Developing a Winning Proposal Strategy

Pinder Takhar     21 February 2018


developing a bid proposal strategy

If you have read our article on preparing a intelligence report, you now need to think about defining your strategy for success.

Your winning strategy for proposals is your battle plan and it builds on the knowledge you have gained while compiling your intelligence report. It is important. It is not just an academic exercise since not having a strategy is a bit like a General going into battle saying, “we have a rough idea of what is going on, so we’ll give it go”.

At the heart of your strategy sits your value proposition: what makes you different and what is it about your proposal that is going to make the client choose to work with you.

The skills and attributes you focus on in your response will vary with each proposal. It might be experience, it could be innovation, or it could simply be your ability to comply with the required format of the document.

You need to remember the proposal is not about you; it is about the client’s needs and your value proposition must be deployed in that context. This is where your intelligence report is so valuable since you need to know what it is that the client wants and needs before you can put in place the elements to seduce and inspire them.

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You should be able to sum up your strategy in a couple of sentences: it needs to be simple enough for your team to understand and build into the component parts of your proposal while comprehensive and deep enough to encapsulate everything you want to achieve and the goal you are focused on accomplishing.

Common Mistakes

When it comes to strategy, companies tend to go wrong in three different ways:

 Wrong Bid Strategy

1. Wrong strategy

Often, companies simply have the wrong strategy. They may have misinterpreted the brief or been outmaneuvered by the competition. Possibly they thought it was all about innovation when the client was actually reserved and did not want innovation.



No Bid Strategy


2. No strategy

The most common scenario is when there is no strategy at all. If you cannot answer the question “what’s your strategy?” then you do not have a strategy, you are just filling out the questions.



Badly Written Bid Strategy


3. Strategy that is badly articulated

You may actually have the right strategy or the right value proposition but it’s been badly articulated. It has not been captured in all the responses to questions and in all your sales pitch opportunities to the end bidder.



In all three cases you lose. That is how important a well thought out and effectively deployed strategy actually is. 

Choosing The Right Strategy for your proposal

You may have great ideas and a great team but how you approach the sale of these is extremely important, particularly in government bids. If the focus of the project is on innovation, your proposal and approach must look and feel innovative. Similarly, if the client is managing a compliance-related program, you must put forward a compliant proposal that talks about compliance and how you’re going to guarantee it throughout the life of the project.

To give you a practical example, we were recently working on a proposal within the housing sector. This was the third project in a series of RFPs issued by a government agency. Their first two schemes were anecdotally considered to have fallen short and we clearly understood the context in which our own proposal was going to be judged.

While we wanted our scheme to deliver in terms of design and social and economic factors, we also knew that a lot of these elements are subjective. While ticking the boxes would be a good strategy to adopt we also knew it might not be good enough to deliver a guarantee of success since we were also aware that we were the underdogs and faced competitors who had won the previous RFP pitches.

As we analysed the situation our strategy became clear: it was all about the customer (not the client…). As part of our creation process we sought feedback from the end-users of the project and asked them to air their criticisms of the two neighbouring schemes. We received lots of largely negative feedback which enabled us to define our strategy as a response to this negativity.

Naturally, we won the project. In fact, we blew the competition out of the water.

We had thought about the exercise, we understood the context and situation. We defined what it was we wanted to achieve, and we took it to the client in a form that was clear, concise and hit their buttons.

In short, our strategy helped us win that particular battle.


If you need help defining what your proposal strategy should be for any project you are trying to win then we are happy to help. You can arrange a call with us and we will give you the benefit of our years of experience in developing strategies and thinking laterally.


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