after. If you achieve the goal, you’ve done these things. If you are struggling with them, you'll be more open to getting help accomplishing them quickly and efficiently.

Instead of charting a data-flow diagram of information throughout the process, all you need is to figure out what the deliverables are, and what you need as input. It’s also a good idea to provide a set of quality criteria that people can use to determine whether their deliverables are good enough. That’s a fancy term for a checklist. Take the input, produce the deliverable, and assess what you did with the checklist. Succeed at each goal and this simplistic sounding approach can win the proposal for you.

You should keep the number of goals small. You want them to be memorable. You want people to know their goals without having to look them up. Here are some of the issues we are addressing with a set of goals that we are building the entire MustWin Process around:

  1. How do we get the information we need to win the proposal from the pre-RFP pursuit
  2. How do we get an offer design early enough to factor it into proposal planning and keep people from engineering by writing about it? 
  3. How do we get people to actually plan before they write?
  4. How do we get people to write the proposal correctly on the first draft?
  5. How do we achieve consistently effective reviews that actually result in a quality proposal?
  6. How do we complete the proposal without it being a train-wreck?

It turns out these are all solvable problems. But when you rely on a process that is either poorly conceived or too complicated to survive implementation, they will seem impossible to solve.

So turn each of them into a goal. If you articulate your goals well, when people do the things necessary to achieve the goals, the problems will not even arise. This is the best way to achieve quality. Instead of fixing your problems, prevent them from even occurring.

Those of you are who inclined to build your own solutions can use this as a roadmap for achieving a goal-driven process. Those who want a solution now, might consider becoming a PropLIBRARY Subscriber and using the solution we’ve already built.

Premium content for PropLIBRARY Subscribers. For PropLIBRARY Subscribers, we have defined and documented the six goals we recommend for producing a proposal based on what it will take to win. We've also mapped these goals to the MustWin Process, and turned it into a framework you can download to turn the process into something that will help people achieve the goals.

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Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of 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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