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When you get an RFP, do you do these 12 things in order to win?

We get tons of inspiration for our articles from participating in discussions in our group on LinkedIn. We were thinking about something we posted there recently on the topic of what to do when you get an RFP. We realized that some people set themselves up for failure right from the beginning. When you get an RFP, do you do the things that lead to winning or the things that lead to losing?

  1. Do you assume you are going to bid and start work on the proposal or do you look for reasons not to bid it and only start work after it passes the test?
  2. Do you line up subject matter experts and start passing out writing assignments or do you put the SMEs on hold and talk to someone who knows the customer, their preferences, and concerns because you know you're not ready to talk to the SMEs until you understand the context?
  3. Better yet, do you hold the meetings and planning sessions before the RFP is even released because after release is usually too late?
  4. Do you build your proposal around your outline and offering, or do you develop an understanding of what it will take to win and build your proposal around that?
  5. Do you build your pre-RFP intelligence gathering and bid preparation efforts around what you can learn in meetings and surfing the web, or by discovering what it will take to win and positioning your company in the eyes of the customer?
  6. Do you track your opportunities and progress through regular meetings or do you implement a process that tracks whether you've collected the information related to what it will take to win and gives you the ability to quantify whether you will be ready to win at RFP release?
  7. Do you try to come up with some “themes” you can sprinkle around the proposal, or do you figure out how to articulate your understanding of what it will take to win?
  8. Do you create an outline and start writing, or do you identify everything that would go into a winning proposal and develop a content plan before you start writing?
  9. Do you focus like a laser on the Statement of Work and requirements, or do you assess the evaluation criteria and optimize what you plan to offer and write to score highly?
  10. Do you have some people review what you wrote without any structure or guidance, or do you lay the foundation for measuring what gets written against the content plan, which itself was based on what it will take to win?
  11. Do you base your reviews solely on the experience of the reviewers, or do you implement a review plan to validate that the proposal reflects what you said it needs to in the content plan as well as what it will take to win?
  12. Oh, and while you're at it, do you develop your offering by writing to meet the requirements of the RFP, or do you develop the winning offering in a parallel process because designing/engineering by writing about it is a bad way to go?

Did we pass the test?

See also:

After we wrote this, we thought should assess our own MustWin Process to ensure that our recommendations do indeed lay the right foundation for winning.

  1. Not only do we give you a checklist of things to verify when the RFP is released, we also give you a nice long list of reasons to consider no bidding, all of which are in addition to our pre-RFP Readiness Review process which qualifies the leads and provides several opportunities to no bid an opportunity, all designed to make sure that what you bid you have a better than fair chance of winning what you choose to bid. I think we passed this one.
  2. The pre-RFP Readiness Review process is designed to deliver insight about the customer, opportunity, and competitive involvement so that it is in place, in the right format, and ready to use to win the proposal. You won’t need to schedule any extra meetings to get this because if you follow the process it will already be there. I think we passed this one.
  3. That’s what the pre-RFP Readiness Review process is all about. But if you first learn about the RFP when it’s released and you still think it’s worth pursuing, you can still use the Readiness Reviews to quickly determine what you know and don’t know about the customer, opportunity, and competitive environment to accelerate the development of your win strategies. That’s another one passed.
  4. Outlining is the first of eight steps in our iterative Content Planning process. It’s designed to make sure you don’t overlook anything that should go in your proposal. Pre-RFP Readiness Reviews are designed to identify what it will take to win so that it can guide the Content Planning process and drive the creation of the proposal itself. So we cover discovering what it will take to win, outlining, and getting it into the proposal. That’s a check.
  5. The pre-RFP Readiness Reviews start by gathering intelligence and end with assessing it, formatting it, and turning it into what you need to articulate in the proposal. Each of the Readiness Reviews has clear questions to answer and goals to accomplish so that the time is not wasted. Check!
  6. Readiness Reviews get scored with a simple Red/Yellow/Green system that can be converted to numerical scores and turned into a full-blown metrics analysis system that can unlock the hidden factors driving your win rates. They also enable progress to be measured and the trend towards red or green determined so that the valuable time before RFP release isn’t wasted. No more meeting after meeting saying that “we’re tracking it” only to arrive at RFP release unprepared. Another one passed.
  7. The combination of Readiness Reviews and Content Planning takes what it will take to win and turns them from intelligence into instructions for what the writers should say in the proposal. They are also turned into criteria that are used to validate the quality of the draft after it is written. I think we passed this one.
  8. The Content Planning process starts with an outline and then adds to it everything that should go into the proposal through eight steps that make sure you don’t overlook anything. When completed, it provides a complete set of instructions that the authors can follow to write the winning proposal instead of a blank sheet of paper with a heading at the top. That’s one we definitely pass.
  9. One step in the Content Planning process is designed to specifically target assessing the evaluation criteria and how they should impact what gets written. Another step accounts for the requirements of the Statement of Work. There are six other steps that guide you through considering everything else that needs to go into the proposal. I say we passed this one too.
  10. The review process we recommend actually starts with the Content Planning process. We validate that the draft proposal follows all of the instructions in the Content Plan. We actually place a higher priority on reviewing the Content Plan prior to writing than we do on reviewing the narrative draft. The Content Plan is based on what it will take to win, which is discovered during the Readiness Reviews. The progress of writing can be measured by how much of the Content Plan has been fulfilled. Quality is validated the same way. I think we definitely pass this one.
  11. The goal of our review process is to validate that the proposal reflects what it will take to win, as documented in the Content Plan after being discovered during the Readiness Review process. How you validate each item depends on the size, scope, and nature of the proposal. So we prepare a Review Plan at the beginning of the proposal that covers how they will all be validated. Our process documentation turns this into something that’s checklist quick and simple so you can have a written Review Plan prepared in mere minutes. We pass this one as well.
  12. We think designing or engineering by writing about it is a horrible way to go about it, and is just asking for proposal failure. But what methodology you follow for design or engineering are particular to your company. So we give you the points where you should need to synch them up. Our Content Planning approach takes what you come up with as input and turns it into instructions for the writers. We wrap your offering in everything else needed to win the proposal. This is the last one and it looks like we passed them all.

If you think the list we started with was a good list, then the MustWin Process is a good way to make sure you are doing the right things for every item on it. If you’re not doing the right things on the list, then instead of laying the foundation for winning, you may be starting off down the path towards losing right from the beginning. The MustWin Process and other materials in the PropLIBRARY Knowledgebase may give you the inspiration and techniques you need to turn that around.

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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, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a 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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