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Bid Strategies: The Wrong Way

The right way to develop winning bid strategies is to get to know the customer months ahead of RFP release. During this time you can position yourself to win and be prepared to write to the customer's unwritten requirements and evaluation considerations. But then there is the real world. Even though bidding something at the last minute is a bad idea, companies often can't resist. Of all the tutorials we have published, the one we enjoyed writing the most was How to Do Proposals The Wrong Way. We describe it as a worst practices manual for doing real world proposals. It was written to help people cope with a proposal they probably shouldn't even be bidding.

We are writing a future tutorial on business development strategies, and in each of the last several issues, we've included an article on that topic. Recently we've addressed how to bid against (or as) an incumbent and strategies for writing about pricing. For this issue, the topic is how to preparing winning bid strategies The Wrong Way.

When you only have a few days to prepare a proposal, you can't take several days to work out a detailed plan and annotated outline. That would be the right way to do it. To write a response to an RFP in just a couple of days, the first thing to do is to achieve compliance. Get the writing that addresses their requirements started. If possible, use a point-by-point format. Once you have a compliant document, then you can add your win themes and bid strategies. You'll probably need the time it takes to write the compliance response, just to figure out what your bid strategies should be. Remember: this is The Wrong Way to do it. For a winning proposal you want the win themes and bid strategies to be fully integrated with the solution so that the entire proposal serves to support them.

Once you have achieved simple compliance then you can look at where your strengths are. If your staffing is well qualified, but expensive, then emphasize the quality you offer. If you have relevant corporate experience, emphasize your proven ability to deliver and risk mitigation. Also, look at the client's mission and goals for the project, and emphasize how you will help them achieve those goals. Then, just for good measure, throw in a statement about the value in your offering.

If your are writing to an RFP that has written evaluation criteria, write a statement that describes how you fullfil each item that they are looking for. If there is no written evaluation criteria, write a statement that reflects the customer's needs and desires. If you don't know the customer very well, write a statement describing:

  • How the strengths in your staffing will benefit the customer
  • How the strengths in your experience will benefit the customer
  • How your proven ability to manage the work will benefit the customer
  • Any other major features of your proposal and how they will benefit the customer
  • How it all adds up to your offering being the best way the customer can achieve their goals at the best possible value.

If you put a sentence or two on each of the above in your introduction, it will greatly strengthen your proposal. You've got to give them a reason to want you in the proposal --- simple compliance is not enough. At the same time, you don't have enough time to plan before you write and then write to the plan. But if you can get something compliant on paper, then you can give it a fighting chance with a couple of paragraphs in the introduction to state what is special about what you have to offer.


By Carl Dickson, Founder of CapturePlanning.com



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