The key to a successful proposal is to set strategy and plan your response. I’ve recently seen otherwise well organized companies struggle with their proposals at the last minute and as a result, submit proposals that don’t include enough winning ingredients.

In my book, the first thing I discuss is being strategic. I say “Successful proposals begin with a strategic approach to winning the business and the proposal itself simply executes that strategy.” I also indicate that proposal writing isn’t a tactical activity, it’s a strategic activity.

Later, I devote an entire chapter to developing strategy, however I don’t stop there – many other chapters include strategies for specific areas of proposal development. It’s simply that important.The problem I see is that not enough time is devoted to the proposal at the start of the process, right after the RFP is received (or before it’s received if you know it’s coming). This time should be to develop your strategy to winning the business, researching the client, gathering information, preparing themes, messages, hot buttons. You should also develop guidance for your subject matter experts so when you ask them to contribute material, it’s earlier in the process and tells them what you need instead of simply asking them to send you something. It saves time in the overall process and gets you the information you need to address your strategy.

I think many organizations simply look at it as ‘writing’ a proposal when it should be about ‘developing’ a proposal. The writing part is how you get it down on paper, but if you haven’t started with your strategy, the words will have a lot less impact.

So what’s the solution? It’s having a process that begins as soon as you know there is an RFP coming out, or as soon as you get a copy if you didn’t know in advance. In my book, I deal with this in Part 2 – Survival of the Fittest. I outline the 12 steps in the process you need to follow to be successful.

The 12 steps are:

  1. Pre-RFP issue
  2. RFP Review
  3. Strategy
  4. Kick-Off
  5. Pricing Model
  6. Service Solution
  7. Management Solution
  8. Style Sheet
  9. Project Plan
  10. Version Control
  11. Iteration and Consolidation
  12. Production & Delivery

Yes, writing is part of the process, but it happens in parallel with some of the key steps. Not all of these steps have to happen one after the other, some are in parallel or can be done in a different order, depending on the specifics of your company, your service and the RFP. I cover each of these steps in more detail, along with checklists where appropriate. Starting in Part 3, I go over the techniques and strategies you use to develop your proposal and put it all together, but the overall steps remain the same. Its heavily weighted to developing a strategy before you spend too much time writing.

If you don’t do anything else, be sure to have a plan and develop some strategy before it’s too late in the process. Otherwise, you’ll be forced by the deadline to submit a proposal that won’t impress your potential client and may not win the business.


Our Book "Win More Business - Write Better Proposals". is now available at Amazon in many countries, including the USA , Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and France. You can also order it directly from the author on this website

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