Crafting a Winning Business Plan Sample

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					              Table of Contents


              1      What Makes a Winning Proposal? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .1


SECTION I     THE STARTER’S GATE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7
              2      Responding to a Proposal Request . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
              3      Planning and Organizing the Proposal Effort . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23
              4      Researching, Analyzing and Strategizing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33


SECTION II    THE FIRST LAP . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49
              5      Writing the Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .51
              6      Crafting the Proposal — The Front End . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .67
              7      Crafting the Proposal — The Body . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .77
              8      Guidelines and Tips Specifically for Small Firms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .105


SECTION III   WINNING THE GOLD . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .119
              9      Creating Effective Graphics and Packaging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .121
              10 Producing a Powerful Oral Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .137
              11 Debriefing — Win or Lose, It’s a Competitive Advantage . . . . . . . .155
              12 Using Technology to Streamline the Proposal Process . . . . . . . . . .165


SECTION IV    PERFORMANCE MARKERS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .179
              A      Sample Letter Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .183
              B      Sample RFP and Audit Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .195
              C      Sample Incumbent Proposal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .217
              D      Guidelines for Preparing an Effective Request for Proposal (RFP) . .237




                                                                                                                                        vii
1                 What Makes a
                  Winning Proposal?


                    CROSSING THE FINISH LINE first in the competition for engagements
has never been more challenging. Today, professional services firms are increasingly required
to craft a proposal that clearly demonstrates their expertise and abilities just to make it to
the short list for the oral presentation. How well a firm does at the oral presentation is often
the determining factor that separates the winner from the also-rans.


WINNING THE PROPOSAL OLYMPICS
In the Olympics, medals are awarded to the competitors who finish first, second and third
in an event. In many events, the difference between the first and second place is frequent-
ly measured in a few hundredths of a second. Most importantly, the winning of a medal at
the Olympics is seen as a great achievement regardless of whether it is a gold, silver or
bronze medal.
But there are no accolades for coming in second in the Proposal Olympics. Winning the gold
medal is all that counts. The second place firm becomes just another also-ran. Even more
frustrating, the margin of difference between the winner and loser is often closer than a
photo finish in a 100-metre sprint.
What makes up this miniscule difference? Sometimes the determining factor is price; some-
times it is the approach and work plan; sometimes it is expertise; and sometimes it is the
less tangible things like relationships and chemistry. Certainly, fees and expertise are almost
always important. But while these two criteria will usually get a firm on to the short list, they
do not guarantee you will be standing on the winner’s podium.


ENTERING THE RACE
The opportunity to submit a proposal may arise from a long and careful cultivation of a
prospective client by a member of a firm, a formal Request for Proposal (RFP), or simply the
ring of a telephone. When the opportunity arises, your firm must respond — often very quick-
ly — with a proposal that convinces the prospect to select your firm over the other firms com-




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CHAPTER 1 | The Professional’s Guide to Preparing Winning Proposals




            peting for the engagement. The potential client looks to the proposal to provide information
            about the firm’s industry knowledge, technical abilities and experience — information that
            will weigh heavily in its selection of a provider.
            Since your competitors are also vying for the same engagement how can you ensure your
            firm stands out from the crowd and ultimately wins the engagement?
            To achieve this objective, your proposal must convince the prospect that your firm:
            • Is the most competent to handle the engagement.
            • Has a real desire to serve the prospect.
            • Understands the prospect’s needs, issues and problems.
            • Has the organization and people to work harmoniously with the prospect’s management
              and staff.
            • Provides high quality, professional services for a reasonable fee.
            Proposals that are concise and well written, that focus on the prospect’s real needs, that
            answer all of the prospect’s questions, and that are professionally presented are ultimately
            the ones that will most likely succeed. For all of these reasons, your written proposals and
            oral presentations need to communicate your understanding of a prospect’s company and
            industry, give the organization’s executives a clear indication of your interest in their business
            and demonstrate your firm’s capability to handle the engagement.


            THE WINNING PROPOSAL
            Given these facts, winning proposals have certain attributes:

            • The proposal has a strong persuasive tone.
              The objective of any proposal is to persuade a prospective client to select your firm over
              the other firms competing for the engagement. Therefore, your proposal must clearly
              demonstrate the reasons your firm can meet the prospect’s needs or deal with the issues
              the prospect is facing. In most proposals, these reasons are included in the transmittal let-
              ter or the executive summary.

            • The proposal is tailored to the needs of the prospect.
              The more specific the written proposal, the more it helps reinforce the impression that
              your firm thoroughly understands the prospect’s needs, issues and problems. Simply writ-
              ing about your firm’s expertise will not convince the prospect that you really understand
              what is required. You need to clearly show how your work plan or audit plan, step-by-step
              and task-by-task, will produce the right deliverables for the prospect.

            • The proposal is not straight boilerplate copy.
              Boilerplate may be a useful starting point but it should be carefully edited to meet a
              prospect’s individual needs and expectations.




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                                                        What Makes a Winning Proposal? | CHAPTER 1



• The proposal includes real examples.
  Concrete illustrations that demonstrate your competence, experience and knowledge of
  the issues affecting a prospect’s company or industry are musts. Whenever possible,
  include actual examples that support any claims you make.

• The proposal is well organized.
  If the RFP document recommends how the proposal is to be organized, be sure to follow
  the RFP’s instructions. If not, be certain the document is easy to follow for those execu-
  tives who must read and evaluate it.

• The proposal is professional in appearance.
  Writing style, quality of production and even your choice of colours and binding can have
  an influence on the prospect. First impressions count on paper as well as in person. Before
  your proposal goes to print, make sure the document is proofread for accuracy.

• The written presentation is supported by a strong oral presentation.
  In the majority of situations, the firm that delivers the best oral presentation is the one
  that crosses the finish line first to win the engagement.

• The proposal makes extensive use of charts and graphs.
  To match your services against the prospect’s needs or to explain a complex issue, include
  charts and graphs. Visuals are often more effective than lengthy prose.

• The proposal is always viewed as the main deciding factor.
  Always approach the preparation of a proposal as though it is the main factor in the
  prospective client’s decision.
Most professionals find the planning, preparation and production of proposals to be a diffi-
cult, costly and time-consuming process. Proposals can take a long time to prepare. The RFP
often arrives at the most awkward time — you are snowed under with client work, you were
planning to take a week off and get in a little golf, or you are still recovering from complet-
ing a proposal that required you to work late every night and all weekend to meet the dead-
line. And like most professionals, you would probably prefer to be doing other things — serv-
ing clients, developing relationships, or spending the weekend at the cottage or on the golf
course.
Take heart. A good proposal is seldom the work of a single person but rather the result of
careful planning and teamwork — solid planning to ensure that the required time and
resources are available to do the job and careful co-ordination to bring together and direct
the skills necessary to produce the proposal.




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CHAPTER 1 | The Professional’s Guide to Preparing Winning Proposals




            ALSO-RAN OR WINNER?
            The overall purpose of this book is to help professional firms understand what is required to
            move from being an also-ran to the winner’s podium in the Proposal Olympics. The chapters
            that follow, and the related resources, are presented in four sections that are designed to
            guide you through some of the most important considerations in planning, developing and
            producing an effective proposal.

            FIGURE 1.1 | THE PROFESSIONAL’S GUIDE TO PREPARING WINNING PROPOSALS

                          I    THE STARTER’S GATE
                               • Responding to a Proposal Request
                               • Planning and Organizing the Proposal Effort
                               • Researching, Analyzing and Strategizing

                          II   THE FIRST LAP
                               •   Writing the Proposal
                               •   Crafting the Proposal — The Front End
                               •   Crafting the Proposal — The Body
                               •   Guidelines and Tips Specifically for Small Firms

                          III WINNING THE GOLD
                               •   Creating Effective Graphics and Packaging
                               •   Producing a Powerful Oral Presentation
                               •   Debriefing — Win or Lose, It’s a Competitive Advantage
                               •   Using Technology to Streamline the Proposal Process

                          IV PERFORMANCE MARKERS
                               • Sample Proposals
                               • Request for Proposal (RFP) Guidelines



            This book is based on my several years of experience as both a Proposal Manager and a
            Proposal Director for two large professional services firms. Throughout the book, I discuss
            these themes and other important topics that are part of the planning and preparation
            process for virtually every proposal. The book is essentially a “how to” guide for producing
            successful proposals. It is intended to be an easy-to-read distillation of my experience as both
            a winner and loser in hundreds of proposal situations.
            Several chapters contain example sections of typical proposals to illustrate the points under
            discussion. These examples are intended to demonstrate the principles, techniques and
            processes that are used to produce tailored and persuasive proposals. The chapters also con-
            tain real-life anecdotal stories that illustrate the challenges (or more aptly, the hills, peaks and
            valleys) of the proposal process.




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                                                         What Makes a Winning Proposal? | CHAPTER 1



Although the term “proposal” is used throughout the book, the more precise term is some-
times “Statement of Qualifications” (SOQ). Crown corporations, government departments or
agencies often require a SOQ from a group of firms before selecting a short list of firms to
submit a detailed proposal. In addition, many firms prepare SOQs to use as marketing col-
lateral or as leave-behinds when targeting a prospective client. In this book, no distinction is
made between the two types of documents; the terms “proposal” and “SOQ” are used inter-
changeably. The principles and approaches discussed throughout this book are applicable to
both types of documents.




Focus on     Winning
          CLIENT FEEDBACK and debriefing surveys have shown that two of the most
important factors in the selection of a service provider through the proposal process are
commitment and enthusiasm. This commitment and enthusiasm should be evident at every
stage of the process — by the questions you ask during management interviews and site vis-
its, by the quality of the proposal document, and by the performance you give at the oral
presentation. The firm that can demonstrate these two traits throughout the proposal
process will greatly enhance its chances of winning the engagement.
The process starts with the proposal request. This process is usually triggered by a telephone
call or the arrival of a written RFP. The next chapter discusses the steps required to deal with
such a request and the actions you need to take to get the proposal preparation process
underway. On your mark…




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