Five Proposal Resolutions for Increased Win Rates

As we head into 2020, many of us are making our New Year’s resolutions. I have some professional goals that I’m working towards—including continuing with these blog posts—as well as some overall health and wellbeing initiatives that I’m pursuing. On top of these more individualized goals, another goal many of us have for 2020 is increasing our win rates. Here are five resolutions you can make this year to help increase your overall win rates. 

1. Start Earlier
One critical thing you can do to increase your win rates is 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.

By starting early, you’ll have sufficient time to build critical customer relationships and document competitive intelligence—which will significantly increase your chances of winning.

2. Document Your Capture Intelligence
Another key thing you can do to increase your win rates is to be more diligent about documenting 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.

By documenting the capture intelligence in a solid Capture Plan, you’ll improve the quality of content that makes it into your proposal—which will ultimately increase your probability of winning.

3. Maintain Your Reuse Materials
Having up-to-date reuse materials will help make the proposal process smoother so that the writing team can focus on weaving in themes and tailoring content to meet the customer’s specific needs. To improve your proposal readiness, make an effort to keep baseline past performance write-ups, proof points, and metrics current and up-to-date.

When your reuse content is ready and up-to-date upon RFP is release, you’ll increase your probability of win because your team can focus more time on integrated themes and tailoring content to meet the customer’s needs.

4. Make Smart Bid Decisions
Another key way to increase your overall win rate is to make smarter bid decisions. It can be difficult to ignore the sunk costs that have gone into a pursuit; however, it’s critical to consider 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 increase proposal staff turnover.

When you focus your resources on efforts with a higher probability of success, your overall win rate will improve.

5. Conduct Lessons Learned
Another way to improve your win rate is to make sure you are diligent about conducting lessons learned debriefs. When analyzing your lessons learned, look at common themes and share those trends with your team. Understanding these trends will not only help you to improve in the areas that may need some work, it will also allow you to pinpoint the things that have enabled you to score well.

By addressing key shortfalls as the year progresses, your team can continually improve to increase your probability of success—and win more as a result!

Final Thoughts
Remember, the best proposal resolutions you can make this year start well before the RFP is released. Start earlier, document your capture intelligence, maintain your reuse library, and make smart bid decisions. But don’t forget to conduct critical lessons learned after all is said in done. These resolutions encourage you and your teams to prepare well in advance of the RFP, make smarter bid decisions, and continually improve—which are all critical first steps in improving 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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