Most proposals are won or lost before they even enter the submission stage. The proposal preparation and completion process can make or break the success of your efforts. Below, we've laid out seven ways to positively affect your proposal win rate.
This is perhaps the most obvious point, but also one of the most significant. Too often, companies are quick to jump at opportunities without first stopping to thoroughly evaluate if a given project is a good fit for their budget, expertise and capabilities.
Assessing whether you have the time and resources to succeed before beginning the proposal process is imperative to avoid wasting valuable resources down the road. Can everyone in your company fully commit to completing the proposal? Do you have access to the appropriate experts and the resources to propel the project forward to completion? Does the RFP fit with your company's specialties, past performance and current functional abilities? Is the timeline feasible given your current workload?
Taking stock of your available resources and staff is increasingly important if you already have proposals in flight, as it's possible that you may have the expertise to win a bid, but not the current availability to take on the requirements of the project. When it comes to writing proposals, there's nothing worse than over-promising or overburdening your staff as this often impedes quality work.
Ideally, before you receive an RFP, you should already be in conversations with your potential client. This should give you insight into their needs, budget, the obligation involved and even who your potential competitors are. If you know your audience and have already started shaping the way they see your company, then you're already on track to create a more effective pitch.
When it comes to executing a successful proposal, your process can make or break your efforts. The more you organize and clearly define roles, responsibilities, timelines and requirements at the beginning of a project, the more likely your work will be fruitful. It's often productive to start with a standard proposal methodology and tailor it accordingly to fit the unique requirements of a given RFP. Most popular proposal processes involve outlines, storyboards and color team reviews, among other things. Whatever process you choose, make sure it's comprehensive and fits the project in question.
A compliance matrix is one of the first things that should be produced after accepting an RFP. Not only does a compliance matrix help ensure that you meet all the requirements of a given project, it can also serve to guide your process and proposal structure.
Furthermore, a compliance matrix can serve as a legend to show reviewers exactly where in a proposal you've answered each of the requirements. If there’s no place within the proposal to include the legend, affix it to the inside cover to make it easy for reviewers to see that you've answered every component of the RFP.
When you have multiple people from different departments, offices and even time zones working on the same proposal, it can be difficult to ensure the consistency and flow of language and ideas in the completed document. Ask questions and agree on overall proposition, style, voice, word choice, and quantitative details. Break down the high-level scoring categories into relevant questions raised in the evaluator’s mind as they read. Answer each relevant question as part of the revision, breaking down the answers into simple steps and terms. Your proposal says a lot about you. Make sure it's the message evaluators want to hear.
Collaborative tools can help facilitate communication, tighten version control and allow you to track comments and edits from everyone involved on a project. They make it easier to maintain consistency and allow you to leverage the expertise of your entire organization, even if they aren't located in the same location. Collaborative tools also help clearly define the proposal creation process by making roles, responsibilities, deadlines and updates available to all parties in real-time.
The key to winning more proposals lies in accurately evaluating your win rate prior to entering the bid process. You should have a system in place for determining the risk/reward of each opportunity in your pipeline, so that you don't pour resources into dead end pursuits. Forecasting rates shouldn't be viewed as a guarantee, however — they should simply provide direction to help you determine how to rank incoming leads and highlight what opportunities should be eliminated from consideration.
Having this collaborative discussion up-front will ensure your team isn't tilting at windmills. Lifting this discussion out of email and moving it to a centralized collaboration platform will deliver a more productive team dialogue by avoiding the miscommunication and conflicting points of view that can easily disrupt the schedule.