A Simple Process to Develop
Effective Win Strategies and Theme Statements
How often does your team discuss strategies and themes, and then fail to include them in your proposal response in a meaningful way?
I’d like to offer my simple and effective method to develop strategies and theme statements, and carry them through to your proposal in a way that is congruent between all of its parts and enables the reviewer to clearly recognize all thematic messages.
Strategy: The method you use to accomplish a challenging task. Your strategy answers the question ‘how will you perform a task to achieve a goal.’
Theme: The subject that is being discussed and the manner in which you present and discuss the information. For proposals, your themes should support the strategy.
Themes have the following attributes:
- They directly address a customer mission-related need.
- They indicate a unique or somewhat unique attribute of your approach.
They are immediately following with a short statement that describes how or why your unique attribute addresses the customer’s need (why your approach is beneficial to the customer).
Step 1. Understand the Customer’s Goals
The process begins by answering the following questions:
- What is the customer’s mission?
- What will the customer achieve by having the contractor perform the specified work?
- How does the specified work enable the customer to better achieve their mission?
We often find that unless the team understands what the customer does and how the work allows them to achieve the mission, the strategy and themes are disconnected from what the customer is trying to achieve with the procurement.
Step 2. Make a List
Make a list. Pretty simple, right? Okay, this is definitely Proposals 101, but you might be surprised how often this step is overlooked.
List the customer’s issues. Do not get too fancy, but make certain they reflect real and meaningful (challenging) issues the customer is facing.
|2(i) Identify the issue:
|2(ii) Rephrase the issue as a need:
|a.||Slow help desk support||Improved IT help desk support|
|b.||Contractor does not use ITSM best practices||Contractor personnel who are experienced with ITSM|
|c.||Contractor personnel are not efficiently managed||Contractor personnel who are effectively and efficiently managed|
|d.||Positions remain unfilled for extended periods||Rapid filling of vacated positions|
Step 3. Analyze the Need from the Perspective of Your Company or Team
This is a two-part iterative step that first determines the way or ways that your team will address the customer’s need, and then analyzes the strength of your approach against that of known competitors.
Step 3(a). Describe How Your Team Addresses the Need
Now you need to determine if your team is able to meet the customer’s needs (see 2(ii) in the table above). Analyze each need and determine your approach to meeting that need.
|Need (from 2(ii))||Feature|
|a||Improved IT help desk support||· Establish and track performance metrics
· Implement a Continual Service Improvement program
· Use an established (proven) Service Desk User Response Model
|b||Contractor personnel who are experienced with ITSM||· Use of ITIL certified resources with ITIL and ITSM experience|
|c||Contractor personnel who are effectively and efficiently managed||· Assignment of experienced senior level management on-site or near the workforce
· Designation of immediate reachback to senior level company manager or executive
|d||Rapid filling of vacated positions||· Depth of experienced/qualified resources within team structure
· Maintenance of a virtual bench with vetted replacement personnel
· Recruiting capability/network and hiring process proven to rapidly find and hire experienced and qualified personnel
This is where most teams stop the process. They insert a standard ‘Needs-Features-Benefits’ box at or near the front of their proposal and ignore it from there. The features you develop here that address the customer’s needs should be included in the section of the proposal where the subject related to the need is discussed.
Step 3(b). Conduct a Gap Analysis
For each issue, need, and feature, perform a Gap Analysis and find your discriminators.
|Need (from 2(ii))||Bidder A
|Bidder C||Bidder D|
|a||Improved IT help desk support||Yes
· See Step 3(a)
|b||Contractor personnel who are experienced with ITSM||Yes
· See Step 3(a)
|c||Efficient management of contractor personnel||Yes
· See Step 3(a)
|d||Rapid filling of vacated positions||Yes
· See Step 3(a)
*Because customer issues and needs reflect their current condition, often the incumbent will lack an effective capability that resolves the issue. They are basically forced to promise something to the customer that they have not provided in the past.
Using your features and information from the Gap Analysis, you can determine how to showcase your strengths, ghost their weaknesses, mitigate your weaknesses, and offset their strengths. The diagram below shows the relationship between your strengths and their weaknesses, and between your weaknesses and their strengths. By showcasing your strengths, you can implicitly showcase (or “ghost”) their weaknesses. Your weaknesses are relative to (a) a gap you have in meeting the customer’s needs, and (b) your competitor’s strengths. When you mitigate your weakness, you are effectively offsetting the impact of their strengths.
Step 4. Develop Win Themes
Keep your Win Themes short. Remember, they support your strategy (see Definitions). Develop one Win Theme and statement for every feature:
a. Reliable tracking of IT help desk performance metrics
CSI program with full visibility and accountability
Established Service Desk User Response Manual
b. ITIL certified resources
ITIL and ITSM experience
c. On-site management personnel
d. Experienced and qualified team resources
Proven recruiting capability/network and hiring process
Step 5. Make Your Features Relevant
The final and often most difficult step is to get the strategy and themes from paper into your proposal, in the right spot. Determine where in your proposal the need and feature should be addressed. Include the need, feature, and theme on the annotated outline, storyboard, or template. Discuss with the writers how to include the needs, features, and themes in their sections.
The process described here is just one way to get your team to develop themes and include meaningful discriminators in your proposal in a way that the reviewer will give you due credit. There is a reason best practices are best practices.
The diagram on the following page summarizes the process described in this article to develop and integrate your strategy and themes in your proposal response to achieve congruence between all sections.
Strategies and themes are closely related to:
- Ghosting competitors’ weaknesses
- Describing your strengths to impact the evaluation of your proposal.
- Effective Proof Statements that back up your performance claims.
- Introducing and discussing efficiencies that save the customer time and money.
For more information on these and many other proposal-related topics, please contact the author.