The Value of Your Win Strategy in the Proposal Phase
“Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth.” –Mike Tyson.
While some proposal initiatives may seem as painful as getting hit by Mr. Tyson, most are not as dynamic as a heavyweight fight. Once a request for proposal (RFP) is released, the statement of objectives (SOO), instructions, and evaluation criteria remain mostly stable and consistent despite amendments. But like a fight with Mr. Tyson, you and your business are constantly fighting to win in the dynamic proposal development environment.
In any proposal effort, a multitude of decisions are made by both leadership and authors. Win strategy and solution decisions that are win-critical should be centralized and governed by leadership. However, not all decisions can be anticipated or controlled. To remain efficient and effective, authors need latitude to do their jobs within defined constraints—while understanding the strategy for the overall bid.
What Is a Win Strategy and Why Does It Matter to a Proposal?
In its simplest form, a win strategy is an elevated plan to win, and it’s not just the domain of business development (BD) and capture teams. Everyone working on a proposal wants to do their part to get the win. We’ve all worked on must-win proposals. (Who’s ever worked on a must-lose proposal? No one.) For your win strategy to be effective, your proposal team must understand it.
Your win strategy should have guided and been refined by months of pre-RFP work and substantial pre-RFP investments. The win strategy must include solution elements and strengths that are most compelling to the customer and provide competitive differentiation.
Lohfeld Consulting defines a strength as a feature you propose with an associated proven benefit that:
- Exceeds a contract requirement in a way beneficial to the customer (they would be willing to pay for it).
- Increases the likelihood of successful contract performance (technical, schedule, cost, quality).
- Increases the likelihood of successful mission accomplishment (agency mission, safety, lethality, etc.).
- Mitigates mission or contract risk.
- Ideally is not neutralized by other bidders; in other words, it becomes a discriminator for your bid.
A win strategy must be bid-specific to add value to the proposal in ways relevant to the RFP Sections L, M, and C.
If your win strategy doesn’t define a clear path to a win, something is wrong with your win strategy and solution. How can your proposal team possibly invent a way to win when your BD and capture leadership couldn’t?
What Are Some Benefits of Win Strategy Applied in the Proposal Phase?
Here are some ways that applying your win strategy during the proposal phase can benefit your proposal development efforts and resulting submission:
- Win strategy guides known proposal decisions. When critical corporate decisions are made based on months and (sometimes) years of BD marketing and solution positioning efforts, those investments should be leveraged. Therefore, proposal decisions should be informed by client meetings, knowledge of hot buttons, etc.—everything you invested in before the RFP release.
- Win strategy guides unanticipated proposal decisions. No matter how well intended and focused your BD and capture work before the RFP release (think pink team ready before RFP), your solution is never completely done and refined before that final RFP is issued. Some proposal phase decision-making is inevitable. While a core leadership team might be able to control the content of a 20-page response, that ability wanes quickly if the proposal is much larger.
- Win strategy saves B&P money. Having a solid win strategy makes proposal development easier and more effective. With a clear strategy, solution, and strengths, authors know what to emphasize in their writing so their content isn’t just compliant but resonates with evaluators and scores well.
- Win strategy unifies your messages and your solutions. Win strategy is a vital part of top-down content that leadership must infuse into all proposal sections. Without a win strategy, your proposal becomes a series of compliant—but not necessarily unified and compelling—bottom-up sections developed by well-intended authors who might or might not understand the big picture. The solution comprises both its substance (what it is, specific details) and how you communicate it to evaluators (its features and strengths communicated in a way that is clear, compelling, and easy to score well).
- Win strategy can make your messages more compelling. Your win strategy, strengths, and story should be aligned and consistently communicated. Look to advertising. Listen to any ad on a favorite podcast and notice how often advertisers state the product name, features, and benefits. To provide compelling strengths, your proposal must do more than provide a theme. It must apply your solution to the client’s problem in a clear, compelling way.
An investment in developing a solid win strategy always pays off. Once developed, you should continue to deliberately apply your win strategy to guide the tactics of your proposal. Unless you have a sole source opportunity, every proposal you write has a competitor trying to punch you in the mouth. The inevitable dynamics of the proposal phase ensure you will take a hit or two and get knocked off your planned approach. Keep your guard up and use your win strategy throughout the proposal phase to make sure you come out the winner.
By Bill Szymanski, Lohfeld Consulting Principal Consultant
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 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 www.lohfeldconsulting.com and join us on LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube(TM) and X (Twitter).
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