Making Your Proposal a Success

© Syda Productions - Fotolia.com

© Syda Productions – Fotolia.com

This is a guest post by Marsha Lindquist of Granite Leadership Strategies.

When you are spending your money on developing proposals, you want to increase the odds that you will win. That spells success and business but from a financial perspective, it spells a good return on your investment (ROI). Even though you likely get reimbursement of your bid and proposal costs through your contracts, you want to make wise use of those dollars.

Proposal failure is not in your vocabulary. So what increases the odds that your proposal will be a success, translating your proposal into a win? You want to improve your chances of winning your next bid. Here are a few points to keep in mind.

What questions would you recommend a company get the answers to before the RFP is released?

There is a never ending list of things you can get before an RFP is released. Following a formal capture planning process is the most effective, proven, best practice for getting as many of these answers before RFP Release. At a minimum you should know:

  1. Customer – know your customer: who they are (organization chart – identify the key decision makers and influencers), and mission and vision for theme development. And know your position with this client. Is there time to build a relationship? How well known are you?
  2. Scope – understanding the background of the requirement from a program and technical perspective is key to determining risks from a business, contractual and technical standpoint. What is the customer buying and asking you to price? Has the client endorsed your solution?
  3. Hot Buttons – what are the top three issues facing the client and how does your solution solve those problems?
  4. Competitors – does a competitor have a stronger position or inside track? Who are the top competitors and what is your strategy to counter their strategies?
  5. Discriminators – what is unique or significantly different in your approach that will influence the customer to select you?
  6. Win Strategy – what are the top five things you need to do to win this deal?
  7. Other – how can you lose? Are you challenging your assumptions? Have you done a black hat or SWOT? Do you know your vulnerabilities and issues? And if so, what is your plan of action to mitigate these? Do you have staffing challenges? What is your pricing strategy?

There are many factors involved in qualifying an opportunity that include not only asking the customer questions, but the timeline in which you work to qualify the requirement, understanding the customers preferences and biases, putting a winning team together, including identifying qualified staff to write the proposal without adversely impacting an existing contract or proposal effort.

There are tools on the market you can purchase to help quantify data as these questions are being answered. There are also tools to help calculate your probability of win, which should increase as you implement your plans. There are also services you can purchase that develop, populate and manage these tools and all the data points that feed into your capture plan which are utilized in making your bid/no bid decision. Whichever approach you decide to use, at a minimum, decide to utilize a capture planning process that organizes the inputs, and manages the outputs.

What are the most important things you must do to avoid proposal failure?

  1. Planning. Planning will help avoid inappropriate assignments, reactive behavior and decision making. Strategic planning provides a framework for decisions, is conceptual and directional (account planning and capture planning), and motivates, informs and stimulates change.
  2. Compliance. Trying to tell your own story without addressing the requirement, not following instructions and ignoring the evaluation criteria is a recipe for a losing proposal effort. Since no one personal evaluates an entire proposal, it’s incumbent upon the offeror to make it easy for the reviewers to evaluate your proposal. Excellent responses don’t mean any points if the evaluator can’t find them or you don’t address the requirement. It translates to “risk” to the customer.
  3. Limiting budgets and resources. If you are not going to take proposals seriously, very seriously, then don’t plan to spend a penny getting started. You need people who know how to plan, organize and write. Even the presentation and verbiage (proposal language) will leave an impression on the evaluators. This is your company image as well, don’t fall into the trap of thinking your technical people can write a technical report and call it a proposal. Invest in the appropriate people and resources to produce a quality, well thought out and organized, winning proposal.

There are a lot of upfront steps to complete before getting to the proposal, such as developing corporate growth strategies & planning, market assessment & positioning, opportunity identification and qualification, pipeline development and management, capture management, and finally proposal management. So you see, if you are not investing the appropriate time and resources up front, your probability of a successful proposal effort drops significantly.

Marsha Lindquist, President of Granite Leadership Strategies, Inc., has over 30 years experience as a business expert in Government contracting. She has enhanced her clients’ cost competitiveness, improved their contractual positioning, and solidified overall strategies with companies including BP Amoco, DynCorp, and Northrop Grumman. Marsha adds value by telling you what you need to hear. For more information on her, please visit http://wwwGraniteLeadershipStrategies.com.

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This article was originally published on the Granite Leadership Strategies blog at http://www.graniteleadershipstrategies.com/making-your-proposal-a-success/ and was reprinted with permission.

 


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