Writing a Proposal – Developing a Winning Solution
Writing a proposal before development of a great solution is suicide – we live in a solution selling world. Happily, having completed your ‘Requirements Map’ the creation of an overview of your Solution becomes absolutely straightforward.
Your process for mapping out a solution will precisely mirror the ‘Requirement Mapping’ process – and the work you’ve already done in needs analysis will pay off in making the solution development process much, much faster.
You’ll go from your Requirement Map to a full-blown Solution Map in just four very easy steps – developing a clear picture of your solution to your client’s stated business problems.
Step One: Prepare your work area
Examine your Requirements Map, counting the number of columns (in our example there are four) and the number of rows (in our example there are seven).
Then, on a whiteboard or clear wall area, use those column & row counts to create a blank ‘Solution Map’ like the one shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1: Solution Map – working area
Note that I have given each row and column an alphabetic coordinate – to make it easier to reference each ‘pain’ when discussing them with colleagues
or note-taking – e.g. ‘B2’ on my sample ‘Requirements Map’ is ‘No IT Support or Programming’.
Step Two: Match a Solution to Each Pain/Requirement
Work through your Requirements Map matching the pain in each cell with a potential solution to that pain in the corresponding cell in the empty Solution Map you have just created.
Initially, seek out requirements that are quite simply answered by particular features or any well-defined product or service which you are sure you are going to offer as part of your proposal. For each of the business requirements / pains of a more subjective or complex nature, brainstorm until you have a solution, and then put this into your map. The extra sweat at this stage pay offs dividends when it comes to writing a proposal.
Work through this exercise until you have a Post It in every coordinate in the working map in your work area (see the Figure 2 below). When writing a proposal process of working through the development of the solution in this manner gives you a clarity that makes the actual writing very much easier.
Figure 2: All pains with matching solutions
If you reach a cell with a pain that you find you simply cannot address despite your application of all of the techniques discussed, and all of the best efforts of the team, then you may have to accept this as an unavoidable fact.
Assuming that you have done your ‘bid/no bid analysis’ well then any gap you do uncover should not be a “show-stopper”.
If such a gap does appear to be a genuine show-stopper then stop and re-run your bid/no-bid decision – if what you uncover tells you that you cannot win the business then make the right decision. Withdraw quickly. Be wary of being drawn into continuing the development of writing a proposal that has no chance of success – just because of the investment of time and effort to date – don’t ‘throw good money after bad’.
If you find gaps that you simply cannot address, but that you honestly do not think are absolute show-stoppers, then rest assured that addressing such gaps will be an important element of your selection of an overall strategy for your proposal — a topic which is discussed in the module entitled ‘Developing a Proposal Strategy’.
Step Three: Create a Solution Map Mirroring the Requirements Map
Select a title for each column of your Solution Map that you feel will be recognised by your client as addressing some particular aspect of their view of their requirement – a heading that summarises the main thrust of the points in each column.
Although the example in Figure 3 shares the same headings as the Requirement Map, they do not have to be identical. The headings should be selected for a combination of the extent to which they reflect your prospect’s preferred language and their effectiveness in describing the overall thrust of the content of the column. When writing a proposal design every heading to appeal to your prospective client readers.
Do I start writing now?
Having analysed your client’s requirement in the module ‘’Analyzing the Client Requirement’’and confident that you have a solution capable of winning the business, you could go straight into writing a proposal – using your Requirement and Solution Maps as a very firm foundation.
These two maps take care of two key sections of the ‘Winning’ proposal model introduced in the module called ‘’Business Proposal Format – Start With a Winning Structure’‘ and would have your proposal well underway.
But don’t rush to start writing – there are some things you can do to ‘bulletproof’ your proposal and greatly improve its chances of success.
For example, what if there was a way that you could have your client ‘bless’ your work to date – consider running a Pre-Proposal Review (PPR) before you go any further.
I’d also strongly suggest you have a strategy at the heart of your proposal. You can find out how to select a compelling strategy in the module entitled ’Developing a Proposal Strategy’.
Finally, do you think readers will prefer proposals that sound like they were written by you – or by one of their own team (perhaps even themselves)? Using familiar language and creating a tone that resonates with your key readers is not too difficult to achieve. It’s just for them, after all, that you’re writing a proposal.
Check out the module entitled ‘Getting Your Language Right’
But if you’re really itching to get writing and don’t want to absolutely maximize your proposal’s chance for success then you could go straight to ‘Preparing a
Proposal Outline’ (coming soon!) and get the writing underway straight away.
Writing a proposal when you know you have a great solution seems so much easier!
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