The Rationale for Eliminating Win Themes in Proposals

If you attended a proposal writing class years ago, the instructor taught you to include win themes in every major proposal section. The instructor told you to link win themes to discriminators found in your offer and that the most powerful win themes discriminated your offer from those of your competitors.

While it is good to differentiate your solution from competitors, it is only part of the equation needed to win. To win, you must consider the Government’s own instructions describing how they evaluate bids when using Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR) Part 15 15.101 Best value continuum, as opposed to FAR Part 15.101-2, where they look for the lowest price technically acceptable bid.

In FAR Part 15.305 Proposal Evaluation, the Government is clear how they evaluate best value bids, “Evaluations may be conducted using any rating method or combination of methods, including color or adjectival ratings, numerical weights, and ordinal rankings. The relative strengths, deficiencies, significant weaknesses, and risks supporting proposal evaluation shall be documented in the contract file.”

From FAR Part 15.305, we learn that we earn higher scores if we have more strengths in our proposal (not win themes) than other competitors. While the FAR does not explicitly define a strength, supplemental FARs created by Government departments define them. The Lohfeld Consulting Group distilled the thinking of the departments into the following definition: A Strength is a feature you propose with a preferably quantified, proven benefit of merit that:

  • Exceeds a contract requirement in a way beneficial to the customer
  • Increases the likelihood of successful contract performance (technical, schedule, cost, quality)
  • Increases the likelihood of successful mission accomplishment (agency mission, safety, lethality, etc.),
  • Significantly mitigates mission or contract risk.

Ideally, other bidders do not neutralize your strengths. In addition, a Strength must be substantiated with a quantitative/qualitative proof point that demonstrates you achieved the results you are proposing on a project of similar size, scope, and complexity.

In summary, strive to insert Strengths in your proposal that exceed contract requirements, increase the likelihood of successful performance, and reduce risk. Next link your Strengths to a quantitative/ qualitative proof point. After you evaluate your proposal solution against these criteria verify other bidders do not neutralize your Strength. Finally, spread Strengths across all evaluated criteria and not just each major proposal section for the win.

By Brenda Crist, Vice President at Lohfeld Consulting Group, MPA, CPP APMP Fellow

Lohfeld Consulting Group has proven results specializing in helping companies create winning captures and proposals.
As the premier capture and proposal services consulting firm focused exclusively on government markets, we provide expert assistance to government contractors in Go-to-Market Strategy, Capture Planning and Strategy, Proposal Management and Writing, Capture and Proposal Process and Infrastructure, and Training. In the last 3 years, we’ve supported over 550 proposals winning more than $170B for our clients—including the Top 10 government contractors. Lohfeld Consulting Group is your “go-to” capture and proposal source! Start winning by contacting us at and join us on LinkedInFacebook, and Twitter.

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