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Assessing the impact of the input layer on your process

Topics to address in your proposal process documentation

Within the MustWin Process Architecture we divide the input layer into the following areas: information, strategy, and offering design. In many companies, the scope of the proposal process begins with RFP release. However, proposals require input, and that input often must be gathered before the RFP is released. Regardless of how you define the scope of the proposal process, you should define the inputs a proposal requires to maximize your win rate.

See also:
Successful process implementation

The input layer defines those input requirements so that they can guide pre-RFP efforts. When pre-RFP efforts are either not possible or out-of-scope, the input layer is still necessary to facilitate a rapid start to the proposal. The probability of winning a proposal depends on the delivery of information, regardless of when you start collecting that information. The input layer informs proposal writers with not only what to write about, but what points to make. Without the necessary inputs proposals tend to end up being self-descriptive, watered down, and literally pointless.

Information: What will it take to win and what matters to the customer?

What information do you need in this area, where will you get it, what will you do with it, and how does that impact the process and stakeholders? Does any existing process account for them?

  • What it will take to win. You can’t write a proposal based on it, if you can’t articulate it. Is this awareness delivered to the proposal, or discovered during the proposal? Is it discovered before writing starts or by writing and rewriting? Are the information requirements for articulating what it will take to win itemized? Does it anticipate and answer the questions that proposal writers have? Does it enable proposal writers to substantiate the points you need to make in order to win?
  • Customer insight. What matters to the customer? What are their preferences? How do they make decisions? How does their procurement process work? What do they want? What do they need? Do you have an information advantage? Can you write a proposal that shows insight? Can you write a proposal from the customer’s perspective? Or will you be limited to describing yourself? 

Strategy: What are your proposal win strategies?

What information do you need in this area, where will you get it, what will you do with it, and how does that impact the process and stakeholders? Does any existing process account for them?

  • Differentiation. You can’t be superior to your competitors without being different from your competitors. What makes you and your offering the customer’s best alternative? You can’t prove this with your proposal writing if you don’t know what it is before you start writing.
  • Competitive advantage. If you can’t be different from your competitors, and some RFPs make this difficult, you can still be better. What gives you an advantage? How should that impact the proposal?
  • Positioning. How will you position against the competition, customer, and opportunity? Will you do this strategically or will you make this up during proposal writing?
  • Evaluation optimization. What will it take to win the proposal evaluation? What do you need to do to get the winning score?
  • Risk mitigation. How will you mitigate and balance the risks related to bidding, winning, and performing? Do you know what those risks are? What matters to the customer about risk? 
  • Price to win. What price reflects the winning cost/value trade-off? Can you deliver at that price?

Offering Design: What will the winning offer be?

What information do you need in this area, where will you get it, what will you do with it, and how does that impact the process and stakeholders? Does any existing process account for them?

  • What information do you need to design the winning offering? You can’t write a proposal about the winning offering until it’s been designed. You can’t design the winning offering without knowing the scope, requirements, and desired outcomes. Do you even know what information you need? 
  • Approaches. What technical and management approaches will you propose? Will you propose any other approaches (staffing, risk mitigation, quality, etc.)? What differentiates your approaches and makes them the customer’s best alternative? Can you describe the key features and benefits of your approaches so they can be validated ahead of writing about them in detail?
  • Cost/value trade-offs. What are the cost/value trade-offs to be made? How do you propose making them? Will they enable you to hit the price to win? Why did you make the trade-offs that you made? What advantages or benefits are there for the customer?
  • Requirements fulfillment. Will your offering fulfill all of the customer's wants, needs, and requirements? Have you itemized them?
  • RFP compliance. Will your offering be fully compliant with the RFP?
  • Basis of estimate. What will the basis of your estimates be? How will your estimates be calculated? 
  • Bill of materials. What materials will you need to obtain and price in order to deliver your offering? How will you source them? What are the advantages and customer benefits of your materials?
  • Work breakdown structure. How will you break down the services you will provide?
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