Proposal Basics: Strategy

It’s always good practice to revisit proposal basics—that handful of things you need to get right to submit consistently strong RFQ and RFP responses.

First on our list is strategy.

“Answer all the questions” is not a strategy

Meeting all the requirements results in a compliant proposal—which only means it’s eligible for evaluation. But, assuming you have strong competition, your proposal needs to move beyond compliance and make the case for selecting your offer over others.

For this reason, it’s essential to develop and agree on a strategy, before kicking off content development.

Components of proposal strategy

  • Making a bid/no-bid decision: A thoughtful bid/no-bid decision, based on a consistent process involving key management stakeholders, enables better and faster decisions on new opportunities. See our series on bid/no-bid decision making, including our free bid/no-bid decision tool for more.
  • Understanding the prospect and project: Strategy begins with understanding the prospect’s underlying issues and strategic priorities, beyond simply what’s stated in the RFQ or RFP. Deep understanding enables you to design the ideal solution; it also convinces the prospect that you have insight into what’s involved in delivering the project.
  • Knowing your strengths: In addition to showing you understand, show the prospect you have the experience, capabilities and people to fulfill the contract. A winning strategy includes specific facts and examples that demonstrate strength, rather than empty claims.
  • Competitive intelligence: In tight proposal competitions, small differences among the top two or three contenders often make the difference between winning and losing. Rather than counting on evaluators to spot your unique advantages vis-à-vis competitors, identify them as part of strategy making—and decide how and where to express them in your proposal. For more, see this post on positioning your offer.
  • Documentation: Capture your strategy in a document that can be shared with the entire proposal team at kickoff, and that can be used to evaluate content and to guide reviews.

Strategy always pays off

We recommend taking about 10 percent of the response window to develop and document strategy before kickoff.

Some clients balk at the idea of devoting this much precious time before starting to develop content. But these are often the same clients who wind up endlessly rewriting unsatisfactory content—because subject matter experts (SMEs) were unclear on strategy.

To put it plainly: If you don’t have time for strategy, you don’t have time to write the proposal.

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