Are you putting too much emphasis on your proposal process, and not enough on everything else?

The proposal process is only part of one component of one category of the things that impact your win rate

One of the things that I’ve learned by authoring the MustWin Process and having personally been involved with dozens of implementations at companies reengineering their proposal processes is that context matters. Much of what goes into winning proposals occurs outside of the process. 

Consider how decisions get made and what expectations people have outside of the proposal. How is the proposal impacted by the company’s strategic planning and positioning efforts? Who sets quality standards? Who manages priorities? Is the company centralized or decentralized? Authoritarian or collaborative? How is authority delegated to proposal stakeholders? How much work is performed remotely vs. colocation? How much effort is internal vs. outsourced? What roles do teaming partners play? What should we bid and what should we not bid?

Much of what goes into winning proposals occurs outside of the process.

Issues like these not only impact how your process gets implemented, they also impact your win rate. If you focus on your proposal process without also focusing on organizational issues like these, you not only can’t maximize your chances of a successful implementation, you can’t maximize your win rate. And if your company depends on its proposals for its growth, your win rate is one of the most important measures in the entire company.

In addition to the organizational issues, a successful proposal effort requires input. Quite a lot of it. What will it take to win? What insight do we have about the customer? What should we offer? What cost/value trade-offs will we strike? What differentiates our offering? How should we position against the competitive environment? What risks do we face and how will we mitigate them?

People working on the proposal need these answers before they can start writing. These questions need to be asked and answered before the proposal process starts, not after.

Then there’s the proposal performance layer. Process is only one component. What about your management model? Preparations before you start? Assignments and progress tracking? Expectation management? Issue management? Tools, libraries, and resources? Training? Self-assessment tools? Quality validation? 

If the organizational layer and information input layer are as important as the performance layer, and if process is only one component of the performance layer, then could you be putting too much emphasis on process? This is a strange thing for a process geek like me to say. However, I’m not advocating ignoring process. I’m advocating giving attention to the organizational and input layers as well. It’s easy for proposal specialists to retreat into an area they have some control over. But proposal success depends on getting outside the proposal and making sure the organization can deliver the information needed for proposal efforts to succeed. 

It’s all about win rate. Who at the CxO level is primarily responsible for your company’s win rate? If it’s not at the top of the priority stack for someone at that level, then it’s not a priority for your company. Pawning it off to the VP of Business Development makes it a sales issue and not an organizational priority. If all of your revenue comes from proposals, then win rate is an organizational issue. If you are a lowly proposal specialist with no voice at the CxO level, you can focus on production instead of winning. Or you can delve into the mathematics of win rate analysis and begin educating The Powers That Be on how their success depends on those numbers.

If all you do is evangelize process, you won’t get very far. Evangelizing about process is basically telling other people what to do. Educating people about win rate analysis shows them how their growth potential depends on winning. After that, everything else falls into place.

This is so important that I’m building a model for integrating the organizational, input, and performance layers. Take all those considerations above. Now draw a picture showing how they are related. That’s what your company needs in order to make sense of it all and maximize your probability of winning. It’s what your company needs to have an integrated approach to the proposal process. And it’s being added to the MustWin Process documentation that PropLIBRARY Subscribers have access to.


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Carl Dickson

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 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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