Clear thinking

Learn how to improve your proposals and win more business.

Communicating strategy to writers

 November 8, 2016
by Paul Heron

This month, we’re blogging on how to manage content developers. Poor proposal drafts may reflect on the writers’ (or editors’)—abilities but just as often they’re caused by failure to manage effectively.

The first step is ensuring writers understand—and can express—win strategies.

Note: We’re assuming you’ve developed a strategy that’s responsive to the prospect’s requirements, reflects insight into strategic drivers and hot button issues and positions your offer against likely competitors. If you have any doubts in this area, please see this blog post on developing proposal strategy.

Formulate strategy before kick-off

Avoid circulating RFPs or launching content development until strategy is complete. Too many bidders kick off proposal writing right after deciding to bid. These loosely organized kick-offs do little to support content developers.

In fact, as this blog post argues, premature kick-offs can be counterproductive.

Make a plan to communicate strategy

With an approved strategy in hand, plan a proposal kick-off meeting agenda that includes giving content developers clear direction on strategy.

Distribute a strategy summary that includes the following:

  • Prospect: Strategic drivers; hot button issues; perceptions of your company, etc.
  • Competitive Factors: Your strengths and perceived weaknesses; comparison matrix of bidders
  • Proposal Themes and Strategies:  Key elements of your solution; your experience and performance; project partners and contractors; section strategies, summaries, and value propositions; executive summary

Facilitate a conversation aimed at making writers comfortable answering the following:

  • Why is this purchase important for the prospect? (Strategic drivers)
  • What specific issues and features do likely evaluators care about? (Hot button issues)
  • Where is our solution strong and where do our competitors have the edge?
  • For the item above, how can we best express our strengths and defend against our weaknesses?
  • How can we best express our main value propositions?

Provide strategy guidance by section

Even writers who can answer these questions may need help applying the strategy.  

Be prepared to talk through how issues and strategic responses relate to specific sections. For example:

  • If cost is a key driver for the RFP, how do strategies to manage cost over the contract life relate to solution design, implementation, performance reporting practices, and other aspects of the RFP response?
  • If meeting a hard go-live date is critical, how do your team’s decisions around solution design and transition planning and your project governance process mitigate risk of late delivery?

You should also be able to indicate section-specific opportunities to position your solution against competitors. For example, under the second point above, can you claim provable advantages in minimizing risks to on-time delivery?

The payoff

How much strategy support do you need to provide? That depends on your people and how much requirements and your strategies vary from one RFP to the next.

If you make this effort, you should also expect—and get—stronger and more complete content. To ensure that happens, see next week’s post on providing frameworks and tools to guide content developers.

Next week: Writer frameworks and tools


Need help translating strategy into content?

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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