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Should you delay starting a proposal until your plans are complete?

The moment the RFP is released, you are running out of time to complete your proposal. And yet you don’t want to jump straight into writing until you’ve thoroughly planned the proposal. If you do, you dramatically increase the risk of failure when you fall into the trap of preparing revision after revision until you figure out what’s supposed to go into your proposal.

It’s much better to plan your proposal’s content so that you can avoid major re-writes. Unfortunately, that kind of planning takes time — potentially a lot of time. And it is possible to wreck a proposal by spending too much time on planning. So where do you draw the line? How do you know when your plans are good enough to start writing?

Proposal planning is the topic of February’s online training course. We’re going to present and discuss what kind of planning you should do, and how to go about making the trade-off between planning and writing.

Knowing how much time to devote to planning versus writing and when to make the switch is a judgment call. One approach would be to look at it as a “to do” list of everything you need to have before you make the switch. This would include things like a compliance matrix, outline, assignments, schedule, content plan, production plan, and validation plan. The problem with this approach is that it does not address the quality of the items, and that’s what consumes the most time.

Another approach is to focus on the questions that you should be able to answer before you start writing. For example:

  • Do you know why the customer should select you?
  • Can you articulate what it will take to win?
  • Have you turned what it will take to win into quality criteria to validate the proposal against?
  • Do you know what needs to go into each proposal section?
    • Is the outline complete?
    • Are all RFP requirements allocated?
    • Do you know the ingredients for each section?
  • Do you know how it’s all going to get done in time?
  • Do you have resources assigned to every part of the outline?
  • Are you plans stable enough to implement?
  • Have you validated your plans?
If you know which questions your proposal plans need to answer before you start writing, you are in a better position to accelerate your proposal planning efforts. First you should map your pre-RFP efforts to the questions so that at RFP release you have most of the answers. You should also have the format you want the answers in already established so that preparing the plans becomes a simple matter of filling out the form or executing the checklist.

This is the approach we have taken with the MustWin Process. The Pre-RFP Readiness Review questions are designed to provide the information you need to prepare the proposal plans and to provide them in the right format. The idea is to minimize the level of effort required for the act of producing the plans so that you can maximize the amount of time you have to think about what goes into the plans.

The course we offer in February will identify what should go into your proposal plans, how planning can be streamlined to reduce the impact it has on your schedule, and how planning impacts proposal risk and quality. When you do these things, you can change planning from a burden that consumes valuable writing time, to a value added that reduces writing time, makes progress measurable, makes quality knowable, and gives your team the tools it needs to know how to win.


 A Premium Membership to our site comes with the equivalent of 8 hours of training every month in addition to our MustWin Process documentation 

Price: $495.00

By Carl Dickson, Founder of

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