What are Good Win Themes?

A good proposal tells a compelling story, and to tell a compelling story you must have strong win themes because they help reviewers understand why you can provide the best solution to the problem identified in the Request for Proposal (RFP).

One of the wisest people on the subject of developing strong win themes is Mr. Chris Simmons, the founder and Principal of Rainmakerz Consulting.  I strongly recommend that proposal professionals read his five-part series on “How to Create Great Proposal Themes” at www.rainmakerz.biz/news.html.

According to Simmons, a strong win theme has four components:

  • It links customer benefits to your solution features.
  • It supports the solution.
  • It contains specific information.
  • It provides reasons and proof that evaluators need to select you.

One key to developing strong proposal win themes is to understand the difference between a feature and a benefit.

Features are characteristics or elements of your solution that satisfy or exceed the requirements of the RFP.  They may be software, hardware, methodologies, processes, performance levels, and the number of key personnel, to use a few examples.  They are the means to your end, not the end itself.

Benefits are advantages that solve the customer’s problem or address a major concern.  They may include such elements as higher performance levels, increased efficiency, reduced risk, or a solution to the customer’s problem.

To develop strong win themes, you must provide differentiators, or proof that sets you apart from the competition and demonstrates to reviewers that your proposed solution is likely to work.  In other words, a good win theme has these elements:

Theme = Features + Benefits + Proof

A strong win theme has demonstrable differentiators.  A bad win theme is all features and no proof.  A terrible win theme simply restates the RFP requirements and fails to answer the all-important “So What?” question.

Below are two examples of compelling win themes that can be used to tell a great story in a proposal:

  • Our accounting software reduces staff training time from four to one hour and has been successfully implemented in seven Department of Defense projects.
  • XYZ company can help the US Department of the Interior create a new process to identify environmental hazards quickly and accurately that will save the Department millions of dollars a year while reducing environmental risk.

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