Examples of proposal content planning using MustWin Now

Winning the proposal before it is even written and succeeding on your first draft

THIS. This is what proposal content planning is all about. Shaping the proposal. Designing it before it is written. Creating a set of specifications for the document so that writers know what they are supposed to accomplish and reviewers have something to validate the draft against. This is how you win before it is written and succeed on your first draft. This is what got me excited when developing MustWin Now.

I'm going to walk through a simple example of what is normally an extremely dry and boring proposal section, and show just how much of a difference you can make. I'm going to pick the key personnel section from a real RFP. The first thing I did was build an RFP compliance matrix. I walked through the RFP instructions, evaluation criteria, and performance requirements to build my proposal outline. 

BTW, you don't have to hurt yourself trying to read the tiny type, I'll expand the key parts below. What the screenshot shows is the RFP headings on the far left, the proposal outline next to it, and the RFP text in the main column. All cross-referenced and linked.

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From this, MustWin Now automagically generates the proposal content plan shell, complete with RFP references already loaded. You can see the RFP requirement headings in colored banners under the section name.

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With a single click, we can see the full text of every relevant requirement in the RFP, right from inside the content plan. No page flipping of the RFP needed to find it.

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Hey, this part looks important. If you can't read this one, the text below explains it.

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For more information about MustWin Now, see also:
MustWin Now

After seeing this in the RFP, maybe I should add a quality criterion to my content plan saying that "Resume must include all content showing in Section L, Appendix L4." Maybe I should also include an instruction to create a summary table based on leadership, education, technical expertise, and relevant experience for my key personnel. And maybe another table matching how the experience of the key personnel maps to the contract scope and "the individual's capability to function effectively." I should probably add another quality criterion to my content plan to specify that "Resumes shall not exceed four (4) pages in length, including the commitment statement." I can add as many instructions and quality criteria as needed to tell the proposal writers what we need to do to win. These are just a few examples.

Oh, and I'd better look up what the clause in "Section I entitled, DEAR" is. Even if it's an external reference, I could copy and paste the key part into MustWin Now and cross-reference it to my outline. Then it will show up just like the RFP requirements.

When I say "I" what I really mean is our whole team. I can use MustWin Now as a single user, but it really shines when I have the whole proposal team using it. Then subject matter experts, proposal contributors, executives, and others can add instructions and quality criteria related to win strategies, offering design, themes, customer intelligence, and more. Everyone you need to make a contribution can get at the part of the proposal they need to contribute to.

There are more RFP requirements than just the blurb above in this section. I can turn all the relevant requirements into quality criteria and instructions. I'm designing the proposal not only to be RFP compliant, but also to be easy to evaluate and maximize our evaluation score. The instructions you enter can draw the proposal writers' attention to the key words that the evaluators are looking for. Speaking of which, let's look at the RFP evaluation criteria (click).

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For more information about Proposal Content Planning, see also:
Content Planning Box

There's an oral presentation required. But right now, I'm working on the proposal. I can also use MustWin Now to plan the oral presentation. But what I'm looking for in this moment is what's important to the customer's evaluation. I see key phrases like:

  • Roles in the accomplishment of the PWS
  • Whether these qualifications and roles bring value to the customer 
  • Whether these qualifications and roles will have positive impacts on the offer's ability to overcome barriers and challenges affecting accomplishment of the work
  • Length of commitment to the contract
  • Consistency with the oral presentation
  • How the leadership team, as a unit and as an organization, will enhance the ability to overcome barriers and challenges affecting accomplishment of the PWS

So if I want to get the top score in this section, I'm not simply going to talk about how great my key personnel or their qualifications are. Simply describing them will not be competitive. Everything in this section needs to be in the context of overcoming barriers and challenges affecting accomplishment of the work/PWS. If you want to win, you'll know what those barriers and challenges are, and you won't merely talk about your capabilities to overcome them, you'll offer a comprehensive solution that defeats all challenges with complete assurance. After all, the incumbent will. 

So it turns out, this section isn't simply a resume section after all. It's a solution section. It's providing a solution to overcoming specific barriers and challenges using key personnel as the primary resource. That will teach me to think that the "resume" section is boring.

I'm sure everyone who bids and makes the competitive range will have qualified personnel and will submit resumes that score well. The evaluation criteria tell you that the winner will be the one that offers key personnel that add up to a solution to the barriers and challenges that the customer is concerned about.

You can use MustWin Now to turn this insight into a combination of instructions and quality criteria. Your instructions should cover not only what to write, but how to present it. Your quality criteria should let the writers know what they need to accomplish to create a section that reflects what it will take to win, and let the reviewers know what to look for when reading the draft. All those key words you see in the RFP should drive your instructions and quality criteria. 

What excites me about MustWin Now is how easy it is to create a content plan that does these things. MustWin Now automagically creates the content plan shell. Then go to each section and click the instructions button. Type things like "Explain how the qualifications of our key personnel bring value to the customer."

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Click the quality criteria button and type things like "Do we cite the length of commitment for each of our key personnel and does it add up to something competitive?"

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In just a few minutes you can create a set of specifications that defines what the winning section will be.

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When you are done, your writers will see everything they need to know to make a top-scoring contribution to this proposal. They'll have this in one window guiding what they write in Microsoft Word in another window.

You can do this on paper and without MustWin Now. But hardly anyone does, because doing it on paper is such a major pain. Most companies just hand an outline to their proposal writers, sometimes with a few annotations. MustWin Now eliminates all the administrivia so that as you read and begin to understand the RFP, you can quickly insert instructions and quality criteria that tell your proposal writers what to do to win. If your competitors are just using an outline, it will be very difficult for them to create a proposal that scores better than yours does. And if you're going to take down an incumbent, you'd better bring your best proposal.


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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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