How to Establish a Win Theme

With Fiscal Year 2019 coming to an end, proposal season is in full effect. Putting together a winning proposal brings many challenges. A proposal must be compliant, but it also needs to be credible and compelling to the customer. To do this, generating persuasive win themes is essential to differentiate one offer from the next. Win themes help tie a proposal together and create an overall convincing argument to for the customer. However, developing a consistent and unique win theme can be difficult.

What is a Win Theme?

Win themes and discriminators are often lumped together. While both are important and should be used in conjunction, there are key differences between them. A win theme links a benefit to the discriminators. They tell the evaluators consistently throughout the proposal, why they should select your company. A discriminator is a feature of your solution that is different from the competition and something deemed significant to the customer. Important things to remember when developing win themes include:

  • Tie a customer’s specific need to your key discriminators
  • Use the themes consistently throughout all volumes of the proposal
  • Tailor the themes and discriminators for the agency and evaluation criteria
  • Quantify features and benefits

Put the Customer First

One of the most important challenges companies face in developing win themes is lack of originality.  A proposal needs to be geared to the customer. This requires more than a basic understanding of the agency, but a true analysis of what the specific office or agency needs. One of the main reasons proposals fail is because they do not convince the customer that they truly understand their exact needs and problems. While many agencies are looking for new technologies and innovation, others are historically risk adverse and price conscious—you must know the difference with your potential clients.

Determining and Utilizing Win Themes

The number one thing to consider in coming up with a successful win theme is what is most important to the customer and what will have the greatest impact on increasing your chance of winning. While your company’s strengths and weaknesses are important, it is equally as important to understand this about your competition. While win themes are often stated directly in the proposal once, you do not want to repeat the same statement in every section.  It is important to weave them throughout the proposal, and then prove the statement in subsequent paragraphs and sections.  Graphics and captions can be great ways to interlace the overall idea into multiple volumes and sections. This will help demonstrate the truth of your claim, and easily illustrate the benefit to the customer.


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