All proposals are won or lost based on whether the proposal writers have the right input. All. Of. Them.
The right input can’t be somehow made up by proposal writers during the proposal. Either it’s brought to them so they can present it or they build a presentation without substance. And it’s best to bring this input at the very beginning, while there is time to do something about it. And this in turn usually means gathering the right input before the RFP hits the street and the proposal starts.
This means that being a great proposal writer requires being able to ask for the right input before the proposal event starts. This means that being a company that's good at winning proposals requires getting good at gathering the right inputs before you start your proposals.
These inputs fall into four areas:
- Do you know the price to win? Price is important, even in a best value evaluation. But how important is it? What spread between the lowest price and yours can still win? What will the lowest price submitted be? You might not be able to know these answers with precision. But how well you know (or even guess) can determine whether you win or lose.
- Do you know what it will take to win? What is the customer looking for? How will they pick the winner? How do they make decisions and trade-offs? What are their preferences? What do they need? What do they like? Everything in proposal writing is about positioning and differentiation. Nothing gets simply described. Everything gets put in context. Everything in proposal writing needs to add up to making you the customer’s best alternative, from their perspective. Your proposal writers simply can’t write a proposal from the customer’s perspective unless they have the input that enables them to see things the way the customer does and to know what information they need to reach a decision in your favor.
- Can you put it in writing? Most companies know something about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment. Most companies fail at getting that into their proposals effectively. This most often happens because of poor communication from business development and capture to the proposal writers, or through a lack of planning before writing. The problem usually isn’t the writer’s ability to get it on paper, it’s the lack of input.
- Do you have the right offering? A good price with great proposal writing will still fail unless you deliver the offering the customer wants. Actually, having the customer want your offering is only part of it. Your offering needs to be the customer’s best alternative. Your writers can’t fake that by adding beneficial sounding words while saying they’ll do whatever the RFP asked for. They need the right input regarding what the company intends to propose.
What do you do with the input once you’ve got it? How you accumulate and stage the information prior to writing is critical. How do you allocate what you know to the proposal outline? How should it be presented? How do you validate whether it made it into the proposal? Once you collect the right input, you should put it into a proposal content plan, so that the writers can account for it and your proposal reviewers can validate that it was properly addressed.
Are you guessing at winning or are you working at winning? At a 30% win rate, a 10% increase in your win rate can be the same as having 40% more leads. It’s worth the work to do more than guess at what should go into your proposals.
All you need to do is show up with a great offering design that can be delivered at the right price, with knowledge about the customer’s perspective, how they will make their selection, and how things should be positioned and differentiated. Take that information and put it into a proposal content plan that provides guidance regarding what to write and how. Do this and you can write a great proposal every time. Do this and you will maximize your win rate. Great proposal writing really is this simple.
Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY
Carl is an expert at winning in writing. The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.