Planning for Proposal Success

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I’m a proposal professional, not a miracle worker. You can win a bid by crafting a brilliant proposal that creates amazing empathy with the evaluators, demonstrating a fantastic proposition that surpasses their wildest dreams.

But your task of winning the race is SO much harder if others have more momentum and are on the inside track when the RFP lands. You’re not going to be the front-runner if the most you know about the client is: “Well, we’ve read the RFP…”.

Here’s the deal. I want to sit down with the salesperson as soon as they have an inkling that we may need to write a proposal. And if they don’t know it’s coming, you possibly shouldn’t be bidding, right? A few topics to explore:

  • How are we going to engage the client’s decision makers to make sure our proposal is sown onto fertile ground?
  • What competitive intelligence can we gather?
  • How can we influence their requirements and criteria in our favour?
  • Who’ll need to be on our proposal team? (Let’s engage, brief and inspire them early – rather than begging favours in panic mode.)
  • What are our solution and pricing models going to look like? Even scant information should allow us to start to design our proposition early.
  • What questions are they likely to ask – or, at least, what are some of the building blocks of content we’ll need? (I reckon most teams could predict 80% of what’s going to be needed before they see the RFP – so why not draft it while we have the benefit of time?)

And I want to make sure our team is posing the right questions in their conversations with the client before the proverbial shutters come down. Here’s a top ten list of things they might otherwise forget to ask:

  • What’s the real problem you’re trying to solve here – or opportunity you’re trying to exploit?
  • What benefits do you expect the supplier to deliver?
  • Why might you move away from your current supplier?
  • If I asked you to describe the ideal solution, what would it look like?
  • What do you see as the main risks or challenges for your selected supplier?
  • What budget do you have in place?
  • Do you have any concerns about our ability to successfully deliver this that we’ll need to address?
  • Who’s evaluating the proposal and approving the decision?
  • What will be their most important evaluation criteria?
  • If you could picture the ‘perfect proposal’, what would it look like?

It’s about focusing the capture plan into the things that will lead to a winning proposal – or, sometimes, getting a grip if no capture plan exists!

The most successful proposal organisations are no longer merely responsive to the RFP. Pre-proposal planning is a core process in their success.

This article was written by Jon Williams.

Jon and his team work with clients worldwide to help them establish winning proposal capabilities and to capture major deals. He has built and led numerous bid and proposal centres; managed, reviewed and benchmarked countless proposals; worked in over 35 countries; and trained many thousands of course participants.

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