Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Critical Point: Strategy

 July 17, 2018
by Paul Heron

This month we’re posting on critical points in the bid lifecycle—those where opportunities can be won or lost. Previous posts focused on pre-RFP pursuit and on the bid/no-bid decision.

This post covers strategy—in our experience the single biggest improvement opportunity for most bidders.

Develop strategy first

Take time right after the bid decision to define and document your strategy.

Delay kicking off with content developers until you’re ready to implement a clear win strategy. Premature kick-offs doom your proposal efforts to focus on compliance (which avoids disqualification, but has no selling value), or to present an incoherent mix of whatever each section writer decides is the strategy.

Follow these high-level steps:

  • Gather a select group, including the capture manager, proposal manager, solution manager(s) and others key individuals. Limit the group to 10 or fewer.
  • Start with your pre-RFP pursuit discovery and use facilitation and process tools to develop responses to each of the issuer’s key strategic drivers and hot button issues. Draft value propositions for each major section and for the economic buyer, technical buyer(s) and user buyer(s). Decide how to position your company, team and solution against likely competitors by major issue.
  • Circulate the group’s output to participants for review and input, and then create a one or two-page summary of your strategy. Organize the summary by key themes, main response sections and buyer types
  • Circulate the summary to a wider group (which may include trusted outside partners) and then convene a meeting to review and gather additional ideas.
  • Update your strategy summary with the additional input.

Plan to invest 10-15 percent of the available time to submission in pre-kick off strategy making and preparation.

Test strategy with a Blue Team review

Test your strategy using the ideas in this post on Blue Team reviews. In large or very competitive situations, consider also conducting a Black Hat review.

Well-managed reviews will either confirm your strategy or make it stronger. In rare cases they expose fatal flaws that avoid further investment in unwinnable opportunities.

What to do

Here’s how to start building and implementing better proposal strategies:

  • Build internal support for defining and documenting strategy early.
  • Follow the steps above and the linked posts to plan and run your strategy sessions.
  • Draft the executive summary as part of your strategy process.
  • Create a strategy document as part of the proposal plan.


A strategy-first approach to proposals creates alignment from the outset, resulting in dramatically better first drafts. Understanding the strategy and how it applies to their sections will enable your team will work more efficiently, feel more confident—and produce more wins.

Next week: Critical Point: Kick-off planning and execution


Need help building strategies that can win more business?

Contact Complex2Clear



Photo credit

Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn 






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