Three “Proposal” Resolutions to Increase Your Win Rate

I know most of my content is typically proposal focused, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret that successful companies already embrace: proposals do not win opportunities, capture does. If you’re focusing the majority of your time and energy on an effort after the request for proposal (RFP) has been released, then you’re not setting yourself up for a high probability of win. Here are three resolutions you can make this year to increase your overall win rate.  

1. Start Earlier. Long-term planning provides corporate awareness of upcoming opportunities aligned with strategic goals. Once opportunities are targeted, Capture Managers should begin gathering customer, opportunity, and competitive intelligence. Remember that building a relationship with your customer and understanding their underlying concerns takes time. Without solid customer relationships, you won’t have the opportunity to understand their programmatic concerns or determine what really keeps them up at night. Further, you won’t be able to develop solutions to meet their needs and vet those solutions prior to the RFP release. Once the RFP is released, the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) limits customer interaction, so it’s too late for effective opportunity shaping and solution vetting.

2. Document Your Capture Intelligence. An effective Capture Manager builds the approach and win themes around intelligence gathered and documented during the capture phase. But how often have you entered the proposal phase with an incomplete or nonexistent Capture Plan? The Capture Plan is a critical document for transferring knowledge of the customer, opportunity, and competition to the proposal team. I’ll use the analogy of baking a cake. If the ingredients you put into the batter are rotten, or you leave out a critical ingredient, what kind of cake will result? If the capture information feeding your proposal is similarly bad or incomplete, you can expect a comparable proposal product.

3. Make Smart Bid Decisions. This is a hard one for many companies because it is so difficult to ignore the sunk costs that have gone into a pursuit; however, smart executives will not discount the opportunity costs of developing and submitting a proposal with a low probability of win. Remember to reassess the bid decision once the RFP is released and, if necessary, during key proposal reviews. Critical questions to ask include:
  • Does the opportunity fit your business plan?
  • Do you have an excellent customer relationship?
  • Do you understand the customer’s goals, issues, and requirements?
  • Do you have/can you get the people to support the requirement?
  • Do you have the required experience/past performance? Can you team if not?
  • Do you have the required corporate commitment and resources?
  • Do you have a committed proposal team? Can you augment your staff with consultants if not?

With a live RFP, if the answer to any of the above is NO, you should think long and hard about whether you should really be pursuing the opportunity at hand. In addition to lowering your overall win rate, consistently pursuing opportunities with low probabilities of win is an ineffective use of resources, which can burn out your staff, lower morale, and result in increased proposal staff turnover.

Remember, the best proposal resolutions you can make this year start well before the RFPs are released. Start earlier, document your capture intelligence, and make smart bid decisions. Hopefully these three easy resolutions will go a long way in helping you increase your win rate this year.

Happy bidding!

Written by Ashley Kayes, CP APMP

Senior Proposal Consultant, AOC Key Solutions, Inc. (KSI)


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