ResourcesThe essence of a winning proposal – Overcoming common compliance challenges

February 7, 2023by Izane Cloete-Hamilton

STRATEGIC PROPOSALSThe essence of a winning proposal - Overcoming common compliance challenges

Tenders are like puzzles, a challenge to solve. Submitting a winning proposal can be a challenging process. We all like to create a winning bid – we want to win more work.

But there are no guarantees in highly competitive markets that our proposal will succeed. However, we can influence decisions by using available tools and techniques. How we structure our proposal and how well we present information can persuade evaluators to favour our submissions above those of a competitor.

One of the essential factors to proposal success is compliance with the guidelines and requirements in the RFP.

This article discusses the importance of proposal compliance, best practices, and strategies for overcoming common compliance challenges.

As a proposal manager, you are responsible for attending to every detail in the proposal and meeting the submission deadline. Daunting as this may seem, it is not impossible to accomplish. Relying on your experience, knowledge of proposal best practices, and sticking to the basics make it a challenge that you solve quickly.

What is a winning proposal?

A winning proposal is both compliant and responsive. The APMP defines compliance as the act of meeting stated customer requirements.

On the other hand, responsiveness goes beyond mere compliance.

It addresses the customer’s goals, underlying concerns, key issues, and values that are only sometimes clearly defined in the RFP document.

Responsiveness helps customers achieves their business goals, not just procurement goals.

Why is compliance important?

Proposal compliance is essential because it demonstrates to your client that the proposal is well-prepared and that you clearly understand the requirements and deadlines.

Conversely, non-compliance can result in the rejection of your submission, even though you presented a compelling, client-focused, consistent and competitive bid.

Best practices for ensuring proposal compliance

Did you know there are six best practices for compliance?

  1. Begin to cultivate responsiveness long before the RFP release. Have a relationship with your customer, understand their underlying needs, and gather customer intelligence.
  2. Thoroughly review and clearly understand the customers’ bid requests. Read the RFP (3 times), understand what is being asked, then only build your outline – don’t sprint to get the writing going – you are setting yourself up for failure.
  3. Prepare a comprehensive compliance matrix for every bid. Always create a compliance matrix no matter the bid size – create it early and update it as you go along.
  4. Submit a response matrix with your proposal. Your matrix makes it easier for the evaluators to navigate your submission – remember what I said earlier about influencing the outcomes – this is one way of doing that.
  5. Address non-compliance. Show how compliant you are; if you are not, justify it. But remember, non-compliance is a risky strategy – if you don’t meet the criteria – stop the bus.
  6. Maintain a customer focus. Demonstrate that you understand your customers’ needs by weaving your win themes through the document, naming the customer throughout your proposal, addressing their hot buttons, and showing your solution’s true benefit.

Remember to proofread your proposal and have a team of experts review it before submitting it.

Seek clarifications from the client if you are unsure about any requirements, and update your compliance matrix.

Strategies for overcoming common compliance challenges

The most common challenge in a proposal is understanding the requirements and guidelines provided in the RFP. You can easily overcome this challenge by reading the RFP more than once. Seek clarification from the client if necessary. Additionally, review examples of successful proposals submitted to the same client to understand their expectations better.

Create a comprehensive compliance matrix listing all the obvious and hidden requirements you uncovered by reading the RFP. A compliance matrix will help you organise your proposal, ensure quality outcomes, and demonstrate compliance to your client. This smart tool makes it easy for evaluators to find the necessary information.

An expanded matrix is more than just a tick box. It allows you to sell your solution from the first instance.

Another challenge is adhering to formatting and layout requirements. Use a template provided by the client or follow an established format. Using software applications or tools specifically designed to create templates and format layouts is very helpful.

The biggest challenge in compliance is meeting the submission deadline. To overcome this challenge, start the proposal preparation process early, set clear milestones for deliverables, and work with a team of experts to ensure you complete the proposal on time.

In conclusion, compliance is an essential component for submitting a winning proposal. It may not guarantee you a win, but non-compliance guarantees you will not win.

Understanding the importance of compliance, following best practices, and overcoming common challenges can increase your organisation’s revenue pipeline. Remember, compliance is not just about following the requirements.

Ensure that your proposal is responsive and addresses your client’s needs.

Demonstrate that you are the best candidate to help them achieve their business goals. Submitting a compliant and responsive proposal shows that you are experienced, easy to work with and professional.
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