“Great” or “Too little, too late”? 3 Steps to a Winning Proposal
Written by Kimberly MacArthur Graham on June 15, 2015
This week, a longtime client requested pricing for the “proposal response that will win.” We both chuckled before inking the deal. Don’t get me wrong; we both want and expect to win! But as an experienced pursuit manager with an enviable win rate, he understands that a document alone won’t bring work home.
If you’re new to the public procurement process, it’s important to realize that once the RFQ/RFP is out, the game is half-over (at least). Long before your proposal team can develop an outstanding document that is compelling, clear, and on-message, you need to do your homework and position your firm to win with a purposeful, targeted campaign.
Here are 3 key steps to winning your next pursuit:
1. LISTEN | Arrange one-on-one high level discussions with the client’s key decision-makers to understand the project and the client, including any objections they may have to selecting your firm.
2. DIGEST | Based on said dialogue, plus research, fully develop your understanding of:
- The client’s key challenges, including specific items such as e.g., funding, permitting and environmental regulations, stakeholder issues, phasing requirements, etc., etc.
- The client’s key goals, both materially and in terms of public outreach or goodwill
- Lessons the client learned on past projects – What past issues do they most fear?
- What the client liked and didn’t like about previous project teams
- Your main competition for this project, and how your firm compares (be honest)
3. RESPOND | Using all this intelligence, develop a compelling response that includes:
- An unassailable team of experts whose experience collectively addresses the project’s (client’s) key challenges, issues, and goals
- Clear messaging and proposal themes that will resonate with the client
- Fully customized content – no boilerplate! – including call-outs, testimonials, and graphics that are directly relevant
The proposal process can be overwhelming, but remember it’s a conversation — and the client is listening carefully. Use research, strategy, and pre-proposal positioning tools (e.g., social media or website presence) to make sure that every word will count.