Key task: Win strategy

This month we’re posting on critical tasks 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 making the bid decision to define and document your strategy.

Delay kicking off with content developers until you’re ready to communicate a clear win strategy for the proposal overall and for each main section. Premature kick-offs doom your proposal efforts to focus on compliance alone (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 other 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.


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

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