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An easier and less risky way to figure out what to offer in your proposal

With a proposal content planning example created using MustWin Now

What matters about products and commodities is different from what matters about complex services and solutions. What matters about your offering also depends on whether the customer has told you exactly what to bid or whether you have to figure that out. 

In both cases, figuring out what to offer by writing about it leads to the proposal death spiral. It’s best not to go there. Figuring out what to offer should be done separately from writing about it. Once you have validated that you’ve got the right offering, then you can move on to presentation. Only then is it safe to merge your offering design with proposal writing. 

MustWin Now makes that integration much easier. You can do content planning manually, but most companies do it poorly or not at all. Why write a content plan when you could be writing the proposal? Never mind that’s what causes the death spiral. By moving content planning online and using software, MustWin Now greatly lowers the effort of content planning and makes it seem natural to get your thoughts together before you start writing.

Figuring out what to offer depends on the nature of what you sell

When you sell solutions, you need to architect a solution in order to be able to write about it. If you sell complex services, you need to know the elements of your approaches. So first, figure out what you should offer and why. Don’t worry about how to articulate it in writing. Just architect your solution. Then: 

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  • Prepare a list that summarizes the features or components of what you’ll offer. Extra credit if you prepare graphics to illustrate your solution.
  • Add instructions in MustWin Now that guide your proposal writers regarding not only what to describe or explain about your offering, but also how to present it and how to make it add up to being the customer’s best alternative.

Commodities are a little different. Commodities can be products, productized services, or when the customer specifies exactly what you are to do or provide. With commodities, which vendor provides things doesn’t matter so long as the specifications are fulfilled. For commodities:

  • Offering design is simplified when you sell commodities, but not eliminated. First, before you start writing, figure out any product selections, options, approaches, etc.  Since pricing is more important when you sell a commodity, you should also figure out your pricing strategies early. Make note of why you made the choices you did. They may be your only differentiators.
  • Add instructions in MustWin Now that tell the proposal writers which options you have selected, what your approaches are, why you chose what you did and how that differentiates you, how to establish credibility that you will meet the specifications, etc.

In both cases:

  • You should resist the temptation to write about what you are planning. You should just insert placeholders, suggestions, considerations, guidance, and itemize ingredients you don’t want left out. You are thinking it through. Thinking it through is hard but worth it, and better done with lists than with a lengthy narrative. Writing a proposal without thinking it through is a big, fat, ugly mistake. Entering instructions and quality criteria in MustWin Now while you’re thinking it through goes remarkably quickly.
  • Add instructions in MustWin Now that guide proposal writers on how to explain what the customer will get, what the results will be, what value you have added, how the customer will benefit from your offering, what makes your solution the customer’s best alternative, etc.
  • Add quality criteria in MustWin Now so that writers and reviewers can tell if the draft proposal fulfills everyone’s expectations. 
  • You don’t have enough graphics in your proposal. No one does. So insert instructions to drive the proposal to become more visual. You don’t even have to draw the graphic at this stage --- just insert an instruction identifying what graphic needs to be created.
  • Instructions can either identify what to write, or what needs to be figured out. If the person preparing the content plan does not know something, like what your differentiators are, they can insert instructions for those who do know to identify them.

Here's an example of an online Proposal Content Plan. Click on the image to expand it.


You can see that not only can the proposal writer see all the relevant RFP requirements, but also what to do about those requirements, any pursuit intelligence you've collected, your proposal win strategies, and other guidance. Each instruction and quality criterion took one click and less than a minute to type, so maybe 15 minutes for this section. Those 15 minutes may save hours of thinking, talking, reviewing, and rewriting. The proposal writer has a fighting chance of getting it all right in the first draft.

Winning your proposal depends on whether the customer concludes that you are their best alternative and gives you the highest evaluation score. A little time spent dropping instructions into the MustWin Now content plan tool can make a huge difference in how your proposal scores. This is especially true if your writers are not proposal specialists. But proposal specialists need input too, and MustWin Now can help get everyone on the same page.

It’s not the writing that wins proposals. It’s the thinking that goes before the writing. Use MustWin Now to connect your winning thoughts to what gets put in writing.

Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

More information about "Carl Dickson"

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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