Defining relevant experience

A recent post described the fundamentals of including relevant experience and past performance in proposals. This week, we’ll look at how to describe your relevant experience.

Three levels of experience

Relevant experience can include overall experience, experience with similar projects and the experience of individuals on your proposed team.

As part of your bid strategy, brainstorm how each level of experience can build your case and find specific examples to support every claim you make. Work through each level separately to avoid overlooking any examples.

Dealing with weak experience

Ideally, you’re the perfect candidate for this just-issued RFP. You have a track record of nearly identical projects supported by client testimonials.

But that’s not always the case. At some point most bidders face the challenge of convincing prospects they can handle projects with larger or different scopes than they’ve managed before. Here are ways to handle these situations.

NOTE: Some RFPs ask for details of some number of completed projects that match the project on offer in key respects. This may be a compliance requirement—which means you are unlikely to get shortlisted or win if other proponents can provide this evidence. Consider this as part of your bid/no-bid decision described below.

Start by deciding whether to bid

Since proposal writing consumes scarce resources, use a bid/no-bid decision process to decide if you have a realistic chance of winning, given your lack of direct experience. Even if your chances are slim, a good process may identify other strategic reasons to bid.

Address experience gaps

Winning RFPs outside your usual area may involve stretching your experience. Here are three approaches to improving your score.

  • Build your team around related experience. Consider choosing a project and/or transition team that includes individuals who have worked in the prospect’s industry, or on similar projects with previous employers. The opportunity to highlight their experience may justify bypassing your standard selection process.
  • Identify sub-processes in which you have experience. Even if you haven’t completed similar projects, you must have experience in the processes involved, or you wouldn’t be bidding. Describe your experience for as much of the scope as possible and explain how you will fill the gaps. Consider using a graphic to show the areas of work by value or difficulty in which you have experience.
  • Partner with another company. Teaming to cover off parts of a solution is common in most industries. Many of our clients have standing relationships that let them quickly integrate partners or subcontractors into bids. When teaming, be sure to create a unified voice and messaging, and common formats for resumes and project sheets, so the prospect sees a seamless solution. An upcoming post will explain how to do this.

Can you make a reasonable case?

Whatever tactics you use, test them for plausibility. Schedule a blue team review to assess your strategy. If internal reviewers argue your experience claims are wobbly, revisit your strategy and/or your decision to bid.

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