The Ultimate Guide to Proposal Building

Chapter 1 : Let’s refresh the basics

1. What is Business Development?
The ability to generate revenue that sustains the business or organization.

Fig 1.1 Increasing the Probability of Winning. By positioning products or services early and building strong customer relationships, organizations improve their probability of winning a contract

2. Phases in the Business Development Lifecycle

The business development lifecycle consists of eight basic phases.

Figure 1.2 shows how the phases and activities of the business development lifecycle work together to win business. Each element is dependent on the others—all requiring input and ongoing updates.

Figure 1.2. The Business Development Lifecycle. Discipline at each of these phases improves win rates and leads to sustainable processes that fuel ongoing success.

The eight phases of the business development lifecycle are:

2.1. Market Identification

  • Organizations must make clear decisions about the markets they intend to pursue and penetrate.

Tool: Market Risk Assessment

2.2. Accounting Planning and Positioning

  • An account can be a prospective customer, an existing customer, an entire organization, or a single buying unit within a large company.
  • Account plan constituents:
    • historical account information
    • buying history
    • key customer personnel and decision-makers
    • strategies for penetrating or growing an account.

Tool: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system

2.3. Opportunity Assessment (Identification and Qualification)

  • A key decision gate at the opportunity assessment phase of the business development lifecycle is a preliminary bid/no-bid decision on a specific opportunity.

2.4. Opportunity Planning

  • Opportunity planning involves customer interaction and effective sales to understand customer needs and issues.
  • Critical aspects of opportunity planning include knowledge of portfolio management and the 4Cs:
    • Customer
    • Competition
    • Cost
    • Company and solution

Figure 1.3. Opportunity Planning. Opportunity planning activities are critical to repeat success in business development.

2.5. Proposal Planning

  • Before a bid request arrives, organizations should assemble a core proposal team to prepare a proposal management plan focused on the five proposal planning keys
  • Focus on these five key proposal planning activities:
    • Migrating data from the opportunity plan to a proposal plan or to proposal planning tools
    • Extending the opportunity strategy into the proposal strategy. A proposal strategy consists of statements of an organization’s position and how it plans to make each point in its proposal. Organizations can capture this transfer by preparing a draft executive summary.
    • Refining the solution and price-to-win
    • Engaging the right staff for the proposal team and securing the right executive support
    • Holding a proposal kickoff meeting to share planning activities with the proposal team

Tools: Mockups and Content plans

2.6. Proposal Development

  • At this stage, bid planning activities, including changes to the solution, strategy, teaming partners, proposal organization, proposal schedule, and workshare, should stop.
  • When Proposal Managers are satisfied with section drafts, they should submit them for final review. After completing changes and receiving final approval, the proposal is submitted to the customer.

2.7. Negotiation and Post-Submittal Activity

  • Many customers request clarifications or have discussions with bidders before making a final decision. These may lead to proposal modifications.
  • Overall, an organization’s strategy should be fairly simple:
    • To respond fully to customer questions and concerns
    • To reinforce a customer’s trust in its solution and organization
    • To optimize the deal to the benefit of bidder and customer

2.8. Delivery and Ongoing Customer Relationships

  • Effective business development activities continue throughout the solution delivery phase. This happens through ongoing interaction with the customer.
  • Winning the contract is an opportunity to prove value and position your organization for additional opportunities.

3. Organizational success relies on strict adherence to the following key principles:

  1. Necessity of business development process
  2. Importance of bid decision gates and positioning
  3. Importance of early customer involvement


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